Integrity and Ordinary Morality

American Philosophical Quarterly 44 (1):15-27 (2007)
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Abstract
Consequentialism is enticing, and yet it also seems overly demanding. As a result, many non-consequentialists try to explain why we aren’t required to maximize the good. One explanation is the Integrity Explanation: we aren’t required to maximize the good because morality must make room for us to pursue the projects we value most deeply. Some people hope that the Integrity Explanation will not just explain why consequentialism is false, but simultaneously vindicate the common-sense permission to generally refrain from promoting the good of other people and instead spend our time on non-harmful actions of our choice. I argue that this hope is unrealistic, because if any version of the Integrity Explanation is correct, morality won’t contain broad permissions to refrain from promoting the good of others and do as we choose. Instead the basic structure of morality must be fundamentally different from what we usually take it to be. Our common-sense moral theories say that we take on responsibilities to others only in certain specific situations, but may otherwise engage in non-harmful actions of our choice. But if the Integrity Explanation is correct, then we are entitled to pursue our own interests to at least some extent, but unless we do, we come under obligations to maximize the good of others.
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