Decision procedures, standards of rightness and impartiality

Noûs 31 (4):478-495 (1997)
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I argue that partialist critics of deontological theories make a mistake similar to one made by critics of utilitarianism: they fail to distinguish between a theory’s decision procedure and its standard of rightness. That is, they take these deontological theories to be offering a method for moral deliberation when they are in fact offering justificatory arguments for moral principles. And while deontologists, like utilitarians do incorporate impartiality into their justifications for basic principles, many do not require that agents utilize impartial methods of moral deliberation. It follows that insofar as partialists reject impartiality in deliberation, their criticisms may miss their mark. If however, partialists are opposed to justifications for basic principles that rely upon impartiality, they are committed, I argue, to drastic revisions in moral theory that have worrisome implications.

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Cynthia A. Stark
University of Utah


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