Intertheoretic Value Comparison: A Modest Proposal

Journal of Moral Philosophy 15 (3):324-344 (2018)
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In the growing literature on decision-making under moral uncertainty, a number of skeptics have argued that there is an insuperable barrier to rational "hedging" for the risk of moral error, namely the apparent incomparability of moral reasons given by rival theories like Kantianism and utilitarianism. Various general theories of intertheoretic value comparison have been proposed to meet this objection, but each suffers from apparently fatal flaws. In this paper, I propose a more modest approach that aims to identify classes of moral theories that share common principles strong enough to establish bases for intertheoretic comparison. I show that, contra the claims of skeptics, there are often rationally perspicuous grounds for precise, quantitative value comparisons within such classes. In light of this fact, I argue, the existence of some apparent incomparabilities between widely divergent moral theories cannot serve as a general argument against hedging for one's moral uncertainties.

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Christian Tarsney
University of Texas at Austin


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