The All or Nothing Ranking Reversal and the Unity of Morality

Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics (forthcoming)
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Supererogatory acts are, in some sense, morally better their non-supererogatory alternatives. In this sense, what is it for one option A to be better than an alternative B? I argue for three main conclusions. First, relative rankings are a type of all-in action guidance. If A is better than B, then morality recommends that you A rather than B. Such all-in guidance is useful when acts have the same deontic status. Second, I argue that Right > Wrong: permissible acts are always better than their impermissible alternatives. If Right > Wrong were false, then morality’s deontic verdicts would sometimes conflict with its relative rankings. Such conflict would undermine the thought that morality is a coherent, authoritative guide to action. Third, the All or Nothing Problem is not a counterexample to Right > Wrong as is commonly thought. Instead, it involves an interesting ranking reversal: whether A > B can depend on whether a certain alternative is added as a third option.

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Chris Tucker
William & Mary


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