Moral Points of View
John Thrasher

May 11, 2018, 2:30pm - 4:00pm
Philosophy & Bioethics Departments, Monash University

E561, Menzies Buiding
Monash University
Clayton 3800


Abstract: Modern moral philosophy is divided into three warring factions: consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics. Although there is considerable variety within each of these groups, they are united in thinking that their approach can answer the basic questions of moral theory. Those questions are, in their simplest forms are “what should I do” (morally) and why? The first is about how one should act and the second is the justification for the answer to the first. Each moral theory gives answers to these basic questions. The problem is that those answers differ, often substantially. Moral theory, because of this is beset by substantial, sustained, and seemingly irreconcilable disagreement. This is, I argue, because of a background claim embedded in each moral theory that I call the supremacy thesis, that there can only be one form of an answer to the basic moral questions as supplied by one of the three main moral theories. Recently, Parfit has proposed a conciliatory alternative to the supremacy thesis that he calls the triple-theory, arguing that Kantianism, contractualism, and consequentialism all converge on the same conclusions by “climbing the mountain” of moral theory along different paths. Call this general approach, the convergence thesis about moral theory. I argue that both approaches are mistaken and suggest an alternative that attempts to preserve the distinctiveness of each approach to morality, while also arguing for their coexistence. I call this approach the jurisdictional thesis about morality. Each moral theory answers the basic moral questions from distinct and separate moral points of view. According to this view there is no one “point of view of morality,” but rather several that require different versions of the moral questions and different answers. Each point of view, the personal, social, and institutional, defines a particular moral domain or jurisdiction that structures the appropriate answer to basic moral questions. Instead of their being a single moral domain, this view argues that there are several, all of which are important but distinct.

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