Theory of Good and Right

Developing the concept of a moral code and defining "Morally right" actions by rational persons, this book dis

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Table of contents :
Part I --
I. THE STRATEGY OF PRACTICAL CRITICISM --
1. How to Proceed: Appeal to Linguistic Intuitions? --
2. A Reforming Definition: Rational Action and the Best Thing to Do --
3. How to Proceed: Appeal to Ethical Intuitions? --
II. WANTING AND PLEASURE --
1. Wants and Aversions (Valence) --
2. The Pleasant and the Unpleasant --
3. Some Implications --
III. THE COGNITIVE THEORY OF ACTION --
IV. THE CRITICISM OF ACTIONS --
5. THE PSYCHOLOGY OF PLEASURE AND DESIRES --
1. Innate and Conditioned Dispositions to Like and Dislike --
2. Desire and Pleasant Experiences --
3. Direct Consitioning of Desires --
4. Other Basic Mechanisms? --
5. De-Conditioning --
VI. THE CRITICISM OF PLEASURES AND INTRINSIC DESIRES --
1. Some Types of 'Mistaken' Desires, Aversions, or Pleasures --
2. Rational Desires and the Concept of the Intrinsically Good --
VII. Some Rational Pleasures and Desires --
1. Desires for What is Natively Liked --
2. Pleasure and Ethical Hedonism --
3. Benevolence --
4. VIII. THE FORCE OF KNOWING WHAT IS RATIONAL --
1. The Force of Knowing what is Rational to Do (Desires Taken as They Are) --
2. The Force of Knowing What it is Rational to Want --
3. Should One Act as if One's Desires were Rational? --
Part II --
IX. THE CONCEPT OF A MORAL CODE --
1. The Nature of a Social Moral System --
2. Moral Codes and Institutional Expectations --
3. Could a Universal Moral Code be Effective? --
X. JUSTIFICATION AND THE CONCEPT OF THE MORALLY RIGHT --
1. The Justification of Moral Codes --
2. The Concept of Choice of (Tendency to Support) a Moral Code --
3. The Definition of "Morally Right' 4. A Possible Kantian Modification of the Definition --
XI. RATIONALLY PREFERRED MORAL CODES AND THE GENERAL WELFARE --
1. An Overview of the Choice Problem --
2. Types of Valenced Outcome Relevant to Support of a Moral System --
3. The Irrationality of Some Desires --
4. The Concept of a Viable Moral System --
5. Rational Choice and Utilitarianism --
XII. THREE DIFFERENT DERIVATIONS OF THE RIGHT --
1. The Ideal Observer Theory --
2. The Theory of R.M. Hare --
3. Choice Behind a Veil of Ignorance: the Theory of John Rawls --
XIII. WELFARE: THE CONCEPT, MEASUREMENT, AND INTERPRESONAL COMPARISONS --
1. The Objection to Desire THeories --
2. The Measurement of Happiness --
3. Interpersonal Comparisons of Enjoyment --
XIV. Three Monistic Moral Codes --
1. Egoism --
2. Act Utilitarianism --
3. Utilitarian Generalization --
XV. THE CONCEPT OF A PLURALISTIC WELFARE MAXIMIZING MORAL SYSTEM --
1. The Variable Features of Plural Moral Systems --
2. The Content of a Weldare-Maximizing Moral System --
3. Paradoxes for the Plural Ideal-code Utilitarian --
4. A Final Puzzle --
XVI. JUSTICE, EQUALITY, AND THE MAXIMIZATION OF WELFARE --
1. The Problem about Justice --
2. A Welfare-Maximizing Principle about Allocations of Income and Goods --
3. Why Equal Monetary Income? --
4. Why Supplements for the Ill and Handicapped? --
5. Recompense for Seervices --
XVII. IS IT ALWAYS RATIONAL TO ACT MORALLY? --
1. The Concept of Self-Interest --
2. Would a Rational Person Ever Act Morally Contrary to Self-Interest? --
REFERENCES --
INDEX.
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1 ATHE0 RY I OFTHE

GOOD AND THE RIGHT Richard B. Brandt

A THEORY OF THE GOOD AND THE RIGHT Richard B. Brandt

CLARENDONPRESS· OXFORD 1979

Oxford University Press, Walton Street, Oxford ox2 6DP OXFORD L0"'100N GLASGOW ',,£.\It YORK TOA0"1TO /l.1F.I.Bl)l'RNF. WFLLl"'1GTO"J 'lAIROBI DAR F..S SALAA\1 (.APt.. TOY., KUALA Ll'\tPL:R Sl'iGAPOR[ JAKARTA HO�G KO-..:G TOKYO DU.Ill HO\-IHAY CALCUTTA ,\1ADRAS KARA(..111

Published 111 the United States by Oxford University Press, New York

© Oxford

Unn•ersity Press 1979

All nghts reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, slored III a retrieval sys/em, or /ransmitted, 111 any form or by any means, elatromc. mechamcal, photocopyi11g, recording, or otherwise, w1tho11t f the prior permission o Osford U11ivers1ty Press British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

Brandt, Richard Booker A theory of the good and the right. , . Ethics I. Title BJ,012 170

Prmted III Great Br11a111 by Rll"hard Cla)' ( The Chaucer Press) Ltd, B1111gay. Suf]oll·

PREFACE THIS BOOK is an expansion of John Locke lectures, delivered at Oxford University in the spring of 1974. A basic thesis of these lectures was, however, put forward mt.:ch earlier, in a Lindley lecture at the University of Kansas in March, 1963, published by that University under the title, 'Moral Philosophy and the Analysis of Language'. This thesis had both critical and con­ structive facets. The critical one was that it is misguided to ransack the facts of ordinary use of ethical language in order to identify analytic truths which can be a foundation for normative reasoning (a commitment common to both traditional 'reportive' naturalists and to prescriptivists like R. M. Hare), and that it is at best dubious to suppose there is any 'standard practice' which people use in the appraisal of ethical judgements (what I had assumed in my earlier Ethical Theory). The constructive idea was the identification of two questions, different from the ones with which moral philosophers have traditionally been concerned, but which capture at least most of what is clear and important in the traditional questions. The first of these is: 'What would a person (perhaps all persons), if rational in the sense of having made optimal use of all available information, want and choose to do?' The second is: 'What kind of moral system, if any, would such a person support for a society in which he expected to live?' Reflection on these two questions led me to a rather prolonged inquiry into the facts and theories of empirical psychology, in search of what a 'rational' person might want and choose to do. The results of this were rewarding beyond my initial expectations, and a report of them, and of their implications for the basic questions, formed perhaps the most interesting part of the Lode lectures, and is a central feature of the present book. For these data shed light on how to criticize our basic motivations-a problem which is of urgent practical importance for decision­ making, and about which traditional philosophy has had woefully little to say, beyond urging us to inspect what we really want, or to appeal to our 'intuitions'. This material also, as we shall see,

vi

PREFACE

throws light on the question of what kind of moral system a rational person would support for his society-and hence on the derivation of basic moral principles. A great many other topics are discussed in the present book; an earlier version of my proposals on many of these was in the Locke lectures. It may be helpful to alert some readers to one fact about these discussions: that in many important respects they are very different from the views expressed in Ethical Theory. Readers of Ethical Theory who have commented on parts of the present book have tended to construe it as a consistent ex­ pansion or reformulation of the views expressed in Ethical Theory. This construction is mistaken and leads to misunderstandings. While almost all the purely critical parts of Ethical Theory still seem to me sound, the positive views in the present book are substantially different from those of the earlier book at almost every point. The crucial Chapter ro of the earlier book ('The Justification of Ethical Beliefs') had to be replaced almost wholly. The psychological account of the earlier book was rather primitive. The present conceptions of 'pleasure' and of hedonism are very different, as is the discussion of what can be counted as basic 'intrinsic goods'. So is the criticism of egoism and act utilitarianism. Again, I no longer affirm that an equal distribution of welfare is itself a basic value, and the account of the utilitarian theory of distributive justice is much elaborated. I still support a form of 'rule-utilitarianism', but the theory now takes a form which seems to me superior not only to the brief sketch in Ethical Theory but also to earlier papers on that topic, published in 1963 and 1967. So I urge readers of Ethical Theo,y to forget that book while reading the present one, and to understand this book on the basis simply of what it says. Comments on the genesis of the present book would be in­ complete without mention of the influence of two philosophers: John Rawls and William Frankena. Rawls's work has been a con­ stant stimulus, where I have not been convinced by him, to develop an 'alternative view. He kindly allowed me to use an earlier version of his book, in mimeograph form, as a text for a course on norma­ tive ethics taught, I think, in the spring of 1969. I was much stimulated by the challenge of his view that a derivation of norma­ tive principles is impossible except by a restriction on information

PREFACE ,11 of the kind contemplated by his concept of a 'veil of ignorance'. At one stage I essentially adopted a form of his proposal about a meaning to be assigned to moral predicates like 'morally right' -that an action is right if and only if it would be permitted by a moral code which all rational persons could accept behind a 'veil of ignorance'-although later, for reasons that will appear below, I came to think that the basic problem for moral philosophy is different from the one implied by this conception, and is one much closer to the suggestion made in my 1963 Lindley lecture. In general, I have been much influenced by Rawls's published work in one way or another. I have also profited from conversations with him, both at luncheons at the University of Michigan during his year here in 1975-6, and over mid-afternoon Coca-Colas at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences during 1969-70. For all this I am grateful to him. The benefit I have enjoyed from the work and friendship of William Frankena has been very different, partly because our views are more similar although Frankena cannot swallow my account of distributive justice, or my view of the definition of 'morality', or my convictions about various other topics. Frankena read and criticized earlier versions of many parts of the present book, and we have discussed ethics over a weekly lunch for sewral years. \Vhere there are mistakes in this book, they occur either in parts which he did not read, or in passages where I perversely declined to accept his good advice. I am very grateful to him for his setting me straight on many points and for his friendship. There are numerous other persons to whom this book is in­ debted. There are many whom I cannot possibly mention by name: particularly students at the University of Michigan, and members of two summer seminars supported by the :\ational Endowment for the Humanities, who pressured me to make things clearer or to come up with better reasons..\1y colleagues have listened to earlier versions of various chapters at colloquia an, inconsistency, or lack of sound argument in pieces which they read. Richard Hare, Derck Parfit, and James Griffin were both encouraging and helpful in many conversations during Trinity term of 197�, when I was in Oxford. Diana Ackerman, in weekly discussions over most of one year, raised numerous difficulties with my discussion of pleasure and desire, which I ha,·e done my best to resolve. Philosophers in Scandinavia not only provided a very enjoyable month during the spring of 1977, but their criticisms-especially those of Dag Prawitz, Lars Bergstrom, and Lars Ericsson-enabled me to improve my discussion of the concept of welfare and to clarify the latter half of the chapter on economic justice, although I probably have not met their criticisms fully. Various philosophers have been helpful to me by their criticisms, in print, of 'rule-utilitarianism': particularly David Lyons (1965), Alan Donagan (1968), B. J. Diggs (1970), D. H. Hodgson (1967), and Joel Feinberg (1967). Fred Feldman and Michael Bayles kindly sent me copies of symposium papers on this topic, and Feldman has helped further in correspondence. I should also mention useful discussions with David Benfield. Psychologists have been extraordinarily supportive of my ven­ ture into psychology. I cannot mention them all, but l must thank a few by name, in view of their criticial commentaries on my manuscript, suggestions made in conversations, and encourage­ ment in the enterprise: John Atkinson, Albert Bandura, Dorwin Cartwright, Martin Hoffman, Howard Kendler, James Papsdorf, Joan Sieber, and Edwin Walker. I herewith excuse them all from any responsibility for mistaken statements I make about psycho­ logy in this book. I have done my own picking and choosing, and there may be things I say to which none of them would subscribe. I am also indebted to Carolyn McKee, \Yho worked for sneral weeks on a near-final version :S

The most likely candidates for interpersonally equally pleasant, unpleasant experiences appear to be those produced by some physiological condition, which can be known to be the same in two individuals. Of course individuals need to be matched for features known to influence the pleasantness of an experience: say, for recent experience and 'habituation', or for associations such as ones that may have produced a conditioned anxiety response attached to the experience. Let us suppose this matching is done as carefully as possible. Then consider the discomfort of thirst. Thirst is a response to the triggering of a sensing mechanism by the chemical content of the blood; if the body is dehydrated beyond a certain point, the mechanism is set off and the resulting thirst roughly increases with the dehydration. Knowing this, we can test roughly for sameness of thirst by estahlishing sameness of dehydration, either hy chemical test or by allowing two matched individuals to go without liquids, say for four hours. Can we be sure that the two individuals experience equally unpleasant thirst? There is more checking to be done. Some persons are born with different pain thresholds, and similarly some individuals may have defective triggering systems, so that they do not feel thirsty when they need liquid. A deviant thirst-dehydration system can, however, be identified fairly easily: if one individual fails to report thirst at a �tage of dehydration at which normal people 6-77 HECKH\LSE'-. H. (196�). ·.\chieYemem motiH research· . .\"t'rr.zsJ:u �l mpommr 01: _ \lot1:·,1t1on, pp. 103-,+ HEIDER. FRITZ (1959). T!te Ps_1d10/og1 of lntaperso,ul Rdmo11s. John \\.iley a.id Sons. :\ew York. HELLER. F-::r,,ETH and .\1\RL\TT. G..\ (1060). ·Yerb.1! conditioning. beha,ior therapy. and beha,·ior change·. in Cyril Franks (ed.). Belz.1:wr T!ta.zn: Arpr,rn.zl ,mJ St.ltu.