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Ashford, Elizabeth. Utilitarianism, Integrity, and Partiality
2000, Journal of Philosophy 97(8): 421-439.
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Added by: Simon Fokt

Introduction: Bernard Williams’s integrity objection against utilitarianism has made a very influential contribution to the view that utilitarianism is so demanding that it cannot be a serious option. Utilitarians, on the other hand, have generally denied that a suitably sophisticated version of utilitarianism is incompatible with agents’ integrity. I argue here that, if we examine what a valuable conception of integrity consists in, we can see that it actually commits us, in the current state of the world, to extremely demanding moral obligations, on any plausible account of our moral obligations, including Williams’s own. I then argue, however, that any such account of these obligations has difficulty in providing a rationale for how a fundamental conflict between them and agents’ pursuit of their personal projects can be avoided. I conclude that it is, in fact, a strength of utilitarianism that it acknowledges that this conflict cannot be resolved and makes explicit the extent to which our integrity is currently compromised. I lastly argue that there is a practically realizable state of the world in which utilitarian moral obligations would not seriously conflict with agents’ pursuit of their personal projects.

Comment: This text offers a discussion of some of the major objections to utilitarianism. It is useful as a core reading in teaching advanced modules on moral theories, or as a further reading in a more general ethics course.

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O'Neill, Onora. Constructivism vs. Contractualism
2003, Ratio 16(4): 319-331.
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Added by: Carl Fox

Introduction: Are Constructivism and Contractualism different, and if so how? Seemingly they are not wholly different, and certainly not incompatible, since some writers have described themselves as both. As a first shot one might suggest that contractualists ground ethical or political justification in agreement of some sort, whereas constructivists ground them in some conception of reason. This will not provide any neat separation of the two approaches to justification, since agreement may provide a basis for reasons, and reasoning a way of achieving agreement. In opening up these questions a bit further I shall consider some of the moves John Rawls and Tim Scanlon make in talking about their own methods of ethics, and in particular, some of the connections they draw between their methods and the scope of their accounts of ethical reasoning.

Comment: Would be a good further reading for any teaching that touches on Rawls's Kantian constructivism in particular.

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