What Lurks Beneath the Integrity Objection

Paul Hurley
Claremont McKenna College
January 12th, 2007, 4:00 to 5:00 pm
Ellis 113

paul_hurley_bEvery moral theory alienates agents from pursuit of their plans and projects. It might then be thought that alienation arguments against consequentialism, such as those put forward by Bernard Williams, are at most claims that consequentialism suffers from a common problem for many theories to a much greater degree. Yet many philosophers, both consequentialists and their critics, cannot shake the sense that there is a distinctive challenge to consequentialism lurking in Bernard Williams’ formulation of the integrity objection, a challenge distinctive not just in degree but in kind. Williams fuels this suspicion with his claim that his arguments concerning integrity and alienation reveal an incoherence at the core of consequentialism. I will suggest that not just one but two different arguments can be found at work in Williams’ integrity passages, arguments that pose just such distinctive challenges to consequentialism. It is these deeper challenges, I suspect, that account for the stubborn persistence of the integrity/alienation objections to consequentialism. Nor is it at all clear that these challenges, properly understood, can be met.

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