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Title: Moral theory and political practice : a rule-consequentialist account of the relation between ethics and politics
Author: Lockwood, David Gordon
ISNI:       0000 0004 2750 5498
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2010
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Many philosophers argue for the Distinct Political Morality Thesis, which holds that private and political life are governed by different normative theories. I reject this claim, and must therefore find a theory that adequately encompasses both realms. I argue in Part I of this thesis that rule-consequentialism offers a defensible compromise. However, standard accounts of the theory are vulnerable to the 'collapse/incoherence dilemma'. Brad Hooker's version solves the collapse objection, but still faces difficulties associated with rule-worship and conflicts between rules. I attempt to resolve these with a modified version of rule-consequentialism. This introduces two new elements: practice-rules, which incorporate qualifications and exceptions, and general background principles that act as tie-breakers between practice-rules. The theory also takes account of agents' intentions. I additionally argue that a cognitivist metaethical theory is a precondition of intelligible political and moral discourse, and defend Onora O'Neill's version of Constructivism as the most persuasive non-Realist candidate. In Part III examine arguments offered in support of the Distinct Political Morality Thesis. I briefly survey attempts to detach ethics from politics, and demonstrate that there is a continuum, and no rigid distinction, between public and private. It might be held that politics is characterised by irreconcilable demands and hence true dilemmas, and that political decisions are luckily morally good in their consequences. I seek to show that moral 'dilemmas'; and moral 'luck' are both fictions. I next examine and reject the claim that 'dirty hands' cases show that political agents are not bound, and must sometimes commit acts forbidden, by everyday morality. 'Many hands' scenarios also raise particular problems, for unless we can attribute determinate collective responsibility and intentions to groups and institutions, the problem of luck recurs. Finally, I investigate the implications of large-scale policy decisions involving stochastic processes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available