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Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 4 TT08

Event Name Seminars in Moral Philosophy Week 4 TT08
Start Date 12th May 2008 4:30pm
End Date 12th May 2008 6:30pm
Duration 2 hours

Terence Irwin (Oxford): 'Prudence, morality, and the importance of persons: a dilemma for Sidgwick' to be held in the Lecture Room, 10 Merton Street, Oxford - Seminars in Moral Philosophy webpage


Sidgwick's constructive argument for utilitarianism includes these claims:

1. From the earlier history of moral philosophy we can identify two axioms: (a) a principle of prudence, and (b) a principle of equity that requires equal treatment of different people.

2. From these two axioms we can construct a proof of utilitarianism.

3. This proof should convince one type of egoist, but it leaves a second type of egoist untouched.

4. The cogency of the argument depends on our acceptance of a non-Humean conception of the self. Examination of (2) helps us to see what Sidgwick adds to (1). If we look at his additions, we find good reason to doubt not only (2), but also (3) and (4). Study of his argument reveals his indecision about (1). In particular, he is undecided about two connected questions: (i) Is prudence rational, or only apparently rational? (ii) Are true moral principles about persons, or only about interests of persons?

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