Limits on Theory I: Costs to Agents

Catherine Wilson

in Moral Animals

Published in print July 2004 | ISBN: 9780199267675
Published online January 2005 | e-ISBN: 9780191601859 | DOI:
Limits on Theory I: Costs to Agents

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Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel have argued forcefully that the classical moral theories, utilitarianism and Kantianism, are insufficiently responsive to certain features of the first‐person standpoint. Defends their view that prescriptive statements that routinely impose too heavy costs on agents are not confirmable. The difficulty of fulfilling a request reduces an agent's obligation to fulfil it, and when its exigency is compounded by circumstances such as the agent's involuntary subjection, or his being asked to bear certain burdens unexpectedly or by himself, the obligation is further reduced. The reality constraint with regard to facts about agency and moral motivation thus sets limits on the systems of social rules that are eligible for endorsement.

Keywords: agency; exigency; first‐person standpoint; moral motivation; Nagel; Williams

Chapter.  9909 words. 

Subjects: Moral Philosophy

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