Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality

Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality

Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality

Ideal Code, Real World: A Rule-Consequentialist Theory of Morality


What are appropriate criteria for assessing a theory of morality? In Ideal Code, Real World, Brad Hooker begins by answering this question, and then argues for a rule-consequentialist theory. According to rule-consequentialism, acts should be assessed morally in terms of impartially justifiedrules, and rules are impartially justified if and only if the expected overall value of their general internalization is at least as great as for any alternative rules. In the course of developing his rule-consequentialism, Hooker discusses impartiality, well-being, fairness, equality, the questionof how the 'general internalization' of rules is to be interpreted by rule-consequentialism, and the main objections to rule-consequentialism. He also discusses the social contract theory of morality, act-consequentialism, and the question of which moral prohibitions and which duties to help othersare the ones that rule-consequentialism endorses. The last part of the book considers the implications of rule-consequentialism for some current controversies in practical ethics.


Shouldn't we try to live by the moral code whose communal acceptance would, as far as we can tell, have the best consequences? Isn't the code best suited for internalization by humanity the one we should try to follow? If the consequences of everyone's feeling morally free to do a given kind of act would be better than the consequences of everyone's not feeling free to do it, how can acts of this kind be wrong?

These questions picture morality as ideally a collective enterprise, a practice to be shared. A moral code, or at least the most basic moral code, should be internalized and followed by everyone, not just by you or by me or by any mere sub-group of the whole. As David Copp (1995 : 112) holds, 'To subscribe to a moral code realistically, one must desire that it be the social moral code. That is, one must desire it to be socially enforced, culturally transmitted, and generally subscribed to as a moral code in one's society.'

So, given that a moral code is for our collective internalization, what would an ideal code be like?

A number of different theories make moral permissibility turn on considerations about ideal codes. This book focuses on just one such theory—rule-consequentialism. Rule-consequentialism evaluates

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