AN IMPARTIALIST REJOINDER?
WILLIAMS INTRODUCED the Jim example and developed the arguments that I have just rehearsed as part of an extended polemic against utilitarianism—which Williams took, metonymically, to represent the third-personal approach to impartial morality more broadly. But the third-personal approach to impartial morality, which also dominates the traditional presentation of the adversary system excuse, presents a particularly immediate and crass threat to integrity, which may be cast in unusually stark terms. Moreover, the language in which the argument concerning integrity has so far been developed exploits these weaknesses to powerful effect.
This makes it natural to wonder whether the argument concerning integrity displays the limitations of impartial morality generally (and the enduring importance of older more intimate conceptions of ethics) or instead makes only a narrower point about the limitations of the peculiar utilitarian account of impartiality that Williams was, as a historical matter, addressing and that the traditional development of the adversary system excuse imports. Perhaps if this crude, thirdpersonal conception of impartiality is replaced with another more sophisticated conception, impartial morality will no longer pose any threat to integrity, either in Jim’s case or (once suitable modifications to the adversary system excuse have been made) in the case of lawyers. If so, then legal ethics could retain its purely impartialist character, and indeed remain focused on the adversary system excuse, and still succeed at rendering the legal profession worthy of commitment, all things considered.
In this case, the more radical departure in legal ethics that I pursue in Part III, which steps outside impartialist morality entirely to address the lawyerly vices directly in a first-personal register, would lose much of its motivation. The upheaval in legal ethics that I shall propose therefore cannot be justified until the more modest revision is shown to be inadequate. Moreover, although the underlying problem of integrity cannot, finally, be resolved from within the impartialist paradigm, the sophistication of the alternative to the third-personal account of impartiality means that some care must be employed to see just why not.