[SydPhil] USyd Postgrad Colloquium Mon October 27: Chad Lee-Stronach - 'Waging War on Moral Absolutism'

Gabriel Watts gabriel.watts at gmail.com
Fri Oct 24 16:25:48 AEDT 2014

Dear all,

The next USyd philosophy postgraduate colloquium will be held on
Monday October 27 @ 2pm in the Muniment room (Quadrangle building,
University of Sydney).  This week afternoon tea will be held *during*,
rather than after, the talk.  All very welcome!!

Talk details:
Speaker: Chad Lee-Stronach (ANU)

Title: 'Waging War on Moral Absolutism'

Abstract: Moral absolutists hold that certain moral considerations
have lexical priority over certain other considerations (moral or
otherwise). For example, T.M. Scanlon (1998) believes that one morally
ought to save another from agony, regardless of how many people this
disappoints. In other words, the badness of ‘allowing agony to occur’
is a consideration that lexically dominates the badness of ‘causing
disappointment to others’. It has recently been argued that absolutism
offers unacceptable guidance in cases of decision-making under
uncertainty. In particular, two problems have been levelled against
absolutism. The first is the Risk Problem (Jackson and Smith 2006;
Huemer 2010): when at most one of your acts has some positive
probability of violating a lexical ordering, then that act is
effectively ruled out, no matter how unlikely the violation. The
second problem is the Permissiveness Problem (Hansson 2003, 2013):
when all of one’s acts have some positive probability of violating a
lexical order, then one may perform any of the available acts,
regardless of their respective probabilities. I first argue that
absolutists can avoid the Risk Problem, but only by committing
themselves to the Permissiveness Problem. I then give a principled
solution to the Permissiveness Problem, based on Relative Utility
Theory (Bartha 2007). If successful, these arguments show that
absolutism can provide acceptable and principled guidance to agents
acting under uncertainty.
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