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More Seriously Wrong, More Importantly Right

  • THOMAS HURKA (a1)

Abstract

Commonsense morality divides acts into those that are right and those that are wrong, but it thinks some wrong acts are more seriously wrong than others, for example, murder than breaking a promise. This has several implications. If an act is more seriously wrong, you should feel more guilt about it and, other things equal, you are more blameworthy for it and can deserve more punishment; we may also need to consider serious wrongness when choosing in conditions of risk or moral uncertainty. This paper examines how one act can be more seriously wrong than another, and, when it is, what makes this so. More specifically, it considers a number of different views about the ground of serious wrongness and explores the possibility that this may be different when acts violate deontological versus consequentialist duties. It also asks whether there is a parallel concept that admits of degrees on the side of rightness, one of being, as we can say, more importantly right. It aims to expand the scope of deontic theory from binary questions about right versus wrong to ones whose answers admit of degrees.

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Copyright

Footnotes

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Earlier versions of this paper were presented at Syracuse University, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, University of Toronto, Princeton University, Brown University, Haverford College, University of Pennsylvania, City University of New York, New York University (as the Mala Kamm Memorial Lecture), Oxford University, University of Warwick, Tulane University, Australian National University, Australian Catholic University, and MIT. I am grateful to audiences on all these occasions for comments and encouragement and am especially grateful to Selim Berker, Mitchell Berman, Brad Cokelet, Stephen Darwall, David Estlund, Johann Frick, Brad Inwood, Shelly Kagan, Frances Kamm, Kacper Kowalczyk, Seth Lazar, Adam Lerner, Michael Moore, Stephen Perry, Arthur Ripstein, Daniel Schwartz, Holly Smith, Victor Tadros, Sergio Tenenbaum, Hasko von Kriegstein, and two referees for this journal.

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References

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Journal of the American Philosophical Association
  • ISSN: 2053-4477
  • EISSN: 2053-4485
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-the-american-philosophical-association
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