Published online by Cambridge University Press: 21 February 2018
Rule-Consequentialism faces ‘the problem of partial acceptance’: How should the ideal code be selected given the possibility that its rules may not be universally accepted? A new contender, ‘Calculated Rates’ Rule-Consequentialism claims to solve this problem. However, I argue that Calculated Rates merely relocates the partial acceptance question. Nevertheless, there is a significant lesson from this failure of Calculated Rates. Rule-Consequentialism's problem of partial acceptance is more helpfully understood as an instance of the broader problem of selecting the ideal code given various assumptions – assumptions about who will accept and comply with the rules, but also about how the rules will be taught and enforced, and how similar the future will be. Previous rich discussions about partial acceptance provide a taxonomy and groundwork for formulating the best version of Rule-Consequentialism.
2 Hooker, Ideal Code, Real World, p. 83; see also Brandt, Richard, Morality, Utilitarianism, and Rights (Cambridge, 1992).Google Scholar
3 A referee asks a helpful and neglected question: why exactly is the fact that no code will secure universal acceptance a problem? Once we identify the ‘ideal code’, why would partial acceptance challenge its status as the ideal code? To see the relevance of acceptance, imagine that we identify the seemingly ideal moral code, but estimates reveal that it will be accepted by 0 per cent of the population. It is hard to see how any plausible conception of Rule-Consequentialism – concerned with the value of consequences – could endorse this as the ideal code.
7 Toppinen, Teemu, ‘Rule Consequentialism (and Kantian Contractualism) at Top Rates’, Philosophical Quarterly 66 (2016), pp. 122–35.Google Scholar
8 Throughout the article I use ‘value’ rather than ‘welfare’ or ‘utility’ to follow Hooker, Ideal Code, Real World.
9 There is no need to specify the likelihood distribution in this example, since Code 1 strictly dominates Code 2. Given any distribution of acceptance levels, Code 1 has greater expected value than Code 2.
10 Say, with a mean of 60 and a standard deviation of 5.
11 Ridge, ‘Introducing Variable Rate Rule Utilitarianism’.
12 Tobia, ‘Rule Consequentialism and the Problem of Partial Acceptance’.
13 Tobia, ‘Rule Consequentialism and the Problem of Partial Acceptance’, p. 645.
16 See Miller, ‘Solving Rule-Consequentialism's Acceptance Rate Problem’ for a critique that extends to all theories.
17 Portmore, Douglas W., ‘Parfit on Reasons and Rule Consequentialism’, Reading Parfit: On What Matters, ed. Kirchin, Simon (Abingdon, 2017), pp. 135–52, at 143.Google Scholar
18 Smith, ‘Measuring the Consequences of Rules’. But see Long Yeo, Shang, ‘Measuring the Consequences of Rules: A Reply to Smith’, Utilitas 29 (2017), pp. 125–31.Google Scholar For the distinction between acceptance and compliance, see Mulgan, Timothy, Future People: A Moderate Consequentialist Account of Our Obligations to Future Generations (Oxford, 2006), p. 138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
19 Miller, ‘Solving Rule-Consequentialism's Acceptance Rate Problem’.
20 Miller, ‘Solving Rule-Consequentialism's Acceptance Rate Problem’, p. 50.
21 Miller, ‘Solving Rule-Consequentialism's Acceptance Rate Problem’, p. 50.
22 Thanks to an anonymous referee for suggesting this question.
23 See, for example, Hooker, Ideal Code, Real World.
24 Brandt, Morality, Utilitarianism, and Rights.
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