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Theoretical Medicine and Bioethics (2005) 26: 261275

DOI: 10.1007/s11017-005-3983-y

Springer 2005



ABSTRACT. Philip Pettit has argued that universalizability entails consequentialism. I criticise the argument for relying on a question-begging reading of the
impartiality of universalization. A revised form of the argument can be constructed
by relying on preference-satisfaction rationality, rather than on impartiality. But
this revised argument succumbs to an ambiguity in the notion of a preference (or
desire). I compare the revised argument to an earlier argument of Pettits for
consequentialism that appealed to the theoretical virtue of simplicity, and I raise
questions about the force of appeal to notions like simplicity and rationality in
moral argument.
KEY WORDS: consequentialism, desire, impartiality, rationality, universalizability

Consequentialism and universalizability are both concerned to

make morality equal, universal, and impartial. Both seem to displace oneself from the centre of the moral universe. Thus they
appear altruistic and as somehow basic to morality. Yet they do
this in different ways, arguably. Consequentialism does so by
demanding we look at the bearing of our actions on everyone,
without priority for our own case. Universalizability insists that we
all have the same duties, so no one can claim a privileged
exemption from duties he expects of others. Both have a vision,
but a different vision, of impartiality. And they can conflict.
Consider that according to consequentialism, just as there is
nothing special about me when it comes to the effects of my
action, so there is nothing special about me and my duty when it
comes to the duty to perform the action. If as universalizability
requires other peoples duties to perform the universally prescribed action are no more or less stringent than mine, then
impartiality requires that I not perform my duty, if, by doing so, I
can improve overall compliance with duty. But doesnt that conflict
with the impartial ideal of universalizability that one not exempt
oneself from duties one expects of others?



Philosophers sympathetic to both universalizability and consequentialism have often suspected some deep connection between
them. Peter Singer believes that the (supposed) impartialist requirement of ethics to consider the interests of all creatures and not merely
ones own, is good reason for treating utilitarianism as presumptively
the best ethical theory.1 R. M. Hare, more ambitious, argues that the
logic of the ordinary moral term ought entails universalizability,
which in turn entails utilitarianism.2 Hares argument has not found
much support. However, recently, another consequentialist with a
strong Australian connection, Philip Pettit, has revived in a different
way, the attempt to derive consequentialism from universalizability.3
This paper is an examination of Pettits argument.
Unlike Hare and Singer, Pettit is not a utilitarian, so his argument
is to that extent less ambitious. He distinguishes between the theory of
the good the theory of what is good or valuable and the theory of
the right the theory of what makes an action the morally right action
to perform. The two theories are closely connected. Indeed in one
place Pettit characterises the theory of the right as a theory about
what individual and institutional agents should do by way of
responding to valuable properties.4 The big issue in the theory of the
right, according to Pettit, is whether we are to promote good generally
or instantiate good in our own actions.5 Or more precisely, whether
good should be promoted at the expense, if necessary, of instantiating
it, or whether instantiation should always take precedence over promotion if the two clash. (I shall follow Pettit in glossing promotion as
the maximization of expected value.) Most of the time instantiating
harmonises with promoting. Among the ways for me best to promote
veracity is by telling the truth myself. But there are cases Pettit calls
them perverse where this is not so. A politician may sometimes
better promote veracity by lying to conceal past lies, preserving a
(illusory) good example. Police may sometimes deter criminals by
breaching the law themselves. And so on.
Those who advocate these breaches of normal duty in order to
promote greater duty compliance are consequentialists. Those who
hold that (at least sometimes) I should instantiate veracity or lawabidingness, even when doing so entails a greater number of lies and
more criminality, are taking a non-consequentialist stance. Pettits
aim is to show that if one universalizes some action one judges right,
then one must agree, in perverse cases, to promote that action at the
expense of oneself instantiating it. That is, one must be a consequentialist.



Consider a bioethical case in point: John Harriss survival lottery

in which healthy and innocent members of the public are selected by
lottery to be killed for their organs, which are then donated to a
larger number of people in need.6 The case is rather fantastical
though, at least politically. More realistic examples are those notorious cases in which soldiers or hospital patients have been used,
sometimes unwittingly, as guinea pigs in dangerous medical experiments. The reader may supply other examples of his own devising. I
shall occasionally advert to these bioethical cases in the course of my
Section 1 summarises Pettits argument. In section 2, I present my
criticism of the argument, which is essentially that the crucial notion
of impartiality on which Pettit relies is ambiguous between consequentialist and non-consequentialist readings. By just assuming the
consequentialist reading he begs the question. This objection is
essentially the same as one advanced in different terms by Tim
Chappell. In section 3, I present a revised version of the argument,
which relies on a principle of preference-satisfaction rationality,
rather than on impartiality, and avoids begging the question. I fault
the revised argument by pointing to a crucial ambiguity in the concepts of desire and preference. I also compare the revised argument
with an earlier Pettit argument for consequentialism. This occasions
some reflections on the place of theory in morality.

Pettits aim is to show that universalizability entails consequentialism, given the unacceptability of a relativistic alternative. The argument is a reductio ad absurdum. Pettit assumes non-consequentialism
and tries to show that (short of taking the relativist escape route) it
cannot be consistently combined with universalizability. Universalizing that is, stipulating or acknowledging that [w]hatever makes it
right that I do O in C makes it right... that any agent do O in C8
leads the non-consequentialist into inconsistency.
The argument begins with this assumption:
Judging that an action is right involves approving of the deed and gives one a
normative reason to prefer it.9

Someone who judged an action right, but did not acknowledge

such a reason, would place his understanding in question. That seems



right. Now, when I universalize I judge that for all other agents, if
they are ever in the relevant circumstances, the right action for each
to perform is the same one as I judged was right for me to perform.
So by the above principle, and in parity with my own case, I must
approve of the action for them too, and acknowledge that I have a
normative reason to prefer that they perform the action. As Pettit
puts it, by universalizing:
I commit myself to there being a normative reason for me to prefer, with any agent
whatsoever, that in C-type circumstances that agent do O.10

Then, if I am a rational agent, my preferences will conform to

these reasons. I shall have preferences that I O if I am ever in C, that
you will do so, that Bloggs will do so, and so on for every agent.
Trouble arises for the non-consequentialist in the perverse circumstances, where it is impossible for me (the non-consequentialist
universalizer) to get all the above preferences satisfied. As we saw
with one of the examples of perversity mentioned in the introduction,
the politician must choose between his preference for performing his
own duty to tell the truth and his preferences, one for each agent, that
each agent perform his corresponding duty to tell the truth. But in
choosing, how can I justify giving priority to my own case (my
preference that I do my duty) over others (my preference that others
do their duty)? I cant, Pettit maintains, because such partisanship is
at odds with the spirit of that very universalizability I have engaged
in. He writes:
... it would surely run against the spirit of universalizability, the spirit in which I deny
that my own particular identity is important to the prescription defended, to say that
a reasoned preference as to what I do myself should not be responsive to a similarly
reasoned preference as to what people in general do what arbitrary agent X does
in the sorts of circumstances in question. This consideration becomes particularly
telling when we remember that the satisfaction of the self-related preference may
mean that just one person performs the approved action and its non-satisfaction may
mean that very large numbers do so. How to justify satisfying the self-related preference, short of privileging the self and rejecting the spirit of universalizability?11

The only fair, impartial procedure the only one true to the spirit
of universalizability is to aim at maximising overall compliance.
And if that turns out to require that I do not perform O in C, that my
desire that I do so be frustrated, then so be it. The point is that one is
now a promoter of value, not an instantiater. The non-consequentialist doctrine (of whatever version) if combined with universalizability, is self-refuting.



Pettit concedes the argument is not decisive. He believes one can

escape it, but only by embracing a counter-intuitive relativization of
rightness, which entails the unacceptable consequence that there is
no set of common values for the successful justication of a moral
judgment. Im not convinced that this escape route really exists. Its
not clear that any plausibility at all attaches to a universalization
which says that my O-ing in C is right from my point of view, yours is
from your point of view, Bloggs is from his point of view, and so on.
How am I to know others points of views? Since some are sure to be
different from mine am I not bound to fall into error? The same point
applies whether we talk of rightness from a point of view, different
senses of right, or different properties picked out by right. At one
point Pettit elucidates his notion of relativization by comparison with
patriotism. All patriots love their country, but they dont all love the
same country. But such differences are a feature of ordinary nonrelativistic universalization. I universalize that everyone should keep
their promises in circumstances O, but (unless the circumstances are
constrained beyond anything normal) we dont all have the same
promises to keep.
So perhaps Pettits argument is actually stronger than he supposes.
However it wont matter to the ultimate fate of his argument whether
it is feasible in this stronger form. My objections prevail against it in
the weaker version, and hence in the stronger. So we can ignore the
relativization question.

My principal objection to Pettits argument is that universality and
impartiality are themselves contested notions contested between the
consequentialist and the non-consequentialist and that Pettits
argument begs the question by assuming the consequentialist reading.
There are two spirits of universalizability and Pettit simply chooses
the one that suits his case. The point is similar to one made by Tim
Chappell, though he puts it in different terms.12
Pettit says that the universalizing non-consequentialist, as a result
of his universalizing, has normative reasons (one for each agent X,
including himself) for desiring that X should do O in C. Granted. If I
commend O-ing in C to others; if I approve of others doing O in C; if I
prescribe to others that they should O in C; then, surely, if I am
rational, I will desire that others O in C. But desire is one thing, duty



another, and the two can come apart. It is one thing to desire, for
moral reasons, general compliance with O-ing in C, another to have a
duty to take action designed to secure that compliance. It is also one
thing not to desire my duty be done more (or less) strongly than
I desire anyone elses be done, on the ground of impartiality; but
another to think, on the same ground, that I have a duty to promote
others dutifulness, and especially that I have a duty to promote
others dutifulness at the expense of doing my own (first-order) duty.
The former, weaker duty may be resisted on the ground of minding
my own business, the latter, stronger duty on the ground that it is the
very antithesis of impartiality: trying to get others to do their duties
when I dont do it myself is the very paradigm of an unjust and
hypocritical, self-serving partisanship.
(The non-consequentialist will no doubt also add that if [in an
example of Pettits own] I neglect my own children in order to spend
time campaigning for parental responsibility, I wrong my children,
sacricing them for a greater cause; while on the other hand, asymmetrically, it is not true that if I forgo the opportunity to improve
overall compliance with good parenting in order to be a good parent
to my own children, that I have wronged or mistreated those children
of other parents who would have beneted from a successful goodparenting campaign. They have been wronged by their own parents,
but not by me. It does seem to me that consequentialism here is far
removed from moral reality. Neither the unfortunate children of the
other parents, nor those neglectful parents themselves, could blame
me [not even in thought alone] for looking after my own children.
Can any consequentialist, outside the sheltered world of the academic
seminar room, gainsay that?)
Pettit can contend that, at a higher level, impartiality is preserved:
if I can (and should) neglect my (apparent) duty in order to maximise
general dutifulness, then so can (and should) you. I am claiming no
special privilege for myself. But in saying this he appeals to a conception of impartiality, which assumes his conclusion that promotion
is the right attitude to adopt to values. There is available an alternative
conception (an alternative spirit of universalizability), the one I appealed to just above, which takes the view that values are to be
instantiated, even at the cost of overall promotion. This alternative
insists that I do not neglect my contribution (so to speak) just because,
as a result of the neglectfulness of some others, I can improve overall
compliance with duty by not doing mine. In appealing to the higher
level of impartiality Pettit begs the question.



Pettit may respond that he has already shown that his argument
is insulated against this criticism. He writes that his argument
abstracts from other relevant values that would argue against satisfying either the self-directed preference or the more general preference.13 It is of course the latter that we are concerned with here.
Pettit is saying that his argument abstracts away from values that
exhort us to mind our own affairs, that would resist our taking action
concerned with others compliance, including general compliance
with a duty. He has in mind values that require one to be, he says, a
respectful fellow-citizen, colleague, or friend, which recommend
against moralistic intrusion into others affairs: e.g. values of respect
for privacy and autonomy. What does Pettit mean in saying that
his argument abstracts from these values? Something like this
I take it: that when no other such values are relevant (or on the
assumption they are not) what justification can we have for taking
other than a strictly neutral approach to the remaining duties of each
agent, seeking to maximise overall compliance? The problem of
course is that other such values frequently are relevant. One cannot
just wish them away. Moreover they include that conception of
impartiality which says it is hypocritical and unjust to forgo ones
own duty in the name of general duty-promotion and this value is
always relevant according to the non-consequentialist, so there is no
abstracting away from it without begging the question at issue.
The moral is that Pettit can avail himself of a duty to be concerned with general compliance at the expense of ones own, only if
he introduces such a duty as an independent premise. Such a premise
may seem plausible enough, but it is not forced upon us in unrestricted form. As Timothy Chappell in effect points out, it is not the
only plausible premise requiring one to be concerned with others
performance of their duties. Another is that one should promote
general dutifulness in so far as one can do so without violating any
value (or in a more restricted version, without failing to perform
ones own duty to O in C). Clearly the first proposed premise is a
consequentialist principle, while Chappells is a non-consequentialist
principle. What universalizability commits you to, depends on
which premise you adopt. Given the availability of Chappells
premise, if Pettit adopts the first he is simply begging the question.
Of course, he might advance some other compelling reasons for
preferring the first, but these will simply be reasons for consequentialism that operate quite independently of any considerations
about universalizability.



Chappells point and mine are essentially the same, made in different ways and placed in different contexts. So I shall call the
objection the Chappell objection.
The Chappell objection is decisive against Pettits argument in its
present form. But it is possible to reformulate the argument to surmount the Chappell objection.
I have granted that Pettits argument as it stands does establish
that, if I universalize, and if I am rational in the sense of continent, I
shall have desires, one for each agent X, that X perform O in C. My
act of universalization gives me reason for these desires, and a continent agents desires conform to what he or she has most reason to
desire. (We are assuming there are no countervailing reasons to those
generated by the universalizability.) I also granted that these desires
would be equally strong. Why? Because of their pedigree. Each arises
from a reason, which arises from what we might call some rightmaking facts. Those right making facts, ex hypothesi, are the same
for each agent in C. So they generate the same kind and degree of
rightness for each O. That rightness in turn generates reasons for
desire that will, in turn, be of equal force. And finally, the rational
(continent) agent is one who will, for any reason of force R, have a
corresponding desire of appropriate strength. Since every reason is of
force R, the same force, each of the agents desires will be of the same
strength. So the rational agent will have a desire in respect of each
agent that he does O in C and these desires are of equal strength.
This is the point at which Pettit question-beggingly appeals to the
impartial spirit of universalizability. My suggestion is that instead of
appealing to a principle of impartiality, he appeal to an apparently
plausible principle of rationality: not rationality in the sense of continence ensuring the conformity of desires to reasons, but in the sense
of continence ensuring the conformity of actions to desires, where
that is understood as action which maximises the agents desire
(preference) satisfaction. If this familiar principle is granted, and
concentrating just on those desires concerning the duty to O in C,
given the equal strength of these desires, it follows that the rational
agent (in this stronger sense) will act neutrally to promote the maximum satisfaction of those desires. Which is to say he will promote
overall duty compliance, if necessary at the expense of doing his own
duty to O in C. In short, he will be a consequentialist.



It might be objected that this only shows that maximising overall

dutifulness, even at the expense of ones own duty, is rational, but not
that it is moral. What is established is consequentialism for rationality, not morality. But a little more argument gets us to morality.
The ideally moral agent is (at least) one whose preferences (and
actions) accord with his duty. By universalizing the non-consequentialist agent puts his preferences out of line with his duty as he conceives it. The non-consequentialist can be moral (by his lights) only
by being irrational. How can the non-consequentialist put duty and
(preference-satisfaction) rationality back together? Either by abandoning universalization, which changes the preferences to fit the
morality; or by abandoning non-consequentialism, which changes the
morality to fit the preferences. Universalizability is being treated as
fixed for the sake of this paper. So, assuming non-consequentialists
dont want to be irrational or immoral, they will change their
morality. They must agree that if they universalize they have to be
Does this beg the question? It might seem that the rationality
assumption is a consequentialist assumption. So it is, but it is consequentialism about rationality, not about morality. One can consistently
accept the consequentialist view of rationality and be a non-consequentialist in morality. For example, you might believe we should never
experiment on embryos in order to enhance the lives of others. Then, if
you are morally ideal (as you conceive it), your desires will be in line
with this principle. That is to say, they will be so arranged that the desire
to do this duty will sufciently outweigh all other desires for it to be true
that desire-satisfaction is maximized that is, you are rational only if
you act on the desire to do your non-consequentialist duty. So the
principle of rationality appealed to in the revised version of Pettits
argument does not assume consequentialism in morality. It is universalizability, together with the preference-maximization view of
rationality, which produces the consequentialist morality. Neither by
itself contains that morality. The question is not begged.
The revised version of the argument assumes that the universalizing
non-consequentialist should prefer becoming a consequentialist in
order to remain rational over remaining a non-consequentialist at the
expense of rationality. But its not obvious that rationality should
trump morality.



Here it might be useful to compare briey my revised version of the

argument in Non-consequentialism and Universalizability the paper
I have concentrated on with an earlier argument by Pettit for consequentialism.14 In the earlier argument Pettit recommends consequentialism over non-consequentialism on the grounds of superior
simplicity. Consequentialism endorses one way of responding to value
(promotion) whereas non-consequentialism, inexplicably, endorses
two (promotion and instantiation). Further, since (he assumes) we are
exclusively promoters in non-moral matters, non-consequentialism
needlessly puts morality out of congruence with the non-moral by
again, making us promoters and instantiaters in that arena. Simplicity
thus recommends consequentialism over non-consequentialism.
The argument can be challenged at a number of points. But by far
the most philosophically important is to question whether moral
convictions (or necessities contrast both with moral intuitions) are
the sort of thing that are or should be sensitive to considerations like
simplicity at all. Simplicity is a virtue of theories. So it is trivially true
that it is a virtue of moral theorization. But it needs to be acknowledged that there is a large step being taken if we move from that
truism to the claim that simplicity (and other theoretical virtues) are
virtues of morality itself. Is it really so obvious that a person who
cannot agree to, say, taking one life to save ten, is answerable (inter
alia) to the demand that he act according to what the simplest theory
would prescribe? Would a person facing such a choice be moved in
the slightest by such a consideration and in our hearts (so it is not
just a matter of politeness) could we blame him for not being so? In
short, is attention to things like simplicity, internal or external to the
kind of seriousness which is inherent to the nature of morality?
Applying this line of thought to the revised version of Pettits
argument, the corresponding idea is that appealing to the preferencesatisfaction principle of rationality is akin to appealing to simplicity.
Should someone opposed to killing one to save ten (or to something like
John Harris survival lottery) really be inuenced by the thought that he
is failing to maximize his preference-satisfaction? What is that, he may
well think, alongside the profound importance of the decision he has to
make? Again, could we, in our hearts, blame him for preferring his
morality over this rationality? More importantly, if he did decide the
issue on the basis of such a consideration, how would the other people
concerned (those whose lives might be lost by instituting the lottery)
react? If they judged the agent to have treated the matter flippantly,
could we, in our hearts, blame them for the harshness of that judgment?



I want to emphasise that the revised version of Pettits argument is entirely my invention and not at all to be blamed on
Pettit. Moreover, I am not attributing to him the view, specically,
that there are possible circumstances in which one person should
be killed to save more. Especially since his argument concerns
cases in which overall compliance with duty (and not just any good
effect, like saving lives) is improved by not performing duty. Still,
one can imagine someone for whom lying (to ones dearest friend,
who has put all his trust in you) to improve overall veracity is a
terrible violation of his conscience. We might feel more confident
we can find fault (in our hearts) with such a man on a theoretical
basis than in the killing case. But can we be sure of that from the
philosophical armchair? Can we be sure our philosophical theory
will survive the encounter with someone for whom, as he may
explain himself, untruthfulness (and perhaps especially untruthfulness in the name of truthfulness) dishonours those on whose behalf
the lies are told as much as those to whom they are told; and for
whom such untruthfulness is (in its own way) no more a possibility
than leaping over the moon.
Even if the moral philosopher thinks he can answer yes to these
questions, this resistance to theoretical considerations is itself one of
the most marked features of morality, and any account of morality
must at least address it.
Of course, these considerations are highly controversial. However,
I do not need to rely on them to undermine the revised version of
Pettits argument. The problem for the argument lies in an ambiguity
in talk of desires, or of preferences. (For reasons of space I shall
largely ignore preferences.) I take it that in ordinary parlance desires
(hunger, lust, a craving for money or success) are to be contrasted
with other springs of action: anger, fear, being startled, cringing,
smiling, or ducking to avoid a missile. None of these are purely
automatic behaviours (we can control them to some degree) but
neither are they desires in the ordinary sense. Not only are these
sources of action distinct from desire, but they can all prompt us to
act against our desires. Two very pertinent examples of this are what I
would describe as being claimed by sympathy or by conscience. I
want to ignore my duty, but conscience says no. I want to ignore the
bad-tempered, filth-ridden patient crying for my attention, but my
heart melts at his pathetic importunity. And so on. By contrast with
ordinary speech philosophers, economists, and others often use
desire (and preference) as terms-of-art referring to all sources of



(intentional) behaviour. In this usage all the non-desire springs of

action I noted above will count as revealing desires or preferences.
Armed with this distinction, we can now see the aw in the revised
form of the argument. The non-consequentialist has desires (one for
each agent) that each agent O in C. However his conscience demands
that he O in C. That same conscience will also demand that he promote general compliance with O in C but (i) that demand of conscience will typically be less severe than the rst, and (ii) it will come
hedged with the proviso that this promotion is never at the expense of
his own rst-order duty to O in C, and the conscientious demand for
this proviso will be as strong as for the first-order duty. Now, the
desires that each agent O in C are desires in both senses I have
distinguished. But conscience is a desire only in the specialized sense.
So which sense do we go with? That is, do we count conscience as a
desire or not? It doesnt matter. The point is that conscience underpins my duty to O in C in a way it does not underpin my duty to
promote general compliance with O in C and it does not underpin
at all any duty to promote general compliance with O in C at the
expense of my O-ing in C. If we read the preference-satisfaction
rationality principle as taking the specialized sense of desire, so that
conscience counts as a desire, then all my (ordinary sense) equalstrength desires for agents to do their duty will have to compete for
satisfaction not only with one another but also with the (specialized
sense) desire of my conscience that I O in C and never neglect this to
promote general compliance with it. The desires in the contest are no
longer all of equal strength. Indeed, there is now a particularly strong
desire that I never neglect O-ing in C in order to promote it generally.
So there is no longer any guarantee that maximum preference-satisfaction will require action that neutrally maximises overall O-ing in
C. Indeed, the presumption would be the reverse.
Alternatively, if we go with the ordinary reading of desire in the
rationality principle, that just raises the question of why rationality
should be restricted to desires in the ordinary sense. Why should
desires be privileged over conscience or sympathy, or any other of the
sources of our action? Perhaps the idea is that we should maximise
our cool, reective, thought-out desires? But should reection not be
informed by conscience (and sympathy etc.)? Anyone who wants to
defend the revised version of the argument has a lot of work to do
This reasoning accepts the legitimacy of appealing to a preferencesatisfaction principle of rationality in moral argument. It is thus less



searching than the earlier considerations in this section, which challenged just that. I believe that challenge interest in which goes well
beyond issues about consequentialism is well-founded. The concept
of rationality is one that has suffered at the hands of philosophers
trying to put more weight on it than it can bear. Even so, I would not
want to deny important connections between morality and rationality
entirely. For one thing, I think there are external reasons (in Bernard
Williams sense: ones not dependent on the agents psychology) not
of the sort that require moral behaviour on pain of irrationality, but
of a sort which require one to recognize the intelligibility of certain
moral reactions (of sympathy or conscience) on pain of insanity or
losing ones reason (better, of losing what it is that binds human
beings together in an un-rationalisable nexus of mutual recognition).
For another, I think that internalist element of rationality that we call
continence, self-control, or strength-of-will is important. In the continent person, his impulses will conform to morality as he understands it (which may not be something abstractly intellectual it may
be what his conscience demands). This is still some distance from the
Socratic thought that if we understand the Good as it really is, then
we cannot but love it with all our heart and mind, but it is part of the
story. If so, then maybe my discussion of the Pettit argument has not
been entirely academic.

I am grateful for comments on an earlier version of this paper from
Rodney Allen, Greg Bognar and Peter Woolcock. I would like to thank
the Philosophy School at the Australian Catholic University for
granting me leave-without-pay in 2004, making it possible to nish this
article, and the Philosophy Department at Flinders University for
providing a convivial atmosphere in which to do so.


Peter Singer, Practical Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), pp.
R. M. Hare, Moral Thinking: Its Levels, Method and Point (Oxford: Clarendon
Press, 1981) and his Universal Prescriptivism, in A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter
Singer (Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 451463.



An Irishman by birth, Pettit was a professor in the Research School of Social

Sciences at the Australian National University in Canberra from 1983 to 2002. Since
then he has been William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University in the United States.
Philip Pettit, Consequentialism, in A Companion to Ethics, ed. Peter Singer
(Oxford: Blackwell, 1993), pp. 230240 at p. 230. See also Pettits The Consequentialist Perspective, in Marcia W. Baron, Philip Pettit, and Michael Slote, Three
Methods of Ethics (Oxford: Blackwell, 1997), pp. 92174 at pp. 102103.
I use the word instantiate, since that is the one employed in Philip Pettit NonConsequentialism and Universalizability, in The Philosophical Quarterly 50 (2000):
175190. This is the paper on which I focus almost exclusively. In earlier work Pettit
uses the term honouring.
John Harris, The Survival Lottery, in Killing and Letting Die, eds. Bonnie
Steinbock and Alastair Norcross (New York: Fordham University Press, 1994), pp.
Also, bear in mind with all these cases that the greater good being promoted is not
just any good effect, like saving or prolonging life or enhancing comfort, but compliance with the value in question by other agents. Consider Embryo Experimentation:
not protecting/enhancing (indeed attacking) the health and welfare of the embryo is
justified not by reference to the large number of the handicapped who may be healed,
but by the large number of cases in which other doctors will have the opportunity to
comply with the value of enhancing the life of their patients.
Pettit, cited in n. 5 above, 180.
Pettit, cited in n. 5 above, 181.
Pettit, cited in n. 5 above, 181.
Pettit, cited in n. 5 above, 182.
Tim Chappell, A Way Out of Pettits Dilemma, The Philosophical Quarterly 51
(2001): 9599.
Pettit, cited in n. 5 above, 182183.
Pettit cited first in n. 4 above.

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Discipline of Philosophy
Philosophy DP400
School of Humanities
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5000