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ABSTRACT. Though the art of compromise, i.e. of settling differences by mutual concessions, is part of communal living on any level, we often think that there is something wrong in compromise, especially in cases where moral convictions are involved. A first reason for distrusting compromises on moral matters refers to the idea of integrity, understood in the basic sense of standing for something, especially standing for the values and causes that to some extent confer identity. The second reason points out the objective nature of moral values, which seems to make them immune from negotiation and barter. If one sincerely holds some moral conviction to be true, than compromising on that belief must be a sign of serious confusion. In order to reach a better understanding of these two reasons, I analyse what is involved in personal integrity and how this relates to moral integrity. I argue that the search for moral integrity naturally brings us to the question of how one could accept moral compromises and still uphold the idea that moral values and principles have an objective authority over us. To address this question I will present a version of moral pluralism which tries to capture the enormous complexity of what should matter to us as moral persons, and which explains why value-rankings are often deeply indeterminate. The general position I defend in this paper is that compromises involving moral values and norms may be morally required and, therefore, be laudable. To sustain this position I will arrive at a view of ethical objectivity that allows the possibility to negotiate about the truth of moral beliefs. KEY WORDS: ethical objectivity, indeterminacy, moral compromise, moral integrity, moral pluralism, personal integrity, value-conflicts

Life is full of compromises, and thank goodness for that! The coexistence of people with highly diverging and often conflicting strivings and interests would be impossible if we did not show a willingness to be concessive and accommodating with our fellow human beings. This is paradigmatically true in processes of public policy formation and democratic decision-making. Here, the art of compromise, i.e. of settling differences by mutual concessions, is firmly institutionalised. In a democratic society very little is accomplished that does not bear the marks of concession and accommodation.1
1 Martin Golding cites Edmund Burkes famous Speech on Conciliation with America (March 22, 1775): All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. We balance inconveniences, we give and take; we remit some rights, that we may enjoy others; and we choose rather to be happy citizens than subtle disputants. (Golding, 1979, p. 7).

Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 3: 385404, 2000. 2000 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.



Though the art of compromise is part not only of politics and public policy formation, but of communal living on any level, we often take a somewhat ambiguous attitude towards it. On the one hand we laud the willingness to compromise as the essence of rationality, good sense and prudence. But, at the same time we tend to admire people who stand for something, and who are not willing to make concessions in striving for their cause. If one is passionately committed to some idea or principle, than being concessive seems to involve a kind of betrayal of oneself. If one sincerely believes something to be true, than a willingness to accommodate ones convictions seems to convey confusion and ambiguity. A compromising attitude, therefore, can easily be considered to be a sign of weak-will, hypocrisy or irrationality. The feeling that there is something wrong in compromise is especially strong in cases where moral convictions are involved (Kuflick, 1979). We like to think that the morally good person is a person of firm principle, and we are inclined to suppose that a willingness to compromise on moral matters is a sign of insincerity and a shallow commitment to moralitys cause. The politician who is willing to make concessions on what he or she has always proclaimed to be of the utmost moral importance, must be either an opportunist or a hypocrite or suffering from self-deception. What is the role of strong moral convictions in a persons life if he or she is willing to compromise on the values and norms that, according to these convictions, should be upheld? May moral claims be negotiated? Can we trust people who think that they may? In this paper I would like to discuss the nature and status of compromises that involve moral values and norms.2 If politics and public policy formation are founded on compromise and barter, and if these compromises unavoidably involve moral values (as moral values are involved in many of the decisions politicians have to make), we need to be clearer about the moral status of such compromises. Compromises are often the result of negotiation. A process of compromise involves some sort of bargaining in which all parties will give in to a certain extent. Compromises, understood as the end-stage results of bargaining, will satisfy the claims of different parties in part but not in full: each will gain, but each will also concede something. (Day 1991) The same holds good for compromises between principles or strivings when only one party is involved (upholding both principles or strivings). It is essential to
In recent years, the idea of moral compromise has gained prominence in discussions on the conditions for public deliberation on issues that involve moral values. See Bohman (1996, p. 89 ff) and Gutman et al. (1996).



compromise that one will have to give in on all sides. The best outcome will always be suboptimal. Given this initial characterisation of the nature of compromises, there are two reasons for questioning the possibility and/or acceptability of compromises involving moral values and principles. The first reason can be stated in terms of the integrity of the person who participates in the bargaining process. In a very basic sense, integrity involves standing for something, especially standing for the values and causes that to some extent confer identity. Given their overriding importance, ones commitment to moral values and principles will have an identity-conferring function; at least in so far as one is identified as a moral person. A commitment to moral values usually plays an important role in a persons life, as it shapes ones conception of an integrated and respectable self. By giving in on some moral principle or value one may, therefore, be in danger of losing ones moral identity. The second reason does not refer to the overall importance that commitment to moral values plays in a persons life, but points out the objective nature of moral values, which seems to make them immune from negotiation and barter. If one sincerely holds some moral conviction to be true, than compromising on that belief must be a sign of serious confusion. Truth is usually regarded as some-thing that cannot be negotiated. The purpose of this paper is to reach a better understanding of these two reasons for distrusting compromises on moral matters. This will require some further analysis of the idea of integrity, especially the relationship between personal integrity and moral integrity. I hope to show that understanding what is involved in moral integrity will naturally imply a view of ethical objectivity, and that, therefore, the question of compromise & integrity boils down to the question of how one could accept moral compromises and still uphold the idea that moral values and principles have an objective authority over us. To address this question I will present a version of moral pluralism which tries to capture the enormous complexity of what should matter to us as moral persons. Because there is an irreducible plurality of values relevant to moral judgment, it is likely that people will have diverse beliefs about moralitys demands, a diversity which is the prime reason for having to compromise on moral matters in public policy formation. The general position I would like to defend in this paper is that compromises involving moral values and norms may be morally required and, therefore, be laudable. To sustain this position I need to arrive at a view of ethical objectivity that allows the possibility to negotiate about the truth of moral beliefs.




A distinction is often made between personal and moral integrity. I believe, however, that there is only a gradual difference between personal and moral integrity, in terms of the perspective-independence of the principles one is committed to. This can be shown by pointing out what is involved in calling someone a person of integrity. First and foremost, we commonly understand integrity as a state of being an integrated self, that is, a state of relative wholeness of the parts of the self.3 This requires, firstly, a certain amount of consistency within ones set of commitments and, secondly, sufficient coherence between principle and action. The integrity of the politician who claims to be committed to the opposing causes of different electoral populations, or who has difficulty in acting according to the principles he preaches, will surely be doubted. Besides consistency in commitment and coherence between principle and action, integrity also requires a certain level of connectedness between commitment and volition. In other words, integratedness not only demands a degree of wholeness understood as relative consistency, it also requires a certain amount of self-direction, sincerity and wholeheartedness.4 If someone is only committed to certain values because his group is, we would sooner describe him as a crowd-follower than as a person of integrity. If someone is only shallowly committed to his values, or remains ambivalent about which set of core values to embrace, we also tend to think that he is lacking in integrity. Wholeness and wholeheartedness, as the main conditions of being an integrated self, do not exclude the existence of some amount of ambivalence and tension between values that are (de facto or per se) in conflict with each other. Compromising on some of our values in order to maintain other values may be conducive to the relative wholeness of our commitments rather than being a threat.5 Compromising on some of our values in order to retain a relative integratedness of the whole set of our values has its limits, however. We do not always think that compromising in order to sustain a sufficient level of integration is not affecting ones integrity. We tend to admire people who keep standing up for something even at the risk of great loss, where this loss may involve other values and commitments. Fidelity to at least
This is the picture of integrity that we find in Frankfurt (1971, 1978) and Taylor, G. (1971, 1985); see also Benjamin (1990, chapter III). 4 See Frankfurt (1993), Taylor, Ch. (1991), McFall (1987) and Blustein (1991, part II). 5 This is stressed by Benjamin (1990, pp. 7274).



some of our commitments appears to be of central importance to our understanding of what is involved in being a person of integrity.6 In order to retain ones integrity it may be necessary to keep to some commitments even if this implies making major sacrifices in other fields. We can understand this by distinguishing commitment to projects and principles with which a person deeply identifies (Williams categorical projects) and commitment to projects and principles which are not in this sense constitutive of the self. We recognise persons with integrity by their willingness to incur great losses for the sake of what they hold most dear. Some of our commitments and principles are strongly identity-conferring: they are the ones that make us the person we are.7 Such commitments cannot be compromised without in some sense losing oneself.8 This idea of identity-conferring commitments places some constraints on the kind of principles and causes the person of integrity may be committed to. Note, that from the viewpoint of wholeness it seems not to matter whether the principles a person is committed to are important, trivial, abhorrant or praiseworthy, as long as the principles are building a sufficiently coherent whole. The aspect of fidelity to ones core principles as a way of expressing ones specific identity shows, however, that as far as ones commitments are concerned it is not a case of anything goes. To be a person of integrity (and thus identity), it is not sufficient that one holds to what one takes oneself to have most reason to hold to. Trivial, weird or sick commitments are hardly regarded as conferring that kind of identity that makes someone a person of integrity. As McFall notes (1987, p. 11):
When we grant integrity to a person, we need not approve of his or her principles or commitments, but we must at least recognise them as ones a reasonable person might take to be of great importance (. . .). It may not be possible to spell out these conditions without circularity, but that this is what underlies our judgements of integrity seems clear enough.

The person whose only passion in life is collecting sugar bags can hardly be considered as an example of what we mean by a man of integrity, nor
This is the picture of integrity most favoured by Calhoun (1995). The idea of identity-conferring commitments is found in Kekes (1993) and Williams (1981a). See also Blustein (1991), McFall (1987) and Sutherland (1993). 8 Still, this aspect has to be mediated with the aspect of wholeness. Being strongly committed to ones identity conferring-principles is not sufficient for calling someone integer, it may as such even be a threat to integrity. Being dearly committed to some cause may lead to a one-sidedness which may be the mark of fanaticism and not the mark of integrity. The fanatic will uncompromisingly uphold the principles which are constitutive for his identity, but that does not make him a man of integrity.
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can the man who does nothing but fill his life with one trivial pursuit after the other. Still, this condition of importance of the goal one is committed to does not exclude from the realm of integrity a committed hedonist and aesthete such as Lord Henry in Oscar Wildes The Portrait of Dorian Gray . Lord Henry is unconditionally committed to the aesthetic values he deems to be of sole importance in his life. There is nothing he would not be prepared to do in order to serve these values, that surely are not at all unimportant, trivial or weird. But it is precisely this unconditional commitment to only the values of beauty and pleasure, and the preparedness to accept anything as long as these values are served, which makes it problematic to call him a man of integrity. For Lord Henry, the most abhorrent immoralities would be unproblematic as long as the acts involved were pleasurable and had some aesthetic value. Integrity, however, seems to require a respect for limits which an agent, in his own acts, should not transgress, not even when this would contribute to the values which he deems to be of utmost importance in his own life. We may call this the aspect of purity. (Williams, 1981b; Kuperman, 1991) Even more important than the idea that the man of integrity will continue to strive for the causes he deems important, is the idea of keeping some bottom-line principles that define what any person should never be willing to do. Such principles point out the limits beyond which a person will not compromise or cooperate with evil in order to uphold some cause or in any other sense secure a better outcome. It is not just that transgressing those limits would destroy our specific identity (I could not go on as the same person if I did this), it would be a way of compromising with evil which seems destructive of agency and personality as such.9 There may be things we could not do (torturing a terrorists child to force him to reveal where he has planted the bomb) and preserve our humanity. This does not mean that the man of integrity will on all occasions try to keep his hands clean. Dirtying ones hands can be matter of integrity, as we sometimes have to sacrifice certain values in order to uphold others. Compromises between ones commitments may be necessary to retain the relative wholeness of a person, and doing wrong may be the only way to save what is good.10 Still, for a person of integrity there will be limits considered as non-transgressable. Exeeding
9 See Williams (1981a), Nagel (1979), Kamm (1992, especially pp. 358359). See also part II of Kamm (1996, especially chapters 8, 9 and 10). Thomas Nagel presents the same type of argument as Kamm in Nagel (1995, especially pp. 8993), but he bases himself on Kamm 1992. 10 See Walzer (1973), Walker (1991), Benjamin (1990), Williams (1981b).



these limits would involve loss of a sense of humanity and responsible agency.11 This aspect of agent-purity, just as the aspect of fidelity to principles which may be important enough to be identity conferring, shows that there are limits to the content of the causes to which the person of integrity may be committed, and that in stating these limits we cannot escape from referring to moral values and norms. We have problems in calling a committed Nazi or a Mafioso a person of integrity. The aspect of purity, one of the three aspects of integrity I have distinguished, may partly explain this resistance. A committed Mafioso will not shrink from torture or murder if this would serve the Cosa Nostra. Still, we can point to examples of dedicated criminals who regard it as their duty not to transgress certain moral limits, in pursuing their clearly illegal goals. Could such a criminal be regarded as a man of integrity? Say this person is a member of a criminal gang specialising in smuggling drugs or cigarettes. This gang has clear rules forbidding the use of the sort of violence and predatory behaviour that we may be thinking of in determining the limits that a human agent should never transgress. Members of the gang will also respect principles of loyalty, discretion and fidelity to their fellow criminals. A kind of white-collar gang, then. Would we call a committed gang-member, who is standing up for his gang and its cause, a person of integrity? I doubt it. One might try to distinguish personal integrity from moral integrity (Schauber, 1996), and argue that the gang member certainly has personal integrity but lacks moral integrity. I do not think that such a distinction would help us here. Personal integrity seems to presuppose at least some kind of moral responsibility. It is hard to call a person who is committed to an immoral cause, a person of integrity. This does not mean that personal integrity always involves commitment to moral values and principles. Many of the causes people are committed to do not explicitly involve morality. But immorality and personal integrity are difficult to reconcile. This is the reason, I think, why we have difficulty in calling Hitler, though sincerely and wholeheartedly committed to the Nazi cause, a man of personal integrity, though not a man of moral integrity. We have difficulty here because we are unable to make such a radical distinction between personal and moral integrity. I can imagine, however, an explanation of the difficulty of calling Hitler a person of integrity which upholds the strict distinction between personal and moral integrity. One could view personal integrity primarily under11 I therefore believe that in our idea of personal integrity deontology in some sense unavoidably is involved.



stood as being an integrated self, sincerely committed to some cause , as a positive character trait, but argue that in Hitler this virtue is submerged by the overwhelming wickedness of other character traits and the evil involved in the cause he was standing up for. The virtue of being an integrated self would be silenced by the overall wickedness of this person in such a way that we cannot think of Hitler as being a person of integrity. Though I think that this may explain part of our difficulty in ascribing personal integrity to villains and criminals, I still hold that in our conception of personal integrity itself we incur moral values and norms, which makes it difficult to make a sharp distinction between calling someone a person of integrity and calling someone a person of moral integrity. Moreover, in many cases a personal commitment will also involve commitment to moral values. Perhaps the best way to understand this is by regarding personal integrity and moral integrity as the ends of one and the same continuum. Let me try to outline the contours of this continuum with some examples. A great French chef would betray his principles if he allowed his kitchen to use fast-food ingredients, or encouraged his guests to drown their meal in ketchup. However, we would not consider him to be morally unsound if he did such things. Morality hardly seems to be involved here. Things become more complicated if we consider the devoted vegetarian who secretly enjoys a sirloin steak. It seems that not only the vegetarians personal integrity is at stake, there may also be a moral reason for calling him a hypocrite. The reason is that by proclaiming to be a vegetarian that person implicitly or explicitly calls upon values that transcend the personal perspective. The chef may consider the Nouvelle Cuisine to be of utmost value, but he may at the same time allow that there are many people who think there is nothing better than American fast-food. The vegetarian appears to call upon values that are supposed to appeal to all of us. The concern, say, for animal welfare is not a matter of personal taste or an individual hobby, but something that should concern non-vegetarians as well. Perhaps the vegetarian assigns much more weight to this value than I do, but that does not mean that I do not acknowledge that animal welfare is of importance. That is the reason I am more inclined to condemn the vegetarian who secretly enjoys the sirloin steak, than the French chef who secretly eats a cheeseburger. The cause to which the vegetarian is committed is also, to a certain extent, my cause. To a greater degree than the chef, the vegetarian is committed to a cause which transcends the personal viewpoint and personal choice. Moral integrity involves being committed to moralitys cause. Moral integrity, just as personal integrity, requires fidelity in belief and in behaviour to certain identity-conferring principles, consistency in ones striving to uphold these principles and the courage to hold on to certain



bottom-line causes one would never betray. The difference with personal integrity is to be found in the character of the principles and values one is standing for. Moral principles and values have an impact and importance that far transcends my own personal commitment and choice. Moralitys authority over me does not depend on what I, from my personal viewpoint, acknowledge as important and worth striving for in life. Moral values should concern me even if these values conflict with some of my personal strivings, or even if I were committed to a kind of life that has little room for a moral way of thinking and behaving. What is morally important is not dependent on my outlook or yours, though moralitys demands will matter to me and you as seen from our own distinctive viewpoint. If it matters to me that animals have to suffer in the bio-industry, then it matters from my perspective: the only perspective from which things can matter to me. I am the locus of mattering: it is important to me. But that does not mean that it is important because it matters to me, it matters to me because it is important. Moral importance is in this sense perspective-independent. It may be important for a stamp-collector to find the last stamp in a set because it matters to him to have the complete set of stamps. If stamps do not matter to me, if I dont care twopence about completed stamp sets, nobody will complain. Perhaps one day I will become a devoted stamp-collector. Then there will be the two of us, and we might fight over this one rare stamp that would complete his set or mine. Or perhaps I do not collect stamps myself, but agree that the devoted stamp-collector should do everything in his power to complete his set. What would be important from his perspective would also be important from my perspective. Qua stamp-collector certain things should matter to you.12
The idea that moral importance is in some sense there, waiting to be discovered, implies some sort of ethical realism. I am in favour of a dispositionalist or responsedependent kind of realism. According to a dispositionalist analysis, X has value V if and only if evaluators, under appropriate conditions, respond to X with reaction with R, where R is not simply the belief that X has value V, and the appropriate conditions are independently specified, i.e. independently of the outcome of the evaluation of X. (See Wiggins (1987), Wiggings (1991a), Johnston (1989), and Pettit (1991)). A good way to understand the implications of such a dispositionalist view for our idea of the objectivity of values is by using it to see why the Euthyphro dilemma is not a dilemma at all. In Platos Eutyphro, Socrates objects to Eutyphros definition of the pious as what the gods love. According to Socrates, the gods love pious acts because these acts are pious, rather than acts being pious because they are loved by the gods (Eutyphro, 10B11B). More generally (as the question arises whatever the source of authority is supposed to be): we care about the good because it is good, it is not good because we happen to call it good. According to a dispositionalist view, however, there is no contradiction here. The idea is that, thanks to their natures, gods are very good detectors of piety (which is what they



But, qua human being, certain things should matter to you, too, and some of these concerns may be called moral. They should involve me, independently of the strivings and choices that confer on me some distinctive personal identity, they call for my commitment simply because I am human. If we speak about the objectivity of moral values, then we are simply saying that moral importance is in some sense there, independent of your or my personal perspective, calling upon me as a human being. Moral integrity, thus, involves a sincere and consistent commitment to values that we believe13 to be important to us as human beings. Being committed to moralitys cause means that we stand up for our convictions about moralitys demands: we try to live up to the values we understand to be important, we will defend them, try to convince others of their importance and are prepared to incur great losses for the sake of what is morally valuable. It will now be more clear, I hope, why moral integrity seems incompatible with compromise. It is not just that by compromising on some moral cause we would betray some of our strivings or a certain way of living. We would actually deny the importance of what we believe should matter to us as human beings. So the question of how moral compromise might affect ones integrity boils down to the question of what it would mean to sincerely uphold beliefs about what should matter to us as human beings, yet still be prepared to negotiate on what one sincerely believes. Acknowledging the authority of moralitys demands over us

love). But this does not mean that something is pious/good because the gods love it, they love it because it is pious/good. Similarly, something is valuable given the fact that there are humans who have the sensibilities to value it under appropriate conditions. But this does not mean that it is valuable because they value it. Dispositionalism can, thus, save objectivity without giving up the idea that values are always values for us. Objectivity of values means that the epistemic states of the evaluator have no causal influence on the existence or character of values. There is a conceptual interdependence between value concepts and concepts of our responses in specified conditions, but this interdependene is not influencing what counts as a correct account of what is of value (hence: perspective-independency). In short: something is not valuable because someone believes it to be valuable, but if people did not have the capability to recognize the value of things, there would be no value-concepts at all. 13 I understand Moral integrity involves commitment to moralitys cause as elliptic for Moral integrity involves commitment to what one believes to be moralitys cause, because the kind of commitment involved in integrity requires a kind of sincerity and wholeheartedness which excludes situations of being committed by chance to moralitys cause (thinking that one does evil one does good) or situations of being habitually committed to a moral cause one does not really believe in. This position, of course, implies that one may be a person of moral integrity even if one has false beliefs about what morality demands.



hardly seems compatible with bargaining about what is morally valuable. Moral value does not appear to be a negotiable commodity.

Value-Pluralism and Indeterminacy

Still, I believe that the way of moral compromise is often the right way. A compromising attitude on moral matters may often be laudable. My reasons for believing this are based on a number of ideas about the enormous complexity of moralitys demands, that is the enormous complexity of what should matter to us as human beings. I will sketch a picture of value-pluralism which will produce at least four reasons for embracing moral compromises as indispensable and laudable. These four reasons have to do with: (1) the ontic indeterminacy of many of our answers to questions about which moral values should take priority (2) the epistemic indeterminacy of many of our answers to questions about which moral values should take priority (3) the mutual respect of those seeking for answers to questions about which moral values should take priority (4) the probable subject-relativity of some moral values My starting point for arguing in favour of moral compromise is normative pluralism, which is a theory of values according to which there is an irreducible plurality of norms and values relevant to moral judgement, and there is no principle or procedure to guarantee a unique and determinate answer when two or more of these norms and values are in conflict with each other (be they in conflict per se, or de facto). In Isaiah Berlins words (1991, p. 71), normative pluralism asks us
to look upon life as affording a plurality of values, equally genuine, equally ultimate, above all equally objective; incapable, therefore, of being ordered in a timeless hierarchy, or judged in terms of some absolute standard. . . .

So, normative pluralism involves two claims, the claim that norms and values cannot be derived from one ultimate value or one principle or set of rationally ordered values or principles, and the claim that there is not always a correct answer to normative questions.14 But this second claim does not lead to the idea that two answers which exclude each other can
The second claim is the crucial one here. I hold to normative pluralism, but concede that also for the monist, who thinks that all norms and values can be derived from one ultimate value or one principle or set of rationally ordered values or principles, the prob14



both be correct (correct in their own way) , as the relativist would belief. Neither does the pluralist position imply that it would be impossible ever to give incorrect answers because as the subjectivist beliefs it is conceptually incoherent to think that there are correct or incorrect answers to normative questions. There is, pace the subjectivist, something like truth or correctness in normative issues, but this truth is much more complex than we often think, thought not complex in such a way that the whole idea of a unified truth or correctness vanishes like snow in summer (as with relativism). Pluralism is a theory of values which can explain the enormous variety and incompatibility of answers people give to normative questions. The explanation of the pluralist is simple: people are called upon by a plurality of values that are not derivable from each other or from some higher-order value. These values are often incompatible; they cannot both be fully realised.15 This need not be a problem if it is possible to determine some priority order between these values, and in some cases some priority-order can easily, or after serious reflection, be established. But, often, there will be grounds for indeterminacy, which means that we cannot agree upon some criterion (a standard, a rule, a higher-order value, or whatever) upon the basis of which some values can be given a higher priority than others, or upon which we have to conclude that different values have equal priority.16 For instance, in setting limits and deciding on the distribution of scarce resources in health care we are badly in need of fair procedures and critelem of indeterminacy may be real. Postulating one master value or principle does not imply that one can give a unique and determinate answer to moral questions, as it may be indeterminate in which way a master value, say utility or preference-satisfaction, may be optimally served. 15 Steven Lukes has argued that many values which we think to be incompatible, rather in various ways may be interdependent. For instance, it is often said that equality and liberty must conflict, and that more of one must mean less of the other. However, all answers to Sens famous question: Equality of What?, like primary goods, basic capabilities, opportunity for welfare or access to advantage, include as central components those aspects of the circumstances of persons that maintain or expand their range of significant choices. All these accounts of what is to be equalized says Lukes, see freedom, meaning the availability of significant options of choice, as integral to equality. (p. 40). The implication of this argument is that it may not be easy to establish incompatible values are being discrete, free-standing and independently characterisable, which means that the picture of balancing values may be more complex than a straight zero-sum game shows. See Lukes (1996). 16 In symbols: neither (A > B), nor (B > A, nor (A = B), where A and B are values and >, = symbolize priority-relations.



ria to ensure just outcomes. Discussion over the years has shown, however, that as Norman Daniels has phrased it (1997, p. 324):
general principles of distributive justice and general characterisations of the goals of medicine cannot really address the problems of setting priorities in ways that satisfy our moral concerns in particular cases.

What value should take priority in establishing a fair distribution of health care resources? What should count as being of more moral import: saving the worst off (maximin) or having the greatest number of patients enjoy a considerable benefit (utility)? Is it morally more important to save a dying patient or should we rather spend the money on providing considerable life-long relief for a whole group of patients? Often, treatment of the worse-off will result in the greatest benefit, certainly if one judges benefit from the perspective of the patients themselves (being given another 12 months to live is of enormous benefit if one had expected to die within weeks). But even if the net benefit of helping one worse-off patient is less than the benefit for all the patients in the better groups, it may be argued that one should give priority to worse-off patients, simply because they are worse off. That is fair, given the enormous disadvantage in opportunities for people with serious illnesses. However, it can as well be argued that with our scarce resources we should try to establish the greatest net health benefit for the greatest number. Maximin and utility are conflicting values, and it seems that only in extreme cases there is consensus on the way both values should be balanced. Lifeboat ethics, for instance, shows that there are limits to giving priority to the worst-off patients, especially if one has to sacrifice considerable benefit to others in need.17 Still, we sometimes seem to be guided by emergency-ethics which allows us to sacrifice enormous amounts of resources to save one or two, simply forgetting that with these resources one could have done considerable good to many others elsewhere.18 There may be extreme cases, then, in which one may find conclusive arguments for giving priority, or not giving pri17 Lifeboat ethics is an example of giving priority to the least worst-off: if the chances of saving the worst-off are very low, or if saving them would cost all the resources available, it is appropriate to turn our efforts to the least worst-off. 18 I believe that such a case of emergency-ethics is symbolic for the importance that we generally attach to giving priority to the worst-off. Though, one may acknowledge that it would have been more rational not to invest all those efforts in order to save one, having done so establishes ones commitment (societys commitment) to do everything possible to help those in serious need. It shows that everybody counts, that every life is worth fighting for. Such an attitude explains why it may sometimes be appropriate to transcend the borders of reasonableness.



ority, to the worst-off, but in most cases which value should take priority is indeterminate. This indeterminacy may have an ontological or an epistemic origin (Sueng, 1992, p. 803), and it is important to distinguish them because they provide different grounds for advocating a compromising attitude. The problem with the inability to prioritise values may be one of epistemic indeterminacy we lack sufficient epistemic abilities to determine what value should take priority , or it may be one of ontic indeterminacy: we cannot find a determinate answer to a priority problem, because there is no such determinate answer, there is no uniquely right answer to the question as to which value should take priority, so there is no uniquely right answer to the question which is the right act or policy, etc.19 In the case of ontic indeterminacy we cannot escape compromising on some (or all) of the values which are at stake, because a conclusive balancing is impossible. Any solution will imply loss of value. If we decide to spend 50% of the health care budget on the worst-off patients and 50% to create a maximum net health benefit for a maximum number of patients, we will have tried to serve both the values of maximin and utility and, thereby, failed on both counts. The reason for this failure is that no tradeoff is possible between values such as maximin and utility, that is: no tradeoff that would make it possible to decide on balance what specific mix of values would be superior.20 Take as an example the procedure for admission to advanced education for general medical practitionership in the Netherlands. This procedure reveals the struggle between a commitment to, on the one hand, egalitarian concerns (every applicant should have an equal chance of admission to this sought-after position), and, on the other hand, a commitment to criteria of merit (those with the best examination results deserve to be admitted) and efficiency (those with the best examination results have the best chance of completing the course successfully in time). The Dutch procedure involves a system of weighted lottery: a lottery is conducted among all applicants , but those with better examination results have a greater chance of drawing a place. This system is a compromise between either straight lottery serving the criterion of strict equality of chance , and selection based on examination results serving the criterion of merit and/or efficiency. Though it is clear that most applicants prefer such
Joseph Raz has argued that mixed value goods may provide an exception to the impossibility of ranking different types of goods or values, see Raz (1996). 20 This does not exclude the possibility of pointing out mixes which are clearly inappropriate.



a mixed procedure rather than using a procedure based on one criterion or value, there is no consensus on how the different criteria should be mixed. (Hofstede, 1990) Meritocratians will plea for a stronger influence of examination results, egalitarians will plea for a straighter lottery. Compromise does not require an even mixing of values. In different spheres different mixes may be more, or less, appropriate. According to the idea of ontic indeterminacy, however, it will often be impossible to point out the appropriate mix, simply because the appropriate mix does not exist.21 Epistemic indeterminacy does not exclude the possibility that there is an appropriate way of trading off values. The problem here is, that we lack the epistemic abilities to spell out that appropriate way, because of our limited rationality, i.e. limited capacity to process information, limited reasoning capacities etc. Or it may be that the costs of gathering more information in order to establish what would be the best mix exceeds the marginal preferability of serving better the various values at stake. In the case of the Dutch procedure for admission to advanced education for general medical practitionership, numerous studies have been performed to try to establish the correlation between examination results and the chance of successfully completing the course in the required time. Some of these studies clearly show that there is a positive correlation between examination results now and future success in ones education. Other studies make clear, however, that such a positive correlation does not exist at all, because there are so many factors influencing success in ones educational career, that the influence of good examination results is hardly significant. Up to now, new surveys and meta-studies have not provided convincing answers. This means that we do not have conclusive information that could help us in arguing for or against a specific role of examination results based on an efficiency criterion.

Moral Bargaining, Mutual Respect and Subject-Relativity

If it is indeterminate how values must be balanced, how do we decide? What is the ground for establishing a specific mix? Earlier, I spoke about a compromise between conflicting values which both call upon us, but which cannot both be served without at the same time failing in each of them to a certain extent.22 Usually, people will have conflicting opinions
In terms introduced by Shafer-Landau (1994): comparison indeterminacy results here in truth value indeterminacy. 22 It will be clear that there is an important difference here with Gilbert Harmans idea that morality as such consists in conventions that are the result of continual tacit bargain21



about what is the appropriate way of mixing values, or what values should be fully upheld even at the cost of other values. The idea of compromise not only applies to mixes of values, but also to the way of accommodating conflicting convictions people have with regard to the way moral values should be upheld. Would it be appropriate to seek a compromise between different beliefs about what is morally right? Some, e.g. Habermas, make a strict distinction between a moral discussion-on-merits aiming at reasonable consensus, and strategic bargaining resulting in compromise.23 But, what if there are no conclusive arguments in favour of one or another way of balancing various moral values, either because there is no superior way of mixing the values or we are unable to rationally trace that superior mix? Of course, we will in a process of thorough deliberation try to limit the area of indeterminacy, but what if there remains a significant range of cases in which no conclusive arguments seem to be available in favour of some priority, balance or trade-off? It is likely that, even in such situations of indeterminacy, parties will still hold that they have at least some of the better arguments on their side. However, if there is room for acknowledging that there is no conclusive evidence for one specific position, there will be room for moral compromise. In other words, parties may be asked to acknowledge that if there is no sufficient argumentative grounding of their position, and the opposing view is supported by plausible arguments endorsed by thoughtful and intelligent people, a moral compromise might be appropriate.24 Though the process of coming to such a compromise may involve bargaining and negotiation between the various moral positions, there are at least two important reasons for putting constraints on the outcome. The first reason will favour evenly balanced compromises (splitting the difference), the second reason supports some sort of one-sidedness in the outcome of the bargaining process.
ing and adjustment. See Harman (1983). I hold an objectivist (not an inter-subjectivist) view of morality, according to which processes of compromise are not the origin of morality, but an inevitable consequence of the fact that morality puts a plurality of demands on us, which are often incompatible and which cannot conclusively be ranked. 23 See also Brian Barrys way of distinguishing discussion-on merits from bargaining (Barry, 1965, pp. 8494). According to Barry compromise may be involved both in cases of bargaining and discussion on merits, but in the case of discussion on merits it may only function as a substitute (a short cut): each side recognizes that the other has a good case but instead of arguing it out they take a short cut. See Barry (1965, p. 302). 24 Gutman et al. (1996, p. 88). See also F.M. Kamms idea of a moralized compromise in Kamm, 1990). Gutman and Thomson also refer to Kamm. See also the illuminating analysis in David Luban (1985).



The first reason has to do with the mutual respect parties may be required to show, a respect based on the acknowledgement of the moral autonomy of persons. The idea is that the recognition of others as moral persons involves the recognition that each of us has the ability, given his or her deliberative capacities, to gain insight in what is morally required. As human beings we ask ourselves normative questions (What should we do? What should we strive for? What is valuable, right, just or good?), and the deliberative distance and reflection which makes us ask these questions, will also enable us to formulate answers.25 That is: only answers that we can reflectively endorse will be answers that we can trust, as it is precisely our capacity for reflection that made us ask normative questions in the first place. There is no reason, however, to think that this reflective capacity would be unequally distributed among the parties who participate in a moral dispute and who take seriously the need to find arguments establishing the balancing of values that they favour. Acknowledging the moral autonomy of others provides a profound basis for mutual respect. In situations of indeterminacy, this implies the willingness to strive for some balance in the sort and amount of concessions by different parties. Splitting-the-difference may be an appropriate way of overcoming the main differences. In short: acknowledging each other as participants in a moral dispute involves an attitude of mutual respect, which implies a willingness to find an evenly balanced compromise between (dearly held) moral positions. The second reason for putting constraints on the outcome of the moral bargaining process has to do with the probable subject-relativity of some values and norms. Projects and state-of-affairs may have an importance for persons which is not fully understandable from a subject-neutral perspective. Though we all recognise the importance of animal welfare, for some the protection of animals may become an identity-conferring groundproject, a cause someone up to a certain degree is living for. If so, animal welfare may gain a prominence in someones priority-ordering of moral values that will not easily be shared by other parties in the moral dispute. But, precisely because for some disputants animal protection has such a special, identity-conferring, importance, it may be, that in compromising on a policy in which animal welfare is involved, more than even weight is being assigned to the need for animal protection. Subject-relativity is also involved if what morally matters is not merely the value of a
See for this Kantian way of arguing Korsgaard, D.M., The Sources of Normativity. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996 and also Korsgaard, C.M., Creating the Kingdom of Ends.



state of affairs or the well-being of another person, but the fact that the state of affairs is the result of my acts, and this other person is my child or friend or fellow countryman.26 This is where personal integrity again becomes relevant. And, here we see that there is a gradual difference between personal integrity and moral integrity (which are both on one continuum). As we allow for some subject-relativity in our objectivist account of plural values, we will move on this continuum in the direction of personal integrity. The question concerning the acceptability of moral compromise will then be: Can I accept this, and carry on as the same person?

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See Scheffler (1995, 1997), Nagel (1986, p. 164) and Parfit (1984, p. 104).



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