On the nature, grounds and limits of social moral rules Public Deposited

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  • March 21, 2019
  • Cureton, Adam
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of Philosophy
  • My dissertation is an investigation into the nature, grounds and limits of what might be called social moral rules, which are informally established and socially enforced norms that the members of a group, for better or worse, treat as properly regulating their conduct. I develop, illustrate and partially defend a non-consequentialist theory of social moral rules that incorporates themes from act-utilitarianism, rule-utilitarianism, virtue ethics, Kant and Rawls. My view includes an improved conception of social moral rules, satisfies common concerns about the limits of rules and the need for good moral judgment when applying them, abandons utilitarian conceptions of the common good and has its foundations in a plurality of values that we commonly affirm. An important question to ask about social moral rules is what reasons we have to follow them when they exist. It is common to portray social moral rules as mere heuristics that are generally useful as means of social control but should be broken in particular cases when this would produce more good overall. I argue that the existing social moral rules of a group, which can include some imperfect and defective rules, play a vital and non-instrumental role in the best and most illuminating interpretation of the mid-level moral values of solidarity and respect. While solidarity and respect can pull against each other in certain contexts, group members often have non-instrumental reasons to follow their social moral rules as ways of manifesting solidarity and showing respect. We can have reasons of solidarity and respect to follow the prevailing, and often imperfect, social moral rules of our group. We may even have such reasons sometimes to break our rules as well. But solidarity and respect also give us reasons to improve our existing social moral rules and help to set a standard for doing so. Our focus in developing an ideal moral code, I claim, should be on improving the periphery of our code, where the laudable presumptions that make up its core conflict with one another. I show that there are a number of casuistical devices at our disposal to resolve such conflicts.
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  • In Copyright
  • "... in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy in the Department of Philosophy."
  • Hill, Thomas E.
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Place of publication
  • Chapel Hill, NC
  • Open access

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