On Indirectly Self-defeating Moral Theories

in Journal of Moral Philosophy
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Abstract

Derek Parfit has notably argued that while a moral theory should not be directly self-defeating, there is nothing necessarily wrong with a moral theory that is only indirectly self-defeating. Here I resist this line of argument. I argue instead that indirectly self-defeating moral theories are indeed problematic. Parfit tries to sidestep the oddities of indirectly self-defeating theories by focusing on the choice of dispositions rather than actions. But the very considerations that can make it impossible to achieve a theory's aims if we try to do what the theory recommends can also make it impossible to achieve a theory's aims if we instead try to adopt the dispositions the theory recommends. What makes a theory indirectly self-defeating has little to do with the object of choice, but with the nature of choosing itself.

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