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Self-Defeat, Publicity, and Incoherence: Three Criteria for Consequentialist Theories

Eggleston, Ben (2002) Self-Defeat, Publicity, and Incoherence: Three Criteria for Consequentialist Theories. Doctoral Dissertation, University of Pittsburgh. (Unpublished)

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This dissertation identifies and assesses three criteria that are often used to evaluate consequentialist theories of morality and rationality. After introducing a distinction between straightforwardly maximizing consequentialist theories (such as act consequentialism and egoism) and indirectly maximizing consequentialist theories (such as rule consequentialism, rule egoism, Gauthier's theory of constrained maximization, and McClennen's theory of resolute choice), it addresses criteria associated with the concepts of self-defeat, the publicity condition, and incoherence. It argues that (1) the thesis that the self-defeat of a normative theory is a good reason for rejecting it has several surprising and intolerable implications, (2) the publicity condition is an unreasonably demanding requirement to impose on normative theories, and (3) unlike self-defeat and publicity, the issue of incoherence is crucial to the viability of a normative theory; consequently, the incoherence of indirectly maximizing theories renders them unacceptable as accounts of moral or rational action. Although each of these conclusions is of independent interest, they are of further interest when considered together. For cumulatively they constitute a vigorous defense of straightforwardly maximizing theories and a sharp indictment of their indirectly maximizing rivals. As a result, the dissertation has direct implications for debates in both normative ethics and rational-choice theory.


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Item Type: University of Pittsburgh ETD
Status: Unpublished
CreatorsEmailPitt UsernameORCID
ETD Committee:
TitleMemberEmail AddressPitt UsernameORCID
Committee ChairGauthier, Daviddgaut@pitt.eduDGAUT
Committee MemberDeJong, Daviddejong@pitt.eduDEJONG
Committee MemberMcClennen,
Committee MemberThompson, Michaelmthompso@pitt.eduMTHOMPSO
Committee MemberRescher, Nicholasrescher@pitt.eduRESCHER
Date: 16 July 2002
Date Type: Completion
Defense Date: 18 December 2001
Approval Date: 16 July 2002
Submission Date: 29 April 2002
Access Restriction: No restriction; Release the ETD for access worldwide immediately.
Institution: University of Pittsburgh
Schools and Programs: Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences > Philosophy
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Type: Doctoral Dissertation
Refereed: Yes
Uncontrolled Keywords: consequentialism; utilitarianism; ethics; rationality
Other ID:, etd-04292002-131105
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2011 19:43
Last Modified: 15 Nov 2016 13:42


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