"You want me to do what?!" : a reasonable response to overly demanding moral theories
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This thesis is about demandingness objections. It is claimed that various moral theories ask too much of moral agents, and for that reason should be rejected or modified accordingly. In the first chapter, I consider what this objection entails, particularly distinguishing it from Bernard Williams's integrity objection. The second chapter investigates several attempts to undermine the objection. I contend that their arguments for a more burdensome conception of morality fail, and that accepting their `extreme' view would leave us unable to explain much of our moral phenomenology. In the third chapter, I analyse what features of a moral theory make it susceptible to demandingness objections. Through this discussion I highlight social factors (the conduct and expectations of one's community) and psychological factors as potential candidates for generating the problem. Making use of these potential diagnoses, in chapter four, I examine (but ultimately reject) the responses to demandingness objections by Richard Miller and Liam Murphy, which can provide verdicts sensitive to these features. In the fifth chapter, I examine the concept of blame and its relationship to moral wrongness. Noting this relationship and how an action's difficulty can affect whether we deem conduct blameworthy, I consider a recent proposal by Brian McElwee, that the difficulty of certain actions explains why they are too demanding. I reject this proposal, instead regarding difficulty as providing excuse conditions. However, through the discussion I draw attention to the fact that sub-optimal behaviour often does not need an excuse, suggesting that there is no `default' obligation to do the best. In the final chapter, I offer a way to consider how obligations are generated, utilising the concept of reasonableness. By incorporating this concept, and giving it a relativistic analysis, I suggest a theory can avoid demandingness objections.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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