Reactive Attitudes and the Hare-Williams Debate: Towards a New Consequentialist Moral Psychology

The Philosophical Quarterly 64:254 (2014), pp. 39–59

Bernard Williams charges that the moral psychology built into R M. Hare’s utilitarianism is incoherent in virtue of demanding a bifurcated kind of moral thinking that is possible only for agents who fail to reflect properly on their own practical decision making. I mount a qualified defence of Hare’s view by drawing on the account of the ‘reactive attitudes’ found in P. F. Strawson’s ‘Freedom and Resentment’. Against Williams, I argue that the ‘resilience’ of the reactive attitudes ensures that our taking an instrumental view of our dispositions to experience guilt and compunction, as Hare calls for us to do while engaged in ‘critical’ moral thinking, will not prevent us from experiencing these feelings as people ordinarily do while we are thinking ‘intuitively’. I also consider the implications of my argument for consequentialism more generally and (briefly) Kantianism.

Published version (available on Phil Quarterly's website)

Author's original version (This is the version of the paper that I originally submitted to the journal. It gives the flavor of the final version but obviously should not be cited!)