, Volume 168, Issue 1, pp 167-177

The value of practical usefulness

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Abstract

Some moral theories, such as objective forms of consequentialism, seem to fail to be practically useful: they are of little to no help in trying to decide what to do. Even if we do not think this constitutes a fatal flaw in such theories, we may nonetheless agree that being practically useful does make a moral theory a better theory, or so some have suggested. In this paper, I assess whether the uncontroversial respect in which a moral theory can be claimed to be better if it is practically useful can provide a ground worth taking into account for believing one theory rather than another. I argue that this is not the case. The upshot is that if there is a sound objection to theories such as objective consequentialism that is based on considerations of practical usefulness, the objection requires that it is established that the truth about what we morally ought to do cannot be epistemically inaccessible to us. The value of practical usefulness has no bearing on the issue.