Praise, blame, and demandingness
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Consequentialism has been challenged on the grounds that it is too demanding. I will respond to the problem of demandingness differently from previous accounts. In the first part of the paper, I argue that consequentialism requires us to distinguish the justification of an act \(\varphi\) from the justification of an act \(\psi\), where \(\psi\) is an act of praise or blame. In the second part of the paper, I confront the problem of demandingness. I do not attempt to rule out the objection; instead, I argue that if certain plausible empirical claims about moral motivation are true, we morally ought not to blame people for failing to meet certain very demanding obligations. With this theory, we create a space in consequentialism for intuitions questioning the plausibility of demanding obligations. I conclude the paper by showing that separate justifications for \(\varphi\) and \(\psi\) may also give us a theoretical niche for intuitions about supererogation.
KeywordsConsequentialism Utilitarianism Praise Blame Demandingness
Special thanks to Tina Rulli (University of California, Davis) for extensive feedback on multiple drafts of this paper, as well as to Brian J. Collins (California Lutheran University) and David Cummiskey (Bates College) for their helpful comments. Thanks to the Davis Group in Ethics and Related Subjects (DaGERS), including David Copp, Kyle Adams, Noel Joshi-Richard, Paul Gomberg, Timothy Houk, and Stephen DiLorenzo. Thanks also to Neil Sinhababu, Michael W. Pelczar, Loy Hui Chieh, and several graduate students at the National University of Singapore. Everyone mentioned here has been generous with their time in helping to strengthen this paper through thoughtful criticism.
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