Degrees and Dimensions of Rightness: Reflections on Martin Peterson’s Dimensions of Consequentialism
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Martin Peterson argues for two interesting and appealing claims: multi-dimensionalism and degrees of rightness. Multi-dimensionalism is the view that more than one factor determines whether an act is right. According to Peterson’s multi-dimensionalism, these factors are not simply ways of achieving some greater aggregate good. Degrees of rightness is the view that some actions are more wrong or less right than others without being entirely wrong. It is of course, compatible with this, that some actions are right or wrong to a maximal degree, or entirely right or wrong. Multi-dimensionalism and degrees are taken to be intertwined. On Peterson’s view, if there were only one dimension, we wouldn’t need degrees; where only one dimension applies, an act is entirely right or entirely wrong. Peterson claims that degrees of rightness or wrongness arise only because there are multi-dimensions, and that an act cannot be entirely right if it is wrong on some dimension. I shall argue against both of these claims.
KeywordsMulti-dimensionalism Degrees of wrong Prima facie rightness
Thanks to Martin Peterson and others at the conference on Peterson’s book at Constance University in November of 2013. Thanks also to my colleagues, Hud Hudson, Dan Howard-Snyder, Dennis Whitcomb, Ryan Wasserman, and to an anonymous referee, for helpful comments.