The Rightest Theory of Degrees of Rightness
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In The Dimensions of Consequentialism, Martin Peterson elaborates and defends a novel form of consequentialist moral theory, which he calls “multi-dimensional consequentialism”. One of the “key claims” of this theory is that rightness is not all-or-nothing, but rather a matter of degree; not binary, but scalar (Peterson 2013, 8–13). Actually, that’s two claims. One is negative: rightness is not binary. The other is positive: rightness is scalar. I agree with only one half of this, the positive half. That is, on the view I shall propose, rightness is both all-or-nothing and a matter of degree.
That may sound paradoxical. So let me explain what I mean. On this view, there is a property, right, which a thing—typically, an act—either has or has not. That’s the binary bit. In addition, however, there is a comparative relation, more right (and cognate relations, less right, equally right, etc.), which holds between things and, importantly, which allows intermediate cases....
For helpful discussion of this paper I am grateful to participants of the colloquium on Martin Peterson’s The Dimensions of Consequentialism, held in Konstanz, November 2013.