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The Rightest Theory of Degrees of Rightness

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  1. Such a position is suggested by Peterson’s comments in response to the objection that endorsing randomisation “annihilates the claim that moral rightness comes in degrees” (Peterson 2013, 120).

  2. Peterson explicitly rejects the view that “we [should] introduce degrees also on the level of rationality” (Peterson 2013, 118). But he gives no argument for rejecting it. Doing so, he says, would be beyond the scope of the book. Fair enough. But it does leave a significant worry about his view unresolved.

  3. I do not have an account of similarity between ellipses to offer, though I think one could be given. I hope the judgements of similarity above are intuitive enough for present purposes. For philosophical discussion of similarity, see, e.g.,(Lewis 1973).

  4. This is a metric in the strict mathematical sense. In particular, it satisfies the following: d(x, y)≥0; d(x, y) = 0 iff x = y; d(x, y) = d(y, x); and d(x, z)≤d(x, y) + d(y, z). This particular form of metric is sometimes called a “taxicab metric”, because the distances it represents are like those travelled by a taxicab on a grid-like network of streets.

  5. Suppose β is right and α 1β 1 = β 2α 2. Then we have d(α, β) = (β 1α 1)+(α 2β 2)=(α 2α 1)+(β 1β 2) = α 2α 1. It is straightforward to show that for any right β, if either β 1<α 1 or α 2<β 2, then d(α, β)>α 2α 1.


  • Lewis DK (1973) Counterfactuals. Blackwell Publishers

  • Lockhart T (2000) Moral Uncertainty and Its Consequences. Oxford University Press.

  • Peterson M (2013) The Dimensions of Consequentialism. Cambridge University Press

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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.

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Correspondence to Campbell Brown.

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Brown, C. The Rightest Theory of Degrees of Rightness. Ethic Theory Moral Prac 19, 21–29 (2016).

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