The Authority of Deontic Constraints
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Non-consequentialists agree that Luke may not kill Lorelai in order to prevent Kirk from killing Richard and Emily. According to this view, Luke faces a deontic constraint: he is forbidden from killing Lorelai, even though doing so will bring about fewer killings overall. The justification of constraints, in my view, faces two challenges. First, constraints must meet the Irrationality Challenge: it needs to be demonstrated that there is nothing inconsistent about the claim that Luke should allow more killings to come about. And, secondly, a successful explanation of constraints must meet the Authority Challenge: we need to know why Luke’s reason not to kill Lorelai is normatively categorical. This dissertation takes up different aspects of Authority Challenge. The first introductory chapter aims to motivate the question of authority as a pressing challenge to non-consequentialism. I argue that the violation of constraints is not just motivated by the thought that they are rationally inconsistent, but by the claim that their intuitive importance cannot be explained. Chapters two and three take up the connection between the authority of constraints and their interpersonal character. In chapter two, I argue that Stephen Darwall’s account of the second-person standpoint cannot yield an account of constraints that satisfies the Authority Challenge and that T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism offers us a better way of accounting for the interpersonal significance of constraints. Chapter three argues that Frances Kamm’s inviolability approach cannot be reconciled with the intuitive distinction between acting wrongly and wronging someone. The arguments of this chapter are meant to demonstrate that in order for wronging to carry any normative significance, it must play a foundational role in our account of permissibility. The fourth chapter argues that Moderate deontologists—those who posit a threshold on the killing of the innocent—cannot make sense of the intuitive authority of deontic constraints. The failure of Moderate deontology, I argue, reveals the overlooked appeal of Absolutism. The fifth chapter argues that the authority of restrictions extends to a prohibition on killing non-responsible threats. I argue that a prohibition on killing non-responsible threats accords with the demands of fairness.