The Ethics Of The Integrity Objection

Decent Essays

The Integrity Objection is a counter-argument to consequentialism first proposed by Bernard Williams in 1973. It problematizes consequentialist moral philosophy on the grounds that it forces an agent to forfeit their ‘integrity’ – their character and personal values – in order to follow an impartial moral calculus. When an agent performs an action which is morally correct according to a consequentialist calculation, they may experience guilt, sadness, or other negative emotions despite the moral rightness of what they did. Utilitarianism considers such feelings irrelevant because they are irrational. However, as Williams points out, “to regard those feelings from a purely utilitarian point of view… is to lose a sense of one’s moral …show more content…

Thus the former is morally culpable for the actions of the latter by virtue of being the cause of the action. Opponents of consequentialism argue that negative responsibility, and the consequentialist doctrine as a whole, is unacceptable because it reduces an agent to merely “a locus of causal intervention in the world.” Instead of being people, agents are no more than origin points of cause and effect, and their integrity is forfeit as a result. Although Williams dedicates a significant portion of his paper to illustrating the problem of integrity, he offers no defense against it. In fact, he acknowledges that life-defining projects and integrity exist, agrees that it is absurd to expect an agent to discard them in order to be moral, and then departs from the problem of integrity without further discussion. Scheffler defends against the problem of integrity by proposing a modified version of consequentialism. He first asserts that consequentialism should be the foundation of a moral theory due to the absurdity of non-consequentialist moral theories, which incorporate what he calls “agent-centered restrictions”. Agent-centered restrictions assert that there are certain actions which are always morally impermissible, regardless of the context or the consequences of that action. These restrictions can prohibit an agent

Get Access