Hare's two-level utilitarianism, cont'd


Some further points about his view:

  1. How do we decide what intuitive level principles or rules to follow? Two answers:

    1. Ideally, by engaging in the critical thinking which an archangel would use to choose such principles for people like us.

    2. In practice, our default setting is an acceptance of common morality and professional ethics, but each of us adjusts these through life in light of critical thinking, to arrive at a distinctive personal morality.

  2. How do we decide when to override an intuitive level principle or rule (whether it be of common morality, professional ethics, or personal morality)? Again, two answers:

    1. Ideally, by engaging in the kind of critical thinking am archangel would do.

    2. In practice, be skeptical of your own, sometimes flawed critical thinking.
      And in practice this means: do not override principles of common morality or professional ethics, and do not violate commonly invoked rights of individuals, except when:

        1. The aggregate harm to be prevented by doing so is both clear and great, and the sitution is the kind in which you can trust your critical thinking.

          - or -

        2. These principles and/or rights conflict, so that overriding one or another is necessary, and you have no "metaprinciple" which prioritizes them. In such cases, you are forced to use critical thinking, even if you have reason to believe that you shouldn't trust yourself to use it in such cases.


Advantages Hare claims for his view:

  1. It replies to the test cases for utilitarianism (slavery, punishing the innocent, and promise keeping) with a combination of all three of the standard responses.

  2. It accounts for "the non-consequentialist (or deontological) feel" of the principles of common morality.

  3. It explains a lot of the disagreement about and unease that arises regarding the Bloggs-type cases with which we began our discussion of ethics.

  4. It relies on linguistic intuitions (intuitions about the logic of the moral terms) rather than intuitive moral judgments (as in the method of reflective equilibrium), which, he emphasizes, threatens to collapse into a form of relativism.