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Humean Moral Pluralism$
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Michael B. Gill

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198714033

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: June 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198714033.001.0001

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Prioritarianism and Pluralism in Adam Smith*

Prioritarianism and Pluralism in Adam Smith*

(p.76) 4 Prioritarianism and Pluralism in Adam Smith*
Humean Moral Pluralism

Michael B. Gill

Oxford University Press

Like many of his English and Scottish predecessors, Adam Smith resolutely rejects moral monism, resoundingly affirming the existence of a multiplicity of different ultimate moral ends. Smith is less clear, however, about the possibility of those ends coming into conflict in ways that do not admit of principled adjudication. Sometimes, Smith makes comments that could be taken to suggest that justice always has moral priority over all other moral ends; other times, he makes comments that could be taken to suggest that ultimately all moral ends serve the single purpose of promoting the happiness of humanity. This chapter argues, however, that Smith’s position on the limitations of moral rules and the deepest aspects of his account of moral judgment leads him to a pluralist position, according to which different ultimate ends can come into conflict with each other and there exist no invariable ordering principles for adjudicating that conflict.

Keywords:   Joseph Butler, casuistry, Epicurus, Francis Hutcheson, prioritarianism, Adam Smith

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