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Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics: Volume 3$
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Mark Timmons

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199685905

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199685905.001.0001

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Consequentialism, Cognitive Limitations, and Moral Theory1

Consequentialism, Cognitive Limitations, and Moral Theory1

(p.179) 8 Consequentialism, Cognitive Limitations, and Moral Theory1
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics: Volume 3

Dale Dorsey

Oxford University Press

This chapter characterizes a recent and penetrating objection to consequentialism on grounds of human cognitive limitations. Standard human agents, or so the objection claims, will rarely, if ever, conform to moral requirements identified by consequentialism: consequentialism will require acts that, though strictly possible for an agent to perform, will not be performed simply given the fact that humans are cognitively limited beings. It is argued that this objection extends to virtually all plausible moral theories, and a solution is proposed: moral theories should restrict their deontic evaluation of acts to those that could be performed as an agent.

Keywords:   consequentialism, agency, ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, moral valence, moral requirability, contrastive reasons, objective reasons

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