How should we assess the burden of moral demands? A predominant assessment is provided by what Murphy calls the baseline of factual status-quo (FSQ): A moral theory is demanding if the level of agents’ well-being is reduced from the time they begin to comply perfectly with the theory. The aims of my paper are threefold. I will first discuss the limits of the FSQ baseline. Second, I suggest a different assessment, which examines moral demands from a whole-life perspective. My view is that even if agents’ compliance with a moral theory will not cause a substantial reduction to their existing level of well-being, the total quality of life that they may obtain from complying with this theory may still be lower than what they could have obtained by following some other moral theories. The third aim of this paper is that, through this investigation, I hope to explicate the relation between agents’ acceptance of a moral theory and the burden of demands that is created by it. I believe that we can achieve a more comprehensive understanding of the nature of moral demands by paying attention to the psychological development of agents as they accept and internalize a moral theory.
KeywordsThe problem of demandingness Factual status-quo baseline Internalization Consequentialism Famine relief
An earlier version of this paper was presented in 2008 at the Tenth Conference of the International Society for Utilitarian Studies, Kadish Center for Morality, Law and Public Affairs, UC Berkeley. I am grateful to the audience for a helpful discussion, especially to Steve Nathanson. Thanks are due to Roger Lee, Luke Mulhall, Wong Wai-Hung, Joseph Chan, Leonard Kahn and Peter Chau who read and commented on earlier drafts. I would also like to acknowledge Brad Hooker for his valuable advice on the paper throughout the various stages of its development.
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