Moral Strata pp 169-196 | Cite as

Remedies for Reflective Disequilibrium

  • John R. WelchEmail author
Part of the Theory and Decision Library A: book series (TDLA, volume 49)


Chapter 6 proposes remedies for a common affliction: reflective disequilibrium. This affliction can result from inconsistencies within moral strata or between moral and nonmoral discourse. The chapter claims that reflective disequilibrium within the phenomenal stratum can be reduced by appeal to the standard of inductive cogency. Reflective disequilibrium within the instrumental stratum, which is illustrated by the classic case of United States v. Holmes, can be intra-theoretic or inter-theoretic. Intra-theoretic instrumental disequilibrium can sometimes be resolved by judicious use of moral theory, while the inter-theoretic variety typically requires teleological ascent. Like instrumental disequilibrium, teleological disequilibrium can be intra-theoretic or inter-theoretic. Inter-theoretic cases can be managed with the resources of comparative decision theory. While intra-theoretic cases can be more recalcitrant, they may nonetheless become tractable over time through increased understanding of consequences of alternative moral ends. Finally, reflective disequilibrium can also arise through conflict between moral and nonmoral discourse. Citing the conflict between Gauguin’s commitments to his family and his art, the chapter maintains that extra-moral disequilibrium can sometimes be ameliorated by adhering to an overridingness thesis stated in terms of supererogation and moral obligation.


Decision Theory Moral Obligation Moral Agent Relative Priority Moral Consideration 
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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Saint Louis University – Madrid CampusMadridSpain

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