SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

Integrity or partiality? On Bernard Williams and consequentialism
(Ethics, English)

The aim of this paper is to discuss Bernard Williams__ objection to utilitarianism which became famous as the integrity objection. By discussing some criticism towards this argument, I try to show that it should be read not so much as an argument about integrity, but more as a defense of the right to be partial towards oneself.

Williams claimed that utilitarianism cannot account for the value of integrity of the moral agent because it disregards the projects and commitments that are central to our identity. His argument purported to show that by requiring us to comply with the commands of the utilitarian calculus (which may amount to sacrificing our central life projects for the sake of the greater good), utilitarianism deprives us of the meaning in life and our sense of self (Williams 1973, Williams 1981a). In this paper I discuss some criticism towards his view, concentrating however on the challenge for a more broadly understood consequentialism. I begin by recalling Sophie Grace Chappell__s argument (2007) that Williams__ objection presupposes internalism about reasons (see Williams 1981b). I try to argue that as long the consequentialist opponent is concerned with human fulfillment, there is a reading of the integrity objection that is challenging for her view, even if she holds to externalism about reasons. Nonetheless, by discussing Samuel Scheffler__s (1994) example of a sophisticated consequentialist theory I explain that consequentialism can successfully accommodate Williams__ complaint. Moreover, I argue that the reason for this lies in the fact that integrity is a value that can be accounted for entirely impartially. This, however, leads me to argue that Williams__ objection is not about integrity actually. Inspired by Pettit's (2012: 54-56) claims about the identity-dependence in non-consequentialist theories and in Williams' view, I propose to read the integrity objection rather as an argument for the right to be radically partial towards oneself.


Chappell, Sophie Grace (published under the name Timothy). 2007. "Integrity and Demandingness__. "Ethical Theory and Moral Practice" 10 (3), pp. 255-65.

Scheffler, Samuel. 1994. "The Rejection of Consequentialism. A Philosophical Investigation of the Considerations Underlying Rival Moral Conceptions". Revised ed. Oxford University Press.

Pettit, Philip. 2012. "The inescapability of consequentialism". In: "Luck, value and commitment: Themes from the ethics of Bernard Williams". Eds. Ulrike Heuer, Gerard Lang. Oxford University Press, pp. 41-70.

Williams, Bernard. 1973. "A critique of Utilitarianism". In: "Utilitarianism: for and against". J. J. C. Smart, Bernard Williams. Cambridge University Press, pp. 77-150.

Williams, Bernard. 1981a. "Persons, character and morality". In: "Moral Luck. Philosophical Papers 1973-1980". Cambridge University Press, pp. 1-19.

Williams, Bernard. 1981b. "Internal and External Reasons". In: "Moral Luck. Philosophical Papers 1973-1980". Cambridge University Press, pp. 101-113.

Chair: Felix Danowski
Time: 14:40-15:10, 09. September 2022 (Friday)
Location: SR 1.005
Remark: (Online Talk)

Ida Miczke 
(University of Warsaw, Polska)

Testability and Meaning deco