UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Morality and the amoral agent Durward, Gregory William


The thesis is an exploration of the possibility and rationality of amoral agency. A characterization of the moral agent and his mode of practical deliberation is developed, taking as central the objectivity or impersonal validity of moral judgments and principles, and the concern of morality with the welfare of persons in general. This provides the framework for a discussion of two main forms of amorality. A person may qualify as an amoral agent either because he has little or no concern for other persons' well-being and recognizes no valid claim on him to thus concern himself, or because he operates with a radically subjectivist view of practical reasons and principles of action. As an interesting and widely discussed example of the former sort of amoralism, a number of forms of egoism are discussed and it is argued that, while ethical egoism is untenable, there are individualistic egoistic theories which avoid the most serious anti-egoist arguments. The more interesting sort of amorality, from a philosophical point of view, is the subjectivist one and some effort is made to outline a subjectivist theory of practical reasoning. Subjectivist metamoral theories are considered and rejected as accounts of the ordinary moral consciousness. The possibility of treating such theories as revisionistic in nature is discussed and the conclusion is that, while they may underwrite an outlook which can plausibly be regarded as moral, the subjectivist moral agent can maintain his position only with difficulty. This is because there is a natural drift from moral thinking to an objectivist posture and vice versa.

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