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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Divorcing the good and the right
by Schroeder, Scott Andrew, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2009, 200; 3385560
Abstract (Summary)

Philosophers have typically assumed that deontic moral concepts (e.g. requirement, permission, right) and evaluative moral concepts (good, bad, better, worse) are related in some way. I argue that this is incorrect: deontic norms don't hold in virtue of evaluative norms, evaluative norms don't hold in virtue of deontic norms, and both don't hold in virtue of some third type of normative claim. This has important consequences for debates in normative ethics and also suggests an attractive picture of the relationship between moral and non-moral norms in practical deliberation.

After explaining what distinguishes the deontic and the evaluative, I argue in chapter two against theories which seek to analyze the deontic in terms of the evaluative. I show that such theories both require deontic assumptions concerning what an agent ought to believe, and also rely on an invalid form of argument.

In chapter three, I consider theories which make the evaluative depend on the deontic. These theories face a problem of information: evaluative status is more fine-grained than deontic status. The best solution to this problem depends on an appeal to hypothetical deontic norms, but I show that this introduces a distorting element, leaving such approaches unable to reach plausible evaluative conclusions.

Chapter four is an investigation of the Kantian project. I argue that even if the Categorical Imperative is able to yield deontic norms, it can't also yield evaluative norms. A Kantian system is therefore unable to say that murder is worse than petty theft or that giving more to charity is better than giving less.

I conclude by looking at what follows, if the deontic and the evaluative are independent as I've argued they are. First, I show that this independence has a number of consequences for normative ethics. Second, I argue that it makes available an attractive view of the relationship between moral and non-moral norms. It allows us to explain the intuition that morality takes precedence over other sources of norms, while at the same time leaving normative space for other things that matter to us, such as family, friends, profession, and art.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Scanlon, Thomas
School: Harvard University
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 70/11, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Ethics, Philosophy
Keywords: Deontic, Ethics, Evaluative, Morality, Philosophy, Value theory
Publication Number: 3385560
ISBN: 978-1-109-49472-3
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