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Talk: Holly Smith
September 13, 2013 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
“The Moral Duty to Inform Oneself Before Acting.”
Professor Smith is in the Department of Philosophy at Rutgers University. She specializes in moral theory.
We commonly assume there is a strong moral duty to inform oneself before making a morally momentous choice. But what is the content of this duty? This paper explores this question, arguing that plausible answers are available for objective consequentialist and deontological theories, and also for subjective consequentialist theories, but that there is no satisfactory account of a duty to inform oneself for subjective theories that include such deontological duties as the duty to keep promises, compensate others for past wrongs, or act justly. Subjective theories make the fundamental moral status of an action depend on the agent’s beliefs (rather than the facts) about its consequences and circumstances, and include such examples as subjective forms of expected utility theory and the theories of Prichard and the later Ross. These theories are proposed as remedies for the fact that agents often lack accurate and complete information of the sort required to apply the standard objective moral theories. If subjective deontological theories cannot underwrite a credible obligation to gather information before acting, we have a weighty reason to reject them.