Popular Consensus/Public Opinion Framework

The value criterion is...consistency with popular consensus.

Here are some of the best justifications for a popular consensus/public opinion framework.

Absolute moral assertions are nonsensical

First, history shows no signs of moral progress

Leiter, Brian ‘10 (Karl N. Llewellyn Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Chicago Law School). “Moral Skepticism and Moral Disagreement: Developing an Argument from Nietzsche.” On the Human, sponsored by the National Humanities Center. March 25th, 2010. http://onthehuman.org/2010/03/moral-skepticism-and-moral-disagreement-developing-an-argument-from-nietzsche/

With respect to very particularized moral disagreements — e.g., about questions of economic or social policy — which often trade on obvious factual ignorance or disagreement about complicated empirical questions, this seems a plausible retort. But for over two hundred years, Kantians and utilitarians have been developing increasingly systematic versions of their respective positions.  The Aristotelian tradition in moral philosophy has an even longer history. Utilitarians have become particularly adept at explaining how they can accommodate Kantian and Aristotelian intuitions about particular cases and issues, though in ways that are usually found to be systematically unpersuasive to the competing traditions and which, in any case, do nothing to dissolve the disagreement about the underlying moral criteria and categories. Philosophers in each tradition increasingly talk only to each other, without even trying to convince those in the other traditions.  And while there may well be ‘progress’ within traditions — e.g., most utilitarians regard Mill as an improvement on Bentham—there does not appear to be any progress in moral theory, in the sense of a consensus that particular fundamental theories of right action and the good life are deemed better than their predecessors.  What we find now are simply the competing traditions — Kantian, Humean, Millian, Aristotelian, Thomist, perhaps now even Nietzschean — who often view their competitors as unintelligible or morally obtuse, but don’t have any actual arguments against the foundational principles of their competitors. There is, in short, no sign — I can think of none — that we are heading towards any epistemic rapprochement between these competing moral traditions. Are we really to believe that hyper-rational and reflective moral philosophers, whose lives, in most cases, are devoted to systematic reflection on philosophical questions, many of whom (historically) were independently wealthy (or indifferent to material success) and so immune to crass considerations of livelihood and material self-interest, and most of whom, in the modern era, spend professional careers refining their positions, and have been doing so as a professional class in university settings for well over a century — are we really supposed to believe that they have reached no substantial agreement on any foundational moral principle because of ignorance, irrationality, or partiality?

Second, Moral arguments always terminate in assertions.

Alasdair MacIntyre “After Virtue” 1984 Notre Dame Press

The most influential account of moral reasoning that emerged in response to this critique of emotivism was one according to which an agent can only justify a particular judgment by referring to some universal rule from which it may be logically derived, and can only justify that rule in turn by deriving it from some more general rule or principle; but on this view Since every chain of reasoning must be finite, such a process of justificatory reasoning must always terminate with the assertion of some rule or principle for which no further reason can be given. ‘Thus a complete justification of a decision would consist of a complete account of its effects together with a complete account of the principles which it observed, and the effect of observing those principles.  If I the enquirer still goes on ask ing ‘But why should I live like that?’ then there is no further answer to give him, because we have already, ex hypothesi, we have already said everything that could be included in the further answer.’ (Hare 1952, p. 69). The terminus of justification is thus always, on this view, a not further to be justified choice, a choice unguided by criteria. Each individual implicitly or explicitly has to adopt his or her own first principles on the basis of such a choice. The utterance of any universal principle is in the end an expression of the preferences of an individual will and for that will its principles have and can have only such authority as it chooses to confer upon them by adopting them. 

A plurality of ethics defines our moral convictions. No one moral theory can solely guide all action so ethics must concede that absolute morality doesn’t exist. Moots their framework because we can’t have an absolute normative ethic and means the ethical paradigm should be one that allows for moral disagreement.

Thus, the standard is consistency with popular consensus.

Governments must make choices that are consistent with public opinion. 

Christiano ‘6, Thomas (University of Arizona). Democracy, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Jul 27, 2006.http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/democracy/#NonInsVal

Epistemologically, democracy is thought to be the best decision-making method on the grounds that it is generally more reliable in helping participants discover the right decisions. Since democracy brings a lot of people into the process of decision making, it can take advantage of many sources of information and critical assessment of laws and policies. Democratic decision-making tends to be more informed than other forms about the interests of citizens and the causal mechanisms necessary to advance those interests. Furthermore, the broad based discussion typical of democracy enhances the critical assessment of the different moral ideas that guide decision-makers.

The state’s authority is derived from the general will, so consensus comes first

Bertram ‘12, Christopher, "Jean Jacques Rousseau", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2012/entries/rousseau/.

Rousseau's contributions to political philosophy are scattered among various works, most notable of which are the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality, the Discourse on Political Economy, The Social Contract, and Considerations on the Government of Poland. However, many of his other works, both major and minor, contain passages that amplify or illuminate the political ideas in those works. His central doctrine in politics is that a state can be legitimate only if it is guided by the “general will” of its members. This idea finds its most detailed treatment in The Social Contract. In The Social Contract, Rousseau sets out to answer what he takes to be the fundamental question of politics, the reconciliation of the freedom of the individual with the authority of the state. This reconciliation is necessary because human society has evolved to a point where individuals can no longer supply their needs through their own unaided efforts, but rather must depend on the cooperation of others. The process whereby human needs expand and interdependence deepens is set out in the Discourse on the Origins of Inequality. In that work, the final moment of Rousseau's conjectural history involves the emergence of endemic conflict among the now-interdependent individuals and the argument that the Hobbesian insecurity of this condition would leads all to consent to the establishment of state authority and law. In the Second Discourse, this establishment amounts to the reinforcement of unequal and exploitative social relations that are now backed by law and state power. In an echo of Locke and an anticipation of Marx, Rousseau argues that this state would, in effect, be a class state, guided by the common interest of the rich and propertied and imposing unfreedom and subordination on the poor and weak. The propertyless consent to such an establishment because their immediate fear of a Hobbesian state of war leads them to fail to attend to the ways in which the new state will systematically disadvantage them. The Social Contract aims to set out an alternative to this dystopia, an alternative in which, Rousseau claims, each person will enjoy the protection of the common force whilst remaining as free as they were in the state of nature. The key to this reconciliation is the idea of the general will: that is, the collective will of the citizen body taken as a whole. The general will is the source of law and is willed by each and every citizen. In obeying the law each citizen is thus subject to his or her own will, and consequently, according to Rousseau, remains free.

[This framework originally and generously contributed by Westwood AG.]