Rule Consequentialism Framework

The value criterion is...rule consequentialism.

Here are some of the best justifications for a rule consequentialism framework.

Coherentism is the correct basis for justification- a belief is justified if it fits together with the rest of our intuitive beliefs. Hooker:

Brad Hooker, “Rule Consequentialism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition). URL – <>. AS 6/15/14

We should evaluate rival moral theories in terms of their ability to cohere with the convictions in which we have the most confidence after due reflection. How a moral view would look from the perspective of evaluative beliefs in which we have little or no confidence could not matter as much to us as whether the moral view is [has to be] consistent with the moral beliefs in which we have the most confidence after due reflection. As Frank Jackson (1998: 135) writes, ‘[W]e must start from somewhere in current folk morality, otherwise we start from somewhere unintuitive, and that can hardly be a good place to start.’ If we are to start somewhere intuitive as opposed to unintuitive, we shall have to start with beliefs that come with independent credibility, by which I mean beliefs that seem correct even before we consider how they fit with our other beliefs. W. D. Ross focused on what he called self-evident propositions. A self-evident proposition is ‘evident without any need of proof, or of evidence beyond itself’ Ross's terminology, it is part of the definition of self-evidence that self-evident propositions must be true, though we could be mistaken about which propositions have self-evidence (Audi 1996: 107–8, 131). I believe clarity is served by talking instead in terms of independent credibility. Like a self-evident proposition, an independently credible one is ‘evident without any need of proof, or of evidence beyond itself ’. Unlike a self-evident proposition, an independently credible one might turn out to be mistaken (Timmons 1999: 232). A belief can seem correct to us independently of how (or whether) it fits with our other beliefs, and yet this belief may not be compelling on first look (Ross, 1930: 29; Audi 1996: 112–13). We may have to think very carefully before we start thinking that a belief is independently credible. Furthermore, independently credible beliefs need not be certain, or beyond all challenge or revision (Ewing 1947: ch. 8; 1951: 58–63; Audi 1996: 107–8, 131; Scanlon 1998: 70). Of course, moral beliefs can draw support from their relation to other moral beliefs. For example, if two different moral beliefs are each non-inferentially credible, and one explains the other, this adds to the credibility of both these beliefs.16For example, one initially credible belief is that behaving in some way is wrong if the consequences would be bad if everyone felt free to behave[d] in that way. Another is that being a ‘free rider’ on the sacrifices (or contributions or restraint) of others is wrong. The first belief seems to explain the second, and this lends further credibility to each of these beliefs. In short, we search for a coherent set of moral beliefs and are willing to make many revisions so as to reach coherence. But we [and] should start with moral beliefs that are attractive in their own right, that is, independently of how they mesh with our other moral beliefs

Rule consequentialism meets coherentism – it coheres with our intuitive beliefs to meet this meta-constraint. Even if other frameworks meet this constraint, mine is most coherent. Hooker:

Brad Hooker, “Rule Consequentialism”. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Spring 2011 Edition). URL – <>. AS 6/15/14

We have seen that rule-consequentialism evaluates rules on the basis of the expected value of their acceptance by the overwhelming majority. What rules will such an approach endorse? It will endorse rules prohibiting physically attacking innocent[s] people or their property, taking the property of others, breaking one's promises, and lying. It will also endorse rules requiring one to pay special attention to the needs of one's family and friends, but more generally to be willing to help others with their (morally permissible) projects. Why? The crude answer is that a society where such rules are widely accepted would be likely to have more good in it than one lacking such rules. The fact that these rules are endorsed by rule-consequentialism [This] makes rule-consequentialism attractive. For, intuitively, these rules seem right. However, other moral theories endorse these rules as well. Most obviously, a familiar kind of moral pluralism contends that these intuitively attractive rules constitute the most basic level of morality, i.e., that there is no deeper moral principle underlying and unifying these rules. Call this view Rossian pluralism (in honor of its champion W. D. Ross (1930; 1939)). Rule-consequentialism may agree with Rossian pluralism in endorsing rules against physically attacking the innocent, stealing, promise breaking, and rules requiring various kinds of loyalty and more generally doing good for others. But rule-consequentialism goes beyond Rossian pluralism by specifying an underlying unifying principle that provides impartial justification for such rules. Other moral theories try to do this too. Such theories include some forms of Kantianism (Audi 2001; 2004), some forms of contractualism (Scanlon 1998), and some forms of virtue ethics (Hursthouse 1999; 2002; Foot 2000). In any case, the first way of arguing for [but] rule-consequentialism is to argue that it specifies an underlying principle that provides impartial justification for intuitively plausible moral rules, and that no rival theory does this as well (Urmson 1953; Brandt 1967; Hospers 1972; Hooker 2000). This first way of arguing for rule-consequentialism might be seen as drawing on the idea that a theory is better justified to us to the extent that it increases coherence within our beliefs (Rawls 1951; 1971, pp. 19–21, 46–51; DePaul 1987; Ebertz 1993; Sayre-McCord 1986; 1996). [See the entry on coherentist theories of epistemic justification.] But the approach might also be seen as moderately foundationalist in that it begins with a set of beliefs (in various moral rules) to which it assigns independent credibility though not infallibility (Audi 1996; 2004; Crisp 2000). [See the entry on foundationalist theories of epistemic justification.] Admittedly, coherence with our moral beliefs does not make a moral theory true, since our moral beliefs might of course be mistaken. Nevertheless, if a moral theory fails significantly to cohere with our moral beliefs, this undermines the theory's ability to be justified to us.

Thus the standard is rule-consequentialism. Additionally, prefer the standard:

1) Policy-making must be consequentialist since collective action results in conflicts that only rule util can resolve. Side constraints paralyze state action – it's impossible to compare tradeoffs involving opportunity costs. States lack intentionality or internal motivation since they're composed of multiple individuals – there is no act-omission distinction for them since they create permissions and prohibitions in terms of policies so authorizing action could never be considered an omission since the state assumes culpability in regulating the public domain. Prefer rule util since it escapes the pitfalls that would face policymakers who chose an act util decision calculus.

[This framework originally and generously contributed by Mission Peak SS.]