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Against commitment

Venkatesh, N; (2022) Against commitment. Philosophical Studies , 179 (12) pp. 3511-3534. 10.1007/s11098-022-01847-w. Green open access

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Abstract

In his famous ‘Integrity Objection’, Bernard Williams condemns utilitarianism for requiring us to regard our projects as dispensable, and thus precluding us from being properly committed to them. In this paper, I argue against commitment as Williams defines it, drawing upon insights from the socialist tradition as well as mainstream analytic moral philosophy. I show that given the mutual interdependence of individuals (a phenomenon emphasised by socialists) several appealing non-utilitarian moral principles also require us to regard our projects as dispensable. This means that those who endorse those principles cannot appeal to Williams’s argument against utilitarianism. It also puts pressure on his thought that moral theories ought to permit commitment – in fact, it suggests that they ought not. Regarding one’s projects as dispensable may be alienating, and this may motivate us to hang onto commitment and reject these non-utilitarian principles along with utilitarianism. However, commitment also threatens a kind of alienation – from other people. Drawing upon the socialist tradition again, I argue that avoiding this form of alienation is necessary for proper engagement with our projects, and thereby with ourselves.

Type: Article
Title: Against commitment
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1007/s11098-022-01847-w
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-022-01847-w
Language: English
Additional information: © 2023 Springer Nature Switzerland AG. This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).
Keywords: Bernard Williams, Utilitarianism, Integrity, Commitment, Alienation, Ethics Socialism
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Dept of Philosophy
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10164928
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