Brad Hooker presented five criteria for evaluating (and presumably fine-tuning) moral theories:

  1. They begin with attractive general beliefs (this prevents the possibility of creating moral theories that seem plausible that were derived from principles that people cannot accept).
  2. They are internally consistent.
  3. They are consistent with existing morality (they are especially consistent with the most defensible or most important moral convictions).
  4. They describe a basic principle that explains and justifies moral convictions.
  5. They help to resolve moral conflicts [1] (see also Ideal Code, Real_World (book)#Methodology)

In addition to Hooker's criteria, there might be a need for criteria for comparing two or more moral systems. This evaluation might be unique to the family of consequentialist ethics because other systems rely on appeals that are independent of consequences and might thereby exclude the validity of a comprehensively critical self-evaluation. In this regard, consequentialism (within which is utilitarianism) stands consistently with analytic philosophy while many other schools of ethical thought do not.

In addition to criteria for comparing two or more ethical systems, a set of tools might be useful to frame the comparison holistically thereby reducing hasty disregard for a system upon encountering the first weakness. The set of tools might include

  1. a comprehensive listing of strengths and weaknesses,
  2. estimates of the likelihood of and importance of strengths and weaknesses that differ between the systems being compared, and
  3. description of how moral conflicts would be resolved within each system (see below).

The need for additional criteria for evaluating moral codes becomes apparent after considering how the most difficult moral conflicts would be resolved, who would be tasked with resolving them, and what legitimacy there is for such institutions or processes if they are proposed. At this point, evaluation of a moral code might include consideration of the political philosophy used it implement it.

  1. Which people or institutions (if any) are tasked with resolving moral conflicts?
  2. Which people or institutions (if any) are tasked with identifying, ratifying, or approving a moral system or moral code?
  3. What specific methods will be used to resolve moral conflicts (or classes of moral conflicts)?
  4. What guidelines will there be (if any) for allowing, prohibiting, facilitating, discouraging, or exploring multiple authorities (or agencies) that would lead separate schools ethical guidance.
  5. What legitimacy would any proposed institutions have (in the local nation or globally depending on the specification of the moral system; this is an empirical question)?

References Edit

  1. Hooker, Brad (2000). Ideal Code, Real World. Clarendon Press: Oxford, p. 4