2006 | 15 | 4(60) | 269-278
Article title

Between Compulsion and Tolerance

Title variants
Languages of publication
In the final chapter of 'Utilitarianism', J.S. Mill accounts for a distinctive feature of morality by calling upon the categories of compulsion and punishment. At the same time, he attempts to distinguish justice from other branches of morality. In doing this, he falls back on the distinction between duties of perfect and imperfect obligation: the former, unlike the latter, confer on some people certain rights. However, Mill does not explain how it is possible for the province of beneficence to bear this characteristic and yet remain within morality regarded as the domain of sanction and compulsion. The purpose of the paper is to try to resolve the problem in question on the basis of an expressivistic metaethical theory which draws on Mill's work. According to this approach, the distinctive feature of moral statements lies in the fact that they express the acceptance of two norms: the first one 'prima facie' prescribes to everyone that the judged thing is to be chosen or forbids it and the second 'prima facie' tells everyone to act so as to effectively influence those who do not observe the former norm. Then, the domain of perfect obligation is explained as constituted by these moral judgements which are accompanied by negative evaluations of acts consisting in tolerating an individual's breaking (or aiming to break) the first norm. Respectively, supererogation is taken to be bound up with positive evaluations of tolerance for people who do not act in the required way. Thus, supererogatory judgements belong to the province of morality because they are connected with the acceptance of the norm exhorting to influence perpetrators, and yet they do not cease to be norms of beneficence, for they are bound up with the judgements which prohibit resorting to coercive measures against wrongdoers. Very importantly, the postulated solution is fully compatible with adopting a utilitarian stance in normative ethics.
Physical description
Document type
  • A. Kuzniar, c/o Uniwersytet Warszawski, Instytu Filozofii, ul. Krakowskie Przedmiescie 3, 00-047 Warszawa, Poland
Document Type
Publication order reference
CEJSH db identifier
YADDA identifier
JavaScript is turned off in your web browser. Turn it on to take full advantage of this site, then refresh the page.