Kantian and Consequentialist Ethics: The Gap Can Be Bridged

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Abstract

Richard Hare argues that the fundamental assumptions of Kant's ethical system should have led Kant to utilitarianism, had Kant not confused a norm's generality with its universality, and hence adopted rigorist, deontological norms. Several authors, including Jens Timmermann, have argued contra Hare that the gap between Kantian and utilitarian/consequentialist ethics is fundamental and cannot be bridged. This article shows that Timmermann's claims rely on a systematic failure to separate normative and metaethical aspects of each view, and that Hare's attempt to bridge the gap between Kantian and consequentialist ethics is immune to Timmermann's criticisms. Furthermore, the term “Kantian ethics” is often misleading, and should typically be qualified as either “Kantian rationalism” or “Kantian deontology” in order to avoid confusions of the sort Timmermann falls into.

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