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(1994) Norms, values, and society, Dordrecht, Springer.

Rationality and morality

Julian Nida-Rümelin

pp. 217-228

"If an action is immoral, one should not carry it out." This thesis is one of those elements of our belief system which we are unwilling to revise under normal circumstances. "If an action is irrational, one should not carry it out." This second thesis is less cogent. It is possible that a person faced with the alternative of carrying out the action a or a' ought to carry out a for moral reasons even if a is irrational for her (i.e. does not correspond to her goals). The person-relativity of action rationality seems to be responsible for this difference. An action is rational in relation to the wishes of that person. One might conclude: There are two normative theories, one of which determines what is moral, the other what is rational. Both contain specific prescriptions. One should be both — moral and rational — as far as this is possible; in case of conflict the two types of norms must be weighed against one another. The pure universalist will give precedence to morality in case of conflict; the radical particularist will favour rationality. My thesis instead is: There can be only one normative theory; thus this conflict between two normative criteria or theories is merely imaginary. To illustrate this I will fall back on an odd story which may seem familiar to some of you:

Publication details

DOI: 10.1007/978-94-017-2454-8_17

Full citation:

Nida-Rümelin, J. (1994)., Rationality and morality, in H. Pauer Studer (ed.), Norms, values, and society, Dordrecht, Springer, pp. 217-228.

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