Philosophy Colloquium 

Friday, November 9, 2018

3:00pm in Mackinac Hall BLL-110 (Basement)

Patrick Anderson (GVSU Philosophy Department)

Axiom of Evil: Deontology, Utilitarianism, and American Exceptionalism



Abstract: Despite the diversity of political ideologies in the United States, nearly all of them share the same fundamental axiom: “America is good.” This pervasive axiom, however, is always asserted and assumed rather than demonstrated and defended, for its champions rarely, if ever, reveal the normative standards used to substantiate America’s goodness. In this presentation, I will test the premise “America is good” using two dominant paradigms of modern Western moral philosophy: Kantian deontology and Mill’s utilitarianism. Bringing these normative standards of goodness to bear on “America,” I argue that neither deontology nor utilitarianism — even the most perverse construal of utilitarianism — can substantiate the premise “America is good.” In other words, America fails to be good by both deontological and utilitarian measures. In handling objections, I will confront a pluralist counterargument, which argues that good and bad actions are attributable not to “America” but to subsets or factions within America. I respond by criticizing the pluralist view by noting its problematic reliance on what I call Reservoirs of Hope and Localizations of Evil.  

Questions? Contact Andrew Spear:



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