Research Article

True and Useful: On the Structure of a Two Level Normative Theory


a1 University of Massachusetts at Amherst ffeldman@philos.umass.edu


Act-utilitarianism and other theories in normative ethics confront the implementability problem: normal human agents, with normal human epistemic abilities, lack the information needed to use those theories directly for the selection of actions. Two Level Theories have been offered in reply. The theoretical level component states alleged necessary and sufficient conditions for moral rightness. That component is supposed to be true, but is not intended for practical use. It gives an account of objective obligation. The practical level component is offered as an implementable system for the choice of actions by agents lacking some relevant information. It gives an account of subjective obligation. Several different ways of developing Two Levelism are explained and criticized. Five conditions that must be satisfied if the practical level principle is to be a good match for a given theoretical level principle are stated. A better form of Two Levelism is presented.