The nature and limits of moral compromise
Kelley, Maureen Catherine
Doctor of Philosophy
To date, the most developed models of compromise in situations of value conflict come out of the bargaining theory or rational choice theory literature. While useful in compromises over more straightforward preferences and interests, these models are shown to be seriously limited when applied to decisions involving moral commitments and moral compromise, especially among firm moral believers. A series of arguments is offered to motivate compromise over moral commitments, and these arguments attempt to take seriously the experience of the firm believer who is not moved by the straightforward maximizing arguments offered by bargaining theory. Two types of compromise are defended: separation compromises and direct compromises. The first defends indirect forms of compromise or assent to compromise where the damage done to firm moral beliefs is minimized through varying degrees of psychological distancing. Separation compromises include the use of arbiters, reliance on procedural solutions to conflict, separation between private and public or professional roles, withholding of intent, and symbolic gestures of protest or dissent. These indirect compromises, while often the only way of protecting firm beliefs and avoiding protracted conflict by assenting to compromise, come at a sometimes tragic price; at the very least the agent will still be complicit in the compromise, and responsible for immoral compromises. A second, more positive account of compromise is then defended. Three arguments are offered to motivate direct compromise, even among firm believers, in situations where there is some willingness among all parties concerned to at least enter into debate. The first is an appeal to the often self-defeating implications of protracted conflict and "walking away". The second argument appeals to moral fallibility. The third argument demonstrates the important relationship between our underdetermined moral principles and certain forms of conceptual compromise; compromise on this third account can be an important way of filling out our underdetermined regions of moral belief and principle. In closing, the normative limits on moral compromise are considered, as generated by appeals to fairness, moral complicity, and moral integrity.
Philosophy of Religion; Philosophy