Jacob Ross Talks Consequentialism, Skep Triggers, Moral Uncertainty, and “Intellectual Jiu-Jitsu”

On Monday, Jacob Ross, Associate Professor at USC, visited the VBI Advanced Seminar to discuss his working paper, “Consequentialism and Actual Rules.” Ross presented an ethical principle, Actual Rule Consequentialism, with the aim of avoiding decisive objections to Act Consequentialism and rule-based theories (including not only standard versions of Rule Consequentialism, but also Kantianism and Contractualism). In the course of discussion, VBI students raised questions and objections about Ross’s theory. 

Ross also discussed some other issues that are relevant to LD, including

  •  “skepticism triggers,” which argue for an exclusive disjunction between moral nihilism and some ethical theory;
  • whether and how moral uncertainty affects what moral theory we ought to accept; 
  • and the role of intuitions in moral theorizing.

He concluded by encouraging the debaters to take philosophy courses in college:

“Philosophy is like debate with an ideally rational judge and no time limits.”

Ross called philosophy an exercise in “intellectual jiu-jitsu,” which requires the same kind of strategic thinking necessary for success in debate.