The best argument against Williams on integrity I’ve read

Spencer Carr, “The Integrity of a Utilitarian,” Ethics 86:3 (Apr. 1976). Pages 243:

Several formulations of Williams’s case suggest that the problem of integrity loss is one faced by a special sort of person, one who, like George, has a special commitment to a nonutilitarian project. But this seems dubious. For consider: either George takes the U-advice or he does not. If he does not, there is no suggestion of any integrity loss. If he does, then either he retains his special commitment to pacifism or he does not. If he does retain it, we have a clear loss of integrity, but it is the loss of the trivial sort just noted. If he does not retain his old commitment but abandons or significantly modifies it in an appropriate way, then there is no longer any gap between project and action. So if George is vulnerable to a nontrivial sort of integrity loss, either it is one that any consistent utilitarian must face or else there is some aspect of the conversion process that leads to the loss. For it is important to see that the utilitarian is not so much asking George to act against his continuing project as he is urging him to adopt a more utilitarian project. And this is just what George does if he comes to accept U-reasons as legitimate grounds for modifying his position. But it seems clear enough that the conversion process itself is not supposed to be the source of the alleged integrity loss. Intuitively it is implausible to hold that a mere change of moral beliefs damages one’s personal integrity. And, furthermore, Williams hardly mentions the matter of project change, except only to point out that a change in projects does not render one’s projects less morally significant. It is to consistent utilitarian belief and behavior that we must look for any loss of integrity.

It’s hard to read Williams as being anything other than question-begging on this point.


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