Philosophy Research Archives

Volume 12, 1986/1987

C. L. Sheng
Pages 125-142

On the Flexible Nature of Morality

The purpose of this essay is to study the problem of inherent obscurity of the criterion for maximal utility in utilitarianism. For the sake of convenience of analysis, situations of moral actions are classified into four categories. It is shown that morality is flexible, especially in the positive sense, in that a virtuous action can be taken in various ways and/or to various degrees. For some situations it is inherently unclear what the moral requirement is, and whether it is a maximum or a minimum. It is concluded that the schism of the principle of utility between the principle of the good and the principle of the right seems to be inevitable, and the interpretation of the ultimate criterion for maximal utility should be relaxed or interpreted separately and differently according to the situation of action.