Morality Versus Prudence
Q&A Radio: 2 August 2015, Question 1
I answered a question on morality versus prudence on 2 August 2015. You can listen to or download the podcast of just this question below – or check out the whole episode of Philosophy in Action Radio.
In ethics, should moral actions be differentiated from prudential actions? I often hear academic philosophers say that a person should clearly distinguish prescriptive actions that are "prudential" from those that are "moral." For example, if I want to bake a cake properly, I have to follow a certain set of procedures. However, whether I bake the cake or not – or whether I follow the recipe competently or not – has no bearing on my moral standing. Generally, "prudential actions" are considered actions that would benefit me and not harm others. By contrast, I hear it said that whether my action is moral or immoral is determined by whether it harms others. In moral philosophy, is it valid to separate that which is prudential from that which is moral – and to do so in that way?
My Answer, In Brief: The way that moral actions are distinguished from prudential actions in contemporary academic philosophy is fraught with problems, particularly due to assumptions of altruism. However, we can learn much from Aristotle's concept of practical wisdom, and a distinction between moral and prudential principles is valid.
- Duration: 20:20
- Download: MP3 Segment (7.0 MB)
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About Philosophy in Action
I'm Dr. Diana Brickell (formerly Diana Hsieh). I'm a philosopher, and I've long specialized in the application of rational principles to the challenges of real life. I completed my Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2009. I retired from work as a public intellectual in 2015.
From September 2009 to September 2015, I produced a radio show and podcast, Philosophy in Action Radio. In the primary show, my co-host Greg Perkins and I answered questions applying rational principles to the challenges of real life. We broadcast live over the internet on Sunday mornings.
My first book, Responsibility & Luck: A Defense of Praise and Blame, can be purchased in paperback and Kindle. The book defends the justice of moral praise and blame of persons using an Aristotelian theory of moral responsibility, thereby refuting Thomas Nagel's "problem of moral luck." My second book (and online course), Explore Atlas Shrugged, is a fantastic resource for anyone wishing to study Ayn Rand's epic novel in depth.
I can be reached via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.