What are the levels of thinking

Overview of Hare's Two-Level Theory of Moral Thought

Moral thinking is made up of intuitive thinking and critical thinking. Both are necessary and together are sufficient for moral thinking. [1]

Proletariat: He only uses intuitive thinking and is incapable of critical thinking (MT e45 / d92)Archangel: He only applies critical thinking, possesses superhuman intellectual powers and knowledge, and no human weaknesses whatsoever; 'Ideal observer', 'ideal prescriber' (MT e44 / d91).
Intuitive thinking is rule utilitarian. (MT e43 / d90, HC 227)Critical thinking is action utilitarian. (MT e43 / d90)
Intuitive principles are necessary:

- to make everyday moral decisions (B 18, E 221, 223)
- in order to be able to act in the multitude of possible situations (and not have to think through every situation from scratch) (MT e36ff./82ff.)
- so as not to be tempted to plead on your own behalf with every decision (MT e38 / d84f.)
- to give those of us who cannot think like archangels in a specific situation something like a usable approximation method (MT e46 / d94)
- for moral education (R 198f.).

=> Intuitive principles are only necessary to counteract our human weaknesses. The overall benefit in a society is greater when everyone adheres (predominantly) to intuitive thinking rather than trying to constantly use critical thinking.
Critical thinking is necessary:

- to solve conflicts between intuitive principles (MT e40, 50 / d86f., 97f .; E 223)
(Because of their unlimited specificity and subordinate power, there can be no conflict between critical principles.)
- to make decisions in cases where the intuitive principles are not applicable (E 223)
- in order to select (and thus justify) the intuitive principles (MT e45, 50 / d92f., 97, E 223).
Intuitive principles are not enough:

- because they lead to insoluble conflicts (MT e26, 70 / d39, 86)
- how they are not applicable in all situations (MT e39 / d86f., E 223)
- because they cannot justify themselves (MT e40 / 87)
d. H. when asked
- which intuitions / intuitive principles we should have,
- which duties we should recognize,
- what the content of a reasonable moral education is,
Intuitive thinking cannot help any further, as it is itself called into question (B 17).
Critical thinking is not enough:

- because it is impossible for people (due to a lack of time, knowledge, intelligence, distance from their own interests) to think through every new situation critically (or because trying to do this would lead to an overall poor result).
(With archangels, critical thinking is necessary and sufficient for moral thinking. (MT e46 / d93))
Properties of the intuitive principles:

Logical properties:
- universally prescriptive (MT e41 / d88)
- relatively simple and general (unspecific), because
- they must be learnable (MT e35 / 81)
- to be useful as a practical guide, they must be so unspecific that they cover a variety of situations with certain common characteristics (MT e36 / d82)
- not overriding, because
- there are cases in which one intuitive principle is subordinated to another (MT e57 / d106), i. H. intuitive principles allow exceptions in the sense that it is possible to continue to adhere to them and still allow them to be broken in special cases (MT e59 / d108)
- there are cases in which an intuitive principle is subordinated to a non-moral rule (MT e60 / d109).

Psychological characteristics:
- They are connected “because of our upbringing with very strong and deep-reaching dispositions and feelings” (MT e338 / d85), i. H. they are deeply rooted in our character (P 97) and become our second nature (HC 259, B 19)
=> A violation of them leads to remorse and remorse or, if others violate it, indignation (P 97).
- They are a necessary precaution against pleading on one's own behalf. (MT e38 / d84f., B 19) Because of these psychological properties, intuitive principles are not mere rules of thumb. (MT e38 / d85, E 223, P 97, B18f., 54, HC 223f., 259)
Properties of the critical principles:

- universally prescriptive (MT e41 / d88)
- of unlimited specificity (MT 41 / d88)
- overriding
"Critical principles are what would be arrived at by leisured moral thought in completely adequate knowledge of the facts, as the right answer to a specific case." (E 221)
At the critical level there are no moral, only linguistic intuitions. Moral decisions are determined solely by the logical properties of moral words and by non-moral facts. (MT e40 / d87)

Morally rational action: The act that is most likely to be right (even if it turns out to be wrong afterwards). The morally rational act will almost always be the one that conforms to the intuitive principles, for these have been chosen precisely for the purpose of this being the case. (E 224f.)

Morally correct action: The act that conforms to the critical principles obtained through exhaustive, fully informed, and clear thinking about specific cases. (E 225)

Critical thinking selects intuitive principles that are identical in content to the rules of rule utilitarianism.

In deciding which moral rules to use on the intuitive level, “It is quite correct, as Hare actually claims, that the action utilitarian and the rule utilitarian approach to the same moral decisions. This is so because of the choice between two alternatives moral rules is logically equivalent to choosing between the plotto adopt the first moral rule and the plotto adopt the second moral rule. In other words, if we choose between two alternative moral rules at the critical level, and even if we use the action utilitarian conceptual framework in making this choice, this will in no way prevent us from considering the social effects of each rule, including its expectation effects. " (Harsanyi, HC95, my translation)
"I agree that Harsanyis and my method in case (1) (sc. When deciding which moral rules we should use on the intuitive level) lead to the same moral decisions." (Hare, HC244, my translation)

The morally rational act will almost always be that which accords with the intuitive principles.

=> We should adhere to intuitive principles in our moral decisions, except in exceptional cases.

To ensure this, the intuitive principles are linked to strong feelings and dispositions and are therefore not mere rules of thumb.

This results in the following Advantages of Hare's Two-Level Theory:

1. The intuitive level is rule utilitarian and Hare's theory can therefore, like pure rule utilitarianism, fulfill the expectation effects.

2. Since the intuitive level is rule utilitarian, the usual objections that action utilitarianism leads to counter-intuitive moral decisions do not apply to Hare's theory, for

- if the examples put forward by the opponents of action utilitarianism are realistic and not unusual, then, according to Hare, they should be decided by intuitive principles and there is no conflict with our intuitions, and if the examples are so unusual that they can be resolved by critical thinking are to be solved, then counterintuitive results are not an argument against Hare's theory, since even the opponents of utilitarianism cannot be sure of their intuitions in such exceptional cases. (MT131f./193f.)
- Due to its high level of acceptance, Hare can establish and justify individual rights and obligations (valid on the intuitive level). (U153f./216f.)

3. Since the intuitive principles may be violated in special cases, the objection of rule worship raised against rule utilitarianism does not apply to Hare's theory.

4. Since the intuitive principles are chosen for their usefulness, unlike the intuitionists, Hare can establish and explain our intuitions. (MT137 / 200, HC208f., 270, 288, 291)

Points (1) and (2) only apply if the separation of the two levels is stable, i.e. H. when in fact most moral decisions are made intuitively.

According to Hare, however, there is no criterion for when to think intuitively and when to think critically (MT 45E / 92f., 52/100).
This decision depends on two subjective factors:
- the self-confidence and self-assessment of the acting person,
- of how deeply rooted the intuitive principles are in the actor.

Arguments against the stability of the separation of the two levels:

1) The severity of these two factors differs from person to person. So once more than one person is involved in a moral decision, there is likely to be a conflict over which level to decide at. If such conflicts arise, a correct decision on the moral problem can only take place on the critical level. => The more people are involved in a moral decision, the more unstable the distinction between the intuitive and the critical level becomes. => As a decision-making method, the two-level theory is only applicable to individuals who make moral decisions for themselves.
However, once the moral decisions are fraught with grave consequences, every single person will also sensibly use critical thinking and not rely on simple intuitive principles. I. E. a person will only make relatively mundane moral decisions on the intuitive level.
=> The range of application of intuitive thinking is very limited and it is therefore unlikely that it can fulfill the useful function postulated by Hare.

2) The separation of the levels can only be maintained if the intuitive principles are tied to strong moral feelings, dispositions, etc. But if it is known that the morally correct act is that which conforms to critical principles and that intuitive principles serve only to increase the likelihood of correct behavior, it is doubtful that one associates intuitive principles with strong moral feelings.

3) Since there is no criterion for when to think intuitively and when to think criterion, there is also no criterion for when it is morally rational to think one way or another. Since the morally correct action is only determined by critical thinking and there is no criterion as to when critical thinking is rational, no one can be blamed for thinking critically most of the time, even if he often violates intuitive principles in the process. I. E. the violation of intuitive principles through critical thinking cannot be sanctioned. Without sanctions, however, the intuitive principles cannot be maintained and cannot be linked to strong moral feelings. (The intuitive principles can only be sanctioned when they are brought up and violated for immoral motives.)


It can never be wrong to think critically. Action utilitarian critical thinking, however, often comes to a different - counterintuitive - result than rule utilitarian intuitive thinking. This divergence can only be minimized if, in every action-utilitarian decision, the institution-weakening or institutional-promoting effect of the action is taken into account. (Hare believes that almost every action has such effects. HC245) However, this is not possible in Hare's theory:
In order to decide in a concrete situation which action is morally correct, I have to consider the preferences of the persons affected by my action weight impartially according to their strength. To do this, I have to put myself in each person's shoes (etc.).
The institution-weakening effect of an action (e.g. breaking a promise) is not a property of the action that can influence the weighing of preferences when I put myself in the shoes of the person concerned. By which preferences the affected persons should the institution-weakening effect be represented? I. E. it is not possible to represent the institution-weakening effect of an action in the weighing of preferences by any preferences.
=> The institution-weakening effect of an action is completely irrelevant when deciding (in a concrete situation) which action is morally correct.

[1] Abbreviations: B: Essays on Bioethics, E: Essays on Ethical Theory, HC: Hare and Critics, MT: Moral Thinking, P: Essays on Political Morality, R: Essays on Religion and Education.