Richard Brandt

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Richard Booker Brandt (17 October 1910 – 10 September 1997)[1] was an American philosopher of the utilitarian tradition in moral philosophy. He was originally educated at Denison University, a Baptist institution he was shepherded to by his minister father. He taught at Swarthmore College before spending the bulk of his career at the University of Michigan, where he taught with Charles Stevenson and William K. Frankena (1908–1994) and served as Chairman of the philosophy department. The expressivist moral philosopher Allan Gibbard has mentioned his great intellectual debt to Brandt.[2]

He wrote Ethical Theory (1959),[3] an influential textbook in the field. He defended a version of rule utilitarianism in "Toward a credible form of utilitarianism" (1963) and performed cultural-anthropological studies in Hopi Ethics (1954). In A Theory of the Good and the Right,[4] Brandt proposed a "reforming definition" of rationality, that one is rational if one's preferences are such that they survive cognitive psychotherapy in terms of all relevant information and logical criticism. He argued also that the morality such rational persons would accept would be a form of utilitarianism.

Brandt believed that moral rules should be considered in sets which he called moral codes. A moral code is justified when it is the optimal code that, if adopted and followed, would maximise the public good more than any alternative code would. The codes may be society-wide standards or special codes for a profession like engineering.[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^
  2. ^ Gibbard, Allan (1990). Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. Clarendon Press. viii. ISBN 0-19-824985-3. 
  3. ^ Richard B. Brandt (1959). Ethical Theory: The Problems of Normative and Critical Ethics. Prentice-Hall. 
  4. ^ Richard B. Brandt (1979). A Theory of the Good and the Right. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-824550-5. 
  5. ^ Richard B. Brandt (1979). A Theory of the Good and the Right. Clarendon Press. ISBN 0-19-824550-5.