In this piece I reply to comments on my book, The Mechanics of Claims and Permissible Killing in War, by Ralf Poscher and Pavlos Eleftheriadis. Poscher points out that my discussion of rights gave short shrift to the notion of dignity; my reply here gives me the welcome opportunity to correct that oversight. Eleftheriadis dissects my methodology, trying to shoehorn my theory into an existing category; my reply here gives me an opportunity to clarify why it is not just a (...) variation on a familiar theme but in fact it represents a new approach to rights. (shrink)
"This book discusses political corruption and anticorruption as a matter of a public ethics of office. It shows how political corruption is the Trojan horse that undermines public institutions from within via the interrelated action of the officeholders. Even well-designed and legitimate institutions may go off track if the officeholders fail to uphold by their conduct a public ethics of office accountability. Most current discussions of what political corruption is and why it is wrong have concentrated either on explaining and (...) assessing it as a matter of an individual's corrupt character and motives or as a dysfunction of institutional procedures. The book investigates the common normative root of these two manifestations of political corruption as a relationally wrongful practice that consists in an unaccountable use of the power of office by the officeholders in public institutions. From this perspective, political corruption is an internal enemy of public institutions that can only be opposed by mobilizing the officeholders to engage in answerability practices. In this way, officeholders are responsible for working together to maintain an interactively just institutional system"--. (shrink)
Non-Consequentialist moral theories posit the existence of moral constraints: prohibitions on performing particular kinds of wrongful acts, regardless of the good those acts could produce. Many believe that such theories cannot give satisfactory verdicts about what we morally ought to do when there is some probability that we will violate a moral constraint. In this article, I defend Non-Consequentialist theories from this critique. Using a general choice-theoretic framework, I identify various types of Non-Consequentialism that have otherwise been conflated in the (...) debate. I then prove a number of formal possibility and impossibility results establishing which types of Non-Consequentialism can -- and which cannot -- give us adequate guidance through through a risky world. (shrink)
Holly Smith (2014) contends that subjective deontological theories – those that hold that our moral duties are sensitive to our beliefs about our situation – cannot correctly determine whether one ought to gather more information before acting. Against this contention, I argue that deontological theories can use a decision-theoretic approach to evaluating the moral importance of information. I then argue that this approach compares favourably with an alternative approach proposed by Philip Swenson (2016).
Recently, Gerhard Øverland and Alec Walen have developed novel and interesting theories of nonconsequentialism. Unlike other nonconsequentialist theories such as the Doctrine of Double Effect, each of their theories denies that an agent’s mental states are relevant for determining how stringent their moral reasons are against harming others. Instead, Øverland and Walen seek to distinguish morally between instances of harming in terms of the circumstances of the people who will be harmed, rather than in features of the agent doing the (...) harming. In this paper, we argue that these theories yield counterintuitive verdicts across a broad range of cases that other nonconsequentialist theories handle with relative ease. We also argue that Walen’s recent attempt to reformulate this type of theory so that it does not have such implications is unsuccessful. (shrink)
I often tell my students that the only thing that is not controversial in philosophy is that everything else in it is controversial. While this might be a bit of an exaggeration, it does contain a kernel of truth, as many exaggerations do: philosophy is a highly contentious discipline. So it is remarkable the extent to which there is agreement in the philosophy of religion amongst theists, agnostics, and atheists alike that John Mackie’s argument for atheism is either invalid or (...) unsound. As a result, the focus has entirely shifted from the logical problem of evil to the so-called evidential one. But I think that this is a mistake, not necessarily because I think Mackie’s argument is sound, but rather because I reject an assumption made by apparently all parties to the debate, which is that there is only one logical problem of evil. Accordingly, the purpose of this paper is to defend a deductive argument that God* does not exist. As far as I can tell, the basic idea of this argument is a novel one: while Mackie’s argument has a more or less consequentialist framework, mine has a deontological one. The evil of which I will speak is that of our having been thrown into the world. (shrink)
If we were required to sacrifice our own interests whenever doing so was best overall, or prohibited from doing so unless it was optimal, then we would be mere sites for the realisation of value. Our interests, not ourselves, would wholly determine what we ought to do. We are not mere sites for the realisation of value — instead we, ourselves, matter unconditionally. So we have options to act suboptimally. These options have limits, grounded in the very same considerations. Though (...) not merely such sites, you and I are also sites for the realisation of value, and our interests (and ourselves) must therefore sometimes determine what others ought to do, in particular requiring them to bear reasonable costs for our sake. Likewise, just as my moral status grounds a requirement that others show me appropriate respect, so must I do to myself. (shrink)
I argue that agent-centered options to favor and sacrifice one’s own interests are grounded in a particular aspect of self-ownership. Because you own your interests, you are entitled to a say over how they are used. That is, whether those interests count for or against some action is, at least in part, to be determined by your choice. This is not the only plausible argument for agent-centered options. But it has some virtues that other arguments lack.
Some sacrifices—like giving a kidney or heroically dashing into a burning building—are supererogatory: they are good deeds beyond the call of duty. But if such deeds are really so good, philosophers ask, why shouldn’t morality just require them? The standard answer is that morality recognizes a special role for the pursuit of self-interest, so that everyone may treat themselves as if they were uniquely important. This idea, however, cannot be reconciled with the compelling picture of morality as impartial—the view that (...) we are each anyone’s equal. I propose an alternative Self-Other Symmetric account of our moral freedom: the limits on what morality may demand of us are set by the duties we owe to ourselves. I begin with a defense of the Self-Other Symmetry: the idea that we owe the same duties to ourselves—and have the same rights against ourselves—as any relevantly similar other. Because we are consenting parties to our own actions, I argue, our rights against ourselves do not function like the rights of unwilling others. Instead, they play a permissive function, allowing us to block the demand to give up what is ours. I conclude by uniting, aggravating, and trying to solve some paradoxes of supererogatory permissions, guided by the idea that morality cannot be reduced to a ranking of options from best-to-worst. Rights against oneself are an irreducible second dimension, one that we need if we are to unify rights and supererogation into an impartial moral vision. (shrink)
Sometimes, agents do the right thing for the right reason. What’s the normative significance of this phenomenon? According to proponents of the special status view, when an agent acts for the right reason, her actions enjoy a special normative status, namely, worthiness. Proponents of this view claim that self-effacing forms of consequentialism cannot say this plausible thing, and, worse, are blocked from having a perspicuous view of matters by the self-effacing nature of their consequentialism. In this paper, I argue that (...) this claim is based on an illicit assumption. I show that whatever version of the special status view proponents of that view prefer, self-effacing consequentialists can adopt a version of it. Moreover, I show that proponents of extant versions of the special status view have reason to prefer the specific version of that view I articulate on behalf of self-effacing consequentialists. (shrink)
Como introducción interpretativa a la “segunda etapa” de la teoría moral de F. Miró Quesada, se analizan sus tres últimos trabajos éticos para ver cómo intenta refi-nar la deontología kantiana, superar sus aparentes límites –materialismo encubierto, formalismo vacío y dualismo absurdo–, y repensar la moral como una moneda de dos caras: simetría y no arbitrariedad. Se presta especial atención a la simetría como condición suficiente para la ética.
The goal of this article is to introduce, interpret, and defend the originality of the «first half» of the rational foundation of ethics of Francisco Miró Quesada Cantuarias (Lima 1918-2019). To do so, we will focus on his three first ethical works —«El Intelectual, el Occidente y la Política» (1965), «Sobre el Derecho Justo» (1976) y «Ser Humano Naturaleza, Historia» (1987)—, leaving his later works aside for a complementary work. We will show how Miró Quesada tries to refine Immanuel Kant’s (...) moral philosophy, overcoming its possible main flaw —here called disguised materialism— and rethinking the supreme moral principle, which he calls non-arbitrariness. We will also evaluate both his thesis that the principle of non-arbitrariness is the necessary condition of ethics and his invitation to renounce looking for its sufficient condition. On the way, we will highlight the originality of Miró Quesada’s proposal. Finally, we will advance the central thesis of his later ethical works and posit brief questions that his moral theory needs to answer. (shrink)
This book develops an alternative account of rights according to which rights forfeiture has a much smaller role to play because rights themselves are more contextually contingent. For example, those who threaten to cause harm without a right to do so have weaker claims not to be killed than innocent bystanders or those who have a right to threaten to cause harm. By framing rights as the output of a balance of competing claims, and by laying out a detailed account (...) of how to balance competing claims, Walen provides a more coherent account of when killing in war is permissible. (shrink)
Is the corrupt behaviour of public officials a politically relevant kind of wrong only when it causes the malfunctioning of institutions? We challenge recent institutionalist approaches to political corruption by showing a sense in which the individual corrupt behaviour of certain public officials is wrong not only as a breach of personal morality but in inherently politically salient terms. To show this sense, we focus on a specific instance of individual corrupt behaviour on the part of public officials entrusted with (...) the power to implement public rules in a liberal democracy. Although not necessarily unlawful, their behaviour is politically wrong qua corrupt when it contradicts surreptitiously the requirement of public justification that undergirds the public order. Then, we distinguish this form of corruption as surreptitious action from such unlawful but publicly justifiable kinds of political misbehaviour as civil disobedience. (shrink)
A common strategy in ethical argumentation tries to derive ethical obligations from the rational necessity of not acting against certain “necessary” conditions for satisfying some good end. This strategy is very often fallacious, and works by equivocating over what counts as a “necessary” condition. Very often, what is counted as a necessary condition is not logically necessary for the end in question, but is at most related to it by affecting the probability of the end’s satisfaction. If other conditions affecting (...) the probability of satisfying this ends are then discounted as merely “instrumental” or “probabilistic”, this strategy has the function of hypocritically privileging some of the arguer’s preferred values over others. We should instead recognize that nearly all conditions affecting the probability of satisfying some good end borrow some value from the value of the end, in proportion to how much they tend to affect its probability of satisfaction. The fallacy tends to support rigid deontological norms; once we abandon it, many arguments against consequentialism are revealed merely as special pleading. Many ethical arguments use this fallacy, but I focus here on its use by Immanuel Kant. (shrink)
The authors in this symposium on Sparing Civilians gave me much to think about; their criticisms have helped me to strengthen the argument for moral distinction, and enhance the moral protection of civilians in war. In this response I address their objections thematically, focusing in turn on each chapter of the book.
Many moral theories are committed to the idea that some kinds of moral considerations should be respected, whatever the cost to ‘lesser’ types of considerations. A person's life, for instance, should not be sacrificed for the trivial pleasures of others, no matter how many would benefit. However, according to the decision-theoretic critique of lexical priority theories, accepting lexical priorities inevitably leads us to make unacceptable decisions in risky situations. It seems that to operate in a risky world, we must reject (...) lexical priorities altogether. This paper argues that lexical priority theories can, in fact, offer satisfactory guidance in risky situations. It does so by equipping lexical priority theories with overlooked resources from decision theory. (shrink)
This book provides an entry-level introduction to philosophical ethics, theories of moral reasoning, and selected issues in applied ethics. Chapter 1 describes the importance of philosophical approaches to ethical issues, the general dialectical form of moral reasoning, and the broad landscape of moral philosophy. Chapter 2 presents egoism and relativism as challenges to the presumed objectivity and unconditionality of morality. Chapters 3, 4 and 5 discuss utilitarianism, deontology, and virtue ethics, respectively. Each chapter begins with a general overview of the (...) characteristic theory of value and moral reasoning and proceeds to present a more refined account based on a prominent historical source (Mill, Kant, and Aristotle, respectively). It then discusses strengths and weaknesses of the theory from a contemporary perspective, including more recent developments, defenses, and critiques. Each chapter includes an appendix in which secondary, less prominent, or more complex issues are discussed. Chapters 6-9 address in detail a prominent area of applied ethics: 6. abortion, 7. assisted dying, 8. Biotechnology, 9. Animals and eating. Each of these chapters presents an introduction to the topic, including definitions, historical and contemporary developments and contexts, etc.; the various questions and issues involved; and an application of each theory from multiple points of view. Each chapter also includes a set of primary readings along with an extensive bibliography. Chapter 10 discusses four more areas of applied ethics: War, Torture, and Terrorism; Capital Punishment; Environmental Ethics; and Same-Sex Marriage. The treatment of these topics focuses mainly on the introductory material. While there is some discussion of the various ethical arguments, it is less comprehensive or detailed compared to other chapters. However, several primary resources are listed to supplement the discussion in the textbook. (shrink)
For ambitious metaphysical neo-sentimentalists, all normative facts are grounded in fitting attitudes, where fittingness is understood in naturalistic terms. In this paper, I offer a neo-sentimentalist account of blameworthiness in terms of the reactive attitudes of a morally authoritative subject I label a Nagelian Imp. I also argue that moral impermissibility is indirectly linked to blameworthiness: roughly, an act is morally impermissible if and only if and because it is not *possible* in the circumstances to adopt a plan of performing (...) it without meriting blame, assuming the agent is rational, informed, and meets the conditions of accountability. (shrink)
It is a commonplace that there are limits to the ways we can permissibly treat people, even in the service of good ends. For example, we may not steal someone’s wallet, even if we plan to donate the contents to famine relief, or break a promise to help a colleague move, even if we encounter someone else on the way whose need is somewhat more urgent. In other words, we should observe certain constraints against mistreating people, where a constraint is (...) a moral principle that we should not violate, even when that is the only way to prevent further, similar violations or other, greater evils. But, despite its intuitive appeal, the view that there are constraints has drawn considerable criticism, and attempts to provide a rationale for constraints have been, at best, substantially incomplete. In this paper, I develop a novel rationale for constraints that fills important gaps left by views in the literature. The account helps make sense of constraints by identifying a morally significant relation that we bear to people when, and only when, we observe certain constraints against mistreating them. Put roughly, observing these constraints is a condition for being worthy of a form of trust that I call civic trust, and being worthy of such trust is an essential part of living with others in the sort of harmony that characterizes morally permissible interaction. By focusing, in ways other accounts do not, on the role that observing constraints plays in our psychological lives, this approach not only makes the structure of constraints more intelligible, but also helps us better appreciate the force of our reason to observe constraints, and better understand the kind of moral community to which we should aspire. (shrink)
Stephen Darwall’s moral theory explains moral obligation by appealing to a “second-person” standpoint where persons use second-person reasons to hold one another accountable for their moral behavior. However, Darwall claims obligations obtain if and only if hypothetical persons endorse them, despite tying the second-person standpoint to our real-world moral practices. Focus on hypothetical persons renders critical elements of his account obscure. I solve this problem by distinguishing two ideas quietly working in tandem, the hypothetical endorsement of moral norms and the (...) hypothetical recognition of these norms. Hypothetical endorsement is a plausible source of normativity; hypothetical recognition is not. A more plausible account of second-person normativity must combine hypothetical endorsement with actual recognition. I term these alternative conceptions justification and easy publication. To combine justification and easy publication in an account of moral obligation, second-person normativity should be applied first to rules. Following other moral philosophers, I introduce the concept of a “social-moral” rule into an account of moral obligation. Social-moral rules acquire normative force when they are justified for and easily published by the relevant moral community. I conclude that a rule-centric account of second-personality is superior to Darwall’s reason-centric account. (shrink)
There are few moral convictions that enjoy the same intuitive plausibility and level of acceptance both within and across nations, cultures, and traditions as the conviction that, normally, it is morally wrong to kill people. Attempts to provide a philosophical explanation of why that is so broadly fall into three groups: Consequentialists argue that killing is morally wrong, when it is wrong, because of the harm it inflicts on society in general, or the victim in particular, whereas personhood and human (...) dignity accounts see the wrongness of killing people in its typically involving a failure to show due respect for the victim and his or her intrinsic moral worth. I argue that none of these attempts to explain the wrongness of killing is successful. Consequentialism generates too many moral reasons to kill, cannot account for deeply felt and widely shared intuitions about the comparative wrongness of killing, and gives the wrong kind of explanation of the wrongness of killing. Personhood and human dignity accounts each draw a line that is arbitrary and entirely unremarkable in terms of empirical reality, and hence ill-suited to carry the moral weight of the difference in moral status between the individuals below and above it. Paying close attention to the different ways in which existing accounts fail to convince, I identify a number of conditions that any plausible account of the wrongness of killing must meet. I then go on to propose an account that does. I suggest that the reason that typically makes killing normal human adults wrong equally applies to atypical human beings and a wide range of non-human animals, and hence challenge the idea that killing a non-human animal is normally easier to justify than killing a human being. This idea has persisted in Western philosophy from Aristotle to the present, and even progressive moral thinkers and animal advocates such as Peter Singer and Tom Regan are committed to it. I conclude by discussing some important practical implications of my account. (shrink)
In The Second Person Standpoint, Stephen Darwall makes a new argument against consequentialism, appealing to: the conceptual tie between obligation and accountability, and the for holding others accountable. I argue that Darwall's argument, as it stands, fails against indirect consequentialism, because it relies on a confusion between our being right to establish practices, and our having a right to do so. I also explore two ways of augmenting Darwall's argument. However, while the second of these ways is more promising than (...) the first, neither provides a convincing argument against indirect consequentialism. (shrink)
In an earlier article, I introduced the “restricting claims principle” to explain what is right about the means principle: the idea that it is harder to justify causing or allowing someone to suffer harm if using him as a means than if causing or allowing harm as a side effect. The RCP appeals to the idea that claims not to be harmed as a side effect push to restrict an agent from doing what she would otherwise be free to do (...) for herself or others, given an appropriate account of her baseline freedom. Claims not to be harmed as a means are not in that way ‘‘restricting.’’ The original RCP relied on a counterfactual account of the agent’s baseline freedom: What could the agent permissibly do if the patient were not present? I argue here that that counterfactual baseline fails. The revised RCP relies instead on a ‘‘toolkit baseline’’: Do the patient claims concern the property the agent needs to use? This toolkit baseline reflects the different ways that agents relate to others: as fellow agents with whom they divide up the resources of the world, and as patients who might be affected by their actions. The toolkit baseline, resting on this agent-patient divide, provides a superior account of an agent’s baseline freedom, and a better account of the moral ground for the means principle. (shrink)
Morality seems important, in the sense that there are practical reasons — at least for most of us, most of the time — to be moral. A central theoretical motivation for consequentialism is that it appears clear that there are practical reasons to promote good outcomes, but mysterious why we should care about non-consequentialist moral considerations or how they could be genuine reasons to act. In this paper we argue that this theoretical motivation is mistaken, and that because many arguments (...) for consequentialism rely upon it, the mistake substantially weakens the overall case for consequentialism. We argue that there is indeed a theoretical connection between good states and reasons to act, because good states are those it is fitting to desire and there is a conceptual connection between the fittingness of a motive and reasons to perform the acts it motivates. But while some of our motives are directed at states, others are directed at acts themselves. We contend that just as the fittingness of desires for states generates reasons to promote the good, the fittingness of these act-directed motives generates reasons to do other things. Moreover, we argue that an act’s moral status consists in the fittingness of act-directed feelings of obligation to perform or avoid performing it, so the connection between fitting motives and reasons to act explains reasons to be moral whether or not morality directs us to promote the good. This, we contend, de-mystifies how there could be non-consequentialist reasons that are both moral and practical. (shrink)
Moral diversity is a fundamental reality of today’s world, but moral theorists have difficulty responding to it. Some take it as evidence for skepticism – the view that there are no moral truths. Others, associating moral reasoning with the search for overarching principles and unifying values, see it as the result of error. In the former case, moral reasoning is useless, since values express individual preferences; in the latter, our reasoning process is dramatically at odds with our lived experience. Moral (...) Reasoning in a Pluralistic World takes a different approach, proposing an alternative way of thinking about moral reasoning and progress by showing how diversity and disagreement are compatible with theorizing and justification. Patricia Marino demonstrates that, instead of being evidence for skepticism and error, moral disagreements often arise because we value things pluralistically. This means that although people share multiple values such as fairness, honesty, loyalty, and benevolence, we interpret and prioritize those values in various ways. Given this pluralistic evaluation process, preferences for unified single-principle theories are not justified. Focusing on finding moral compromises, prioritizing conflicting values, and judging consistently from one case to another, Marino elaborates her ideas in terms of real-life dilemmas, arguing that the moral complexity and conflict we so often encounter can be part of fruitful and logical moral reflection. Aiming to draw new connections and bridge the gap between theoretical ethics and applied ethics, Moral Reasoning in a Pluralistic World offers a sophisticated set of philosophical arguments on moral reasoning and pluralism with real world applications. (shrink)
Teleological theories of reason and value, upon which all reasons are fundamentally reasons to realize states of affairs that are in some respect best, cannot account for the intuition that victims in non-identity cases have been wronged. Many philosophers, however, reject such theories in favor of alternatives that recognize fundamentally non-teleological reasons, second-personal reasons that reflect a moral significance each person has that is not grounded in the teleologist’s appeal to outcomes. Such deontological accounts appear to be better positioned to (...) identify the wrong committed against non-identity victims because a person wrongs another on such accounts if she violates his second-personal claims -- overall benefit to victims presents no obstacle to the identification of second-personal wrongdoing. Derek Parfit argues that non-identity is a problem for these deontological theories as well because the alleged victims are properly understood as consenting to the action in question, thereby waiving any such second-personal claim. But his arguments misrepresent the role of consent on such theories by articulating it through appeal to the very teleological theory of reasons that their advocates dismiss as inadequate. Properly understood, Parfit’s appeal to consent understood as retroactive endorsement only provides the answer on such deontological accounts to the question of whether, given that the non-identity victim is second-personally wronged, he is nonetheless better off existing. Indeed, it becomes clear that it is teleological theories for which non-identity poses a particular problem: they cannot -- while their deontological counterparts can – account for the intuition that non-identity victims have been wronged. (shrink)
A robust, if not absolute, prohibition on treating people merely as a means seems to sit at the core of common sense deontological morality. But the principle prohibiting such treatment, the ‘means principle’ (MP), has been notoriously hard to defend: both the subjective, intention-focused and the objective, causal-role-focused interpretations of what it means to use someone as a means face potent objections. In this paper, my goal is not to defend the MP, but to articulate and defend a new principle, (...) which I call the Restricting Claims Principle (RCP), that explains why a person’s causal role is morally significant. The RCP broadens the basic frame of relevant considerations from the MP’s concern with the dyadic relationship between agent and patient to a global balance of patient-claims on an agent. It distinguishes two kinds of patient-claims that weigh in that balance: restricting and non-restricting. In most cases, these can be distinguished as follows: Restricting claims, if respected as rights, would restrict an agent from doing what she could otherwise permissibly do if the claimant (or his property) were absent; non-restricting claims, if respected as rights, would not in that way restrict an agent. Only restricting claims press to make others worse off than if the claimant were absent. The RCP holds that restricting claims must therefore be substantially weaker than non-restricting ones. The claims of those who would be used as a means are non-restricting, while the claims of those who would be harmed as a side effect are restricting. Thus the RCP can account for the same cases (mostly) as the MP, without having to rely on the MP to do so. (shrink)
The Doctrine of Double Effect [DDE] states roughly that it is harder to justify causing or allowing harm as a means to an end than it is to justify conduct that results in harm as a side effect. This chapter argues that a theory of deontological constraints on harming needs something like the DDE in order to avoid the charge that it reflects a narcissistic obsession with the cleanliness of our own hands. Unfortunately, the DDE is often interpreted as maintaining (...) that we must avoid acting with certain intentions, which, this chapter contends, embodies an equally narcissistic obsession with the purity of our own hearts. The chapter argues that the DDE is better interpreted as a denial of the Machiavellian idea that beneficial ends justify harmful means. On this view, the objective fact that our conduct will secure benefits for some individuals at the expense of other individuals weakens the extent to which those benefits count as reasons to engage in that conduct. The chapter argues that this version of the DDE provides a plausible, non-narcissistic foundation for deontological constraints. (shrink)
Judith Jarvis Thomson recently argued that it is impermissible for a bystander to turn a runaway trolley from five onto one. But she also argues that a trolley driver is required to do just that. We believe that her argument is flawed in three important ways. She fails to give proper weight to (a) an agent¹s claims not to be required to act in ways he does not want to, (b) impartiality in the weighing of competing patient-claims, and (c) the (...) role of patient-claims in determining agent-duties. All three of these failures can be understood in terms of what we call the Mechanics of Claims, an approach we develop for identifying and balancing competing claims in determining rights. Using that framework, one can see both why Thomson's most recent argument is mistaken, and how to think more clearly about deontological choices generally. (shrink)
Virginia Held argues that terrorism can be justified in some instances. But unlike standard, consequentialist justifications, hers is deontological. This paper critically examines her argument. It explores how the values of fairness, responsibility, and desert can serve to justify acts of terrorism. In doing so, two interpretations of her account are considered: a responsibility-insensitive and a responsibility-sensitive interpretation. On the first, her argument collapses into a consequentialist justification. On the second, it relies on an implausible conception of responsibility. Either way, (...) her argument fails as a distinctly deontological defense of terrorism. (shrink)
David Enoch recently defended the idea that there are valid inferences of the form ‘it would be good if p, therefore, p’. I argue that Enoch's proposal allows us to infer the absurd conclusion that ours is the best of all possible worlds.
This chapter considers the centrality of principles in Kant’s moral philosophy, their distinctively ‘Kantian’ character, why Kant presents a ‘metaphysical’ system of moral principles and how these ‘formal’ principles are to be used in practice. These points are central to how Kant thinks pure reason can be practical. These features have often puzzled Anglophone readers, in part due to focusing on Kant’s Groundwork, to the neglect of his later works in moral philosophy, in which the theoretical preliminaries of that first (...) essay are properly articulated. In part, however, these puzzles stem, directly or indirectly, from Kant’s opposition to moral empiricism, which is bound to puzzle Anglophone readers, whose default orientation is empiricist. Accordingly, particular attention is paid to Kant’s reasons for rejecting moral empiricism and for developing an alternative to it, to Kant’s account of how his universalization tests serve as criteria of morally obligatory, permissible or prohibited actions and to his account of what is morally wrong with actions which violate those criteria. Examining these points provides a compelling synopsis of Kant’s system of moral principles, centring on the key terms ‘practical reason’, ‘law’, ‘maxim’ and ‘Categorical Imperative’. (shrink)
In contemporary free will theory, a significant number of philosophers are once again taking seriously the possibility that human beings do not have free will, and are therefore not morally responsible for their actions. (Free will is understood here as whatever satisfies the control condition of moral responsibility.) Free will theorists commonly assume that giving up the belief that human beings are morally responsible implies giving up all our beliefs about desert. But the consequences of giving up the belief that (...) we are morally responsible are not quite this dramatic. Giving up the belief that we are morally responsible undermines many, and perhaps most, of the desert claims we are pretheoretically inclined to accept. But it does not undermine desert claims based on the sheer fact of personhood. Even in the absence of belief in moral responsibility, personhood-based desert claims require us to respect persons and their rights. So personhood-based desert claims can provide a substantial role for desert in free will skeptics' ethical theories. (shrink)
Cosmopolitan critics attack the scope-limitation of justice of egalitarian liberal theorists to states. They treat justice as the production of a given set of outcomes for people regardless of location or relationship. However, in doing so they either ignore the relevant agent towards whom principles of justice are addressed or see the question of agency as a practical, derivative question, of a secondary character. This paper argues that a principle of justice without a clearly justified agent is not a genuine (...) principle at all. This is what writers like Rawls mean by the "subject" of justice (analogous to the grammatical subject of a sentence, i.e.,the agent). We should reflect on agents and why they would or would not justifiably carry certain burdens for others and what kind of benefits or goods they are able to secure. The answers to those questions explain why the idea of cosmopolitan global justice is incomplete, either requiring a global basic structural agency or not applying because no relevant agent is present that can create cooperative arrangements between individual persons across the globe. Other moral principles will still apply globally, but they will be distinct from those that apply to basic-structural agencies. This account is not a practice dependence account, as it bases the distinctness of moral and political principles on purely moral and value-based considerations. (shrink)
A task of any moral theory is to account for both the rigidity and the flexibility of moral rules. Utilitarianism faces the problem of building rigidity into a framework that tends towards objectionable flexibility. Kantianism faces the problem of building flexibility into a framework that tends towards objectionable rigidity. I offer an argument on this front on behalf of Kantians. I show how Kantians can maintain that actions are right and wrong "in themselves," while still maintaining that such actions can (...) be corrupted under certain "nonideal" circumstances. (shrink)
In this article an attempt is made of presenting the deontological feature of A Theory of Justice under a new light. Through an exploration of the meaning of the priority of the good over the right and of the significance and function of the argument of the congruence between justice and individual good, the differences between teleology and deontology are displayed. Deontology seems to have several advantages: a) it allows for pluralism of values and a richer and deeper understanding of (...) practical reason, b) is rooted in a very compelling account of agency, c) points towards an attractive conception of value. Besides, once it is properly understood that the normative content of justice as fairness is to be applied strictly only to an ideal situation and cannot be taken as straightforwardly action-guiding in the real world, we are led to an understanding of deontology that parts from ethical absolutism, makes room for a proper consideration of consequences and avoids the stiffness often imputed to deontological theories. Finally it is suggested that the development of a normative conception of character along Rawlsian lines offers promising prospects towards a proper balancing between an ethic of conviction and an ethic of responsibility. (shrink)
If it is accepted that the real marketplace does not necessarily distribute wealth in the manner that the ideal market would have done, and that societal institutions have an obligation to bring the real and ideal market distributions into accord, then it can be argued that economic actors have a responsibility to consider the effects of their activities on the distribution of wealth in society. This paper asserts that businesses have a responsibility to consider the wealth distribution effects of their (...) wealth-creating decisions. We use arguments from moral economics and Catholic social teaching to support this assertion, deriving decision principles that we apply to the Starbucks fair trade coffee case. (shrink)
Kant’s justification of possession appears to beg the question (petitio principii) by assuming rather than proving the legitimacy of possession. The apparent question-begging in Kant’s argument has been recapitulated or exacerbated but not resolved in the secondary literature. A detailed terminological, textual, and logical analysis of Kant’s argument reveals that he provides a sound justification of limited rights to possess and use things (qualified choses in possession), not of private property rights. Kant’s argument is not purely a priori; it is (...) in Kant’s Critical sense ‘metaphysical’ because it applies the pure a priori ‘Universal Principles of Right’ to the concept of finite rational human agency. The application of this principle implicitly involves a ‘Contradiction in Conception’ test. I explicate this test in detail and show, inter alia, how Kant’s argument relates to the modern natural law tradition. I further argue that Kant’s ‘Universal Principle of Right’ is justified by appeal to a fundamental principle of justification, the Principle of Mutual Acceptability. This justification also suggests that the debate between Kantians and Utilitarians about whether human ‘dignity’ is an incommensurable value is moot because Kant’s test of the Categorical Imperative need not appeal to ‘dignity’. Finally, I show that the limited rights to possession and use justified by Kant’s argument suffice for his social contract argument for the legitimacy of the state. (shrink)
A critical edition of three of Bentham's works, Deontology and The Article on Utilitarianism previously unpublished. Together with his An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation, they provide a comprehensive picture of Bentham's psychological and ethical views. This edition, based entirely on manuscripts written by Bentham of by his amanuenses, is equipped with a full introduction linking the three works. Each work is accompanied by detailed critical and explanatory notes.