Utilitarianism is the view according to which the only basic requirement of morality is to maximize net aggregate welfare. This position has implications for the ethics of creating and rearing children. Most discussions of these implications focus either on the ethics of procreation and in particular on how many and whom it is right to create, or on whether utilitarianism permits the kind of partiality that child rearing requires. Despite its importance to creating and raising children, there are, by contrast, (...) few sustained discussions of the implications of utilitarian views of welfare for the matter of what makes a child’s life go well. This paper attempts to remedy this deficiency. It has four sections. Section one discusses the purpose of a theory of welfare and its adequacy conditions. Section two evaluates what prominent utilitarian theories of welfare imply about what makes a child’s life go well. Section three provides a sketch of a view about what is prudentially valuable for children. Section four sums things up. (shrink)
Ideal utilitarianism states that the only fundamental requirement of morality is to promote a plurality of intrinsic goods. This paper critically evaluates Hastings Rashdall’s arguments for ideal utilitarianism, while comparing them with G. E. Moore’s arguments. Section I outlines Rashdall’s ethical outlook. Section II considers two different arguments that he provides for its theory of rightness. Section III discusses his defence of a pluralist theory of value. Section IV argues that Rashdall makes a lasting contribution to the defence of ideal (...) utilitarianism. (shrink)
In this essay I defend the view that Henry Sidgwick’s moral epistemology is a form of intuitionist foundationalism that grants common-sense morality no evidentiary role. In §1, I outline both the problematic of The Methods of Ethics and the main elements of its argument for utilitarianism. In §§2-4 I provide my interpretation of Sidgwick’s moral epistemology. In §§ 5-8 I refute rival interpretations, including the Rawlsian view that Sidgwick endorses some version of reflective equilibrium and the view that he is (...) committed to some kind of pluralistic epistemology. In§ 9 I contend with some remaining objections to my view. (shrink)
This paper is an examination of the ethical principles of effective altruism as they are articulated by Peter Singer in his book The Most Good You Can Do. It discusses the nature and the plausibility of the principles that he thinks both guide and ought to guide effective altruists. It argues in § II pace Singer that it is unclear that in charitable giving one ought always to aim to produce the most surplus benefit possible and in § III that (...) there is a more attractive set of principles than the ones Singer outlines that ought to guide effective altruists in their philanthropic practices and in their lives more generally. These principles fit better with his practical ambitions and with plausible attitudes about the limits of beneficence. (shrink)
In ‘Sidgwick’s Epistemology’, John Deigh argues that Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics ‘was not perceived during his lifetime as a major and lasting contribution to British moral philosophy’ and that interest in it declined considerably after Sidgwick’s death because the epistemology on which it relied ‘increasingly became suspect in analytic philosophy and eventually [it was] discarded as obsolete’. In this article I dispute these claims.
Sidgwick famously claimed that an argument in favour of utilitarianism might be provided by demonstrating that a set of defensible philosophical intuitions undergird it. This paper focuses on those philosophical intuitions. It aims to show which specific intuitions Sidgwick endorsed, and to shed light on their mutual connections. It argues against many rival interpretations that Sidgwick maintained that six philosophical intuitions constitute the self-evident grounds for utilitarianism, and that those intuitions appear to be specifications of a negative principle of universalization (...) (according to which differential treatments must be based on reasonable grounds alone). In addition, this paper attempts to show how the intuitions function in the overall argument for utilitarianism. The suggestion is that the intuitions are the main positive part of the argument for the view, which includes Sidgwick's rejection of common-sense morality and its philosophical counterpart, dogmatic intuitionism. The paper concludes by arguing that some of Sidgwick's intuitions fail to meet the conditions for self-evidence which Sidgwick himself established and applied to the rules of common-sense morality. (shrink)
A philosophical discussion of children's well-being in which various existing views of well-being are discussed to determine their implications for children's well-being and a variety of views of children's well-being are considered and evaluated.
Children are routinely treated paternalistically. There are good reasons for this. Children are quite vulnerable. They are ill-equipped to meet their most basic needs, due, in part, to deficiencies in practical and theoretical reasoning and in executing their wishes. Children’s motivations and perceptions are often not congruent with their best interests. Consequently, raising children involves facilitating their best interests synchronically and diachronically. In practice, this requires caregivers to (in some sense) manage a child’s daily life. If apposite, this management will (...) focus partly on a child’s well-being. To be ably executed, an account of children’s well-being will need to be articulated. This chapter focuses on the nature of children’s well-being. It has five sections. The first section clarifies the focus. The second section examines some hurdles to articulating a view of children’s well-being. The third section evaluates some accounts of children’s well-being. The fourth section addresses the view that children possess features essential to them that make their lives on balance prudentially bad for them. The fifth section sums things up. (shrink)
We engage with the nature and the value of achievement through a critical examination of an argument according to which biomedical “enhancement” of our capacities is impermissible because enhancing ourselves in this way would threaten our achievements. We call this the argument against enhancement from achievement. We assess three versions of it, each admitting to a strong or a weak reading. We argue that strong readings fail, and that weak readings, while in some cases successful in showing that enhancement interferes (...) with the nature or value of achievement, fail to establish that enhancement poses an unusual threat to achievement. (shrink)
It is often argued that Henry Sidgwick is a conservative about moral matters, while Peter Singer is a radical. Both are exponents of a utilitarian account of morality but they use it to very different effect. I think this way of viewing the two is mistaken or, at the very least, overstated. Sidgwick is less conservative than has been suggested and Singer is less radical than he initially seems. To illustrate my point, I will rely on what each has to (...) say about the moral demands of suffering and destitution. (shrink)
Henry Sidgwick's Practical Ethics offers a novel approach to practical moral issues. In this article, I defend Sidgwick's approach against recent objections advanced by Sissela Bok, Karen Hanson, Michael S. Pritchard, and Michael Davis. In the first section, I provide some context within which to situate Sidgwick's view. In the second, I outline the main features of Sidgwick's methodology and the powerful rationale that lies behind it. I emphasize elements of the view that help to defend it, noting some affinities (...) it has with those of the later Rawls. In the third section, I indicate how it promises to help alleviate some difficulties facing modern practical ethics. In the fourth, I respond to Bok's objections. I argue that her own work on practical ethics has some similarities to Sidgwick's which should make them friends, not enemies. In the fifth section, I respond to Hanson, Pritchard and Davis. (shrink)
Henry Sidgwick taught G.E. Moore as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge. Moore found Sidgwick’s personality less than attractive and his lectures “rather dull”. Still, philosophically speaking, Moore absorbed a great deal from Sidgwick. In the Preface to the Trinity College Prize Fellowship dissertation that he submitted in 1898, just two years after graduation, he wrote “For my ethical views it will be obvious how much I owe to Prof. Sidgwick.” Later, in Principia Ethica, Moore credited Sidgwick with having (...) “first clearly exposed the [naturalistic] fallacy” – a fallacy putatively committed when one defines naturalistically or super-naturalistically “good” – which was one of the book’s main ambitions (PE 39; also 17, 59). It is therefore unsurprising that Moore remarks in the intellectual autobiography he wrote years later that “From…[Sidgwick’s] published works…I have gained a good deal, and his clarity and his belief in Common Sense were very sympathetic to me.” This influence did not, however, prevent Moore from registering disagreements with Sidgwick, the sharpest of which concern the viability of egoism and the nature of the good. The disagreements between Sidgwick and Moore speak to many important moral theoretical issues arising both within and without the utilitarian tradition in ethical thinking. Because the two share much in common, a critical comparison of them on a range of moral philosophical questions proves instructive. It will tell us in particular something about the general direction of ethical thinking in the utilitarian tradition at the dawn of the twentieth century. This chapter has four parts. Part I compares the versions of utilitarianism to which Sidgwick and Moore subscribed. Part II examines the arguments each provides for the view. Part III discusses their conflicting theories of value. Part IV sums things up. (shrink)
Bart Schultz’s Henry Sidgwick: Eye of the Universe is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Sidgwick. In this article, I direct my attention for the most part to one aspect of what Schultz says about Sidgwick’s masterpiece, The Methods of Ethics, as well as to what he does not say about Sidgwick’s illuminating but neglected work Practical Ethics. This article is divided into three sections. In the first, I argue that there is a problem with Schultz’s endorsement of (...) the view that Sidgwick’smoral epistemology combines elements of both coherentism and foundationalism. In the second, I argue that Schultz has failed to do justice to Sidgwick’s mature views in Practical Ethics. In the final section, I briefly say something about Schultz’s suggestion that Sidgwick succumbed to both racism and dishonesty. (shrink)
Until recently, the nature of children’s well-being or prudential value remained all but unexplored in the literature on well-being. There now exists a small but growing body of work on the topic. In this chapter, I focus on a cluster of under-explored issues relating to children’s well-being. I investigate, in specific, three distinct (and to my mind puzzling) positions about it, namely, that children’s lives cannot on the whole go well or poorly for them, prudentially speaking; that the prudential goods (...) of childhood count for less than the same goods of adulthood towards the prudential value of an individual’s life as a whole; and that children’s prudential goods (or goods more generally) are (at least in some cases) in some way special. This chapter is divided into four main sections. In the first section, I briefly describe some accounts of the nature of children’s well-being. In the next three sections, I address the three somewhat puzzling positions mentioned above. (shrink)
Critical notice of Robert Audi's The Good in the Right in which doubts are raised about the epistemological and ethical doctrines it defends. It doubts that an appeal to Kant is a profitable way to defend Rossian normative intuitionism.
David Phillips’s Sidgwickian Ethics is a penetrating contribution to the scholarly and philosophical understanding of Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics. This note focuses on Phillips’s understanding of (aspects of) Sidgwick’s argument for utilitarianism and the moral epistemology to which he subscribes. In § I, I briefly outline the basic features of the argument that Sidgwick provides for utilitarianism, noting some disagreements with Phillips along the way. In § II, I raise some objections to Phillips’s account of the epistemology underlying (...) the argument. In § III, I reply to the claim that there is a puzzle at the heart of Sidgwick’s epistemology. In § IV, I respond to Phillips’s claim that Sidgwick is unfair in his argument against the (deontological) morality of common sense. (shrink)
E. F. Carritt (1876-1964) was educated at and taught in Oxford University. He made substantial contributions both to aesthetics and to moral philosophy. The focus of this entry is his work in moral philosophy. His most notable works in this field are The Theory of Morals (1928) and Ethical and Political Thinking (1947). Carritt developed views in metaethics and in normative ethics. In meta-ethics he defends a cognitivist, non-naturalist moral realism and was among the first to respond to A. J. (...) Ayer’s emotivist challenge to this view. In normative ethics he advocates a deontological view in which there is a plurality of obligations and of non-instrumental goods. In the context of defending this view he raised some penetrating and novel criticisms of ideal utilitarianism. He held that it is not acceptable to revise our reflective common-sense moral attitudes in the face of philosophical moral theories, and that moral philosophy is only indirectly practical. (shrink)
Adolescents are routinely treated differently to adults, even when they possess similar capacities. In this article, we explore the justification for one case of differential treatment of adolescents. We attempt to make philosophical sense of the concurrent consents doctrine in law: adolescents found to have decision-making capacity have the power to consent to—and thereby, all else being equal, permit—their own medical treatment, but they lack the power always to refuse treatment and so render it impermissible. Other parties, that is, individuals (...) who exercise parental responsibility or a court, retain the authority to consent on an adolescent’s behalf. We explore four defences of the doctrine. We reject two attempts to defend the asymmetry in the power to consent to and refuse medical treatment by reference to transitional paternalism. We then consider and reject a stage of life justification. Finally, we articulate a justification based on the distinctiveness of adolescent well-being. (shrink)
This is a critical review of Terence Irwin's The Development of Ethics: A Historical and Critical Study. Volume III: From Kant to Rawls. Among other things, the review remarks on the book's treatment of utilitarianism and on its lack of discussion of work in feminist ethics in the twentieth century.
The net benefit of vaccinating children is unclear, and vulnerable people worldwide should be prioritised instead, say Dominic Wilkinson, Ilora Finlay, and Andrew J Pollard. But Lisa Forsberg and Anthony Skelton argue that covid-19 vaccines have been approved for some children and that children should not be disadvantaged because of policy choices that impede global vaccination.
Sidgwick claimed Kant as one of his moral philosophical masters. This did not prevent Sidgwick from registering pointed criticisms of most of Kant’s main claims in ethics. This paper explores the practical ethics of Sidgwick and Kant. In § I, I outline the element of Kant’s theoretical ethics that Sidgwick endorsed. In §§ II and III, I outline and adjudicate some of their sharpest disagreements in practical ethics, on the permissibility of lying and on the demands of beneficence. In § (...) IV, I argue that compared to Kant, Sidgwick has a better strategy for overcoming disagreement in practical ethics. §V sums things up. (shrink)
This is a retrospective essay on Henry Sidgwick's "My Station and Its Duties" written to mark the 125th anniversary of Ethics. It engages with Sidgwick's remarks on the kind of ethical expertise that the moral philosopher possesses and on his approach to practical ethics generally.
This is the introduction to the Journal of Global Ethics symposium on Peter Singer's The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. It summarizes the main features of effective altruism in the context of Singer's work on the moral demands of global poverty and some recent criticisms of effective altruism. The symposium contains contributions by Anthony Skelton, Violetta Igneski, Tracy Isaacs and Peter Singer.
This is a critical review of Roger Crisp's The Cosmos of Duty. The review praises the book but, among other things, takes issue with some of Crisp's criticisms of Sidgwick's view that resolution of the free will problem is of limited significance to ethics and with Crisp's claim that in Methods III.xiii Sidgwick defends an axiom of prudence that undergirds rational egoism.
This is a critical review of In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy. It argues that this book does not adequately represent the public face of Canadian philosophy, though it contains some first-rate contributions.
This article is about the information relevant to decision-making capacity in refusal of life-prolonging medical treatment cases. We examine the degree to which the phenomenology of the options available to the agent—what the relevant states of affairs will feel like for them—forms part of the capacity-relevant information in the law of England and Wales, and how this informational basis varies across adolescent and adult medical treatment cases. We identify an important doctrinal phenomenon. In the leading authorities, the courts appear to (...) count the first-personal phenomenology of the available options among the information that adolescents seeking to refuse life-prolonging treatment must understand and appreciate in order to possess capacity; adults are not held to this (higher) standard. We evaluate this differential treatment in light of philosophical work on transformative choice—decisions involving options whose sensory character, and effect on our values and preferences, are grasped only through experience itself. (shrink)
This is the second edition of the textbook Bioethics in Canada. It is the most up to date bioethics textbook on the Canadian market. Twenty-nine of its 54 contributions are by Canadians. All the chapters carried over from the first edition are revised in full (especially the chapters on obligations to the global poor, on medical assistance in dying, and on public health). It comprises *new* chapters on emerging genetic technologies and on indigenous peoples' health. It contains *new* case studies (...) focusing on ethical issues and problems of relevance to Canadians. From the Preface: This anthology is designed for those teaching bioethics in colleges and universities in Canada. It comprises articles from researchers exploring the main problems of bioethics from a diversity of perspectives and ethical traditions. It includes in particular articles by Canadian researchers who appear in anthologies less often than they should. The hope is that the reader will, as a result, better appreciate the rich reservoir of talent present among those working in bioethics in Canada and Canadian bioethicists working abroad. In addition, this volume intentionally aims to educate the reader about the policies and laws regulating the most important and pressing bioethical problems facing Canadians. The hope is that the reader will develop a nuanced view of the nature, importance, and impact of bioethics in Canada. (shrink)