Moral Appraisability is not quite such a good book as its confident and lucid introduction leads one to hope, but it is work of both substance and promise. Ishtiyaque Haji’s main project is to determine sufficient conditions for moral appraisability: that is, for the propriety of holding an agent praiseworthy or blameworthy for an action. Identifying three primary conditions—control, autonomy, and epistemic—he refines them with the aid of a meticulous analysis of recent discussions and a range of vivid examples, and (...) applies them in his closing chapters to such vexed questions as the responsibility of addicts for their addictive behavior, the justification of cross-cultural attributions of blame, and our appraisability for our thoughts when dreaming. (shrink)
Claudia Card’s The Unnatural Lottery is a fluently written and intricately argued study of the importance of historical difference for moral thought and action. It moves from theoretical and methodological arguments, in which the philosophical interest of the work largely resides, into a series of applications, mainly in the field of sexual politics, which are always at least thought-provoking.
This paper argues that "moral luck", understood as a susceptibility of moral desert to lucky or unlucky outcomes, does not exist. The argument turns on the claim that epistemic inquiry is an indissoluble part of moral responsibility, and that judgment on the moral decision making of others should and can adjust for this fact; test cases which aim to isolate moral dilemmas from epistemic consideration misrepresent our moral experience. If the phenomena believed by some philosophers to exemplify the need to (...) admit moral luck as part of their explanation are analysed in the light of this insight, the case for "moral luck" dissolves. (shrink)
The purely retributive moral justification of punishment has a gap at its centre. It fails to explain why the offender should not be protected from punishment by the intuitively powerful moral idea that afflicting another person (other than to avoid a greater harm) is always wrong. Attempts to close the gap have taken several different forms, and only one is discussed in this paper. This is the attempt to push aside the ‘protecting’ intuition, using some more powerful intuition specially invoked (...) by the situations to which criminal justice is addressed. In one aspect of his complex defence of pure retributivism, Michael S. Moore attempts to show that the emotions of well-adjusted persons provide evidence of moral facts which justify the affliction of culpable wrongdoers in retribution for their wrongdoing. In particular, he appeals to the evidential significance of emotions aroused by especially heinous crimes, including the punishment-seeking guilt of the offender who truly confronts the reality of his immoral act. The paper argues that Moore fails to vindicate this appeal to moral realism, and thus to show that intrinsic personal moral desert (as distinct from ‘desert’ in a more restricted sense, relative to morally justified institutions) is a necessary and sufficient basis for punishment. Other theories of the role of emotions in morality are as defensible as Moore’s, while the compelling emotions to which he appeals to clinch his argument can be convincingly situated within a non-retributivist framework, especially when the distinction between the intuitions of the lawless world, and those of the world of law, is recognised. -/- . (shrink)
In contrast to the vast literature on retributive theories of punishment, discussions of private revenge are rare in moral philosophy. This paper reviews some examples, from both classical and recent writers, finding uncertainty and equivocation over the ethical significance of acts of revenge, and in particular over their possible resemblances, in motive, purpose or justification, to acts of lawful punishment. A key problem for the coherence of our ethical conception of revenge is the consideration that certain acts of revenge may (...) be just (at least in the minimal sense that the victim of revenge has no grounds for complaint against the revenger) and yet be generally agreed to be morally wrong. The challenge of explaining adequately why private revenge is morally wrong poses particular difficulty for purely retributive theories of punishment, since without invoking consequentialist reasons it does not seem possible adequately to motivate an objection to just and proportionate acts of revenge. (shrink)
Utilitarianism is a consequentialist theory that assigns value impartially to the well-being of each person. Informed Altruism, introduced in this paper, is an intentionalist theory that relegates both consequentialism and impartiality to subordinate roles. It identifies morally right or commendable actions (including collective actions such as laws and policies) as those motivated by a sufficiently informed intention to benefit and not harm others. An implication of the theory is that multiple agents may perform incompatible actions and yet each be acting (...) rightly in a moral sense. (shrink)
In justifying punishment we sometimes appeal to the idea that the punished offender has, by his criminal action against others, forfeited his moral right (and therefore his legal right) against hard treatment by the state. The imposition of suffering, or deprivation of liberty, loses its prima facie morally objectionable character, and becomes morally permissible. Philosophers interrogating the forfeited right theory generally focus on whether the forfeiting of the right constitutes a necessary or a sufficient condition for punishment to be permissible; (...) rarely do they ask whether the idea of a right that can be forfeited is itself morally illuminating. The paper examines and criticizes various versions of this theory. It concludes that the forfeited right arguments add little other than rhetorical dignity to the existing repertoire of justifications for punishment. They can be most usefully understood as communicating the thought that the offender cannot reasonably complain about the violation of rights he himself has violated. But the incapacitation of the offender’s reasonable complaint does not entail that we are justified in punishing him. (shrink)
Some retributivists claim that when we punish wrongdoers we achieve a good: justice. The paper argues that the idea of justice, though rhetorically freighted with positive value, contains only a small core of universally-agreed meaning; and its development in a variety of competing conceptions simply recapitulates, without resolving, debates within the theory of punishment. If, to break this deadlock, we stipulate an expressly retributivist conception of justice, then we should concede that punishment which is just (in the stipulated sense) may (...) be morally wrong. (shrink)
The paper argues that our emotions in response to fictional representations are best explained, not as requiring a suspension of disbelief, but as resembling the emotions we feel when we propound a hypothetical case to ourselves, such as the imagined happiness or suffering of ourselves or another. In reading fiction we voluntarily participate in a hypothesis represented by the work. If this explanation is accepted, we can retain the view that beliefs always entail commitment to the reality of what is (...) believed. (shrink)
The paper seeks to defend the following view. Aesthetic experience is historically contingent. Each of us is situated at a unique point in space and time, from which standpoint we continuously imagine our personal, and our collective, history. Our experience of any object of aesthetic intention is susceptible of being influenced by associations, that is by our locating the contemplated object in relation to some part or parts of this imagined history. We should not be embarrassed by the role that (...) such contingent associations play in our aesthetic life. In contemplating a work of art, as in loving or desiring another person, we focus intently upon the single object, but its value to us is enhanced by our seeing it from and through and in the light of our personal and collective 'historical' imagination. (shrink)
The paper considers acts of private (in the sense of individually motivated and extra-legal) revenge, and draws attention to a special kind of judgement we may make of such acts. While endorsing the general view that an act of private revenge must be morally wrong, it maintains that under certain special conditions (which include its being just) it is susceptible of a rational respect from others which is based on its standing outside morality, as a choice by the revenger not (...) to act morally but to obey other compelling motives. This thesis is tested against various objections, notably those which doubt the intelligibility or application of such non-moral respect, or would assimilate it to moral approval; and it is distinguished from various positions with which it might be confused, such as the 'admirable immorality' of Slote, or the Nietzschean critique of morality. (shrink)
In earlier work, I argued that examples supposed to substantiate consequential moral luck can lose their anomalous appearance if due account is taken of the moral obligation to discharge epistemic responsibilities, and of the different scope and focus of this obligation for the agent as contrasted with the observer. In his recent JMP article, Mark Silcox argues that my explanatory strategy is dependent on an unacceptable commitment to an ‘ineliminable epistemic gulf’ between first-person and third-person perspectives. Here I attempt a (...) defence against Silcox’s criticism, and tentatively suggest some wider implications of the debate. (shrink)
The paper examines three aspects of the debate over the introduction of victim impact statements (VIS) in criminal cases. The first is the challenge VIS presents to the wholly public conception of criminal justice, in which the offender is prosecuted, tried and punished in the name of the state and not the individual victim. The second is the claim by supporters of VIS that the enhancement of victim input contributes to repairing an imbalance between offender and victim, created by the (...) crime itself and exacerbated by existing criminal justice processes. The third is the claim that victim impact evidence is necessary to ensure that punishment is properly calibrated to the blameworthiness of the offender. In respect of each question, a key role is played in supporting VIS by two presuppositions: that criminal justice should be thought of as a field of conflict among individuals seeking their due, and that the courts suffer an institutional deficiency of human understanding that requires a special remedy. The paper argues that the case for VIS is seriously weakened if these presuppositions are not accepted, and draws attention to their derivation from a wider political culture characterised by the dominance of neo-liberalism or market individualism. (shrink)
This paper challenges recent influential arguments which would encourage legislators and courts to give weight to an assessment of the “evaluative judgements” expressed by the emotions which motivate crimes. While accepting the claim of Kahan and Nussbaum and others that emotions, other than moods, have intentional objects , and are not mere impulses which bypass cognition, it suggests the following criticisms of their analysis. First, the concept of an emotional “evaluative judgement” tends to elide the distinction between “judgements” that are (...) merely the sense of an emotion, and do not have the character of acts, and deliberative emotional judgements that do resemble acts and so properly fall within the corrective scope of the law. Second, intentional emotions are empowered by pre–intentional psychological resources which are less amenable than intentional states to the agent's conscious supervision: The traditional recognition of “infirmity” in mitigation of crimes uncharacteristic of the criminal's overall conduct towards others is justified by the unpredictable action of these pre–intentional elements and can survive the abandonment of the mechanistic conception of emotion. (shrink)
The paper explores the relevance of irrecoverable authorial intentions to the interpretation of texts. It suggests that the ways in which different conventions of discourse take account of the existence of irrecoverable intentions (i.e. of the failure of texts perfectly to represent their authors' intentions) can guide us to a criterion for distinguishing 'literary' from 'non-literary' texts, or 'literary'(aesthetically motivated) from 'non-literary' readings of texts.