This book introduces the reader to ethics by examining a current and important debate. During the last fifty years the orthodox position in ethics has been a broadly non-cognitivist one: since there are no moral facts, moral remarks are best understood, not as attempting to describe the world, but as having some other function - such as expressing the attitudes or preferences of the speaker. In recent years this position has been increasingly challenged by moral realists who maintain that there (...) are moral facts; there is a truth of the matter in ethics, which is independent of our views, and which we seek to discover. Unfortunately much of this interesting debate found in the work of McDowell, Wiggins, Putnam, Blackburn and others is not easily accessible to undergraduates. McNaughton presents many of the major issues in ethics by way of a clear exposition of both sides of this argument and assumes no prior knowledge of philosophy. Topics discussed include: moral observation, moral motivation, amoralism and wickedness, moral weakness, cultural relativism and utilitarianism. The book concludes that a convincing case can be made out for a radical form of moral realism in which moral virtue is found, not in the following of correct moral principles, but rather in the development of moral sensitivity. Moral Vision is a clear and engaged introduction to an important, and often troubling, debate. (shrink)
In this paper, the principal objections to unconditional forgiveness are canvassed, primarily that it fails to take wrongdoing seriously enough, and that it displays a lack of self-respect. It is argued that these objections stem from a mistaken understanding of what forgiveness actually involves, including the erroneous view that forgiveness involves some degree of condoning of the offence, and is incompatible with blaming the offender or punishing him. Two positive reasons for endorsing unconditional forgiveness are considered: respect for persons and (...) human solidarity; and it is argued that the latter provides more plausible grounds for it than the former. (shrink)
Forgiveness usually gets a very good press in our culture: we are deluged with self-help books and television shows all delivering the same message, that forgiveness is good for everyone, and is always the right thing to do. But those who have suffered seriously at the hands of others often and rightly feel that this boosterism about forgiveness is glib and facile. Perhaps forgiveness is not always desirable, especially where the wrongdoing is terrible or the wrongdoer unrepentant. In this book, (...) Garrard and McNaughton suggest that the whole debate suffers from a crippling lack of clarity about what forgiveness really amounts to. They argue that it is more difficult, complex and troubling than many of its advocates suppose. Nevertheless, they conclude, a proper understanding of forgiveness allows us to avoid cheap and shallow forms of it, and enables us to see why it is right and admirable to forgive even unrepentant wrongdoers. (shrink)
In recent years the distinction between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons has been taken by many to play a key role in distinguishing deontology from consequentialism. It is central to all universalist consequentialist theories that value is determined impersonally; the real value of any state of affairs does not depend on the point of view of the agent. No reference, therefore, to the agent or to his or her position in the world need enter into a consequentialist understanding of what makes (...) an action right or wrong or morally permissible. Consequentialism thus provides an agent-neutral account of both the right and the good. (shrink)
This paper comprises three sections. First, we offer a traditional defence of deontology, in the manner of, for example, W.D. Ross (1965). The leading idea of such a defence is that the right is independent of the good. Second, we modify the now standard account of the distinction, in terms of the agent-relative/agentneutral divide, between deontology and consequentialism. (This modification is necessary if indirect consequentialism is to count as a form of consequentialism.) Third, we challenge a value-based defence of deontology (...) proposed by Quinn (1993), Kamm (1989, 1992), and Nagel (1995). (shrink)
In this paper we defend a version of moral internalism and a cognitivist account of motivation against recent criticisms. The internalist thesis we espouse claims that, if an agent believes she has reason to A, then she is motivated to A. Discussion of counter-examples has been clouded by the absence of a clear account of the nature of motivation. While we can only begin to provide such an account in this paper, we do enough to show that our version of (...) internalism can be defended against putative counter-examples. All theories of motivation which take what motivates to be a psychological state run foul of the following plausible constraint: the reason why you ought to do an action and the reason why you do it can be the same. In our view, however, while what motivates is a reason (which is a fact) the state of being motivated is a cognitive stage, viz. the belief that one has reason to act. In cases where the agent's relevant beliefs are false, then she has no reason to act, but nontheless her action can be explained in other ways. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn can be seen as challenging those committed to sui generis moral facts to explain the supervenience of the moral on the descriptive. We hold that normative facts in general are sui generis. We also hold that the normative supervenes on the descriptive, and we here endeavour to answer the generalization of Blackburn's challenge. In the course of pursuing this answer, we suggest that Frank Jackson's descriptivism rests on a conception of properties inappropriate to discussions of normativity, and we (...) see reason to reject descriptivism generally. We also discuss the views of David Brink, Jonathan Dancy and Bernard Williams in this area. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn can be seen as challenging those committed to sui generis moral facts to explain the supervenience of the moral on the descriptive. We (like perhaps Derek Parfit) hold that normative facts in general are sui generis. We also hold that the normative supervenes on the descriptive, and we here endeavour to answer the generalization of Blackburn's challenge. In the course of pursuing this answer, we suggest that Frank Jackson's descriptivism rests on a conception of properties inappropriate to discussions (...) of normativity, and we see reason to reject descriptivism generally. We also discuss the views of David Brink, Jonathan Dancy and Bernard Williams in this area. (shrink)
significant role for accomplishment thereby admits a ‘Trojan Horse’ (267).1 To abandon hedonism in favour of a conception of well-being that incorporates achievement is to take the first step down a slippery slope toward the collapse of the other two pillars of utilitarian morality: welfarism and consequentialism. We shall argue that Crisp’s arguments do not support these conclusions. We begin with welfarism. Crisp defines it thus: ‘Well-being is the only value. Everything good must be good for some being or beings’ (...) (264). The first part of this definition is potentially misleading, since it makes it sound as if welfarism adopts a monistic account of value, in which well-being is the only good thing. But well-being, as Crisp notes, when discussing hedonism, is best understood as consisting in a balance of good things over bad in one’s life. So understood, welfarism is silent on the issue of what things are good; it places a structural restriction on what kinds of things can be good: they must be things that are good for beings. It is a separate task to supply the content to fit this structure by determining what things are good, and welfarists differ in their answers: hedonists traditionally assert that pleasure alone is good; others add further items such as knowledge and virtue. Why is the thought that a person’s well-being depends importantly on what they accomplish a threat to welfarism? An accomplishment is judged both by its outcome or product and by the manner of the performance itself. But an activity or outcome is only an achievement if it is worthwhile, and whether it is worthwhile will depend on whether it exhibits what Crisp asserts to be ‘non-welfarist values’ (266), such as beauty, grace, importance, or style - excellences which welfarism, in Crisp’s view, cannot accommodate because they cannot be ‘cashed out in welfarist terms’, or ‘reduced to the value of well-being’ (266). Here Crisp rests his case, but it is worth trying to get clearer about the difficulties in order to see if the welfarist can meet them.. (shrink)
This chapter analyses Butler's ethical theories, which are found primarily in Fifteen Sermons and A Dissertation of the Nature of Virtue. It covers his notions of superiority and authority, the supremacy of conscience, virtue, benevolence, and self-love.
Scanlon suggests a buck-passing account of goodness. To say that something is good is not to give a reason to, say, favour it; rather it is to say that there are such reasons. When it comes to wrongness, however, Scanlon rejects a buck-passing account: to say that j ing is wrong is, on his view, to give a sufficient moral reason not to j. Philip Stratton-Lake 2003 argues that Scanlon can evade a redundancy objection against his (Scanlon’s) view of wrongness (...) by adopting a buck-passing account of wrongness. We argue that this manoeuvre does not succeed. Scanlon’s notion of wrongness rests on the idea of a reasonably rejectable principle. As Stratton-Lake points out, Scanlon offers two accounts, one in terms of permission, the other in terms of proscription. The permission account is tricky to formulate. Scanlon’s account (quoted in Stratton-Lake 2003: 71) might suggest any of the following four formulations (where the principles in question are principles ‘governing how one may act’ (Scanlon.. (shrink)
Richard Swinburne (in his "Responsibility and Atonement") argues for a sacrificial version of the Atonement, in which the individual penitent offers the life of Christ to God in (partial) reparation for his sins. I argue that any version of this account is both conceptually incoherent and morally unsatisfying and offer in its place a version of the exemplary theory of the Atonement which, I claim, meets the conditions he lays down for any satisfactory account.
McNaughton and Rawling present a view on which practical reasons are facts, such as the fact that the rubbish bin is full. This is a non-normative fact, but it is a reason for you to do something, namely take the rubbish out. They see rationality as a matter of consistency. And they see duty as neither purely a matter of rationality nor of practical reason: on the one hand, the rational sociopath is immoral; but, on the other, morality does not (...) require that we always act on the weightiest moral reasons. McNaughton and Rawling criticize various forms of internalism, including Williams’s, and they tentatively propose a view of duty that is neither purely subjective in Prichard’s sense, nor purely objective. (shrink)
Why is so much philosophy so tedious? Not, or not simply, because it is technical and complex, but because—too often—it displays mere cleverness. Implausible theories are defended against objections by ever more sophisticated technical fiddling with the details. Originality and creativity are in short supply. I argue that this is bad for philosophy, bad for philosophers, and almost inevitable given various structural features of the profession which require early and prolific publication. As a profession we are autonomous—we could change our (...) structures if we chose. (shrink)
We reject Moorean holism about value—the view that the value of the whole does not equal the sum of the values of its parts. We propose an alternative aggregative holism according to which the value of a state of affairs is the sum of the values of its constituent states. But these constituents must be evaluated in situ.
Guy Fletcher has written an excellent and much needed book about prudence—lucid, thoughtful, and, to my mind, persuasive. He is well acquainted with all the contemporary literature on his topic, and his treatment of the contributions of others is fair, sympathetic, and helpful. While the discussion becomes increasingly subtle and complex, Fletcher remains admirably clear throughout. Signposts and reminders help the reader, as do outlines and summaries. He follows the excellent ‘rule of three’ as taught (I am informed) to prospective (...) preachers: first you tell them what you are going to tell them; then you tell them; and then you tell them what you have just told them. In all these respects, this book is exemplary.His topic is the nature of prudential discourse, i.e., thought and talk about what benefits or harms someone, and about what someone prudentially ought to do, has reason to do, needs to do, etc. While much has been written about what makes one's life go well, or whether ‘morality and self-interest can be reconciled’, little, he claims, has been written about these meta-prudential questions, and it is this omission he seeks to rectify (p. 1). But is this project, Fletcher asks, really necessary? After all, isn’t it obvious that prudential discourse is normative in the way that moral discourse is? And since philosophers have written extensively about meta-normative issues, the matter has already been more than adequately discussed. Fletcher's response is that while many philosophers think that the answer to the question whether prudential discourse is normative is obvious; unfortunately, they do not agree about what the obvious answer is. (shrink)
Some of the virtues have a very stable place in our understanding of goodness – beneficence and courage are unlikely ever to lose their high standing. But other virtues have something like a life cycle: they move from a marginal status to to a central one, and sometimes they move back again to the margins, or even beyond the domain of virtue altogether. Chastity is one example of this; humility is another. There was a period in which humility wasn’t a (...) virtue at all (see Aristotle on the great-souled man); with the rise of Christianity (blessed are the meek) it became, not a cardinal, but still a central, virtue, though possibly more honoured in the breach than in the observance; now in the post-Christian world it seems, if a virtue at all, a somewhat creepy one. Why is this – what is it about humility that made it so important during the Christian period, and now makes us so ambivalent about it? And is there any way of rescuing it for a secular context, so that we can once again wholeheartedly endorse and admire it as one of the virtues? (shrink)
Integration and coherence are central values in human existence. It would be a serious objection to any proposed way of life that it led to us being alienated or cut off from others or from some importan part of ourselves. Morality, with the strenuous demands it makes on us, is one area in which alienation is both particularly threatening and peculiarly undesirable. If morality cuts us off from some important part of ourselves then it appears unattractive, and if it cuts (...) us off from others then it seems self-defeating. While there are few philosophers who take the radical view that morality is, by its very nature, an alienating force, a more common complaint has been that some particular moral theories should be rejected because the picture of moral thought which they offer inevitably leads to the alienation of moral agents. The main target of criticism has been consequentialism, but some deontological theories, especially Kantianism, have also come under attack. (shrink)
The repentant offender has placed himself on the side of right, so to speak – he now stands with the victim against his own previous bad behaviour, which he now rejects. He’s a proper recipient for the gift of forgiveness. It can be morally appropriate to wipe the slate clean for him. But the unrepentant offender has undergone no such change. Why should we wipe the slate clean for such a person?
Joseph Butler's Fifteen Sermons is a classic and widely influential work of moral philosophy. Its topics include the role of conscience in human nature, self-love and egoism, compassion, resentment and forgiveness, love of our neighbour and of God. It is here presented with introduction, annotation, and other selected writings by Butler.
Iris Murdoch has long been known as one of the most deeply insightful and morally passionate novelists of our time. This attention has often eclipsed Murdoch's sophisticated and influential work as a philosopher, which has had a wide-ranging impact on thinkers in moral philosophy as well as religious ethics and political theory. Yet it has never been the subject of a book-length study in its own right. Picturing the Human seeks to fill this gap. In this groundbreaking book, author Maria (...) Antonaccio presents the first systematic and comprehensive treatment of Murdoch's moral philosophy. Unlike literary critical studies of her novels, it offers a general philosophical framework for assessing Murdoch's thought as a whole. Antonaccio also suggests a new interpretive method for reading Murdoch's philosophy and outlines the significance of her thought in the context of current debates in ethics. This vital study will appeal to those interested in moral philosophy, religious ethics, and literary criticism, and grants those who have long loved Murdoch's novels a closer look at her remarkable philosophy. (shrink)