Surveying the historical development and the present condition of utilitarian ethics, Geoffrey Scarre examines the major philosophers from Lao Tzu in the fifth century BC to Richard Hare in the twentieth. Utilitarianism traces the 'doctrine of utility' from the moralists of the ancient world, through the Enlightenment and Victorian utilitarianism up to the lively debate of the present day. Utilitarianism today faces challenges on several fronts: it cannot warrant the drawing of adequate protective boundaries around the essential interests of individuals, (...) and it does not allow them the space to pursue the personal concerns which give meaning to their lives. Geoffrey Scarre considers these and other charges, and concludes that whilst utilitarianism may not be a faultless moral doctrine, its positions are relevant, and significant today. Written with undergraduates in mind, this is an ideal course book for those studying and those teaching moral philosophy. (shrink)
What is death and why does it matter to us? How should the knowledge of our finitude affect the living of our lives and what are the virtues suitable to mortal beings? Does death destroy the meaningfulness of lives, or would lives that never ended be eternally and absurdly tedious? Should we reconcile ourselves to the fact of our forthcoming death, or refuse to "go gently into that good night"? Can death really be an evil if, after death, we no (...) longer exist as subjects of goods or evils? How should we respond to the deaths of others and do we have any duties towards the dead? These, and many other, questions are addressed in Geoffrey Scarre's book, which draws upon a wide variety of philosophical and literary sources to offer an up-to-date and highly readable study of some major ethical and metaphysical riddles concerning death and dying. (shrink)
'Nobody reads Mill today,' wrote a reviewer in Time magazine a few years ago.! One could scarcely praise Mr Melvin Maddocks, who penned that remark, for his awareness of the present state of Mill studies, for of all nineteenth century philosophers who wrote in English, it is 1. S. Mill who remains the most read today. Yet it would not be so far from the truth to say that very few people pay much serious attention nowadays to Mill's writings about (...) logic and metaphysics, despite the fact that Mill put enormous effort into their composition and through them exerted a considerable influen ce on the course of European philosophy for the rest of his century. But the only sections of A System of Logic and An Examination of Sir William Hamilton's Philosophy to which much reference is now made comprise only a small proportion of those very large books, and the prevailing assumption is that Mill's theories about logical and meta physical questions are, with few exceptions, of merely antiquarian in terest. Bertrand Russell once said that Mill's misfortune was to be born at the wrong time, p. 2). It can certainly appear that Mill chose an inauspicious time to attempt a major work on logic. (shrink)
I argue that the effectiveness of forgiveness in the healing of relationships is dependent on both the givers and recipients of forgiveness understanding that once it has been granted, forgiveness is not normally able to be retracted. When we forgive, we make a firm commitment not to return to our former state of moral resentment against the offender, replacing it by good-will. This commitment can be broken only where the forgiving party makes some significant cognitive adjustment to her appraisal of (...) either the offender or the offence, believing that her original forgiveness was granted in error. I reject the view that forgiveness can lapse or be withdrawn on the basis of a return of hurt or disappointed feelings, arguing that these do not amount to a restoration of the resentment that is extinguished when forgiveness is granted. I contend that a person who ‘forgives’ and later takes back that ‘forgiveness’ because certain negative feelings have returned either did not genuinely forgive in the first place or shows that she has not fully grasped the nature of forgiveness. (shrink)
In this paper I defend and develop Bernard Williams’ claim that the ‘constitutive thought’ of regret is ‘something like “how much better if it had been otherwise”’. An introductory section on cognitivist theories of emotion is followed by a detailed investigation of the concept of ‘agent-regret’ and of the ways in which the ‘constitutive thought’ might be articulated in different situations in which agents acknowledge casual responsibility for bringing about undesirable outcomes. Among problematic cases discussed are those in which agents (...) have caused harm through no fault of their own, or have been constrained to choose the lesser of two evils or to act against their moral values. R. Jay Wallace’s ‘bourgeois predicament’ and related cases, in which we recognize that our present advantages have flowed from regrettable antecedents, further show that regret is often not a simple emotion, and it is argued that conflicted regrets are sometimes unavoidable. Finally, the paper looks at Descartes’ account of regret as a form of sadness engendered by the recollection of irrecoverable happy experiences, to which the ‘constitutive thought’ does not readily apply. It is suggested that what Descartes is discussing is a different genre of emotion for which ‘nostalgia’ might be a better name. (shrink)
This highly original collection of essays, first published in 1989, is concerned with the nature of children and their moral and political status. The international team of contributors explore, and in some cases criticise and revise popular thought on children and their place in society. The book is divided into three parts: the first deals with the historical, social and psychological framework of contemporary perspectives on children and childhood; a second set of papers takes up questions about the position of (...) the young in democracy, the limits of parental authority and the appropriateness of characterising only child-adult relationships in terms of a social contract; the final essays are concerned with adult attitudes toward children's lives and experiences. These essays will interest philosophers, political scientists, as well as all those professionally concerned with the education and care of children. (shrink)
What is courage and why is it one of the oldest and most universally admired virtues? How is it relevant in the world today, and what contemporary forms does it take? In this insightful and crisply written book, Geoffrey Scarre examines these questions and many more. He begins by defining courage, asking how it differs from fearlessness, recklessness and fortitude, and why people are often more willing to ascribe it to others than to avow it for themselves. He also asks (...) whether courage can serve bad ends as well as good, and whether it can sometimes promote confrontation over compromise and dialogue. On Courage explores the ideas of Aristotle, Aquinas and many later philosophers who have written about courage, as well as drawing on classic and recent examples of courage in politics and fiction, including the German anti-Nazi "White Rose Movement", the modern phenomenon of "whistle-blowing", and Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage. (shrink)
Many recent writers in the virtue ethics tradition have followed Aristotle in arguing for a distinction between virtue and continence, where the latter is conceived as an inferior moral condition. In this paper I contend that rather than seeking to identify a sharp categorical difference between virtue and continence, we should see the contrast as rather one of degree, where virtue is a continence that has matured with practice and habit, becoming more stable, effective and self-aware.
The privacy of the dead might be thought to be violated by, for instance, the disinterment for research purposes of human physical remains or the posthumous revelation of embarrassing facts about people's private lives. But are there any moral rights to privacy which extend beyond the grave? Although this notion can be challenged on the ground that death marks the end of the personal subject, with the consequent extinction of her interests, I argue that a right to privacy belongs to (...) deceased persons in virtue of their moral status while alive and reflects their interest in the preservation of their dignity. The paper investigates what prima-facie privacy rights and interests may plausibly be ascribed to the dead and why these need to be taken seriously by those, such as archaeologists or biographers, who have "dealings with the dead.". (shrink)
Philosophical discussion of forgiveness has mainly focused on cases in which victims and offenders are known to each other. But it commonly happens that a victim brings an offender under a definite description but does not know to which individual this applies. I explore some of the conceptual and moral issues raised by the phenomenon of forgiveness in circumstances in which identification is incomplete, tentative or even mistaken. Among the conclusions reached are that correct and precise identification of the offending (...) individual is not essential for forgiveness to take place; that an offender can, under certain strict conditions, be said to be forgiven by proxy where the victim has misidentified the offender and ‘forgiven’ the wrong person; and that proxy forgiveness of this sort is not subject to the objections commonly levelled against ‘proxy’ or ‘third-party forgiveness.’. (shrink)
How original was the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham? In John Stuart Mill's opinion, not very original at all. Bentham maintained that pleasure and pain should provide our chief criteria of the moral quality of actions, because they are important above all other things in making our lives go well or ill. But two thousand years before Bentham defended the doctrine of utility that ‘all things are good or evil, by virtue solely of the pain or pleasure which they produce”, a (...) gentle and cultivated man had taught in a garden at Athens that the pursuit of pleasure and the avoidance of pain were the most fitting objectives in the life of the wise man. The name of this sage, who endeavoured to provide in his own career an exemplar of his doctrine, was Epicurus of Samos. On Mill's reading of history, utilitarianism and Epicureanism were in essential respects the same. (shrink)
This essay argues that the overuse of the idiom of forgiveness has distorted our understanding of the nature and requirements of political reconciliation, and proposes its supplementation by a notion of grace. This is a mode of response to wrongs that is less hedged around by conventions and conditions, and grace complements forgiveness in contexts in which the latter is inappropriate; it is also more serviceable for maintaining inter-community harmony in the long term. Following a detailed analysis of grace in (...) the political environment, the paper concludes by tracing a concept of grace in the Sermon on the Mount. (shrink)
The question of ethics and their role in archaeology has stimulated one of the discipline's liveliest debates. In this collection of essays, first published in 2006, an international team of archaeologists, anthropologists and philosophers explore the ethical issues archaeology needs to address. Marrying the skills and expertise of practitioners from different disciplines, the collection produces interesting insights into many of the ethical dilemmas facing archaeology today. Topics discussed include relations with indigenous peoples; the professional standards and responsibilities of researchers; the (...) role of ethical codes; the notion of value in archaeology; concepts of stewardship and custodianship; the meaning and moral implications of 'heritage'; the question of who 'owns' the past or the interpretation of it; the trade in antiquities; the repatriation of skeletal material; and treatment of the dead. This important collection is essential reading for all those working in the field of archaeology, be they scholar or practitioner. (shrink)
Following a brief preface, the second section of this paper discusses Mill's early reflections on the problem of how deductive inference can be illuminating. In the third section it is suggested that in his Logic Mill misconstrued the feature that the premises of a logically valid argument contain the conclusion as the ground of a charge that deductive proof is question-begging. The fourth section discusses the nature of the traditional petitio objection to syllogism, and the fifth shows that Mill had (...) a theory capable of answering it. The final section cites the confusion described in section 3 to explain why Mill nevertheless continued to think that syllogistic proofs beg the question. (shrink)
Modern utilitarianism has largely abandoned the view that human well-being consists solely in pleasurable sensations. Too much was wanting in that view for it to withstand the critique of a more refined philosophical psychology than was available to Bentham and Mill. The objections are by now familiar and need no detailed rehearsal. The older view failed to characterize adequately the structure of human satisfactions, forgetting that we can care about things that will happen after we are dead, that we generally (...) prefer to be told a distasteful truth to a comforting lie, and that we wish to be actors in our own lives and not merely passive recipients of pleasures from external sources. The extent to which a life is a flourishing one cannot be determined by summing the pleasures and pains, and calculating the balance. Nor, indeed, can it be determined by summing anything else. A life that is happy or eudaimon in the Aristotelian sense is an organic unity in which the significance of its parts rests on their contribution to the meaning of the whole. Nur im Zusammenhange eines Lebens hat ein Erlebnis Bedeutung. Utilitarianism needs to find a way of incorporating an organic view of human satisfaction. (shrink)
Because commemorations of historic events say as much about the present as the past, it is important to think carefully about how and why we should remember the Great War in the centenary year of its outbreak. Commemoration must not be allowed to degenerate into mere mass entertainment, thoughtless celebration of martial valour, an occasion for chauvinism, or an advertisement for the merits of war as a means of settling international disputes. More respectable reasons for commemorating the Great War are (...) that it provides opportunities to learn from past mistakes, to reaffirm some common core values, and to pay our respects to those who died in their country’s service. I argue, however, that each of these justifications raises serious problems of interpretation and application, and that careful thought and moral sensitivity are needed if our efforts at commemoration are not to send out the wrong messages. (shrink)
Moral philosophers have mostly condemned the condonation of a bad act as being close to complicity in wrongdoing or, at best, as indicative of a lax moral conscience. I argue, in contrast, that condoning a wrongful act is sometimes not only permissible but positively virtuous. After considering the nature of condonation, I describe a range of circumstances in which it may be an appropriate response to wrongdoing, expressing such virtues as compassion and mercifulness, tolerance of human frailty, a love of (...) amity, and a proper respectfulness for others’ autonomy as moral agents. (shrink)
Courts of criminal jurisdiction commonly allow for mitigating circumstances when determining the punishment of convicted wrongdoers. This paper looks at some of the moral issues raised by mitigation, and asks in particular whether the damage that arraignment or conviction does to the good name of a previously well-reputed person may ever reasonably be considered as a circumstance justifying the imposition of a penalty lighter than is standard for the offence. It is argued that making an allowance for the loss of (...) good name is sometimes required by justice and that a number of principled and practical objections that have been raised against the practice are unconvincing. Key Words: celebrity justice law mitigation punishment reputation. (shrink)
It has sometimes been claimed that the perceived badness of an act can in some circumstances, or for some agents, be a reason for performing it. The present paper challenges this claim, arguing that it is hard to make sense of the idea that a negative evaluation of an action can provide an intelligible reason for doing it. Apparent counter‐examples are discussed and dismissed and the paper concludes with some general reflections on the relationship between evaluation and motivation.
Whilst there has been much talk about the supposed 'banality of evil', there has been comparatively little discussion of the putatively parallel notion of the 'banality of good'. This paper explores some of the resonances of the phrase and proposes that banally good acts have the leading feature that the agent's reasons for action do not include the thought that the effects intended are good . It is argued, against David Blumenthal, that the label 'banal' should not be applied to (...) acts of spontaneous or everyday goodness but instead to those characterized by a lack of genuine moral commitment, for example, acts done purely in obedience to authority, or from self-seeking motives or mere habit. Finally, it is proposed that the doing of good in a banal mode may reasonably be encouraged in circumstances where more estimable moral motives may be lacking or feeble. (shrink)
How far can we ever hope to understand the Holocaust? What can we reasonably say about right and wrong, moral responsibility, praise and blame, in a world where ordinary reasons seem to be excluded? In the century of Nazism, ethical writing in English had much more to say about the meaning of the word `good` than about the material reality of evil. This book seeks to redress the balance at the start of a new century. Despite intense interest in the (...) Holocaust, there has been relatively little exploration of it by philosophers in the analytic tradition. Although ethical writers often refer to Nazism as a touchstone example of evil, and use it as a case by which moral theorising can be tested, they rarely analyse what evil amounts to, or address the substantive moral questions raised by the Holocaust itself. This book draws together new work by leading moral philosophers to present a wide range of perspectives on the Holocaust. Contributors focus on particular themes of central importance, including: moral responsibility for genocide; the moral uniqueness of the Holocaust; responding to extreme evil; the role of ideology; the moral psychology of perpetrators and victims of genocide; forgiveness and the Holocaust; and the impact of the `Final Solution` on subsequent culture. Topics are treated with the precision and rigour characteristic of analytic philosophy. Scholars, teachers and students with an interest in moral theory, applied ethics, genocide and Holocaust studies will find this book of particular value, as will all those seeking greater insight into ethical issues surrounding Nazism, race-hatred and intolerance. (shrink)
Cultural Heritage, Ethics and Contemporary Migrations breaks new ground in our understanding of the challenges faced by heritage practitioners and researchers in the contemporary world of mass migration, where people encounter new cultural heritage and relocate their own. It focuses particularly on issues affecting archaeological heritage sites and artefacts, which help determine and maintain social identity, a role problematised when populations are in flux. This diverse and authoritative collection brings together international specialists to discuss socio-political and ethical implications for the (...) management of archaeological heritage in global society. With contributions by authors from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including archaeologists, philosophers, cultural historians and custodians of cultural heritage, the volume explores a rich mix of contrasting, yet complementary, viewpoints and approaches. Among the topics discussed are the relations between culture and identity; the potentialities of museums and monuments to support or subvert a people's sense of who they are; and how cultural heritage has been used to bring together communities containing people of different origins and traditions, yet without erasing or blurring their distinctive cultural features. Cultural Heritage, Ethics and Contemporary Migrations is a crucial text for archaeologists, curators, policymakers and others working in the heritage field, as well as for philosophers, political scientists and other readers interested in the links between immigration and cultural heritage. (shrink)
This comprehensive handbook presents the major philosophical perspectives on the nature, prospects, problems and social context of age and aging in an era of dramatically increasing life-expectancy. Drawing on the latest research in gerontology, medicine and the social sciences, its twenty-seven chapters examine our intuitions and common sense beliefs about the meaning of aging and explore topics such as the existential experience of old age, aging in different philosophical and religious traditions, the place of the elderly in contemporary society and (...) the moral rights and responsibilities of the old. This book provides innovative and leading-edge research that will help to determine the parameters of the philosophy of aging for years to come. Key Features - Structured in four parts addressing the meaning, experience, ethics and future of aging - Comprehensive ethical coverage including of the retirement age, health-care for the elderly and the transhumanist life-extending project - Focused treatment of the dementia 'epidemic' and the philosophy of the mind and self The Palgrave Handbook of the Philosophy of Aging is an essential resource for scholars, researchers and advanced students in the philosophy of the self, moral and political philosophy, bioethics, phenomenology, narrative studies and philosophy of economics. It is also an ideal volume for researchers, advanced students and professionals in gerontology, health care, psychology, sociology and population studies.. (shrink)
Act-utilitarianism is often criticized as an unreasonably demanding moral philosophy that commits agents to a life of ceaseless and depersonalizing do-gooding. In this essay I argue in Sidgwickian vein that the strenuousness of act-utilitarianism has been greatly exaggerated and that the practical demands of the doctrine in the contemporary world are closer to those of commonsense morality than such critics as Derek Parfit and Brad Hooker allow.
In a recent contribution to Utilitas Hugh Upton has criticized my defence of utilitarianism against the charge that it is committed to regarding the pleasures taken by sadists in other people's pain as increasing the amount of good in the world and so at least partially offsetting the suffering of the victims. In the present paper I clarify and defend my view that sadists implicitly insult their own human qualities, thus rendering it impossible to respect themselves as human beings, when (...) they enjoy the suffering of others with essentially similar qualities. Distinguishing between happiness and pleasure, I explain why it is not, as Upton thinks, a mere stipulation to deny that the sadist's self-demeaning pleasures are capable of augmenting his happiness. (shrink)
In this paper the author considers a number of objections to the views he expressed in "kant's examples of the first formulation of the categorical imperative" ("the philosophical quarterly", Volume 7, Number 26, January, 1973) by professor kemp in "kant's examples of the categorical imperative" ("the philosophical quarterly", Volume 8, Number 30, January, 1957) and does what he can to reply to them.