Virtue ethics is frequently billed as a remedy to the problems of deontological and consequentialist ethics that Bernard Williams identified in his critique of “the morality system.” But how far can virtue ethics be relied upon to avoid these problems? What does Williams’s critique of the morality system mean for virtue ethics? To answer this question, we offer a more principled characterisation of the defining features of the morality system in terms of its organising ambition—to shelter life against luck. This (...) reveals the system to be multiply realisable: the same function can be served by substantively different but functionally equivalent ideas. After identifying four requirements that ethical thought must meet to function as a morality system, we show that they can also be met by certain constellations of virtue-ethical ideas. We thereby demonstrate the possibility of virtue-ethical morality systems raising problems analogous to those besetting their deontological and consequentialist counterparts. This not only widens the scope of Williams’s critique and brings out the cautionary aspect of his legacy for virtue ethics. It also offers contemporary virtue ethicists a more principled understanding of the functional features that mark out morality systems and lie at the root of their problems, thereby helping them to avoid or overcome these problems. (shrink)
This paper contributes to the discussion of the moral demandingness of Kantian ethics by critically discussing an argument that is currently popular among Kantians. The argument from the system of duties holds that in the Kantian system of duties the demandingness of our duty of beneficence is internally moderated by other moral prescriptions, such as the indirect duty to secure happiness, duties to oneself and special obligations. Furthermore, proponents of this argument claim that via these prescriptions Kant’s system of duties (...) incorporates into morality what current debates on demandingness call happiness and personal projects. These two claims are in conjunction supposed to establish that Kant’s ethics, at least when it comes to beneficence, is not plagued by the problem of excessive moral demands. We show that claims and are mistaken given what Kant says about beneficence, the application of imperfect duties and about emergencies. We finally argue that special obligations towards loved ones, a class of obligations largely overlooked by advocates of the system of duties, are the most promising candidates for internal moderation. These duties are, however, of a narrow scope. (shrink)
We discuss the demandingness of Kant’s ethics. Whilst previous discussions of this issue focused on imperfect duties, our first aim is to show that Kantian demandingness is especially salient in the class of perfect duties. Our second aim is to introduce a fine-grained picture of demandingness by distinguishing between different possible components of a moral theory which can lead to demandingness: a required process of decision making, overridingness and the stringent content of demands, due to a standpoint of moral purity. (...) This distinction allows a specification of the sources of demandingness in Kant. The most characteristically Kantian form of demandingness springs from overridingness and purity and comes as a constant threat that an agent might find herself in a situation in which, due to no fault of her own, she is required to sacrifice everything for little to no non-moral goods. Our third aim is to discuss whether Kant has the resources to reply to those who criticize his ethics based on its demandingness. For this purpose we discuss Kant’s notion of “rationalizing” in the context of various types of current conceptions of demandingness and calls for moderate ethical theories. (shrink)
This paper contributes to the discussion of the moral demandingness of Kantian ethics by critically discussing an argument that is currently popular among Kantians. The argument from the system of duties holds that (a) in the Kantian system of duties the demandingness of our duty of beneficence is internally moderated by other moral prescriptions, such as the indirect duty to secure happiness, duties to oneself and special obligations. Furthermore, proponents of this argument claim (b) that via these prescriptions Kant’s system (...) of duties incorporates into morality what current debates on (over-)demandingness call happiness and personal projects. These two claims are in conjunction supposed to establish that Kant’s ethics, at least when it comes to beneficence, is not plagued by the problem of excessive moral demands. We show that claims (a) and (b) are mistaken given what Kant says about beneficence, the application of imperfect duties and about emergencies. We finally argue that special obligations towards loved ones, a class of obligations largely overlooked by advocates of the system of duties, are the most promising candidates for internal moderation. These duties are, however, of a narrow scope. (shrink)
ABSTRACTThe standard view of demandingness understands demandingness exclusively as a matter of costs to the agent. The paper discusses whether the standard view must be given up because we should think of demandingness as a matter of difficulty or restriction of options. I will argue that difficulty can indeed increase demandingness, but only insofar as it leads to further costs. As to restrictions of options, I will show that confinement can become costly and thus increase demandingness in three ways, by (...) prohibiting actions that the agent wants to perform in order to promote his well-being, by limiting the development of future preferences and projects and also by making the society less open. The paper thus defends a new variant of the standard view by arguing that difficulty and restrictions of options can increase the demandingness of morality on grounds of being costly. (shrink)
Some pursue philosophy via its history, while others focus on current debates without reference to the past. But a growing group of philosophers believe historical perspective can contribute to current debates. Philosophy and the Historical Perspective explores the importance of this perspective and investigates the very nature of philosophy.
A survey of the current positions, relating historical and systematic perspective, including Williams’s view on the “alienation effect.” Also argues that this earlier method is distinct from the later method of genealogy.
This volume responds to the growing interest in finding explanations for why moral claims may lose their validity based on what they ask of their addressees. Two main ideas relate to that question: the moral demandingness objection and the principle "ought implies can." Though both of these ideas can be understood to provide an answer to the same question, they have usually been discussed separately in the philosophical literature. The aim of this collection is to provide a focused and comprehensive (...) discussion of these two ideas and the ways in which they relate to one another, and to take a closer look at the consequences for the limits of moral normativity in general. Chapters engage with contemporary discussions surrounding "ought implies can" as well as current debates on moral demandingness, and argue that applying the moral demandingness objection to the entire range of normative ethical theories also calls for an analysis of its presuppositions. The contributions to this volume are at the leading edge of ethical theory, and have implications for moral theorists, philosophers of action, and those working in metaethics, theoretical ethics and applied ethics. (shrink)
This analysis of the relation between virtue and knowledge focuses on the following aspects: i) Virtue and Happiness can be objects of knowledge; ii) Virtue is knowledge; iii) The search for knowledge is aiming at and justified by the human to be happy. Plato therefore defines philosophy not as theory but as the search for wisdom in order to live well. Accordingly Plato does not distinguish different or independent branches of philosophy. These conclusions are reached by an investigation, (...) which traces the continuity and the development of the relation between virtue and knowledge throughout the different phases in Plato's philosophy. The leading thesis of this book is unitarian, but in order to corroborate it the methodology is used of those scholars who think that Plato's philosophy has changed significantly through the dialogic phase. This way, it can be shown that Plato kept developing new justifications for the same relation between virtue and knowledge.Diese Untersuchung der Beziehung von Tugend und Wissen konzentriert sich auf folgende Aspekte: i) Sowohl Tugend als auch Wissen können erkannt werden; ii) Tugend ist Wissen; iii) Die Wissenssuche wird durch das Glücksstreben finalisiert. Daher bestimmt Platon Philosophie nicht als Theorie, sondern als Suche nach der Weisheit, um glücklich zu leben. Entsprechend unterscheidet Platon keine Teilbereiche der Philosophie, die unabhängige Ziele verfolgen. Diese Schlussfolgerungen werden erreicht durch eine Untersuchung, die die Kontinuität und Entwicklung der Beziehung von Tugend und Wissen durch die verschiedenen Phasen in der Platonischen Philosophie verfolgt. Die leitende These ist unitarisch, aber um sie zu bestätigen wird die Methode derjenigen verwandt, die annehmen, die Platonische Philosophie hätte sich in durch die Dialogphasen wesentlich entwickelt. So kann gezeigt werden, dass Platon immer neue Begründungen für dieselbe Beziehung von Tugend und Wissen entwickelt hat. (shrink)
The two volumes of this work provide the first comprehensive interpretation of the philosophy of Marcus Aurelius. The central thesis is that a particular combination of form and content is characteristic of Marcus Aurelius's Meditations. He wrote the earliest extant self-dialogue, whereby the composition of the mainly contemplative text can at the same time be a kind of Stoic philosophical practice. Volume 1 analyses general characteristics of form and their philosophical significance. Volume 2 analyses the themes, terms and arguments in (...) analogy to the Stoic division of the philosophy. (shrink)
Bernard Williams' Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy is widely regarded as one of the most important works of moral philosophy in the last fifty years. In this outstanding collection of new essays, fourteen internationally-recognised philosophers examine the enduring contribution that Williams's book continues to make to ethics. Required.
A Companion to Marcus Aurelius presents the first comprehensive collection of essays to explore all essential facets relating to contemporary Marcus Aurelius studies. First collection of its kind to commission new state–of–the–art scholarship on Marcus Aurelius Features readings that cover all aspects of Marcus Aurelius, including source material, biographical information, and writings Contributions from an international cast of top Aurelius scholars Addresses evolving aspects of the reception of the Meditations.
The aim of this book is to foster a more explicit and direct discussion of the concept of sacrifice and its importance in moral philosophy. Acts of self-sacrifice have a special place in our moral lives. We admire and celebrate those who give up their lives so that others may live. Despite this important role that sacrifice plays in our moral thinking, moral philosophers have had surprisingly little to say about the nature of sacrifice. This lack of attention to the (...) nature of sacrifice is particularly important given that sacrifice also has an important role to play in several key debates in moral philosophy. The chapters in this volume make an important contribution to our understanding of sacrifice in three areas. The first part of the book investigates the nature of sacrifice. The next group of chapters investigates the role of sacrifice in moral philosophy. Three of these pieces investigate the role of sacrifice in our moral lives generally, while two investigate the role of sacrifice in relation to particular moral theories. The final two chapters investigate the value of sacrifice in relation to political and theological issues. The chapters in this book were originally published as a special issue of the International Journal of Philosophical Studies. (shrink)
English Summary: Marcus Aurelius was Roman Emperor and the last important ancient stoic philosopher. His Meditations are one of the most widely read and known ancient works. Thus, research on this emperor has spread across an almost unprecedented number of scientific disciplines. This volume, which originated at the first conference on Marcus Aurelius, held in Cologne in 2009, reunites publishes recent research in history, archaeology, philosophy, philology, numismatics, rhetoric, legal studies, and literature. German text. German Description: Marc Aurel war romischer (...) Kaiser und der letzte bedeutende stoische Philosoph in der Antike. Seine Selbstbetrachtungen sind eines der meistgelesenen und uber die Fachwelt hinaus bekannten antiken Schriftstucke. Er ist daher wie kaum eine andere antike Figur Gegenstand eines so grossen Spektrums von Forschungsdiziplinen. Im vorliegenden Sammelband, der auf der ersten Tagung zu Marc Aurel (2009 in Koln) basiert, werden aktuelle Forschungsbeitrage aus den Fachern Geschichtswissenschaft, Archaologie, Philosophie, Philologie, Numismatik, Rhetorik, Rechtsgeschichte und Literaturwissenschaft vereint. (shrink)
To assert that a 'clash of civilizations' follows inexorably from the different religious convictions at the foundations of Western Judeo-Christian and Arabic-Islamic cultures means to deny that a common political rationality can articulate genuinely universal, albeit culturally situated values. The eleven contributions to the present volume take up this controversy by challenging its premise that the heritage of classical Greek thought is exclusively part of Western political identity. By exploring the tradition of Platonism informing both Arabic-Islamic and Western political thought (...) and intellectual history in key stations in their history, the contributors show how Platonic political theory can still bear fruit in the present day, especially in the context of dialogue between cultures. (shrink)
In his Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle gives us two definitions of happiness : In book I he defines eudaimonia as activity in accordance with the best and most perfect virtue, and very much later in the treatise, in book X, he states that the contemplative life of the philosopher is the most blessed life, and the life of the politician only second in rank. This paper argues that most interpreters have misunderstood the first definition due to the temptation to read the (...) first book with the tenth in mind. A new interpretation of the first definition is corroborated and linked with Aristotle's statements in book X, so that the entire work seems to be more consistent. Furthermore, a solution to the vexed problem whether moral virtues play a role in the contemplative life is suggested. (shrink)