The Médecins Sans Frontières ethics review board has been solicited in an unprecedented way to provide advice and review research protocols in an ‘emergency’ mode during the recent Ebola epidemic. Twenty-seven Ebola-related study protocols were reviewed between March 2014 and August 2015, ranging from epidemiological research, to behavioural research, infectivity studies and clinical trials with investigational products at early development stages. This article examines the MSF ERB’s experience addressing issues related to both the process of review and substantive ethical issues (...) in this context. These topics include lack of policies regarding blood sample collection and use, and engaging communities regarding their storage and future use; exclusion of pregnant women from clinical and vaccine trials; and the difficulty of implementing timely and high-quality qualitative/anthropological research to consider potential upfront harms. Having noticed different standards across ethics committees, we propose that when multiple ethics reviews of clinical and vaccine trials are carried out during a public health emergency they should be accompanied by transparent communication between the ECs involved. The MSF ERB experience should trigger a broader discussion on the ‘optimal’ ethics review in an emergency outbreak and what enduring structural changes are needed to improve the ethics review process. (shrink)
Médecins Sans Frontières is one of the world’s leading humanitarian medical organizations. The increased emphasis in MSF on research led to the creation of an ethics review board in 2001. The ERB has encouraged innovation in the review of proposals and the interaction between the ERB and the organization. This has led to some of the advances in ethics governance described in this paper.
The idea that immoral behaviour can sometimes be admirable, and that moral behaviour can sometimes be less than admirable, has led several of its supporters to infer that moral considerations are not always overriding, contrary to what has been traditionally maintained. In this paper I shall challenge this inference. My purpose in doing so is to expose and acknowledge something that has been inadequately appreciated, namely, the moral aspect of nonmoral goods and evils. I hope thereby to show that, even (...) if immorality can be admirable, this poses no threat to morality. (shrink)
In this essay I elaborate a particular, and particularly important, morality: the morality of human rights. Next, I ask the ground-of-normativity question about the morality of human rights and go on to elaborate a religious response. Then, after explaining why one might be skeptical that there is a plausible secular response to the ground-of-normativity question, I comment critically on John Finnis's secular response. Finally, I consider what difference it makes if there is no plausible secular response to the ground-of-normativity question.
Consider the following situation. It is the first day of school, and the new third-grade students file into the classroom to be shown to their seats for the coming year. As they enter, the third-grade teacher notices one small boy who is particularly unkempt. He looks to be in desperate need of bathing, and his clothes are dirty, torn and tight-fitting. During recess, the teacher pulls aside the boy's previous teacher and asks about his wretched condition. The other teacher informs (...) her that he always looks that way, even though the boy's family is quite wealthy. The reason he appears as he does, she continues, is that the family observes an odd practice according to which the children do not receive many important things – food, clothing, bathing, even shelter – unless they specifically request them. Since the boy, like many third-graders, has little interest in bathing and clean clothes, he just never asks for them. (shrink)
The Free Will Defence has been attacked as being unsound, implausible and, more recently, irrelevant. The first section of the paper returns to a discussion on the relevance of the Free Will Defence, arguing that the case for its irrelevance is inextricably impaled on the horns of a dilemma. In the second section it is shown that Free Will Theodicy, even in a form extended to include natural evil, need not be as implausible as it is sometimes portrayed for it (...) demands no more than that good, on the whole, outweighs evil, on the whole. Finally, some tempting objections to the strategy employed in this argument are considered and rejected, both on the grounds that they are untenable in themselves and on the paradoxical ground that, if valid, the objections would appear to rule out any creation. (shrink)
Michael J. Zimmerman explores whether and how our ignorance about ourselves and our circumstances affects what our moral obligations and moral rights are. He rejects objective and subjective views of the nature of moral obligation, and presents a new case for a 'prospective' view.
Every choice we make is set against a background of massive ignorance about our past, our future, our circumstances, and ourselves. Philosophers are divided on the moral significance of such ignorance. Some say that it has a direct impact on how we ought to behave - the question of what our moral obligations are; others deny this, claiming that it only affects how we ought to be judged in light of the behaviour in which we choose to engage - the (...) question of what responsibility we bear for our choices. Michael Zimmerman claims that our ignorance has an important bearing on both questions, and offers an account of moral obligation and moral responsibility that is sharply at odds with the prevailing wisdom. His book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in ethics. (shrink)
The principal aim of this book is to develop and defend an analysis of the concept of moral obligation. The analysis is neutral regarding competing substantive theories of obligation, whether consequentialist or deontological in character. What it seeks to do is generate solutions to a range of philosophical problems concerning obligation and its application. Amongst these problems are deontic paradoxes, the supersession of obligation, conditional obligation, prima facie obligation, actualism and possibilism, dilemmas, supererogation, and cooperation. By virtue of its normative (...) neutrality, the analysis provides a theoretical framework within which competing theories of obligation can be developed and assessed. This study is a major contribution to metaethics that will be of particular interest to all philosophers concerned with normative ethical theory. (shrink)
Michael J. Zimmerman offers a conceptual analysis of the moral ‘ought’ that focuses on moral decision-making under uncertainty. His central case, originally presented by Frank Jackson, concerns a doctor who must choose among three treatments for a minor ailment. Her evidence suggests that drug B will partially cure her patient, that one of either drug A or C would cure him completely, but that the other drug would kill him. Accepting the intuition that the doctor ought to choose drug (...) B, Zimmerman argues that moral obligation consists in performing the action that is ‘prospectively best,’ that is ‘that which, from the moral point of view, it is most reasonable for the agent to choose’ given the evidence available to her at the time.Zimmerman defends his Prospective View of moral obligation against two main competitors in the long, first chapter of the book. According to the Objective View, a person ought to choose what is, in fact, the best option. The doctor ought to give her patient whichever drug will actually cure him. The fact that the doctor cannot know whether this is drug …. (shrink)
This superbly crafted account of the notion of moral responsibility and of its relations to freedom, control, ignorance, negligence, attempts, omissions, compulsion, mental disorders, virtues and vices, desert, and punishment fills that gap. The treatment of character and luck is particularly sophisticated and well-argued.
At the heart of ethics reside the concepts of good and bad; they are at work when we assess whether a person is virtuous or vicious, an act right or wrong, a decision defensible or indefensible, a goal desirable or undesirable. But there are many varieties of goodness and badness. At their core lie intrinsic goodness and badness, the sort of value that something has for its own sake. It is in virtue of intrinsic value that other types of value (...) may be understood, and hence that we can begin to come to terms with questions of virtue and vice, right and wrong, and so on. This book investigates the nature of intrinsic value: just what it is for something to be valuable for its own sake, just what sort of thing can have such value, just how such a value is to be computed. In the final chapter, the fruits of this investigation are applied to a discussion of pleasure, pain, and displeasure and also of moral virtue and vice, in order to determine just what value lies within these phenomena. (shrink)
Michael J. Almeida presents a bold new defence of the existence of God. He argues that entrenched principles in philosophical theology which have served as basic assumptions in apriori, atheological arguments are in fact philosophical dogmas. Almeida argues that not only are such principles false - they are necessarily false.
Intrinsic value has traditionally been thought to lie at the heart of ethics. Philosophers use a number of terms to refer to such value. The intrinsic value of something is said to be the value that that thing has “in itself,” or “for its own sake,” or “as such,” or “in its own right.” Extrinsic value is value that is not intrinsic.
In _The Immorality of Punishment_ Michael Zimmerman argues forcefully that not only our current practice but indeed any practice of legal punishment is deeply morally repugnant, no matter how vile the behaviour that is its target. Despite the fact that it may be difficult to imagine a state functioning at all, let alone well, without having recourse to punishing those who break its laws, Zimmerman makes a timely and compelling case for the view that we must seek and put (...) into practice alternative means of preventing crime and promoting social stability. (shrink)
Navigating Postmodern Theology: Insights from Jean-Luc Marion and Gianni Vattimo’s Philosophy provides an introduction to these two authors in relation to theology and metaphysics. This book invites the reader to consider new ways of thinking about theology in a postmetaphysical way, grounded in Marion’s phenomenology and Vattimo’s philosophy.
The following argument is addressed: (1) a person is morally responsible for an event's occurring only if that event's occurring was not a matter of luck; (2) no event is such that its occurring is not a matter of luck; therefore, (3) no event is such that someone is morally responsible for its occurring. Two notions of control are distinguished: restricted and complete. (2) is shown false on the first interpretation, (1) on the second. The discussion involves a distinction between (...) resultant and situational luck, And it is argued that, Even when luck's role in life, And the unfairness that stems from it, Is acknowledged, Moral responsibility remains possible. (shrink)
Many philosophers hold that whether an act is overall morally obligatory is an ‘objective’ matter, many that it is a ‘subjective’ matter, and some that it is both. The idea that it is or can be both may seem to promise a helpful answer to the question ‘What ought I to do when I do not know what I ought to do?’ In this article, three broad views are distinguished regarding what it is that obligation essentially concerns: the maximization of (...) actual value, the maximization of expected value, and the perceived maximization of actual value. The first and third views are rejected; the second view is then refined and defended. The unfortunate upshot is that there may be no very helpful answer to the question just mentioned. As to the question posed in the title of the article, the answer unsurprisingly depends on what ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are taken to mean. (Published Online November 24 2006). (shrink)
Many philosophers endorse the idea that there can be no moral responsibility without a moral community and thus hold that such responsibility is essentially interpersonal. In this paper, various interpretations of this idea are distinguished, and it is argued that no interpretation of it captures a significant truth. The popular view that moral responsibility consists in answerability is discussed and dismissed. The even more popular view that such responsibility consists in susceptibility to the reactive attitudes is also discussed, and it (...) is argued that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
_Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction_ is for students who have already completed an introductory philosophy course and need a fresh look at the central topics in the core subject of metaphysics. It is essential reading for any student of the subject. This Fourth Edition is revised and updated and includes two new chapters on Parts and Wholes, and Metaphysical Indeterminacy or vagueness. This new edition also keeps the user-friendly format, the chapter overviews summarizing the main topics, concrete examples to clarify difficult (...) concepts, annotated further reading at the end of each chapter, endnotes, and a full bibliography. Topics addressed include: the problem of universals the nature of abstract entities the problem of individuation the nature of modality identity through time the nature of time the nature of parts and wholes the problem of metaphysical indeterminacy the Realism/anti-Realism debate. Wherever possible, Michael J. Loux and Thomas M. Crisp relate contemporary views to their classical sources in the history of philosophy. As experienced teachers of philosophy and important contributors to recent debates, Loux and Crisp are uniquely qualified to write this book. (shrink)
The fitting-attitudes analysis of value, which states that something's being good consists in its being the fitting object of some pro-attitude, has recently been the focus of intense debate. Many objections have been levelled against this analysis. One objection to it concerns the ‘challenge from partiality’, according to which it can be fitting to display partiality toward objects of equal value. Several responses to the challenge have been proposed. This paper criticizes these and other responses and then offers a response (...) that, it is claimed, solves the challenge. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon has revived a venerable tradition according to which something's being good consists in its being such that there is a reason to respond positively towards it. He has presented novel arguments for this thesis. In this article, I first develop some refinements of the thesis with a view to focusing on intrinsic value in particular, then discuss the relation between the thesis and consequentialism, then critically examine Scanlon's arguments for the thesis, and finally turn to the question (...) whether we should reject the thesis on the grounds that, when there is a reason to respond positively towards something, this is so because the thing in question is good. Two appendices follow. In the first, I discuss whether it is good to do right. In the second, I discuss whether an act's being wrong provides a reason not to do it. (shrink)
_The Metaphysics of Perfect Beings_ addresses the problems an Anselmian perfect being faces in contexts involving unlimited options. Recent advances in the theory of vagueness, the metaphysics of multiverses and hyperspace, the theory of dynamic or sequential choice, the logic of moral and rational dilemmas, and metaethical theory provide the resources to formulate the new challenges and the Anselmian responses with an unusual degree of precision. Almeida shows that the challenges arising in the unusual contexts involving unlimited options sometimes produce (...) metaphysical surprise. (shrink)
Researchers misunderstand their role in creating ethical problems when they allow dogmas to purportedly divorce scientists and scientific practices from the values that they embody. Cortina, Edwards, and Powell help us clarify and further develop our position by responding to our critique of, and alternatives to, this misleading separation. In this rebuttal, we explore how the desire to achieve the separation of facts and values is unscientific on the very terms endorsed by its advocates—this separation is refuted by empirical observation. (...) We show that positivists like Cortina and Edwards offer no rigorous theoretical or empirical justifications to substantiate their claims, let alone critique ours. Following Powell, we point to how classical pragmatism understands ‘purpose’ in scientific pursuits while also providing an alternative to the dogmas of positivism and related philosophical positions. In place of dogmatic, unscientific cries about an abstract and therefore always-unobservable ‘reality,’ we invite all organizational scholars to join us in shifting the discussion about quantitative research towards empirically grounded scientific inquiry. This makes the ethics of actual people and their practices central to quantitative research, including the thoughts, discourses, and behaviors of researchers who are always in particular places doing particular things. We propose that quantitative researchers can thus start to think about their research practices as a kind of work, rather than having the status of a kind of dogma. We conclude with some implications that this has for future research and education, including the relevance of research and research methods. (shrink)
There has been considerable debate regarding the relative merits of two theses about moral obligation known as actualism and possibilism. Both theses seek to give expression to the general idea that one ought to do the best one can. According to actualism, one’s obligations turn on what would happen if one chose some course of action, whereas, according to possibilism, they turn on what could happen if one chose some course of action. There are two strands to the debate: the (...) substantive verdicts that the two theses render in particular cases, and the accounts that they yield of the conceptual structure of moral obligation. Possibilism is conceptually appealing, whereas actualism is not, but the latter may seem to render superior substantive verdicts. In this paper, it is argued that, by turning from the objectivist’s emphasis on what is actually best to the prospectivist’s emphasis on what one’s evidence indicates is best, possibilists can provide an account of moral obligation that is both conceptually and substantively attractive. (shrink)
Quantitative researchers often discuss research ethics as if specific ethical problems can be reduced to abstract normative logics (e.g., virtue ethics, utilitarianism, deontology). Such approaches overlook how values are embedded in every aspect of quantitative methods, including ‘observations,’ ‘facts,’ and notions of ‘objectivity.’ We describe how quantitative research practices, concepts, discourses, and their objects/subjects of study have always been value-laden, from the invention of statistics and probability in the 1600s to their subsequent adoption as a logic made to appear as (...) if it exists prior to, and separate from, ethics and values. This logic, which was embraced in the Academy of Management from the 1960s, casts management researchers as ethical agents who ought to know about a reality conceptualized as naturally existing in the image of statistics and probability (replete with ‘constructs’), while overlooking that S&P logic and practices, which researchers made for themselves, have an appreciable role in making the world appear this way. We introduce a different way to conceptualize reality and ethics, wherein the process of scientific inquiry itself requires an examination of its own practices and commitments. Instead of resorting to decontextualized notions of ‘rigor’ and its ‘best practices,’ quantitative researchers can adopt more purposeful ways to reason about the ethics and relevance of their methods and their science. We end by considering implications for addressing ‘post truth’ and ‘alternative facts’ problems as collective concerns, wherein it is actually the pluralistic nature of description that makes defending a collectively valuable version of reality so important and urgent. (shrink)
Many writers accept the following thesis about responsibility: (R) For one to be responsible for something is for one to be such that it is fitting that one be the object of some reactive attitude with respect to that thing. This thesis bears a striking resemblance to a thesis about value that is also accepted by many writers: (V) For something to be good (or neutral, or bad) is for it to be such that it is fitting that it be (...) the object of some pro-attitude (or indifference, or some contra-attitude). V has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, in part because of its incorporation into what has come to be called the “buck-passing” account of value. In particular, V is open to three challenges: that it is not necessarily the case that whatever is good is the fitting object of a pro-attitude; that it is not necessarily the case that whatever is the fitting object of a pro-attitude is good; and that, even if there is a strict equivalence between what is good and what is the fitting object of a pro-attitude, still the former is not to be analyzed in terms of the latter. The resemblance between V and R has not been previously commented on, but, once it is recognized, it is clear that R is open to challenges that resemble those to which V is vulnerable. This paper explores both the challenges to V and the parallel challenges to R and discusses responses that may be given to these challenges. The interrelation between V and R is then examined, and a general lesson is drawn concerning how to adjudicate disputes about the nature of moral responsibility. (shrink)
This paper argues that Moore’s principle of organic unities is false. Advocates of the principle have failed to take note of the distinction between actual intrinsic value and virtual intrinsic value. Purported cases of organic unities, where the actual intrinsic value of a part of a whole is allegedly defeated by the actual intrinsic value of the whole itself, are more plausibly seen as cases where the part in question has no actual intrinsic value but instead a plurality of merely (...) virtual intrinsic values. (shrink)
A liberal society seeks not to impose a single way of life, but to leave its citizens as free as possible to choose their own values and ends. It therefore must govern by principles of justice that do not presuppose any particular vision of the good life. But can any such principles be found? And if not, what are the consequences for justice as a moral and political ideal? These are the questions Michael Sandel takes up in this penetrating (...) critique of contemporary liberalism. Sandel locates modern liberalism in the tradition of Kant, and focuses on its most influential recent expression in the work of John Rawls. In the most important challenge yet to Rawls' theory of justice, Sandel traces the limits of liberalism to the conception of the person that underlies it, and argues for a deeper understanding of community than liberalism allows. (shrink)
In a recent article in this journal, I argued against the popular twofold Strawsonian claim that there can be no moral responsibility without a moral community and that, as a result, moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. Benjamin De Mesel has offered a number of objections to my argument, including in particular the objection that I mischaracterized Strawson’s view. In this article, I respond to De Mesel’s criticisms.