It seems to me that, with an exception to be discussed presently, Hursthouse accomplishes the critical task which she sets for herself. She is particularly successful in pointing out how very complex the abortion issue is, and how the person view and utilitarianism overlook its complexities. Hursthouse notes that Thomson's position does not suffer from this latter shortcoming, but she also argues clearly and convincingly that the position should be rejected on other grounds—grounds pertaining primarily to various things Thomson says (...) about rights. Notwithstanding its many virtues, however, Hursthouse's critical discussion does strike me as problematic in a noteworthy respect. (shrink)
What determines whether an action is right or wrong? Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader explores for students and researchers the relationship between consequentialist theory and moral rules. Most of the chapters focus on rule consequentialism or on the distinction between act and rule versions of consequentialism. Contributors, among them the leading philosophers in the discipline, suggest ways of assessing whether rule consequentialism could be a satisfactory moral theory. These essays, all of which are previously unpublished, provide students in (...) moral philosophy with essential material and ask key questions on just what the criteria for an adequate moral theory might be. (shrink)
This paper has a threefold purpose: to question the adequacy of two familiar proposals for explaining the permissibility of harming others in self-defense, to suggest an alternative explanation, and to answer some objections to this latter explanation. By and large, discussions of the proposals whose adequacy I will question focus on what they imply about the permissibility of self-defense in controversial cases. I will argue here that the proposals themselves contain large and significant theoretical gaps. Accordingly, examining their implications for (...) controversial cases is premature, since they don’t adequately explain permissible self-defense in even the clearest cases—that is, those in which people defend themselves against “culpable attackers”. (shrink)
THE MORAL INDEFENSIBILITY OF STANDING YOUR GROUND (Abstract) This paper examines the moral status of the central provision of Stand Your Ground laws: that people lawfully occupying public spaces are legally permitted to inflict self-defensive harm on aggressors even if the defenders can easily and safely retreat. The relation of this provision to existing theories of self-defense is examined, and critiques are offered of two attempts at defending it. Then reasons are presented for concluding that the provision is morally indefensible.
In this paper, I offer objections to an approach to formulating principles referring to moral rights that has come to known as “specification.” These objections focus on rights-principles in their role as premises of inferences to conclusions regarding the moral rights of individuals in particular situations. I argue on practical grounds that specified principles have no useful role to play in such inferences, and on theoretical grounds that the specificationist position is self-defeating. This latter argument also suggests an interpretation of (...) rights principles that avoids the objections to which specification is vulnerable. (shrink)
Although people generally agree that innocent targets of culpable aggression are justified in harming the aggressors in self-defence, there is considerable disagreement regarding whether innocents are justified in defending themselves when their doing so would harm other innocent people. I argue in this essay that harming innocent aggressors and active innocent threats in self-defence is indeed justified under certain conditions, but that defensive actions in such cases are justified as permissions rather than as claim rights. This justification therefore differs from (...) that of self-defence against culpable aggressors, since defensive acts of the latter type are justified as claim rights rather than mere permissions. I argue, however, that the two justifications are alike in that both rest on considerations of distributive justice. (shrink)
Discussions of the ethics of war commonly – and reasonably – assume that defensive wars are morally justified if any wars are. They also assume that explanations of why defensive warfare is morally justified must be based on principles that also explain the moral justifiability of individual self-defense. David Rodin has recently argued that the second of these assumptions is mistaken, and he has developed an alternative account of the morality of defensive warfare. The purpose of this paper is to (...) show that Rodin’s argument fails, and to explain how defensive warfare can indeed be justified in terms of principles that also apply to individual self-defense. (shrink)
You and I are neighbors, with our houses situated closely together. You lead a group of rock musicians who can practice only in the evenings in your backyard; while I, on the other hand, enjoy nothing more than quiet evenings spent on my porch accompanied by the sounds of frogs and crickets. Presumably, you have a right to pursue your musical career, and I have a right quietly to enjoy my property. If we do indeed have these rights, however, then (...) they seem to conflict with each other, in that your exercising your right is incompatible with my exercising mine. (shrink)
ABSTRACT This paper is a reply to three objections raised by Seumas Miller against a ‘forced‐choice’account of the morality of self‐defence. It is argued that Miller's first objection rests on a misconception of how the forced‐choice account is supposed to work; that his second objection is simply mistaken; and that his third objection overlooks how the forced‐choice account explicitly accommodates the moral difference between self‐defence and ‘other‐defence.’Finally, it is suggested that Miller's entire approach is defective in its failure to examine (...) the principle of justice which underlies the forced‐choice account, and whether it applies to standard self‐defence situations. (shrink)
A basic component of moral objections to embryonic stem cell research is the claim that human embryos have the same moral status as typical adult human beings. There is no reason to accept this claim, however, unless adult humans once existed as embryos—that is, unless the developmental history of adult humans contains embryos to which the adults are numerically identical. The purpose of this paper is to argue that there are no such identities, and hence that no adult human being (...) ever existed as an embryo. (shrink)
Are we morally required to act in the interests of others? Does our worth as persons depend in any way on our valuing the good of others? These questions, illustrative of those addressed in this book, concern the relevance of other-interested considerations -- of facts about what is good or bad for others -- to the moral status of persons and their actions. Pursuing answers to such questions is not only interesting and important in its own right, but also yields (...) valuable insights in to the nature of morality. A distinguishing feature of the book is its unusually comprehensive treatment of the moral significance of other-interested considerations per se, of how these considerations are interrelated, and of where they should be located in more general moral theory. It will be of greatest interest to individuals with fairly well-developed philosophical interests and abilities -- to teachers and advanced students of moral philosophy in particular. (shrink)
Even the most ardent defenders of a legal right to freedom of the press are likely to regard this right as having limitations; but how precisely the right should be limited is a matter of considerable disagreement. This issue is at least partly moral in character: it concerns the moral acceptability of laws which regulate or protect the activities of members of the press. I propose here to address this moral issue, and to do so within the broader framework of (...) considering whether establishing a legal right to freedom of the press—regardless of how it might be limited—is justifiable on moral grounds. In pursuing this investigation, I will devote special attention to familiar claims about the relation between press rights on the one hand, and “the people's right to know” on the other. (shrink)
Criminal punishments are commonly imposed on those convicted of harming others, yet punishment is itself necessarily harmful. Although we suppose that there is a moral difference between the two types of harming, the precise nature of this difference is not at all obvious. The problem here can be approached by asking this question: in what situations is harming others most obviously morally justified? And the answer, intuitively, is that these are situations involving self-defense against culpable aggression. This intuition provides a (...) point of departure for explaining how criminal punishment is morally justifiable as an instrument of societal-defense. Developing this explanation requires identifying the principle of distributive justice that justifies harming others in individual self-defense, and then applying that principle to defensive actions by societies. (shrink)
The following thesis is defended: whether actions are morally required is an objective matter – that is, independent of the beliefs, intentions, etc. with which the actions are preformed. This thesis needs defending because it seems vulnerable to certain counterexamples. One approach to dealing with these counterexamples centers on the concept of blameworthiness, but this approach is flawed. An alternative approach is developed that relies on the concept of a vicious action. And although it too centers on the concept of (...) blameworthiness, it lacks the flaws that are present in the original approach. (shrink)
A little-discussed aspect of the “conservative” position on abortion involves the claim that human beings exist at all stages of gestation — that even the human fertilized ovum is a human being. There are good reasons of both a practical and theoretical nature why this particular idea has received so little attention in the abortion controversy. On the practical side there is the fact that zygotes are rarely if ever the subjects of abortion decisions; and on the theoretical side, there (...) is the prima facie implausibility of the idea itself — an implausibility stemming from the fact that human zygotes possess none of the features that distinguish clear-cut examples of human beings from other living things.I would like to suggest, however, that there are good reasons — again both practical and theoretical — for examining with some care the idea that human zygotes are human beings. For even if this idea is not central to the abortion controversy, it has clear relevance to the morality of using intrauterine devices as a means of procreation control. (shrink)
This paper is a rejoinder to Thaddeus Metz’s article “Censure Theory Still Best Accounts for Punishment of the Guilty: Reply to Montague.” In his article, Metz attempts to answer objections to censure theory that I had raised previously. I argue in my rejoinder that Metz’s defense of censure theory remains seriously problematic despite what he says in his reply.