What system of morals should rational people select as the best for society? Using a contemporary psychological theory of action and of motivation, Richard Brandt's Oxford lectures argue that the purpose of living should be to strive for the greatest good for the largest number of people. Brandt's discussions range from the concept of welfare to conflict between utilitarian moral codes and the dictates of self-interest.
Richard Brandt is one of the most eminent and influential of contemporary moral philosophers. His work has been concerned with how to justify what is good or right not by reliance on intuitions or theories about what moral words mean but by the explanation of moral psychology and the description of what it is to value something, or to think it immoral. His approach thus stands in marked contrast to the influential theories of John Rawls. The essays reprinted in this (...) collection span a period of almost 30 years and include many classic pieces in metaethical and normative ethical theory. The collection is aimed at both those moral philosophers familiar with Brandt's work and at those philosophers who may be largely unfamiliar with his work. The latter group will be struck by the lucid unpretentious style and the cumulative weight of Brandt's contributions to topics that remain at the forefront of moral philosophy. (shrink)
Richard Brandt is one of the most influential moral philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. He is especially important in the field of ethics for his lucid and systematic exposition of utilitarianism. This new book represents in some ways a summation of his views and includes many useful applications of his theory. The focus of the book is how value judgments and moral belief can be justified. More generally, the book assesses different moral systems and theories of (...) justice, and considers specific problems such as the optimal level of charity and the moral tenability of the criminal law. This book will be essential reading for all professional philosophers concerned with ethics, and will prove helpful to students as well. (shrink)
The article explains a rule-Utilitarian normative thesis about when actions are morally excused; that an act otherwise morally objectionable in some way is excused if a moral system, The acceptance of which in the agent's society would be utility-Maximizing, Would not condemn it. What is meant by a "moral system condemning" an action is explained. The parallel between this moral thesis and the benthamite theory of criminal justice is developed. It is argued that this rule-Utilitarian thesis implies that an action (...) is morally excused (not blameworthy) if it does not manifest a defective trait of character. (shrink)
Most people interested in the problems of ethics aspire to two kinds of knowledge, one systematic, the other historical. They wish a systematic understanding of the field: knowledge of what are the various problems and their interrelations and knowledge of what has been done toward the solution of these problems. They also wish to learn what the great historical philosophers -- particularly those who have had the most important ideas about values and conduct -- have said about the subject. This (...) book is intended to enable the reader to approximate the achievement of these twin goals at once. (shrink)
I wish to consider what can helpfully be meant by the phrase “rational to believe” as it might appear in the statement “It is rational for the person S in his circumstances at t to place more confidence in p than in q, provided his overriding interest at the time is to place confidence, among any propositions he is considering, in true propositions and not in false ones.” The reference here to the interest of the person is intended to avoid (...) discussing persons for whom it is rational to believe something for extraneous reasons, e.g., for a man to believe his wife is loyal to him irrespective of the evidence. I shall take this term as paradigmatic of “epistemic terms”, examples of which philosophers take to be such terms as “is epistemically justified in believing”, “is warranted in believing”, “is credible”, and so on. I do not claim that all these terms have or should bear the same meaning, but I propose to ignore possible distinctions. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.