What are ethical judgments about? And what is their relation to practice? How can ethical judgment aspire to objectivity? The past two decades have witnessed a resurgence of interest in metaethics, placing questions such as these about the nature and status of ethical judgment at the very center of contemporary moral philosophy. Moral Discourse and Practice: Some Philosophical Approaches is a unique anthology which collects important recent work, much of which is not easily available elsewhere, on core metaethical issues. Reinvigorated (...) naturalist moral realism and the various versions of moral realism, as well as irrealist, expressivist, and neo-Kantian constructivist theories are all represented in this fine collection, constituting a rich array of approaches to contemporary moral philosophy's most fundamental debates. An extensive introduction by Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton is also included, making this volume the most comprehensive and up-to-date work of its kind. Moral Discourse is ideally suited for use in courses in contemporary ethics, ethical theory, and metaethics. (shrink)
In what follows, I wish to discuss empathy and sympathy’s relevance to ethics, taking recent findings into account. In particular, I want to consider sympathy’s relation to the idea of a person’s good or well-being. It is obvious and uncontroversial that sympathetic concern for a person involves some concern for her good and some desire to promote it. What I want to suggest is that the concept of a person’s good or well-being is one we have because we are capable (...) of care and sympathetic concern. Well-being is normative for care in the sense that it is intrinsic to the very idea of a person’s good that threats to it are what it makes sense to be concerned about for that person for her sake. (shrink)
have come in for increasing attention and controversy. A good example would be recent debates about moral realism where question of the relation between ethics (or ethical judgment) and the will has come to loom large.' Unfortunately, however, the range of positions labelled internalist in ethical writing is bewilderingly large, and only infrequently are important distinctions kept clear.2 Sometimes writers have in mind the view that sincere assent to a moral (or, more generally, an ethical) judgment concerning what one should (...) do is necessarily connected to motivation (actual or dispositional).s This necessity may be conceptual, or perhaps metaphysical, the thought being.. (shrink)
_ Virtue Ethics_ collects, for the first time, the main classical sources and the central contemporary expressions of virtue ethics approach to normative ethical theory. Edited and introduced by Stephen Darwall, these readings are essential for anyone interested in normative theory. Introduced by Stephen Darwall, this collection brings together classic and contemporary readings which define and advance the literature on virtue ethics. Includes six essays which respond to the classic sources. Includes a contemporary discussion on character and virtue by Gary (...) Watson. Includes classic essays by Aristotle, Francis Hutcheson and David Hume, and recent reactions to this work by philosophers including Philippa Foot, John McDowell, Alasdair MacIntyre, Annette Baier, Rosalind Hursthouse, and Michael Slote. (shrink)
There are two ways in which philosophical controversialists can approach a classical opponent of their views. They can attempt to refute him, or they can try to show that, while generally assumed to be an opponent, the philosopher really was not, at least when he was thinking clearly. Of these two strategies, the latter, if it can be pulled off, is dialectically..
Some recent writers on practical reasoning have had it that reasoning about what to do differs in logical structure from theoretical reasoning. In particular, Anthony Kenny and G.E.M. Anscombe have argued that there are permissible inferences in practical reasoning which lack analogues in theoretical reasoning. Such discussions seem inevitably to draw their impetus from what Aristotle had to say on the topic, both in the Nicomachean Ethics and elsewhere.
My aim in what follows is to sketch with a broad brush fundamental changes involving the concept of obligation in British ethics of the early modern period, as it developed in the direction of the view that obligatory force is a species of motivational force – an idea that deeply informs present thought. I shall also suggest, although I can hardly demonstrate it conclusively here, that one important source for this view was a doctrine which we associate with Kant, and (...) which it may seem surprising to find in British ethics, especially of the early modern period, viz., that rational agents are obligated by motives available through a form of practical thinking necessary for rational autonomy. (shrink)
The notion of pleasure lies at the very heart of Sidgwick’s moral philosophy. For Sidgwick holds not merely that pleasure is a good, but that ultimately it is the only good. And hence it is the good of pleasure which grounds his utilitarianism.
Scheffler's paper divides into two parts. In the first, he argues that Parfit's argument from the complex view of personal identity neither can, nor is intended to, establish any moral theory; in particular, it cannot establish utilitarianism. Rather, Parfit's aim must have been simply to weaken our attachment to non-utilitarian theories. In discovering that the only philosophically respectable view of personal identity holds it to consist simply in bodily or psychological continuities and connections, we come to see that the distinctness (...) of persons is a less deep fact than we naively supposed that it was. And this weakens the attraction of moral theories which take the distinctness of persons as fundamental and reject utilitarianism on that account. Scheffler points out that Parfit's argument cannot establish, nor can it be extended to establish, anything stronger than this. For the complex view can only rule out nonutilitarian theories if it simply denies that in any sense persons exist over time. But this view rules out not only non-utilitarian moral theories, but every moral theory. (shrink)
George Terzis makes several objections to claims and arguments I advanced in Impartial Reason. I cannot take them all up, but I would like to respond to some, which I shall group into three: whether reasons depend on norms applying to all rational agents; how the unity of agency relates to such norms; and the self-support condition. Since the objections concerning cut most deeply against the central thesis of Impartial Reason, I shall begin with them. Before I do that, however, (...) I should make some preliminary remarks.Impartial Reason offers an internalist theory of reasons, but one that is, I believe, more sensitive to the normative character of reasons than internalist theories usually are.1 A theory of reasons is internalist if it holds that something's being a reason depends somehow on its capacity to affect motivation. Unlike internalist theories that identify reasons with de facto motives, however, IR insists on the normative character of reasons as tending to justify conduct as rational. It does this by holding that a reason to act is something which motivates when appropriately considered. The normative or justificatory weight of reasons, then, is held to derive from a normative ideal of rational consideration. Reasons inherit as justificatory weight the motivational force they would come to have in an ideally rational process of practical reflection. (shrink)
At least since Descartes's Meditations philosophers in the West have been concerned to defend the rationality of our beliefs from the threat of epistemological skepticism. The idea that there might be nothing which we know, or more radically, which we have even the slightest reason to believe, is one that many philosophers have thought to be deserving of serious attention. It seems somewhat odd, therefore, that there has not been similar attention given to what one might call practical skepticism. Is (...) it not also possible that there is nothing which we have even the slightest reason to do? Of course, there is a sense in which epistemological skepticism might be thought to be the more basic problem. If there is nothing which we have any reason to believe, then it will follow that there is nothing which we have any reason to do. If some proposition is a reason that we have for doing something it must at least be the case that we have some reason to believe that proposition. But is practical skepticism merely a species of epistemological skepticism? I doubt it. (shrink)