Warren Quinn was widely regarded as a moral philosopher of remarkable talent. This collection of his most important contributions to moral philosophy and the philosophy of action has been edited for publication by Philippa Foot. Quinn laid out the foundations for an anti-utilitarian moral philosophy that was critical of much contemporary work in ethics, such as the anti-realism of Gilbert Harman and the neo-subjectivism of Bernard Williams. Quinn's own distinctive moral theory is developed in the discussion of substantial, practical moral (...) issues. For example, there are important pieces here on the permissibility of abortion, the justification of punishing criminals when no particular good seems likely to result, and on the distinction between killing and allowing to die, a distinction crucial to the subject of euthanasia and other topics in medical ethics. The volume would be ideally suited to upper-level undergraduate courses and graduate seminars on the foundations of ethics. (shrink)
Philippa Foot is one of the most original and widely respected philosophers of our time; her work has exerted a lasting influence on the development of moral philosophy. In tribute to her, twelve leading philosophers from both sides of the Atlantic have contributed essays exploring the various topics in moral philosophy to which she has made a distinctive contribution--virtue ethics, naturalism, non-cognitivism, relativism, categorical requirements, and the role of rationality in morality.
In this essay I want to look at some questions concerning the relation between morality and rationality in the recommendations they make about the best way to live our lives and achieve our good. Specifically, I want to examine ways in which the virtue of practical rationality and the various moral virtues might be thought to part company, giving an agent conflicting directives regarding how best to live his life. In conducting this enquiry, I shall at some crucial points be (...) presupposing something of an Aristotelian perspective, but only in the most general way. I In what follows, I shall distinguish reason, the faculty or power, from rationality, the excellence or virtue of that faculty. By practical reason I mean that part of reason that tells us what to do and how to live. By practical rationality I mean the excellence of that part of reason in virtue of which an agent is practically rational as opposed to irrational. By a neo-Humean conception of rationality I mean one that makes the goal of practical reason the maximal satisfaction of an agent's desires and preferences, suitably corrected for the effects of misinformation, wishful thinking, and the like. There are various versions of neo-Humean theory, and I shall not here be concerned with their specific differences. Their common essence lies in an appeal to a notion of basic desires or preferences, which are not subject to intrinsic criticism as irrational and are subject to extrinsic criticism only by ways in which their joint satisfaction may not be possible, and to a notion of derived desires or preferences, which are criticizable only instrumentally. (shrink)