(2013). Introduction: Methodology, systemic risk, and the economics profession. Journal of Economic Methodology: Vol. 20, Methodology, Systemic Risk, and the Economics Profession, pp. 1-5. doi: 10.1080/1350178X.2013.774842.
We sometimes decide what to do by applying moral principles to cases, but this is harder than it looks. Principles are more general than cases, and sometimes it is hard to tell whether and how a principle applies to a given case. Sometimes two conflicting principles seem to apply to the same case. To handle these problems, we use a kind of judgment to ascertain whether and how a principle applies to a given case, or which principle to follow when (...) two principles seem to conflict. But what do we discern when we make such judgments—that is, what makes such judgments correct? The obvious answer is that they are made correct by whatever makes other moral judgments correct. However, that cannot be right, for a principle can be inconsistent with morality yet still apply in a particular way to a given case. If the principle is inconsistent with morality, then morality cannot be what we discern when we judge whether and how that principle applies to a given case. I offer an alternative account of what makes such judgments correct. (shrink)
Some moral disagreements are so persistent that we suspect they are deep: we would disagree even when we have all relevant information and no one makes any mistakes (this is also known as faultless disagreement). The possibility of deep disagreement is thought to drive cognitivists toward relativism, but most cognitivists reject relativism. There is an alternative. According to divergentism, cognitivists can reject relativism while allowing for deep disagreement. This view has rarely been defended at length, but many philosophers have implicitly (...) endorsed its elements. I will defend it. (shrink)
Moral and legal judgments sometimes depend on personal traits in this sense: the subject offers good reasons for her judgment, but if she had a different social or ideological background, her judgment would be different. If you would judge the constitutionality of restrictions on abortion differently if you were not a secular liberal, is your judgment really based on the arguments you find convincing, or do you find them so only because you are a secular liberal? I argue that a (...) judgment can be based on the considerations the subject claims as justification even when it depends on personal traits. (shrink)
J.G.A. Pocock has been a dominant force in the history of political thought since his first major work, The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law, was published in 1957. This article is focused on the contribution he has made to the study of the revolutions of seventeenth-century England and the extraordinary body of political discourse to which they gave rise. It begins with an examination of the ways in which ideas about continuity, innovation, institutions and historiography have shaped his approach (...) to the history of political thought and their application to seventeenth-century conditions. Central to a fundamental continuity in his ideas over the last five decades have been notions about the interface of 'paradigms' with both language and socio-political circumstance in the construction and deconstruction of both historiographies and political theories. The article then offers a critical assessment of his contribution to our understanding of the English Revolution. (shrink)
For now, the best way to select a child's genes is to select a potential child who has those genes, using genetic testing and either selective abortion, sperm and egg donors, or selecting embryos for implantation. Some people even wish to select against genes that are only mildly undesirable, or to select for superior genes. I call this selection drift– the standard for acceptable children is creeping upwards. The President's Council on Bioethics and others have raised the parental <span class='Hi'>love</span> (...) objection: Just as we should <span class='Hi'>love</span> existing children unconditionally, so we should unconditionally accept whatever child we get in the natural course of things. If we set conditions on which child we get, we are setting conditions on our <span class='Hi'>love</span> for whatever child we get. Although this objection was prompted by selection drift, it also seems to cover selecting against genes for severe impairments. I argue that selection drift is not inconsistent with the ideal of unconditional parental <span class='Hi'>love</span> and, moreover, that the latter actually implies that we should practise selection drift – in other words, we should try to select potential children with the best genetic endowments. My endowment argument for the second claim works from an analogy between arranging an endowment prior to conception to fund a future child's education, and arranging a genetic endowment by selecting a potential child who already has it, where in both cases the child would not have existed without the endowment. I conclude with some programmatic remarks about the nonidentity problem. (shrink)
The worst possible way to resolve this issue is to leave it up to individual choice. There is no known social good coming from the conquest of death (Bailey, 1999). - Daniel Callahan Dramatically extending the human lifespan seems increasingly possible. Many bioethicists object that life-extension will have Malthusian consequences as new Methuselahs accumulate, generation by generation. I argue for a Life-Years Response to the Malthusian Objection. If even a minority of each generation chooses life-extension, denying it to them deprives (...) them of many years of extra life, and their total extra life-years are likely to exceed the total life-years of a majority who do not want life-extension. This is a greater harm to those who want extended life than the Malthusian harms to those who refuse extended life, both because losing an extra year of life is worse than enduring a year of Malthusian conditions, and because the would-be Methuselahs have more life-years at stake. Therefore, even if life-extension seems likely to cause severe overcrowding and resource shortages, that threat is not sufficient to justify society in restricting the development or availability of life-extension. (shrink)
Patients sometimes request procedures their doctors find morally objectionable. Do doctors have a right of conscientious refusal? I argue that conscientious refusal is justified only if the doctor's refusal does not make the patient worse off than she would have been had she gone to another doctor in the first place. From this approach I derive conclusions about the duty to refer and facilitate transfer, whether doctors may provide 'moral counseling,' whether doctors are obligated to provide objectionable procedures when no (...) other doctor is available, why the moral consensus among doctors seems relevant even though it does not determine whether something is morally acceptable, and whether doctors should stay out of fields whose standard procedures they find morally unacceptable. (shrink)
Honoring a living will typically involves treating an incompetent patient in accord with preferences she once had, but whose objects she can no longer understand. How do we respect her precedent autonomy by giving her what she used to want? There is a similar problem with subsequent consent: How can we justify interfering with someone''s autonomy on the grounds that she will later consent to the interference, if she refuses now?Both problems arise on the assumption that, to respect someone''s autonomy, (...) any preferences we respect must be among that person''s current preferences. I argue that this is not always true. Just as we can celebrate an event long after it happens, so can we respect someone''s wishes long before or after she has that wish. In the contexts of precedent autonomy and subsequent consent, the wishes are often preferences about which of two other, conflicting preferences to satisfy. When someone has two conflicting preferences, and a third preference on how to resolve that conflict, to respect his autonomy we must respect that third preference. People with declining competence may have a resolution preference earlier, favoring the earlier conflicting preference (precedent autonomy), whereas those with rising competence may have it later, favoring the later conflicting preference (subsequent consent). To respect autonomy in such cases we must respect not a current, but a former or later preference. (shrink)
Life-extension was the focus for the 10th annual Congress of the International Association of Biomedical Gerontology, held last September at Cambridge University. This scientific convention included a panel of several bioethicists, including Art Caplan, John Harris, and others. The presentations on the ethics of life-extension are reviewed here.