In “The Desire Theory of Claim-Rights,” Brian Kierland presents an analysis of the concept of a claim-right according to which one person has a claim-right against another just in case there is a perfect correlation between (1) whether the second person has a duty owed to the first and (2) whether the first wants the second to do the act in question. I respond by suggesting that in certain cases, including a variant of the case of Ulysses and the Sirens, (...) the Desire Theory has seriously counter-intuitive implications. (shrink)
Woody Allen once said that ninety percent of success is just showing up. But success is one thing; morality is another. Consequentialists, especially, may think that the moral quality of one’s conduct depends on the difference one makes. Still, consequentialists may also think that even if one isn’t making a difference, the moral quality of one’s conduct can be affected by whether one is participating (even if only ineffectually, or redundantly) in an endeavor that does make a difference. So consequentialists (...) may think that what matters, morally, is not only making a difference of some kind, but also merely participating in making a difference—the moral equivalent of just showing up. (shrink)
On the first two pages of a book called Bridge Made Easy, one finds the following advice: if you have a balanced hand with 16–18 high-card points and an ace, king, or queen in at least three of the four suits, then your bid should be ‘1 No Trump’. What makes this advice good (assuming that it is) are certain underlying justifying considerations—considerations about balancing the conflicting aims of (1) winning very many points, if one makes one’s bid (which would (...) favor very ambitious bidding) and (2) minimizing the probability of not winning any points at all, because of not making one’s bid (which would favor minimally conservative bidding). Some players give only as much weight to this advice as they do to its underlying justifying considerations: they ‘look through’ the advice to the reasons behind it. Others take the advice more seriously, giving it more weight in their deliberations than they would give simply to the considerations on which it is based. The difference between the players’ two ways of regarding this advice marks the boundary of the central concept in Goldman’s new book. (shrink)
According to G. E. Moore, moral expertise requires abilities of several kinds: the ability to factor judgments of right and wrong into (a) judgments of good and bad and (b) judgments of cause and effect, (2) the ability to use intuition to make the requisite judgments of good and bad, and (3) the ability to use empirical investigation to make the requisite judgments of cause and effect. Moore’s conception of moral expertise is thus extremely demanding, but he supplements it with (...) some very simple practical guidance. (shrink)
Hume famously said that “Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.”2 Let us assume, with Hume, that reason does not, because it cannot, tell a person which ends to pursue. In other words, let us assume that although reason can apprise a person of the availability of various ends and of the costs and benefits likely to attend the pursuit of those ends,3 it cannot judge the desirability of those ends themselves. Assuming all this—assuming, in (...) short, a purely instrumental view of rationality—it is natural to think that at least the following (if only this) can be said on reason’s behalf: the more rational a person’s choice of conduct is, the more will it further her ends, whatever they may be. And from this it is natural to infer that what is fully rational is for a person to choose whatever conduct will further her ends the most. This conception of rationality—the idea that it’s rational for a person to choose whatever conduct will further her ends the most—is as simple as it sounds, and I think it’s no exaggeration to say that it enjoys the status of orthodoxy among rational-choice theorists, game theorists, and other people who traffic in such things. But like any orthodoxy, this one has its heretics, and one of these is David Gauthier. As an alternative to.. (shrink)
Reflective equilibrium is often credited with extending the idea of accounting for the data from its familiar home in the sciences to the realm of moral philosophy. But careful consideration of the main concepts of this idea—the data to be accounted for and the kind of accounting it is appropriate to expect of a moral theory—leads to a revised understanding of the “accounting for the data” perspective as it applies to the discipline of moral theory selection. This revised understanding is (...) in tension with reflective equilibrium and actually provides more support for the alternative method of moral theory selection that has been termed ‘practical equilibrium’. (shrink)
It is often thought that some version of what is generally called the publicity condition is a reasonable requirement to impose on moral theories. In this article, after formulating and distinguishing three versions of the publicity condition, I argue that the arguments typically used to defend them are unsuccessful and, moreover, that even in its most plausible version, the publicity condition ought to be rejected as both question-begging and unreasonably demanding.
The 'Art of Life' is John Stuart Mill's name for his account of practical reason. In this volume, eleven leading scholars elucidate this fundamental, but widely neglected, element of Mill's thought. Mill divides the Art of Life into three 'departments': 'Morality, Prudence or Policy, and Æsthetics'. In the volume's first section, Rex Martin, David Weinstein, Ben Eggleston, and Dale E. Miller investigate the relation between the departments of morality and prudence. Their papers ask whether Mill is a rule utilitarian and, (...) if so, whether his practical philosophy must be incoherent. The second section contains papers by Jonathan Riley and Wendy Donner, who explore the relation between the departments of morality and aesthetics. They discuss issues ranging from supererogation to aesthetic pleasure and humanity's relationship with nature. -/- The papers in the third section consider the Art of Life's axiological first principle, the principle of utility. Elijah Millgram contends that Mill's own life refutes his claim that the Art of Life has a single axiological first principle. Philip Kitcher maintains that Mill has a dynamic axiology requiring us to continually refine our conception of the good. In the final section, three papers address what it means to put the Art of Life into practice. Robert Haraldsson locates an 'Art of Ethics' in On Liberty that is in tension with the Art of Life. Nadia Urbinati plumbs the classical roots of Mill's view of the good life. Finally, Colin Heydt develops Mill's suggestion that we regard our own lives as works of art. (shrink)
Practical equilibrium, like reflective equilibrium, is a way of deciding what to think about morality. It shares with reflective equilibrium the general thesis that there is some way in which a moral theory must, in order to be acceptable, answer to one's moral intuitions, but it differs from reflective equilibrium in its specification of exactly how a moral theory must answer to one's intuitions. Whereas reflective equilibrium focuses on a theory's consistency with those intuitions, practical equilibrium also gives weight to (...) a theory's approval of one's having those intuitions. (shrink)
This chapter addresses the question of what role Mill regards rules as playing in the determination of morally permissible action by drawing on his remarks about instrumentally rational action. First, overviews are provided of consequentialist theories and of the rule-worship or incoherence objection to rule-consequentialist theories. Then a summary is offered of the considerable textual evidence suggesting that Mill’s moral theory is, in fact, a rule-consequentialist one. It is argued, however, that passages in the final chapter of A System of (...) Logic suggest that Mill anticipates and endorses the ruleworship or incoherence objection to rule-consequentialist theories. The chapter concludes by exploring some ways in which this tension in Mill’s thought might be resolved. (shrink)
Just about any proponent of a rule-based theory of morality must eventually confront the question of how to resolve conﬂ icts among the rules that the theory endorses. Is there a priority rule specifying which rules must yield to which, as in Rawls’s lexical ordering of the ﬁ rst principle of his theory of justice over the second?3 Must the agent intuitively bal-.
Consequentialists typically think that the moral quality of one's conduct depends on the difference one makes. But consequentialists may also think that even if one is not making a difference, the moral quality of one's conduct can still be affected by whether one is participating (even if only ineffectually, or redundantly) in an endeavour that does make a difference. Derek Parfit discusses this issue participation in the chapter of Reasons and Persons that he devotes to what he calls . In (...) my paper, I expose an inconsistency in Parfit's discussion of moral mathematics by showing how it gives conflicting answers to the question of whether participation matters. I conclude by showing how an appreciation of Parfit's error sheds some light on consequentialist thought generally, and on the debate between act- and rule-consequentialists specifically. (shrink)
To specify the aspects of Austin’s position that I want to focus on, let me start by reviewing some of the things that Austin says in order to characterize ethical intuitionism. He writes, “I take an ethical intuition to be a type of synthetic a priori insight into the necessary character of reality specifically concerning that which is right and/or good” (p. 205), and he adds that he regards “ethical intuition as a source of foundationally justified belief” (p. 205). He (...) goes on to write that One common objection to EI [ethical intuitionism] is that it involves a mysterious faculty of intuition. The claim is that there is a problem with asserting the existence of a faculty which can directly discern moral properties and/or the truth of moral principles. (p. 205) The implication, clearly, is that there is not a problem with asserting the existence of such a faculty. (shrink)