“This is a delightful and engaging little book. With its bite-size chapters, lively exposition, and important subject matter, this is the kind of book that can spark an interest in philosophy among those unfamiliar with it. But its appeal is not limited to neophytes; it poses significant new challenges to moral theory that even hardened professional philosophers will find stimulating and provocative”.
Tolstoy's The Death of Ivan Ilyich describes how a man's exposure to imminent death allows him to secure redemption from a flawed life. Through close textual attention to Tolstoy's novella and extensive engagement with Frances Kamm's treatment of it, this article quarrels with this of Ivan's case, offering a sourer, more pessimistic view. It is argued that Ivan's reconciliation to death is facilitated by a series of mistakes he makes en route to his dying moments. Two more general lessons are (...) drawn: first, that we are all vulnerable to the mistakes Ivan makes, and second, that reflection on the quality of our lives does not present us with any obvious resources for coming to terms with our own deaths. (shrink)
According to Saul Smilansky's ‘Paradox of Beneficial Retirement’, many serving members of professions may have decisive integrity-based reasons for retiring immediately. The Paradox of Beneficial Retirement holds that a below-par performance in one's job does not require any outright incompetence, but may take a purely relational form, in which a good performance is not good enough if it would be improved upon by someone else who would be appointed instead. It is argued, in response, that jobs in the sectors Smilansky (...) mentions are not merely positions to optimize the goals of the profession, but are professional careers in which there is the possibility of security and personal fulfilment. The article also explores connections between Smilansky's argument and G. A. Cohen's anti-incentives argument against Rawls. It is suggested that both thinkers underappreciate the relationship between personal reasons and institutional reasons. (shrink)
Scalar utilitarianism, a form of utilitarianism advocated by Alastair Norcross, retains utilitarianism's evaluative commitments while dispensing with utilitarianism's deontic commitments, or its commitment to the existence or significance of moral duties, obligations and requirements. This article disputes the effectiveness of the arguments that have been used to defend scalar utilitarianism. It is contended that Norcross's central does not succeed, and it is suggested, more positively, that utilitarians cannot easily distance themselves from deontic assessment, just as long as scalar utilitarians admit (...) that utilitarian evaluation generates normative reasons for action. (shrink)
Luck, Value, and Commitment comprises eleven new essays which engage with, or take their point of departure from, the influential work in moral and political philosophy of Bernard Williams (1929-2003).
Republican liberty, as recently defended by Philip Pettit and Quentin Skinner, characterises liberty in terms of the absence of domination, instead of, or in addition to, the absence of interference, as favoured by Berlin-style negative liberty. This article considers several claims made on behalf of republican liberty, particularly in Pettit's and Skinner's recent writings, and finds them wanting. No relevant moral or political concern expressed by republicans, it will be contended here, fails to be accommodated by negative liberty.
The ‘Responsibility Objection’ to Judith Thomson's famous argument for the permissibility of abortion challenges the relevance of her ‘Violinist Analogy’ to certain types of voluntary unwanted pregnancy, on the grounds that those pregnancies, even though they may be unwanted, are pregnancies for which the woman can be plausibly held responsible. This article considers the force of a number of recent objections to the Responsibility Objection, advanced by Harry Silverstein, David Boonin, and Jeff McMahan, and judges them to be unpersuasive. It (...) is concluded that, in the absence of further considerations, the Responsibility Objection carries force. (shrink)
John Taurek famously argued that, in ‘conflict cases’, where we are confronted with a smaller and a larger group of individuals, and can choose which group to save from harm, we should toss a coin, rather than saving the larger group. This is primarily because coin-tossing is fairer: it ensures that each individual, regardless of the group to which he or she belongs, has an equal chance of being saved. This article provides a new response to Taurek’s argument. It proposes (...) that there are two possible types of unfairness that have to be avoided in conflict cases, as far as possible: ‘selection unfairness’, which is the unfairness of not giving individuals an equal chance of being saved; and ‘outcome unfairness’, which is the unfairness of not actually saving them, when others are saved. Since saving the greater number generates less outcome unfa-irness than coin-tossing, it is argued that, in many conflict cases, fairness demands that we save the greater number. (shrink)
Act-utilitarianism comes in two standard varieties: subjective act-utilitarianism, which tells agents to attempt to maximize utility directly, and objective act-utilitarianism, which permits agents to use non-utilitarian decision-making procedures. This article argues that objective actutilitarianism is exposed to a dilemma. On one horn of it is the contention that objective act-utilitarianism makes inconsistent claims about the rightness of acts. On the other horn of it is the contention that objective act-utilitarianism collapses back into what is, essentially, subjective act-utilitarianism. Three objective act-utilitarian (...) responses to this dilemma are explored and rejected. The recommended conclusion is that a consistent utilitarian must either embrace subjective act-utilitarianism, or abandon act-utilitarianism altogether. Key Words: act-utilitarianism subjective objective decision-making procedure criterion of rightness dilemma. (shrink)