In his article 'Specifying, balancing and interpreting bioethical principles' (Richardson, 2000), Henry Richardson claims that the two dominant theories in bioethics - principlism, put forward by Beauchamp and Childress in Principles of Bioethics , and common morality, put forward by Gert, Culver and Clouser in Bioethics: A Return to Fundamentals - are deficient because they employ balancing rather than specification to resolve disputes between principles or rules. We show that, contrary to Richardson's claim, the major problem with principlism, either (...) the original version, or the specified principlism of Richardson, is that it conceives of morality as being composed of free-standing principles, rather than as common morality conceives it, as being a complete public system, composed of rules, ideals, morally relevant features, and a procedure for determining when a rule can be justifiably violated. (shrink)
Moral problems do not always come in the form of great social controversies. More often, the moral decisions we make are made quietly, constantly, and within the context of everyday activities and quotidian dilemmas. Indeed, these smaller decisions are based on a moral foundation that few of us ever stop to think about but which guides our every action. Here distinguished philosopher Bernard Gert presents a clear and concise introduction to what he calls "common morality" -- the moral system (...) that most thoughtful people implicitly use when making everyday, common sense moral decisions and judgments. Common Morality is useful in that -- while not resolving every disagreement on controversial issues -- it is able to distinguish between acceptable and unacceptable answers to moral problems. In the first part of the book Gert lays out the fundamental features of common morality: moral rules, moral ideals, and a two-step procedure for determining when a violation of a moral rule is justified. Written in a non-technical style, the ten general moral rules include rules on which everyone can agree, such as "do not kill," "do not deceive," and "keep your promises." The moral ideals include similarly uncontroversial precepts such as "Relieve pain" and "Aid the needy." In the second part of the book Gert examines the underlying concepts that justify common morality, such as the notions of rationality and impartiality. The distillation of over 40 years of scholarship, this book is the most accessible version of Gert's influential theory of morality as well as an eye-opening look at the moral foundations of our everyday actions. Throughout the discussion is clear enough for a reader with little or no philosophy background. (shrink)
This book offers the fullest and most sophisticated account of Gert's influential moral theory, a model first articulated in the classic work The Moral Rules: A New Rational Foundation for Morality, published in 1970. In this final revision, Gert makes clear that the moral rules are only one part of an informal system that does not provide unique answers to every moral question but does always provide a range of morally acceptable options. A new chapter on reasons includes (...) an account of what makes one reason better than another and a second new chapter is devoted to the question of justifying violations of the rules. Moral impartiality, the moral ideals, and virtue and vice, are all treated in greater detail. Throughout, Gert attempts to answer all of the challenges that his work has provoked. (shrink)
Joshua Gert presents a new account of normative practical reasons and the way in which they contribute to the rationality of action. He argues that, rather than simply "counting in favor of" action, normative reasons play two logically distinct roles--that of requiring action and that of justifying action. Gert's book will appeal to a range of readers interested in practical reasoning in particular, and moral theory more generally.
An updated and expanded successor to Culver and Gert's Philosophy in Medicine, this book integrates moral philosophy with clinical medicine to present a comprehensive summary of the theory, concepts, and lines of reasoning underlying the ...
This volume is a revised, enlarged, and broadened version of Gert's classic 1970 book, The Moral Rules. Advocating an approach he terms "morality as impartial rationality," Gert here presents a full discussion of his moral theory, adding a wealth of new illuminating detail to his analysis of the concepts--rationality/irrationality, good/evil, and impartiality--by which he defines morality. He constructs a "moral system" that includes rules prohibiting the kinds of actions that cause evil, procedures for determining when violation of the (...) rules is permitted, and ideals which encourage actions that prevent or relieve suffering. To be valid, Gert argues, any such system must be "a public system that applies to all rational persons." The book concludes with a discussion of medical ethics, demonstrating the link between moral theory and its application to real moral problems. (shrink)
Hobbes has served for both philosophers and political scientists as the paradigm case of someone who held an egoistic view of human nature. In this article I shall attempt to show that the almost unanimous view that Hobbes held psychological egoism is mistaken, and further that Hobbes's political theory does not demand an egoistic psychology, but on the contrary is incompatible with psychological egoism. I do not maintain that Hobbes was completely consistent; in fact, I shall show that there was (...) a continuous development in Hobbes's works away from an egoistic psychology. But I do think that the main outlines of Hobbes's political theory, i.e., his account of the laws of nature, the right of nature, the obligations imposed by laws and covenants, and the rights and duties of citizen and sovereign, are essentially the same in The Elements of Law, De Cive, and Leviathan. I thus hold that even in his earliest work, The Elements, the only one where a charge of egoism is justifiable, the political theory does not depend on egoism. But the first and most important point to be established is that Hobbes did not hold an egoistic psychology. (shrink)
I use the example of abortion to show that there are some unresolvable moral disagreements. I list four sources of unresolvable moral disagreement: 1) differences in the rankings of the basic evils of death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, and loss of pleasure, 2) differences in the interpretation of moral rules, 3) ideological differences in the view of human nature and human societies, and 4) differences concerning who is impartially protected by the moral rules. It is this last difference that (...) is the source of unresolvable disagreement concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I examine the views of Don Marquis and Mary Ann Warren who present opposing arguments concerning the moral acceptability of abortion. I show that their failure to take account of this last difference leads to flaws in their arguments that show that neither has been successful in showing that their position is the uniquely correct one. (shrink)
The authors use the term "principlism" to refer to the practice of using "principles" to replace both moral theory and particular moral rules and ideals in dealing with the moral problems that arise in medical practice. The authors argue that these "principles" do not function as claimed, and that their use is misleading both practically and theoretically. The "principles" are in fact not guides to action, but rather they are merely names for a collection of sometimes superficially related matters for (...) consideration when dealing with a moral problem. The "principles" lack any systematic relationship to each other, and they often conflict with each other. These conflicts are unresolvable, since there is no unified moral theory from which they are all derived. For comparison the authors sketch the advantages of using a unified moral theory. Keywords: bioethical principles, medical ethics, moral theory, principlism CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Terry Horgan and Mark Timmons have recently presented a series of papers in which they argue against what has come to be called the ‘new wave’ moral realism and moral semantics of David Brink, Richard Boyd, Peter Railton, and a number of other philosophers. The central idea behind Horgan and Timmons’s criticism of these ‘new wave’ theories has been extended by Sean Holland to include the sort of realism that drops out of response-dependent accounts that make use of an analogy (...) between moral properties and secondary qualities. This paper argues that Holland’s extension depends crucially on the fact that his target is a direct response-dependent account of moral value. His argument does not work against such accounts of more basic normative notions such as ‘harm’ or ‘benefit’. And these more basic notions may then serve as the basic normative building blocks for an indirectly response-dependent moral theory. (shrink)
Although it goes against a widespread significant misunderstanding of his view, Michael Smith is one of the very few moral philosophers who explicitly wants to allow for the commonsense claim that, while morally required action is always favored by some reason, selfish and immoral action can also be rationally permissible. One point of this paper is to make it clear that this is indeed Smith’s view. It is a further point to show that his way of accommodating this claim is (...) inconsistent with his well-known “practicality requirement” on moral judgments: the thesis that any rational person will always have at least some motivation to do what she judges to be right. The general conclusion is that no view that, like Smith’s, associates the normative strength of a reason with the motivational strength of an ideal desire will allow for the wide range of rational permissibility that Smith wants to capture. (shrink)
Abstract: This article explains and motivates an account of one way in which we might have substantive a priori knowledge in one important class of domains: domains in which the central concepts are response-dependent. The central example will be our knowledge of the connection between something's being harmful and the fact that it is irrational for us to fail to be averse to that thing. The idea is that although the relevant responses (basic aversion in the case of harm, and (...) a kind of interpretive failure in the case of irrationality) are produced by independent psychological mechanisms, they have distal causes that turn out to be related in ways that—once language enters the picture—yield epistemically accessible necessary connections between the referents of their corresponding terms. (shrink)
Jason Stanley has criticized a contextualist solution to the sorites paradox that treats vagueness as a kind of indexicality. His objection rests on a feature of indexicals that seems plausible: that their reference remains fixed in verb phrase ellipsis. But the force of Stanley’s criticism depends on the undefended assumption that vague terms, if they are a special sort of indexical, must function in the same way that more paradigmatic indexicals do. This paper argues that there can be more than (...) one sort of indexicality, that one term might easily have both sorts, and that therefore, and despite Stanley’s worries, vagueness might easily be assimilated to one form. (shrink)
Whether or not one endorses realism about colour, it is very tempting to regard realism about determinable colours such as green and yellow as standing or falling together with realism about determinate colours such as unique green or green31. Indeed some of the most prominent representatives of both sides of the colour realism debate explicitly endorse the idea that these two kinds of realism are so linked. Against such theorists, the present paper argues that one can be a realist about (...) the determinable colours of objects, and thus hold that most of the colour ascriptions made by competent speakers are literally true, while denying that there are any positive facts of the matter as to the determinate colours of objects. The result is a realistic colour realism that can certify most of our everyday colour ascriptions as literally correct, while acknowledging the data regarding individual variation. (shrink)
Abstract: The point of this paper is to undermine the support that particularism in the domain of epistemic reasons might seem to give to particularism in the domain of practical reasons. In the epistemic domain, there are two related notions: truth and the rationality of belief. Epistemic reasons are related to the rationality of belief, and not directly to truth. In the domain of practical reasons, however, the role of truth is taken by the notion of objective rationality. Practical reasons (...) are directly relevant to this objective notion, and therefore the reasons to expect holism and particularism in the epistemic domain do not transfer to the domain of practical rationality. (shrink)
This article explains and defends the existence of value constancy, understood on the model of color constancy. Color constancy involves a phenomenal distinction between the transient color appearances of objects and the unchanging colors that those objects appear to have. The existence of value constancy allows advocates of response-dependent accounts of value to reject the question “What is the uniquely appropriate attitude to have toward this evaluative property?” as containing a false uniqueness assumption. Rejecting this assumption allows response-dependent accounts of (...) value to deflect or answer a host of popular objections. (shrink)
Many contemporary accounts of normative reasons for action accord a single strength value to normative reasons. This paper first uses some examples to argue against such views by showing that they seem to commit us to intransitive or counterintuitive claims about the rough equivalence of the strengths of certain reasons. The paper then explains and defends an alternate account according to which normative reasons for action have two separable dimensions of strength: requiring strength, and justifying strength. Such an account explains (...) our intuitions in the cases that make trouble for single-value views. The justifying/requiring account is compared with two other solutions that have been offered to justify and explain our intuitions about these sorts of cases. These other solutions appeal to the notions of incommensurability of reasons, and to second-order normative entities called `exclusionary permissions'. It is argued that the justifying/requiring distinction provides a superior solution. (shrink)
This article attempts to do two things. The first is to make it plausible that any adequate dispositional view of color will have to associate colors with complex functions from a wide range of normal circumstances to a wide range of (simultaneously) incompatible color appearances, so that there will be no uniquely veridical appearance of any given color. The second is to show that once this move is made, dispositionalism is in a position to provide interesting answers to some of (...) the most challenging objections that have been pressed against it. It explains why colors do not seem to come on when the lights come on, and why the right thing to say seems to be that the light causes the objects to reveal their colors. It explains why the content of visual experience need not be problematically circular. It eliminates the problem of intrapersonal variation in color appearance. And it even provides resources for dealing with the problem of interpersonal variation. It is true that in moving to the more complex view, the dispositionalist becomes subject to a new objection, which has been called the problem of unity. The paper offers a solution to this problem as well. (shrink)
In The Sources of Normativity, Christine Korsgaard presents and defends a neo-Kantian theory of normativity. Her initial account of reasons seems to make them dependent upon the practical identity of the agent, and upon the value the agent must place on her own humanity. This seems to make all reasons agent-relative. But Korsgaard claims that arguments similar to Wittgenstein's private-language argument can show that reasons are in fact essentially agent-neutral. This paper explains both of Korsgaard's Wittgensteinian arguments, and shows why (...) neither of them work. The paper also provides a brief sketch of a different Wittgensteinian account of reasons that distinguishes the normative role of justification from that of requirement. On this account, the real agent-neutrality of reasons applies to their justificatory role, but not to their requiring role. (shrink)
One strategy for providing an analysis of practical rationality is to start with the notion of a practical reason as primitive. Then it will be quite tempting to think that the rationality of an action can be defined rather simply in terms of ‘the balance of reasons’. But just as, for many philosophical purposes, it is extremely useful to identify the meaning of a word in terms of the systematic contribution the word makes to the meanings of whole sentences, this (...) paper argues that it is extremely useful to explain the nature of practical reasons in terms of the systematic contributions that such reasons make to the wholesale rational statuses of actions. This strategy gives us a clear view of two logically distinct normative roles for practical reasons – justifying and requiring – that are often conflated, and it allows us to give clear definitions of what ‘the strength of a reason’ means within each of these roles. The final section of the paper explores some implications of the resulting view for the internalism/externalism debate about practical reasons, and for the practical significance of moral theory. (shrink)
In §66 ofPhilosophical Investigations Wittgenstein looks for something common to various games and finds only an interconnecting network of resemblances. These are family resemblances. Sympathetic as well as unsympathetic readers have interpreted him as claiming that games form a family in virtue of these resemblances. This assumes Wittgenstein inverted the relation between being a member of a family and bearing family resemblances to others of that family. (The Churchills bear family resemblances to one another because they belong to the same (...) family, they don't belong to the same family because they resemble one another.) A close reading ofInvestigations gives no evidence that Wittgenstein made this mistake. Rather, family resemblances may play a role like the one criteria play for psychological terms. They give excellent but fallible evidence for membership in the extensions of some terms. (shrink)
This article shows how common morality can be helpful in clarifying the discussion of ethical issues that arise in computing. Since common morality does not always provide unique answers to moral questions, not all such issues can be resolved, however common morality does provide a clear answer to the question whether one can illegally copy software for a friend.
Alan Goldman’s Reasons from Within is one of the most thorough recent defenses of what might be called ‘orthodox internalism’ about practical reasons. Goldman’s main target is an opposing view that includes a commitment to the following two theses: (O) that there are such things as objective values, and (E) that these values give rise to external reasons. One version of this view, which we can call ‘orthodox externalism’, also includes a commitment to the thesis (I) that rational people will (...) be motivated by any reason they have of which they are aware. Goldman himself embraces (I), and deploys it frequently in his criticisms of orthodox externalism. But there is logical space for an externalist view that includes a commitment to (O) and (E), but that denies (I). The resulting “hyperexternalist” view holds that some reasons need not motivate us, even if we are rational. In this paper I argue that Goldman’s criticisms of orthodox externalism leave hyperexternalism untouched, and that his specific criticisms of my own version of hyperexternalism do not work. In light of Goldman’s criticisms of orthodox externalism and my own criticisms of Goldman’s view, hyperexternalism emerges as the favored option. (shrink)
The distinction between moral rules and moral ideals is presented and explained in various ways. The authors propose that people in business are required to obey the moral rules and have a choice with respect to ideals. Thus, they are not in a different position from that of anyone else in society.Four case studies are presented and discussed. The analytical approaches used by the authors' students are summarized and evaluated. The moral rules/ideals paradigm is described as helping discussants of the (...) cases to establish congruence between business ethics and their personal set of values. Other values of the classroom discussion of ethics cases are considered. (shrink)
This book is the result of over 30 years of collaboration among its authors. It uses the systematic account of our common morality developed by one of its authors to provide a useful foundation for dealing with the moral problems and disputes that occur in the practice of medicine. The analyses of impartiality, rationality, and of morality as a public system not only explain why some bioethical questions, such as the moral acceptability of abortion, cannot be resolved, but also provide (...) a method for determining the correct answer for those occasions when a bioethical question has a unique correct answer. This new edition includes an entire chapter that has been added to address the controversial issue of abortion within the authors' distinct framework. This book presents the latest revisions of the authors' orignial analyses of the concepts of death and disease, analyses that have had a significant impact on the field of bioethics. It also includes an added chapter on mental disorders, where the authors' definition influenced what psychiatry classifies as a mental disorder, and so has had an impact that reveals beyond the field of bioethics. In this edition, the authors also offer a new, more developed perspective on the concept of valid or informed consent by considering what information physicians should be required to know before proposing screening, diagnostic testing, prescribing medications, or performing surgery. The book also integrates some of the important insights of the field of clinical epidemiology into its discussion of valid consent. Its account of paternalism and its justification, perhaps the most ubiquitous moral problem in medical ethics, has had considerable influence. Its discussion of euthanasia and physician assisted suicide challenges the standard views that have been put forward by both proponents and opponents of physician assisted suicide and voluntary active euthanasia. (shrink)
This paper offers one formal reason why it may often be inappropriate to hold, of two conflicting desires, that the first must be weaker than, stronger than, or of the same strength as the second. The explanation of this fact does not rely on vagueness or epistemological problems in determining the strengths of desires. Nor does it make use of the problematic notion of incommensurability. Rather, the suggestion is that the motivational capacities of many desires might best be characterized by (...) two values, neither of which should be interpreted as strength. (shrink)
In her later writings Jean Hampton develops an expressive theory of punishment she takes to be retributivist. Unlike Feinberg, Hampton claims wrongdoings as well as punishments are expressive. Wrongdoings assert that the victim is less valuable than victimizer. On her view we are obligated to punish because we are obligated to respond to this false assertion. Punishment expresses the moral truth that victim and wrongdoer are equally valuable. We argue that Hampton's argument would work only if she held that exerting (...) power over another provides evidence (albeit defeasible) of one's greater value. This is clearly a premise that neither she nor her readers are likely to accept. (shrink)
In §50 of Philosophical Investigations Wittgenstein wrote the sentence, "There is one thing of which one can say neither that it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris." Although some interpreters have claimed that Wittgenstein's statement is mistaken, while others have proposed various explanations showing that this must be correct, none have questioned the fact that he intended to assert that it is impossible to describe the standard (...) meter as being a meter long. Given that Wittgenstein introduces this sentence as analogous to the claim that "existence cannot be attributed to an element," and that the preceding passages discuss a language-game the simples of which can be described by their own names, there is good reason to think that Wittgenstein did not intend to assert this infamous sentence. (shrink)
Over-simple internalist accounts of practical reasons imply that we cannot have reasons to become more rational, because they claim that we have a reason to φ only if we would have some desire to φ if we were fully rational. But if we were fully rational, we would have no desire to become more rational. Robert Johnson has recently argued that in their attempts to avoid this problem, existing versions of internalism yield reasons which do not have an appropriate connection (...) with potential explanations of action. I suggest that the problem is partly a result of failure to see that action-tokens are usually tokens of a wide variety of action-types, and that the internalist conditional need only be true of one of these types in order to justify a reason claim about the token. (shrink)
Recombinant DNA technology will soon allow physicians an opportunity to carry out both somatic cell- and Germ-Line gene therapy. While somatic cell gene therapy raises no new ethical problems, gene therapy of gametes, fertilized eggs or early embryos does raise several novel concerns. The first issue discussed here relates to making a distinction between negative and positive eugenics; the second issue deals with the evolutionary consequences of lost genetic diversity. In distinguishing between positive and negative eugenics, the concept of malady (...) is applied as a definitional criterion for identifying genetic disorders that could qualify for Germ-Line therapy. Because gene replacement techniques are currently unavailable for humans, and because even if they were possible the number of people involved would be quite small, the loss of diversity concern seems moot. Finally, we dissuss the issue of iatrogenic disorders associated with gene therapy and discuss several ‘real world considerations.’ Keywords: Germ-Line therapy, malady, slippery slope CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Julia Markovits has recently argued for what she calls the ‘Coincident Reasons Thesis’: the thesis that one’s action is morally worthy if and only if one’s motivating reasons for acting mirror, in content and strength, the reasons that explain why the action ought, morally, to be performed. This thesis assumes that the structure of motivating reasons is sufficiently similar to the structure of normative reasons that the required coincidence in content and strength is a genuine possibility. But because motivating reasons (...) have only one dimension of strength, while normative reasons have both justifying and requiring strength, one’s motivating reasons can no more coincide with the normative reasons of relevance to one’s action than a line can coincide with a square, or a square with a cube. It is possible to amend the Coincident Reasons Thesis so that it concerns only one dimension of normative strength: for example, requiring strength. But such an amended thesis yields implausible verdicts. In particular it requires us either to deny the existence of supererogatory action, or—still less plausibly—to hold that such action has less moral worth than does doing the morally required minimum. (shrink)
Exploring informal components of clinical reasoning, we argue that they need to be understood via the analysis of professional wisdom. Wise decisions are needed where action or insight is vital, but neither everyday nor expert knowledge provides solutions. Wisdom combines experiential, intellectual, ethical, emotional and practical capacities; we contend that it is also more strongly social than is usually appreciated. But many accounts of reasoning specifically rule out such features as irrational. Seeking to illuminate how wisdom operates, we therefore build (...) on Aristotle’s work on informal reasoning. His account of rhetorical communication shows how non-formal components can play active parts in reasoning, retaining, or even enhancing its reasonableness. We extend this account, applying it to forms of healthcare-related reasoning which are characterised by the need for wise decision-making. We then go on to explore some of what clinical wise reasoning may mean, concluding with a case taken from psychotherapeutic practice. (shrink)
Coercion is commonly said to invalidate consent, and that is always true if the source of the coercion is the physician. However, if it is a family member who coerces the patient to consent, the resultant consent may be quite valid and treatment should proceed.
: Carson Strong criticizes the application of my moral theory to bioethics cases. Some of his criticisms are due to my failure to make explicit that both the irrationality or rationality of a decision and the irrationality or rationality of the ranking of evils are part of morally relevant feature 3. Other criticisms are the result of his not using the two-step procedure in a sufficiently rigorous way. His claim that I come up with a wrong answer depends upon his (...) incorrectly regarding a weakly justified violation as one that all impartial rational persons would agree was permitted, rather than as one about which rational persons disagree. (shrink)
In “ A Light Theory of Color”, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and David Sparrow argue that color is neither a primary quality of objects, nor a disposition that objects have, nor a property of our visual fields. Rather, according to the view they present, color is a property of light. The present paper aims to show, first, that the light theory is vulnerable to many of the very same objections that Sinnott-Armstrong and Sparrow raise against rival views. Second, the paper argues that (...) the strategies that Sinnott-Armstrong and Sparrow use to avoid certain objections are also available to proponents of rival accounts. This might only seem to show that the light theory is in the same shaky boat as other theories: suffering from the same problems but having the same tools for solving them. The paper concludes with a suggestion as to why this is not the case, but why the existence of the light theory is nevertheless likely to bring increased clarity to the debate about color realism. (shrink)
: Carson Strong's reply to my response to his article demonstrates what happens when there is unacknowledged disagreement about the facts of a case or about the meaning of the terms used to describe those facts. I hope that our dialogue will help reduce this disagreement.
The DSM-III-R definition of mental disorder is inconsistent with the DSM-III-R definition of paraphilias. The former requires the suffering or increased risk of suffering some harm while the latter allows that deviance, by itself, is sufficient to classify a behavioral syndrome as a paraphilia. This inconsistency is particularly clear when examining the DSM-III-R account of a specific paraphilia, Transvestic Fetishism. The author defends the DSM-III-R definition of mental disorder and argues that the DSM-III-R definition of paraphilias should be changed. He (...) recommends that the diagnostic criteria for specific paraphilias, particularly that for Transvestic Fetishism, be changed to make them consistent with the DSM-III-R definition of mental disorder. Keywords: diagnoses, disease, paraphilia, philosophy, psychiatry CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)