It is fairly common in metaethical discussions to find authors moving directly from observations about the semantic properties of words like ‘good’, ‘right’, and ‘ought’ to substantive conclusions about the nature of moral judgments, moral reasons, moral properties, or moral concepts. We consider the most promising justifications for this common practice and find them wanting. And we identify a number of obstacles that would need to be overcome by anyone who wished to defend the central role in metaethical inquiry that (...) is currently assigned to semantics. (shrink)
Although theorists disagree about precisely how to characterize the link between anger and moral judgment, that they are linked is routinely taken for granted in contemporary metaethics and philosophy of emotion. One problem with this assumption is that it ignores virtues like patience, which thinkers as different as Cassian, ??ntideva, and Maimonides have argued are characteristic of mature moral agents. The patient neither experience nor plan to experience anger in response to (at least some) wrongs. Nevertheless, we argue, they remain (...) capable of judging such actions to be wrong. This indicates that a different account of the relationship between anger and moral judgment is required. We conclude by proposing one such account, showing how a metaethicist who was more attentive to the normative ethics of anger might set about reconstructing her position. (shrink)
Of the many forgiveness-related questions that she takes up in her novels, the one with which Iris Murdoch wrestles most often is the question, “Is forgiveness possible without God?” The aim of this essay is to show, in the first instance, why the question Murdoch persistently raises is a question worth asking. Alongside this primary aim stands a secondary one, which is to consider how one might glean moral insights from the Christian tradition even if one does not (any longer) (...) endorse its theological commitments. (shrink)
If asked to generate a list of virtues, most people would not include meekness. So it is surprising that Hume not only deems it a virtue, but one whose 'tendency to the good of society no one can doubt of.' After explaining what Hume and his contemporaries meant by "meekness", the paper proceeds to argue that meekness is a virtue we, too, should endorse.
This paper outlines what we call a network model of collective emotions. Drawing upon this model, we explore the significance of collective emotions in the Palestine-Israel conflict. We highlight some of the ways in which collective shame, in particular, has contributed to the evolution of this conflict. And we consider some of the obstacles that shame and the pride-restoring narratives to which it gave birth pose to the conflict’s resolution.
Thomas Hurka, Simon Keller, and Julia Annas have recently argued that virtue ethics is self-effacing. I contend that these arguments are rooted in a mistaken understanding of the role that ideal agency and agent flourishing (should) play in virtue ethics. I then show how a virtue ethical theory can avoid the charge of self-effacement and why it is important that it do so.
Philosophical discussions of apologies have focused on apologizing for wrong actions. Such a focus overlooks an important dimension of moral failures, namely, failures of character. However, when one attempts to revise the standard account of apology to make room for failures of character, two objections emerge. The first is rooted in the psychology of shame. The second stems from the purported social function of apologies. This paper responds to these objections and, in so doing, sheds further light both on why (...) we apologize (when we are in the wrong) and on why we accept apologies (when others are). (shrink)
In I Was Wrong, Nick Smith explores a number of factors that contribute to our evaluation of apologies as being better or worse, adequate or inadequate. After discussing some of the strengths of Smith's account, I consider some of its limitations. In particular, I draw attention to a number of qualities that contribute to our normative assessment of apologies but that have been neglected by recent discussions of the ethics of apologizing.
It is often suggested that the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict will require forgiveness on the part of both Palestinians and Israelis. This paper looks at what such forgiveness might involve for one party to the conflict. It begins by offering an account of political forgiveness in which both collective actions and collective emotions play a significant role. It then explores whether there is a collective Palestinian agent capable of forgiving as well as whether it would be permissible for such (...) an agent to forgive. It concludes with a discussion of key conditions that, if met, could facilitate Palestinian forgiveness. (shrink)
In the philosophical literature on forgiveness it is almost universally assumed that only the victim of a wrong has the standing to forgive. This paper challenges that assumption and argues for the possibility of meaningful second- and third-party forgiveness.
The paper opens with an account of moral ambition which, it argues, is both a coherent ideal and an admirable trait. It closes with a discussion of some of the ways in which this trait might differ from traditional virtues such as temperance, courage, or benevolence.
The dilemma of divine forgiveness suggests it is unreasonable to be comforted by the thought that God forgives acts that injure human victims. A plausible response to the dilemma suggests that the comfort derives from the belief that God’s forgiveness releases the wrongdoer from punishment for her misdeed. This response is shown to be flawed. A more adequate response is then developed out of the connection between forgiveness and reconciliation.
This paper explores the relationship between our interpretations of another's actions and our readiness to forgive. It begins by articulating an account of forgiveness drawn from the New Testament. It then employs the work of Schleiermacher, Dilthey, and Gadamer to investigate ways in which our interpretations of an act or agent can promote or prevent such forgiveness. It concludes with a discussion of some ethical restrictions that may pertain to the interpretation of actions or agents as opposed to utterances and (...) a look at the significance of these restrictions for forgiveness-promoting interpretation. (shrink)
Ambition is a curiously neglected topic in ethics. It isn’t that philosophers have not discussed it. Plato, Aristotle, Seneca, Aquinas, Machiavelli, Harrington, Locke, Rousseau, Smith, Santayana and a number of others have discussed ambition. But it has seldom received more than a few paragraphs worth of analysis, in spite of the fact that ambition plays a central role in Western politics (one cannot be elected without it), and in spite of the fact that Machiavelli, Harrington, Locke and Rousseau each considered (...) it to be among the greatest threats to political security. The aim of this paper is to provide a long overdue analysis of ambition. The first part of the paper explores what ambition is. The second seeks to answer the question, “Is ambition a virtue or a vice?”. (shrink)
Are torture and torturers unforgivable? The article examines this question in the light of a Humean account of forgiveness. Initially, the Humean account appears to suggest that torturers are unforgivable. However, in the end, I argue it provides us with good reasons to think that even torturers may be forgiven.
This paper explores the relation between understanding and forgiving. A number of people have argued against the old adage that to understand is to forgive, for in many instances understanding leads to excusing rather than forgiving. Nonetheless, there is an interesting connection to be found between forgiving and understanding. I identify three ways in which understanding can lead to forgiveness ofunexcused wrongdoing: It can do so by changing our interpretation of the actor, by changing our interpretation of the action, and (...) by engaging self-Iove. (shrink)
The paper explores the possibility of collectives forgiving and being forgiven. The first half of the paper articulates and amends Hannah Arendt’s account of forgiveness of and by individuals. The second half raises several objections to the possibility of extending this account to forgiveness of and by collectives. In reply, I argue that collectives can have emotions, be guilty, and meet other necessary conditions for forgiving or being forgiven. However, I explain why, even though collective forgiveness is possible, it may, (...) nonetheless, prove dissatisfying. (shrink)
The role of religious commitments in John Rawls’s version of political liberalism has drawn frequent criticism. Some of the critics have complained that it fails to respect those with deep religious commitments by excluding explicitly religious reasons from debate about fundamental issues of justice. Others criticize the exclusion of religious reasons on the ground that it is unnecessary. Political liberalism, they argue, can accommodate appeals to religious reasons. For critics of both stripes, Jürgen Habermas and Thomas Scanlon should seem a (...) welcome alternative. They offer ways of justifying claims of justice and of legitimating political arrangements that do not appear to exclude religious reasons at the outset but still yield liberal polities. In this paper, I argue that Habermas’s and Scanlon’s theoretical frameworks are not only open to religious reasons, they require the inclusion of religious reasons in deliberations about the just ordering of public life. I then explain why such an arrangement is desirable. I close with a look at the limits of Habermas’s and Scanlon’s ability to accommodate religiousreasons in public deliberation, suggesting that their improvements on Rawls are smaller than they at first appear. (shrink)
What are we doing when we say "I forgive you"? This paper employs Austin's notion of illocutionary force to analyze three different kinds of acts in which we might engage when saying "I forgive you." We might use it (1) to disclose an emotional condition, (2) to declare a debt cancelled, or (3) to commit ourselves to a future course of action. I suggest that the forgiving utterances we seek possess qualities of both the first and the third types of (...) speech-acts. (shrink)
The paper responds to those who argue that it is morally objectionable to forgive the unapologetic. I argue that it is both possible and permissible to forgive the unapologetic. Along the way the analysis sheds light on the relationship between forgiveness and trust, condonation, self-respect, punishment, justice and apology.
Lucretius claimed we should be as indifferent to the time of our death as we are toward the time of our birth. Thomas Nagel, Frederik Kaufman, and Christopher Belshaw have each rejected Lucretius' claim. Their arguments depend upon an appeal to a psychological notion of the self. This appeal, I contend, is problematic. I present four reasons for thinking that their response to Lucretius is inadequate.