Not all moral philosophers of the century shared this preoccupation; one thinks of non-conforming figures as diverse as Kierkegaard, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche or Spencer. Existentialism has roots in the ethically fertile soil of the 19th Century, as does libertarianism. However in the present chapter we are concerned with those who did. They can be seen as falling into four broad traditions: German, especially Hegelian, idealism, Marxism (which in some ways continued it), utilitarianism and positivism. All four of these traditions, in their (...) various ways, take it that the social good is something of fundamental ethical importance2 and all are concerned with the social dimensions of individuals’ good. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill is the philosopher of liberalism. Or so some people think. Others disagree; they may give that status to Locke, or (perhaps) to Kant. Or they may think the question frivolous and insist – boringly but, I cannot deny, sensibly – that no one thinker is the philosopher of liberalism.
There can be reasons for belief, for action, and for feeling. In each case, knowledge of such reasons requires non-empirical knowledge of some truths about them: these will be truths about what there is reason to believe, to feel, or to do – either outright or on condition of certain facts obtaining. Call these a priori truths about reasons, ‘norms’. Norms are a priori true propositions about reasons.It's an epistemic norm that if something's a good explanation that's a reason to (...) believe it. It's an evaluative norm that if someone's cheated you that's a reason to be annoyed with them. There are many evaluative norms, relating to a variety of feelings. Equally, there may be various epistemic norms, even though in this case they all relate to belief. My concern here, however, is with practical norms: a priori truths about what there is reason to do.I have a suggestion about what fundamental practical norms there are, which I would like to describe and explain. It is that there are just three distinct kinds of practical norm governing what there is reason to do – three categories or generic sources of practical normativity, one may say. I call them the Bridge principle, the principle of Good, and the Demand principle – Bridge, Good and Demand for short. I have said more about them in my book, The Domain of Reasons;1 here my aim is simply to set them out and sketch some questions to which this ‘triplism of practical reason’2 gives rise. In particular, since these norms are about practical reasons, not about morality, a question I'll touch on is how moral obligation comes onto the scene. (shrink)
This paper shows how moral concepts are definable in terms of reasons for the blame sentiment. It then shows how, given that definition, the categoricity of moral obligation follows from some plausible principles about reasons for blame. The nature of moral agency is further considered in this light. In particular, in what sense is it self-governing agency? Self-governing actors must be at least self-determining: that is, they must be able to think about what reasons they have, in order in order (...) to assess what they have sufficient reason to believe, feel, or do. Thus any moral assessment implies that the person assessed is capable of self-governance in that sense. Furthermore, this notion of self-governance implies that an agent's moral obligations are relative to the agent's warranted beliefs. However it does not entail that moral agents must be autonomous, in the strong sense intended by Kant. Some consequences for modern conceptions of morality are considered. (shrink)
The subject of this paper is sentimentalism. In broad terms this is the view that value concepts, moral concepts, practical reasons—some or all of these—can be analysed in terms of feeling, sentiment or emotion. More specifically, the paper discusses the following theses: (i) there are reasons to feel (‘evaluative’ reasons) that are not reducible to practical or epistemic reasons (ii) value is analysable in terms of these reasons to feel. (iii) all practical reasons are in one way or another grounded (...) in evaluative reasons. (i) and (ii) are accepted while (iii) is rejected. (shrink)
Can we develop a Critical Philosophy without resorting either to transcendental idealism or to linguistic conventionalism; that is, without resorting to either of these accounts of the a priori? I argue that we can, by focusing on the notion of a reason: the basic normative concept, which provides the ‘interface’ between self and thought about an objective world.
Dialogue, unconstrained truth-seeking discussion, is nothing but the social expression of free thought. Given the distortions and manipulations to which free thought is subject, only continued full exposure to free discussion can give us continued rational warrant for our beliefs. Socially possessed truth and disinterested, rational qualities of mind among citizens are public goods.
Can we give a uniform account of reasons in the three spheres of action, belief, and sentiment? Are reasons in these three spheres genuinely distinct, or are they in some way reducible to less than three? What kind of knowledge do we have of reasons – and what is it that we know? Some basic problems in philosophy depend on our answers to these questions.
Elizabeth Anderson argues for civic as against distributive egalitarianism. I agree with civic egalitarianism understood as a public ideal, and welcome her interest in the sociological conditions under which it may best flourish. But I argue that she is mistaken in opposing what she calls 'hierarchies of esteem' and proposing that where the egalitarian ideal has insufficient hold on civil society it should be implemented by an efficient bureaucracy. We should learn a different lesson from Max Weber. What the ideal (...) of equality needs is not more bureaucracy but more influential advocacy—and that requires healthy 'hierarchies of esteem'. (shrink)
Defends the buck-passing account of value from the wrong kind of reason objection by arguing that in the cases proposed there are no reasons to value the intuitively worthless object, but there are practical reasons to bring it about that one values it. Also extends the account to other evaluative concepts.
The thesis that the concept of a reason is the fundamental normative concept is in the air. In this paper I examine what it amounts to, how to formulate it, and how ambitious it should be. I distinguish a semantic version, according to which any normative predicate is definitionally reducible to a reason predicate, and a conceptual version, according to which the sole normative ingredient in any normative concept is the concept of a reason. Although I reject the semantic version (...) I examine its potential in some detail. And I claim that the conceptual version is plausible. (shrink)
Two ideas have dominated ethical thought since the time of Bentham and Kant. One is utilitarianism, the other is an idea of moral agency as self-governance. Utilitarianism says that morality must somehow subserve welfare, self-governance says that it must be graspable directly by individual moral insight. But these ideas seem to war with one another. Can we eliminate the apparent conflict by a careful review of what is plausible in the two ideas? In seeking an answer to this question I (...) examine (1) the implications of welfarism, (2) the nature of moral obligation (3) the nature of our moral knowledge. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill is one of the greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century. But does he have anything to teach us today? His deep concern for freedom of the individual is thought by some to be outdated and inadequate to the cultural and religious complexities of twenty-first century life. In this succinct and shrewd book, John Skorupski argues that Mill is a profound and inspiring social and political thinker from whom we still have much to learn. He reflects on Mill's (...) central arguments in his most famous works, including Utilitarianism and On Liberty , and traces their implications for democratic politics. With the use of topical and controversial examples, including privacy, religious intolerance, and freedom of speech, he makes Mill's concerns our own at a time when what liberalism means, and why it matters, is once again in dispute. He concludes that Mill's place in the pantheon of "great thinkers" rests not only on his specific political and social doctrines, but above all on his steadfastly generous and liberal vision of human beings, their relations to one another, and what makes life worth living. (shrink)
In an article in Utilitas Theo van Willigenburg has argued that moral valuation is distinguished from other forms of valuation by the Kantian concept of respect. He criticizes, from that standpoint, an account I put forward, which builds on the connections between moral wrongdoing, blame and withdrawal of recognition. I examine the difference between these two approaches and defend my own.
What outcomes are good, and what there is reason for one to do, is not generally determined by what one thinks or even what one has reason to think. But is a similarly ‘externalist’ account of the distinctively moral concepts, the concepts of moral duty or obligation, of moral wrongness, blameworthiness and guilt, appropriate? I argue not; and on that basis I suggest that an externalist account is not appropriate for the concept of a virtue either.
In The Invention of Autonomy, Schneewind argues that a main development in early modern ethical thought is the transition from a conception of morality as obedience to a conception of morality as self-governance. I consider the presuppositions implicit in the latter conception and ask whether they can be maintained. Correspondence:c1 firstname.lastname@example.org.
This paper examines T. H. Green's and Henry Sidgwick's differing views of desireand the will, and connectedly, their differing views of an individual's good and freedom. It is argued that Sidgwick makes effective criticisms of Green, but that important elements in Green's idealist view of an individual's good and freedom survive the criticism and remain significant today. It is also suggested that Sidgwick's own account of an individual's good is unclear in an important way.
In these essays, John Skorupski develops a distinctive and systematic moral philosophy. He examines the central ethical concepts of reasons, the good, and morality, and applies the results to issues of culture and politics. Ethical Explorations firmly connects liberal politics to its ethical ideal, and links that ideal to modern morality and modern ideas of the good.
John Stuart Mill (1806-73) ranks among the very greatest thinkers of the nineteenth century. His impact through his books, journalism, correspondence, and political activity on modern culture and thought has been immense, and his continuing importance for contemporary philosophy and social thought is widely recognised. This Companion furnishes the reader with a systematic and fully up-to-date account of the many facets of Mill's thought and influence. New readers will find this the most convenient and accessible guide to Mill currently available. (...) Advanced students and specialists will find a conspectus of recent developments in the interpretation of Mill. (shrink)
From the end of the Enlightenment to the middle of the twentieth century philosophy took fascinating and controversial paths whose relevance to contemporary post-modernist thought is becoming ever clearer. This volume traces the English-language side of the period, while also taking into account those continental thinkers who deeply influenced twentieth-century, English-language philosophy. The story begins with Reid, Coleridge, and Bentham--who set the agenda for much that followed--and continues with a portrait of the nineteenth century's greatest British philosopher, John Stuart Mill. (...) It then surveys the cross-currents of thought at the end of the century, including American pragmatism, a movement never more influential than now. Finally it assesses two phases of what Skorupski calls "analytic modernism"--the revolution against idealism of Moore and Russell, and the Viennese sequel whose project was to show that philosophy consists of pseudo-problems. (shrink)