Though utilitarianism is far from being universally accepted in the philosophical community, it is taken seriously and treated respectfully. Its critics do not dismiss it out of hand; they do not misrepresent it; they do not belittle or disparage its proponents. They allow the theory to be articulated, developed, and defended from criticism, even if they go on to reject the modified versions. Ethical egoism, a longstanding rival of utilitarianism, is treated very differently. It is said to be “refuted” by (...) arguments of a sort that apply equally well to utilitarianism. It is said to be “unprovable,” when many of the greatest utilitarians themselves, such as Jeremy Bentham (1748–1832), John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), and Henry Sidgwick (1838–1900), admitted that no normative ethical theory, including their own, is provable. Critics of ethical egoism seldom discuss the various theoretical moves that utilitarians are routinely allowed to make, such as (1) fighting the facts, (2) transforming the theory from “act utilitarianism” to “rule utilitarianism,” and (3) biting the bullet. This essay argues that every defensive move made by utilitarians can be made, with equal vigor (if not also plausibility), by ethical egoists. The conclusion is that ethical egoism deserves to be taken more seriously than it is. (shrink)
This collection of original essays by leading philosophers probes the philosophical aspects of rape in all of its manifestations: act, crime, practice, and institution. Among the issues examined are the nature of rape; the wrongfulness and harmfulness of rape; the relation of rape to racism, sexism, classism, and other forms of oppression; and the legitimacy of various rape-law doctrines. Each contributor advances a novel argument and seeks to disentangle the conceptual, evaluative, and empirical issues that arise in connection with the (...) crime. This essential reference work is among the first philosophical anthologies devoted exclusively to the subject of rape--as complex and interesting intellectually as it is pervasive and disturbing socially. (shrink)
The philosophical literature on the moral status of nonhuman animals, which is bounteous, diverse, and sophisticated, contains a glaring omission. There is little discussion of human responsibilities to companion animals, such as dogs and cats. The assumption seems to be that animals are an undifferentiated mass – that whatever responsibilities one has to any animal are had to all animals. It is significant that we do not think this way about humans. Most of us (all but extreme impartialists) acknowledge the (...) existence of special responsibilities to humans. We believe, for instance, that our children, friends, and compatriots have special claims on our attention, time, energy, and resources. This is not at all incompatible (although it is sometimes thought to be) with the view that we have obligations to strangers. My aim in this essay is to fill the lacuna in the literature. I argue that the act of taking an animal into one''s life or home, through purchase, gift, or adoption, generates responsibilities to it, the main one being to provide for its needs, which, in the case of dogs (for example), are many and varied. Since this thesis is shrouded in misconception, I devote part of the essay to clarifying it. I then diagnose its philosophical neglect, which stems from both practical concerns and theoretical commitments. I argue that the practical concerns are groundless and that the theoretical commitments do not have the implications they are thought to have. (shrink)
The received view is that Gaunilo’s attempted refutation of Anselm’s ontological argument fails. But those who believe this do not agree as to why it fails. The aim of this essay is to show that whether the attempted refutation succeeds depends crucially on how one formulates the so-called greatmaking principle on which Anselm’s argument rests . This principle has largely been ignored by contemporary philosophers, who have chosen to focus on other aspects of the argument. I sketch two analyses of (...) metaphysical greatness and suggest that on one of them, which Anselm may have held, his argument avoids Gaunilo’s criticism. (shrink)
Feminists, especially radical feminists, have reason to be dissatisfied with contemporary moral theory, but they are understandably reluctant to abandon the theoretical project until it is seen as unsalvageable. The problem is not, however, as Margaret Urban Walker claims, that theory is abstract, that it seeks to guide conduct, or that it postulates moral knowledge. The problem is that contemporary moral theory is foundational.