CONDUCT AND CHARACTER is a concise anthology of readings in ethical theory that covers the major schools of thought as well as a handful of fundamental topics in ethical theory. Reading selections in the chapters provide coverage of both classical and contemporary philosophical writings, representing a spectrum of viewpoints on each theory or topic. The readings include brief introductions to assist students in identifying key ideas and have been selected and edited in order to optimize student comprehension. This collection is (...) perfect for ethics courses that focus on theory, as well as a supplementary text for applied ethics courses. Because of short, self-contained chapters it also works very well for an ethics component in introductory philosophy courses. (shrink)
In this essay, we examine the grounds, nature and content, status, acquisition and role, and justification of gratitude in Kant's ethical system, making use of student notes from Kant's lectures on ethics. We are especially interested in questions about the significance of gratitude in Kant's ethics. We examine Kant's claim that gratitude is a sacred duty, because it cannot be discharged, and explain how this claim is consistent with his insistence that “ought” implies “can.” We argue that for Kant a (...) proper understanding of self-esteem is importantly related to, if not necessary for, possession of the virtue of gratitude. (shrink)
Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics is an annual forum for new work in normative ethical theory. Leading philosophers present original contributions to our understanding of a wide range of moral issues and positions, from analysis of competing approaches to normative ethics (including consequentialism, deontology, and virtue ethics) to questions of how we should act and live well. OSNE will be an essential resource for scholars and students working in moral philosophy.
In his 1958 seminal paper “Saints and Heroes”, J. O. Urmson argued that the then dominant tripartite deontic scheme of classifying actions as being exclusively either obligatory, or optional in the sense of being morally indifferent, or wrong, ought to be expanded to include the category of the supererogatory. Colloquially, this category includes actions that are “beyond the call of duty” (beyond what is obligatory) and hence actions that one has no duty or obligation to perform. But it is a (...) controversial category. Some have argued that the concept of supererogation is paradoxical because on one hand, supererogatory actions are (by definition) supposed to be morally good, indeed morally best, actions. But then if they are morally best, why aren't they morally required, contrary to the assumption that they are morally optional? In short: how can an action that is morally best to perform fail to be what one is morally required to do? The source of this alleged paradox has been dubbed the ‘good-ought tie-up’. In our article, we address this alleged paradox by first making a phenomenological case for the reality of instances of genuine supererogatory actions, and then, by reflecting on the relevant phenomenology, explaining why there is no genuine paradox. Our explanation appeals to the idea that moral reasons can play what we call a merit conferring role. The basic idea is that moral reasons that favor supererogatory actions function to confer merit on the actions they favor—they play a merit conferring role—and can do without also requiring the actions in question. Hence, supererogatory actions can be both good and morally meritorious to perform yet still be morally optional. Recognition of a merit conferring role unties the good-ought tie up, and (as we further argue) there are good reasons, independent of helping to resolve the alleged paradox, for recognizing this sort of role that moral reasons may play. (shrink)
In Chapters 4 and 5 of his 1998 book From Metaphysics to Ethics: A Defence of Conceptual Analysis, Frank Jackson propounds and defends a form of moral realism that he calls both ‘moral functionalism’ and ‘analytical descriptivism’. Here we argue that this metaethical position, which we will henceforth call ‘analytical moral functionalism’, is untenable. We do so by applying a generic thought-experimental deconstructive recipe that we have used before against other views that posit moral properties and identify them with certain (...) natural properties, a recipe that we believe is applicable to virtually any metaphysically naturalist version of moral realism. The recipe deploys a scenario we call Moral Twin Earth. (shrink)
Within cognitive science, mental processing is often construed as computation over mental representations—i.e., as the manipulation and transformation of mental representations in accordance with rules of the kind expressible in the form of a computer program. This foundational approach has encountered a long-standing, persistently recalcitrant, problem often called the frame problem; it is sometimes called the relevance problem. In this paper we describe the frame problem and certain of its apparent morals concerning human cognition, and we argue that these morals (...) have significant import regarding both the nature of moral normativity and the human capacity for mastering moral normativity. The morals of the frame problem bode well, we argue, for the claim that moral normativity is not fully systematizable by exceptionless general principles, and for the correlative claim that such systematizability is not required in order for humans to master moral normativity. (shrink)
Moral phenomenology is (roughly) the study of those features of occurrent mental states with moral significance which are accessible through direct introspection, whether or not such states possess phenomenal character – a what-it-is-likeness. In this paper, as the title indicates, we introduce and make prefatory remarks about moral phenomenology and its significance for ethics. After providing a brief taxonomy of types of moral experience, we proceed to consider questions about the commonality within and distinctiveness of such experiences, with an eye (...) on some of the main philosophical issues in ethics and how moral phenomenology might be brought to bear on them. In discussing such matters, we consider some of the doubts about moral phenomenology and its value to ethics that are brought up by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Michael Gill in their contributions to this issue. (shrink)
Moral phenomenology is concerned with the elements of one's moral experiences that are generally available to introspection. Some philosophers argue that one's moral experiences, such as experiencing oneself as being morally obligated to perform some action on some occasion, contain elements that (1) are available to introspection and (2) carry ontological objectivist purportargument from phenomenological introspection.neutrality thesisthe phenomenological data regarding one's moral experiences that is available to introspection is neutral with respect to the issue of whether such experiences carry ontological (...) objectivist purport. (shrink)
According to rationalism regarding the psychology of moral judgment, people’s moral judgments are generally the result of a process of reasoning that relies on moral principles or rules. By contrast, intuitionist models of moral judgment hold that people generally come to have moral judgments about particular cases on the basis of gut-level, emotion-driven intuition, and do so without reliance on reasoning and hence without reliance on moral principles. In recent years the intuitionist model has been forcefully defended by Jonathan Haidt. (...) One important implication of Haidt’s model is that in giving reasons for their moral judgments people tend to confabulate – the reasons they give in attempting to explain their moral judgments are not really operative in producing those judgments. Moral reason-giving on Haidt’s view is generally a matter of post hoc confabulation. Against Haidt, we argue for a version of rationalism that we call ‘morphological rationalism.’ We label our version ‘morphological’ because according to it, the information contained in moral principles is embodied in the standing structure of a typical individual’s cognitive system, and this morphologically embodied information plays a causal role in the generation of particular moral judgments. The manner in which the principles play this role is via ‘proceduralization’ – such principles operate automatically. In contrast to Haidt’s intuitionism, then, our view does not imply that people’s moral reason-giving practices are matters of confabulation. In defense of our view, we appeal to what we call the ‘nonjarring’ character of the phenomenology of making moral judgments and of giving reasons for those judgments. (shrink)
Ideal for courses in contemporary moral problems, introduction to ethics, and applied ethics, Disputed Moral Issues: A Reader is a comprehensive anthology that brings together sixty-seven engaging articles on a wide range of contemporary moral issues. Carefully selected and edited for an undergraduate audience, the essays are organized into twelve chapters that cover: * Sexual morality * Pornography, hate speech, and censorship * Drugs, gambling, and addiction * Sexism, racism, and reparation * Euthanasia and suicide * Abortion * Cloning and (...) genetic enhancement * The death penalty * War, terrorism, and torture * World hunger and poverty * Animals * The environment Striking a unique balance between moral theory and applied ethics, editor Mark Timmons provides students with an accessible Moral Theory Primer (Chapter 1), in which he outlines the guiding principles of moral theory, presents six central moral theories, and relates those theories to the issues debated in the articles. Each of the remaining chapters is preceded by an introduction that explains key concepts and shows how theories from the Moral Theory Primer are connected to the arguments presented in that chapter's essays. Each selection is preceded by a brief summary and reader cues, which direct students to a specific section of the Moral Theory Primer in order to best help them understand the essay in question. A "Quick Guide to Moral Theories" appendix, an extensive glossary of key terms, and suggested further readings after each chapter further enhance the text. A "User's Guide," which follows the preface, shows instructors how they can integrate moral theories and applied ethics into their courses. (shrink)
For over thirty years, Robert Audi has produced important work in ethics, epistemology, and the theory of action. This volume features thirteen new critical essays on Audi by a distinguished group of authors: Fred Adams, William Alston, Laurence BonJour, Roger Crisp, Elizabeth Fricker, Bernard Gert, Thomas Hurka, Hugh McCann, Al Mele, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Raimo Tuomela, Candace Vogler, and Timothy Williamson. Audi's introductory essay provides a thematic overview interconnecting his views in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of action. The volume concludes with (...) his comprehensive response essay that yields an illuminating dialog with all his critics and often extends his previous work. (shrink)
Metaethics, understood as a distinct branch of ethics, is often traced to G. E. Moore's 1903 classic, Principia Ethica. Whereas normative ethics is concerned to answer first-order moral questions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, metaethics is concerned to answer second-order non-moral questions about the semantics, metaphysics, and epistemology of moral thought and discourse. Moore has continued to exert a powerful influence, and the sixteen essays here (most of them specially written for the volume) represent the most (...) up-to-date work in metaethics after, and in some cases directly inspired by, the work of Moore. Contributors include Robert Audi, Stephen Barker, Paul Bloomfield, Panayot Butchvarvov, Jonathan Dancy, Stephen Darwall, Jamie Dreier, Allan Gibbard, Brad Hooker, Terry Horgan, Connie Rosati, Russ Shafer-Landau, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Michael Smith, Philip Stratton-Lake, Sigrun Svavarsdottir, Mark Timmons, and Judith Jarvis Thompson. (shrink)
This article begins with the claim (defended in 'The Categorical Imperative and Univesalizability')that the Formula of Universal Law (FUL), interpreted as a test of the deontic status of actions, can't be made to work. If not, then one might wonder whether what other work it might do in the overall economy of Kant's ethics. I defend what I call the "formal constraint" interpretation of FUL, explaining how it can figure in a defense of the Formula of Humanity (it philosophical significance), (...) and its psychological significance in moral thinking. (shrink)
Is conceptual relativity a genuine phenomenon? If so, how is it properly understood? And if it does occur, does it undermine metaphysical realism? These are the questions we propose to address. We will argue that conceptual relativity is indeed a genuine phenomenon, albeit an extremely puzzling one. We will offer an account of it. And we will argue that it is entirely compatible with metaphysical realism. Metaphysical realism is the view that there is a world of objects and properties that (...) is independent of our thought and discourse (including our schemes of concepts) about such a world. Hilary Putnam, a former proponent of metaphysical realism, later gave it up largely because of the alleged phenomenon that he himself has given the label ‘conceptual relativity’. One of the key ideas of conceptual relativity is that certain concepts—including such fundamental concepts as object, entity, and existence—have a multiplicity of different and incompatible uses (Putnam 1987, p. 19; 1988, pp. 110 14). According to Putnam, once we recognize the phenomenon of conceptual relativity we must reject metaphysical realism: The suggestion . . . is that what is (by commonsense standards) the same situation can be described in many different ways, depending on how we use the words. The situation does not itself legislate how words like “object,” “entity,” and “exist” must be used. What is wrong with the notion of objects existing “independently” of conceptual schemes is that there are no standards for the use of even the logical notions apart from conceptual choices.” (Putnam 1988, p. 114) Putnam’s intriguing reasoning in this passage is difficult to evaluate directly, because conceptual  relativity is philosophically perplexing and in general is not well understood. In this paper we propose a construal of conceptual relativity that clarifies it considerably and explains how it is possible despite its initial air of paradox. We then draw upon this construal to explain why, contrary to Putnam and others, conceptual relativity does not conflict with metaphysical realism, but in fact comports well with it.. (shrink)
This is the only book devoted entirely to The Metaphysics of Morals. Seventeen essays by leading contemporary Kant scholars cover such topics as Kant's views on rights, punishment, contract, practical reasoning, revolution, freedom, virtue, legislation, happiness, moral judgement, love, respect, duties to oneself, and motivation.
Some contemporary intepreters of Kant maintain that on Kant's view fulfilling duties of virtue require doing so from the motive of duty. I argue that there are interpretive and doctinal reasons for rejecting this interpretation. However, I argue that for Kant motives can be deontically relevant; one's motives can affect the deontic status of actions.
In "Milk, Honey, and the Good Life on Moral Twin Earth", David Copp explores some ways in which a defender of synthetic moral naturalism might attempt to get around our Moral Twin Earth argument. Copp nicely brings out the force of our argument, not only through his exposition of it, but through his attempt to defeat it, since his efforts, we think, only help to make manifest the deep difficulties the Moral Twin Earth argument poses for the synthetic moral naturalist.
Abstract We propose a metaethical view that combines the cognitivist idea that moral judgments are genuine beliefs and moral utterances express genuine assertions with the idea that such beliefs and utterances are nondescriptive in their overall content. This sort of view has not been recognized among the standard metaethical options because it is generally assumed that all genuine beliefs and assertions must have descriptive content. We challenge this assumption and thereby open up conceptual space for a new kind of metaethical (...) view. In developing our brand of nondescriptivist cognitivism we do the following: (1) articulate a conception of belief (and assertion) that does not require the overall declarative content of beliefs (and assertions) to be descriptive content; (2) make a case for the independent plausibility of this conception of belief and assertion; and (3) argue that our view, formulated in a way that draws upon the proposed conception of belief, has significant comparative advantages over descriptivist forms of cognitivism. (shrink)
In this book Timmons defends a metaethical view that exploits certain contextualist themes in philosophy of language and epistemology. He advances what he calls assertoric non-descriptivism, a view that employs semantic contextualism in giving an account of moral discourse. This view, which like traditional non-descriptivist views stresses the practical, action-guiding function of moral thought and discourse, also allows that moral sentences, as typically used, make genuine assertions. Timmons then defends a contextualist moral epistemology thus completing his overall program of contextualism (...) in ethics. (shrink)
I argue that the Universal Law formulation of the Categorical Imperative is best interpreted as a test or decision procedure of moral rightness and not as a criterion intended to explain the deontic status of actions. Rather, the Humanity formulation is best interpreted as a moral criterion. I also argue that because the role of a moral criterion is to explain, and thus specify what makes an action right or wrong, Kant's Humanity formulation yields a theory of relevant descriptions.
This paper contains an overview of the essays contained in the Mind and morals anthology plus a critical discussion of certain themes raised in many of these essays concerning the bearing of recent work in cognitive science on the traditional project of moral theory. Specifically, I argue for the following claims: (1) authors like Virginia Held, who appear to be antagonistic toward the methodological naturalism of Owen Flanagan, Andy Clark, Paul Churchland, and others, are really in fundamental agreement with the (...) naturalists (at least once the naturalist view is suitably clarified); (2) the prototype theory of moral concepts that is inspired by recent work in cognitive science does not necessarily jeopardize the aim of systematization characteristic of traditional moral theory; (3) nor does it threaten certain widely accepted views about moral rationality that is part of traditional moral theorizing. Moreover, I speculate that (4) recent work in cognitive science can be expected to play a corroborative role in the justification of theories in ethics, but we should probably not expect this work to yield new insights and directions in ethics. Finally, (5) Fodor's recent critique of cognitive science makes clear the perils of methodological ethical naturalism. (shrink)