Mason and McCall Smith's classic textbook discusses the relationship of medical practice and ethics with the operation of the law. The subjects covered include natural and assisted reproduction, the impact of modern genetics on medicine, medical confidentiality, consent to medical treatment, the use of resources and problems surrounding death in the new medical era. It is of significance to anyone with an interest in the ethical and legal practice of medicine.
The Hypothesis of Extended Cognition (HEC)—that many cognitive processes are carried out by a hybrid coalition of neural, bodily and environmental factors—entails that the intentional states that are reasons for action might best be ascribed to wider entities of which individual persons are only parts. I look at different kinds of extended cognition and agency, exploring their consequences for concerns about the moral agency and personal responsibility of such extended entities. Can extended entities be moral agents and bear responsibility for (...) actions, in addition to or in place of the individuals typically held responsible? What does it mean to be autonomous when one’s cognition is influenced and supported by a milieu of environmental factors? To answer these questions, I explore strong parallels between HEC’s critique of individualism in cognition, and feminist critiques of individualist accounts of self, agency, and autonomy. This relational and social conception of autonomous agency, as scaffolded and supported (or undermined and impaired) by a milieu of social, relational, and normative factors, has important lessons for HEC. Drawing together these two visions of distributed and decentralized aspects of personhood highlights how cognition, action, and responsibility are inextricably linked. It also encourages a reconceptualization of all cognition and all concerns about responsibility for actions, not simply as sometimes extended around individuals, but as fundamentally communal, social, and normative, with individual cognition and individual moral responsibility being derivative special cases, not the paradigm examples. Individuals are merely one of many possible loci of cognition, action, and responsibility. (shrink)
Many now accept the thesis that norms are somehow constitutively involved in people's contentful intentional states. I distinguish three versions of this normative thesis that disagree about the type of norms constitutively involved. Are they objective norms of correctness, subjective norms of rationality, or intersubjective norms of social practices? I show the advantages of the third version, arguing that it improves upon the other two versions, as well as incorporating their principal insights. I then defend it against two serious challenges: (...) (1) If content is constituted by others' normative judgments, how can content be causally efficacious? (2) This account appears to make having contentful thoughts a matter of people having contentful thoughts about your thoughts. That appears to be viciously circular and so can't be naturalistic. (shrink)
James Lenman argues that consequentialism fails as a moral theory because it is impossible to predict the long-term consequences of our actions. I agree that it is impossible to predict the long-term consequences of actions, but argue that this does not count as a strike against consequentialism. I focus on the principle of indifference, which tells us to treat unforeseeable consequences as cancelling each other out, and hence value-neutral. I argue that though we cannot defend this principle independently, we cannot (...) do without it in practical rationality. Thus abandoning the principle of indifference would involve abandoning all of rationality, not just consequentialist reasoning. I suggest that we should understand the principle as P. F. Strawson understands inductive reasoning – as being part of rationality. Correspondence:c1 Elinor.Mason@colorado.edu. (shrink)
This collection of previously unpublished essays addresses a number of issues arising out of philosophical controversies over the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas. Issues addressed include the form of a moral dilemma; the paradoxes a moral dilemma is said to entail; the question of whether a moral dilemma must exhibit inconsistency; the role of intractable circumstances in occasioning moral dilemmas; and the plausibility of supposing that there might be rational ways of addressing moral dilemmas in practice. The contributors, writing from (...) a number of widely differing points of view, include Simon Blackburn, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Alan Donagan, Terrance McConnell, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Mary Mothersill, Norman Dahl, David Brink, Peter Railton, Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Christopher Gowans, and H.E. Mason. (shrink)
: Focusing on a textbook controversy that emerged in Kanawha County, West Virginia, in 1974, Mason explores the discursive production of white ethnicity in the rhetorical, visual, and political strategies used during an organized protest against the new multicultural curriculum adopted by the local school board. What the author finds puzzling is the ways in which these productions of "soul" and "nation" enabled unlikely political alliances between national conservative elites and the local, historically left-leaning working class protesters. The author (...) argues that "soul" is reproduced through racialized discourse signifying the spiritual and ethnic purity of whiteness, the consolidation of white ethnicity, and the spirit of white resistance, articulated through campaigns to save children from future captivity in an "alien" world. Through this on-site theoretical analysis, the author demonstrates how a right-wing narrative of victimhood facilitates the reproduction of ethnic identification among the protesters, whose whiteness apparently can be jeopardized by reading the "wrong" books. (shrink)
I argue that motivational internalism should not be driving metaethics. I first show that many arguments for motivational internalism beg the question by resting on an illicit appeal to internalist assumptions about the nature of reasons. Then I make a distinction between weak internalism and the weakest form of internalism. Weak internalism allows that agents fail to act according to their normative judgments when they are practically irrational. I show that when we clarify the notion of practical irrationality it does (...) not support motivational internalism. Weakest internalism only claims that agents are irrational if they entirely lack motivation to do what they judge they ought to. I do not argue against weakest internalism, but I argue that it is not an important view. (shrink)
The 20th century has been a tumultuous time in psychology – a century in which the discipline struggled with basic questions about its intellectual identity, but nonetheless managed to achieve spectacular growth and maturation. It’s not surprising, then, that psychology has attracted sustained philosophical attention and stimulated rich philosophical debate. Some of this debate was aimed at understanding, and sometimes criticizing, the assumptions, concepts and explanatory strategies prevailing in the psychology of the time. But much philosophical work has also been (...) devoted to exploring the implications of psychological findings and theories for broader philosophical questions like: Are humans really rational animals? How malleable is human nature? and Do we have any innate knowledge or innate ideas? One particularly noteworthy fact about philosophy of psychology in the 20th century is that, in the last quarter of the century, the distinction between psychology and the philosophy of psychology began to dissolve as philosophers played an increasingly active role in articulating and testing empirical theories about the mind and psychologists became increasingly interested in the philosophical underpinnings and implications of their work. Our survey is divided into five sections, each focusing on an important theme in 20th century psychology which has been the focus of philosophical attention and has benefited from philosophical scrutiny. (shrink)
In his 1991 book ‘Consciousness Explained', Daniel Dennett presents his “Multiple Drafts” model of consciousness. Central to his theory is the rejection of the notion of ‘qualia'; of the existence of the purported ‘qualitative character' of conscious experience that many argue rules out the possibility of a purely materialist theory of mind. In eliminating qualia from his theory of consciousness, Dennett claims to be following in the footsteps of Wittgenstein, who also had much to say regarding the nature of ‘private' (...) experience. In this paper I reject this claim and argue that the elimination of qualia plays no part in Wittgenstein's radical understanding of conscious experience. S. Afr. J. Philos. Vol.24(1) 2005: 33-43. (shrink)
Peter Singer has argued for a radical anti-intuitionism on the basis of recent empirical research into the psychological and evolutionary origins of moral intuition. There is, however, a gap between the putative genealogy of moral intuition that Singer offers and his desired methodological claim. I explore three ways to bridge the gap, and argue that the promising way is to construe the genealogy as a debunking genealogy. I sketch an account of how debunking arguments work, and then show that this (...) causes problems for Singer, since utilitarianism itself is liable to be debunked. Finally, I suggest how we can take lessons for ethics from the empirical work, but that the result is a far more restricted kind of anti-intuitionism than Singer was hoping for. (shrink)
Philosophical suspicions about the place of shame in the psychology of the mature moral agent are in tension with the commonplace assumption that to call a person shameless purports to mark a fault, arguably a moral fault. I shift philosophical suspicions away from shame and toward its absence in the shameless by focusing attention on phenomena of shamelessness. In redirecting our attention, I clarify the nature of the failing to which ascriptions of shamelessness might refer and defend the thought that, (...) as an evasion of moral self-censure, shamelessness can be morally pernicious. Far from foregoing shame, I conclude, we should be mindful of its moral importance and unapologetic in its defense. (shrink)
Are the rights, duties, and virtues of citizenship grounded exclusively in considerations of justice, or do some or all of them have other sources? This question is addressed by distinguishing three different accounts of the justification of these rights, duties, and virtues, namely, the justice account, the common-good account, and the equal-membership account. The common-good account is rejected on the grounds that it provides an implausible way of understanding what it is to act as a citizen. It is then argued (...) that the justice account and the equal-membership account provide complementary perspectives that differ in terms of the scope of the duties they ground: the latter offers an analysis of the duties that citizens proper (those with an unconditional right of residence and full political rights) owe to each other, whereas the former provides an analysis of the duties that those who are under the jurisdiction of the same state, whether fellow citizens or not, owe to each other. The article concludes by arguing that the distinction between the justice account and the equal-membership account cuts across the traditional one that is drawn between liberal and republican theories of citizenship. (shrink)
Philosophers writing on moral responsibility inherit from P.F. Strawson a particular problem space. On one side, it is shaped by consequentialist accounts of moral criticism on which blame is justified, if at all, by its efficacy in influencing future behavior in socially desirable ways. It is by now a common criticism of such views that they suffer a "wrong kind of reason" problem. When blame is warranted in the proper way, it is natural to suppose this is because the target (...) deserves blame – thus opposing to consequentialist views of blame desert-based views. The latter, however, raise worries that blame is a form of retributive sanction whose justificatory burdens cannot be met. I evaluate T.M. Scanlon's recent attempt to maneuver this space. In doing so, I argue that although Scanlon’s relationship-impairment model of blame has clear advantages over consequentialist and desert-based alternatives, it fails: (1) to adequately appreciate the significance of person-focused emotional attitudes in constituting persons as agents subject to a nexus of normative expectations and demands, and (2) to recognize that a victim may owe nearly nothing *to* a blameworthy agent while nonetheless retaining unconditional moral obligations to act in certain ways (and forego acting in other ways) toward him. (shrink)
In this paper I defend consequentialism against the objection that consequentialists are alienated from their personal relationships through having inappropriate motivational states. This objection is one interpretation of Williams' claim that consequentialists will have "one thought too many". Consequentialists should cultivate dispositions to act from their concern for others. I argue that having such a disposition is consistent with a belief in consequentialism and constitutes an appropriate attitude to personal relationships. If the consequentialist has stable beliefs that friendship is justifiable (...) in consequentialist terms, that friendship requires acting from concern for others, and furthermore if the consequentialist finds that she is concerned for others, then she will be able to form a disposition which involves acting from her concern for others without having one thought too many. (shrink)
States that are about things are intentional, that is, they have content. The precise nature of intentional states is a matter of dispute.What makes some states, but not others, intentional? Of those states that are intentional, what makes them about what they are about as opposed to something else, i.e. what gives them their specific content?
It is often supposed that the point of equality of opportunity is to create a level playing-field. This is understood in different ways, however. A common proposal is what I call the neutralization view: that people's social circumstances should not differentially affect their life chances in any serious way. I raise problems with this view, before developing an alternative conception of equal opportunity which allows some variations in social circumstances to create differences in life prospects. The meritocratic conception which I (...) defend is grounded in the idea of respect for persons, and provides a less demanding interpretation of fair access to qualifications; it nevertheless places constraints on the behaviour of parents, and has implications for educational provision in schools. (shrink)
Despite contemporary moral philosophers' renewed attention to the moral significance of emotions, the attitudinal repertoire with which they equip the mature moral agent remains stunted. One attitude moral philosophers neglect (if not disown) is contempt. While acknowledging the nastiness of contempt, I here correct the neglect by providing an account of the moral psychology of contempt. In the process, I defend the moral propriety of certain tokens of properly person-focused contempt against some prominent objections -- among them, objections stemming from (...) Kantian worries that contempt is incompatible with the respect we owe to persons as such. (shrink)
In an important piece of work Derek Parfit distinguishes two different forms of egalitarianism, ‘Deontic’ and ‘Telic’ (Parfit 1995; see also Parfit 1997). He contrasts these with what he calls the Priority View, which is not strictly a form of egalitarianism at all, since it is not essentially concerned with how well off people are relative to each other. His main aim is to generate an adequate taxonomy of the positions available, but in the process he draws attention to some (...) of the different problems they face. I shall argue that there are forms of egalitarianism overlooked by Parfit which avoid the problems encountered by Deontic and Telic Egalitarians. (shrink)
Could someone who wants a gin and tonic have a normative reason to drink petrol and tonic? Bernard Williams and Michael Smith both say, 'No'. They argue that what an agent has normative reason to do is determined by rational deliberation that involves correcting the agent's beliefs and current motivations. On such an account of normative reasons, an agent who is motivated to act in some way due to a false belief does not have reason to act in that way. (...) I argue that the agent could have reason to drink the petrol, because an agent's epistemic circumstances, what that agent can come to know, can be as relevant to what the agent has reason to do as other aspects of his circumstances. Moreover, if an agent's epistemic circumstances are taken into account when determining what the agent has reason to do, this can still give an account of reasons that is normative, ensures that the agent and onlookers agree on what the agent has reason to do, is appropriately connected to rationality and fairly represents the agent's beliefs about the knowledge they need to have to know how they have reason to act. (shrink)
Miranda Fricker claims that a “gap” in collective hermeneutical resources with respect to the social experiences of marginalized groups prevents members of those groups from understanding their own experiences (Fricker 2007). I argue that because Fricker misdescribes dominant hermeneutical resources as collective, she fails to locate the ethically bad epistemic practices that maintain gaps in dominant hermeneutical resources even while alternative interpretations are in fact offered by non-dominant discourses. Fricker's analysis of hermeneutical injustice does not account for the possibility that (...) marginalized groups can be silenced relative to dominant discourses without being prevented from understanding or expressing their own social experiences. I suggest that a gap in dominant hermeneutical resources is ambiguous between two kinds of unknowing: hermeneutical injustice suffered by members of marginalized groups, and epistemically and ethically blameworthy ignorance perpetrated by members of dominant groups. (shrink)
Despite appeals to Hume in debates over moralism in art criticism, we lack an adequate account of Hume’s moralist aesthetics, as presented in “Of the Standard of Taste.” I illuminate that aesthetics by pursuing a problem, the moral prejudice dilemma, that arises from a tension between the “freedom from prejudice” Hume requires of aesthetic judges and what he says about the relevance of moral considerations to art evaluation. I disarm the dilemma by investigating the taxonomy of prejudices by which Hume (...) justifies the true judge’s moralism. The result distinguishes Hume’s aesthetic and moral points of view while defending aesthetic moralism. (shrink)
What is moral reasoning? For that matter, what is any sort of reasoning? Let me begin by making a few distinctions. First, there is a distinction between reasoning as something that that people do and the abstract structures of proof or “argument” that are the subject matter of formal logic. I will be mainly concerned with reasoning in the first sense, reasoning that people do. Second, there is a distinction between moral reasoning with other people and moral reasoning by and (...) for yourself . Moral reasoning with others may involve discussion with them, bargaining with them, and possibly arguing with them. (shrink)
Presentism has received much scrutiny of late, yet little has been said of its definition. Many assume that it means simply that all that exists, exists at present. However, this definition will not do. It is defective in a multiplicity of ways. I consider and reject each of a number of intuitive ways in which to amend it. Each carries us a bit closer to our goal, but not until the end do we reach a definition that is wholly satisfactory. (...) The final definition has this remarkable feature: it has us posit abstracta of two kinds, namely, times and haecceities. (shrink)
In this account of recent work on moral responsibility I shall try to disen- tangle various different sorts of question about moral responsibility. In brief, the tangle includes questions about whether we have free will, questions about whether moral responsibility is compatible with free will, and questions about what moral responsibility involves. As far as possible I will ignore the first sort of question, be as brief as possible on the second sort of question, and focus on the third question. (...) This is partly just in the interests of space—the total literature generated by the three questions together would be impossible to summarise here. (shrink)
I argue against the standard view that it is possible to describe extensionally different consequentialist theories by describing different evaluative focal points. I argue that for consequentialist purposes, the important sense of the word act must include all motives and side effects, and thus these things cannot be separated.
It seems that the debate between objective and subjective consequentialists might be resolved by appealing to the ought implies can principle. Howard-Snyder has suggested that if one does not know how to do something, cannot do it, and thus one cannot have an obligation to do it. I argue that this depends on an overly rich conception of ability, and that we need to look beyond the ought implies can principle to answer the question. Once we do so, it appears (...) that Prichard might have been at least partly right when he claimed that obligations are tryings. I go some way to defending a diluted version of Prichard's view. (shrink)
Although the notion of an essentially contested concept may shed light on the logic of disputes over the proper application of some key political terms, it nevertheless plays no genuine role in explaining the intractability of these disputes. The notion of an essentially contested concept is defended against some influential criticisms, showing how it is possible for one conception of an essentially contested concept to be justifiably regarded as superior to other competing conceptions. Two possible answers are distinguished to the (...) question of why disputes over essentially contested concepts should be regarded as inevitable, but neither provides us with a plausible explanation for why they are so intractable. Disagreements over the proper use of key political concepts are better explained by features of moral and political discourse, such as the short reach of ?intellectual authority? and the fact that consensus is not one of its primary aims, in conjunction with empirical hypotheses from the social sciences, rather than by essential contestedness theses. (shrink)
In these remarks on Feldman's recent book, Pleasure and the Good Life, I concentrate on Feldman's account of pleasure as attitudinal. I argue that an account of pleasure according to which pleasure need not have any feel is implausible. I suggest that Feldman could avoid this problem but retain the advantages of his attitudinal hedonism by giving an account of the attitude such that the attitude has a feel.
Debate about the nature of time has been dominated by discussion of two issues: the reality of absolute time and the reality of A-series. We argue that Aristotle adopts a form of the A-theory entailing a denial of the reality of absolute time. Furthermore, Aristotle's denial of absolute time is linked to a denial of the reality of pure temporal becoming, namely, the idea that the now moves through a fixed continuum along which events are arranged in chronological order. We (...) show that the puzzles discussed by Aristotle in IV:10 of the Physics are generated by this view of time and that Aristotle's own theory of time, according to which changes are used to measure one another, avoids these problems. (shrink)
Some moral theorists defend a holistic account of practical reasons and deny that the possibility of moral thought depends upon the existence of moral principles. This article explores the implications of this position for theorising about justice, which has often aspired to provide us with an ordered list of principles to govern our institutions and practices.