In Torture, Terror and Trade-Offs: Philosophy for the White House Jeremy Waldron asks how moral philosophy can illuminate real life political problems. He argues that moral philosophers should remind politicians of the importance of adhering to moral principle, and he also argues that some moral principles are absolute and exceptionless. Thus, he is very critical of those philosophers who, post 9/11, were willing to condone the use of torture. In this article I discuss and criticize Waldron’s absolutism. In particular, I (...) claim that the arguments he offers in support of it are either dependent on religious conviction or support only rule utilitarianism, not absolutism. Additionally, I argue that the character of politics is such that it is both undesirable and morally irresponsible for politicians to adopt the absolutist approach favoured by Waldron. We have reason to be glad that Professor Waldron does not go to Washington. (shrink)
Most modern moral theories are impartialist in character. They perceive the demands of morality as standing in opposition to partial concerns and acting as constraints upon them. In this paper I argue that our partial concerns in general, and our love and concern for others in particular, are not ultimately at odds with the demands of morality, impartially understood, but are the necessary preconditions of our being motivated by impartial morality. If we are to care about morality, we must first (...) care about people and things other than morality. If we are to be educated morally, we must first be educated in the emotions. (shrink)
In his essay, ‘The Question of Machiavelli’, Isaiah Berlin notes the depth of Machiavelli's pluralism. Taking my cue from Berlin, I argue that much modern liberal political philosophy neglects this deep pluralism and, as a result, misunderstands modern political problems such as the phenomenon of religiously-motivated terrorism.
In What We Owe to Each Other, T.M. Scanlon says that any acceptable moral teory must answer what he calls the priority question: the question of why moral value should takes priority over other values, such as the values of love and friendship. In this essay I discuss Scanlon's answer to the priority question and contrast it with the answer offered by Christine Korsgaard in Sources of Normativity. I argue that each account contains important insights but that neither is completely (...) satisfactory. However, by combining elements of the two accounts we can arrive at a richer understanding of the relationship between morality and other values, and a better explanation of the priority of the moral. (shrink)
The debate between impartialists and their critics has dominated both moral and political philosophy for over a decade. Characteristically, impartialists argue that any sensible form of impartialism can accommodate the partial concerns we have for others. By contrast, partialists deny that this is so. They see the division as one which runs exceedingly deep and argue that, at the limit, impartialist thinking requires that we marginalise those concerns and commitments that make our lives meaningful. This book attempts to show both (...) that the dispute between impartialists and their critics runs very deep, and that it can nonetheless be resolved. The resolution begins by asking how impartialist political philosophy can defend the priority of justice when it conflicts with people's commitments to their conceptions of the good. It is argued that priority can only defended if political impartialism has a moral foundation, and that moral foundation must not be a foundation in the ideal of equality (as is often thought), but a foundation in the partial concerns we have for others. In short, impartialist moral philosophy must take our partial concerns as central if it is to gain allegiance. However, if it does take our partial concerns as central, then it can generate a defence of political impartialism which shows why justice must take priority, but which also acknowledges that pluralism about the good is permanent. (shrink)
This book combines the insights of enlightenment thinking and feminist theory to explore the significance of love in modern philosophy. The author argues for the importance of emotion in general, and love in particular, to moral and political philosophy, pointing out that some of the central philosophers of the enlightment were committed to a moralized conception of love. However, she believes that feminism's insights arise not from its attribution of special and distinctive qualities to women, but from its recognition of (...) human vulernability. (shrink)
Much modern liberal political theory takes the concept of autonomy as central and argues that political arrangements are to be assessed, in some part, by their ability to foster the development of individual autonomy understood as being the author of one's own life. This paper argues that so understood, autonomy is less important than is usually thought The liberal requirement that we 'author' our own lives disguises the importance of also being accurate readers of our own lives. I explore the (...) metaphor of reading through a discussion of the character of Nora in Ibsen's Doll's Houseand argue that Nora's case demonstrates the limitations of the liberal understanding of autonomy as involving authorship of one's own life. (shrink)
Recent writings in philosophy of education have expressed pessimism about the possibility of educating students to think for themselves. Similarly, recent writings in political philosophy have expressed pessimism about the possibility of attaining democracy. In this paper, I suggest that such pessimism is premature and may be alleviated, if not removed, by interpreting both educational enlightenment and the democratic ideal as processes, rather than end states. They are, moreover, processes which exist in symbiotic relationship with one another. Thus educational practices (...) may improve the prospects of attaining democracy, and political practices may strengthen education. (shrink)
Is toleration a requirement of morality or a dictate of prudence? What limits are there to toleration? What is required of us if we are to promote a truly tolerant society? These themes--the grounds, limits, and requirements of toleration--are central to this book, which presents the W.B. Morrell Memorial Lectures on Toleration, given in 1986 at the University of York. Covering a wide range of practical and theoretical issues, the contributors--including F.A. Hayek, Maurice Cranston, and Karl Popper--consider the philosophical difficulties (...) inherent in the concept as well as the practical problems of implementing a policy of toleration. Although the contributors differ in their conclusions about the grounds of toleration, they all share a belief in the importance of the concept both historically and in modern society. (shrink)
I argue that, Pace bennett, Strawson and others, The paralogisms chapter of the "first critique" does not present a theory of personal identity. In particular, It is not an attempt to answer hume's questions in the 'of personal identity' chapter of the "treatise". Kant shows why hume's search for a continuing self is misguided, But his aim is to warn against inflating the conclusions of the paralogisms, Not to present a theory of personal identity.