In this article the editor of the Philosophical Quarterly briefly outlines the editorial process at that journal; explains why it is foolhardy to attempt to predict the future of philosophy; and, finally, attempts such a prediction. Drawing on his recent book Ethics for a Broken World, he argues that climate change, or some other disaster, may lead to a broken world where the optimistic assumptions underlying contemporary philosophy no longer apply. He argues that the possibility of a broken world has (...) deep and unexpected implications for philosophy. (shrink)
Climate change has obvious practical implications. It will kill millions of people, wipe out thousands of species, and so on. My question in this paper is much narrower. How might climate change impact on moral theory – and especially on the debate between utilitarians and their non-utilitarian rivals? I argue that climate change creates serious theoretical difficulties for non-utilitarian moral theories – especially those that based morality or justice on any contract or bargain for reciprocal advantage. Climate change thus tips (...) the dialectical balance in favour of utilitarianism. However, I also argue that, because it upsets assumptions that lie behind the most plausible forms of modern utilitarianism, climate change may also push utilitarianism in a more austere and demanding direction. (shrink)
What do we owe to our descendants? How do we balance their needs against our own? Tim Mulgan develops a new theory of our obligations to future generations, based on a new rule-consequentialist account of the morality of individual reproduction. He also brings together several different contemporary philosophical discussions, including the demands of morality and international justice. His aim is to produce a coherent, intuitively plausible moral theory that is not unreasonably demanding, even when extended to cover future people. While (...) the book focuses on developing this new account, there are also substantial discussions of alternative views, especially contract-based accounts of intergenerational justice and competing forms of consequentialism. (shrink)
The article discusses Michael Slote's Satisficing Consequentialism, which is the view that moral agents are not required to maximise the good, but merely to produce a sufficient amount of good. It is argued that Satisficing Consequentialism is not an acceptable alternative to Maximising Consequentialism. In particular, it is argued that Satisficing Consequentialism cannot be less demanding in practice than Maximising Consequentialism without also endorsing a wide range of clearly unacceptable actions. It is then argued that Slote's inability to provide adequate (...) reasons for moral satisficing stems from a mistaken analogy between rationality and morals. The sense of 'good enough' which is relevant to morality is one which focusses on the effort an agent puts in, rather than on the outcome she produces. However, replacing outcomes with efforts would undermine Slote's Consequentialist project. Finally, it is suggested that similar problems will be faced by others who seek to construct essentially Consequentialist theories which are not unduly demanding. (shrink)
An infinite future thus threatens to paralyze utilitarianism. Utilitarians need principled ways to determine which possible infinite futures are better or worse. In this article, I discuss a recent suggestion of Peter Vallentyne and Shelly Kagan. I conclude that the best way forward for utilitarians is, in fact, to by-pass the infinite utility debate altogether. (edited).
Total utilitarianism implies Parfit's repugnant conclusion. For any world (A) containing ten billion very happy people, there is a better world (Z) where a vast number of people have lives barely worth living. One common response is to claim that life in Parfit's Z is better than he suggests, and thus that his conclusion is not repugnant. This paper shows that this strategy cannot succeeed. Total utilitarianism also implies a reverse repugnant conclusion. For any world (A-minus) where ten billion people (...) have lives of excruciating agony, there is a worse world (Z-minus) where a vast number of people have lives almost worth living. This reverse repugnant conclusion is at least as repugnant as Parfit's original. If we avoid the latter by raising the zero level, then the former becomes more repugnant. We cannot save total utilitarianism by tinkering with the zero level. (shrink)
Any adequate political theory must provide a plausible account of our obligations to future generations. It must also derive those obligations from morally significant features of our relationship to those who will live in the future, not from contingent accidents of human biology. The Minimal Test outlined in this paper offers a simple way to assess whether political theories are able to meet this challenge. It appears that several popular contemporary political theories will have difficulty passing that test.
Traditional Consequentialism is based on a demanding principle of impartial maximization. Michael Slote's 'Satisficing Consequentialism' aims to reduce the demands of Consequentialism, by no longer requiring us to bring about the best possible outcome. This paper presents a new objection to Satisficing Consequentialism. We begin with a simple thought experiment, in which an agent must choose whether to save the lives of ten innocent people by using a sand bag or by killing an innocent person. The main aim of the (...) paper is to demonstrate that, if it is to avoid making unreasonable demands, Satisficing Consequentialism must allow such an agent to kill. It is argued that this result is much more counter-intuitive than the fact that Maximizing Consequentialism permits agents to kill in order to produce the best consequences. The conclusion is that Satisficing Consequentialism is not an acceptable moral theory. (shrink)
Tim Mulgan presents a penetrating examination of consequentialism: the theory that human behavior must be judged in terms of the goodness or badness of its consequences. The problem with consequentialism is that it seems unreasonably demanding, leaving us no room for our own aims and interests. In response, Mulgan offers his own, more practical version of consequentialism--one that will surely appeal to philosophers and laypersons alike.
A common objection to consequentialism is that it makes unreasonable demands upon moral agents, by failing to allow agents to give special weight to their own personal projects and interests. A prominent recent response to this objection is that of Samuel Scheffler, who seeks to make room for moral agents by building agent-centred prerogatives into a consequentialist moral theory. In this paper, I present a new objection to Scheffler's account. I then sketch an improved prerogative, which avoids this objection by (...) incorporating a non-proportional account of the relationship between values, costs and reasons. (shrink)
A common objection to _act consequentialism (AC) is that it makes unreasonable demands on moral agents. _Rule consequentialism (RC) is often presented as a less demanding alternative. It is argued that this alleged virtue of RC is false, as RC will not be any less demanding in practice than AC. It is then demonstrated that RC has an additional (hitherto unnoticed) vice, as it relies upon the undefended simplifying assumption that the best possible consequences would arise in a society in (...) which everyone followed the same rules. Once this "_homogeneity assumption" is rejected, RC is unable to provide a workable alternative to AC. (shrink)