Philips defends a middle ground between the view that there is a set of standards binding on rational beings as such (universalism) and the view that differences in morals reduce ultimately to matters of taste (skepticism). He begins with a sustained critique of universalist moral theories and some familiar approaches to concrete moral questions that presuppose them (most appeals to intuitions, respect for person's moralities, and versions of contractarianism and wide reflective equilibrium). He goes on to criticize major recent attempts (...) to develop nonuniversalist alternatives to skepticism, arguing that they rely on excessively abstract and philosophically indefensible preference satisfaction theories of the good. According to Philips's positive alternative, moral standards are justified to the extent that they support reasonably valued ways of life. He devotes considerable attention to clarifying this idea and draws conclusions from it about the role and limits of reason in ethics. Philips's theory provides us with a theoretical basis for dealing with actual moral controversies and for approaching questions of applied and professional ethics in a systematic way. (shrink)
This volume of original essays addresses a range of issues concerning the responsibility individuals have for their actions and for their characters. Among the central questions considered are: what scope is there for regarding a person as responsible for his character given genetic and environmental factors; does an account of responsiblity provide a legitimate basis for the retributive emotions; are we ever justified in feeling guilty for occurrences over which we have no control; does responsibility for the consequences of our (...) acts require that they were intended or simply expected; and how have a number of influential previous philosophers, including Aristotle, Maimonides, and Spinoza, approached these questions? (shrink)
This interpretive introduction provides unique insight into Plato's Republic. Stressing Plato's desire to stimulate philosophical thinking in his readers, Julia Annas here demonstrates the coherence of his main moral argument on the nature of justice, and expounds related concepts of education, human motivation, knowledge and understanding. In a clear systematic fashion, this book shows that modern moral philosophy still has much to learn from Plato's attempt to move the focus from questions of what acts the just person ought to perform (...) to the more profound questions of what sort of person the just person ought to be. (shrink)
A strong tradition in philosophy denies the possibility of moral dilemmas. Recently, several philosophers reversed this tradition. In this dissertation, I clarify some fundamental issues in this debate, argue for the possibility of moral dilemmas, and determine some implications of this possibility. ;In chapter I, I define moral dilemmas roughly as situations where an agent morally ought to adopt each of two alternatives but cannot adopt both. Moral dilemmas are resolvable if and only if one of the moral oughts overrides (...) the other. ;In chapter II, I criticize several opponents of moral dilemmas, including utilitarians, Kant, Aquinas, and Ross. My main criticism is that no opponent of moral dilemmas can adequately justify moral residue . ;Chapters III and IV concern the two main arguments against the possibility of moral dilemmas. First, the argument for 'ought' implies 'can' runs as follows. If the agent cannot adopt both, then it is not the case that the agent ought to adopt both. But the agent ought to adopt both, since the agent ought to adopt each . Thus, the defining judgements of a moral dilemma seem to imply a contradiction. In response, I argue that the relation between 'ought' and 'can' is not a logical implication but a conversational implicature. ;Chapter IV concerns the argument from 'ought' implies 'permitted': If the agent ought to adopt one alternative, then the agent is permitted to adopt that alternative, which means that it is not the case that the agent ought not to adopt that alternative. But the agent ought not to adopt that alternative, since the agent ought to adopt the other alternative and cannot adopt both. I respond that 'ought' does not logically imply but conversationally implicates 'permitted'. ;In chapter V, I argue that, despite recent claims, both moral realism and anti-realism are compatible with the possibility of moral dilemmas. Thus, there are several reasons to accept and no reasons to deny the possibility of moral dilemmas. (shrink)
Two centuries after they were published, Kant's ethical writings are as much admired and imitated as they have ever been, yet serious and long-standing accusations of internal incoherence remain unresolved. Onora O'Neill traces the alleged incoherences to attempts to assimilate Kant's ethical writings to modern conceptions of rationality, action and rights. When the temptation to assimilate is resisted, a strikingly different and more cohesive account of reason and morality emerges. Kant offers a "constructivist" vindication of reason and a moral vision (...) in which obligations are prior to rights and in which justice and virtue are linked. O'Neill begins by reconsidering Kant's conceptions of philosophical method, reason, freedom, autonomy and action. She then moves on to the more familiar terrain of interpretation of the Categorical Imperative, while in the last section she emphasizes differences between Kant's ethics and recent "Kantian" ethics, including the work of John Rawls and other contemporary liberal political philosophers. (shrink)
This stimulating and wide-ranging book mounts a profound enquiry into some of the most pressing questions of our age, by examining the relationship between biological science and Christianity. The history of biological discovery is explored from the point of view of a leading philosopher and ethicist. What effect should modern biological theory and practice have on Christian understanding of ethics? How much of that theory and practice should Christians endorse? Can Christians, for example, agree that biological changes are not governed (...) by transcendent values, or that there are no clear or essential boundaries between species? To what extent can 'Nature' set our standards? Professor Clark takes a reasoned look at biological theory since Darwin and argues that an orthodox Christian philosophy is better able to accommodate the truth of such theory than is the sort of progressive, meliorist interpretation of Christian doctrine which is usually offered as the properly 'modern' option. (shrink)
This book offers the fullest and most sophisticated account of Gert's influential moral theory, a model first articulated in the classic work The Moral Rules: A New Rational Foundation for Morality, published in 1970. In this final revision, Gert makes clear that the moral rules are only one part of an informal system that does not provide unique answers to every moral question but does always provide a range of morally acceptable options. A new chapter on reasons includes an account (...) of what makes one reason better than another and a second new chapter is devoted to the question of justifying violations of the rules. Moral impartiality, the moral ideals, and virtue and vice, are all treated in greater detail. Throughout, Gert attempts to answer all of the challenges that his work has provoked. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn puts forward a compelling original philosophy of human motivation and morality. Why do we behave as we do? Can we improve? Is our ethics at war with our passions, or is it an upshot of those passions? Blackburn seeks the answers to such questions in an exploration of the nature of moral emotions and the structures of human motivation. His theory is naturalistic: it integrates our understanding of ethics with the rest of our understanding of the world we (...) live in. But he does not debunk the ethical by reducing it to the non-ethical, and he banishes the spectres of scepticism and relativism that have haunted recent moral philosophy. Ruling Passions reveals how ethics can maintain its authority even though it is rooted in the very emotions and motivations that it exists to control. (shrink)
This is a book on morality, rationality, and the interconnections between the two. In it, I defend a version of consequentialism that both comports with our commonsense moral intuitions and shares with other consequentialist theories the same compelling teleological conception of practical reasons.
An ethic for wrongdoers -- Repaying moral debts : self-punishment and restitution -- Changing one's heart, changing the past : repentance and moral transformation -- Reforming relationships : the reconciliation theory of atonement -- Forgiveness, self-forgiveness, and redemption -- Making amends for crime : an evaluation of restorative justice -- Collective atonement : making amends to the Magdalen penitents.
This book offers a unified collection of published and unpublished papers by Robert Audi, a renowned defender of the rationalist position in ethics. Taken together, the essays present a vigorous, broadly-based argument in moral epistemology and a related account of reasons for action and their bearing on moral justification and moral character. Part I details Audi's compelling moral epistemology while Part II offers a unique vision of ethical concepts and an account of moral explanation, as well as a powerful model (...) of moral realism. Part III extends this account of moral explanation to moral responsibility for both actions and character and to the relation between virtue and the actions that express it. Part IV elaborates a theory of reasons for action that locates them in relation to three of their traditionally major sources: desire, moral judgment, and value. Clear and illuminating, Audi's introduction outlines and interconnects the self-contained but cumulatively arranged essays. It also places them in relation to classical and contemporary literature, and directs readers to large segments of thematically connected material spread throughout the book. Audi ends with a powerfully synthetic final essay. (shrink)
How should the Bible be used in Christian ethics? Although this question has been addressed many times, little attention has gone to how the Bible actually has functioned in constructing theological ethics. In this book, Siker describes and analyzes the Bible's various uses in the theology and ethics of eight of the twentieth century's most important and influential Christian theologians: Reinhold Niebuhr, H. Richard Niebuhr, Bernhard Haring, Paul Ramsey, Stanley Hauerwas, Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone, and Rosemary Radford Ruether. In approaching (...) each author, Siker organizes his study around five related questions. First, which biblical texts does each author in fact use, and, second, in what ways do they use these texts? How does each envision the authority of the Bible? What kind of hermeneutic does the author employ? Finally, what has each author's particular approach to the Bible yielded in terms of Christian Ethics, or, in other words, what are the practical results? Siker ends each chapter with a critical evaluation of the various problems and prospects for the author's use of Scripture, and concludes the study with a comparison and contrast of all the authors' respective appropriations of the Sermon on the Mount. (shrink)
Javier Muguerza’s Ethics and Perplexity makes a highly original contribution to the debate over dialogical reason. The work opens with a letter that establishes a parallel between Ethics and Perplexity and Maimonides’s classic Guide of the Perplexed. It concludes with an interview that repeatedly strikes sparks on Spanish philosophy’s emergence from its “long quarantine,” as Muguerza puts it. These informal pieces—witty, informative, conversational—orbit the nucleus of the work: a formidable critique of dialogical reason. The result is a volume by turns (...) vivid and profound. (shrink)
Introduction -- The self-interest based contractarian response to the skeptic -- A feminist ethics response to the skeptic -- Deformed desires -- Self-interest versus morality -- The amoralist -- The motive skeptic -- The interdependency thesis.
Social action is central to social thought. This centrality reflects the overwhelming causal significance of action for social life, the centrality of action to any account of social phenomena, and the fact that conventions and normativity are features of human activity. This book provides philosophical analyses of fundamental categories of human social action, including cooperative action, conventional action, social norm governed action, and the actions of the occupants of organizational roles. A distinctive feature of the book is that it applies (...) these theories of social action categories to some important moral issues that arise in social contexts such as the collective responsibility for environmental pollution, humanitarian intervention, and dealing with the rights of minority groups. Avoiding both the excessively atomistic individualism of rational choice theorists and implausible collectivist assumptions, this important book will be widely read by philosophers of the social sciences, political scientists and sociologists. (shrink)
Non-cognitivists deny that moral judgement is belief but claim instead that it is the expression of an emotional attitude. Standardly, non-cognitivists deny that moral sentences even purport to represent moral reality and so have developed non-standard semantics for moral discourse. Mark Eli Kalderon argues for a version of non-cognitivism that eschews such controversial semantics; morality, he argues, is a fiction by means of which our emotional attitudes are conveyed. His book will be essential reading for anyone working across moral philosophy, (...) epistemology, and philosophy of language. (shrink)
Sentimental Rules is an ambitious and highly interdisciplinary work, which proposes and defends a new theory about the nature and evolution of moral judgment. In it, philosopher Shaun Nichols develops the theory that emotions play a critical role in both the psychological and the cultural underpinnings of basic moral judgment. Nichols argues that our norms prohibiting the harming of others are fundamentally associated with our emotional responses to those harms, and that such 'sentimental rules' enjoy an advantage in cultural evolution, (...) which partly explains the success of certain moral norms. This has sweeping and exciting implications for philosophical ethics. Nichols builds on an explosion of recent intriguing experimental work in psychology on our capacity for moral judgment and shows how this empirical work has broad import for enduring philosophical problems. The result is an account that illuminates fundamental questions about the character of moral emotions and the role of sentiment and reason in how we make our moral judgments. This work should appeal widely across philosophy and the other disciplines that comprise cognitive science. (shrink)
What does it mean for emotion to be well-constituted? What distinguishes good feeling from (just) feeling good? Is there such a distinction at all? The answer to these questions becomes clearer if we realize that for an emotion to be all it seems, it must be responsible as well as responsive to what it is about. It may be that good feeling depends on feeling truly if we are to be really moved, moved in the way that avoids the need (...) for constant, fretful replenishment and reinforcement. To be sound, emotions may need to be capable of genuineness, depth, and other kinds of integrity. And that, in turn, may require certain virtues of mind, such as truthfulness, temperateness, and even courage, that are more familiar at the level of action. The governing aim of this book is to demonstrate that there can be problems of a structural kind with the adequacy of emotions and the emotional life. (shrink)
All contentious moral issues--from gay marriage to abortion and affirmative action--raise difficult questions about the justification of moral beliefs. How can we be justified in holding on to our own moral beliefs while recognizing that other intelligent people feel quite differently and that many moral beliefs are distorted by self-interest and by corrupt cultures? Even when almost everyone agrees--e.g. that experimental surgery without consent is immoral--can we know that such beliefs are true? If so, how? These profound questions lead to (...) fundamental issues about the nature of morality, language, metaphysics, justification, and knowledge. They also have tremendous practical importance in handling controversial moral questions in health care ethics, politics, law, and education. Sinnott-Armstrong here provides an extensive overview of these difficult subjects, looking at a wide variety of questions, including: Are any moral beliefs true? Are any justified? What is justified belief? The second half of the book explores various moral theories that have grappled with these issues, such as naturalism, normativism, intuitionism, and coherentism, all of which are attempts to answer moral skepticism. Sinnott-Armstrong argues that all these approaches fail to rule out moral nihilism--the view that nothing is really morally wrong or right, bad or good. Then he develops his own novel theory,--"moderate Pyrrhonian moral skepticism"--which concludes that some moral beliefs can be justified out of a modest contrast class but no moral beliefs can be justified out of an extreme contrast class. While explaining this original position and criticizing alternatives, Sinnott-Armstrong provides a wide-ranging survey of the epistemology of moral beliefs. (shrink)
This book has three goals. The first is to demonstrate that the modern, distinctly Kantian, notion of moral responsibility is incoherent by virtue of the way it fuses free will and blameworthiness. The second is to develop an alternative notion of moral responsibility that separates causal responsibility from blameworthiness and views both as relative to the boundaries of our moral community. The third is to establish a framework for arguing openly about our moral responsibility for particular kinds of harm.
Much discussion of morality presupposes that moral judgments are always, at bottom, arbitrary. Moral scepticism, or at least moral relativism, has become common currency among the liberally educated. This remains the case even while political crises become intractable, and it is increasingly apparent that the scope of public policy formulated with no reference to moral justification is extremely limited. The thesis of On Justifying Moral Judgments insists, on the contrary, that rigorous justifications are possible for moral judgments. Crucially, Becker argues (...) for the coordination of the three main approaches to moral theory: axiology, deontology, and agent morality. A pluralistic account of the concept of value is expounded, and a solution to the problem of ultimate justification is suggested. Analyses of valuation, evaluation, the ‘is-ought’ issue, and the concepts of obligation, responsibility and the good person are all incorporated into the main line of argument. (shrink)
Is it rational to be moral? Can moral disputes be settled rationally? Which criteria determine what we have a good reason to do? In this innovative book, Logi Gunnarsson takes issue with the assumption made by many philosophers faced with the problem of reconciling moral norms with a scientific world view, namely that morality must be offered a non- moral justification based on a formal concept of rationality. He argues that the criteria for the rationality of an action are irreducibly (...) substantive, rather than purely formal, and that assuming that morality must be given a non- moral justification amounts to a distortion of both rationality and morality. His discussion includes substantial critical engagement with major thinkers from two very different philosophical traditions, and is notable for its clear and succinct account of Habermas' discourse ethics. It will appeal to anyone interested in practical reason and the rational credentials of morality. (shrink)
This is the first comprehensive study of the ethics of G. E. Moore, the most important English-speaking ethicist of the twentieth century. Moore's ethical project, set out in his seminal text Principia Ethica, is to preserve common moral insight from skepticism and, in effect, persuade his readers to accept the objective character of goodness. Brian Hutchinson explores Moore's arguments in detail and in the process relates the ethical thought to Moore's anti-skeptical epistemology. Moore was, without perhaps fully realizing it, skeptical (...) about the very enterprise of philosophy itself, and in this regard, as Brian Hutchinson reveals, was much closer in his thinking to Wittgenstein than has been previously realized. This book shows Moore's ethical work to be much richer and more sophisticated than his critics have acknowledged. (shrink)
A substantial collection of seminal articles, Foundations of Ethics covers all of the major issues in metaethics. Covers all of the major issues in metaethics including moral metaphysics, epistemology, moral psychology, and philosophy of language. Provides an unparalleled offering of primary sources and expert commentary for students of ethical theory. Includes seminal essays by ethicists such as G.E. Moore, Simon Blackburn, Gilbert Harman, Christine Korsgaard, Michael Smith, Bernard Williams, Jonathan Dancy, and many other leading figures of ethical theory.
We are often uncertain how to behave morally in complex situations. In this controversial study, Ted Lockhart contends that moral philosophy has failed to address how we make such moral decisions. Adapting decision theory to the task of decision-making under moral uncertainly, he proposes that we should not always act how we feel we ought to act, and that sometimes we should act against what we feel to be morally right. Lockhart also discusses abortion extensively and proposes new ways to (...) deal with the ethical and moral issues which surround it. (shrink)
Ethics Done Right examines how practical reasoning can be put into the service of ethical and moral theory. Elijah Millgram shows that the key to thinking about ethics is to understand generally how to make decisions. The papers in this volume support a methodological approach and trace the connections between two kinds of theory in utilitarianism, in Kantian ethics, in virtue ethics, in Hume's moral philosophy, and in moral particularism. Unlike other studies of ethics, Ethics Done Right does not advocate (...) a particular moral theory. Rather, it offers a tool that enables one to decide for oneself. (shrink)
Introduction -- Instrumental rationality -- Social order -- Deontic constraint -- Intentional states -- Preference noncognitivism -- A naturalistic perspective -- Transcendental necessity -- Weakness of will -- Normative ethics.
Jesse Prinz argues that recent work in philosophy, neuroscience, and anthropology supports two radical hypotheses about the nature of morality: moral values are based on emotional responses, and these emotional responses are inculcated by culture, not hard-wired through natural selection. In the first half of the book, Jesse Prinz defends the hypothesis that morality has an emotional foundation. Evidence from brain imaging, social psychology, and psychopathology suggest that, when we judge something to be right or wrong, we are merely expressing (...) our emotions. Prinz argues that these emotions do not track objective features of reality; rather, the rightness and wrongness of an act consists in the fact that people are disposed to have certain emotions towards it. In the second half of the book, he turns to a defense of moral relativism. Moral facts depend on emotional responses, and emotional responses vary from culture to culture. Prinz surveys the anthropological record to establish moral variation, and he draws on cultural history to show how attitudes toward practices such as cannibalism and marriage change over time. He also criticizes evidence from animal behavior and child development that has been taken to support the claim that moral attitudes are hard-wired by natural selection. Prinz concludes that there is no single true morality, but he also argues that some moral values are better than others; moral progress is possible. Throughout the book, Prinz relates his views to contemporary and historical work in philosophical ethics. His views echo themes in the writings of David Hume and Friedrich Nietzsche, but Prinz supports, extends, and revises these classic theories using the resources of cutting-edge cognitive science. The Emotional Construction of Morals will stimulate and challenge anyone who is curious about the nature and origin of moral values. (shrink)
These thirteen original essays, whose authors include some of the world's leading philosophers, examine themes from the work of the Cambridge philosopher G. E. Moore (1873-1958), and demonstrate his considerable continuing influence on philosophical debate. Part I bears on epistemological topics, such as skepticism about the external world, the significance of common sense, and theories of perception. Part II is devoted to themes in ethics, such as Moore's open question argument, his non-naturalism, utilitarianism, and his notion of organic unities.
Moral claims not only purport to be true, they also purport to guide our choices. This book presents a new theory of normative judgment, the "standard-based theory," which offers a schematic account of the truth conditions of normative propositions of all kinds, including moral propositions and propositions about reasons. The heart of Copp 's approach to moral propositions is a theory of the circumstances under which corresponding moral standards qualify as justified, the " society -centered theory." He argues that because (...) any society needs a social moral code in order to enable its members to live together successfully, and because it would be rational for a society to choose such a code, certain moral codes, and the standards they include, are justified. According to the standard-based theory then, if certain moral standards are indeed justified, corresponding moral propositions may be true. Copp 's approach to morality and explaining normativity and the truth conditions of moral claims, raises a number of important issues in moral theory, as well as in metaphysics and the philosophy of language. (shrink)
This book examines the ways in which reasonable people can disagree about the requirements of political morality. Christopher McMahon argues that there will be a 'zone of reasonable disagreement' surrounding most questions of political morality. Moral notions of right and wrong evolve over time as new zones of reasonable disagreement emerge out of old ones; thus political morality is both different in different societies with varying histories, and different now from what it was in the past. McMahon explores this feature (...) of his theory in detail and traces its implications for the possibility of making moral judgments about other polities, past or present. His study sheds light on an important and often overlooked aspect of political life, and will be of interest to a wide range of readers in moral and political philosophy and in political theory. (shrink)
The relations between reason, motivation and value present problems which, though ancient, remain intractable. If values are objective and rational how can they move us and if they are dependent on our contingent desires how can they be rational? E. J. Bond makes a bold attack on this dilemma. The widespread view among philosophers today is that judgements contain an irreducible element of personal commitment. To this Professor Bond proposes an account of values as objective and value judgements as true (...) or false, employing a distinction between grounding and motivating reasons to establish their connection with action. He defines and tests his position against a number of recent theories, providing in the process forceful criticism of Williams, Wiggins, Foot, Narveson and Nagel, among others. A distinctive contribution to the subject, it will stimulate interest and worthwhile debate among philosophers, while also serving as an introduction to this vital topic. (shrink)
There has recently been a good deal of interest in moral sentimentalism, but most of that interest has been exclusively either in metaethical questions about the meaning of moral terms or in normative issues about benevolence and/or caring and their place in morality. In Moral Sentimentalism Michael Slote attempts to deal with both sorts of issues and to do so, primarily, in terms of the notion or phenomenon of empathy. Hume sought to do something like this over two centuries ago, (...) though he didn't have the term "empathy" and used "sympathy" instead; and in effect Slote is seeking to give moral sentimentalism a "second wind" in and for contemporary circumstances. By relying systematically on empathy in its account of normative morality and in what it has to say about the meaning of moral vocabulary, Moral Sentimentalism offers a unified overall ethical picture that can then be tested against ethical rationalism. Rationalism has recently dominated the scene in ethics, but by showing how sentimentalism can make coherent and intuitive sense of such preferred rationalist notions as autonomy, respect, and justice--and by showing how a sentimentalism based in empathy can deal with ethically significant aspects of the moral life that rationalism tends to ignore or skimp on--Slote hopes a wider and more active debate between rationalism and sentimentalism can be set in motion. There are signs that sentimentalist modes of thought are gaining new footholds on the way ethics is done, and this new book is very hopeful about these possibilities. (shrink)