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)
Philosophical accounts of punishment are primarily concerned with punishment by the (or: a) state. More specifically, they attempt to explain why the (a) state may justifiably penalize those who are judged to violate its laws and the conditions under which it is entitled to do so. But any full account of these matters must surely be grounded in an account of the nature and purpose of the state and the justification of state authority. Because they are not so grounded, deterrence (...) and retributive theories are incomplete as they are typically formulated. The intuitions behind these theories can be satisfied in a variety of complete theories, i.e., theories that understand the justification of punishment in relation to the justification of state authority. A consequence of this is that at least some of the intuitions underlying deterrence and retributive theories can be satisfied at the same time by a given theory. (shrink)
It is widely believed that preferential hiring practices inevitably result in hiring less qualified candidates for jobs. Indeed, this follows analytically from some definitions of preferential hiring (e.g. George Sher's). This paper describes several preferential hiring strategies that do not have this consequence. Sher's definition is thus shown to be inadequate and an alternative definition is proposed.
It is widely supposed that agreements made in response to coercion are entered into involuntarily for that reason. This paper argues that that supposition is false and that it has generated a good deal of avoidable confusion in the courts and among some legal commentators. Agreements entered into involuntarily of course, have no legal standing. But, on any plausible account of coercion, agreements entered into in response to coercion are an inevitability of social life. To prohibit them would be to (...) prohibit many agreements we ought to and do enforce (e.g. labor agreements entered into under threat of strike). This is not to deny that agreements induced by certain uses of force or certain threats of force have and ought to have no standing. But here it is the type of force or threat that invalidates the agreement, not the use of coercion per se. (shrink)
This paper attempts to explain the significance of the ideologies — or middle-level normative discourse — described by Kenneth Goodpaster in his paper Business Ethics, Ideology, and the Naturalistic Fallacy. It is argued that the propositions constitutive of this discourse are not invokable moral principles (i.e. principles which generate solutions to actual moral problems). Rather, they are characterizations of the normative contexts in which moral decisions are made. As such, they place limits on the ways in which the abstract moral (...) principles of traditional moral theory may be applied or interpreted in making real-life moral decisions. (shrink)
It is often held that moral considerations take precedence over considerations of other kinds in determining what we ought to do. I contend that this claim is ambiguous and argue that objections to each interpretation of it can be met only by rejecting the other. One surprising consequence of my argument is that no deontic moral theory can effectively guide action unless it is conjoined with a theory of the good. Another interesting consequence is that the deontologists' favorite objection to (...) teleological theories — the objection from injustice — does not go through. (shrink)
In "Perversion and the Unnatural as Moral Categories" David Levy argues against a number of theories of perversion by means of the method of counter-example. This is inappropriate since many familiar accounts are not attempts to provide a "one-over-many" formula for a core of clear cases. Rather, like Levy himself, many understand perversions as "unnatural" or "non-human" actions, i.e. as distortions of human nature. Here there is agreement on the intension of the term. Differences in the extension arise in virtue (...) of the relational character of the meaning. For what counts as a distortion of human nature depends on the paradigm of human nature one endorses. In these cases the appropriate way to decide between competing lists of perversions is to evaluate the competing paradigms of human nature on which they rest. Typically these paradigms embody important value assumptions. (shrink)
Responding to my paper Bribery Tom Carson argues that bribe takers violate promisory obligations in a wider range of cases than I acknowledge and insists that bribe taking is prima facie wrong in all contexts. I argue that he is wrong on both counts.
There is an obvious and important difference between bank loans and typical personal loans, viz., that banks charge interest in order to make a profit. Accordingly, what banks do is more accurately described as selling or renting money than as loaning money. Moreover, it is advantageous to banks misleadingly to describe their activity as loaning. For this assimilates their activity to the case of personal loans and helps to create an impression that banks do us a favor by loaning us (...) money and that we owe them gratitude for so doing. Since these impressions are false, banks ought cease to describe what they do in this way. (shrink)
It has often been held that human beings have worth and dignity because they are rational. But "reason" has meant different things to different philosophers. I argue that given what is meant by reason (practical reason) in economics, Decision theory and much moral philosophy, It is doubtful that rationality entitles a being to any special status at all. Moreover, And more generally, All historical appeals to reason to ground such claims are covert appeals to some more specific set of human (...) capacities. The move from reason to rights, Then, Rests on certain assumptions about the good. (shrink)
There is a tension between theory and practice in kant's moral philosophy. On the one hand, The categorical imperative presupposes that no rational agent is intrinsically deserving of more rights or a better life than any other. On the other hand, The categorical imperative requires that we act in certain other regarding ways regardless of how others act in relation to us. I argue that often we cannot act in accordance with this latter practical principle without violating the theoretical egalitarianism (...) it presupposes. And I suggest that this sort of conflict may be characteristic of many moral philosophies in the liberal tradition. (shrink)
The author has elsewhere defended the view that accepting a bribe involves the violation of an implicit or explicit promise or understanding associated with an office or position that one occupies and that therefore it is prima facie wrong to accept a bribe. MichaelPhilips has criticized this position in a recent paper. He argues that (a) there are cases in which accepting a bribe violates no promises or agreements, and (b) there are cases in which there is (...) no prima facie duty to refuse an offer of a bribe. The author offers replies to both of these objections. (shrink)
MichaelPhilips in his paper 'Are Coerced Agreements Involuntary?' argues against the widely accepted claim that agreements secured by coercion are involuntary and hence the law should not enforce coerced agreements. Philips's argument relies, I argue, upon an indefensible account of voluntariness. His account of voluntariness does not provide a justification for the system of voluntary exchanges, nor does it link up with our entrenched views about moral and legal responsibility. After arguing for the inadequacy of (...) class='Hi'>Philips's analysis of voluntary, I show that Philips has not established the conclusions he thinks he has; specifically, he does not show that agreements made in response to coercion are not involuntary, that coercion does not invalidate agreements, and that the distinction between illegal and legal means which he is so eager to make cannot do the work he wants it to do. (shrink)
An analysis of 'racism' in terms of disrespect. This article argues against the views that racism should be understood in reductive ways as, variously, an attitude of ill-will (Jorge Garcia), a cognitive object such as ideology (Tommie Shelby), a behavior (MichaelPhilips), or some disjunctive hybrid (Lawrence Blum). In fact, it argues that racism should be conceptually released from having any one location. The disrespect analysis favored here can accommodate a variety of important desiderata for a theory of (...) racism. (shrink)
This paper deals with Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Though both concepts have been very influential for science studies in general, and both have been subject to numerous interpretations, their accounts have, somewhat surprisingly, hardly been comparatively analyzed. Both Fleck and Polanyi relied on the physiology and psychology of the senses in order to show that scientific knowledge follows less the path of logical principles than the path of accepting or rejecting (...) specific conventions, where these may be psychologically or sociologically grounded. It is my aim to show that similarities and differences between Fleck and Polanyi are to be seen in the specific historical and political context in which they worked. Both authors, I shall argue, emphasized the relevance of perception in close connection to their respective understanding of science, freedom, and democracy. (shrink)
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, (...) however, that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos. (shrink)