As a Catholic nun, to suggest Jacqueline Pascal as autonomous might at first glance seem contradictory. We show that her moral deference to the divine is not at all forfeiting her autonomy, but that aligning her own law with God's law is to align her own law with rationality itself, that is, the laws of nature. Her theoretical structure begins with a theory of virtue—viz., how and to whom we have an obligation to be moral. For her, acting in accordance (...) with cultural restrictions or following church orders against her own conscience would be living by the laws of another and so not acting autonomously. Pascal would not live by other's laws, regardless of whether her actions conform to the categories by which society expected her to act. The framework for her laws laid in Pascal's understanding of self-governance: if she wants to act virtuously then she must autonomously follow God's law by making it her own through the sentiments of her heart. Thus, she cannot live by the laws of men, but by the laws of her human nature and in alignment with a rightly ordered universe, that is, God's law, which we show parallels with a Stoic framework of autonomy. (shrink)
Digital ethics, also known as computer ethics or information ethics, is now a lively field that draws a lot of attention, but how did it come about and what were the developments that lead to its existence? What are the traditions, the concerns, the technological and social developments that pushed digital ethics? How did ethical issues change with digitalisation of human life? How did the traditional discipline of philosophy respond? The article provides an overview, proposing historical epochs: ‘pre-modernity’ prior to (...) digital computation over data, via the ‘modernity’ of digital data processing to our present ‘post-modernity’ when not only the data is digital, but our lives themselves are largely digital. In each section, the situation in technology and society is sketched, and then the developments in digital ethics are explained. Finally, a brief outlook is provided. (shrink)
. John Cottingham suggests that “only a traditional theistic framework may be adequate for doing justice to the role of conscience in our lives.” Two main reasons for endorsing this proposition are assessed: the religious origins of conscience, and the need to explain its normative authority. I argue that Graeco-Roman conceptions of conscience cast doubt on this first historical claim, and that secular moral realisms can account for the obligatoriness of conscience. Nevertheless, the recognition of the need for an objective (...) foundation for conscience which emerges from these debates should be embraced by both secular and religious ethicists alike. (shrink)
Free Will & The Tragic Predicament : Making Sense of Williams -/- The discussion in this paper aims to make better sense of free will and moral responsibility by way of making sense of Bernard Williams’ significant and substantial contribution to this subject. Williams’ fundamental objective is to vindicate moral responsibility by way of freeing it from the distortions and misrepresentations imposed on it by “the morality system”. What Williams rejects, in particular, are the efforts of “morality” to further “deepen” (...) or “refine” the notion of the voluntary, with a view to securing “ultimate justice”. It is these aims and aspirations, he argues, that take us to the precipice of scepticism. In Shame and Necessity (1993) Williams advances a vindicatory genealogy that unmasks the “illusions” and “fantasies” of our current ethical ideas as they relate to agency and responsibility. What we are then left with is the task of “recasting our ethical conceptions” . It is here that Williams is especially insistent on the importance and value of historical consciousness and reflection. The role of our reflections about the Greeks and tragedy is precisely to show that in order to move forward, into the future, we need to first look back at where we have come from. The value of these “untimely” observations is that they provide us with alternatives and options that we might otherwise lack. What we discover, when we consider the Greeks, is their commitment to a “pessimism of strength” that rests on rejecting scepticism. It is this two-sided perspective on our ethical predicament that delivers a more truthful account of our human situation, one that will help us discard those illusions and fantasies of "morality" that we are “better off” without. An account of this kind refuses to accept an optimism that insists that any form of responsible ethical life must be one that is immune to the influence of luck and fate. This is the fundamental lesson that we can learn from the ancient Greeks and that Williams seeks to “recover” for us. (shrink)
In this article, I vindicate the longstanding intuition that the Stoics are transitional figures in the history of ethics. I argue that the Stoics are committed to thinking that the ideal of human happiness as a life of virtue is impossible for some people, whom I dub ‘hopeless fools.’ In conjunction with the Stoic view that everyone is subject to the same rational requirements to perform ‘appropriate actions’ or ‘duties’ (kathēkonta/officia), and the plausible eudaimonist assumption that happiness is a source (...) of normative reasons only if it is in principle attainable, the existence of hopeless fools demonstrates that the Stoics were pluralists about the ultimate justificatory basis of rational action. Hopeless fools are required to behave just like their non-hopeless counterparts, not because doing so is conducive to their happiness, but because doing so conforms with the dictates of Right Reason. (shrink)
Kant’s arguments for the reality of human freedom and the normativity of the moral law continue to inspire work in contemporary moral philosophy. Many prominent ethicists invoke Kant, directly or indirectly, in their efforts to derive the authority of moral requirements from a more basic conception of action, agency, or rationality. But many commentators have detected a deep rift between the _Groundwork for the Metaphysics of Morals_ and the _Critique of Practical Reason_, leaving Kant’s project of justification exposed to conflicting (...) assessments and interpretations. In this major re-reading of Kant, Owen Ware defends the controversial view that Kant’s mature writings on ethics share a unified commitment to the moral law’s primacy. Using both close analysis and historical contextualization, Owen Ware overturns a paradigmatic way of reading Kant’s arguments for morality and freedom, situating them within Kant’s critical methodology at large. The result is a novel understanding of Kant that challenges much of what goes under the banner of Kantian arguments for moral normativity today. (shrink)
Since its emergence in the early 2000s, neuroethics has become a recognized, institutionalized and professionalized field. A central strategy for its successful development has been the claim that it must be an autonomous discipline, distinct in particular from bioethics. Such claim has been justified by the conviction, sustained since the 1990s by the capabilities attributed to neuroimaging technologies, that somehow ‘the mind is the brain’, that the brain sciences can illuminate the full range of human experience and behavior, and that (...) neuroscientific knowledge will have dramatic implications for views of the human, and challenge supposedly established beliefs and practices in domains ranging from self and personhood to the political organization of society. This article examines how that conviction functions as neuroethics’ ideological condition of possibility. (shrink)
The Department of Higher Education of the Government of India has created the e-PG Pathshala Program: an e-Graduate School initiative, consisting of free, online resources (essay-lectures, video lectures, and PowerPoint notes) for Master’s level education. Each course consists of about 30 to 40 lessons. Ethics-1 is the first year MA course in Ethics. All contributions were peer reviewed. This is the first historical survey of moral theory that spans the European and Asian traditions, and gives equal prominence to contributions from (...) Europe and India. Much of the material and research published here was previously unavailable in other forms. (Title of this entry linked to Ethics-1.) From the first drop down menu, select "Ethics 1." From the second, select the module. (shrink)
This is a critical review of Roger Crisp's The Cosmos of Duty. The review praises the book but, among other things, takes issue with some of Crisp's criticisms of Sidgwick's view that resolution of the free will problem is of limited significance to ethics and with Crisp's claim that in Methods III.xiii Sidgwick defends an axiom of prudence that undergirds rational egoism.
This work examines Michel Foucault’s critique of the present, through his analysis of our hidden but still active historical legacies. His works from the Eighties are the beginning of what he called a “genealogy of the desiring subject,” in which he shows that practices such as confession—in its juridical, psychological, and religious forms—have largely dictated how we think about our ethical selves. This constrains our notions of ethics to legalistic forbidden/required dichotomies, and requires that we engage in a hermeneutics of (...) the self which consistently fails to discover its imagined authentic self, or to find the happiness and freedom promised by contemporary ethics. In order to think the modern self in different terms, Foucault’s later works analyzed Classical and Hellenistic ethical sources, emphasizing their distance from today. He hoped doing so would allow us to rethink our current assumptions about ethical matters, the truth of oneself, and the relation to others. While Foucault’s genealogical descriptions critically diagnosed contemporary ills such as these, he did not prescribe a cure, preferring to let his readers experiment with new practices of their own design. This work attempts such an experiment, supplying concrete solutions to our ethical ills, in order to help us improve, as well as understand, our ethical selves. To that end, this work demonstrates that a form of subjectivity based on Benedict Spinoza’s ethical and political works avoids the pitfalls of modern ethics as diagnosed by Foucault. Additionally, the practices of the self found in Spinoza can be used to directly counter and displace each central element of “desiring subjectivity,” and thus supplies the kind of effective positive move which should follow after genealogical critique. (shrink)
This book is an anthology with the following themes. Non-European Tradition: Bussanich interprets main themes of Hindu ethics, including its roots in ritual sacrifice, its relationship to religious duty, society, individual human well-being, and psychic liberation. To best assess the truth of Hindu ethics, he argues for dialogue with premodern Western thought. Pfister takes up the question of human nature as a case study in Chinese ethics. Is our nature inherently good (as Mengzi argued) or bad (Xunzi’s view)? Pfister ob- (...) serves their underlying agreement, that human beings are capable of becoming good, and makes precise the disagreement: whether we achieve goodness by cultivating autonomous feelings or by accepting external precepts. There are political consequences: whether government should aim to respect and em- power individual choices or to be a controlling authority. Early Greek Thinking: Collobert examines the bases of Homeric ethics in fame, prudence, and shame, and how these guide the deliberations of heroes. She observes how, by depending upon the poet’s words, the hero gains a quasi- immortality, although in truth there is no consolation for each person’s inevi- table death. Plato: Santas examines Socratic Method and ethics in Republic 1. There Socrates examines definitions of justice and tests them by comparison to the arts and sciences. Santas shows the similarities of Socrates’ method to John Rawls’ method of considered judgments in reflective equilibrium. McPherran interprets Plato’s religious dimension as like that of his teacher Socrates. McPherran shows how Plato appropriates, reshapes, and extends the religious conventions of his own time in the service of establishing the new enterprise of philosophy. Ac- cording to Taylor, Socrates believes that humans in general have the task of helping the gods by making their own souls as good as possible, and Socrates’ unique ability to cross-examine imposes on him the special task of helping others to become as good as possible. This conception of Socrates’ mission is Plato’s own, consisting in an extension of the traditional conception of piety as helping the gods. Brickhouse and Smith propose a new understanding of Socratic moral psychology—one that retains the standard view of Socrates as an intellectualist, but also recognizes roles in human agency for appetites and passions. They compare and contrast the Socratic view to the picture of moral psychology we get in other dialogues of Plato. Hardy also proposes a new, non-reductive understanding of Socratic eudaimonism—he argues that Socrates invokes a very rich and complex notion of the “Knowledge of the Good and Bad”, which is associated with the motivating forces of the virtues. Rudebusch defends Socrates’ argument that knowledge can never be impotent in the face of psychic passions. He considers the standard objections: that knowledge cannot weigh incom- mensurable human values, and that brute desire, all by itself, is capable of moving the soul to action. Aristotle: Anagnostopoulos interprets Aristotle on the nature and acquisition of virtue. Though virtue of character, aiming at human happiness, requires a complex awareness of multiple dimensions of one’s experience, it is not properly a cognitive capacity. Thus it requires habituation, not education, according to Aristotle, in order to align the unruly elements of the soul with reason’s knowledge of what promotes happiness. Shields explains Aristotle’s doctrine that goodness is meant in many ways as the doctrine that there are different analyses of goodness for different types of circumstance, just as for being. He finds Aristotle to argue for this conclusion, against Plato’s doctrine of the unity of the Good, by applying the tests for homonymy and as an immediate cons- equence of the doctrine of categories. Shields evaluates the issue as unresolved at present. Russell discusses Aristotle’s account of practical deliberation and its virtue, intelligence (phronesis). He relates the account to contemporary philo- sophical controversies surrounding Aristotle’s view that intelligence is neces- sary for moral virtue, including the objections that in some cases it is unnecessary or even impedes human goodness. Frede examines the advantages and disadvantages of Aristotle’s virtue ethics. She explains the general Greek con- ceptions of happiness and virtue, Aristotle’s conception of phronesis and compares the Aristotle’s ethics with modern accounts. Liske discusses the question of whether the Aristotelian account of virtue entails an ethical-psy- chological determinism. He argues that Aristotle’s understanding of hexis allows for free action and ethical responsibility : By making decisions for good actions we are able to stabilize our character (hexis). Hellenistic and Roman: Annas defends an account of stoic ethics, according to which the three parts of Stoicism—logic, physics, and ethics—are integrated as the parts of an egg, not as the parts of a building. Since by this analogy no one part is a foundation for the rest, pedagogical decisions may govern the choice of numerous, equally valid, presentations of Stoic ethics. Piering interprets the Cynic way of life as a distinctive philosophy. In their ethics, Cynics value neither pleasure nor tradition but personal liberty, which they achieve by self-suffi- ciency and display in speech that is frank to the point of insult. Plotinus and Neoplatonism: Gerson outlines the place of ordinary civic virtue as well as philosophically contemplative excellence in Neoplatonism. In doing so he attempts to show how one and the same good can be both action-guiding in human life and be the absolute simple One that grounds the explanation of everything in the universe. Delcomminette follows Plotinus’s path to the Good as the foundation of free will, first in the freedom of Intellect and then in the “more than freedom” of the One. Plotinus postulates these divinities as not outside but within each self, saving him from the contradiction of an external foundation for a truly free will. General Topics: Halbig discusses the thesis on the unity of virtues. He dis- tinguishes the thesis of the identity of virtues and the thesis of a reciprocity of virtues and argues that the various virtues form a unity (in terms of reciprocity) since virtues cannot bring about any bad action. Detel examines Plato’s and Aristotle’s conceptions of normativity : Plato and Aristotle (i) entertained hybrid theories of normativity by distinguishing functional, semantic and ethical normativity, (ii) located the ultimate source of normativity in standards of a good life, and thus (iii) took semantic normativity to be a derived form of normativity. Detel argues that hybrid theories of normativity are—from a mo- dern point of view—still promising. Ho ̈ffe defends the Ancient conception of an art of living against Modern objections. Whereas many Modern philosophers think that we have to replace Ancient eudaimonism by the idea of moral obligation (Pflicht), Ho ̈ffe argues that Eudaimonism and autonomy-based ethics can be reconciled and integrated into a comprehensive and promising theory of a good life, if we enrich the idea of autonomy by the central elements of Ancient eudaimonism. Some common themes: The topics in Chinese and Hindu ethics are perhaps more familiar to modern western sensibilities than Homeric and even Socratic. Anagnostopoulos, Brickhouse and Smith, Frede, Liske, Rudebusch, and Russell all consider in contrasting ways the role of moral character, apart from intellect, in ethics. Brickhouse / Smith, Hardy, and Rudebusch discuss the Socratic con- ception of moral knowledge. Brickhouse / Smith and Hardy retain the standard view of the so called Socratic Intellectualism. Shields and Gerson both consider the question whether there is a single genus of goodness, or if the term is a homonym. Bussanich, McPherran, Taylor, and Delcomminette all consider the relation between religion and ethics. Pfister, Piering, Delcomminette, and Liske all consider what sort of freedom is appropriate to human well-being. Halbig, Detel, and Ho ̈ffe propose interpretations of main themes of Ancient ethics. (shrink)
Indifference is sometimes described as a virtue. Yet who is indifferent; to what; and in what way is poorly understood, and frequently subject to controversy and confusion. This paper proposes a framework for the interpretation and analysis of ethically acceptable forms of indifference in terms of how different states of indifference can be either more or less dynamic, or more or less sensitive to the nature and state of their object.
This is a retrospective essay on Henry Sidgwick's "My Station and Its Duties" written to mark the 125th anniversary of Ethics. It engages with Sidgwick's remarks on the kind of ethical expertise that the moral philosopher possesses and on his approach to practical ethics generally.
There is no religion that does not start from the premise that “something is rotten in the Kingdom of Denmark,” to make use of Hamlet’s suggestive expression:mankind has lost its connection with the principle of its being and disharmony has ensued. This state of affairs, that religion claims to remedy, may be deemed toresult from a sense of radical “otherness” symbolized, in the Abrahamic traditions, by the loss of the blissful unity and proximity of terrestrial paradise. In this paper we (...) propose to show that the Islamic concept of ridā, particularly as it has been conceptualized and practiced in Sufism, is none other than both the means and the end of this re-connection with God and human beings as acceptance of “otherness.” The Quranic idea of Divine ridwān provides both the transcendent model and the infinite counterpart of this human virtue of acceptance. (shrink)
This chapter examines the different answers that British moralists gave to the question ‘what does virtue consist in?’ Rather than as a royal road to present-day views in ethics, their answers are best understood when considered against the background of early modern natural law theories and their projected metaphysics of morals. The emerging ‘science of morality’ dealt with the metaphysical problem of determining what sort of thing virtue is. Considered from this vantage point, the British moralists struggled with the problem (...) of deciding whether moral concepts signify laws of nature, rational drives in human beings, irrational drives in human beings, volitions of a legislator, or social institutions. British moral philosophies in the eighteenth century can be divided up according to whether they defended the thesis that moral qualities are artificial, the thesis that they are part of nature, or the thesis that they are the product of historical experience. (shrink)
This chapter critically examines the scholarly and political discourse since the 1960s on “the Armenian Genocide.” This discourse represents not only a forgetting or continued unawareness that there were Assyrian and Greek victims of the anti-Christian massacres of the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish republic, but an active suppression of our existing historical knowledge about Assyrian and Greek victims. There were between two and seven million Greeks and approximately 500,000 Assyrians living in the Ottoman Empire in 1914, but only (...) about 258,000 Christians of all kinds remaining in Turkey by 1927, even though Turkey once included substantial Assyrian and Greek regions.5 Two potential explanations for the ongoing concealment of the Assyrian and Greek genocides are that there was little writing on Ottoman mass killing in general prior to the 1970s, or that recent scholarship made the Assyrian and Greek genocides prominent within genocide studies. Neither of them holds water, because there was abundant documentation of the Ottoman Christian genocide before the allegedly forgotten Armenian genocide began to be remembered, and very recent scholarly works minimize or completely ignore Assyrian and Greek victims. (shrink)
Commentators commonly assume that Descartes regards it as a function of the passions to inform us or teach us which things are beneficial and which are harmful. As a result, they tend to infer that Descartes regards the passions as an appropriate guide to what is beneficial or harmful. In this paper I argue that this conception of the role of the passions in Descartes is mistaken. First, in spite of a number of texts appearing to show the contrary, I (...) argue that Descartes does not regard it as the role of the passions to inform us about what is beneficial or harmful. Second, although Descartes calls the passions good and useful, I argue that Descartes does not think we should allow ourselves to be guided by them. When we recognize that the function of the passions is largely motivational and not informative, we can more easily understand Descartes's practical advice in The Passions of the Soul that happiness requires us to guide our passions instead of letting our passions guide us. (shrink)
In this article, I aim to reconstruct Otto Neurath’s naturalistic program for practical philosophy. This program, which he calls “felicitology,” was intended as a version of ethics suitable for the “scientific worldview” of the logical empiricists. I begin by situating Neurath’s ethical concerns in the context of the debate between his fellow Austro-Marxists and the Marburg neo-Kantians. I then show why, contrary to many logical empiricists, Neurath thought that ethical considerations had an important role to play in scientific inquiry. I (...) argue that this conclusion follows from his contribution to the protocol-sentence debate of the early 1930s. Finally, I show how Neurath’s advocacy of unified science, democratic socialism, a world economy, and his method of visual learning all relate to his program for felicitology. (shrink)
The volume contains 10 chapters on 5 main issues of philosophical ethics: Relative/Absolute, Natural/Normative, Value/Values, Reason/Passions, Commands/Counsels. Each issue is examined in two chapters, the first one dealing with ancient (or medieval) philosophical positions, and the second one dealing with modern or contemporary debates.
While much has been made of the similarities between the work of Nietzsche and Freud, insufficient attention has been paid to their differences. Even where they have been noted, the degree of these differences, which sometimes approaches direct opposition, has often been underestimated. In the following essay, I will suggest that on the topic of conscience Nietzsche and Freud have radically opposed views, with profoundly different moral consequences. Despite superficial similarities, Nietzsche’s conception of conscience is opposed to that of Freud (...) in almost every conceivable way. For Freud, conscience is primarily associated with bad will, repression, subordination to social prohibition, and the feeling of guilt. For Nietzsche, conscience is primarily related to affirmation, memory, individual sovereignty, and the feelings of pride and power. To be sure, Freudian “bad conscience” has its parallel in Nietzsche’s philosophy—but only as a modality of conscience, not as its foundation. Freudian conscience is, on the contrary, an essentially bad conscience. (shrink)
Are torture and torturers unforgivable? The article examines this question in the light of a Humean account of forgiveness. Initially, the Humean account appears to suggest that torturers are unforgivable. However, in the end, I argue it provides us with good reasons to think that even torturers may be forgiven.
Ethics of Richard M. Hare is widely considered as a classical example of the strong internalistic theory of motivation: he is thought to believe that having a moral motive is a sufficient condition to act accordingly. However, strong internalism has difficulties with explaining the phenomenon of acrasia and amoralism. For this reason some critics charge him with developing a false theory of moral motivation. In the article I present Hare's answer to these questions by dividing the discussion about motivation into (...) three levels: semantical, epistemological, and ontological. I also explain his concept of internal motivation and argue that his theory, contrary to what his critics assume, may be called a weak motivational internalism. (shrink)
I introduce a distinction between two divergent trends in the literature on Hume and practical reason. One trend, action-theoretic Humeanism, primarily concerns itself with defending a general account of reasons for acting. The other trend, virtue-theoretic Humeanism, concentrates on defending the case for being an agent of a particular practical character, one whose enduring dispositions of practical thought are virtuous. I discuss work exemplifying these two trends and warn against decoupling thought about Hume's and a Humean theory of practical reason (...) from Hume's and a Humean ethics. I conclude that the virtue-theoretic approach is a fruitful one for pursuing future work on Hume and Humeanism about practical reason. (shrink)
This book presents Robert S. Hartman's formal theory of value and critically examines many other twentieth century value theorists in its light, including A.J. Ayer, Kurt Baier, Brand Blanshard, Paul Edwards, Albert Einstein, William K. Frankena, R.M. Hare, Nicolai Hartmann, Martin Heidegger, G.E. Moore, P.H. Nowell-Smith, Jose Ortega y Gasset, Charles Stevenson, Paul W. Taylor, Stephen E. Toulmin, and J.O. Urmson. Open Access funding for this volume has been provided by the Robert S. Hartman Institute.
The object of compiling this treatise is to supply the Parsees a manual containing the morals of ancient Iranians and Zoroastrians. That there is a want of such a manual will be admitted by all thoughtful Zoroastrians, and if it should prove useful until a better one should be out, the compiler’s object shall have been gained. -/- There was no alternative but to take entire select pieces of prayers from the Avesta, and these have been so arranged that they (...) can be used by any person so as to serve the purpose of ordinary prayer and can be recited at any time and at any place. (shrink)