We propose a new account of collective moral obligation. We argue that several agents have a moral obligation together only if they each have (i) a context-specific capacity to view their situation from the group’s perspective, and (ii) at least a general capacity to deliberate about what they ought to do together. Such an obligation is irreducibly collective, in that it does not imply that the individuals have any obligations to contribute to what is required of the group. We highlight (...) various distinctive features of our account. One such feature is that moral obligations are always relative to an agential perspective. (shrink)
How can we make rational decisions that involve transformative experiences, that is, experiences that can radically change our core preferences? L. A. Paul (2014) has argued that many decisions involving transformative experiences cannot be rational. However, Paul acknowledges that some traumatic events can be transformative experiences, but are nevertheless not an obstacle to rational decision-making. For instance, being attacked by hungry sharks would be a transformative experience, and yet, deciding not to swim with hungry sharks is rational. Paul has tried (...) to explain why decisions involving ‘sharky’ outcomes are an exception to the rule. However, her putative explanation has been criticized by Campbell and Mosquera (2020). In this paper, I offer a different solution to this problem. Roughly, I argue that transformative experiences give rise a problem for rational decision-making only if the decision can lead to satisfying some of our (new) core preferences, but can also frustrate other (new) core preferences. I also argue that agents can partially project what traumatic transformative experiences are like. (shrink)
This paper is a survey of the generalism-particularism debate in ethics. It's an updated version of "Moral Particularism", in Christian B. Miller (ed.), The Continuum Companion to Ethics (Continuum, 2011), pp. 247-260.
Recent advancements in therapeutic and diagnostic medicine, along with the creation of large biobanks and methods for monitoring health technologies, have improved the prospects for preventing, treating, and curing illness. These same advancements, however, give rise to a plethora of ethical questions concerning good decision-making and best action. These ethical questions engage policymakers, practitioners, scientists, and researchers from a variety of fields in different ways. Collaborations between professionals in the medical and health sciences and the social sciences and humanities often (...) take an asymmetrical form, as when social scientists use ethnographic approaches to study the moral issues and practices of physicians. The ethics laboratory described in this article is a cross-sectoral and inter-disciplinary forum for collaborative investigation on important moral topics. It offers an experimental way of unpacking implied assumptions, underlying values, and comparable notions from different professional healthcare fields. The aim of this article is to present the ethics laboratory’s methodology. The article offers a model and a hermeneutical framework that rests on a dialogical approach to ethical questions. The model and the framework derive from a Danish research project, _Personalized Medicine in the Welfare State_. This article uses personalized medicine as a point of reference, though it offers an argument for the applicability of the model more broadly. (shrink)
It is commonly recognized that ‘ought’ is a semantically flexible word admitting of more “objective” and more “subjective” senses. Which of these senses (if any) is the one that is of central concern in normative ethics? According to some philosophers, the sense ‘ought’ that is centrally at issue in normative ethics is the sense of ‘ought’ that features in the various ‘ought’ questions that rational subjects aim to answer when deliberating about what to do. An assumption of this proposal is (...) that there is a single deliberative sense of ‘ought’ that is the focus of rational and morally conscientious deliberation. In this paper, I contest this assumption. I raise objections to various attempts at characterizing this alleged deliberative ‘ought’ (giving special attention to a sophisticated account from Kiesewetter (2017)) and argue that deliberation can serve rational decision-making even if it is not ultimately focused on some normatively privileged sense of ‘ought.’. (shrink)
In this paper, I take up one of Wang Yangming’s most audacious philosophical claims, which is that an achievement that is entirely concerned with correcting one’s own inner states, called “establishing sincerity” (licheng 立誠) can help one to fully grasp (jin 盡) all ethically pertinent matters, including those that would seem to require some ability to know or track facts about the wider world (e.g., facts about people very different from ourselves, facts about the needs of plants and animals). Wang (...) makes a claim to this effect in some of his letters and recorded discussions. -/- I begin with a brief, historical reconstruction of what Wang means by “establishing sincerity” and then turn to two sets of controversies regarding his audacious claim. The first has to do with how we should understand the proposal that establishing sincerity helps or positions a person to fully grasp all ethically significant concerns. On the interpretation of Chen Lai 陳來, Wang doesn’t think that establishing sincerity is sufficient by itself to have this grasp, only that it lays a necessary psychological foundation for all attempts to do so, so that it leaves much more work to do. I largely agree with Chen’s reading but find it isn’t strong enough to capture what’s most important and controversial about Wang’s view. On my stronger reading, Wang doesn’t just think that establishing sincerity provides a necessary foundation for a complete grasp, he also thinks that it describes the most difficult and demanding step or part of the process – the other steps come much more naturally and easily. The second set of controversies has to do with whether we can preserve Wang’s core account of virtuous moral agency without his strong ethical nativism, according to which we have an inherent capacity and disposition to track what is ethically important or salient about people and things very much unlike ourselves. I consider some arguments and interpretations of Wang’s thought that might allow us to bypass his nativist presuppositions, and conclude that they do not succeed. Even if we cannot accept his ethical nativism, however, there is a range of important ethical norms for which Wang’s prescriptions are powerful and prudent. The result of this study, I hope, will be an account of Wang’s thought which better positions us to see what parts are (and are not) worth bringing to ongoing debates about the nature of ethics, moral knowledge, and moral virtue. (shrink)
Jonathan Haidt’s _Moral Foundation Theory _has been criticized on many fronts, mainly on account of its lack of evidence concerning the genetic and neurological bases of the evolved moral intuitions that the theory posits. Despite the fact that Haidt’s theory is probably the most promising framework from which to integrate the different lines of interdisciplinary research that deal with the evolutionary foundations of moral psychology, _i) _it also shows a critical underspecification concerning the precise mental processes that instantiate the triggering (...) of our evolved moral intuitions, and that _ii) _that underspecification coexists with and overspecification of the structure of human nature when it comes to exploring alternatives to capitalist societies. (shrink)
The so-called “conciliatory” norm in epistemology and meta-ethics requires that an agent, upon encountering peer disagreement with her judgment, lower her confidence about that judgment. But whether agents actually abide by this norm is unclear. Although confidence is excessively researched in the empirical sciences, possible effects of disagreement on confidence have been understudied. Here, we target this lacuna, reporting a study that measured confidence about moral beliefs before and after exposure to moral discourse about a controversial issue. Our findings indicate (...) that participants do not abide by the conciliatory norm. Neither do they conform to a rival “steadfast” norm that demands their confidence to remain the same. Instead, moral discourse seems to boost confidence. Interestingly, we also find a confidence boost for factual beliefs, and a correlation between the extremity of moral views and confidence. One possible explanation of our findings is that when engaging in moral discourse participants become more extreme in their opinions, which leads them to become more confident about them, or vice versa: they become more confident and in turn more extreme. Although our work provides initial evidence for the former mechanism, further research is needed for a better understanding of confidence and moral discourse. (shrink)
Evidence about whether reflective thinking may be induced and whether it affects utilitarian choices is inconclusive. Research suggests that answering items correctly in the Cognitive Reflection Test (CRT) before responding to dilemmas may lead to more utilitarian decisions. However, it is unclear to what extent this effect is driven by the inhibition of intuitive wrong responses (reflection) versus the requirement to engage in deliberative processing. To clarify this issue, participants completed either the CRT or the Berlin Numeracy Test (BNT) – (...) which does not require reflection – before responding to moral dilemmas. To distinguish between the potential effect of participants’ previous reflective traits and that of performing a task that can increase reflectivity, we manipulated whether participants received feedback for incorrect items. Findings revealed that both CRT and BNT scores predicted utilitarian decisions when feedback was not provided. Additionally, feedback enhanced performance for both tasks, although it only increased utilitarian decisions when it was linked to the BNT. Taken together, these results suggest that performance in a numeric task that requires deliberative thinking may predict utilitarian responses to moral dilemmas. The finding that feedback increased utilitarian decisions only in the case of BNT casts doubt upon the reflective-utilitarian link. (shrink)
In his 2016 book, Against Empathy: The Case for Rational Compassion, Paul Bloom argues that “if we want to be good caring people, if we want to make the world a better place, then we are better off without empathy.” I’ve specifically chosen this formulation of Bloom’s position because it gets at the issue I will most directly challenge him on - that we would, or even could, be better off without empathy. The position I will defend is that our (...) empathy plays an indispensable role in the development of our moral conscience, and an ongoing role in the cultivation of our moral concepts, that would be compromised by suppressing our empathy. On this understanding, I argue that we would generally be better served by cultivating our empathy to mitigate and overcome its shortcomings, rather than suppressing our empathy as Bloom recommends. (shrink)
There has been a recent surge of research interest in videogames of moral engagement for entertainment, advocacy and education. We have seen a wealth of analysis and several theoretical models proposed, but experimental evaluation has been scarce. One of the difficulties lies in the measurement of moral engagement. How do we meaningfully measure whether players are engaging with and affected by the moral choices in the games they play? In this paper, we survey the various standard psychometric instruments from the (...) moral psychology literature and discuss how they might be applied in the evaluation of games. (shrink)
This paper is a reflection on an experiment undertaken during a Medical Ethics lecture delivered to a group of medical students in the UK as part of a project for a programme in Higher Education Practice. The aim of the project, following Paulo Freire’s idea of ‘liberating education,’ was to identify students’ ethical assumptions and biases in relation to a problem of resource allocation in healthcare, and their role in decision-making. The experiment showed the importance placed by medical students on (...) disputed values such as free will, desert, social worth and body image, and highlighted the difficulty and importance of bringing students’ process of moral decision-making to awareness in ethics teaching, in order to a) decrease the role of implicit bias in students’ decision making and b) allow students to decide whether they in fact agree with assumed values and ethical frameworks that influence their thinking. (shrink)
Together we can achieve things that we could never do on our own. In fact, there are sheer endless opportunities for producing morally desirable outcomes together with others. Unsurprisingly, scholars have been finding the idea of collective moral obligations intriguing. Yet, there is little agreement among scholars on the nature of such obligations and on the extent to which their existence might force us to adjust existing theories of moral obligation. What interests me in this paper is the perspective of (...) the moral deliberating agent who faces a collective action problem, i.e. the type of reasoning she employs when deciding how to act. I hope to show that agents have collective obligations precisely when they are required to employ ‘we-reasoning’, a type of reasoning that differs from I-mode, best response reasoning, as I shall explain below. More precisely, two (or more) individual agents have a collective moral obligation to do x if x is an option for action that is only collectively available (more on that later) and each has sufficient reason to rank x highest out of the options available to them. (shrink)
We can often achieve together what we could not have achieved on our own. Many times these outcomes and actions will be morally valuable; sometimes they may be of substantial moral value. However, when can we be under an obligation to perform some morally valuable action together with others, or to jointly produce a morally significant outcome? Can there be collective moral obligations, and if so, under what circumstances do we acquire them? These are questions to which philosophers are increasingly (...) turning their attention. It is fair to say that traditional ethical theories cannot give a satisfying answer to the questions, focusing as they do on the actions and attitudes of discreet individual agents. It should also be noted that the debate surrounding collective moral obligations is ongoing and by no means settled. This chapter discusses and compares the different attempts to date to answer the above questions. It proposes a set of meta-criteria—or desiderata— for arbitrating between the various proposals. (shrink)
I argue that while moral exemplars are useful, we must be careful in our use of them. I first describe forgiveness exemplars that are often used to persuade victims to forgive such as Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr., and Jesus of Nazareth. I also explain how, for Kant, highlighting these figures as moral exemplars can be useful. I then explain two kinds of rhetorical strategies that are used when attempting to convince victims to forgive. Last, I explain (a la (...) Kant) how the use of exemplars does not empower but instead disempowers victims. My overall claim is that using exemplars to persuade victims to forgive is problematic. It is best if we rely on decisive reasons to forgive instead of focusing on people who have forgiven. (shrink)
It is widely accepted in psychology and cognitive science that there are two “systems” in the mind: one system is characterized as quick, intuitive, perceptive, and perhaps more primitive, while the other is described as slower, more deliberative, and responsible for our higher-order cognition. I use the term “reflectivism” to capture the view that conscious reflection—in the “System 2” sense—is a necessary feature of good moral judgment and decision-making. This is not to suggest that System 2 must operate alone in (...) forming our moral decisions, but that it plays a normatively ineliminable role. In this paper, I discuss arguments that have been offered in defense of reflectivism. These arguments fit into two broad categories; let us think of them as two sides of a coin. On the first side are arguments about the efficaciousness of conscious reasoning—for example, without conscious deliberation we will make bad moral judgments and decisions. On the other side of the coin are arguments about the centrality of conscious deliberation to normative actions—for example, without conscious deliberation we are no more agential than animals or automatons. Despite their attractiveness, I argue that these arguments do not successfully establish that reflection is a necessary component of good moral judgment and decision-making. If I am right, the idea that good moral judgment and decision-making can result from entirely automatic and subconscious processes gains traction. My goal in this paper is to show that reflectivism fails to include the full range of cases of moral decision-making and that a theory of automaticity may do a better job. I briefly discuss at the end of the paper how an account of successful automatic moral judgment and decision-making might begin to take shape. (shrink)
From the local level to international politics, deliberation helps to increase mutual understanding and trust, in order to arrive at political decisions of high epistemic value and legitimacy. This book gives deliberation a dynamic dimension, analysing how levels of deliberation rise and fall in group discussions, and introducing the concept of 'deliberative transformative moments' and how they can be applied to deeply divided societies, where deliberation is most needed but also most difficult to work. Discussions between ex-guerrillas and ex-paramilitaries in (...) Colombia, Serbs and Bosnjaks in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and police officers and locals in Brazilian favelas are used as case studies, with participants addressing how peace can be attained in their countries. Allowing access to the records and transcripts of the discussions opens an opportunity for practitioners of conflict resolution to apply this research to their work in trouble spots of the world, creating a link between the theory and practice of deliberation. (shrink)
Many of us read Peter Singer ’ s work on our obligations to those in desperate need with our students. Famously, Singer argues that we have a moral obligation to give a significant portion of our assets to famine relief. If my own experience is not atypical, it is quite common for students, upon grasping the implications of Singer ’ s argument, to ask whether Singer gives to famine relief. In response it might be tempting to remind students of the (...) ad hominem fallacy of attacking the person advancing an argument rather than the argument itself. In this paper I argue that the “ ad hominem reply ” to students ’ request for information about Singer is misguided. First I show that biographical facts about the person advancing an argument can constitute indirect evidence for the soundness / unsoundness of the argument. Second, I argue that such facts are relevant because they may reveal that one can discard the argument without thereby incurring moral responsibility for failing to act on its conclusion even if the argument is sound. (shrink)
In this note, I discuss David Enoch's influential deliberative indispensability argument for metanormative realism, and contend that the argument fails. In doing so, I uncover an important disanalogy between explanatory indispensability arguments and deliberative indispensability arguments, one that explains how we could accept the former without accepting the latter.
In this paper, I explain the processes undergone by the producer of an awoval. The conditions of its possibility and its effects on the subjet itself through the effects on those to whom the avowal is addressed. I finally wonder to what extent it may be considered a moral transformation.
The most distinctive feature of Murdoch's philosophical project is her attempt to reclaim the exploration of moral life as a legitimate topic of philosophical investigation. In contrast to the predominant focus on action and decision, she argues that “what we require is a renewed sense of the difficulty and complexity of the moral life and the opacity of persons. We need more concepts in terms of which to picture the substance of our being” (AD 293).1 I shall argue that to (...) fully appreciate the novelty of this proposal we need to recognize some elements of continuity with analytic methods of philosophical inquiry and themes that belong to continental traditions. On Murdoch's view, the most important question facing moral philosophy is that of whether and how we can become better. In order to describe moral progress and failure, struggle and ascent, we need ethical concepts capable of capturing mental events such as change in mind, self-examination, and redescription. These concepts are presently unavailable, and this lack seriously undermines our attempts to understand the phenomena of morality. Because of this conceptual loss, we succumb to the mistaken idea that moral life coincides with its scattered outer manifestations, i.e. public acts. Instead, Murdoch urges us “the moral life […] is something that goes on continually, not something that is switched off in between the occurrence of explicit moral choices” (SG 37).2 Murdoch's point is that we need to conceive the locus of agency more broadly if we want to understand the complicated machinery of action. But perhaps more importantly, she points out that we may be morally active while entertaining a contemplative attitude, which does not issue in action. The grain of moral life, she argues, is constituted by the.. (shrink)
Empirical research in the field of moral cognition is increasingly being used to draw conclusions in philosophical moral psychology, in particular regarding sentimentalist and rationalist accounts of moral judgment. This paper calls for a reassessment of both the empirical and philosophical conclusions being drawn from the moral cognition research. It is proposed that moral decision making is best understood as a species of Kahneman and Frederick's dual-process model of decision making. According to this model, emotional intuition-generating processes and reflective processes (...) operate in an integrated way in moral deliberation, and metacognition is assigned an essential role in the monitoring and shaping of moral intuitions. In combination with observations from philosophical moral psychology, this proposal cautions against endorsing simple sentimentalism or rejecting rationalist accounts on the basis of the moral cognition research. (shrink)
杜威与道德想象力伦理学中的实用主义, Chinese translation by Xu Peng and Ma Ru Jun Yi of John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics (Peking University Press, 2010), Pragmatism Study Series. Introduction and ch. 7 (The Moral Artist) included in this sample. Original English publication: Indiana University Press, 2003.
Most contemporary deliberative democrats contend that deliberation is the group activity that transforms individual preferences and behavior into mutual understanding, agreement and collective action. A critical mass of these deliberative theorists also claims that John Dewey’s writings contain a nascent theory of deliberative democracy. Unfortunately, very few of them have noted the similarities between Dewey and Robert Goodin’s theories of deliberation, as well as the surprising contrast between their modeling of deliberation as a mixed monological-dialogical process and the prevalent view (...) expressed in the deliberative democracy literature, viz., that deliberation is predominantly a dialogical process. Both Dewey and Goodin have advanced theories of deliberation which emphasize the value of internal, monological or individual deliberative procedures, though not to the exclusion of external, dialogical and group deliberation. In this paper I argue that deliberative theorists bent on appropriating Dewey’s theory of moral deliberation for political purposes should first consider Goodin’s account of ‘deliberation within’ as a satisfactory if not superior proxy, an account of deliberation which has the identical virtues of Dewey’s theory— imaginative rehearsal, weighing of alternatives and role-taking—with the addition of one more, namely, that it operates specifically within the domain of the political. (shrink)
What are the effects of deliberation about political issues by likeminded people? An experimental investigation involving two deliberative exercises, one among self-identified liberals and another among self-identified conservatives, showed that participants' views became more extreme after deliberation. Deliberation also increased consensus and significantly reduced diversity of opinion within the two groups. Even anonymous statements of personal opinion became more extreme and homogeneous after deliberation.
This paper considers the question of whether predictions of wrongdoing are relevant to our moral obligations. After giving an analysis of ‘won’t’ claims (i.e., claims that an agent won’t Φ), the question is separated into two different issues: firstly, whether predictions of wrongdoing affect our objective moral obligations, and secondly, whether self-prediction of wrongdoing can be legitimately used in moral deliberation. I argue for an affirmative answer to both questions, although there are conditions that must be met for self-prediction to (...) be appropriate in deliberation. The discussion illuminates an interesting and significant tension between agency and prediction. (shrink)
This chapter explores how morality can be rational if moral intuitions are resistant to rational reflection. There are two parts to this question. The normative problem is whether there is a model of moral justification which can show that morality is a rational enterprise given the facts of moral dumbfounding. Appealing to the model of reflective equilibrium for the rational justification of moral intuitions solves this problem. Reflective equilibrium views the rational justification of morality as a back-and-forth balancing between moral (...) theory and moral intuition, and therefore does not require that individual moral intuitions be directly responsive to rational reflection. The psychological problem is whether human psychology actually implements the processes required for reflective equilibrium. The psychological problem is far more difficult, and requires appealing to a dual-process view of moral judgement that regards moral intuitions and moral theories as belonging to different mental systems. (shrink)
One prominent strand in contemporary moral particularism concerns the claim of "principle abstinence" that we ought not to rely on moral principles in moral judgment because they fail to provide adequate moral guidance. I argue that moral generalists can vindicate this traditional and important action-guiding role for moral principles. My strategy is to argue, first, that, for any conscientious and morally committed agent, the agent's acceptance of (true) moral principles shapes their responsiveness to (right) moral reasons and, second, that if (...) so, then those principles can contribute non-trivially to some reliable strategy for acting well that is available for use in the agent's practical thinking. My defense of these two claims appeals to an account of moral principles as a kind of hedged principles which I defend elsewhere, but my general line of argument should be acceptable to many other forms of generalism as well. I defend the epistemic significance of hedged principles in moral deliberation, and argue that the need for sensitivity to particulars in moral judgment doesn't supplant principles in moral guidance. I finish by arguing that the generalist model of moral guidance developed here isn't undermined by evidence from cognitive science about how we make moral judgments in actual practice, and that it compares favorably to particularism with respect to its capacity to offer adequate moral guidance. (shrink)
The aim of this article is to show how intimately connected Beth J. Singer's theory of operative rights is with her understanding of the deliberative process. I thus argue against Cynthia Gayman's effort to set in contrast Singer's theory of rights and Dewey's characteristic emphasis on reflective morality. Since I take the value of Singer's approach to be most evident in its relevance to the abortion debate as an ongoing deliberation, I question whether Mary Magada‐Ward sufficiently appreciates the dialogical and (...) deliberative emphases of Singer's stance. My goal, however, is not so much to argue against either Gayman or Magada‐Ward as it is to argue for taking Singer's position even more seriously than either author does. In particular, I want to highlight the finely nuanced character of Singer's philosophical intervention in the debate regarding abortion, especially stressing certain features that Gayman and Magada‐Ward overlook. (shrink)
Let the Guidance Constraint be the following norm for evaluating ethical theories: Other things being at least roughly equal, ethical theories are better to the extent that they provide adequate moral guidance. I offer an account of why ethical theories are subject to the Guidance Constraint, if indeed they are. We can explain central facts about adequate moral guidance, and their relevance to ethical theory, by appealing to certain forms of autonomy and fairness. This explanation is better than explanations that (...) feature versions of the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. In closing, I address the objection that my account is questionable because it makes ethical theories subject not merely to purely theoretical but also to morally substantive norms. (Published Online August 21 2006). (shrink)
This essay asks why Aristotle, certainly no friend to unlimited democracy, seems so much more comfortable with unconstrained rhetoric in political deliberation than current defenders of deliberative democracy. It answers this question by reconstructing and defending a distinctly Aristotelian understanding of political deliberation, one that can be pieced together out of a series of separate arguments made in the Rhetoric, the Politics, and the Nicomachean Ethics.
Sunstein represents moral heuristics as rigid rules that lead us to jump to moral conclusions, and contrasts them with reflective moral deliberation, which he represents as independent of heuristics and capable of supplanting them. Following John Dewey's psychology of moral judgment, I argue that successful moral deliberation does not supplant moral heuristics but uses them flexibly as inputs to deliberation. Many of the flaws in moral judgment that Sunstein attributes to heuristics reflect instead the limitations of the deliberative context in (...) which people are asked to render judgments. (shrink)
We tend to think that the difficulties in bioethics spring from the novel and alarming issues that arise due to discoveries in the new biosciences and biotechnologies. But many of the crucial difficulties in bioethics arise from the assumptions we make about ethics. This paper offers a brief overview of bioethics, and relates ethical ‘principlism’ to ‘ethical fundamentalism’. It then reviews some alternative approaches that have emerged during the second phase of bioethics, and argues for a neo-Aristotelian approach. Misconceptions about (...) ethical principles and ethical reasoning not only distort our views of the business of bioethics, but they also prevent us from facing up to the formidable problems posed by ethical pluralism in so-called liberal societies. (shrink)
Despite all the attention given to Kants universalizability tests, one crucial aspect of Kants thought is often overlooked. Attention to this issue, I will argue, helps us resolve two serious problems for Kants ethics. Put briefly, the first problem is this: Kant, despite his stated intent to the contrary, doesnt seem to use universalization in arguing for duties to oneself, and, anyway, it is not at all clear why duties to oneself should be grounded on a procedure that envisions a (...) world in which everyone wills the contrary of those duties. The second, more global problem is that if we follow Barbara Herman in holding that Kantian ethics can provide a structure for moral deliberation, we need an interpretation of the universalization procedure that unproblematically allows it to generate something like prima facie duties to guide that deliberation; but it is not at all clear that we have such an interpretation. I argue here that if we expand our limited way of thinking about universalization, we can solve the first problem and work towards a solution to the second. We can begin by recalling that Kants Law of Nature formulation (FLN) of the Categorical Imperative obligates us to act as if the maxim of your action were to become by your will a universal law of nature (G, 421). (shrink)
This paper develops themes addressed in an article by Eric Wiland in the Journal of Medical Ethics 2000;26:466–8, where he aims to contribute to the debate concerning the moral status of abortion, and to emphasise the importance of analogies in moral argument. In the present paper I try to secure more firmly a novel understanding of why analogy is an essential component in the attempt to justify moral beliefs. I seek to show how analogical argument both encapsulates and exercises the (...) notions of rationality and imagination and that the construction, development, and comparison of analogies fundamentally underpins ethical argument. In so doing, it enables us to adopt imaginative and ethically illuminating perspectives but in a manner that does not relinquish any claims to intellectual rigour. I present a critique of a brand of “moral particularism” by showing how it cannot, if construed in a certain way, adequately conceive of how we use analogies and imaginary cases in ethics. Although such a particularism is thus impotent with regard to ethical debate, I show that the wider motivation behind particularism that can be extracted is of clear relevance and importance to medical practitioners. (shrink)
The experience of the last thirty years has shown that whether the different methodologies used in clinical ethics work well or not depends on certain external factors, such as the mentality with which they are used. This article aims to analyze two of these mentalities: the “dilemmatic” and the “problematic.” The former uses preferably the decision-making theory, whilst the latter emphasizes above all the role of deliberation. The author considers that Clinical Ethics must be deliberationist, and that only in this (...) context the different methodologies can be used correctly. (shrink)
In this paper I outline Donald Davidson’s account of two forms of irrationality, akrasia and self-deception, and relate this account to ethical action and belief. His view of irrationality is generally a Freudian one, to the effect that agents must compartmentalize both offending particular mental contents, and governing second order principles. Davidson also hints that his account of akrasia and self-deception might show certain normative and meta-ethical theories to be irrational, insofar as they too engender irrationality. I explore these hints, (...) and hopefully show both that Davidson is correct about irrationality and correct that certain ethical theories engender irrationality as well. I believe this to be no great loss to ethics generally, but will hopefully aid our understanding of how ethical action and belief actually happen. (shrink)
It is a familiar thesis that art affects moral imagination. But as a metaphor or model for moral experience, artistic production and enjoyment have been overlooked. This is no small oversight, not because artists are more saintly than the rest of us, but because seeing imagination so blatantly manifested gives us new eyes with which to see what can be made of imagination in everyday life. Artistic creation offers a rich model for understanding the sort of social imagination that is (...) essential to moral deliberation. The " moral " of the arts is that everyday moral decisions can be as richly consummated as artistic productions. The distance is narrowed between this ideal and actual deliberations to the degree that a culture focuses beyond sedimented moral criteria to education of aesthetic virtues of sensitivity, perceptiveness, discernment, creativity, expressiveness, courage, foresight, communicativeness, and experimental intelligence. (Note: The key concepts and main line of argument in this article are further developed in ch. 7 of John Dewey and Moral Imagination: Pragmatism in Ethics (Indiana University Press, 2003).). (shrink)
Hampshire addresses the problem of pluralism, i.e. conflicts, characteristic of modern societies, which arise from the presence of conflicting moral interests and duties. The solution is a procedural notion of justice, seen as the precondition for respect for the different positive conceptions of the good. A salient feature of the book is the combination of a form of a 'weak' Aristotelianism, similar to that of Bernard Williams and far away from that of MacIntyre, with the theme of the relationship between (...) universalism and particularism. Another is the idea that deliberation is the primary procedure in ethics. This theme was the centre of American ethical and political thought since the confrontation between Rawls and his communitarian critics. (shrink)
Contemporary moral theorists are increasingly attentive to the ways human beings actually make sense of their moral experience and compose meaningful lives. Martha Nussbaum's re-introduction of Aristotelian practical wisdom and Alasdair MacIntyre's emphasis on narrativity are good examples of a shift in focus away from tedious polemics about the single "right thing to do" in a situation. But recent theorists have tended to lack a highly articulated philosophical framework--especially a full-blooded theory of moral belief and deliberation--that would enable us better (...) to wend our way along the trails they have blazed. We are born, MacIntyre proclaims, with a social past, a tradition into which we grow. Yet MacIntyre advances a new moral vision independent of recent philosophical traditions that might accommodate and direct his own insights and inquiries. Classical American pragmatism, especially as developed by John Dewey, provides a framework that can clarify and extend the achievements of contemporary moral theory. I contend that a thoroughgoing reconstruction of our moral vision would profit immensely from looking back to Dewey's theory of moral understanding. I propose here to articulate the center of vision of this theory by developing a Deweyan conception of deliberation as imaginative dramatic rehearsal. (shrink)
Consequentialism ought not to make an impact, explicit or implicit, on every decision. All it ought generally to enjoy is what I describe as a virtual presence in the deliberation that produces decisions. [...] The argument that we have conducted suggests that the virtuous agent ought in general to remain faithful to his or her instincts and ingrained habits, only occasionally breaking with them in the name of promoting the best consequences.