This paper considers one of the most significant and controversial attempts to account for the meaning of pejoratives as lexical items, namely Hom and May’s. After outlining the theory, we pinpoint sets of pejorative sentences that come out true on their account and for which the question as to whether they are compatible with the view advocated by them (so-called Moral and Semantic Innocence) remains open. Helping ourselves to the standard model-theoretical framework Hom and May (presumably) work in, we prove (...) they are compatible with the view. Given that the issues of both the moral import of pejoratives and the practical effects of their utterance are not settled by the proof, we then highlight unwelcome moral and pragmatic implications for some of the pejorative sentences under scrutiny, thereby showing that the view, broadly understood, is not as morally and semantically innocuous as it is meant to be. (shrink)
I argue that hope is an ethical virtue. Hope, I suggest, is necessary for engaging in a broad kind of project which is essential for living a meaningful human life, and this gives us reason to think that it is non-instrumentally valuable in our lives. Specifically, I claim that hope is well understood as a ‘structural virtue’ without which we are prone to slip into despair, fantasy and cynicism. Moreover, I argue that this virtue will be particularly significant in turbulent (...) times, when we may not be in a position to have outright (positive) expectations about the future. (shrink)
The claim that historians “write from a present-day perspective” does not entail that the past only matters when interpreted by categories of social justice. The past is a set of amorphous events and people, including their actions and motives. So, historians are free to explore various aspects of it to offer meaningful and compelling interpretations without necessarily privileging one category. The past is richer than we can humanely understand. Hence, it is important that new generations of scholars revise it from (...) different angles and without ideological restrictions. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Sometimes it seems that an existing bearer of value should be preserved even though it could be destroyed and replaced with something of equal or greater value. How can this conservative intuition be explained and justified? This paper distinguishes three answers, which I call existential, attitudinal, and object-affecting conservatism. I raise some problems for existential and attitudinal conservatism, and suggest how they can be solved by object-affecting conservatism.
The central role of human dignity in ethics and law stands in striking contrast to the disagreement regarding the meaning and normative content of this concept. Each competing theory of human dignity also has serious problems. Against the background of this situation, the meaning-oriented theory of human dignity suggests a new understanding that can integrate a number of conceptions of human dignity and resolve their theoretical problems. According to this new theory, respect for human dignity consists in respect for human (...) beings as beings that confer meaning and need meaning. The integrative and problem-solving power of this new approach is demonstrated here by examining two lines of theory: on the one hand, the Kantian tradition of an autonomy-oriented understanding of human dignity, and on the other hand, a theory that focuses on individual identity and protection against humiliation. (shrink)
Many scholars have argued that well-being is the satisfaction of preferences, or of fully informed preferences, or of fully informed preferences about one's own life. But none of those theories can be true if it is possible to prefer, with full information, to decrease one's own well-being. And because it is possible to have such a preference, those theories cannot be true.
Perfectionism, the view that well-being is a matter of developing characteristically human capacities, has relatively few defenders in the literature, but plenty of critics. This paper defends perfectionism against some recent formulations of classic objections, namely, the objection that perfectionism ignores the relevance of pleasure or preference for well-being, and a sophisticated version of the ‘wrong properties’ objection, according to which the intuitive plausibility of the perfectionist ideal is threatened by an absence of theoretical pressure to accept putative wrong properties (...) cases. The paper argues these objections are unsuccessful, but introduce a new worry, the Deep Problem: Perfectionism fails to offer a satisfying foundational justification for why developing the human essence is valuable. The paper responds to the deep problem, ultimately arguing that it is a puzzle put to all theories of well-being to provide a justification for their normative significance. (shrink)
The concept of evil plays a central role in many of Peter French’s publications. He defines evil as “a human action that jeopardizes another person’s (or group’s) aspirations to live a worthwhile life (or lives) by the willful infliction of undeserved harm on that person(s)” (French 2011, 61, 95). Inspired by Harry Frankfurt’s work on the importance of what we care about, French argues that “the life a person leads is worthwhile if what he or she really gives a damn (...) about satisfies some condition(s) of value” (2011, 189). Through an analysis of the concept of “worthwhile”, I endeavor to show that French’s account of evil is correct although his definition of a worthwhile life is too demanding. Defining an evil act as one that willfully imperils another’s aspirations to live a worthwhile life is a welcome addition to the philosophical literature dedicated to the analysis of evil. Much of this literature identifies evil as severe, intolerable, or excessive harm, but these descriptions remain vague. When is harm precisely severe, intolerable, or excessive? French provides an original and plausible interpretation of these kinds of evil harm by explaining them in terms of an impediment to aspirations to live a worthwhile life. However, French’s definition of a worthwhile life is too strong and hence excludes unmistakable instances of evil. It is quite possible that someone who cares about nonvaluable things, or someone lacking cares altogether, or non-human animals (who might fall into either one of these two categories), could be victims of evil. Therefore, if evil is an act that jeopardizes another’s aspirations to live a worthwhile life, then the necessary condition of a worthwhile life cannot be that one gives a damn about something of value; it must be something far less demanding. In order to retain the central insight in French’s account of evil, I offer an alternative suggestion concerning what makes a life worthwhile. To this end, I distinguish a worthwhile life from a meaningful, valuable, significant, or good life. Focusing on the definition and use of the word “worthwhile”, I find that a worthwhile life is one that is worth the time and effort of the individual whose life it is. Jeopardizing another’s ability to make such a determination about her life lies at the hardened heart of evil. (shrink)
Suppose one sets up a sequence of less and less valuable objects such that each object in the sequence is only marginally worse than its immediate predecessor. Could one in this way arrive at something that is dramatically inferior to the point of departure? It has been claimed that if there is a radical value difference between the objects at each end of the sequence, then at some point there must be a corresponding radical difference between the adjacent elements. The (...) underlying picture seems to be that a radical gap cannot be scaled by a series of steps, if none of the steps itself is radical. We show that this picture is incorrect on a stronger interpretation of value superiority, but correct on a weaker one. Thus, the conclusion we reach is that, in some sense at least, abrupt breaks in such decreasing sequences cannot be avoided, but that such unavoidable breaks are less drastic than has been suggested. In an appendix written by John Broome and Wlodek Rabinowicz, the distinction between two kinds of value superiority is extended from objects to their attributes. (shrink)
In his recent Rescuing Justice and Equality, G. A. Cohen mounts a sustained critique of coerced labour, against the background of a radical egalitarian conception of distributive justice. In this article, I argue that Cohenian egalitarians are committed to holding the talented under a moral duty to choose socially useful work for the sake of the less fortunate. As I also show, Cohen's arguments against coerced labour fail, particularly in the light of his commitment to coercive taxation. In the course (...) of defending those claims, I claim that Cohen's remarks on freedom of occupational choice and taxation exhibit partiality towards the interests of the better-off to the detriment of the less fortunate – a partiality which is in tension with his commitment to equality. (shrink)
Recently a lot has been written on the topic of value incomparability. While there is disagreement on how we are to understand incomparability, most seem to accept Ruth Chang's claim that all comparisons must proceed in some specific respect. Call this the Requirement for Specification. Interestingly, even though most seem to accept this requirement, next to nothing has been written on it. In this paper I focus on the requirement and discuss two different but related topics. First, an important observation (...) is made: as it turns out, the requirement plays an important explanatory role for the thesis that incomparability is to be understood in terms of vagueness. Second, I consider what is entailed by the Requirement for Specification. There is a general worry that the requirement entails that there is no such thing as goodness simpliciter. The line of thought is that if we always must specify in which way something is e.g., better than something else, then perhaps things cannot be better simpliciter. And if there is no such thing as betterness-simpliciter, then can there be such a thing as goodness simpliciter? Finally, I consider how an answer to this question affects the view that incomparability is vagueness. (shrink)
Many authors in ethics, economics, and political science endorse the Lottery Requirement, that is, the following thesis: where different parties have equal moral claims to one indivisible good, it is morally obligatory to let a fair lottery decide which party is to receive the good. This article defends skepticism about the Lottery Requirement. It distinguishes three broad strategies of defending such a requirement: the surrogate satisfaction account, the procedural account, and the ideal consent account, and argues that none of these (...) strategies succeed. The article then discusses and discharges some remaining grounds for resistance to these skeptical conclusions, as well as the possibility of defending a weaker version of a normative lottery principle. The conclusion is that we have no reason to believe that where equal claims conflict, we are morally required to hold a lottery, as opposed to simply picking one of the parties on more subjective grounds or out of pure whim. In addition to the practical consequences of this skeptical view, the article sketches some theoretical implications for debates about saving the greater number and about axiomatic utilitarianism. (shrink)
Many philosophers have argued that agents must be irrational to lose out in a or . A number of different conclusions have been drawn from this claim. The has been one of the main arguments offered for the axioms of expected utility theory; it has been used to show that options cannot be incomparable or on a par; and it has been used to show that our past choices have normative significance for our subsequent choices. In this article, I argue (...) that the fact that someone loses out in a value pump provides no reason to believe that they are irrational. The VP is impotent. (shrink)
The incomparability of alternatives is thought to pose a problem for justified choice, particularly for proponents of comparativism – the view that comparative facts about alternatives determine what one rationally ought to choose. As a solution, it has been argued that alternatives judged incomparable by one of the three standard comparative relations, “better than,” “worse than,” and “equally good,” are comparable by some fourth relation, such as “roughly equal” or “on a par.” This solution, however, comes at what many would (...) regard as too high a cost – namely, rejection of the transitivity of the relation “at least as good as.” In this paper, I argue that proponents of comparativism need not incur this cost. I defend the possibility of justified choice between incomparable alternatives on grounds that comparativists can accept. The possibility of incomparability has been met with resistance, in part because of the intuitive appeal of comparativism. By defending the possibility of justified choice between incomparable alternatives on grounds that comparativists can accept, this paper supports further inquiry into the subject of incomparability. (shrink)
It is plausible to think that it is wrong to cure many people’s headaches rather than save someone else’s life. On the other hand, it is plausible to think that it is not wrong to expose someone to a tiny risk of death when curing this person’s headache. I will argue that these claims are inconsistent. For if we keep taking this tiny risk then it is likely that one person dies, while many others’ headaches are cured. In light of (...) this inconsistency, there is a conflict in our intuitions about beneficence and chance. This conflict is perplexing. And I have not been able to find a satisfactory way of resolving it. Perhaps you can do better? (shrink)
This book is a collection of articles dealing with criticisms of Robert S. Hartman’s theory of formal axiology. During his lifetime, Hartman wrote responses to many of his critics. Some of these were previously published but many are published here for the first time. In particular, published here are Hartman’s replies to such critics as Hector Neri Castañeda, Charles Hartshorne, Rem B. Edwards, Robert E. Carter, G. R. Grice, Nicholas Rescher, Robert W. Mueller, Gordon Welty, Pete Gunter, George Kimball Plochmann, (...) William Eckhardt, and Robert S. Brumbaugh. Crticial essays and responses to them developed by Rem B. Edwards, Frank G. Forrest, and Mark A. Moore after Hartman’s untimely death in 1973 are also included. (shrink)
This encyclopedia entry urges what it takes to be correctives to common (mis)understandings concerning the phenomenon of incommensurability and incomparability and briefly outlines some of their philosophical upshots.
In Rabinowicz 2008, I considered how value relations can best be analyzed in terms of fitting pro-‐attitudes. In the formal model presented in that paper fitting pro-‐attitudes are represented by the class of permissible preference orderings on a domain of items that are being compared. As it turns out, this approach opens up for a multiplicity of different types of value relationships, along with the standard relations of "better", "worse", "equally as good as" and "incomparable in value". Unfortunately, though, the (...) approach is vulnerable to a number of objections. I believe these objections can be avoided if one re-interprets the underlying notion of preference: Instead of treating preference as a 'dyadic' attitude directed towards a pair of items, we can think of it as a difference of degree between 'monadic' attitudes of favouring. Each such monadic attitude has just one item as its object. Given this re-interpretation, permissible preferences can be modelled by the class of permissible assignments of degrees of favouring to items in the domain. From this construction, we can then recover the old modelling in terms of the class of permissible preference orderings, but the previous objections to that model no longer apply. Thus, what we get is the old wine in new and hopefully tighter barrels. (shrink)
‘Moral hazard’ is an economic term which commonly refers to situations in which people have a tendency to increase their exposure to risk when the costs of their actions, should they get unlucky, befall someone else. Once insured, for example, a person might have little reason, financially speaking, to be careful if he will get fully reimbursed for his losses should things go wrong, especially if he does not risk an increase in his insurance premium fees. In this article, I (...) argue that moral hazards are not morally neutral. To this end, I distinguish between concepts that call for a moral value judgement but do not have a fixed moral value and those that call for a moral value judgement and also have a fixed moral value. In short, this article examines questions that lie at the intersection of ethics and economics. (shrink)
The literature contains evidence from some studies of asymmetric patterns of choice cycles in the direction consistent with regret theory, and evidence from other studies of asymmetries in the opposite direction. This article reports an experiment showing that both patterns occur within the same sample of respondents operating in the same experimental environment. We discuss the implications for modelling behaviour in such environments.
Some moral principles require agents to do more than their fair share of a common task, if others won’t do their fair share – each agent’s fair share being what they would be required to do if all contributed as they should. This seems to provide a strong basis for objecting to such principles. For it seems unfair to require agents who have already done their fair share to do more, just because other agents won’t do their fair share. The (...) philosopher who has written most about this issue, however, Liam Murphy, argues that it is not unfair to do so, at least in the standard sense of that term. In this paper, I give Murphy’s reasons for saying this, explain why I think he’s wrong, and then say a little about why this issue might be important. (shrink)
The article aims to delve into the ethical dimension of Ubuntu philosophy, which is an African philosophy that reverberates in other cultures and in various forms, thus exemplifying its universality and universalizability. In this dimension, it tries to re-examine the notion of ethics in relation to morals/morality, including “is” and “ought”, with reference to the human person. Moreover, Ubuntu philosophy is articulated and communicated in the maxim that is an essential component inthe lived experiences of the Bantu-speaking African community: “A (...) person is a person through other persons.” With this, the article integrates some related European and Asian philosophies, considering the fact that Ubuntu philosophy endures as it is tenaciously upheld and edified alongside its implications. (shrink)
Adaptive preference formation is the unconscious altering of our preferences in light of the options we have available. Jon Elster has argued that this is bad because it undermines our autonomy. I agree, but think that Elster's explanation of why is lacking. So, I draw on a richer account of autonomy to give the following answer. Preferences formed through adaptation are characterized by covert influence (that is, explanations of which an agent herself is necessarily unaware), and covert influence undermines our (...) autonomy because it undermines the extent to which an agent's preferences are ones that she has decided upon for herself. This answer fills the lacuna in Elster's argument. It also allows us to draw a principled distinction between adaptive preference formation and the closely related phenomenon of character planning. (shrink)
Dorsey rejects Conclusion, so he believes he must reject one of the premises. He argues that the best option is to reject Premise 3. Rejecting Premise 3 entails a certain sort of discontinuity in value. So Dorsey believes he has an argument for discontinuity.
Elzenberg’s philosophy is usually defined as perfectionism, culturalism, pessimism, conservatism, or asceticism. Despite the accuracy and validity of the above mentioned terms it seems, however, that none of them fully encompass the characteristics of the view, tending rather to focus on its given profile. One term that, in my opinion, can be regarded as a suitable candidate for the role is “aristocratism of the spirit”, which embraces perfectionism, culturalism and asceticism as well as pessimism, conservatism and outsiderism. In debating on (...) the elzenbergian variety of this idea I would like to put forward his relation to, or entanglement with the tendency to think in the categories of the aristocratism of the spirit, that has been present since the dawn of philosophy. I use the tentative term “entanglement” here, as Elzenberg in his writings never declared, either openly or indirectly, any (formal) adherence to a movement, including the movement of the aristocratism of the spirit. My ascribing Elzenberg to this movement is a convention of interpretation, imposed upon his philosophy for heuristic reasons. (shrink)
-/- I start from three premises, roughly as follows: (1) that if possible world x is better than world y for every individual who exists in either world, then x is better than y; (2) that if x has a higher average utility, a higher total utility, and no more inequality than y, then x is better than y; (3) that better than is transitive. From these premises, it follows that benefits given to the worse off contribute no more to (...) the world’s value than equal-sized benefits given to the better off. (shrink)
National minority women’s defense of nonliberal minority cultures that encompass sexist customs and rules has greatly perplexed liberal theorists. Many attempted to resolve this puzzle by attributing constrained agency to such women and dismissing their defense as unreasonable. This article argues that this liberal assessment of minority women’s position is philosophically indefensible and that the failure of mainstream liberalism to make sense of these women’s response indicates not that these women’s agency is compromised but rather that the liberal conception of (...) agency as autonomy at the heart of the liberal framework has limits in its crosscultural applicability. A conception of agency, valuational agency, that illuminates minority women’s agency is proposed as a more plausible alternative for radically pluralistic societies. -/- . (shrink)
The Interpersonal Addition Theorem, due to John Broome, states that, given certain seemingly innocuous assumptions, the overall utility of an uncertain prospect can be represented as the sum of its individual utilities. Given ‘Bernoulli's hypothesis’ according to which individual utility coincides with individual welfare, this result appears to be incompatible with the Priority View. On that view, due to Derek Parfit, the benefits to the worse off should count for more, in the overall evaluation, than the comparable benefits to the (...) better off. Pace Broome, the paper argues that prioritarians should meet this challenge not by denying Bernoulli's hypothesis, but by rejecting one of the basic assumptions behind the addition theorem: that a prospect is better overall if it is better for everyone. This conclusion follows if one interprets the priority weights that are imposed by prioritarians as relevant only to moral, but not to prudential, evaluations of prospects. (shrink)
The lifetime equality view has recently been met with the objection that it does not rule out simultaneous inequality: two persons may lead equally good lives on the whole and yet there may at any time be great differences in their level of well-being. And simultaneous inequality, it is held, ought to be a concern of egalitarians. The paper discusses this and related objections to the lifetime equality view. It is argued that rather than leading to a revision of the (...) lifetime equality view, these objections, if taken seriously, should make us account for our egalitarian concerns in terms of the priority view rather than the equality view. The priority view claims that there is a greater moral value to benefiting the worse off. Several versions of the priority view are also distinguished. (shrink)