This paper draws on the 'Fitting Attitudes' analysis of value to argue that we should take the concept of fittingness (rather than value) as our normative primitive. I will argue that the fittingness framework enhances the clarity and expressive power of our normative theorising. Along the way, we will see how the fittingness framework illuminates our understanding of various moral theories, and why it casts doubt on the Global Consequentialist idea that acts and (say) eye colours are normatively on a (...) par. We will see why even consequentialists, in taking rightness to be in some sense determined by goodness, should not think that rightness is conceptually reducible to goodness. Finally, I will use the fittingness framework to explicate the distinction between consequentialist and deontological theories, with particular attention to the contentious case of Rule Consequentialism. (shrink)
Utilitarianism is often rejected on the grounds that it fails to respect the separateness of persons, instead treating people as mere “receptacles of value”. I develop several different versions of this objection, and argue that, despite their prima facie plausibility, they are all mistaken. Although there are crude forms of utilitarianism that run afoul of these objections, I advance a new form of the view—‘token-pluralistic utilitarianism’—that does not.
The aim of this paper is to assess the relationship between anti-physicalist arguments in the philosophy of mind and anti-naturalist arguments in metaethics, and to show how the literature on the mind-body problem can inform metaethics. Among the questions we will consider are: (1) whether a moral parallel of the knowledge argument can be constructed to create trouble for naturalists, (2) the relationship between such a "Moral Knowledge Argument" and the familiar Open Question Argument, and (3) how naturalists can respond (...) to the Moral Twin Earth argument. We will give particular attention to recent arguments in the philosophy of mind that aim to show that anti-physicalist arguments can be defused by acknowledging a distinctive kind of conceptual dualism between the phenomenal and the physical. This tactic for evading anti-physicalist arguments has come to be known as the Phenomenal Concept Strategy. We will propose a metaethical version of this strategy, which we shall call the `Moral Concept Strategy'. We suggest that the Moral Concept Strategy offers the most promising way out of these anti-naturalist arguments, though significant challenges remain. (shrink)
If you focus your charitable giving on global causes where it will do the most good, how should you feel about passing by the local soup kitchen? Would the ideally virtuous agent have their (local) empathy still activated, but simply overridden by the recognition that distant others are in even greater need, leaving the agent feeling torn? Or would their empathetic impulses be wholeheartedly redirected towards the greatest needs? This chapter suggests a way to revise an outdated conception of moral (...) virtue to better meet the demands of a cosmopolitan moral outlook. (shrink)
Parfit's On What Matters offers a rousing defence of non-naturalist normative realism against pressing metaphysical and epistemological objections. He addresses skeptical arguments based on (i) the causal origins of our normative beliefs, and (ii) the appearance of pervasive moral disagreement. In both cases, he concedes the first step to the skeptic, but draws a subsequent distinction with which he hopes to stem the skeptic's advance. I argue, however, that these distinctions cannot bear the weight that Parfit places on them. A (...) successful moral epistemology must take a harder line with the skeptic, insisting that moral knowledge can be had by those with the right kind of psychology -- no matter the evolutionary origin of the psychology, nor whether we can demonstrate its reliability over the alternatives. (shrink)
I develop the relatively familiar idea of a variety of forms of knowledge —not just propositional knowledge but also knowledge -how and experiential knowledge —and show how this variety can be used to make interesting sense of Plato’s and Aristotle’s philosophy, and in particular their ethics. I then add to this threefold analysis of knowledge a less familiar fourth variety, objectual knowledge, and suggest that this is also interesting and important in the understanding of Plato and Aristotle.
I examine the familiar criterial view of personhood, according to which the possession of personal properties such as self-consciousness, emotionality, sentience, and so forth is necessary and sufficient for the status of a person. I argue that this view confuses criteria for personhood with parts of an ideal of personhood. In normal cases, we have already identified a creature as a person before we start looking for it to manifest the personal properties, indeed this pre-identification is part of what makes (...) it possible for us to see and interpret the creature as a person in the first place. This pre-identification is typically based on biological features. Except in some interesting special or science-fiction cases, some of which I discuss, it is human animals that we identify as persons. (shrink)
I develop an account of moral perception which is able to deal well with familiar naturalistic non-realist complaints about ontological extravagance and ‘queerness’. I show how this account can also ground a cogent response to familiar objections presented by Simon Blackburn and J.L. Mackie. The familiar realist's problem about relativism, however, remains.
Bioethicists often present ‘saving lives’ as a goal distinct from, and competing with, that of extending lives by as much as possible. I argue that this usage of the term is misleading, and provides unwarranted rhetorical support for neglecting the magnitudes of the harms and benefits at stake in medical allocation decisions, often to the detriment of the young. Equal concern for all persons requires weighting equal interests equally, but not all individuals have an equal interest in ‘life-saving’ treatment.
The paper outlines and explores a possible strategy for defending both the action/omission distinction (AOD) and the principle of double effect (PDE). The strategy is to argue that there are degrees of actionhood, and that we are in general less responsible for what has a lower degree of actionhood, because of that lower degree. Moreover, what we omit generally has a lower degree of actionhood than what we actively do, and what we do under known-but-not-intended descriptions generally has a lower (...) degree of actionhood than what we do under known-and-intended descriptions. Therefore, we are in general less responsible for what we omit than for what we do—which is just what AOD says. And we are in general less responsible for what we do under known-but-not-intended descriptions than for what we do under known-and-intended descriptions—which is just what PDE says. (shrink)
This paper explores two ways in which evaluations of an agent's character as virtuous or vicious are properly influenced by what the agent finds salient or attention-grabbing. First, we argue that ignoring salient needs reveals a greater deficit of benevolent motivation in the agent, and hence renders the agent more blameworthy. We use this fact to help explain our ordinary intuition that failing to give to famine relief is in some sense less bad than failing to help a child who (...) is drowning right before your eyes, in a way that's compatible with the contention that there's no principled reason to see the one life-saving act as any more or less choiceworthy than the other. Second, we argue that alleged ‘virtues of ignorance’ are better understood as ‘virtues of salience’. Rather than placing demands on what we believe, these virtues place demands on what we find salient. (shrink)
Most contributors approach the secularization question out of concern with intolerance and repression. But a peculiar kind of religion may impinge upon secular life in a different way: a prophetic religion may generate the solidarity and will-to-sacrifice that oppressed peoples need to fight for freedom and equality. The tradition of the Hebrew Prophets played a key role in the American civil rights struggle. Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King, and other exponents of the tradition rejected the idea that minority rights could (...) ever be secured automatically or predictably. They viewed their fellow Americans' faith in progress with severe skepticism. The distinction between prophetic religion and normal religion will clarify the secularization debate, because it helps us see that some forms of religion are skeptical of official and/or popular beliefs. A prophet may reject the prevailing religion as strongly as an atheist does. Members of the prevailing religion will often call the prophet irreligious. Pagan Romans, for example, called the early Christians "atheists," since they believed in a mere man. There are sometimes religions that foster skepticism and critical thinking, that is. These Prophetic religions may at times be more effective against repression than secular efforts to organize opinion. (shrink)
Satisficing Consequentialism is often rejected as hopeless. Perhaps its greatest problem is that it risks condoning the gratuitous prevention of goodness above the baseline of what qualifies as "good enough". I propose a radical new willpower-based version of the view that avoids this problem, and that better fits with the motivation of avoiding an excessively demanding conception of morality. I further demonstrate how, by drawing on the resources of an independent theory of blameworthiness, we may obtain a principled specification of (...) what counts as "good enough". (shrink)
In this paper I start with the familiar accusation that divine command ethics faces a "Euthyphro dilemma". By looking at what Plato’s ’Euthyphro’ actually says, I argue that no such argument against divine-command ethics was Plato’s intention, and that, in any case, no such argument is cogent. I then explore the place of divine commands and inspiration in Plato’s thought more generally, arguing that Plato sees an important epistemic and practical role for both.
I discuss Bernard Williams’ ‘integrity objection’ – his version of the demandingness objection to unreasonably demanding ‘extremist’ moral theories such as consequentialism – and argue that it is best understood as presupposing the internal reasons thesis. However, since the internal reasons thesis is questionable, so is Williams’ integrity objection. I propose an alternative way of bringing out the unreasonableness of extremism, based on the notion of the agent’s autonomy, and show how an objection to this proposal can be outflanked by (...) a strategy that also outflanks the ‘paradox of deontology.’. (shrink)
Are non-natural properties worth caring about? I consider two objections to metaethical non-naturalism. According to the intelligibility objection, it would be positively unintelligible to care about non-natural properties that float free from the causal fabric of the cosmos. According to the ethical idlers objection, there is no compelling motivation to posit non-natural normative properties because the natural properties suffice to provide us with reasons. In both cases, I argue, the objection stems from misunderstanding the role that non-natural properties play in (...) the non-naturalist's understanding of normativity. The role of non-natural properties is not to be responded to, but to "mark" which natural properties it is correct for us to respond to in certain ways. (shrink)
We present an extensive literature review exploring the relationships between food insecurity and rapid biodiversity loss, and the competing methods proposed to address each of these serious problems. Given a large and growing human population, the persistence of widespread malnutrition, and the direct and significant threats the expanding agricultural system poses to biodiversity, the goals of providing universal food security and protecting biodiversity seem incompatible. Examining the literature shows that the current agricultural system already provides sufficient food on a worldwide (...) basis, but in doing so methodically undermines the capacity of agroecosystems to preserve biodiversity. However, the available evidence emphasizes the interdependence of biodiversity and agriculture, and the important role each plays in the maintenance of the other. Thus, our review supports the claim that the solutions to the problems of widespread food insecurity and biodiversity loss need not be mutually exclusive, and that it may be possible to address both using appropriate alternative agricultural practices. (shrink)
I develop an anti-theory view of ethics. Moral theory (Kantian, utilitarian, virtue ethical, etc.) is the dominant approach to ethics among academic philosophers. But moral theory's hunt for a single Master Factor (utility, universalisability, virtue . . .) is implausibly systematising and reductionist. Perhaps scientism drives the approach? But good science always insists on respect for the data, even messy data: I criticise Singer's remarks on infanticide as a clear instance of moral theory failing to respect the data of moral (...) perceptions and moral intuitions. Moral theory also fails to provide a coherent basis for real-world motivation, justification, explanation, and prediction of good and bad, right and wrong. Consider for instance the marginal place of love in moral theory, compared with its central place in people's actual ethical outlooks and decision making. Hence, moral theory typically fails to ground any adequate ethical outlook. I propose that it is the notion of an ethical outlook that philosophical ethicists should pursue, not the unfruitful and distorting notion of a moral theory. (shrink)
New work in the foundations of ethics—extending the fitting attitudes analysis of value to yield a broader notion of normative fittingness as a (or perhaps even the) fundamental normative concept—provides us with the resources to clarify and renew the force of traditional character-based objections to consequentialism. According to these revamped fittingness objections, consequentialism is incompatible with plausible claims about which attitudes are truly fitting. If a theory’s implications regarding the fittingness facts are implausible, then this can be taken to cast (...) doubt on the truth of the theory. After clarifying the general structure of fittingness objections, and establishing how they can make character-based concerns relevant to our assessment of the truth of a moral theory like consequentialism, this chapter surveys some paradigmatic fittingness objections, showing how consequentialism can be defended against them. (shrink)
Consequentialist views have traditionally taken a maximizing form, requiring agents to bring about the very best outcome that they can. But this maximizing function may be questioned. Satisficing views instead allow agents to bring about any outcome that exceeds a satisfactory threshold or qualifies as “good enough.” Scalar consequentialism, by contrast, eschews moral requirements altogether, instead evaluating acts in purely comparative terms, i.e., as better or worse than their alternatives. After surveying the main considerations for and against each of these (...) three views, I argue that the core insights of each are not (despite appearances) in conflict. Consequentialists should be deontic pluralists and accept a maximizing account of the ought of most reason, a satisficing account of obligation, and a scalar account of the weight of reasons. (shrink)
Compatibilism is the doctrine that the doctrine of determinism is logically consistent with the doctrine of libertarianism. Determinism is the doctrine that every being and event is brought about by causes other than itself. Libertarianism is the doctrine that some human actions are free. Was Descartes a compatibilist? There is no doubt that he was a libertarian: his works are full of professions of freedom, human as well as divine. And though he held that God has no cause other than (...) himself, Descartes thought that everything apart from God is externally caused: he was a determinist with respect to the created universe. So it appears, assuming him consistent with himself, that Descartes must have been a compatibilist. And indeed, there are passages in his writings in which he appears explicitly to affirm that he is. Since both Descartes’s libertarianism and his determinism are complex doctrines, however, his view of the relation between them is complex as well. (shrink)
Locke was a libertarian: he believed in human freedom. To be sure, his conception of freedom was different from that of many philosophers who call themselves libertarians. Some such philosophers maintain that an agent is free only if her action is uncaused; whereas Locke thought that all actions have causes, including the free ones. Some libertarians hold that no action is free unless it proceeds from a volition that is itself free; whereas Locke argued that free volition, as opposed to (...) free action, is an impossibility. On the other hand, Locke agrees with the typical professed libertarian that free actions depend on volitions - or, as he often puts it, that an agent is free only with respect to the actions she wills, to those that are voluntary. And he also refuses to make voluntariness sufficient for freedom, whereby a free action is merely one that is willed. The free agent, Locke insists, must also be able or have been able to do something other than she does or did. Thus both Locke and the libertarian professor require indifference as well as spontaneity for freedom. But Locke’s freedom is not contra-causal; and he denies that it extends to volition. In this paper I want to focus on just this last component of Locke’s view of freedom: that freedom in willing, far from being required for free agency, is not even possible. I call this ‘the thesis of volitional determinism’. Locke presents an argument for this thesis in the Essay, but scholars have never paid much attention to it: I want to examine it. (shrink)
Timothy Chappell’s new translation of the Theaetetus is presented here in short sections of text, each preceded by a summary of the argument and followed by his philosophical commentary on it. Introductory remarks discuss Plato and his works, his use of dialogue, the structure of the Theaetetus, and alternative interpretations of the work as a whole. A glossary and bibliography are provided.
Sophie Grace Chappell develops a picture of what philosophical ethics can be like, once set aside from the idealising and reductive pressures of conventional moral theory. Her question is 'How are we to know what to do?', and the answer she defends is 'By developing our moral imaginations'.
Provided you start from suitable intuitions, it is easy enough to construct a whole range of arguments any or all of which might be called “the paradox of deontology.” Suppose you think that the role of agency is to bring about goodness, and that it's good to observe deontological constraints. Then it will follow that you should bring about the observing of deontological constraints. And if in some particular context the way to bring about such observings is via a breach (...) of one or more deontological constraints, so be it. Or suppose, more strongly, that you think that the role of agency is to bring about maximal goodness, and that the keeping of the maximum number of deontological constraints is a crucial part of maximal goodness. Then it will follow that you should bring this about. And again, if the route to doing this sometimes runs via the breaching of one or more deontological constraints, so be it. For a non-consequentialist, the way to challenge this supposed paradox is simply to deny that the role of agency is to bring about goodness. This is true because not all reasons are future-directed: some reasons arise from the past or the present, or arise without any time-index. Kant sees this way out of the paradox, and takes it. So far, so good. But Kant goes further, into more complex and strictly Kantian moves against consequentialism; and it is less clear that this further is better. (shrink)
I talk about the relation between the direct encounters with values that I take to be a key part of ordinary moral phenomenology, and the well-worn topic of demandingness. I suggest that an ethical philosophy based on (inter alia) such encounters sheds interesting light on some familiar problems.
Do human beings ever act freely, and if so what does freedom mean? Is everything that happens antecedently caused, and if so how is freedom possible? Is it right, even for God, to punish people for things that they cannot help doing? This volume presents the famous seventeenth-century controversy in which Thomas Hobbes and John Bramhall debate these questions and others. The complete texts of their initial contributions to the debate are included, together with selections from their subsequent replies to (...) one another and from other works of Hobbes, in a collection that offers an illuminating commentary on issues still of concern to philosophers today. The volume is completed by a historical and philosophical introduction that explains the context in which the debate took place. (shrink)
Timothy Chappell develops a picture of what philosophical ethics can be like, once set aside from conventional moral theory. His question is 'How are we to know what to do?', and the answer he defends is 'By developing our moral imaginations'--a key part of human excellence, which plays many roles in our practical and evaluative lives.