Genuine altruism would appear to be incompatible with evolutionary theory. And yet altruistic behavior would seem to occur, at least on occasion. This article first considers a game-theoretical attempt at solving this seeming paradox, before considering agroup selectionist approach. Neither approach, as they stand, would seem to render genuine, as opposed to reciprocal, altruism compatible with the theory of evolution. The article concludes by offering an alternative game-theoretical solution to the problem of altruism.
It appears to have been established that it is not possible for us to harm distant future generations by failing to adopt long-range welfare policies which would conserve resources or limit pollution. By exploring a number of possible worlds, the present article shows, first, that the argument appears to be at least as telling against Aristotelian, rights-based and Rawlsian approaches as it seems to be against utilitarianism, but second, and most importantly, that it only holds if we fail to view (...) moral agents as individuals. The article also concludes that the argument has profoundly counter-intuitive implications. (shrink)
Three interlocking features appear to underpin Rawlss justification of political compliance within the context of political liberalism: namely, a specific territory; a specific society; and a specific conception of what it is to be reasonable. When any one feature is subject to critical examination, while presupposing that the other two are acceptable, Rawlss argument for political compliance may seem persuasive. But when all three features are critically examined together, his justification of political compliance within political liberalism can be seen to (...) lack cogency. Thus, political compliance fails to be justified by a free-standing political liberalism. Key Words: philosophical anarchism political duties political liberalism political obligation Rawls. (shrink)
As Rawls's thought evolved from his 1958 article Justice as Fairness to the 1996 edition of his book Political Liberalism, his response to the problem of political compliance would seem to have undergone a number of changes. This article critically evaluates the development of Rawls's various explicit or implied arguments that serve to justify compliance to just social arrangements, and concludes that the problem of political compliance remains without any cogent solution within the vast corpus of Rawls's work. Key Words: (...) liberalism philosophical anarchism political duties political obligation Rawls. (shrink)
Ascertaining the optimum global population raises not just substantive moral problems but also philosophical ones, too. In particular, serious problems arise for utilitarianism. For example, should one attempt to bring about the greatest total happiness or the highest level of average happiness? This article argues that neither approach on its own provides a satisfactory answer, and nor do rights-based or Rawlsian approaches, either. Instead, what is required is a multidimensional approach to moral questions—one which recognises the plurality of our values. (...) Such an approach can be formalised by employing multidimensional indifference-curves. Moreover, whereas classical utilitarianism might be thought to enjoin us to bring about a larger global population, a multidimensional approach clearly suggests a significant reduction in human numbers. (shrink)
Derek Parfit presents his Mere Addition Paradox in order to demonstrate that it is extremely difficult to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion. And in order to avoid it, Parfit has embraced perfectionism. However, Stuart Rachels and Larry Temkin, taking their lead from Parfit, have concluded, instead, that the Repugnant Conclusion can be avoided by denying the axiom of transitivity with respect to the all-things-considered-better-than relation. But this seems to present a major challenge to how we evaluate normatively. In this article I (...) show how the Mere Addition Paradox and the Repugnant Conclusion can both be avoided without subscribing to perfectionism, and without sacrificing the axiom of transitivity. (shrink)
Perhaps the most impressive environmental ethic developed to date in any detail is Robin Attfield's biocentric consequentialism. Indeed, on first study, it appears sufficiently impressive that, before presenting any alternative theoretical approach, one would first need to establish why one should not simply embrace Attfield's. After outlining a seemingly decisive flaw in his theory, and then criticizing his response to it, this article adumbrates a very different theoretical basis for an environmental ethic: namely, a value-pluralist one. In so doing, it (...) seeks to give due weight to anthropocentric, zoocentric, biocentric and ecocentric considerations, and argues that the various values involved require trading off. This can be accomplished by employing multidimensional indifference curves. Moreover, after considering a three-dimensional indifference plane superimposed upon a three-dimensional possibility frontier, it becomes apparent that a moral-pluralist environmental ethic is, contrary to widespread assumptions, capable, in principle at least, of providing determinate answers to moral questions. (shrink)
Recently in this journal, Michael Huemer has attempted to refute egalitarianism. His strategy consists in: first, distinguishing between three possible worlds (one with an equal distribution of well-being, one with an unequal distribution at every moment but with an equal distribution overall, and one with an unequal distribution at every moment as well as overall); second, showing that the first world is equal in value to the second world; third, dividing the second and third worlds into two temporal segments each, (...) then showing that none of the temporal segments possesses greater moral value than any other, thereby demonstrating that the second and third worlds as a whole are equal in value; and finally, concluding that none of the three worlds has more value than any other. The present article rebuts Huemer’s critique of egalitarianism first, and most importantly, by showing that his core argument rests upon an equivocation, and second, by refuting his supplementary arguments. (shrink)
There has been a process of moral extensionism within environmental ethics from anthropocentrism, through zoocentrism, to ecocentrism. This article maps key elements of that process, and concludes that each of these ethical positions fails as a fully adequate, environmentalist ethic, and does so because of an implicit assumption that is common within normative theory. This notwithstanding, each position may well contribute a value. The problem that then arises is how to trade off those values against each other when they conflict. (...) The solution here proposed is to employ multidimensional isovalue-contours along with a multidimensional practicability-frontier. This would result in a rich, value-pluralist environmentalist ethic that enjoined different outcomes to those enjoined by purely anthropocentric, zoocentric or ecocentric ethics. (shrink)
By distinguishing between contributory values and overall value, and by arguing that contributory values are variable values insofar as they contribute diminishing marginal overall value, this article helps to establish the superiority of a certain kind of maximizing, value-pluralist axiology over both sufficientarianism and prioritarianism, as well as over all varieties of value-monism, including utilitarianism and pure egalitarianism.
For two decades, egalitarian analytical philosophers have sought to identify the metric to be employed in order to ascertain whether any distribution is equal or not. This essay provides a review of the seminal contributions to this debate by Amartya Sen, Ronald Dworkin, Richard Arneson and G.A. Cohen.
Holmes Rolston, III has argued that there are times when we should save nature rather than feed people. In arguing thus, Rolston appears tacitly to share a number of assumptions with Garrett Hardin regarding the causes of human overpopulation. Those assumptions are most likely erroneous. Rather than our facing the choice between saving nature or feeding people, we will not save nature unless we feed people.
Michael Tooley defends infanticide by analysing ‘A has a right to X’ as roughly synonymous with ‘If A desires X, then others are under a prima facie obligation to refrain from actions that would deprive him [or her] of it.’ An infant who cannot conceive of himself or herself as a continuing subject of experiences cannot desire to continue existing. Hence, on Tooley’s analysis, killing the infant is not impermissible, for it does not go against any of the infant’s desires. (...) However, Tooley’s argument in support of his analysis seems to justify, instead, a slightly more subtle analysis—namely, ‘A has a right to X’ is roughly extensionally equivalent with ‘Unless A expresses his or her desire that not‐X, then others are under a prima facie obligation to refrain from actions that would deprive him or her of X.’ But given this analysis, the infant’s purported lack of any capacity to conceive of himself or herself as a continuing subject of experiences implies that we cannot be released from any duty that we might have not to harm him or her. In short, Tooley’s argument in support of his analysis actually implies that infanticide may well be impermissible. (shrink)
This article considers several of the most famous arguments for our being under a moral obligation to preserve species, and finds them all wanting. The most promising argument for preserving all varieties of species might seem to be an aesthetic one. Unfortunately, the suggestion that the moral basis for the preservation of species should be construed as similar to the moral basis for the preservation of a work of art seems to presume (what are now widely regarded as) erroneous conceptualizations (...) of "species". The article concludes by arguing that more promising approaches to how "species" ought to be conceptualized suggest that the preservation of species should be construed as of far greater aesthetic importance than is suggested by focusing upon the preservation of any single work of art. Hence, if we have a moral obligation to preserve a single artwork, then we have a far greater moral obligation to preserve species than has often been presumed. (shrink)
This volume analyzes authoritarian, reformist, Marxist and anarchist approaches to the environmental problem, exposing the relationships between environmental crises, economic structures and the role of the state.
ABSTRACT In this article I examine the concept ‘self‐exploitation’ and its use in criticising workers' co‐operatives. I argue that the concept is incoherent and that the kind of exploitation which members of workers' co‐ops actually face is ‘market‐exploitation’. Moreover, some of the criticisms of workers' co‐ops which are made by those who employ the confused concept ‘self‐exploitation’ are shown to be inapposite when ‘market‐exploitation’ is recognised to be the real problem. I conclude with a discussion of the reasons for the (...) acceptance of the misguided concept ‘self‐exploitation’ by a number on the Left in Britain today. (shrink)
abstract First, Allen Buchanan, in the version of his paper entitled 'Philosophy and public policy: a role for social moral epistemology' that he presented at the workshop on 'Philosophy and Public Policy' held at the British Academy in London on March 8 th 2008, seems to imply that professional, academic philosophers have had little impact upon public policy. I mention an area where it can be argued in response that they have had a more benign, as well as a more (...) widespread, influence on society than Buchanan acknowledges in that version of his paper: in legislation concerning animal welfare. Second, I question whether or not the liberal commitment to freedom of religion is compatible with the ethics of belief that Buchanan appears to advocate. (shrink)
Hobbes appears to subscribe to a form of the resolutive/compositive method not only as the appropriate means for understanding the natural world but also as the correct means for understanding the political world. However, the view that Hobbes adopts this methodology for understanding both 'bodies politic' and 'natural bodies' has been challenged in Tom Sorell's widely praised study of Hobbes' philosophy. In this article, I first rebut Sorell's challenge, and then consider several other objections which might be levelled against the (...) claim that Hobbes employs a version of the resolutive/compositive method in his civil philosophy. (shrink)
While it is widely agreed that the infliction upon innocents of needless pain is immoral, many have argued that, even though nonhuman animals act as if they feel pain, there is no reason to think that they actually suffer painful experiences. And if our actions only appear to cause nonhuman animals pain, then such actions are not immoral. On the basis of the claim that certain behavioural responses to organismic harm are maladaptive, whereas the ability to feel pain is itself (...) adaptive, this article argues that the experience of pain should be viewed as the proximate cause of such occasionally maladaptive behaviour. But as nonhuman animals also display such maladaptive traits, we have reason to conclude that they feel pain. Hence, we have reason to hold that it is indeed possible to inflict needless pain on nonhuman animals, which would be immoral. (shrink)
Andrew Dobson has outlined three conceptions of environmental sustainability: the ‘critical natural capital’ conception; the ‘irreversibility’ conception; and the ‘natural value’ conception. He has also attempted to map out the various ‘dimensions of social justice’– his purpose in so doing being to analyze the ‘encounter’ of each conception of environmental sustainability with the points on his map. Not surprisingly, Dobson concludes that as one moves from the ‘critical natural capital’ conception through the ‘irreversibility’ conception to the ‘natural value’ conception of (...) ‘sustainability’, the ‘points of contact’ with his map of ‘the dimensions of social justice’ are found to ‘become fewer and further apart’. In this article I argue that Dobson is fundamentally confused in his reason for thinking why this is so. I also argue that a core argument he deploys concerning future generations cannot do the work he requires of it. (shrink)
What might be termed 'the problem of morality' concerns how freedom-restricting principles may be justified, given that we value our freedom. Perhaps an answer can be found in freedom itself. For if the most obvious reason for rejecting moral demands is that they invade one's personal freedom, then the price of freedom from invasive demands that others would otherwise make may well require everyone accepting freedom in general, say, as a value that provides sufficient reason for adhering to principles that (...) serve to maximize, or at least safeguard, freedom in general. But then it is precisely such a value, freedom in general, which can be argued to ground an adequate moral system. Hence whereas the value of freedom appears at first sight to pose problems for moral systems, it can be employed to ground a certain variety of them. (shrink)