I give the label “ethical pluralism” to the meta-ethical view that competing moral views are valid. I assume that validity is conferred on a moral view by its satisfying the relevant meta-ethical criteria in a maximally satisfactory way. If the relevant meta-ethical criteria are based on something roughly like the wide reflective equilibrium model, then ethical pluralism is likely to be correct. Traditional moral views do not grant exemptions from their own binding rules or principles to agents – should any (...) exist – who adhere to a competing valid moral view. Given the usual conception of accepting a moral view, an ethical pluralist cannot honestly accept a traditional moral view. Consequently, I argue, an ethical pluralist is committed to the view that all traditional moral views are invalid. Given the likelihood of ethical pluralism, this conclusion is alarming. I set forth a weak conception of accepting a moral view that is designed to allow an ethical pluralist honestly to accept a traditional moral view. In particular, my conception is designed to explain how someone can (a) be guided by the view that she accepts; (b) accept her own moral view while rationally not accepting competing views that she thinks are equally valid; and (c) not be prepared to prescribe morally to those who are following other valid views. Central to my formulation are what I call a stance of modest respectful disapproval toward other people’s wrong behavior, together with acceptance of decisive moral reasons for oneself that are generated by the valid moral view that one accepts. (shrink)
According to both deontologists and consequentialists, if there is a reason to promote the general happiness – or to promote any other state of affairs unrelated to one's own projects or self-interest – then the reason must apply to everyone. This view seems almost self-evident; to challenge it is to challenge the way we think of moral reasons. I contend, however, that the view depends on the unwarranted assumption that the only way to restrict the application scope of a reason (...) for action is by restricting it to those agents whose interests or projects are involved in the reason. In fact normative theories may coherently restrict application scopes in other ways. Thus we must take seriously the possibility that the reason to promote the general happiness, although genuine, does not apply to everyone. (shrink)
W. D. Ross’s ethical theory requires us somehow to compare the metaphorical “weights” of different prima facie duties, but it leaves mysterious how this might be done. The formulation of a procedure to achieve such a comparison would be desirable on practical, theoretical, and pedagogical grounds. I formulate a procedure that is congenial to Ross’s theory. Central to my procedure are instructions to characterize the weight of each prima facie duty with respect to (a) the general stringency of this kind (...) of duty, (b) the stringency of this particular duty relative to other duties of its own kind, and (c) the degree to which the duty specifically demands the particular action that it favors in a given case. The procedure leads to a determination of one’s actual, all-things-considered duty in some cases but not in all. (shrink)
The paper "Care Ethics and Impartial Reasons" was given at the United Kingdom SWIP (Society for Women in Philosophy) meeting in Stirling, Scotland, on April 21, 2007, and while in her lifetime she would surely have reworked this piece thoroughly before allowing it to appear in print, we publish it here as an expression of sorrow and affection.
I show that roderick firth's ideal observer theory contains a loophole which allows conflicting ethical statements to be true. To remedy this, I recommend that we add to the list of defining characteristics of an ideal observer, The requirement that he be unable to have obligation-Determining reactions toward acts which he knows to be incompatible.
What, ultimately, is there good reason to do? This book proposes a unified theory of agent-dependent reasons and agent-independent reasons. It holds that principles which assign reasons to agents are valid if and only if they make maximally good sense in the light of relevant data and background theories. The theory avoids problems encountered by views associated with Nagel, Parfit, Brandt, Hubin, Gert, Baier, and Tiberius, amongst others. By what criteria should a normative theory of ultimate reasons be judged? Plausible (...) meta-level criteria emerge from a process of identifying the criteria that have been used, sometimes unwittingly, by various theorists; categorizing and evaluating the criteria in the light of each other; and proposing revisions on that basis. This method escapes the drawbacks of rival approaches, such as those associated with Parfit, Gert, and Darwall. The resulting criteria cast a favorable light on the proposed normative theory of ultimate reasons. (shrink)
The efficacy criterion of the FPL model wrongly takes the goals of practical inference to be uncontroversial. The robustness criterion is arbitrary; the accommodation criterion is too weak to differentiate between arch rival theories. All three criteria of FPL fail to address the relation between background philosophical theories and other elements of an inferential system.
Rule utilitarianism as commonly formulated has the undesired implication that in case wrong has been done, Any act whatsoever is right. This is due to the fact that in setting the criterion for a set of rules which confers rightness, Rule utilitarians fail to require that obedience to the rules in situations of less than universal obedience must result in the most good attainable in those situations. I suggest a rule-Utilitarian criterion which remedies this defect and which, Borrowing from brandt, (...) Also guarantees that the public acknowledgement of the rules would be desirable. (shrink)
What criteria shall we use to evaluate normative theories of practical rationality? one answer is provided by a version of the wide reflective equilibrium model (wre). What criteria shall we use to evaluate models on the level of wre? one answer is provided by a variant of the historical philosophy of science model. The latter answer may support the former.
W. D. Ross’s ethical theory requires us somehow to compare the metaphorical “weights” of different prima facie duties, but it leaves mysterious how this might be done. The formulation of a procedure to achieve such a comparison would be desirable on practical, theoretical, and pedagogical grounds. I formulate a procedure that is congenial to Ross’s theory. Central to my procedure are instructions to characterize the weight of each prima facie duty with respect to the general stringency of this kind of (...) duty, the stringency of this particular duty relative to other duties of its own kind, and the degree to which the duty specifically demands the particular action that it favors in a given case. The procedure leads to a determination of one’s actual, all-things-considered duty in some cases but not in all. (shrink)