Richard Brandt is one of the most eminent and influential of contemporary moral philosophers. His work has been concerned with how to justify what is good or right not by reliance on intuitions or theories about what moral words mean but by the explanation of moral psychology and the description of what it is to value something, or to think it immoral. His approach thus stands in marked contrast to the influential theories of John Rawls. The essays reprinted in this (...) collection span a period of almost 30 years and include many classic pieces in metaethical and normative ethical theory. The collection is aimed at both those moral philosophers familiar with Brandt's work and at those philosophers who may be largely unfamiliar with his work. The latter group will be struck by the lucid unpretentious style and the cumulative weight of Brandt's contributions to topics that remain at the forefront of moral philosophy. (shrink)
Richard Brandt is one of the most influential moral philosophers of the second half of the twentieth century. He is especially important in the field of ethics for his lucid and systematic exposition of utilitarianism. This new book represents in some ways a summation of his views and includes many useful applications of his theory. The focus of the book is how value judgments and moral belief can be justified. More generally, the book assesses different moral systems and theories of (...) justice, and considers specific problems such as the optimal level of charity and the moral tenability of the criminal law. This book will be essential reading for all professional philosophers concerned with ethics, and will prove helpful to students as well. (shrink)
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The article explains a rule-Utilitarian normative thesis about when actions are morally excused; that an act otherwise morally objectionable in some way is excused if a moral system, The acceptance of which in the agent's society would be utility-Maximizing, Would not condemn it. What is meant by a "moral system condemning" an action is explained. The parallel between this moral thesis and the benthamite theory of criminal justice is developed. It is argued that this rule-Utilitarian thesis implies that an action (...) is morally excused (not blameworthy) if it does not manifest a defective trait of character. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.
Some features of the concept of a want, and of the explaining relation in which a want may stand to an action, have not received sufficient attention. In what follows we shall offer some suggestions and descriptions which may be one step toward remedy of this situationi. We shall be at pains to point out the extent to which the features we describe fit in with a conception of the explanations of actions conforming to the inferential (deductive or inductive) and (...) nomological patterns of scientific explanation, and also to point out where perhaps the fit is not so snug. (shrink)
In this article I examine a recent approach to regulating assisted reproduction, whereby use of some kind of medical intervention ‘triggers’ laws governing legal parenthood that are more favourable to intending parents and sperm providers. I argue that although perhaps an improvement on the previous legal framework, these laws are problematic for three important reasons. First, they are prone to violating parental rights and unjustly imposing substantial burdens on individuals. Second, they are discriminatory. Third, even if we take a pragmatic (...) approach to the question of parenthood in these cases, these laws fail to properly consider the welfare interests of children. Finally, I conclude by showing that my argument does not entail adopting a laissez-fair attitude to conception using third-party sperm. (shrink)
In order to explain the idea that sacrifice involves voluntary diminution of the agent’s well-being, “well-being” must be explained. The thesis that an agent’s well-being just consists in the occurrence of events wanted is rejected. Overvold replaces it by the view that the motivating desires involve the existence of the agent, alive, at the time of their satisfaction. This view seems counterintuitive. The whole desire-satisfaction theory is to be rejected partly because we dont’t think an event worthwile if it is (...) not liked when it occurs, and partly because the theory cannot give a sensible account of what is good for an individual when his desires change. A more satisfactory view is that the goodness of an event for a person is fixed by his total gratifications as a result of its occurrence, provided they would occur if the person were fully informed about facts knowledge of which would change them if it existed. But self-sacrifice seems to involve not only voluntary diminution of well-being in this sense, but belief that the action is taken for the benefit of someone else. Overvold’s view leaves open the possibility that acting morally is never contrary to self-interest, if one of the agent’s major interests is that he act morally. This is an ingenious suggestion, but seems a bit counterintuitive. (shrink)
In this article I reject the claim that the responsibilities acquired by gamete providers can be transferred to their biological children's intending parents. I defend this position by first showing that arguments in defence of the transferability of responsibilities in gamete provision cases fail to distinguish between the transfer and delegation of responsibility. I then provide an argument against the transferability of responsibilities in gamete provision cases that differs from the ones offered by James Lindemann Nelson and Rivka Weinberg. Though (...) I conclude that gamete providers have inalienable responsibilities towards their biological offspring, I note that the precise ethical and policy implications this has for gamete provision remain somewhat unclear. (shrink)
A rule- utilitarian appraisal of criminal law requires that the total system, including punishments, is justified only if it will expectably maximize public benefit, including its stigmatizing some behaviors as "offenses" and its prescribed punishment of these, such as imprisonment, with (possible) deterrent effects. In view of the paucity of evidence about the deterrent effect of prison sentences, some changes seem to be in order: reduction in the length of incarceration, replacement of prison by fines or restrictions on the convicted (...) such as house arrest for many hours of a day, intensive supervision, required community service (say thirty hours in place of a month in prison), enrollment in a drug program or therapy in the case of sex offenses, and so on. An evaluation of such proposals should be based on statistics and the psychology of criminal behavior. (shrink)