One prevailing objection to consequentialism holds that the consequentialist cannot promote both agent-neutral value and her own personal friendships: the consequentialist cannot be a genuine friend. Several versions of this objection have been advanced, but an even more sophisticated version of the charge is available. However, even this more sophisticated version fails, as it assumes a traditional, context-insensitive, account of character traits. In this article, I develop and defend a novel account of character traits that is context-sensitive and also supports (...) a novel account of what friendship consists in. Application of the more plausible, contextual, account of character traits resolves the debate in favor of the friendly consequentialist. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a local account of character traits that posits traits like close-friend-honesty and good-mood-compassion. John Doris also defends local character traits, but his local character traits are indistinguishable from mere behavioral dispositions, they are not necessary for the purpose which allegedly justifies them, and their justification is only contingent, depending upon the prevailing empirical situation. The account of local traits I defend posits local traits that are traits of character rather than behavioral dispositions, local traits that (...) are necessary to satisfy one of their central purposes, and local traits whose justification is dependent upon theoretical rather than empirical considerations. (shrink)
The virtues are under fire. Several decades’ worth of social psychological findings establish a correlation between human behavior and the situation moral agents inhabit, from which a cadre of moral philosophers concludes that most moral agents lack the virtues. Mark Alfano and Christian Miller introduce novel versions of this argument, but they are subject to a fatal dilemma. Alfano and Miller wrongly assume that their requirements for virtue apply universally to moral agents, who vary radically in their psychological, physiological, and (...) personal situations; I call this the ‘content problem.’ More troubling, however, the content problem leads to what I call the ‘structural problem:’ Alfano and Miller each structure their argument against the virtues as a modus tollens argument and, owing to the breadth of the content problem, each must constrain their argument with a ceteris paribus clause. But the ceteris paribus clause precludes each argument’s validity. More important, however, the resulting conception of virtue implicitly endorsed by Alfano and Miller holds that virtues are idealized models; but since idealized models do not even purport accurately to describe the world, neither novel version of EAV gains any empirical traction against the virtues. The upshot is an old story whose moral has yet, within the empirical study of the virtues, adequately to be internalized: it is imperative that the empirical observation of character traits proceed via longitudinal studies. (shrink)
In recent decades, social psychology has produced an expansive array of studies wherein introducing a seemingly morally innocuous feature into the situation a subject inhabits often yields morally questionable, dubious, or even appalling behavior. Several fascinating lines of philosophical enquiry issue from this research, but the most pragmatically salient question concerns how we ought most effectively to develop and maintain the virtues so that such putatively morally problematic behavior is less likely to occur. In this paper, I examine four empirically (...) embedded accounts of virtue cultivation: Hagop Sarkissian’s social signaling, Mark Alfano’s virtue labeling, Nancy Snow’s self-punishment, and Peter Railton’s implementation intentions. But none of these accounts of virtue cultivation provides adequate resources for regulating our affective states, whose attention-constricting and behavior-priming functional roles are likely at the root of much of our less than virtuous behavior. Instead, I defend an account of virtue cultivation that proceeds via meditation, which can help us to identify and regulate our emotions and moods. Further, meditation enables us to develop the attentional focus, emotional intelligence, and sense of social connection that ground the virtues and, thus, our virtuous behavior. (shrink)
Character traits have several vital functions. They should enable us to assess others morally, inform us of others’ behavioral tendencies, and accurately explain and predict others’ behavior. But traits of character, as they have traditionally been understood, cannot adequately serve these purposes. For character traits are traditionally thought to be context-insensitive. The Contextual Account of Character Traits, which I here develop and defend, posits traits that are context-sensitive. Context-sensitive character traits are more receptive to the complexity of human psychology and (...) behavior and, hence, they not only adequately, but excellently, satisfy their theoretic and pragmatic functions. (shrink)
Ad hominem arguments are generally dismissed on the grounds that they are not attempts to engage in rational discourse, but are rather aimed at undermining argument by diverting attention from claims made to assessments of character of persons making claims. The manner of this dismissal however is based upon an unlikely paradigm of rationality: it is based upon the presumption that our intellectual capacities are not as limited as in fact they are, and do not vary as much as they (...) do between rational people. When we understand rationality in terms of intellectual virtues, however, which recognize these limitations and provide for the complexity of our thinking, ad hominem considerations can sometimes be relevant to assessing arguments. (shrink)
Democracy surrounds us like the air we breath, and is normally taken very much for granted. Across the world democracy has become accepted as an unquestionably good thing. Yet upon further examination the merits of democracy are both paradoxical and problematic, and the treasured values of liberty and equality can be used to argue both for and against it. In the historical section of the book, Ross Harrison clearly traces the history of democracy by examining the works of, amongst others, (...) Plato and Aristotle, Hegel and Marx. Informed by facts and detailed knowledge of these famous thinkers, Harrison provides a clear and cogent justification of democracy. (shrink)
Introduction -- Global traits of character -- Traits as dispositions -- Situational traits of character -- Situational traits and social psychology -- Situational traits and the friendly consequentialist.
Christopher Peacocke’s A Study of Concepts is a dense and rewarding work. Each chapter raises many issues for discussion. I know three different people who are writing reviews of the volume. It testifies to the depth of Peacocke’s book that each reviewer is focusing on a quite different set of topics.
The Neo-Aristotelian ethical naturalism of Philippa Foot and Rosalind Hursthouse purports to establish a naturalistic criterion for the virtues. Specifically, by developing a parallel between the natural ends of nonhuman animals and the natural ends of human beings, they argue that character traits are justified as virtues by the extent to which they promote and do not inhibit natural ends such as self-preservation, reproduction, and the well-being of one’s social group. I argue that the approach of Foot and Hursthouse cannot (...) provide a basis for moral universalism, the widely-accepted idea that each human being has moral worth and thus deserves significant moral consideration. Foot and Hursthouse both depict a virtuous agent as implicitly acting in accord with moral universalism. However, with respect to charity, a virtue they both emphasize, their naturalistic criterion at best provides a warrant for a restricted form of charity that extends only to a limited number of persons. There is nothing in the natural ends of human beings, as Foot and Hursthouse understand these, that gives us a reason for having any concern for the well-being of human beings as such. (shrink)
In a recent contribution to Utilitas Hugh Upton has criticized my defence of utilitarianism against the charge that it is committed to regarding the pleasures taken by sadists in other people's pain as increasing the amount of good in the world and so at least partially offsetting the suffering of the victims. In the present paper I clarify and defend my view that sadists implicitly insult their own human qualities, thus rendering it impossible to respect themselves as human beings, (...) when they enjoy the suffering of others with essentially similar qualities. Distinguishing between happiness and pleasure, I explain why it is not, as Upton thinks, a mere stipulation to deny that the sadist's self-demeaning pleasures are capable of augmenting his happiness. (shrink)
With the goal of understanding how Christopher Southgate communicates his in-depth knowledge of both science and theology, we investigated the many roles he assumes as a teacher. We settled upon wide-ranging topics that all intertwine: (1) his roles as author and coordinating editor of a premier textbook on science and theology, now in its third edition; (2) his oral presentations worldwide, including plenaries, workshops, and short courses; and (3) the team teaching approach itself, which is often needed by others (...) because the knowledge of science and theology do not always reside in the same person. Southgate provides, whenever possible, teaching contexts that involve students in experiential learning, where they actively participate with other students.We conclude that Southgate’s ultimate goal is to teach students how to reconcile science and theology in their values and beliefs, so that they can take advantage of both forms of rational thinking in their own personal and professional lives. The co-authors consider several examples of models that have been successfully used by people in various fields to integrate science and religion. (shrink)
RECENT attempts to explain and justify Aristotle's principle of non-contradiction have focused to a great extent on the dialectical dimension of Aristotle's account. For example, T. Irwin maintains that Aristotle justifies the PNC by arguing that there is a sub-set of dialectical opinions which no one can rationally give up. J. Lear supports the importance of the dialectical dimension by summarizing Aristotle's defense of the PNC as follows: The opponent of the PNC tries to argue dialectically that one should not (...) accept it. "Aristotle's point is that there is no conceptual space in which such a rational discussion can occur." By appealing to the limits of rationally, externally, expressible discourse as the basis of the PNC, Irwin and Lear fail to take seriously the more explicitly psychological and metaphysical bases of the PNC. C. Kirwan, and most recently, R. Smith also either argue against or ignore the role of the psychological and metaphysical bases. Smith goes so far as to argue that common axioms like the PNC are simply empty statement schemata of universal validity, i.e., general verbal forms or patterns which no one can deny with intelligibility. (shrink)
This article explores the meaning and moral significance of presumed consent with particular reference to an opt-out policy for postmortem organ donation. It does so under two general categories: circumstances where we believe consent to have been given and those where we have no reason to believe that it has either been given or been refused. In the context of an opt-out policy, the first category would relate to the idea of tacit consent. It is argued both that substituting the (...) term ‘presumed consent’ would be misleading and that it is unlikely that the conditions for tacit consent would be met in practice. Regarding the second category, where the claim would be one regarding counterfactual consent, two main points are made: that claims about consent are unwarranted, and also that they are unnecessary to moral argument, given that the moral work is done by reasons other than any supposedly provided by a presumption of consent. (shrink)
Utilitarianism faces a difficulty in that what are typically regarded as natural goods seem to have possible occurrences that strike most people as morally reprehensible, yet which according to the theory must be taken to add to the good in the world. Thus, totake a recent treatment of the problem by Geoffrey Scarre, it would seem that even sadistic pleasures must contribute to human happiness and thus morally offset the concomitant suffering of the victim. Scarre has offered a defence of (...) utilitarianism, arguing that in fact such pleasures will undermine the self-respect that is required for happiness. In this paper I argue that a partial undermining is plausible but leaves the problem untouched, while a complete undermining can be established only by a stipulation that is unmotivated from a utilitarian point of view. (shrink)
This paper takes up the question of the role of philosophical moral theory in our attempts to resolve the ethical problems that arise in health care, with particular reference to the contention that we need theory to be determinative of our choice of actions. Moral theorizing is distinguished from moral theories and the prospects for determinacy from the latter are examined through a consideration of the most promising candidates: utilitarianism, deontology and the procedures involved in reflective equilibrium. It is argued (...) that the current lack of any generally accepted method of solving moral problems, together with the extreme improbability of philosophy achieving a plausibly determinate theory, should encourage us to approach the problems in a spirit of agnosticism regarding the way in which theoretical material might be of relevance. The practical test for both moral theorizing and moral theories is thus not determinacy but the degree to which they increase our understanding of moral problems by serving, as they do in philosophy, as a means of inquiry into their nature. (shrink)
One of the most noteworthy features of David Gauthier's rational choice, contractarian theory of morality is its appeal to self-interested rationality. This appeal, however, will undoubtedly be the source of much controversy and criticism. For while self-interestedness is characteristic of much human behavior, it is not characteristic of all such behavior, much less of that which is most admirable. Yet contractarian ethics appears to assume that humans are entirely self-interested. It is not usually thought a virtue of a theory that (...) its assumptions are literally false. What may be said on behalf of the contractarian? (shrink)
In this interview, Christopher Norris discusses a wide range of issues having to do with postmodernism, deconstruction and other controversial topics of debate within present-day philosophy and critical theory. More specifically he challenges the view of deconstruction as just another offshoot of the broader postmodernist trend in cultural studies and the social sciences. Norris puts the case for deconstruction as continuing the 'unfinished project of modernity' and—in particular—for Derrida's work as sustaining the values of enlightened critical reason in various (...) spheres of thought from epistemology to ethics, sociology and politics. Along the way he addresses a number of questions that have lately been raised with particular urgency for teachers and educationalists, among them the revival of creationist doctrine and the idea of scientific knowledge as a social, cultural, or discursive construct. In this context he addresses the 'science wars' or the debate between those who uphold t. (shrink)
Classically-conceived accounts of character posit traits that are both dynamic and global. Dynamic traits produce behavior, and global traits produce behavior across the full range of situation kinds relevant to a particular trait. If you are classically just, for example, you would behave justly across the full range of situation kinds relevant to justice. But classical traits are too crude to fulfill trait attributions' intrinsically normative purpose, which is to reflect the moral merit agents deserve. I defend an extra-classical account (...) of character traits that endorses flexible traits that might issue in behavior across any narrow or broad range of situation kinds, and static traits that might issue in no behavior at all. Extra-classical traits are more subtle and sensitive, and so are normatively receptive to the credit that psychologically-complicated agents merit. Further, extra-classical traits can fulfill all the unproblematic roles of classical traits. Extra-classicism is, hence, a significant and substantial improvement upon classically conceived character traits and traditional virtue ethics. (shrink)
The sovereignty of the people, it is widely said, is the foundation of modern democracy. The truth of this claim depends on the plausibility of attributing sovereignty to “the people” in the first place, and I shall express skepticism about this possibility. I shall suggest as well that the notion of popular sovereignty is complex, and that appeals to the notion may be best understood as expressing several different ideas and ideals. This essay distinguishes many of these and suggests that (...) greater clarity at least would be obtained by focusing directly on these notions and ideals and eschewing that of sovereignty. My claim, however, will not merely be that the notion is multifaceted and complex. I shall argue as well that the doctrine that the people are, or ought to be, sovereign is misleading in potentially dangerous ways, and is conducive to a misunderstanding of the nature of politics, governance, and social order. It would be well to do without the doctrine, but it may be equally important to understand its errors. Our understandings and justifications of democracy, certainly, should dispense with popular sovereignty. (shrink)
The paper begins by defending the Hohfeldianaccount of rights (as equivalence relations) from thecharge that it cannot capture their specialsignificance, and thus cannot be used in a right-basedmoral theory. It goes on to argue that, because of amisunderstanding of this relational account, theconception of right-based morality that has emerged inrecent years has been variously flawed from theoutset. A particular form of explanatory priority waswrongly taken to be essential, and then eitherincoherently combined with equivalence, or taken to bea reason for rejecting (...) equivalence where right-basedthinking is concerned. In fact, this form of priorityis not sufficient for establishing a right-based moraltheory. It is also not necessary, since theHohfeldian analysis can be shown to be entirelyadequate to meeting the original aims of thoseproposing this approach to ethics. (shrink)
Medical analogies are commonly invoked in both Indian Buddhist dharma and Hellenistic philosophy. In the Pāli Canon, nirvana is depicted as a form of health, and the Buddha is portrayed as a doctor who helps us attain it. Much later in the tradition, Śāntideva described the Buddha’s teaching as ‘the sole medicine for the ailments of the world, the mine of all success and happiness.’ Cicero expressed the view of many Hellenistic philosophers when he said that philosophy is ‘a medical (...) science for the mind.’ He thought we should ‘hand ourselves over to philosophy, and let ourselves be healed.’ ‘For as long as these ills [of the mind] remain,’ he wrote, ‘we cannot attain to happiness.’ There are many different forms of medical analogy in these two traditions, but the most general form may be stated as follows: just as medicine cures bodily diseases and brings about physical health, so Buddhist dharma or Hellenistic philosophy cures mental diseases and brings about psychological health—where psychological health is understood as the highest form of happiness or well-being. Insofar as Buddhist dharma involves philosophy, as it does, both renditions of the analogy may be said to declare that philosophy cures mental diseases and brings about psychological health. This feature of the analogy—philosophy as analogous to medical treatment—has attracted considerable attention. (shrink)
I shall start by considering the apparently paradoxical doctrines that Wittgenstein put forward about knowledge: they show how the concept of knowledge is, as he says, ‘specialized’. This is not, as I shall show, a very important issue in itself, but it leads on to other points, of more interest: how it comes about, for example, that ‘not all corrections of our beliefs are on the same level’. I shall then discuss the idea that we inherit a certain picture of (...) the world that forms the background of our experiments and researches. This idea, which is not of course unique to Wittgenstein, is, however, developed with many fresh insights. I end with some discussion of Wittgenstein's reported views on religious belief, which should not, in my opinion, be regarded as part of his contribution to philosophy, the interest of them being, perhaps, more biographical than philosophical. (shrink)
Christopher G. Timpson provides the first full-length philosophical treatment of quantum information theory and the questions it raises for our understanding of the quantum world. He argues for an ontologically deflationary account of the nature of quantum information, which is grounded in a revisionary analysis of the concepts of information.