In the Arena Chapel in Padua, Giotto painted seven allegorical representations of virtues and seven allegorical representations of vices. This article probes the sources for the list of virtues and the list of vices. The ensemble of virtues can be located in St. Thomas Aquinas; the ensemble of the vices, however, is original. The result is a new account of vices that displaces the odler account of the “seven deadly sins.”.
Life insurance settlements, or life settlements, are life insurance policies owned by investor-beneficiaries on the lives of unrelated individuals. With life settlements, investors make substantial payments to the insured individuals upon purchasing such policies, pay any remaining premius, and collect the death benefits upon the demise of the insured individuals. Transactions involving life settlements seem poised to become a major source of profits for investment banks, comparable in dollar amount to subprime mortgages. With life settlements, the insured individuals suffer no (...) immediate harm, and the sale of a policy an individual owns is permissible under current law. Nevertheless, moral questions can be posed about the social values expressed by these practices, the effect of these practices on the virtue of charity, and the overall loss of social utility that will result from life settlements. We consider life settlements from utilitarian and libertarian perspectives, and then consider the effects of life settlements on social values and on individual character. On balance, we favor legislative changes in insurance and tax laws to discourage life settlements, and argue that certain forms of life settlements should be banned outright. (shrink)
This paper argues that there is a conflict between divine omniscience and the human right to privacy. The right to privacy derives from the right to moral autonomy, which human persons possess even against a divine being. It follows that if God exists and persists in knowing all things, his knowledge is a non-justifiable violation of a human right. On the other hand, if God exists and restricts his knowing in deference to human privacy, it follows that he cannot fulfill (...) the traditional function of being the perfect and final judge of all things. (shrink)
COLI – company owned life insurance – is often purchased by firms on employees in whom the firm has no demonstrable insurable interest. Though no immediate harm comes to individuals insured in this way, purchasing such policies raises moral questions. From a Kantian framework, questions arise about reciprocity and fairness, the deception of employees, the generation of mistrust, and the use of the employee’s life as a means to profit. No compensating social good is served by the sale of these (...) policies. (shrink)
I. Beyond Utilitarianism In the summer of 1982, I published an article called “Missiles and Morals,” in which I argued on utilitarian grounds that nuclear deterrence in its present form is not morally justifiable. The argument of “Missiles and Morals” compared the most likely sort of nuclear war to develop under nuclear deterrence with the most likely sort of nuclear war to develop under American unilateral nuclear disaramament. For a variety of reasons, I claimed diat the number of casualties in (...) a two-sided nuclear war developing under DET would be at least fifteen times greater than the number of casualties in a one-sided nuclear attack developing under UND. If one assumes that human lives lost or saved is the principal criterion by which nuclear weapons policies should be measured, it follows that DET is morally superior to UND on utilitarian grounds only if the chance of a two-sided nuclear war under DET is more than fifteen times less dian the chance of a one-sided nuclear attack under UND. Since I did not believe that the chance of nuclear war under deterrence is fifteen times less than the chance of nuclear war under unilateral nuclear disarmament, I inferred diat utilitaranism failed to justify DET. Indeed, on utilitarian grounds, DET stood condemned. (shrink)
Philosophers have developed various systems of individuation for handling questions of identity regarding works of art. But even a casual survey of different arts reveals that questions of individuation in one art form are markedly different from questions of individuation in another. Though distinctively philosophical concepts can go a short way in clarifying these issues, it is hardly likely that any single philosophical system can do justice to them all.
This essay considers and rejects the hypothesis of Fackenheim, Wiesel and others that the Jewish Holocaust contains some qualitatively or quantitatively distinct moral evil. The Holocaust was not qualitatively distinct because the intentions and vices of the mass murderer are qualitatively indistinguishable from the intentions and vices of the common murderer. The Holocaust was not quantitatively distinct either because the sum of the evils of the Holocaust is quantitatively indistinguishable from six million randomly selected individual murders or because the notion (...) of a ‘sum’ of moral evils is conceptually incoherent. (shrink)
This essay distinguishes personal from generic fame and accurate from inaccurate fame, and claims that only accurate personal fame could possess intrinsic value. Nevertheless, three common arguments why accurate personal fame might possess intrinsic value are shown to be unsound. After rejecting two Aristotelian arguments to the effect that no sort of fame possesses value, the author suggests that fame is valueless if one assumes a modern axiology in which the good life consists of self-regulation and self-expression.
Old philosophical problems never die, but they can be reinterpreted. In this paper, I offer a reinterpretation of the problem of reconciling divine omniscience and human free will. Classical discussions of this problem concentrate on the nature of God and the concept of free will. The present discussion will focus attention on the concept of knowledge, drawing on developments in epistemology that resulted from the posing of a certain problem by Edmund Gettier in 1963.