In this much-anticipated book, Jonathan Dancy offers the only available full-scale treatment of particularism in ethics, a view with which he has been associated for twenty years. Dancy now presents particularism as the view that the possibility of moral thought and judgement does not in any way depend on an adequate supply of principles. He grounds this claim on a form of reasons-holism, holding that what is a reason in one case need not be any reason in another, and maintaining (...) that moral reasons are no different in this respect from others. Ethics Without Principles offers detailed treatment and criticism of opposing positions of all sorts, with useful summaries. It also contains three chapters on the nature of what Dancy calls 'contributory' reasons, which, though the topic of much interest at the moment, are not often discussed in anything like the detail given here. And it offers a distinctive form of value-holism to go with the holism of reasons. As Dancy's definitive statement on particularism, the book will be required reading for all those working on moral philosophy and ethical theory. (shrink)
Practical Reality is a lucid original study of the relation between the reasons why we do things and the reasons why we should. Jonathan Dancy maintains that current philosophical orthodoxy bowdlerizes this relation, making it impossible to understand how anyone can act for a good reason. By giving a fresh account of values and reasons, he finds a place for normativity in philosophy of mind and action, and strengthens the connection between these areas and ethics.
This book attempts to place a realist view of ethics (the claim that there are facts of the matter in ethics as elsewhere) within a broader context. It starts with a discussion of why we should mind about the difference between right and wrong, asks what account we should give of our ability to learn from our moral experience, and looks in some detail at the different sorts of ways in which moral reasons can combine to show us what we (...) should do in the circumstances. The second half of the book uses these results to mount an attack on consequentialism in ethics, arguing that there are more sorts of reasons around than consequentialists can even dream of. (shrink)
This is a unique collection of new and recently-published articles which debate the merits of virtue-theoretic approaches to the core epistemological issues of knowledge and justified belief. The readings all contribute to our understanding of the relative importance, for a theory of justified belief, of the reliability of our cognitive faculties and of the individuals responsibility in gathering and weighing evidence. Highlights of the readings include direct exchanges between leading exponents of this approach and their critics.
I start by examining Robert Audi's positive suggestions about moral perception, and then attempt to point out some challengeable assumptions that he seems to make, and to consider how things might look if those assumptions are abandoned.
I start with a brief look at what the classic British intuitionists (Ewing, Broad, Ross) had to say about the relation between judgment and emotion. I then look at some more recent work in the intuitionist tradition and try to develop a conception of moral emotion as a form of practical seeming, suggesting that some moral intuitions are exactly that sort of emotion. My general theme is that the standard contrast between intuition and emotion is a mistake and that intuitionism (...) can happily accommodate the results of recent work in empirical moral psychology. (shrink)
This paper considers and rejects the arguments that have been given in favour of the view that one can only act for the reason that p if one knows that p . The paper contrasts it with the view I hold, which is that one can act for the reason that p even if it is not the case that p.
Response to Mark Schroeder’s Slaves of the passions Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9656-3 Authors Jonathan Dancy, The University of Reading, Reading, UK Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
To the extent, then, that we set our face against admitting the truth of Humeanism in the theory of motivation, to that extent we are probably going to feel that there is no such thing as the theory of motivation, so conceived, at all. And that will be the position that this paper is trying to defend, though not only for this reason. It might seem miraculous that so much can be extracted from the little distinction with which we started, (...) between the reasons why an action was right and the agent's reasons for doing it. It is not so much the distinction itself which is the culprit, however, as the account of it that sees motivating reasons as complexes of beliefs and desires, i.e. as complexes of psychological states of whatever sort, and sees justifying reasons as truths. It is this account, which puts into form the attempt to combine value realism with Humean philosophical psychology, that leads to the results I have outlined above. (shrink)
My topic is the relation between the right and the good. I introduce it by relating some aspects of the debate between various British intuitionists in the first half of the present century. In Principia Ethica G. E. Moore claimed that to be right is to be productive of the greatest good. He wrote ‘This use of “right”, as denoting what is good as a means, whether or not it be also good as an end, is indeed the use to (...) which I shall confine the word’ . By the time he wrote his Ethics he seems to have weakened his position, and offers conduciveness to the good not as a definition of ‘right’ but as an account of the one and only property that makes acts right. Even if it be the only right-making property, conduciveness to the good will not be identical with the right-ness that it makes. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to answer the charge that extreme moral particularism is unable to explain the possibility of moral concepts and our ability to acquire them. This charge is based on the claim that we acquire moral concepts from experience of instances, and that the sorts of similarities that there must be between the instances are ones that only a generalist can countenance. I argue that this inference is unsound.
In my Practical Reality I argued that the reasons for which we act are not to be conceived of as psychological states of ourselves, but as real states of the world. The main reason for saying this was that only thus can we make sense of the idea that it is possible to act for a good reason. The good reasons we have for doing this action rather than that one consist mainly of features of the situations in which we (...) find ourselves; they do not consist in our believing certain things about those situations. For instance, the reason for my helping that person is that she is in trouble and I am the only person around. It is not that I believe both that she is in trouble and that I am the only person around. Give that the reason to help is that she is in trouble etc., it must be possible for my reason for helping to be just that, if it is indeed possible for one to act for a good reason. In fact, this sort of thing must be the normal arrangement. The reasons why we act, therefore, that is, our reasons for doing what we do, are not standardly to be conceived as states of ourselves, but as features of our situations. (shrink)
Coleridge wrote: “Every man is born an Aristotelian or a Platonist. I do not think it possible that anyone born an Aristotelian can become a Platonist; and I am sure that no born Platonist can ever change into an Aristotelian. They are two classes of man, beside which it is next to impossible to conceive a third.”Ancient Platonists could not be counted on to accept this kind of dichotomy, and that is what Karamanolis’s book is about. It covers Antiochus , (...) Plutarch of Chaeronea, Numenius, Atticus, Ammonius Saccas, Plotinus, and Porphyry . And it does so with incredible thoroughness, making it a tough read. The book began as a dissertation; it still has something of the air of one.The longest chapter is devoted to Porphyry, whom Karamanolis claims to be the first Platonist to write commentaries on books of Aristotle, and the first to adopt the view that Aristotle simply was in agreement with Plato—the founder of a tradition in scholarship to the effect that “Plato is named as the authority in metaphysics, and Aristotle in logic” . His concluding paragraph is this: It is this understanding of philosophizing which lies behind the formation of the Pla-tonist syllabus I described in the beginning of this book. This remains the situation until the Renaissance. When Renaissance humanists revive. (shrink)
We know what to say about the agent who knowingly does the wrong thing. But what of the wrongdoer who doesn't know everything that matters? Some of the usual criticisms may apply, if some of the usual mistakes were made. Other usual criticisms will miss the mark. One task for moral theory is to explain this variety of censures and failures. Derek Parfit proposes that we define for each criticism a sense of 'wrong', and that each new sense be defined (...) in terms of the 'ordinary' sense. The authors argue in favor of another approach, inspired by Parfit's earlier work, requiring only one sense of 'wrong'. They conclude by showing that their own approach is also deeply flawed—that neither theory can explain the many ways to do wrong in ignorance of what matters. This is not a conclusion with which moral theorists should be happy. (shrink)
In the post-Gilligan debate about the differences, if any, between the ways in which people of different genders see the moral world in which they live, I detect two assumptions. These can be found in Gilligan's early work, and have infected the thought of others. The first, perhaps surprisingly, is Kohlberg's Kantian account of one moral perspective, the one more easily or more naturally operated by men and which has come to be called the justice perspective. This is the perspective (...) whose claims Gilligan initially found suspect, not because she thought it a distorted account of the way in which male subjects operated, but because she disputed its claims to be the only account or the best or dominant one. Throughout the ensuing debate Kohlberg's account has been left in place, and challenged not for correctness but only for uniqueness. (shrink)
[T. M. Scanlon] It is clearly impermissible to kill one person because his organs can be used to save five others who are in need of transplants. It has seemed to many that the explanation for this lies in the fact that in such cases we would be intending the death of the person whom we killed, or failed to save. What makes these actions impermissible, however, is not the agent's intention but rather the fact that the benefit envisaged does (...) not justify an exception to the prohibition against killing or the requirement to give aid. The difference between this explanation and one appealing to intention is easily overlooked if one fails to distinguish between the prospective use of a moral principle to guide action and its retrospective use to appraise the way an agent governed him or herself. Even if this explanation is accepted, however, it remains an open question whether and how an agent's intention may be relevant to the permissibility of actions in other cases. \\\ [Jonathan Dancy] My first four sections concentrate on the second section of Professor Scanlon's contribution, where he lays out his conception of moral principles and of the role they play in theory and practice. I will raise questions on the following issues: 1. Scanlon's initial introduction of the notion of a principle. 2. His rejection of the standard view that principles are concerned with the forbidding, permitting and requiring of actions. 3. His rejection of pro tanto conceptions of principles in favour of a conception of them as conclusive. 4. The resulting account of what it is for a principle to face and survive exceptions. Scanlon's discussion of these matters here both appeals to and is in some respects more detailed than the relevant section of his recent What We Owe to Each Other. The topic is interesting both for the role played by principles in Scanlon's present discussion of intention and permissibility, and more generally because of his account of wrongness: an act is wrong iff it is ruled out by principles that nobody could reasonably reject. The remainder of my contribution is concerned with the ostensible focus of IP, namely the relevance of agent-intentions to the permissibility of what is done. (shrink)
In this paper I consider what might be my best response to various difficulties and challenges that emerged at a conference held at the University of Kent in December 2004, the contributions to which are given in the same volume. I comment on Crisp's distinction between ultimate and non-ultimate reasons, and reply to McKeever and Ridge on default reasons, and to Norman on the idea of a reason for action. I don't here consider what other particularists might want to say; (...) I certainly don't think that my way of doing these things is the only possible one, but not surprisingly I am interested in seeing what resources it might have to defend itself. Key Words: default favouring particularism reasons right-making. (shrink)