Neo-Humean instrumentalists hold that anagent's reasons for acting are grounded in theagent's desires. Numerous objections have beenleveled against this view, but the mostcompelling concerns the problem of ``aliendesires'' – desires with which the agent doesnot identify. The standard version ofneo-Humeanism holds that these desires, likeany others, generate reasons for acting. Avariant of neo-Humeanism that grounds anagent's reasons on her values, rather than allof her desires, avoids this implication, but atthe cost of denying that we have reasons to acton innocent whims. (...) A version of neo-Humeanismthat holds that an agent has reason to satisfyall of her desires that are not in conflictwith her values appears to allow us to grantthe reason-giving force of innocent whims whiledenying the reason-giving force of alien desires. (shrink)
One of the attractions of the Humean instrumentalist theory of practical rationality is that it appears to offer a special connection between an agent's reasons and her motivation. The assumption that Humeanism is able to assert a strong connection between reason and motivation has been challenged, most notably by Christine Korsgaard. She argues that Humeanism is not special in the connection it allows to motivation. On the contrary, Humean theories of practical rationality do connect reasons and motivation in a unique (...) and attractive way, though the nature of this connection has sometimes been misunderstood by both defenders and detractors of the theory. (shrink)
Neo-Humean instrumentalist theories of reasons for acting have been presented with a dilemma: either they are normatively trivial and, hence, inadequate as a normative theory or they covertly commit themselves to a noninstrumentalist normative principle. The claimed result is that no purely instrumentalist theory of reasons for acting can be normatively adequate. This dilemma dissolves when we understand what question neo-Humean instrumentalists are addressing. The dilemma presupposes that neo-Humeans are attempting to address the question of how to act, 'simpliciter'. Instead, (...) they are evaluating actions from the agent's normative perspective. (shrink)
Benefit/cost analysis is a technique for evaluating programs, procedures, and actions; it is not a moral theory. There is significant controversy over the moral justification of benefit/cost analysis. When a procedure for evaluating social policy is challenged on moral grounds, defenders frequently seek a justification by construing the procedure as the practical embodiment of a correct moral theory. This has the apparent advantage of avoiding difficult empirical questions concerning such matters as the consequences of using the procedure. So, for example, (...) defenders of benefit/cost analysis (BCA) are frequently tempted to argue that this procedurejust isthe calculation of moral Tightness – perhaps that what itmeansfor an action to be morally right is just for it to have the best benefit-to-cost ratio given the accounts of “benefit” and “cost” that BCA employs. They suggest, in defense of BCA, that they have found the moral calculus – Bentham's “unabashed arithmetic of morals.” To defend BCA in this manner is to commit oneself to one member of a family of moral theories (let us call thembenefit/cost moral theoriesorB/C moral theories) and, also, to the view that if a procedure is (so to speak) the direct implementation of a correct moral theory, then it is a justified procedure. Neither of these commitments is desirable, and so the temptation to justify BCA by direct appeal to a B/C moral theory should be resisted; it constitutes an unwarranted short cut to moral foundations – in this case, an unsound foundation. Critics of BCA are quick to point out the flaws of B/C moral theories, and to conclude that these undermine the justification of BCA. But the failure to justify BCA by a direct appeal to B/C moral theory does not show that the technique is unjustified. There is hope for BCA, even if it does not lie with B/C moral theory. (shrink)
Is Goodness Without God Good Enough contains a lively debate between William Lane Craig and Paul Kurtz on the relationship between God and ethics, followed by seven new essays that both comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of this important issue. Written in an accessible style by eminent scholars, this book will appeal to students and academics alike.
The thesis that rationality consists in the straight-forward maximization of utility has not lacked critics. Typically, however, detractors reject the Humean picture of rationality upon which it seems based; they seek to emancipate reason from the tyranny of the passions. It is, then, noteworthy when an attack on this thesis comes from ‘within the ranks.’David Gauthier's paper ‘Reason and Maximization’ is just such an attack; and for this reason, among others, it is interesting. It is not successful, though. In defense (...) of this conclusion, we shall begin by relating the essentials of Gauthier's argument. Then we shall examine in some detail Gauthier's claim that the principle of straighforward max-imization fails to be self-supporting. We shall argue that Gauthier's defense of this claim is at best incomplete. Finally, we shall show that the fact that a normative principle is self-subverting or non-self-supporting does not entail that the principle is defective. (shrink)
Contractarians view justice as being defined by a contract made by rational individuals. No one supposes that this contract is actual, and the fact that it is merely hypothetical raises a number of questions both about the assumptions under which it would be actual and about the force of hypothetical agreement that is contingent on these assumptions.Particular contractarian theories must specify the circumstances of the agreement and the endowments, beliefs, desires, and degree and type of rationality of the agents. How (...) these issues are settled determines the force of the hypothetical agreement. The fact that ignorant people who desired only universal suffering would, under duress, agree to a certain principle gives us no reason to believe the principle is a correct moral principle or to think it rational to accept or act on it: some counterfactual assumptions undermine entirely the moral force of hypothetical agreement. On the other hand, to take people just as they are, with their current beliefs, desires, endowments, and all, is to endorse their ignorance and mistakes as well as any previous injustice that affects their bargaining power. (shrink)
The U.S. Supreme Court regards parental rights as fundamental. Such a status should subject any legal procedure that directly and substantively interferes with the exercise of parental rights to strict scrutiny. On the contrary, though, despite their status as fundamental constitutional rights, parental rights are routinely suspended or revoked as a result of procedures that fail to meet even minimal standards of procedural and substantive due process. This routine and cavalier deprivation of parental rights takes place in the context of (...) divorce where, during the pendency of litigation, one parent is routinely deprived of significant parental rights without any demonstration that a state interest exists—much less that there is a compelling state interest that cannot be achieved in any less restrictive way. In marked contrast to our current practice, treating parental rights as fundamental rights requires a presumption of joint legal and physical custody upon divorce and during the pendency of divorce litigation. The presumption may be overcome, but only by clear and convincing evidence that such an arrangement is harmful to the children. (shrink)
Gauthier's version of the Lockean proviso (in Morals by Agreement) is inappropriate as the foundation for moral rights he takes it to be. This is so for a number of reasons. It lacks any proportionality test thus allowing arbitrarily severe harms to others to prevent trivial harms to oneself. It allows one to inflict any harm on another provided that if one did not do so, someone else would. And, by interpreting the notion of bettering or worsening one's position in (...) terms of subjective expected utility, it allows immoral manipulation of others and imposes unwarranted restrictions based on preferences that should carry no moral weight. (shrink)
Though most children can easily answer the question, "Who's your daddy?", the concept of paternity is complex and multifaceted. Courts have stumbled in answering it. In order to ground paternal rights and obligations in a satisfactory way, we need to disaggregate the various elements of stereotypical paternity. It is not sufficient merely to separate social from biological paternity. The latter concept, itself, is complex. We need to separate the procreative element of paternity from the genetic relationship.
Standards of reasonability play an important role in some of the most difficult cases of rape. In recent years, the notion of the reasonable person has supplanted the historical concept of the reasonable man as the test of reasonability. Contemporary feminist critics like Catharine MacKinnon and Kim Lane Scheppele have challenged the notion of the reasonable person on the grounds that reasonability standards are gendered to the ground and so, in practice, the reasonable person is just the reasonable man in (...) a gender neutral guise. These critics call for the explicit employment of a reasonable woman standard for application to the actions of female victims of rape. But the arguments for abandoning a gender-neutral standard are double-edged and the employment of gendered standards of reasonability is likely to have implications that are neither foreseen by, nor acceptable to, advocates of such standards. Reasonable agent standards can be dropped, in favor of appeals to the notion of a reasonable demand by the law. However, if reasonable agent standards are to be retained, gendered versions of such standards are not preferable to gender-neutral ones. (shrink)
Some have attempted to justify benefit/ cost analysis by appealing to a moral theory that appears to directly ground the technique. This approach is unsuccessful because the moral theory in question is wildly implausible and, even if it were correct, it would probably not endorse the unrestricted use of benefit/ cost analysis. Nevertheless, there is reason to think that a carefully restricted use of benefit/ cost analysis will be justifiable from a wide variety of plausible moral perspectives. From this, it (...) is reasonable to conclude that such use of the technique is probably morally justified and should be acceptable to most people. (shrink)
Modern consequentialism is a very broad theory. Consequentialists can invoke a distribution sensitive theory of value to address the issues of distributive justice that bedeviled utilitarianism. They can attach intrinsic moral value to such acts truth-telling and promise-keeping and, so, acknowledge the essential moral significance of such acts in a way that classical utilitarianism could not. It can appear that there are no limits to consequentialism’s ability to respond to the criticisms against utilitarian theories by embracing a sophisticated theory of (...) value. But there are limits. They are imposed by consequentialism’s commitment to ground considerations of rightness solely on considerations of goodness. Some consequentialists have attempted to incorporate elements of guilt and desert into the theory of value. This can be done, consistent with consequentialist scruples, only if these notions can be analyzed without appeal to deontic concepts such as right and wrong. I analyze the problem consequentialists face and suggest a way incorporate notions of guilt and desert in a theory of value without relying in any fundamental way on concepts of right and wrong action. (shrink)
In 'The Moral Problem', Michael Smith defends a conception of normative reasons that is nonrelative. Given his understanding of normative reasons, nonrelativity commits him to the convergence hypothesis: that, as a result of the process or correction of beliefs and rational deliberation, 'all' agents would converge on having the same set of desires. I develop several reasons for being pessimistic about the truth of this hypothesis. As a result, if normative reasons exist, we have a reason to be skeptical of (...) either Smith's understanding of what normative reasons are or of his insistence that they are nonrelative. (shrink)
in Morals by Agreement, David Gauthier assumes that the contractors' preferences are non-tuistic--that they take "no interest in one another's interests." This is the analog of John Rawls's assumption of "mutual disinterest." Gauthier's assumption of non-tuism is ambiguous in important ways and he sometimes shifts between quite distinct meanings. I examine the various plausible interpretations of non-tuism and then critically evaluate Gauthier's justification for assuming that it is only agents' non-tuistic preferences that are to be considered in arriving at an (...) acceptable social contract. (shrink)