These thirteen new, specially written essays by a distinguished international line-up of contributors, including some leading contemporary moral philosophers, give a rich and varied view of current work on ethics and practical reason. The three main perspectives on the topic, Kantian, Humean, and Aristotelian, are all well represented. Issues covered include: the connection between reason and motivation; the source of moral reasons and their relation to reasons of self-interest; the relation of practical reason to value, to freedom, to responsibility, and (...) to feelings. The editors' introduction provides a valuable introductory survey of the topic, putting the individual essays in context. Ethics and Practical Reason will be essential reading for scholars, postgraduates, and upper-level undergraduates working in this area. (shrink)
This paper presents a moral philosophical account of free riding, specifying the conditions under which failing to pay for nonrival goods is unfair. These conditions do not include the voluntary acceptance of the goods: this controversial claim is supported on the strength of a characterization of the kind of unfairness displayed in paradigm cases of free riding. Thus a "Principle of Fairness" can potentially serve as a foundation for political obligations. The paper also discusses the relation between its moral philosophical (...) account of free riding, and a game theoretic or economic account. (shrink)
What difference do our decisions make to our reasons for action and the rationality of our actions? There are two questions here, and good grounds for answering them differently. However, it still makes sense to discuss them together. By thinking about the relationships that reasons and rationality bear to decisions, we may be able to cast light on the relationship that reasons and rationality bear to each other.
How much are we morally required to do to help people who are much worse off than us? On any credible moral outlook, other people's pressing need for assistance can ground moral requirements on us to help them---requirements of beneficence. How far do those requirements extend?One way to think about this is by means of a simple analogy: an analogy between joining in efforts to help people at a distance and rescuing a needy person yourself, directly. Part I of Garrett (...) Cullity's book examines this analogy. In some ways, the analogy is not only simple, but politically and metaphysically simplistic. However, it contains an important truth: we are morally required to help other people, indirectly as well as directly. But the number of needy people in the world is enormous, and their need is very great. Once we start to recognize requirements to help them, when is it morally acceptable to stop? Cullity answers this question in Part II. Examining the nature of beneficence, he argues that its requirements only make sense on the assumption that many of the interests we share in common-rich and poor alike-are interests it is not wrong to pursue. (shrink)
This paper argues that it is morally wrong for the affluent not to contribute money or time to famine relief. It begins by endorsing an important methodological line of objection against the most prominent philosophical advocate of this claim, Peter Singer. This objection attacks his strategy of invoking a principle the acceptability of which is apparently based upon its conformity with "intuitive" moral judgements in order to defend a strongly counterintuitive conclusion. However, what follows is an argument for that counterintuitive (...) conclusion which claims to circumvent the methodological objection, and moreover without having to resort to a justificational ethical theory. How can this be done? Merely by appealing, it is maintained, to the simple practical considerations which are characteristic of the virtues of kindness and justice. Accordingly, an account of those virtues, outlining the structure of the practical reasoning of their possessors, occupies a central place in the argument. The paper displays the resources for normative argument of a "virtue ethics;" but it claims also that its conclusion cannot be escaped by the adherents of any plausible moral outlook. And this yields a further conclusion. All moral outlooks, and not only those which equate the moral point of view with the impartial point of view, face a "problem of demandingness" - for it seems to be a corollary of the argument that if one is to be living a life which is not immoral, one is precluded from pursuing practically any source of personal satisfaction. (shrink)
Weak particularism about reasons is the view that the normative valency of some descriptive considerations varies, while others have an invariant normative valency. A defence of this view needs to respond to arguments that a consideration cannot count in favour of any action unless it counts in favour of every action. But it cannot resort to a global holism about reasons, if it claims that there are some examples of invariant valency. This paper argues for weak particularism, and presents a (...) framework for understanding the relationships between practical reasons. A central part of this framework is the idea that there is an important kind of reason-a 'presumptive reason'-which need not be conclusive, but which is neither pro tanto nor prima facie. /// [Richard Holton] Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed 'principled particularism'. The main argument that particularists present for their position-the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superseded by further considerations-is quite compatible with principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
Most of us think that it can be wrong not to help someone in chronic need — someone whose life you could easily save, say. And many of us find it hard to see how the remoteness of needy people, either physical, social or psychological, should make a difference to this. Maybe it makes a difference to how wrong it is not to help, but it is hard to see how it can make a difference to whether not helping is (...) wrong. (shrink)
This chapter examines the distinction that is sometimes drawn between neutral and relative attributions of value. It asks whether a plausible interpretation can be found for claims about relative value; whether an interpretation can be found for claims about neutral value which best captures the thoughts that people express by using this distinction; whether the distinction can be used to produce a satisfactory way of formulating a relative-value consequentialist theory; and whether a theory of that kind is plausible. A positive (...) answer is given to the first three questions, but a negative one to the fourth. (shrink)
This critical study of John Broome’s Rationality Through Reasoning raises some questions about the various requirements of rationality Broome formulates, pointing out some apparent gaps and counterexamples; proposes a general description of rationality that is broadly consistent with Broome’s requirements while providing them with a unifying justification, filling the gaps, and removing the counterexamples; and presents two objections to the book’s broader argument concerning the nature and importance of reasoning.
Are there good grounds for thinking that the moral values of action are to be derived from those of character? This virtue ethical claim is sometimes thought of as a kind of normative ethical theory; sometimes as form of opposition to any such theory. However, the best case to be made for it supports neither of these claims. Rather, it leads us to a distinctive view in moral epistemology: the view that my warrant for a particular moral judgement derives from (...) my warrant for believing that I am a good moral judge. This view seems to confront a regress-problem. For the belief that I am a good moral judge is itself a particular moral judgement. So it seems that, on this view, I need to derive my warrant for believing that I am a good moral judge from my warrant for believing that I am a good judge of moral judges; and so on. I show how this worry can be met, and trace the implications of the resulting view for warranted moral judgement. (shrink)
To what extent can we as a community legitimately require individuals to contribute to producing public goods? Most of us think that, at least sometimes, refusing to pay for a public good that you have enjoyed can involve a kind of 'free riding' that makes it wrong. But what is less clear is under exactly which circumstances this is wrong. To work out the answer to that, we need to know why it is wrong. I argue that when free riding (...) is wrong, the reason is that it is unfair. That is not itself a very controversial claim. But spelling out why it is unfair allows us to see just which forms of free riding are wrong. Moreover, it supplies a basis from which some more controversial conclusions can be defended. Even if a public good is one that you have been given without asking for it or seeking it out, it can still be wrong not to be prepared to pay for it. It can be wrong not to be prepared to pay for public goods even when you do not receive them at all. And furthermore, it can be right to force you to do so. (shrink)
What is the significance of empirical work on moral judgement for moral philosophy? Although the more radical conclusions that some writers have attempted to draw from this work are overstated, few areas of moral philosophy can remain unaffected by it. The most important question it raises is in moral epistemology. Given the explanation of our moral experience, how far can we trust it? Responding to this, the view defended here emphasizes the interrelatedness of moral psychology and moral epistemology. On this (...) view, the empirical study of moral judgement does have important implications for moral philosophy. But moral philosophy also has important implications for the empirical study of moral judgement. (shrink)
[Garrett Cullity] Weak particularism about reasons is the view that the normative valency of some descriptive considerations varies, while others have an invariant normative valency. A defence of this view needs to respond to arguments that a consideration cannot count in favour of any action unless it counts in favour of every action. But it cannot resort to a global holism about reasons, if it claims that there are some examples of invariant valency. This paper argues for weak particularism, and (...) presents a framework for understanding the relationships between practical reasons. A central part of this framework is the idea that there is an important kind of reason-a 'presumptive reason'-which need not be conclusive, but which is neither pro tanto nor prima facie. /// [ Richard Holton] Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed 'principled particularism'. The main argument that particularists present for their position-the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superseded by further considerations-is quite compatible with principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
Can one fact deprive another of the status of a reason for action—a status the second fact would have had, but for the presence of the first? Claims of this kind are often made, but they face substantial obstacles. This article sets out those obstacles but then argues that there are at least three different ways in which this does happen.
There can be situations in which, if I contribute to a pool of resources for helping a large number of people, the difference that my contribution makes to any of the people helped from the pool will be imperceptible at best, and maybe even non-existent. And this can be the case where it is also true that giving the same amount directly to one of the intended beneficiaries of the pool would have made a very large difference to her. Can (...) non-contribution to the pool be morally justified on this ground? I argue that it cannot. For, first, this line of thought leaves unaffected any reasons for holding that failing to perform the direct action of benefiting someone greatly would be wrong. But the pooling system of helping people is often better than a system separating the help which is given — better because of the perceptible difference it makes to its beneficiaries. If so, failing to contribute to the pool will be at least as wrong as failing to have helped directly would have been. The paper clarifies and defends an argument of this form, showing how it can be formulated in a way that avoids apparent counterexamples, and identifying the assumptions on which it rests. (shrink)
Moral evaluation is concerned with the attribution of values whose distinction into two broad groups has become familiar. On the one hand, there are the most general moral values of lightness, wrongness, goodness, badness, and what ought to be or to be done. On the other, there is a great diversity of more specific moral values which these objects can have: of being a theft, for instance, or a thief; of honesty, reliability or callousness. Within the recent body of work (...) attempting to restore to the virtues a central place in ethical thinking, two claims stand out. One is that, of these two kinds of values, the specific ones are explanatorily prior to the general – that if an action is wrong, it is because it is wrong in one of those specific respects. A second claim, though, is now standardly made definitive of ‘Virtue ethics’: that amongst the specific values, the value of character is explanatorily prior to that of action – that if an action is callous, say, it is because it expresses callousness of character – and that in this sense, the moral value of action derives from that of character. This second claim has been widely attacked; in what follows, I present a reason for believing that, at least in the case of callousness, it is right. (shrink)
The circumstances that create the need for humanitarian action are rarely morally neutral. The extremes of deprivation and want that demand a humanitarian response are often themselves directly caused by acts of war, persecution or misgovernment. And even when the direct causes lie elsewhere—when suffering and loss are caused by natural disaster, endemic disease or poverty of natural resources—the explanations of why some people are afflicted, and not others, are not morally neutral. It is those without economic or political power (...) who starve in famines, those who inhabit the most marginal areas who are killed by floods and landslides, those without access to basic education and health care who die from easily preventable diseases. The societies in which these things can happen are unjust, and the injustice of disempowerment is both itself one of the universal afflictions of poverty and a condition of its many other vulnerabilities. (shrink)
This paper defends the claim that there is deontic knowledge - knowledge of rightness and wrongness - which can be inferred from aretaic knowledge - knowledge of the possession of virtue-attributes. In doing so, it seeks to address two forceful objections, identified at the outset. The first is that the only way of making the claim appear plausible is by assuming a practice of virtue-ascription which actually makes the reverse inference. The second objection is that there is that "aretaic cognitivism" (...) will face a familiar non-cognitivist challenge - that the cognitivist must choose between an "intuitionism" and a "naturalism", against both of which there are well-known attacks - and that there is no reason to believe that this challenge can be met any more readily than by a direct deontic cognitivism. After a first section in which I outline a certain weak sense of the term "norm" in which our actions are often normatively guided, the defence of aretaic cognitivism begins with a schematic expression of the practical norms which are central to a number of important moral virtues. Guidance by any one of the schematized norms is not sufficient to guarantee the virtuousness of an action, because there may be countervailing applications of competing practical norms. However, aretaic knowledge does not require knowledge that there are no such countervailing considerations - and what it does require can apparently be satisfied. Therefore, I argue, both objections can be met: there are at least some circumstances in which our possession of aretaic knowledge does not depend on the possession of deontic knowledge, and since it does not, there is a way between the horns of the non-cognitivist's dilemma. (shrink)
According to "the argument from discernment", sympathetic motivation is morally faulty, because it is morally undiscriminating. Sympathy can incline you to do the right thing, but it can also incline you to do the wrong thing. And if so, it is no better as a reason for doing something than any other morally arbitrary consideration. The only truly morally good form of motivation--because the only morally non-arbitrary one--involves treating an action's rightness as your reason for performing it. This paper attacks (...) the argument from discernment and argues against its conclusion. (shrink)
What are we morally required to do for strangers? To answer this question – a question about the scope of requirements to aid strangers – we must first answer a question about justification: why are we required to aid them (when we are)? The main paper focuses largely on answering the question about justification, but does so in order to arrive at an answer to the question about scope. Three main issues are discussed. First, to what extent should requirements of (...) beneficence – requirements to benefit other people – be seen as generated by people’s rights to receiving aid? Secondly, what is the relationship between requirements of beneficence that apply to us collectively and requirements of beneficence that apply to each of us individually? According to Liam Murphy, our obligations to help distant strangers are fundamentally collective obligations, and any individual obligations we bear are consequently obligations to discharge our “fair share” of these collective obligations. I shall argue that, on the contrary, there are large-scale collective obligations of beneficence that derive from more fundamental individual obligations. My third issue concerns the moral significance of citizenship. What morally relevant difference is there between strangers who are compatriots and those who are not? (shrink)