The veil of ignorance argument was used by John C. Harsanyi to defend Utilitarianism and by John Rawls to defend the absolute priority of the worst off. In a recent paper, Lara Buchak revives the veil of ignorance argument, and uses it to defend an intermediate position between Harsanyi's and Rawls' that she calls Relative Prioritarianism. None of these authors explore the implications of allowing that agent's behind the veil are averse to ambiguity. Allowing for aversion to ambiguity---which is both (...) the most commonly observed and a seemingly reasonable attitude to ambiguity---however supports a version of Egalitarianism, whose logical form is quite different from the theories defended by the aforementioned authors. Moreover, it turns out that the veil of ignorance argument neither supports standard Utilitarianism nor Prioritarianism unless we assume that rational people are insensitive to ambiguity. (shrink)
A moderately risk averse person may turn down a 50/50 gamble that either results in her winning $200 or losing $100. Such behaviour seems rational if, for instance, the pain of losing $100 is felt more strongly than the joy of winning $200. The aim of this paper is to examine an influential argument that some have interpreted as showing that such moderate risk aversion is irrational. After presenting an axiomatic argument that I take to be the strongest case for (...) the claim that moderate risk aversion is irrational, I show that it essentially depends on an assumption that those who think that risk aversion can be rational should be skeptical of. Hence, I conclude that risk aversion need not be irrational. (shrink)
Does the desirability of a proposition depend on whether it is true? Not according to the Invariance assumption, held by several notable philosophers. The Invariance assumption plays an important role in David Lewis’ famous arguments against the so-called Desire-as-Belief thesis (DAB), an anti-Humean thesis according to which a rational agent desires a proposition exactly to the degree that she believes the proposition to be desirable. But the assumption is of interest independently of Lewis’ arguments, for instance since both Richard Jeffrey (...) and James Joyce make the assumption (or, strictly speaking, accept a thesis that implies Invariance) in their influential books on decision theory. The main claim to be defended in this paper is that Invariance is incompatible with certain assumptions of decision theory. I show that the assumption fails on the most common interpretations of desirability and/or choice-worthiness found in decision theory. I moreover show that Invariance is inconsistent with Richard Jeffrey’s decision theory, on which Lewis’ arguments against DAB are based. Finally, I show that Invariance contradicts how we in general do and should think about conditional desirability. (shrink)
Orthodox expected utility theory imposes too stringent restrictions on what attitudes to risk one can rationally hold. Focusing on a life-and-death gamble, I identify as the main culprit the theory’s Linearity property, according to which the utility of a particular change in the risk of a bad outcome is independent of the original level of risk. Finally, I argue that a recent non-standard Bayesian decision theory, that does not have this property, handles risky gambles better than the orthodox theory.
Population axiology concerns how to evaluate populations in terms of their moral goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. The task has been to find an adequate theory about the moral value of states of affairs where the number of people, the quality of their lives, and their identities may vary. So far, this field has largely ignored issues about uncertainty and the conditions that have been discussed mostly pertain (...) to the ranking of risk-free outcomes. Most public policy choices, however, are decisions under uncertainty, including policy choices that affect the size of a population. Here, we shall address the question of how to rank population prospects—that is, alternatives that contain uncertainty as to which population they will bring about—by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. We start by illustrating how well-known population axiologies can be extended to population prospect axiologies. And we show that new problems arise when extending population axiologies to prospects. In particular, traditional population axiologies lead to prospect-versions of the problems that they praised for avoiding in the risk-free settings. Finally, we identify an intuitive adequacy condition that, we contend, should be satisfied by any population prospect axiology, and show how given this condition, the impossibility theorems in population axiology can be extended to (non-trivial) impossibility theorems for population prospect axiology. (shrink)
This paper defends two related claims about belief. First, the claim that unlike numerical degrees of belief, comparative beliefs are primitive and psychologically real. Second, the claim that the fundamental norm of Probabilism is not that numerical degrees of belief should satisfy the probability axioms, but rather that comparative beliefs should satisfy certain constraints.
Catastrophic risk raises questions that are not only of practical importance, but also of great philosophical interest, such as how to define catastrophe and what distinguishes catastrophic outcomes from non-catastrophic ones. Catastrophic risk also raises questions about how to rationally respond to such risks. How to rationally respond arguably partly depends on the severity of the uncertainty, for instance, whether quantitative probabilistic information is available, or whether only comparative likelihood information is available, or neither type of information. Finally, catastrophic risk (...) raises important ethical questions about what to do when catastrophe avoidance conflicts with equity promotion. (shrink)
This paper develops a Multidimensional Decision Theory and argues that it better captures ordinary intuitions about fair distribution of chances than classical decision theory. The theory is an extension of Richard Jeffrey’s decision theory to counterfactual prospects and is a form of Modal Consequentialism, according to which the value of actual outcomes often depends on what could have been. Unlike existing versions of modal consequentialism, the multidimensional decision theory allows us to explicitly model the desirabilistic dependencies between actual and counterfactual (...) outcomes that, I contend, are at the heart of common intuitions about fair distribution of chances. (shrink)
This paper discusses a challenge for Comparativists about belief, who hold that numerical degree of belief (in particular, subjective probability) is a useful fiction, unlike comparative belief, which they regard as real. The challenge is to make sense of claims like ‘I am twice as confident in A as in B’ in terms of comparative belief only. After showing that at least some Comparativists can meet this challenge, I discuss implications for Zynda’s  and Stefánsson’s  defences of Comparativism.
The main aim of this book is to introduce the topic of limited awareness, and changes in awareness, to those interested in the philosophy of decision-making and uncertain reasoning. (This is for the series Elements of Decision Theory published by Cambridge University Press and edited by Martin Peterson).
The Precautionary Principle (PP) is an influential principle of risk management. It has been widely introduced into environmental legislation, and it plays an important role in most international environmental agreements. Yet, there is little consensus on precisely how to understand and formulate the principle. In this paper I prove some impossibility results for two plausible formulations of the PP as a decision-rule. These results illustrate the difficulty in making the PP consistent with the acceptance of any trade-offs between catastrophic risks (...) and more ordinary goods. (shrink)
L. A. Paul has recently argued that the epistemically transformative nature of certain experiences makes it impossible to rationally decide whether to have the experience or not. We start by explaining why, contrary to what Paul claims, epistemically transformative experiences do not pose a general problem for the possibility of rational choice. However, we show there is a particular type of agent for whom the problem identified by Paul does arise. With this agent in mind, we examine Paul’s own suggestion (...) for how to approach a transformative decision problem, namely, that one should decide based on whether one would like to come to know the experience in question, and we conclude that Paul’s suggestion is no solution for this particular agent. In other words, Paul’s solution does not work for the only type of agent for whom the problem she has identified arises. (shrink)
According to the class of de minimis decision principles, risks can be ignored (or at least treated very differently from other risks) if the risk is sufficiently small. In this article, we argue that a de minimis threshold has no place in a normative theory of decision making, because the application of the principle will either recommend ignoring risks that should not be ignored (e.g., the sure death of a person) or it cannot be used by ordinary bounded and information-constrained (...) agents. (shrink)
The Bayesian maxim for rational learning could be described as conservative change from one probabilistic belief or credence function to another in response to newinformation. Roughly: ‘Hold fixed any credences that are not directly affected by the learning experience.’ This is precisely articulated for the case when we learn that some proposition that we had previously entertained is indeed true (the rule of conditionalisation). But can this conservative-change maxim be extended to revising one’s credences in response to entertaining propositions or (...) concepts of which one was previously unaware? The economists Karni and Vierø (2013, 2015) make a proposal in this spirit. Philosophers have adopted effectively the same rule: revision in response to growing awareness should not affect the relative probabilities of propositions in one’s ‘old’ epistemic state. The rule is compelling, but only under the assumptions that its advocates introduce. It is not a general requirement of rationality, or so we argue. We provide informal counterexamples. And we show that, when awareness grows, the boundary between one’s ‘old’ and ‘new’ epistemic commitments is blurred. Accordingly, there is no general notion of conservative change in this setting. (shrink)
According to one reading of the thesis of Humean Supervenience, most famously defended by David Lewis, certain ‘fundamental’ (non-modal) facts entail all there is but do not supervene on less fundamental facts. However, in this paper I prove that it follows from Lewis' possible world semantics for counterfactuals, in particular his Centring condition, that all non-modal facts supervene on counterfactuals. Humeans could respond to this result by either giving up Centring or abandoning the idea that the most fundamental facts do (...) not supervene on less fundamental facts. I argue that either response should in general be acceptable to Humeans: the first since there is nothing particularly Humean about Centring; the latter since Humeans should, independently of the result I present, be sceptical that the supervenience of one fact upon another by itself says anything about ‘fundamentality’. (shrink)
Those who are risk averse with respect to money, and thus turn down some gambles with positive monetary expectations, are nevertheless often willing to accept bundles involving multiple such gambles. Therefore, it might seem that such people should become more willing to accept a risky but favourable gamble if they put it in context with the collection of gambles that they predict they will be faced with in the future. However, it turns out that when a risk averse person adopts (...) the long-term perspective, she faces a decision-problem that can be analysed as a noncooperative game between different "time-slices" of herself, where it is in the interest of each time-slice (given its prediction about other slices) to turn down the gamble with which it is faced. Hence, even if a risk averse but rational person manages to take the long-term perspective, she will, in the absence of what Hardin called "mutual coercion", end up in a situation analogous to the "tragedy of the commons". (shrink)
Suppose that a decision-maker's aim, under certainty, is to maximise some continuous value, such as lifetime income or continuous social welfare. Can such a decision-maker rationally satisfy what has been called "continuity for easy cases" while at the same time satisfying what seems to be a widespread intuition against the full-blown continuity axiom of expected utility theory? In this note I argue that the answer is "no": given transitivity and a weak trade-off principle, continuity for easy cases violates the anti-continuity (...) intuition. I end the note by exploring an even weaker continuity condition that is consistent with the aforementioned intuition. (shrink)
Both individuals and governments around the world have willingly sacrificed a great deal to meet the collective action problem posed by Covid-19. This has provided some commentators with newfound hope about the possibility that we will be able to solve what is arguably the greatest collective action problem of all time: global climate change. In this paper we argue that this is overly optimistic. We defend two main claims. First, these two collective action problems are so different that the actions (...) that individuals have taken to try to solve the problem posed by Covid-19 unfortunately provide little indication that we will be able to solve the problem posed by climate change. Second, the actions that states have taken in response to Covid-19 might—if anything—even be evidence that they will continue to fail to cooperate towards a solution to the climate crisis. (shrink)
This paper takes issue with an influential interpretationist argument for physicalism about intentionality based on the possibility of radical interpretation. The interpretationist defends the physicalist thesis that the intentional truths supervene on the physical truths by arguing that it is possible for a radical interpreter, who knows all of the physical truths, to work out the intentional truths about what an arbitrary agent believes, desires, and means without recourse to any further empirical information. One of the most compelling arguments for (...) the possibility of radical interpretation, associated most closely with David Lewis and Donald Davidson, gives a central role to decision theoretic representation theorems, which demonstrate that if an agent’s preferences satisfy certain constraints, it is possible to deduce probability and utility functions that represent her beliefs and desires. We argue that an interpretationist who wants to rely on existing representation theorems in defence of the possibility of radical interpretation faces a trilemma, each horn of which is incompatible with the possibility of radical interpretation. (shrink)
This paper presents a new kind of problem in the ethics of distribution. The problem takes the form of several "calibration dilemmas," in which intuitively reasonable aversion to small-stakes inequalities requires leading theories of distribution to recommend intuitively unreasonable aversion to large-stakes inequalities—e.g., inequalities in which half the population would gain an arbitrarily large quantity of well-being or resources. We first lay out a series of such dilemmas for a family of broadly prioritarian theories. We then consider a widely endorsed (...) family of egalitarian views and show that, despite avoiding the dilemmas for prioritarianism, they are subject to even more forceful calibration dilemmas. We then show how our results challenge common utilitarian accounts of the badness of inequalities in resources (e.g., wealth inequality). These dilemmas leave us with a few options, all of which we find unpalatable. We conclude by laying out these options and suggesting avenues for further research. (shrink)
Variable-Value axiologies propose solutions to the challenges of population ethics. These views avoid Parfit's Repugnant Conclusion, while satisfying some weak instances of the Mere Addition principle (for example, at small population sizes). We apply calibration methods to Variable-Value views while assuming: first, some very weak instances of Mere Addition, and, second, some plausible empirical assumptions about the size and welfare of the intertemporal world population. We find that Variable-Value views imply conclusions that should seem repugnant to anyone who opposes Total (...) Utilitarianism due to the Repugnant Conclusion. So, any wish to avoid repugnant conclusions is not a good reason to choose a Variable-Value view. More broadly, these calibrations teach us something about the effort to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion. Our results join a recent literature arguing that prior efforts to avoid the Repugnant Conclusion hinge on inessential features of the formalization of repugnance. Some of this effort may therefore be misplaced. (shrink)
Economic policy evaluations require social welfare functions for variable-size populations. Two important candidates are critical-level generalized utilitarianism (CLGU) and rank-discounted critical-level generalized utilitarianism, which was recently characterized by Asheim and Zuber (2014) (AZ). AZ introduce a novel axiom, existence of egalitarian equivalence (EEE). First, we show that, under some uncontroversial criteria for a plausible social welfare relation, EEE suffices to rule out the Repugnant Conclusion of population ethics (without AZ’s other novel axioms). Second, we provide a new characterization of CLGU: (...) AZ’s set of axioms is equivalent to CLGU when EEE is replaced by the axiom same-number independence. (shrink)
The Repugnant Conclusion served an important purpose in catalyzing and inspiring the pioneering stage of population ethics research. We believe, however, that the Repugnant Conclusion now receives too much focus. Avoiding the Repugnant Conclusion should no longer be the central goal driving population ethics research, despite its importance to the fundamental accomplishments of the existing literature.
"The studies collected in this book are all concerned with aspects of the Platonic tradition, either in its own internal development in the Hellenistic age and the period of the Roman Empire, or with the influence of Platonism, in one or other of its forms, on other spiritual traditions, especially that of Christianity." [Book jacket].
Umerez’s analysis made me aware of the fundamental differences in the culture of physics and molecular biology and the culture of semiotics from which the new field of biosemiotics arose. These cultures also view histories differently. Considering the evolutionary span and the many hierarchical levels of organization that their models must cover, models at different levels will require different observables and different meanings for common words, like symbol, interpretation, and language. These models as well as their histories should be viewed (...) as complementary rather than competitive. The relation of genetic language and human language is the central issue. They are separated by 4 billion years and require entirely different models. Nevertheless, these languages have in common a unique unlimited expressive power that allows open-ended evolution and creative thought. Understanding the nature of this expressive power and how it arises remains a basic unsolved problem of biosemiotics. (shrink)
Liberalism is commonly believed, especially by its exponents, to be opposed to interference by way of enforcing value judgments or concerning itself with the individual's morality. My concern is to show that this is not so and that liberalism is all the better for this. Many elements have contributed to liberal thought as we know it today, the major elements being the liberalism of which Locke is the most celebrated exponent, which is based upon a belief in natural, human rights; (...) the liberalism of which Kant is the best known exponent, which is based on respect for persons as ends in themselves; and the liberalism of Bentham and the Mills, which is based upon utilitarian ethical theories and most especially with concern for pleasure and the reduction of pain. These different elements of liberalism have led to different emphases and different political and social arrangements, but all have involved a concern to safeguard values and to use force to that end. Today they constitute strands of thought which go to make up liberal thought as we now know it, hence it is not simply a historical fact about liberalism, but a fact about its philosophical basis, that liberalism is firmly involved in certain value and moral commitments. In the remainder of this paper I shall seek to bring this out. (shrink)
This article spells out the way in which normative concerns unavoidably enter into the design and interpretation of empirical research on children's development of justice conceptions, with special emphasis on Damon's well-known stage theory of such development. Normative considerations provide assumptions not only about what counts as a conception of justice in the first place but also what counts as a better or a worse conception. Damon, for one, relies on the questionable normative premise that all distributive choices are choices (...) about justice. An alternative research programme is suggested, based on piecemeal mutual adjustments between the normative and the empirical, a programme which would focus on children's desert-based emotions. (shrink)
This book is a translation of W.V. Quine's Kant Lectures, given as a series at Stanford University in 1980. It provide a short and useful summary of Quine's philosophy. There are four lectures altogether: I. Prolegomena: Mind and its Place in Nature; II. Endolegomena: From Ostension to Quantification; III. Endolegomena loipa: The forked animal; and IV. Epilegomena: What's It all About? The Kant Lectures have been published to date only in Italian and German translation. The present book is filled out (...) with the translator's critical Introduction, "The esoteric Quine?" a bibliography based on Quine's sources, and an Index for the volume. (shrink)
The revised edition contains a new chapter which provides an elegant description of the semantics. The various classes of lambda calculus models are described in a uniform manner. Some didactical improvements have been made to this edition. An example of a simple model is given and then the general theory (of categorical models) is developed. Indications are given of those parts of the book which can be used to form a coherent course.
The present study investigates how business ethics are related to vocational interest. Special attention has been paid to the relationship between business ethics and the interest in ‘enterprising’ and ‘social’ oriented professions. The results show that business ethics is only significantly correlated in a negative way, to enterprising vocational preferences. Moreover, the negative contribution of business ethics to the preference for entrepreneurial and managerial professions remains after controlling for personality and work values. Some work values also predict the entrepreneurial interest: (...) Earnings, Influence, Competition, Innovation and Creativity. The personality traits Extraversion (positive) and Agreeableness (negative) have predictive validity, but this effect disappears after controlling for work values. In the ‘Discussion’ section, we pay attention to possible consequences of the negative relationship between business ethics and Entrepreneurial interest for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). We argue that efforts concerning realistic job previews will only be meaningful if they are completed with efforts to make people more sensitive for ethics in two other domains, namely education and business. (shrink)
This essay explains and puts into theoretical perspective the rising interest in justice as an emotional virtue. Martin Hoffman's empathy theory is germane to this debate since it gives an essentially emotion?oriented account of moral development in general, as well as an explanation of the gradual bonding of empathy/sympathy with justice. While Hoffman's theory provides valuable insights into the ways in which all moral concerns, including justice, rely on and relate to the child's original capacity for empathy, it seems to (...) underestimate the emotionality of justice itself. This unnecessarily weakens the thrust of Hoffman's educational suggestions about induction as the most productive method of pro?social stimulation. (shrink)
J. H. Hexter, an American historian of early seventeenth-century history, terms himself whiggish and claims whiggishness is returning after the misguided popularity of Marxism. The distinction "whiggish" is more elusive than his claim suggests, and the accuracy of its application to Hexter's claim is unclear. Three characteristics commonly assigned to whig interpretation by its critics can be seen as reflections of broader, unresolved historical issues. These are: attention to political and constitutional issues; a tendency to refer to the present in (...) interpreting the past; and a belief in inevitability. It is difficult to ascertain whether Hexter's attention to political matters is a result of his view of them as intrinsically important to historical inquiry or as particularly relevant to historical accounts of Stuart England. The charge of presentism cannot confidently be made against him, as he is not guilty of anything as crude as anachronism, and subtle presentism is neither avoidable nor necessarily reprehensible. Inevitabilism is not only difficult to define, it is not displayed by Hexter. If he displays the weaknesses of whiggishness it is only through implication, in the body of ideas underlying his text. (shrink)
Ever since the start of the twentieth century, a growing interest and importance of studying fatwas can be noted, with a focus on Arabic printed fatwas (Wokoeck 2009). The scholarly study of end-of-life ethics in these fatwas is a very recent feature, taking a first start in the 1980s (Anees 1984; Rispler-Chaim 1993). Since the past two decades, we have witnessed the emergence of a multitude of English fatwas that can easily be consulted through the Internet (‘e-fatwas’), providing Muslims worldwide (...) with a form of Islamic normative guidance on a huge variety of topics. Although English online fatwas do provide guidance for Muslims and Muslim minorities worldwide on a myriad of topics including end-of-life issues, they have hardly been studied. This study analyses Islamic views on (non-)voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide as expressed in English Sunni fatwas published on independent—i.e. not created by established organisations—Islamic websites. We use Tyan’s definition of a fatwa to distinguish between fatwas and other types of texts offering Islamic guidance through the Internet. The study of e-fatwas is framed in the context of Bunt’s typology of Cyber Islamic Environments (Bunt 2009) and in the framework of Roy’s view on the virtual umma (Roy 2002). ‘(Non-)voluntary euthanasia and assisted suicide’ are defined using Broeckaert’s conceptual framework on treatment decisions at the end of life (Broeckaert 2008). We analysed 32 English Sunni e-fatwas. All of the e-fatwas discussed here firmly speak out against every form of active termination of life. They often bear the same structure, basing themselves solely on Quranic verses and prophetic traditions, leaving aside classical jurisprudential discussions on the subject. In this respect they share the characteristics central in Roy’s typology of the fatwa in the virtual umma. On the level of content, they are in line with the international literature on Islamic end-of-life ethics. English Sunni e-fatwas make up an influential and therefore important developing body of Islamic orthodox normative authority on end-of-life ethics that is still open for further research. (shrink)
This is a collection of essays on themes of legal philosophy which have all been generated or affected by Hart's work. The topics covered include legal theory, responsibility, and enforcement of morals, with contributions from Ronald Dworkin, Rolf Sartorius, Neil MacCormach, David Lyons, Kent Greenawalt, Michael Moore, Joseph Raz, and C.L. Ten, among others.
ABSTRACTBackground: Empirical studies in Muslim communities on organ donation and blood transfusion show that Muslim counsellors play an important role in the decision process. Despite the emerging importance of online English Sunni fatwas, these fatwas on organ donation and blood transfusion have hardly been studied, thus creating a gap in our knowledge of contemporary Islamic views on the subject.Method: We analysed 70 English Sunni e‐fatwas and subjected them to an in‐depth text analysis in order to reveal the key concepts in (...) the Islamic ethical framework regarding organ donation and blood transfusion.Results: All 70 fatwas allow for organ donation and blood transfusion. Autotransplantation is no problem at all if done for medical reasons. Allotransplantation, both from a living and a dead donor, appears to be possible though only in quite restricted ways. Xenotransplantation is less often mentioned but can be allowed in case of necessity. Transplantation in general is seen as an ongoing form of charity. Nearly half of the fatwas allowing blood transfusion do so without mentioning any restriction or problem whatsoever. The other half of the fatwas on transfusion contain the same conditional approval as found in the arguments pro organ transplantation.Conclusion: Our findings are very much in line with the international literature on the subject. We found two new elements: debates on the definition of the moment of death are hardly mentioned in the English Sunni fatwas and organ donation and blood transfusion are presented as an ongoing form of charity. (shrink)
An important and supposedly impactful form of clinical ethics support is moral case deliberation. Empirical evidence, however, is limited with regard to its actual impact. With this literature review, we aim to investigate the empirical evidence of MCD, thereby a) informing the practice, and b) providing a focus for further research on and development of MCD in healthcare settings. A systematic literature search was conducted in the electronic databases PubMed, CINAHL and Web of Science. Both the data collection and the (...) qualitative data analysis followed a stepwise approach, including continuous peer review and careful documentation of our decisions. The qualitative analysis was supported by ATLAS.ti. Based on a qualitative analysis of 25 empirical papers, we identified four clusters of themes: 1) facilitators and barriers in the preparation and context of MCD, i.e., a safe and open atmosphere created by a facilitator, a concrete case, commitment of participants, a focus on the moral dimension, and a supportive organization; 2) changes that are brought about on a personal and inter-professional level, with regard to professional’s feelings of relief, relatedness and confidence; understanding of the perspectives of colleagues, one’s own perspective and the moral issue at stake; and awareness of the moral dimension of one’s work and awareness of the importance of reflection; 3) changes that are brought about in caring for patients and families; and 4) changes that are brought about on an organizational level. This review shows that MCD brings about changes in practice, mostly for the professional in inter-professional interactions. Most reported changes are considered positive, although challenges, frustrations and absence of change were also reported. Empirical evidence of a concrete impact on the quality of patient care is limited and is mostly based on self-reports. With patient-focused and methodologically sound qualitative research, the practice and the value of MCD in healthcare settings can be better understood, thus making a stronger case for this kind of ethics support. (shrink)
Miss G. E. M. Anscombe has said that, in order for progress to be made in ethics, we must have some determinate idea of ‘human flourishing.’ I want to cite in what follows the work of a number of writers in the psychiatric field who seem to me to throw light on just what it is for a human individual to flourish, for a human community to flourish, and for a human individual to flourish in relation to or in spite (...) of his community. (shrink)
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