In this paper I defend Judith Jarvis Thomson's 'Good Samaritan Argument' (otherwise known as the 'feminist argument') for the permissibility of abortion, first advanced in her important, ground-breaking article 'A Defense of Abortion' (1971), against objections from Joseph Mahon (1979, 1984). I also highlight two problems with Thomson's argument as presented, and offer remedies for both of these problems. The article begins with a short history of the importance of the article to the development of practical ethics. Not alone did (...) it put the topic of the abortion on the philosophical map, but it made 'practical ethics' in the late 1960s feminist, also. (shrink)
Survey of different definitions of lying and deceiving, with an emphasis on the contemporary debate between Thomas Carson, Roy Sorensen, Don Fallis, Jennifer Saul, Paul Faulkner, Jennifer Lackey, David Simpson, Andreas Stokke, Jorg Meibauer, Seana Shiffrin, and James Mahon, among others, over whether lies always aim to deceive. Related questions include whether lies must be assertions, whether lies always breach trust, whether it is possible to lie without using spoken or written language, whether lies must always be false, whether lies (...) that are unsuccessful are still lies, and whether deception must aim at creating false beliefs as opposed to preventing people from acquiring true beliefs. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that, although Kant argues that morality is independent of God (and hence, agrees with the Euthyphro), and rejects Divine Command Theory (or Theological Voluntarism), he believes that all moral duties are also the commands of God, who is a moral being, and who is morally required to punish those who transgress the moral law: "God’s justice is the precise allocation of punishments and rewards in accordance with men’s good or bad behavior." However, since we lack (...) a strict proof of God's existence, we can still fulfill our duties from the motive of duty. if we did know that God exists, then this would undermine our pure moral motivation to do our duty, since we would have an even stronger interest in pleasing God through our good conduct. The effect of undermining our pure moral motivation would be to make us less eligible for divine reward, since God rewards us for doing our duty from the motive of duty. (shrink)
This article argues for a distinction between reticence and lying, on the basis of what Kant says about reticence in his correspondence with Maria von Herbert, as well as in his other ethical writings, and defends this distinction against the objections of Rae Langton ("Duty and Desolation", 1992). I argue that lying is necessarily deceptive, whereas reticence is not necessarily deceptive. Allowing another person to remain ignorant of some matter is a form of reticence that is not deceptive. This form (...) of reticence may be ethically permissible. (shrink)
This chapter both explains the origins of emotivism in C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards, R. B. Braithwaite, Austin Duncan-Jones, A. J. Ayer and Charles Stevenson (along with the endorsement by Frank P. Ramsey, and the summary of C. D. Broad), and looks at MacIntyre's criticisms of emotivism as the inevitable result of Moore's attack on naturalistic ethics and his ushering in the fact/value, which was a historical product of the Enlightenment.
In this chapter I argue that there are three different senses of 'lie' in Kant's moral philosophy: the lie in the ethical sense (the broadest sense, which includes lies to oneself), the lie in the 'juristic' sense (the narrowest sense, which only includes lies that specifically harm particular others), and the lie in the sense of right (or justice), which is narrower than the ethical sense, but broader than the juristic sense, since it includes all lies told to others, including (...) those who are bent on harming innocent others. (shrink)
In this article I consider six definitions of deceiving (that is, other-deceiving, as opposed to self-deceiving) from Lily-Marlene Russow, Sissela Bok, OED/Webster's dictionary, Leonard Linsky, Roderick Chisholm and Thomas Feehan, and Gary Fuller, and reject them all, in favor of a modified version of a rejected definition (Fuller). I also defend this definition from a possible objection from Annette Barnes. According to this new definition, deceiving is necessarily intentional, requires that the deceived person acquires or continues to have a false (...) belief, and must involve the agency of the deceived person; furthermore, the deceiver must know or truly believe that the false belief that the deceived person acquires or continues to have is false. (shrink)
In this essay I argue that Ridley Scott's first feature film, The Duelists, which is an adaptation of a Joseph Conrad novella, contains his deepest meditation on honor in his entire career. The film may be said to answer the following question about honor: is being bound to do something by honor, when it is contrary to one's self-interest, a good thing, or a bad thing? It may be said to give the answer that it may be either good or (...) bad. It is bad that D'Hubert is bound by honor to duel with Feraud; it is good that, in the end, Feraud is bound by honor to cease dueling with D'Hubert. In this way, Kant was correct that "the inclination to honor" may light "upon that which is in fact in the common interest and in conformity with duty," or it may light upon what is contrary to duty. (shrink)
In this chapter, I examine the writings of Mark Twain on lying, especially his essays "On the decay of the Art of Lying" and "My First Lie, and How I Got Out of It." I show that Twain held that there were two kinds of lies: the spoken lie and the silent lie. The silent lie is the lie of not saying what one is thinking, and is far more common than the spoken lie. The greatest silent lies, according to (...) Twain, were the national silent lies that there was nothing wrong with slavery (the U.S.), that there was nothing wrong with the prosecution of Alfred Dreyfus (France), and that there was nothing wrong with imperialism (UK). According to Twain, lying is unavoidable. Since lying is unavoidable, one must simply avoid injurious lies, and tell beneficial lies. (shrink)
In this review of Brooke Harrington's edited collection of essays on deception, written by people from different disciplines and giving us a good "status report" on what various disciplines have to say about deception and lying, I reject social psychologist Mark Frank's taxonomy of passive deception, active consensual deception, and active non-consensual deception (active consensual deception is not deception), as well as his definition of deception as "anything that misleads another for some gain" ("for gain" is a reason for engaging (...) in deception, not part of its definition). I also take issue with management professor Guido Mollering's claim that all deception involves a violation of trust. (shrink)
In this article Judith Jarvis Thomson's Good Samaritan Argument in defense of abortion in the case of rape is defended from two objections: the Kill vs. Let Die Objection, and the Intend to Kill vs. Merely Foresee Death Objection. The article concludes that these defenses do not defend Thomson from further objections from Peter Singer and David Oderberg.
This article first examines a number of different definitions of lying, from Aldert Vrij, Warren Shibles, Sissela Bok, the Oxford English Dictionary, Linda Coleman and Paul Kay, and Joseph Kupfer. It considers objections to all of them, and then defends Kupfer’s definition, as well as a modified version of his definition, as the best of those so far considered. Next, it examines five other definitions of lying, from Harry G. Frankfurt, Roderick M. Chisholm and Thomas D. Feehan, David Simpson, Thomas (...) Carson, and Don Fallis. It finds reason to reject these definitions, in favor of the two definitions of lying previously defended, namely:(i) To lie (to another person) = df. to make a believed-false statement (to another person) with the intention that that statement be believed to be true (by the other person).(ii) To lie (to another person) = df. to make a believed-false statement (to another person), either with the intention that that statement be believed to be true (by the other person), or with the intention that it be believed (by the other person) that that statement is believed to be true (by the person making the statement), or with both intentions. (shrink)
In this article I argue that it is possible to find, in the Groundwork, a perfect ethical duty to others not to lie to any other person, ever. This duty is not in the Doctrine of Virtue, or the Right to Lie essay. It is an exceptionless, negative duty. The argument given for this negative duty from the Universal Law formula of the Categorical Imperative is that the liar necessarily applies a double standard: do not lie (everyone else), and lie (...) (the liar). The basis for this double standard is a presumption of inequality: the liar treats others as less than her. However, this argument fails to exclude lies told to liars, since the liar applies a single standard in this case: (secretly) lie to those whom you believe are lying to you. The argument given for this negative duty from the Humanity formula of the Categorical Imperative is that the liar necessarily behaves in way towards the other person in a way to which she "cannot possibly" consent. However, this argument fails to exclude lies told to those who have consented to be lied to, without knowing which lies they are to be told. Kant's arguments, therefore, fail to generate a perfect exceptionalness negative duty not to lie to any person, ever. (shrink)
Like several prominent moral philosophers before him, such as St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas, Kant held that it is never morally permissible to tell a lie. Although a great deal has been written on why and how he argued for this conclusion, comparatively little has been written on what, precisely, Kant considered a lie to be, and on how he differentiated between being truthful and being candid, between telling a lie and being reticent, and between telling a lie and (...) other forms of linguistic deception. That is to say, very little has been written on the scope of Kant's prohibition against lying. In this article I will argue that the scope of the prohibition against lying is narrower than it is commonly supposed to be. (shrink)
Is it possible to recover lost moral ground? In the closing episodes of the TV show "Breaking Bad", it becomes clear that the protagonist, Walter White, believes that the correct answer to this question is an affirmative one. Walt believes that he can, and that he has, recovered lost moral ground. "Breaking Bad" may be said to explore two distinct and incompatible ways of attempting to recover lost moral ground. The first way is revisionist. This is to rewrite the script (...) of what, morally speaking, has occurred, so that it appears that nothing wrong was done. The second way is restorative. This is to admit to morally wrongful behavior, but to attempt to make amends for it. While we concede that it is possible to recover lost moral ground in both of these ways, we deny that Walt is able to do so in both of these ways. At best, Walt can only hope to recover lost moral ground by attempting to make amends for his past misdeeds. (shrink)
In this chapter I argue that Machiavelli does not hold that all deception is permissible in war. While Machiavelli claims that "deceit... in the conduct of war is laudable and honorable," he insists that such deceit, or ruses of war, is not to be confounded with perfidy. Any Lee's U.S. Civil War film, "Ride With the Devil," illustrates this difference. The film also illustrates the difference between lying as part of romance, which is permitted, and lying at the moment of (...) truth in a relationship, when admitting one's feelings, which is not. (shrink)
In this review of Ezra Suleiman's book I explain his argument that democracies need independent professional bureaucracies with Weberian "impersonal" authority, and that the greatest threat to the authority of government and the health of democracy is the trend towards turning bureaucracy into an instrument of the governing political party of the day.
Wilson's book has two aims: a metaethical aim, to provide a non-moral-realist account of moral judgment and moral theorizing in terms of preferences for certain 'paraworlds' over other 'paraworlds,' and a normative ethical aim, to argue for greater socio-economic, and gender, equality. I am sympathetic to the second normative ethical aim, but I do not consider the metaethical redescription of moral judgment and moral theorizing in terms of preferences for paraworlds to be accurate or helpful. Her critique of "immanentism," or (...) merely making visible and understandable the moral aspects of particular ways of life, in the second part of the book, is valuable, along with her criticisms of virtue theory as the most conservative of the Big Three moral theories. Her rejection of Rawlsian redistribution, in favor of a qualified egalitarianism that includes merit, is also worthy of consideration. (shrink)
In this review of essays on the topic of practical reason, the neo-Humeanism of philosophers such as James Drier, according to whom reasons are instrumental, is shown to be susceptible to the objections of Kantian philosophers such as Christine Korsgaard: the fact that you desire to X can never entail that you ought to X. Kantianism, however, comes under attack from neo-Aristotelian philosophers such as Berys Gaut, who argues that it is a mistake to identify goodness with being the object (...) of free rational choice. (shrink)
In this review I consider Gorman's arguments for redescrbiing the history of ethics, from Plato to Isaiah Berlin, as the history of theories of human rights, and for the conclusions that human rights are dependent, that they change over time, and that they may conflict with each other. I disagree with his interpretations of Plato, Hobbes, and Kant, as well as the idea that their moral theories can be converted into theories of human rights without loss, and I argue that (...) his various conclusions about human rights depend upon assumptions - such as that ethics is essentially concerned with motivation, that human nature is changing to the extent that human reason is changing, and that moral reality is inconsistent – that many would reject. Along the way I point out various blunders, such as the claim that that the Hobbesian social contract is a "covenant with the sovereign", and the claim that, according to Kant, "If I act wrongly... I may be acceptably treated as a means.". (shrink)
Descartes: An Intellectual Biography. By Stephen Gaukroger (Oxford University Press, 1995), xviii + 499 pp. £25.00 cloth. Descartes and his Contemporaries: Meditations, Objections, and Replies. Edited by Roger Ariew and Marjorie Grene (University Of Chicago Press, 1995), vii + 261 pp. $17.95 paper.
In this review of Peter Walmsley's book, the first book-length treatment of Berkeley as a writer, Berkeley is shown to be a master stylist. He is also shown to have a theory of language that is "explicitly rhetorical," since he held, contrary to Locke, that language had ends other than the communication of ideas.
In this review I examine Cuneo's comparison of the non-normative, perlocutionary-intention theory of speech acts (Grice) with the normative theory of speech acts (Searle and Alston) and the moral theory of speech acts (Wolterstorff, Cuneo) in his transcendental argument for moral realism (since moral facts are among the necessary conditions for the possibility of speech acts, and since there are speech acts (asserting, promising, asking questions, issuing commands, etc.), it follows that moral facts exist). I argue that Cuneo does not (...) establish that moral facts are among the necessary conditions for the possibility of speech acts. I also argue that the moral realism he defends is less moral than most, since he denies that moral reasons must be categorical or necessarily motivating. (shrink)
In this review of Thomas Carson's book on lying and deception I take issue with his claim that there is only a moral presumption against harmful lying, as opposed to a presumption against all lying, as well as the claim that not providing information – when there is an expectation that information be provided – all by itself constitutes intentional deception. I also worry about what Carson means when he talks about "warranting" a statement to be true, and whether he (...) is correct that it is possible to invite an audience to believe one's statement but not intend them to believe it. Finally, I reject his repeated claim that moral philosophers such as W. D. Ross and Brad Hooker do not believe that deception is prima facie wrong, because they only discuss the wrongfulness of lying, and do not discuss the wrongfulness of deception. (shrink)
Review of Gibbs' book in which he argues against the twin assumptions that language is inherently literal, and that thought itself is literal. Metaphors, etc., are omnipresent in language, Gibbs argues, and the mind is inherently 'poetic', i.e., it engages in figurative thinking. For example, we conceptualize anger as "ANGER IS HEATED FLUID IN A CONTAINER" (p. 7), and as a result, that is how we talk about anger ('Bill is getting hot under the collar,' 'She blew up at me', (...) etc.). (shrink)
In this article I reject the argument of Colin McGinn ("Must I Be Morally Perfect?", 1992) that ordinary morality requires that each of us be morally perfect. McGinn's definition of moral perfection –– according to which I am morally perfect if I never do anything that is supererogatory, but always do what is obligatory, and always avoid doing what is impermissible –– should be rejected, because it is open to the objection that I am morally perfect if I always do (...) what is optional but bad to do (what is suberogatory), in addition to always doing what is obligatory and always avoiding what is impermissible. Moral perfection may be defined as always doing what is obligatory, and always doing what is optional but good to do (supererogatory), and never doing what is impermissible, and never doing what is optional but bad to do [suberogatory]. Since ordinary morality does not require this, ordinary morality does not require moral perfection. (shrink)
In this review I argue that there are three 'tests' for maxims in Kant: the Categorical Imperative test; what I call the 'Esteem' test; and what I call the 'Temptation' test. The first test is a test for what Kant calls "legality", but what we may call the moral permissibility of acting on a maxim. The second test is a test for what Kant calls "morality", but what we may call the presence of a "good will," or the motive of (...) duty, which is the only motive that elicits our esteem. The third test - which is the subject of this book - is a test for the presence of "virtue," or a lack of conflict between my sensible inclinations and the motive of duty. If there is a conflict and I nevertheless act from the motive of duty, I have strength of will (enkrateia). If there is no conflict, and I act from the motive of duty, then I have virtue. God, who has an "infinite holy will" and who is not subject to sensible inclinations, and Jesus Christ, embodied angels, and possibly other rational finite beings in the universe, who have a "finite holy will" and who lack the propensity to subordinate respect for humanity to sensible inclinations, do not have virtue. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that, contrary to both H. L. A Hart and Patrick Devlin, and in sympathy with D. G. Brown, it is possible to read Mill as arguing in On Liberty that morality should be enforced, by public moral disapprobation by society, and by fines, imprisonment, execution, etc., by the state, when it will promote the general welfare. The difference between Mill and his predecessors is that they had no standard for morality other than the subjective standard (...) of what society liked and disliked, whereas Mill has an objective standard: it is immoral to harm others (without their consent). Harm to oneself can never be immoral: "A person who shows rashness, obstinacy, self-conceit—who cannot live within moderate means—who cannot restrain himself from hurtful indulgences—who pursues animal pleasures at the expense of those of feeling and intellect… [these] self-regarding faults previously mentioned, which are not properly immoralities, and to whatever pitch they may be carried, do not constitute wickedness." Harm to others (without their consent) is immoral and is prima facie publicly criticizable and criminalizable: "When, by conduct of this sort, a person is led to violate a distinct and assignable obligation to any other person or persons, the case is taken out of the self-regarding class and becomes amenable to moral disapprobation in the proper sense of the term.". (shrink)
In this review of two books, Descartes: An Intellectual Biography, by Stephen Gaukroger, and Descartes and his Contemporaries: Meditations, Objections, and Replies, edited by Roger Ariew and Marjorie Grene, I consider arguments about the motivation of Descartes for writing the Meditations on First Philosophy. According to Gaukroger, Descartes wrote the Meditations simply to legitimate his natural philosophy, which he had already worked out, for an audience of theologians and Scholastic philosophers, whom he feared would condemn it (as Galileo had been (...) condemned by the Inquisition in 1633). If Gaukroger is right, it would explain something that is not mentioned in the collection edited by Ariew and Grene, namely, that five of the seven sets of objections are from theologians, and that the strong objections made by philosophers Gassendi and Hobbes are given relatively short shrift, whereas, the weak objections made by the Jesuit theologian Pierre Bourdin are responded to at great length. Gaukroger, however, has an extremely implausible interpretation of Descartes's position on animals, according to which Descartes held that animals had thoughts and experiences, just not thoughts and experiences like ours, and hence, that he did not think of animals as machines (the "bete machine" hypothesis). (shrink)
If it is true that an agent who has a moral reason for acting has a reason for acting independently of whether or not she has a desire to so act , then it cannot also be true both that moral reasons are necessarily motivating and that an agent who is motivated to act is motivated in virtue of a desire to so act . This dissertation argues that the arguments given against Motivational Internalism about Moral Reasons are stronger than (...) the arguments given against either Moral Reasons Authoritativeness or Desire Motivationalism. ;Chapter 1 outlines two types of motivational internalism: Motivational Internalism about Moral Judgments , and Motivational Internalism about Moral Reasons . It also outlines six other sub-positions on the nature of moral reasons, moral judgments and moral obligations, and on the nature of the connection between desires and motivation. Two of these sub-positions are Moral Reasons Authoritativeness and Desire Motivationalism . ;Chapter 2 argues that deontological intuitionists, such as H. A. Prichard, rejected MIMR in order to defend both MRA and DM. Here I defend Prichard's motivational externalist account of moral motivation, in terms of a desire to do one's duty, from a selection of criticisms. ;Chapter 3 argues that W. D. Falk, who coined the terms "internalism" and "externalism", rejected DM in order to defend both MIMR and MRA. Here I argue that Falk's motivational internalist account of moral motivation, in terms of an impulse to act that is not a desire and that has a sui generis sense of necessity attached to it, fails. Since Falk has not refuted DM, he cannot successfully defend MRA. ;Chapter 4 argues that moral noncognitivists, such as A. J. Ayer, rejected MRA in order to defend both MIMR and DM. Here I argue that Ayer's account of moral reasons, according to which some fact about a situation is moral reason for acting if and only if awareness of this fact evokes a moral feeling in an agent, fails. Since Ayer has not refuted MRA, he cannot successfully defend MIMR. (shrink)
In this review of John Shand's book on the history of western philosophy, I point out that the book is only concerned with epistemology and metaphysics, and only considers in detail the work of twenty individual philosophers. There are no entries on Socrates, Hobbes, Bentham, Schopenhauer, Mill, Kierkegaard, Marx, James, Frege, or Heidegger, and the final chapter on "Recent Philosophy" is only six and a half pages long, with each of the thirteen philosophers given a single paragraph each. Within these (...) narrow limits, Shand does an excellent job of presenting the epistemology and metaphysics of each major philosopher considered. (shrink)