This is the introduction to the Journal of Global Ethics symposium on Peter Singer's The Most Good You Can Do: How Effective Altruism is Changing Ideas About Living Ethically. It summarizes the main features of effective altruism in the context of Singer's work on the moral demands of global poverty and some recent criticisms of effective altruism. The symposium contains contributions by Anthony Skelton, Violetta Igneski, Tracy Isaacs and Peter Singer.
Ideal utilitarianism states that the only fundamental requirement of morality is to promote a plurality of intrinsic goods. This paper critically evaluates Hastings Rashdall’s arguments for ideal utilitarianism, while comparing them with G. E. Moore’s arguments. Section I outlines Rashdall’s ethical outlook. Section II considers two different arguments that he provides for its theory of rightness. Section III discusses his defence of a pluralist theory of value. Section IV argues that Rashdall makes a lasting contribution to the defence of ideal (...) utilitarianism. (shrink)
We engage with the nature and the value of achievement through a critical examination of an argument according to which biomedical “enhancement” of our capacities is impermissible because enhancing ourselves in this way would threaten our achievements. We call this the argument against enhancement from achievement. We assess three versions of it, each admitting to a strong or a weak reading. We argue that strong readings fail, and that weak readings, while in some cases successful in showing that enhancement interferes (...) with the nature or value of achievement, fail to establish that enhancement poses an unusual threat to achievement. (shrink)
This paper is an examination of the ethical principles of effective altruism as they are articulated by Peter Singer in his book The Most Good You Can Do. It discusses the nature and the plausibility of the principles that he thinks both guide and ought to guide effective altruists. It argues in § II pace Singer that it is unclear that in charitable giving one ought always to aim to produce the most surplus benefit possible and in § III that (...) there is a more attractive set of principles than the ones Singer outlines that ought to guide effective altruists in their philanthropic practices and in their lives more generally. These principles fit better with his practical ambitions and with plausible attitudes about the limits of beneficence. (shrink)
Utilitarianism is the view according to which the only basic requirement of morality is to maximize net aggregate welfare. This position has implications for the ethics of creating and rearing children. Most discussions of these implications focus either on the ethics of procreation and in particular on how many and whom it is right to create, or on whether utilitarianism permits the kind of partiality that child rearing requires. Despite its importance to creating and raising children, there are, by contrast, (...) few sustained discussions of the implications of utilitarian views of welfare for the matter of what makes a child’s life go well. This paper attempts to remedy this deficiency. It has four sections. Section one discusses the purpose of a theory of welfare and its adequacy conditions. Section two evaluates what prominent utilitarian theories of welfare imply about what makes a child’s life go well. Section three provides a sketch of a view about what is prudentially valuable for children. Section four sums things up. (shrink)
In this essay I defend the view that Henry Sidgwick’s moral epistemology is a form of intuitionist foundationalism that grants common-sense morality no evidentiary role. In §1, I outline both the problematic of The Methods of Ethics and the main elements of its argument for utilitarianism. In §§2-4 I provide my interpretation of Sidgwick’s moral epistemology. In §§ 5-8 I refute rival interpretations, including the Rawlsian view that Sidgwick endorses some version of reflective equilibrium and the view that he is (...) committed to some kind of pluralistic epistemology. In§ 9 I contend with some remaining objections to my view. (shrink)
E. F. Carritt (1876-1964) was educated at and taught in Oxford University. He made substantial contributions both to aesthetics and to moral philosophy. The focus of this entry is his work in moral philosophy. His most notable works in this field are The Theory of Morals (1928) and Ethical and Political Thinking (1947). Carritt developed views in metaethics and in normative ethics. In meta-ethics he defends a cognitivist, non-naturalist moral realism and was among the first to respond to A. J. (...) Ayer’s emotivist challenge to this view. In normative ethics he advocates a deontological view in which there is a plurality of obligations and of non-instrumental goods. In the context of defending this view he raised some penetrating and novel criticisms of ideal utilitarianism. He held that it is not acceptable to revise our reflective common-sense moral attitudes in the face of philosophical moral theories, and that moral philosophy is only indirectly practical. (shrink)
It is often argued that Henry Sidgwick is a conservative about moral matters, while Peter Singer is a radical. Both are exponents of a utilitarian account of morality but they use it to very different effect. I think this way of viewing the two is mistaken or, at the very least, overstated. Sidgwick is less conservative than has been suggested and Singer is less radical than he initially seems. To illustrate my point, I will rely on what each has to (...) say about the moral demands of suffering and destitution. (shrink)
In ‘Sidgwick’s Epistemology’, John Deigh argues that Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics ‘was not perceived during his lifetime as a major and lasting contribution to British moral philosophy’ and that interest in it declined considerably after Sidgwick’s death because the epistemology on which it relied ‘increasingly became suspect in analytic philosophy and eventually [it was] discarded as obsolete’. In this article I dispute these claims.
Henry Sidgwick taught G.E. Moore as an undergraduate at the University of Cambridge. Moore found Sidgwick’s personality less than attractive and his lectures “rather dull”. Still, philosophically speaking, Moore absorbed a great deal from Sidgwick. In the Preface to the Trinity College Prize Fellowship dissertation that he submitted in 1898, just two years after graduation, he wrote “For my ethical views it will be obvious how much I owe to Prof. Sidgwick.” Later, in Principia Ethica, Moore credited Sidgwick with having (...) “first clearly exposed the [naturalistic] fallacy” – a fallacy putatively committed when one defines naturalistically or super-naturalistically “good” – which was one of the book’s main ambitions (PE 39; also 17, 59). It is therefore unsurprising that Moore remarks in the intellectual autobiography he wrote years later that “From…[Sidgwick’s] published works…I have gained a good deal, and his clarity and his belief in Common Sense were very sympathetic to me.” This influence did not, however, prevent Moore from registering disagreements with Sidgwick, the sharpest of which concern the viability of egoism and the nature of the good. The disagreements between Sidgwick and Moore speak to many important moral theoretical issues arising both within and without the utilitarian tradition in ethical thinking. Because the two share much in common, a critical comparison of them on a range of moral philosophical questions proves instructive. It will tell us in particular something about the general direction of ethical thinking in the utilitarian tradition at the dawn of the twentieth century. This chapter has four parts. Part I compares the versions of utilitarianism to which Sidgwick and Moore subscribed. Part II examines the arguments each provides for the view. Part III discusses their conflicting theories of value. Part IV sums things up. (shrink)
This is a critical review of Terence Irwin's The Development of Ethics: A Historical and Critical Study. Volume III: From Kant to Rawls. Among other things, the review remarks on the book's treatment of utilitarianism and on its lack of discussion of work in feminist ethics in the twentieth century.
Sidgwick famously claimed that an argument in favour of utilitarianism might be provided by demonstrating that a set of defensible philosophical intuitions undergird it. This paper focuses on those philosophical intuitions. It aims to show which specific intuitions Sidgwick endorsed, and to shed light on their mutual connections. It argues against many rival interpretations that Sidgwick maintained that six philosophical intuitions constitute the self-evident grounds for utilitarianism, and that those intuitions appear to be specifications of a negative principle of universalization (...) (according to which differential treatments must be based on reasonable grounds alone). In addition, this paper attempts to show how the intuitions function in the overall argument for utilitarianism. The suggestion is that the intuitions are the main positive part of the argument for the view, which includes Sidgwick's rejection of common-sense morality and its philosophical counterpart, dogmatic intuitionism. The paper concludes by arguing that some of Sidgwick's intuitions fail to meet the conditions for self-evidence which Sidgwick himself established and applied to the rules of common-sense morality. (shrink)
A philosophical discussion of children's well-being in which various existing views of well-being are discussed to determine their implications for children's well-being and a variety of views of children's well-being are considered and evaluated.
Children are routinely treated paternalistically. There are good reasons for this. Children are quite vulnerable. They are ill-equipped to meet their most basic needs, due, in part, to deficiencies in practical and theoretical reasoning and in executing their wishes. Children’s motivations and perceptions are often not congruent with their best interests. Consequently, raising children involves facilitating their best interests synchronically and diachronically. In practice, this requires caregivers to (in some sense) manage a child’s daily life. If apposite, this management will (...) focus partly on a child’s well-being. To be ably executed, an account of children’s well-being will need to be articulated. This chapter focuses on the nature of children’s well-being. It has five sections. The first section clarifies the focus. The second section examines some hurdles to articulating a view of children’s well-being. The third section evaluates some accounts of children’s well-being. The fourth section addresses the view that children possess features essential to them that make their lives on balance prudentially bad for them. The fifth section sums things up. (shrink)
David Phillips’s Sidgwickian Ethics is a penetrating contribution to the scholarly and philosophical understanding of Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics. This note focuses on Phillips’s understanding of (aspects of) Sidgwick’s argument for utilitarianism and the moral epistemology to which he subscribes. In § I, I briefly outline the basic features of the argument that Sidgwick provides for utilitarianism, noting some disagreements with Phillips along the way. In § II, I raise some objections to Phillips’s account of the epistemology underlying (...) the argument. In § III, I reply to the claim that there is a puzzle at the heart of Sidgwick’s epistemology. In § IV, I respond to Phillips’s claim that Sidgwick is unfair in his argument against the (deontological) morality of common sense. (shrink)
Henry Sidgwick's Practical Ethics offers a novel approach to practical moral issues. In this article, I defend Sidgwick's approach against recent objections advanced by Sissela Bok, Karen Hanson, Michael S. Pritchard, and Michael Davis. In the first section, I provide some context within which to situate Sidgwick's view. In the second, I outline the main features of Sidgwick's methodology and the powerful rationale that lies behind it. I emphasize elements of the view that help to defend it, noting some affinities (...) it has with those of the later Rawls. In the third section, I indicate how it promises to help alleviate some difficulties facing modern practical ethics. In the fourth, I respond to Bok's objections. I argue that her own work on practical ethics has some similarities to Sidgwick's which should make them friends, not enemies. In the fifth section, I respond to Hanson, Pritchard and Davis. (shrink)
Bart Schultz’s Henry Sidgwick: Eye of the Universe is a welcome addition to the growing literature on Sidgwick. In this article, I direct my attention for the most part to one aspect of what Schultz says about Sidgwick’s masterpiece, The Methods of Ethics, as well as to what he does not say about Sidgwick’s illuminating but neglected work Practical Ethics. This article is divided into three sections. In the first, I argue that there is a problem with Schultz’s endorsement of (...) the view that Sidgwick’smoral epistemology combines elements of both coherentism and foundationalism. In the second, I argue that Schultz has failed to do justice to Sidgwick’s mature views in Practical Ethics. In the final section, I briefly say something about Schultz’s suggestion that Sidgwick succumbed to both racism and dishonesty. (shrink)
Critical notice of Robert Audi's The Good in the Right in which doubts are raised about the epistemological and ethical doctrines it defends. It doubts that an appeal to Kant is a profitable way to defend Rossian normative intuitionism.
This is a retrospective essay on Henry Sidgwick's "My Station and Its Duties" written to mark the 125th anniversary of Ethics. It engages with Sidgwick's remarks on the kind of ethical expertise that the moral philosopher possesses and on his approach to practical ethics generally.
This is a critical review of J. B. Schneewind's Essays on the History of Moral Philosophy which both praises and raises worries about some of the main claims found in select articles in the volume. It engages with Schneewind's remarks on the historiography of moral philosophy.
This is a critical review of Roger Crisp's The Cosmos of Duty. The review praises the book but, among other things, takes issue with some of Crisp's criticisms of Sidgwick's view that resolution of the free will problem is of limited significance to ethics and with Crisp's claim that in Methods III.xiii Sidgwick defends an axiom of prudence that undergirds rational egoism.
This is a critical review of In the Agora: The Public Face of Canadian Philosophy. It argues that this book does not adequately represent the public face of Canadian philosophy, though it contains some first-rate contributions.
In discussing methodological and ethical codes for working with children there is a danger that young people can become homogenised as a social category. In this paper we examine the way in which common methodological and ethical dilemmas, such as accessing potential interviewees or gaining consent, can become more complex and significant when the research involves work with a 'vulnerable' group of children or youth. Here, we draw on our own experience of working with self-identified lesbian and gay young people, (...) to demonstrate that research with sexual minorities is particularly sensitive because of the specific laws which frame (or until recently have framed) homosexuality and because of the way in which children are popularly constructed as asexual or innocent. In doing so we also highlight the importance of finding a safe space where interviews can be conducted in privacy and confidence. (shrink)
In recent years, policy?makers in England, Australia and other countries have called for measures to increase male recruitment to the teaching profession, particularly to the primary sector. This policy of targeted recruitment is predicated upon a number of unexamined assumptions about the benefits of matching teachers and pupils by gender. For example, it is held that the dearth of male ?role models? in schools continues to have an adverse effect on boys? academic motivation and engagement. Utilizing data from interviews with (...) more than 300 7? to 8?year?olds attending primary schools in the north?east and south?east of England, the paper sets out to scrutinize these claims. The findings revealed that the gender of teachers had little apparent effect on the academic motivation and engagement of either boys or girls. For the majority of the children, the gender of the teacher was largely immaterial. They valued teachers, whether men or women, who were consistent and even?handed and supportive of them as learners. (shrink)