Anthony Celano argues that after Thomas Aquinas the flexibility of Aristotle’s ethics gives way to the universal codes of Christian morality. His argument posits that the Schoolmen adopted a line of moral reasoning that follows a Platonic tradition of taking universal moral principles as the basis of moral reasoning. While Thomas does work in a tradition that, resemblant of the Platonic tradition, incorporates inerrant principles of moral reasoning in the habit of _synderesis_, his understanding of those principles is distinctly Aristotelian (...) in character and thus the flexible moral reasoning of Aristotle’s _phronimos_ is retained. For Thomas _synderesis_ is the first principle of practical reason and is the source rather than the inhibitor of personal and spontaneous moral reasoning. This article will first outline Celano’s position, detail the thought of Thomas’ predecessors, and then show how Thomas employs the principle of _synderesis_ in a distinctly Aristotelian framework. (shrink)
Background: HIV prevention trials conducted among disadvantaged vulnerable at-risk populations in developing countries present unique ethical dilemmas. A key concern in bioethics is the validity of informed consent for trial participation obtained from research subjects in such settings. The purpose of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a continuous informed consent process adopted during the MDP301 phase III vaginal microbicide trial in Mwanza, Tanzania. Methods: A total of 1146 women at increased risk of HIV acquisition working as alcohol (...) and food vendors or in bars, restaurants, hotels and guesthouses have been recruited into the MDP301 phase III efficacy and safety trial in Mwanza. During preparations for the trial, participatory community research methods were used to develop a locally-appropriate pictorial flipchart in order to convey key messages about the trial to potential participants. Pre-recorded audio tapes were also developed to facilitate understanding and compliance with gel-use instructions. A comprehension checklist is administered by clinical staff to all participants at screening, enrolment, 12, 24, 40 and 50 week follow-up visits during the trial. To investigate women's perceptions and experiences of the trial, including how well participants internalize and retain key messages provided through a continuous informed consent process, a random sub-sample of 102 women were invited to participate in in-depth interviews (IDIs) conducted immediately after their 4, 24 and 52 week follow-up visits. Results: 99 women completed interviews at 4-weeks, 83 at 24-weeks, and 74 at 52 weeks (a total of 256 interviews). In all interviews there was evidence of good comprehension and retention of key trial messages including that the gel is not currently know to be effective against HIV; that this is the key reason for conducting the trial; and that women should stop using gel in the event of pregnancy. Conclusions: Providing information to trial participants in a focussed, locally-appropriate manner, using methods developed in consultation with the community, and within a continuous informed-consent framework resulted in high levels of comprehension and message retention in this setting. This approach may represent a model for researchers conducting HIV prevention trials among other vulnerable populations in resource-poor settings.Trial registrationCurrent Controlled Trials ISRCTN64716212. (shrink)
In this essay, my point of departure is Bernard Hodgson’s analysis of neo-classical economic theory and his demonstration that neo-classical economic thought is already a branch of normative theory. I undertake to broaden the demonstration by showing that other contemporary conceptions of economics are also irreducibly normative. The essay begins with an overview of Hodgson’s argument strategy, and a discussion of his thesis that economics is a moral science. This illustrates in what way moral presuppositions are at play as core (...) principles that both positivist and normativist economics take for granted. My strategy is to show that alternative conceptions of economics, in particular Schumpeterian accounts of evolution/innovation, and orthodox versions of ecological economics, share with classical and neo-classical economics normative assumptions about the common good, extending Hodgson’s thesis to one about moral science . For then these assumptions (both moral and scientific ) commit economics to unworkable notions of social and environmental optimization that ignore the pure historical contingency of physical, economic, social and cultural conditions. It is concluded that the relationship between facts and values must be fundamentally retheorized. (shrink)
Lisa Hill’s response to my critique of compulsory voting, like similar responses in print or in discussion, remind me how much a child of the ‘70s I am, and how far my beliefs and intuitions about politics have been shaped by the electoral conflicts, social movements and violence of that period. -/- But my perceptions of politics have also been profoundly shaped by my teachers, and fellow graduate students, at MIT. Theda Skocpol famously urged political scientists to ‘bring the (...) state back in’ to their analyses, and to recognise that political identities, interests and coalitions cannot be read off straightforwardly from people’s socio-economic position. In their different ways, this was the lesson that Suzanne Berger, Charles Sabel and Joshua Cohen tried to teach us, emphasising the ways that political participation and conflict, themselves, can change people’s identities, their sense of what it is desirable and possible, and their ability to recognise, or oppose, the freedom and equality of others. -/- I do not therefore take it as self-evident that the poor and seemingly powerless should be politically apathetic, unwilling to vote, or incapable of imagining a political solution to at least some of the problems confronting them. Nor do I suppose that non-voters are all-of-a-piece, and that their shared interests are, inevitably, more significant, morally or politically, than those which divide them. Such assumptions seem mistaken in the case of voters, and I see no reason why they should be true of non-voters. The people we find in these categories are not predestined to be in one rather than the other; they do not always stay where they start off; and at an individual level, the reasons why people fall into one group, rather than another, are likely to be complex and sometimes unpredictable. -/- Above all I see nothing in a commitment to democratic government, understood realistically or in more idealistic terms, that requires us to treat raising turnout at national elections (once every four years or so) as of such moral or political importance that we should make it legally mandatory. Realistically, it is an open question how far the ballot box is, for most people, the path to empowerment – important though it is that people should have an equal right to vote and to stand as candidates at national elections. On a more idealistic view of democratic politics it is hard to avoid the thought that the importance of national elections to self-government, posited by proponents of compulsory voting, reflects an alienated and alienating view of democracy, in which the choice of our leaders becomes more important than the development and exercise of our own capacities to lead; and in which our awe at the power our leaders might wield is matched only by our inability to imagine less intimidating, distant and centralised forms of politics. -/- But before saying a little more about these points, and their significance for compulsory voting, I would like to dispel some misunderstandings or misrepresentations of my views in Hill’s essay. I do not believe socio-economic disparities in turnout are not worrying for democratic politics, nor do I believe that abstention is generally synonymous with consent. I do not assume that people have a right not to vote, but try to explain why moral and legal rights to abstain are an important part of democratic politics, including electoral politics. (shrink)
Lisa Tessman's When Doing the Right Thing is Impossible offers an engaging and accessible exploration of the complex philosophical issues surrounding moral dilemmas and moral failure. Are there genuine moral conflicts? Is it true that in some situations a moral agent cannot help but fail? Tessman offers her own answer–yes, in some situations, moral failure is unavoidable–while guiding readers through the debates surrounding these questions, clarifying the various positions sympathetically and carefully.Part of what makes the book so immediately gripping (...) is the case study it begins with in Chapter One: Tessman focuses on the case Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina. During the storm, the... (shrink)
In Moral Failure, Lisa Tessman argues against two principles of moral theory, that ought implies can and that normative theory must be action-guiding. Although Tessman provides a trenchant account of how we are thrust into the misfortune of moral failure, often by our very efforts to act morally, and although she shows, through a discussion well-informed by the latest theorizing in ethics, neuroethics, and psychology, how much more moral theory can do than provide action-guiding principles, I argue that the (...) two theses of moral theory that she disputes remain indispensable for ethical theory. (shrink)
This is my response to the papers by Chris Pincock, Lisa Warenski and Jonathan Weinberg, which were presented at the Book Symposium on my Essays on A Priori Knowledge and Justification, American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meetings, March 16–19, 2014.
In this interesting and engaging book, Shabel offers an interpretation of Kant's philosophy of mathematics as expressed in his critical writings. Shabel's analysis is based on the insight that Kant's philosophical standpoint on mathematics cannot be understood without an investigation into his perception of mathematical practice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. She aims to illuminate Kant's theory of the construction of concepts in pure intuition—the basis for his conclusion that mathematical knowledge is synthetic a priori. She does this through (...) a contextualized interpretation of his notion of mathematical construction, which she argues can be approached by looking at Euclid's Elements and Christian Wolff's mathematical textbooks. The importance of the former for her interpretation is justified by the fact that nearly all of Kant's mathematical examples in the Critique are Euclidean propositions. The importance of the latter is revealed through the fact that Wolff's textbooks were not only widely read and representative of the state of elementary mathematics during Kant's time; Kant was also intimately familiar with them. During the thirty years prior to the publication of the Critique, he used the textbooks in the college-level introductory courses in mathematics and physics that he taught.In the introduction to her book, Shabel helpfully distinguishes her approach to Kant's philosophy of mathematics from that of previous commentators. She points out that most commentators assessed Kant's thoughts on mathematics in terms of the ‘supposedly devastating effects of the discovery of non-Euclidean geometry on his theory of space’.1 Bertrand Russell, for example, criticized Kant for his lack of a proper …. (shrink)