Though ‘evil’ is often used loosely as merely the generic opposite of ‘morally good’, used precisely it is the worst possible term of opprobrium available. In this essay it is taken as applying primarily to persons, secondarily to conduct; evil deeds must flow from the volition to do something evil. An evil action is one so horrendously bad that no ordinary decent human being can conceive of doing it, and an evil person is one who knowingly wills or orders such (...) actions. Malignant evil—doing evil because it is evil—is not just possible but real, and is one of several kinds of evil delineated. There are incidental discussions of cruelty, Rosenbaum on Explaining Hitler, Baumeister on Evil, and Benn on wickedness. Footnotes1 Dedicated to Alan Gewirth, in honour of his 90th birthday, and in appreciation of his superb, illuminating, and ground-breaking philosophical work over many years. (shrink)
The Golden Rule has received remarkably little philosophical discussion. No book has ever been written on it, and articles devoted to it have been exceedingly few, and usually not very searching. It is usually mentioned, where it is mentioned at all, only in passing, and most of these passing remarks have either been false, trite, or misleading, though some of them, as we shall see, have certainly been interesting enough. Considering its obvious importance and its almost universal acceptance, this dearth (...) of philosophical discussion is unfortunate, and also somewhat surprising. One of the things I hope to show about it, though only incidentally, is that there are problems connected with it of the utmost subtlety, worthy of the attention of even the most minute philosophers. (shrink)
At the beginning of one of his inimitable discourses William James once said, ‘I am only a philosopher, and there is only one thing that a philosopher can be relied on to do, and that is, to contradict other philosophers’. 1 In his succeeding discourse James himself departed from this theme. And so shall I. I shall not be contradicting other philosophers—at least not very often. What I aim to do is to take a fresh look at one of the (...) main traditions in American philosophy for insight and illumination on a way of dealing with some of the most serious issues of our time. But before I turn to that, my main theme, I want to pursue for a bit some variations on another, the cultural relevance of philosophy, for, as I view the matter, they are related. (shrink)
This paper describes a number of the most important recent changes in the character of ethics, Such as the revival of applied ethics and the effect this is having on ethical theory. In the process discusses some recent work of note and the new role in ethics of the notion of rights, And speculates on the possibility of ethics becoming a discipline separate from philosophy while at the same time remaining moral philosophy.
My title may generate some perplexity. It is certainly not a familiar one. So I should make it plain at the outset that I shall not be talking about the ethics of organizations or associations or groups. I want to direct attention to the ethical and valuational questionsassociated with social institutions, and I distinguish institutions from associations and organizations. One question I am aiming at is whether the principles and standards applicable to moral judgments of actions and of persons—call them (...) individual principles—are also applicable, or applicable with only minor changes, to the judgment and critique and evaluation of institutions and practices. This is not the sole question of institutional ethics, but it is a main one. (shrink)
It may be thought odd that these two philosophers should have been selected for discussion together. They had no special connection with each other. They were not personally close. They did not teach or write in the same place. Nor were their personalities at all similar. None the less there are similarities of thought and perspective that make the conjunction illuminating. It may be thought even odder that these two philosophers should have been selected for discussion at all. After all, (...) who today reads them, or has even heard of them? Very few. If they ever were in fashion, they are not in fashion now. But this situation results from ignorance, which this series aims to dispel. Remember, it was meant to be a revelation to the ignorant as well as an inspiration. (shrink)
A person's values are what that person regards as or thinks important; a society's values are what that society regards as important. A society's values are expressed in laws and legislatively enacted policies, in its mores, social habits, and positive morality. Any body's values—an individual person's or a society's—are subject to change, and in our time especially. An individual manifests his or her values in expressions of approval or disapproval, of admiration or disdain, by seeking or avoidance behaviour, and by (...) his or her characteristic activities. What one values one seeks for or tries to maintain. Sometimes attaining it leads to unexpected enlightenment—that isn't what one wanted after all. But a person's values are discovered most significantly in a reflective way by becoming aware of what one is willing to give up to attain or maintain one's values. This is the price one is willing to pay for it, and values are occasionally, and in the money and stock markets always, expressed in terms of price. This can be significant or it can be misleading; it depends on how it is interpreted. Not everything has a monetary equivalent, despite the attempts of the law to provide recovery for damages in monetary terms, and despite the cynical maxim, ‘Everyone has his price’. (shrink)