Collective action problems lie behind many core issues in ethics and social philosophy—for example, whether an individual is required to vote, whether it is wrong to consume products that are produced in morally objectionable ways, and many others. In these cases, it matters greatly what we together do, but yet a single individual’s ‘non-cooperative’ choice seems to make no difference to the outcome and also seems to involve no violation of anyone’s rights. Here it is argued that—contrary to influential arguments (...) by Peter Singer, Alastair Norcross, Shelly Kagan, Derek Parfit, and Allan Gibbard—an appeal to the expected consequences of acts cannot deliver plausible verdicts on many of these cases, because individuals often have a probability of making a difference that is sufficiently small to ensure that ‘non-cooperation’ is the option with the greatest expected value, even when consequentialists themselves agree that ‘cooperation’ is required. In addition, an influential argument by Singer, Norcross, and Kagan is shown to be unsound for the claim that in the collective action situations at issue, the expected effect of one individual’s action equals the average effect of everyone’s similar actions. These results have general implications for normative theory, because they undermine the sort of consequentialist explanation of collective action cases that is initially attractive from many theoretical points of view, consequentialist and otherwise. (shrink)
Many philosophers endorse utilitarian arguments against eating meat along the lines of Peter Singer’s, while others endorse deontological arguments along the lines of Tom Regan’s. This chapter suggests that both types of arguments are too quick. Empirical reasons are outlined for thinking that when one eats meat, that doesn’t make a difference to animals in the way that it would have to for either type of argument to be sound—and this chapter argues that this is true notwithstanding recent “expected utility” (...) arguments to the contrary. The chapter then identifies a general puzzle: given that almost everything we do in modern society has some footprint of harm, how does one properly distinguish acts that are permissible among these from those that are not? The chapter explains why this is more difficult than it may initially appear, and it proposes a solution. (shrink)
Non-cognitivism might seem to offer a plausible account of evaluative judgments, at least on the assumption that there is a satisfactory solution to the Frege-Geach problem. However, Cian Dorr has argued that non-cognitivism remains implausible even assuming that the Frege-Geach problem can be solved, on the grounds that non-cognitivism still has to classify some paradigmatically rational inferences as irrational. Dorr's argument is ingenious and at first glance seems decisive. However, in this paper I will show that Dorr's argument equivocates between (...) two different notions of evidence, and that once this equivocation is noted there is no reason to doubt that non-cognitivism is consistent with the rationality of such inferences, at least if it is assumed that the Frege-Geach problem can be solved. In particular, I will show that non-cognitivists can endorse the same explanation of the rationality of such inferences that cognitivists should endorse, and that there is thus no need for non-cognitivists to offer any sort of idiosyncratic account of the epistemology of such cases, in contrast to what other commentators on Dorr's argument have thought. (shrink)
Baatz’s excellent discussion moves the debate forward in two ways that I will focus on here: first, by articulating an attractive view based on the notion of what can reasonably be demanded of individuals, and second, by providing a helpful overview of much of the existing literature. In what follows I suggest three ways Baatz and others might further clarify and build on these contributions in future research.
The standard interpretation of Aldo Leopold’s land ethic is that correct land management is whatever tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community, of which we humans are merely a small part. From this interpretation, it is a short step to interpreting Leopold as a sort of deep ecologist or radical environmentalist. However, this interpretation is based on a small number of quotations from Leopold taken out of context. Once these quotations are put into context, and (...) once the broader context of Leopold’s mature writings and his actions as a land manager are taken into account, it becomes clear that he is much closer to being an enlightened anthropocentrist than he is to being anything like a radical environmentalist. When properly understood, Leopold’s land ethic recognizes that fundamental human interests must be treated with the highest possible respect, and it emphasizes the incredible challenge and need for modesty in identifying the correct tradeoffs between lesser human interests and the interests of the broader biotic community. (shrink)