I argue that current discussions of the epistemological significance of reflection have entangled concerns about reflection with agential concerns. I begin by showing that a central strand of internalist criticism finds externalism unsatisfactory because it fails to provide a particular kind of self-knowledge, knowledge about the epistemic status of one’s own beliefs. Identifying this internalist motivation as the desire for a kind of self-knowledge opens up new possibilities and suggests new conceptual resources. I employ one of these resources—Richard Moran’s distinction (...) between the theoretical stance and the deliberative stance—to locate two types of reflection: mere reflective awareness of one’s attitudes and agent-awareness of one’s attitudes. I then examine Ernest Sosa’s account of the importance of reflection, showing how Moran’s distinction brings out the centrality of agential concerns in Sosa’s argument for reflective knowledge. I also consider briefly its relevance to fully apt knowledge. While I focus on Sosa’s epistemology, the point extends to internalism more generally. (shrink)
Investigations into ethical judgments generally seem fuzzy as to the relevant research domain. We first attempted to clarify the construct and determine domain parameters. This attempt required addressing difficulties associated with pinpointing relevant literature, most notably the varied nomenclature used to refer to ethical judgments (individual evaluations of actions’ ethicality). Given this variation in construct nomenclature and the difficulties it presented in identifying pertinent focal studies, we elected to focus on research that cited papers featuring prominent and often-used measures of (...) ethical judgments (primarily, but not exclusively, the Multidimensional Ethics Scale). Our review of these studies indicated a preponderance of inferences and conclusions unwarranted by empirical evidence (likely attributable at least partly to inconsistent nomenclature). Moreover, ethical judgments related consistently to few respondent characteristics or any other variables, emergent relationships may not always be especially meaningful, and much research seems inclined to repetition of already verified findings. Although we concluded that knowledge about ethical judgments seems not to have advanced appreciably after decades of investigation, we suggested a possible path forward that focuses on the content of what is actually being judged as reflected in the myriad of vignettes used in the literature to elicit judgments. (shrink)
Ethics and associated values influence not only managerial behavior but also managerial success (England and Lee, 1973). Gender socialization theory hypothesizes gender differences in ethics variables whether or not individuals are full time employees; occupational socialization hypothesizes gender similarity in employees. The conflicting hypotheses were investigated using questionnaire responses from a sample of 308 individuals. Analysis of variance and hierarchical regression yielded unexpected results. Although no significant gender differences emerged in individuals lacking full time employment, significant differences existed between employed (...) women and men, with women appearing more ethical. While occupational socialization predicts an interaction between employment status and gender, these group differences were opposite to those predicted. An implication for the two theories and the current conflicting research support is that these commonly used theories may be of limited usefulness. Some alternative concepts are proposed. (shrink)
Two distinct and perhaps mutually exclusive understandings of utilitarianism have emerged in the ethics literature. Utilitarianism is typically regarded as an approach to determine ethicality by focusing on whether or not actions produce the greater good, but has also been conceptualized as a set of traits to which individuals might be predisposed. This paper is designed to clarify the meaning and implications of such utilitarian traits as “results-oriented,” “innovative,” and “a winner.” Although the Janus-headed model of ethical theory from which (...) these traits emerged had been acknowledged by its developer as possibly misrepresenting typical views of utilitarianism, much research using these traits appears to have been conducted without clear recognition of this. If the conceptual foundation underpinning hypothesis development is disconnected from the measure used to test them, then little support for relevant predictions should emerge. A review of the literature which featured utilitarian traits generally confirmed this. This paper also explored the origins and emergence of these traits and suggested that existing evidence that these measure utilitarian ethical predispositions is not especially persuasive. Understanding what utilitarian traits do not assess is critical in order for knowledge about this potentially useful measure to advance. (shrink)
Knowledge about ethical judgments has not advanced appreciably after decades of research. Such research, however, has rarely addressed the possible importance of the content of such judgments; that is, the material appearing in the brief vignettes or scenarios on which survey respondents base their evaluations. Indeed, this content has seemed an afterthought in most investigations. This paper closely examined the vast array of vignettes that have appeared in relevant research in an effort to reduce this proliferation to a more concise (...) set of overarching vignette themes. Six generic themes emerged from this process, labeled here as Dilemma, Classic, Conspiracy, Sophie’s Choice, Runaway Trolley, and Whistle Blowing. Each of these themes is characterized by a unique combination of four key factors that include the extent of protagonist personal benefit from relevant vignette activities and victim salience in vignette descriptions. Theme identification enabled inherent ambiguities in vignettes that threaten construct validity to come into sharp focus, provided clues regarding appropriate vignette construction, and may help to make sense of patterns of empirical findings that heretofore have seemed difficult to explain. (shrink)
Individuals who disagree that organizational interests legitimately supersede those of the wider society may experience conflict between their personal standards of ethics and those demanded by an employing organization, a conflict that is well documented. An additional question is whether or not individuals capable of complex moral reasoning experience greater conflict than those reasoning at a less developed level. This question was first positioned in a theoretical framework and then investigated using 115 survey responses from a student sample. Correlational analysis (...) and hierarchical regression indicated that individuals scoring high on the Defining Issues Test measure of Kohlberg's stages of moral development experienced significantly greater workplace ethical conflict than low scorers. The finding that complex moral reasoners perceive greater conflict between their personal standards and typical organizational demands raises the issue of what reasoning orientation is rewarded in organizations. Individuals capable of complex moral reasoning may be likely to leave traditional organizations due to high conflict but more ethically friendly organizations for complex reasoners seem unlikely unless these people occupy influential positions. (shrink)
Two contrasting types of individuals were each predicted to agree, for different reasons, that conventional ethical standards of society need not be upheld if organizational interests appear to demand otherwise. The hypotheses were investigated using questionnaire responses from two samples (employed and student, total N=308). Clear support was obtained for the prediction that individuals inclined toward self-interest and behavior counter to conventional standards would agree with the preceding position. Partial support was obtained for the hypothesis that individuals who simply feel (...) obligated to support an employing organization would also agree. While the latter's perspective may be somewhat narrow or perhaps even cynical, they do not seem to reflect the self-interest profile of the first group. This study also extends the groundbreaking work of Froelich and Kottke by exploring individual difference correlates of their promising ethics scale assessing the extent of agreement that organizational interests legitimately supersede more conventional ethical standards. (shrink)
Moral reasoning typically relates unexpectedly weakly with both Machiavellianism and authoritarianism. Although researchers often explain this by pointing to apparent shortcomings in both the construct and the measure of moral reasoning, such explanations are questionable given the many instances of support for hypotheses involving moral reasoning using the same construct and measure. As these latter cannot only sometimes be flawed, we explored the possible influence of moral reasoning index choice on observed results by using multiple indices available in the Defining (...) Issues Test. In a sample of 201 employed persons surveyed in 1998, with results reported for the first time, advanced moral reasoners tended to be neither Machiavellian nor authoritarian. However, the specific moral reasoning index employed was critical to detecting these hypothesized inverse relationships. Specifically, we proposed that currently unavailable D scores would be the relevant index for examining inverse relationships with Machiavellianism and that P scores would be most appropriate in the context of inverse relationships with authoritarianism, particularly among persons inclined to utilize their characteristic moral reasoning. We extrapolate the conceptual logic underpinning such relationships, and suggest that appropriate index choice flows from this logic and is essential to hypothesis testing across a broad array of constructs. Future research could adopt this logic to examine relationships involving constructs with implications similar to those found in Machiavellianism and authoritarianism. (shrink)
Mason and McCall Smith's classic textbook discusses the relationship of medical practice and ethics with the operation of the law. The subjects covered include natural and assisted reproduction, the impact of modern genetics on medicine, medical confidentiality, consent to medical treatment, the use of resources and problems surrounding death in the new medical era. It is of significance to anyone with an interest in the ethical and legal practice of medicine.
The difficulty of ascribing metaphysical predicates such as absoluteness, necessity and perfection to God while simultaneously ascribing personal predicates such as compassion, freedom and agency has often been noted. Most efforts to resolve this dilemma have tended to fall into one of three categories: a merely verbal solution such as that God is ‘compassionate in terms of our experience but…not so in terms of [God's] own’; the univocal and unqualified ascription of the metaphysical predicates to God coupled with equivocation with (...) respect to the personal predicates which results in the final elimination of the latter; the fideistic denial that intelligible language is applicable to God. Unfortunately, none of these is satisfactory. The first solution is seen to be but a version of the second, and it is arguable that the second is, as Feuerbach contends, tantamount to a ‘subtle, disguised atheism’, since ‘to deny all the qualities of a being is equivalent to denying the being himself’ or, alternatively, ‘an existence in general, an existence without qualities, is an insipidity, an absurdity’. The third ‘solution’ is no better and is hardly more than an evasive tactic. (shrink)
Elinor Mason draws on both ethics and responsibility theory to present a pluralistic view of both wrongness and blameworthiness. She identifies three different ways to be blameworthy, corresponding to different ways of acting wrongly.
This collection of previously unpublished essays addresses a number of issues arising out of philosophical controversies over the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas. Issues addressed include the form of a moral dilemma; the paradoxes a moral dilemma is said to entail; the question of whether a moral dilemma must exhibit inconsistency; the role of intractable circumstances in occasioning moral dilemmas; and the plausibility of supposing that there might be rational ways of addressing moral dilemmas in practice. The contributors, writing from (...) a number of widely differing points of view, include Simon Blackburn, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Alan Donagan, Terrance McConnell, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Mary Mothersill, Norman Dahl, David Brink, Peter Railton, Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Christopher Gowans, and H.E. Mason. (shrink)
James Lenman argues that consequentialism fails as a moral theory because it is impossible to predict the long-term consequences of our actions. I agree that it is impossible to predict the long-term consequences of actions, but argue that this does not count as a strike against consequentialism. I focus on the principle of indifference, which tells us to treat unforeseeable consequences as cancelling each other out, and hence value-neutral. I argue that though we cannot defend this principle independently, we cannot (...) do without it in practical rationality. Thus abandoning the principle of indifference would involve abandoning all of rationality, not just consequentialist reasoning. I suggest that we should understand the principle as P. F. Strawson understands inductive reasoning – as being part of rationality. Correspondence:c1 Elinor.Mason@colorado.edu. (shrink)
_Plato_ explores the thought of a man who, in a literary career of fifty years, generated ideas that have pervaded history from antiquity to today. After laying out the basics of Plato’s intellectual development and considering his complex relationship with Socrates, Andrew Mason offers a thematic approach to help readers navigate through an often challenging body of work. Throughout, this concise volume traces the development of continuing themes in Plato’s dialogues and considers the relevance of these themes for modern (...) thought. Drawing on recent scholarship, this engaging introduction offers the ideal, up-to-date overview of a figure who remains essential reading in western history and philosophy. (shrink)
Marilyn Mason, education officer of the British Humanist Association, asks whether an adequate moral education must involve religion, and reflects on the way that attitudes to moral education have changed over the last fifty years.
: Focusing on a textbook controversy that emerged in Kanawha County, West Virginia, in 1974, Mason explores the discursive production of white ethnicity in the rhetorical, visual, and political strategies used during an organized protest against the new multicultural curriculum adopted by the local school board. What the author finds puzzling is the ways in which these productions of "soul" and "nation" enabled unlikely political alliances between national conservative elites and the local, historically left-leaning working class protesters. The author (...) argues that "soul" is reproduced through racialized discourse signifying the spiritual and ethnic purity of whiteness, the consolidation of white ethnicity, and the spirit of white resistance, articulated through campaigns to save children from future captivity in an "alien" world. Through this on-site theoretical analysis, the author demonstrates how a right-wing narrative of victimhood facilitates the reproduction of ethnic identification among the protesters, whose whiteness apparently can be jeopardized by reading the "wrong" books. (shrink)
Mason on the question: "What are the most important unsolved questions in political philosophy and/or related disciplines and what are the prospects for progress?" Political philosophy rarely, if ever, solves problems once and for all. Old problems usually persist despite attempts to resolve them, and even when they are successfully resolved, new ones arise from the ashes of the old. In my view, however, it would be a mistake to conclude from this that political philosophy makes no progress. We (...) should not measure progress in terms of problems solved or questions answered, but rather in terms of improved understanding. Progress occurs though clarifying the question that is being asked and by coming to a better understanding of which answers to that question are coherent. I think considerable progress has been made in the study of justice, in the sense that we understand the issues much better, though there are still many that we do not understand very well, for example, issues to do with the moral significance of national or state boundaries, and the issue of when justice requires people to bear the costs of their behaviour. I do not doubt that progress, in the sense of improved understanding, will be made on these issues as they come to the forefront of political philosophy. (shrink)
Focusing on a textbook controversy that emerged in Kanawha County, West Virginia, in 1974, Mason explores the discursive production of white ethnicity in the rhetorical, visual, and political strategies used during an organized protest against the new multicultural curriculum adopted by the local school board. What the author finds puzzling is the ways in which these productions of "soul" and "nation" enabled unlikely political alliances between national conservative elites and the local, historically left-leaning working class protesters. The author argues (...) that "soul" is reproduced through racialized discourse signifying the spiritual and ethnic purity of whiteness, the consolidation of white ethnicity, and the spirit of white resistance, articulated through campaigns to save children from future captivity in an "alien" world. Through this on-site theoretical analysis, the author demonstrates how a right-wing narrative of victimhood facilitates the reproduction of ethnic identification among the protesters, whose whiteness apparently can be jeopardized by reading the "wrong" books. (shrink)
Jeffrey A. Mason has written an informative, accessible guide to today's most popular form of philosophical writing, the journal-length essay. The Philosopher's Address does what no other book on the market has attempted: it takes the reader behind the scenes of the writing process to expose the rhetorical underpinnings of philosophical texts. Mason argues that readers need to understand why philosophical writing is constructed as it is, and to be aware of the rhetorical devices by which authors seek (...) to persuade them if they are to engage fully with these texts. This book is intended for a broad audience of specialists and students alike. Professional scholars will appreciate Mason's astute discussion of current trends within analytic philosophy, while students will benefit greatly from his comprehensive understanding of the social context in which philosophical discourse is produced, its various and competing schools of thought, and the theoretical concepts that inform them. (shrink)
Miranda Fricker claims that a “gap” in collective hermeneutical resources with respect to the social experiences of marginalized groups prevents members of those groups from understanding their own experiences (Fricker 2007). I argue that because Fricker misdescribes dominant hermeneutical resources as collective, she fails to locate the ethically bad epistemic practices that maintain gaps in dominant hermeneutical resources even while alternative interpretations are in fact offered by non-dominant discourses. Fricker's analysis of hermeneutical injustice does not account for the possibility that (...) marginalized groups can be silenced relative to dominant discourses without being prevented from understanding or expressing their own social experiences. I suggest that a gap in dominant hermeneutical resources is ambiguous between two kinds of unknowing: hermeneutical injustice suffered by members of marginalized groups, and epistemically and ethically blameworthy ignorance perpetrated by members of dominant groups. (shrink)
"Equality of opportunity for all" is a fine piece of political rhetoric but the ideal that lies behind it is slippery to say the least. This book defends a particular account of the ideal and its place in a more radical version of what it is to level the playing field.
Peter Singer has argued for a radical anti-intuitionism on the basis of recent empirical research into the psychological and evolutionary origins of moral intuition. There is, however, a gap between the putative genealogy of moral intuition that Singer offers and his desired methodological claim. I explore three ways to bridge the gap, and argue that the promising way is to construe the genealogy as a debunking genealogy. I sketch an account of how debunking arguments work, and then show that this (...) causes problems for Singer, since utilitarianism itself is liable to be debunked. Finally, I suggest how we can take lessons for ethics from the empirical work, but that the result is a far more restricted kind of anti-intuitionism than Singer was hoping for. (shrink)
Despite contemporary moral philosophers' renewed attention to the moral significance of emotions, the attitudinal repertoire with which they equip the mature moral agent remains stunted. One attitude moral philosophers neglect (if not disown) is contempt. While acknowledging the nastiness of contempt, I here correct the neglect by providing an account of the moral psychology of contempt. In the process, I defend the moral propriety of certain tokens of properly person-focused contempt against some prominent objections -- among them, objections stemming from (...) Kantian worries that contempt is incompatible with the respect we owe to persons as such. (shrink)
In this paper I present a new argument for prospectivism: the view that, for a consequentialist, rightness depends on what is prospectively best rather than what would actually be best. Prospective bestness depends on the agent’s epistemic position, though exactly how that works is not straightforward. I clarify various possible versions of prospectivism, which differ in how far they go in relativizing to the agent’s limitations. My argument for prospectivism is an argument for moderately objective prospectivism, according to which the (...) right thing to do is what would make sense given reasonable beliefs, reasonable probability estimates and a reasonable understanding of value. My argument is an argument for this form of prospectivism over objectivism. Arguments about prospectivism and objectivism usually use an example with the following form: an agent has a choice between options, one she knows would be acceptable, while the other could either be catastrophic or very good. Objectivists argue that the right thing to do is what would in fact be best (though the agent cannot know which option that is) while prospectivists argue that the agent’s ignorance is relevant, and the right thing to do is to compromise. The question is how we should understand the underlying argument. It is not about action guidance. Moderately objective prospectivism is not action guiding, because an actual agent may not have access to reasonable beliefs, probability estimates and so on. Another common argument is that the objective notion is the primary one. I show that there are no good grounds for this claim. My argument uses the distinction between rightness and goodness to show that a consequentialist theory, that bases rightness on goodness, should take into account how much goodness is at stake. Crucially, potential losses as well as gains are relevant. So long as goodness, rather than rightness, is in the driving seat, we should not be ‘bestness fetishists’. As the name suggest, this would be an irrational privileging of the best option. This argument does not apply to pure deontology: a pure deontology does not use the notion of goodness at all, and so there is nothing to compromise with. If the agent does not know what is right, there is nothing further to say. I end by arguing against a recent strategy that aims to show that although objectivism is true (the right option is the best one), we should sometimes do what is wrong (i.e. what is prospectively best). I argue that in so far as this is correct it is simply prospectivism with awkward terminology. (shrink)
This new edition of Law and Medical Ethics continues to chart the ever-widening field that the topics cover. The interplay between the health caring professions and the public during the period intervening since the last edition has, perhaps, been mainly dominated by wide-ranging changes in the administration of the National Health Service and of the professions themselves but these have been paralleled by important developments in medical jurisprudence.
Current research on corporate social responsibility (CSR) illustrates the growing sense of discord surrounding the ‘business of doing good’ (Dobers and Springett, Corp Soc Responsib Environ Manage 17(2):63–69, 2010). Central to these concerns is that CSR risks becoming an over-simplified and peripheral part of corporate strategy. Rather than transforming the dominant corporate discourse, it is argued that CSR and related concepts are limited to “emancipatory rhetoric…defined by narrow business interests and serve to curtail interests of external stakeholders.” (Banerjee, Crit Sociol (...) 34(1):52, 2008). The paper addresses gaps in the literature and challenges current thinking on corporate governance and CSR by offering a new conceptual framework that responds to the concerns of researchers and practitioners. The limited focus of existing analyses is extended by a holistic approach to corporate governance and social responsibility that integrates company, shareholder and wider stakeholder concerns. A defensive stance is avoided by delineating key stages of the governance process and aligning profit centred and social responsibility concerns to produce a business-based rationale for minimising risk and mainstreaming CSR. (shrink)
The idea that knowledge can be extended by inference from what is known seems highly plausible. Yet, as shown by familiar preface paradox and lottery-type cases, the possibility of aggregating uncertainty casts doubt on its tenability. We show that these considerations go much further than previously recognized and significantly restrict the kinds of closure ordinary theories of knowledge can endorse. Meeting the challenge of uncertainty aggregation requires either the restriction of knowledge-extending inferences to single premises, or eliminating epistemic uncertainty in (...) known premises. The first strategy, while effective, retains little of the original idea—conclusions even of modus ponens inferences from known premises are not always known. We then look at the second strategy, inspecting the most elaborate and promising attempt to secure the epistemic role of basic inferences, namely Timothy Williamson’s safety theory of knowledge. We argue that while it indeed has the merit of allowing basic inferences such as modus ponens to extend knowledge, Williamson’s theory faces formidable difficulties. These difficulties, moreover, arise from the very feature responsible for its virtue- the infallibilism of knowledge. (shrink)
It seems that the debate between objective and subjective consequentialists might be resolved by appealing to the ought implies can principle. Howard-Snyder has suggested that if one does not know how to do something, cannot do it, and thus one cannot have an obligation to do it. I argue that this depends on an overly rich conception of ability, and that we need to look beyond the ought implies can principle to answer the question. Once we do so, it appears (...) that Prichard might have been at least partly right when he claimed that obligations are tryings. I go some way to defending a diluted version of Prichard's view. (shrink)
Philosophical suspicions about the place of shame in the psychology of the mature moral agent are in tension with the commonplace assumption that to call a person shameless purports to mark a fault, arguably a moral fault. I shift philosophical suspicions away from shame and toward its absence in the shameless by focusing attention on phenomena of shamelessness. In redirecting our attention, I clarify the nature of the failing to which ascriptions of shamelessness might refer and defend the thought that, (...) as an evasion of moral self-censure, shamelessness can be morally pernicious. Far from foregoing shame, I conclude, we should be mindful of its moral importance and unapologetic in its defense. (shrink)
Harman and Lewis credit Kripke with having formulated a puzzle that seems to show that knowledge entails dogmatism. The puzzle is widely regarded as having been solved. In this paper we argue that this standard solution, in its various versions, addresses only a limited aspect of the puzzle and holds no promise of fully resolving it. Analyzing this failure and the proper rendering of the puzzle, it is suggested that it poses a significant challenge for the defense of epistemic closure.