The Black Lives Matter movement has called for the abolition of capital punishment in response to what it calls “the war against Black people” and “Black communities.” This article defends the two central contentions in the movement’s abolitionist stance: first, that US capital punishment practices represent a wrong to black communities rather than simply a wrong to particular black capital defendants or particular black victims of murder, and second, that the most defensible remedy for this wrong is the abolition of (...) the death penalty. (shrink)
Kant's view that we have only indirect duties to animals fails to capture the intuitive notion that wronging animals transgresses duties we owe to those animals. Here I argue that a suitably modified Kantianism can allow for direct duties to animals and, in particular, an imperfect duty to promote animal welfare without unduly compromising its core theoretical commitments, especially its commitments concerning the source and nature of our duties toward rational beings. The basis for such duties is that animal welfare, (...) on my revised Kantian view, is neither a conditioned nor unconditioned good, but a final and nonderivative good that ought to be treated as an end-in-itself. However, this duty to promote animal welfare operates according to a broadly consequentialist logic that both accords well with our considered judgments about our duties to animals and explains differences between these duties and duties owed to rational agents. (shrink)
A significant body of research suggests that self-control and willpower are resources that become depleted as they are exercised. Having to exert self-control and willpower draws down the reservoir of these resources and make subsequent such exercises more difficult. This “ego depletion” renders individuals more susceptible to manipulation by exerting non-rational influences on our choice and conduct. In particular, ego depletion results in later choices being less governable by our powers of self-control and willpower than earlier choices. I draw out (...) three implications of this phenomenon: first, manipulation can exploit ego depletion through the fashioning of social environments that tax willpower or self-control; second, ego depletion undermines the Platonic-Aristotelian picture of character and strength of will; and third, ego depletion needs to be a more central focus of theorists of justice, since it appears to be a significant contributor to poverty and other persistent injustices. (shrink)
Meursault, the protagonist of Camus' The Stranger, is unable to grieve, a fact that ultimately leads to his condemnation and execution. Given the emotional distresses involved in grief, should we envy Camus or pity him? I defend the latter conclusion. As St. Augustine seemed to dimly recognize, the pains of grief are integral to the process of bereavement, a process that both motivates and provides a distinctive opportunity to attain the good of self-knowledge.
Philosophers have harbored doubts about the possibility of moral expertise since Plato. I argue that irrespective of whether moral experts exist, identifying who those experts are is insurmountable because of the credentials problem: Moral experts have no need to seek out others’ moral expertise, but moral non-experts lack sufficient knowledge to determine whether the advice provided by a putative moral expert in response to complex moral situations is correct and hence whether an individual is a bone fide expert. Traditional accounts (...) of moral expertise require that moral experts give reliably correct moral advice supported by adequate justification, an account which, I argue, is too lean in allowing for the possibility of a moral expert who is motivationally indifferent to her own moral judgments and advice. Yet even if the proposition that a moral expert is an individual who provides reliably correct moral advice supported by adequate justification and is necessarily motivated by that advice exhausts the necessary and sufficient conditions for moral expertise, this proposition cannot function as an applicable criterion for non-experts to use in appraising would-be experts’ claims to expertise. The credentials problem thus remains unanswered. (shrink)
According to rational will views of paternalism, the wrongmaking feature of paternalism is that paternalists disregard or fail to respect the rational will of the paternalized, in effect substituting their own presumably superior judgments about what ends the paternalized ought to pursue or how they ought to pursue them. Here I defend a version of the rational will view appealing to three rational powers that constitute rational agency, which I call recognition, discrimination, and satisfaction. By appealing to these powers, my (...) version of the rational will view can rank the wrongfulness of paternalistic acts in terms of the extent to which such acts (a) amount to supplanting the paternalized individual’s identity as a rational agent with that of the paternalist, and (b) the degree of mistrust the paternalistic act shows in the paternalized individual’s rational agency. My rational powers account thus provides a more complete account of why paternalism is a powerful, but not decisive or absolute, objection to an act or policy. My rational powers account also provides powerful explanations of why rational suasion deflects charges of paternalism; why consenting to intercessions in one’s rational agency negates paternalism; why we ordinarily believe that strong paternalism is more objectionable than weak paternalism; and why we ordinarily believe that hard paternalism is more objectionable than soft paternalism. (shrink)
Grief is our emotional response to the deaths of intimates, and so like many other emotional conditions, it can be appraised in terms of its rationality. A philosophical account of grief's rationality should satisfy a contingency constraint, wherein grief is neither intrinsically rational nor intrinsically irrational. Here I provide an account of grief and its rationality that satisfies this constraint, while also being faithful to the phenomenology of grief experience. I begin by arguing against the best known account of grief's (...) rationality, Gustafson's strategic or forward-looking account, according to which the practical rationality of grief depends on the internal coherence of the component attitudes that explain the behaviors caused by grief, and more exactly, on how these attitudes enable the individual to realize states of affairs that she desires. While I do not deny that episodes of grief can be appraised in terms of their strategic rationality, I deny that strategic rationality is the essential or fundamental basis on which grief's rationality should be appraised. In contrast, the heart of grief's rationality is backward-looking. That is, what primarily makes an episode of grief rational qua grief is the fittingness of the attitudes individuals take toward the experience of a lost relationship, attitudes which in turn generate the desires and behaviors that constitute bereavement. Grief thus derives its essential rationality from the objects it responds to, not from the attitudes causally downstream from that response, and is necessarily irrational when the behaviors that constitute an individual's grieving are inappropriate to the object of that grief. So while the strategic rationality of an episode of grief contributes to whether it is on the whole rational, no episode of grief can be rational unless the actions that constitute grieving accurately gauge the change in a person's normative situation wrought by the loss of her relationship with the deceased. (shrink)
Motivational internalism (MI) holds that, necessarily, if an agent judges that she is morally obligated to ø, then, that agent is, to at least some minimal extent, motivated to ø. Opponents of MI sometimes invoke depression as a counterexample on the grounds that depressed individuals appear to sincerely affirm moral judgments but are ‘listless’ and unmotivated by such judgments. Such listlessness is a credible counterexample to MI, I argue, only if the actual clinical disorder of depression, rather than a merely (...) hypothetical example of such listlessness, is the source of this listlessness. However, empirical evidence concerning depression shows that, to the extent that the depressed are motivationally listless at all, they are abnormally listless only with respect to an important class of non-moral judgments, namely, their prudential normative judgments (i.e., those concerning their own happiness and well-being), not their moral judgments. Hence, depressed individuals do not constitute a counterexample to MI. This conclusion has important methodological implications concerning how supporters and opponents of MI can best defend their respective theses. (shrink)
Defends Kantian paternalism: Interference with an individual’s liberty for her own sake is justified absent her actual consent only to the extent that such interference stands a reasonable chance of preventing her from exercising her liberty irrationally in light of the rationally chosen ends that constitute her conception of the good. More specifically, interference with an individual’s liberty is permissible only if, by interfering, we stand a reasonable chance of preventing that agent from performing actions she chose due to distorted (...) reasoning and which would result in that agent’s rationally chosen ends not being as fully realized as they would have been had she so acted. -/- Applied to suicide intervention Kantian paternalism implies that such intervention is justified to the extent that it prevents a person from ending her life when, due to distorted reasoning, she engages in suicidal behavior that is at odds with her rationally chosen ends. (shrink)
Assertions of statements such as ‘it’s raining, but I don’t believe it’ are standard examples of what is known as Moore’s paradox. Here I consider moral equivalents of such statements, statements wherein individuals affirm moral judgments while also expressing motivational indifference to those judgments (such as ‘hurting animals for fun is wrong, but I don’t care’). I argue for four main conclusions concerning such statements: 1. Such statements are genuinely paradoxical, even if not contradictory. 2. This paradoxicality can be traced (...) to a form of epistemic self-defeat that also explains the paradoxicality of ordinary Moore-paradoxical statements. 3. Although a simple form of internalism about moral judgment and motivation can explain the paradoxicality of these moral equivalents, a more plausible explanation can be provided that does not rely on this simple form of internalism. 4. The paradoxicality of such statements suggests a more credible understanding of the thesis that those who are not motivated by their moral judgments are irrational. (shrink)
One principal challenge to the rationalist thesis that the demands of morality are requirements of rationality has been that posed by the "rational egoist." In attempting to answer's the egoist's challenge, some rationalists have supposed that an adequate reply must take the form of a deductive argument that "converts" the egoist by showing that her position is contradictory, arbitrary, or violates some precept that defines practical rationality as such. Here I argue (a) that such rationalist replies will fail to persuade (...) the egoist to adopt a recognizably moral way of life; (b) that this failure can be traced to epistemic assumptions that underlie typical rationalist replies; (c) that egoist conversion can better be understood by rejecting these assumptions and seeing egoist conversion as akin to a paradigm shift in the sciences; and (d) that conceptualizing egoist conversion as a paradigm shift accords with empirical psychological evidence regarding the acquisition and modification of individuals' moral attitudes and beliefs. (shrink)
Argues that considerations central to the justification of euthanizing humans do not readily extrapolate to the euthanasia of pets and companion animals; that the comparative account of death's badness can be successfully applied to such animals to ground the justification of their euthanasia and its timing; and proposes that companion animal guardians have authority to decide to euthanize such animals because of their epistemic standing regarding such animals' welfare.
Suicide is a controversial ethical issue in large part because the reasonings of and above appear plausible but support contradictory conclusions. in effect asks: Why should we be granted an exemption to the prohibition on human killing when the person we kill is ourselves? What makes killing oneself so special? on the other hand starts from the intuition that there is something special or distinctive about the moral relationship we stand in to ourselves, a relationship that can at least sometimes (...) morally justify suicide. The reasoning of and thus establishes the contours of the ethical debate concerning the permissibility of suicide and explains why suicide is one of the most hotly debated issues in bioethics. (shrink)
Assertions of statements such as 'it's raining, but I don't believe it' are standard examples of what is known as Moore's paradox. Here I consider moral equivalents of such statements, statements wherein individuals affirm moral judgments while also expressing motivational indifference to those judgments. I argue for four main conclusions concerning such statements: 1. Such statements are genuinely paradoxical, even if not contradictory. 2. This paradoxicality can be traced to a form of epistemic self-defeat that also explains the paradoxicality of (...) ordinary Moore-paradoxical statements. 3. Although a simple form of internalism about moral judgment and motivation can explain the paradoxicality of these moral equivalents, a more plausible explanation can be provided that does not rely on this simple form of internalism. 4. The paradoxicality of such statements suggests a more credible understanding of the thesis that those who are not motivated by their moral judgments are irrational. (shrink)
The metatethical position known as motive internalism (MI) holds that moral beliefs are necessarily motivating. Adina Roskies (in Philosophical Psychology, 16) has recently argued against MI by citing patients with injuries to the ventromedial (VM) cortex as counterexamples to MI. Roskies claims that not only do these patients not act in accordance with their professed moral beliefs, they exhibit no physiological or affective evidence of being motivated by these beliefs. I argue that Roskies' attempt to falsify MI is unpersuasive because (...) the evidence used to attribute the relevant moral beliefs to VM patients is insufficient: Contra Roskies, that VM patients are proficient moral reasoners does not establish the presence of these moral beliefs. In addition, the linguistic evidence Roskies cites (a) is vulnerable to methodological worries about its reliability or authenticity, (b) does not override counterevidence derived from the patients' nonlinguistic behavior, and (c) is undermined by VM patients' inability to correctly attribute moral beliefs to others. I conclude with a proposal about how MI should be interpreted, given that it is not falsified by empirical evidence of the sort put forth by Roskies. (shrink)
T.M. Scanlon has recently proposed what I term a ‘double attitude’ account of blame, wherein blame is the revision of one’s attitudes in light of another person’s conduct, conduct that we believe reveals that the individual lacks the normative attitudes we judge essential to our relationship with her. Scanlon proposes that this account justifies differences in blame that in turn reflect differences in outcome luck. Here I argue that although the double attitude account can justify blame’s being sensitive to outcome (...) luck, it cannot justify allocating blame differently when agents with the same attitudes differ only with respect to the luck-based outcomes of their actions. However, Scanlon’s own contractualist theory of morality can be invoked to show that the double attitude account is compatible with blame-based sanctions (e.g., compensation mandated when negligence or reckless result in harm) being sensitive to outcome luck. The resultant view of blame and luck remains desert-based while making sense of the common intuition that differences in outcome luck can matter to how lucky and unlucky individuals are justifiably treated. (shrink)
Embarrassed by the apparent rigorism Kant expresses so bluntly in 'On a Supposed Right to Lie,' numerous contemporary Kantians have attempted to show that Kant's ethics can justify lying in specific circumstances, in particular, when lying to a murderer is necessary in order to prevent her from killing another innocent person. My aim is to improve upon these efforts and show that lying to prevent the death of another innocent person could be required in Kantian terms. I argue (1) that (...) our perfect Kantian duty of self-preservation can require our lying to save our own lives when threatened with unjust aggression, and (2) that Kant's understanding of moral duty was that duties are symmetrical , such that if one has a duty to perform a given action on one's own behalf or to protect one's own rational nature, then one also has a duty to perform similar acts on other's behalf or to protect their rational nature. Thus, that the individual protected against aggression by means of deception is not oneself should be of no consequence from a Kantian perspective. Lying to the murderer is thus an extension of the Kantian requirement of self-defense. (shrink)
Thanks to recent scholarship, Kant is no longer seen as the dogmatic opponent of suicide he appears at first glance. However, some interpreters have recently argued for a Kantian view of the morality of suicide with surprising, even radical, implications. More specifically, they have argued that Kantianism requires that those with dementia or other rationality-eroding conditions end their lives before their condition results in their loss of identity as moral agents, and requires subjecting the fully demented or those confronting future (...) dementia to non-voluntary euthanasia. Properly understood, Kant’s ethics has neither of these implications. wrongly assumes that rational agents’ duty of self-preservation entails a duty of self-destruction when they become non-rational. further neglects Kant’s distinction between duties to self and duties to others and wrongly assumes that duties can be owed to rational agents only during the time of their existence. (shrink)
Because an increasing number of patients have medical conditions that render them incompetent at making their own medical choices, more and more medical choices are now made by surrogates, often patient family members. However, many studies indicate that surrogates often do not discharge their responsibilities adequately, and in particular, do not choose in accordance with what those patients would have chosen for themselves, especially when it comes to end-of-life medical choices. This chapter argues that a significant part of the explanation (...) of such surrogate failure is that family surrogates are likely to undergo anticipatory grief when making end-of-life decisions. After clarifying both the emotional structure and object of grief, I propose that the pending death of a loved one induces an emotional conflict in surrogates between the care demanded by their responsibility as surrogates and the attachment surrogates feel toward their dying loved one, an attachment surrogates "resolve" in the direction of attachment rather than care. This hypothesis helps to explain both surrogates' general inability to exercise "substituted judgment" on behalf of their loved ones and a wide swath of the particular data regarding this inability (e.g., that surrogates more often err by choosing overtreatment). I conclude by considering possible clinical and philosophical responses to this hypothesis. (shrink)
Many participants in debates about the morality of assisted dying maintain that individuals may only turn to assisted dying as a ‘last resort’, i.e., that a patient ought to be eligible for assisted dying only after she has exhausted certain treatment or care options. Here I argue that this last resort condition is unjustified, that it is in fact wrong to require patients to exhaust a prescribed slate of treatment or care options before being eligible for assisted dying. The last (...) resort condition effectively pits one right of patients, their right to refuse medical treatment or interventions, against another patient right acknowledged by advocates of assisted dying, the right to die. Drawing on an analogy with the legal notion of an unconstitutional condition, I argue that the last resort condition unjustly demands that an arguably more fundamental right—the right to refuse medical treatment or intervention—be foregone in order to acquire a less fundamental right—the right to die. I then address three rationales for the last resort condition and find that they subject individuals to arbitrarily stringent standards for exercising the right to die, standards to which those who seek to end their lives by voluntarily ending life-sustaining treatments are not subject. Subjecting those who seek assisted dying to the last resort condition therefore wrongfully infringes on their right to refuse medical treatment or interventions. (shrink)
Philosophical discussions of the morality of suicide have tended to focus on its justifiability from an agent’s point of view rather than on the justifiability of attempts by others to intervene so as to prevent it. This paper addresses questions of suicide intervention within a broadly Kantian perspective. In such a perspective, a chief task is to determine the motives underlying most suicidal behaviour. Kant wrongly characterizes this motive as one of self-love or the pursuit of happiness. Psychiatric and scientific (...) evidence suggests that suicide is instead motivated by a nihilistic disenchantment with the possibility of happiness which, at its apex, results in the loss of the individual’s conception of her practical identity. Because of this, methods of intervention that appeal to agents’ happiness, while morally benign, will prove ineffective in forestalling suicide. At the same time, more aggressive methods violate the Kantian concern for autonomy. This apparent dilemma can be resolved by seeing suicide intervention as an action undertaken in non-ideal circumstances, where otherwise unjustified manipulation, coercion, or paternalism are morally permitted. (shrink)
Though Kant calls the prohibition against suicide the first duty of human beings to themselves, his arguments for this duty lack his characteristic rigor and systematicity. The lack of a single authoritative Kantian approach to suicide casts doubt on what is generally regarded as an extreme and implausible position, to wit, that not only is suicide wrong in every circumstance, but is among the gravest moral wrongs. Here I try to remedy this lack of systematicity in order to show that (...) Kant's position on suicide is more appealing and credible than it seems at first glance. Kant in fact offers three distinct lines of argument against suicide. The first, the chief argument in his Lectures on Ethics, holds that suicide violates the divine will, for in willing our own deaths we usurp God's right to determine the duration of our existence; as God's property, we are not entitled to end our own lives willfully. The second, rooted in the Groundwork, holds that suicide is incompatible with a system of willed ends conceived analogously with a system of nature, so a maxim to commit suicide cannot be coherently willed as a universal practical principle. The third argument, drawn from the Metaphysics of Morals, holds that because suicide obliterates the rational will from the world, and as the rational will is the source of moral worth, suicide cannot be consistently willed by beings subject to moral requirements. To authorize oneself to take one's own life, Kant claims, is to attempt 'to withdraw from all obligation.' We cannot, under the color of morality, seek to cancel the will that authorizes all obligation in the first place. This third argument is demonstrably superior to the other two in being both more philosophically plausible in its own right and more Kantian in flavor. (shrink)
Kant's claim that the rational will has absolute value or dignity appears to render any prudential suicide morally impermissible. Although the previous appeals of Kantians (e. g., David Velleman) to the notion that pain or mental anguish can compromise dignity and justify prudential suicide are unsuccessful, these appeals suggest three constraints that an adequate Kantian defense of prudential suicide must meet. Here I off er an account that meets these constraints. Central to this account is the contention that some suicidal (...) agents, because they are unable to fashion a rational conception of their own happiness, are diminished with respect to their dignity of humanity, and as a result, lack the pricelessness that makes prudential suicide wrong on a Kantian view. (shrink)
David Boonin has recently argued that although no existing theory of legal punishment provides adequate moral justification for the practice of punishing criminal wrongdoing, compulsory victim restitution (CVR) is a morally justified response to such wrongdoing. Here I argue that Boonin’s thesis is false because CVR is a form of punishment. I first support this claim with an argument that Boonin’s denial that CVR is a form of punishment requires a groundless distinction between a state’s response to a criminal offense (...) and its response to an offender’s failure to comply with the sanctions imposed for that offense. I then suggest that this argument points to a definition of punishment that not only meets Boonin’s own desiderata for a definition of punishment but also implies that CVR is a form of punishment. Finally, I argue that CVR is a form of punishment even under Boonin’s own proposed definition of punishment. -/- . (shrink)
The various jurisdictions worldwide that now legally permit assisted suicide (or voluntary euthanasia) vary concerning the medical conditions needed to be legally eligible for assisted suicide. Some jurisdictions require that an individual be suffering from an unbearable and futile medical condition that cannot be alleviated. Others require that individuals must be suffering from a terminal illness that will result in death within a specified timeframe, such as six months. -/- Popular and academic discourse about assisted suicide paradigmatically focuses on individuals (...) with ‘physical,’ i.e., non-psychiatric medical conditions, such as cancer or AIDS. Here I defend analyses of the notions of unbearable suffering, futility, and terminality that imply that, regardless of which of these medical conditions is invoked, at least some individuals with severe and persistent psychiatric illnesses satisfy these conditions and ought to be classified as legally eligible for assisted suicide. The legal and moral case for a right to assisted suicide is therefore not in principle weaker for the severely psychiatrically disordered than for those with ‘typical’ terminal or futile medical conditions. (shrink)
Much of the literature on the desirability of immortality (inspired by B. Williams) has considered whether the goods of mortal life would be exhausted in an immortal life (whether, i.e., immortality would necessarily end in tedium). However, there has been very little discussion of whether the bads of mortal life would also be exhausted in an immortal life, and more generally, how good immortal life would be on balance, particularly in comparison to a mortal life. Here I argue that there (...) are compelling reasons to favor a mortal over an immortal life because a mortal life offers a higher ceiling for well-being and assigns our agency a greater role in how our lives turn out. (shrink)
This article addresses the question of whether the arguments for a duty to die given by John Hardwig, the most prominent philosophical advocate of such a duty, are sound. Hardwig believes that the duty to die is relatively widespread among those with burdensome illnesses, dependencies, or medical conditions. I argue that although there are rare circumstances in which individuals have a duty to die, the situations Hardwig describes are not among these.After reconstructing Hardwig's argument for such a duty, highlighting his (...) central premise that ill, dependent, or aged individuals can impose unfair burdens upon others by continuing to live, I clarify precisely what Hardwig intends by his thesis that many of us have a duty to die. I then show that an important disanalogy exists between an uncontroversial example in which an individual has a duty to die and the situations in which Hardwig proposes individuals have a duty to die. More specifically, in situations where a duty to die exists, an individual's having a duty to die logically implies that those she burdens have a right to kill that individual in self-defense. I then suggest that the burdens that ill, dependent, or aged individuals impose on their families, loved ones, or caregivers do not constitute the kind of threat that warrants the latter killing the former in self-defense. Hence, the duty to die is much rarer than Hardwig supposes. (shrink)
After establishing that the requirement that those criminals who stand for execution be mentally competent can be given a recognizably retributivist rationale, I suggest that not only it is difficult to show that executing the incompetent is more cruel than executing the competent, but that opposing the execution of the incompetent fits ill with the recent abolitionist efforts on procedural concerns. I then propose two avenues by which abolitionists could incorporate such opposition into their efforts.
Utilitarians are supposed to have difficulty accounting for our obligation to keep promises. But utilitarians also face difficulties concerning our obligation to make promises. Consider any situation in which the options available to me are acts A, B, C… n, and A is utility maximizing. Call A+ the course of action consisting of A plus my promising to perform A. Since there appear to be a wide range of instances in which A+ has greater net utility then A, utilitarianism obligates (...) us to make far more promises than even the most expansive views concerning our obligations to make promises would acknowledge. (shrink)
_Suicide_ was selected as a Choice _Outstanding Academic Title_ for 2012! _Suicide: The Philosophical Dimensions_ is a provocative and comprehensive investigation of the main philosophical issues surrounding suicide. Readers will encounter seminal arguments concerning the nature of suicide and its moral permissibility, the duty to die, the rationality of suicide, and the ethics of suicide intervention. Intended both for students and for seasoned scholars, this book sheds much-needed philosophical light on one of the most puzzling and enigmatic human behaviors.
The traditional debate about moral dilemmas concerns whether there are circumstances in which an agent is subject to two obligations that cannot both be fulfilled. Realists maintain there are. Irrealists deny this. Here I defend an alternative, methodologically-oriented position wherein the denial of genuine moral dilemmas functions as a regulative ideal for moral deliberation and practice. That is, moral inquiry and deliberation operate on the implicit assumption that there are no genuine moral dilemmas. This view is superior to both realism (...) and irrealism in accounting for moral residue and other crucial phenomenological dimensions of our experience of moral dilemmas. (shrink)
What I call medically enabled suicides have four distinctive features: 1. They are instigated by actions of a suicidal individual, actions she intends to result in a physiological condition that, absent lifesaving medical interventions, would be otherwise fatal to that individual. 2. These suicides are ‘completed’ due to medical personnel acting in accordance with recognized legal or ethical protocols requiring the withholding or withdrawal of care from patients (e.g., following an approved advance directive). 3. The suicidal individual acts purposefully to (...) ensure that medical personnel will act on these protocols. 4. These suicides do not involve medical personnel providing aid in dying in the standard sense, either through (a) active voluntary euthanasia, or (b) assistance by means of prescriptions, etc. -/- Regardless of how common medically enabled suicides are, they raise compelling questions at the interface of medicine and individual choice. After first clarifying the concept of medically enabled suicide and exploring some of the reasons why it might be attractive to suicidal individuals, I then investigate two apparent dilemmas that medically enabled suicides raise for medical care providers. The first alleges that medical care providers may not contribute to harming their patients, and so they may not contribute to their patients’ suicides. The second alleges that if care providers, as a matter of personal conscience, believe that suicide is wrong, then they may not be compelled to contribute to their patient’s acting wrongly by assenting to the wishes of a patient pursuing medically enabled suicide. Both dilemmas arise from the fact that while medical personnel are bound by widely accepted precepts of medical ethics to honor the competent wishes of their patients, medically enabled suicides entangle them in their patients’ suicidal plans in ways that result in their contributing to those suicides. I conclude that neither dilemma should be resolved in the direction of medical personnel having the right to refrain from involvement in medically enabled suicides. Thus, while we may find medically enabled suicide distasteful or exploitative, a strong case cannot be made that medical personnel refusing to involve themselves in such suicides is ethically permissible. (shrink)
In “What is Wrong with Rational Suicide,” Pilpel and Amsel develop a counterexample that allegedly confounds attempts to condition the moral permissibility of suicide on its rationality. In this counterexample, a healthy middle aged woman with significant life accomplishments, but no dependents, disease, or mental disorder opts to end her life painlessly after reading philosophical texts that persuade her that life is meaningless and bereft of intrinsic value. Many people would judge her suicide “a bad mistake” despite its meeting “robust” (...) conditions for rationality. Hence, Pilpel and Amsel conclude, even robust conditions for the rationality of suicide “fail to do their job: to exclude intuitively unacceptable suicides from being permissible.” I argue here that this counterexample fails to cast doubt on philosophical attempts to account for the moral permissibility of suicide in terms of its rationality. (shrink)
The achievement of intentional learning is a powerful paradigm for the objectives and methods of the teaching of philosophy. This paradigm sees the objectives and methods of such teaching as based not simply on the mastery of content, but as rooted in attempts to shape the various affective and cognitive factors that influence students’ learning efforts. The goal of such pedagogy is to foster an intentional learning orientation, one characterized by self-awareness, active monitoring of the learning process, and a desire (...) for publicly certified expertise. I provide a number of examples of philosophy-specific teaching strategies that follow this paradigm. (shrink)
Legal statutes prohibiting felons from voting result in nearly 4 million Americans, disproportionately African-American and male, being unable to vote. These felony disenfranchisement (FD) statutes have a long history and apparently enjoy broad public support. Here I argue that despite the popularity and extensive history of these laws, denying felons the right to vote is an unjust form of punishment in a democratic state. FD serves none of the recognized purposes of punishment and may even exacerbate crime. My strategy is (...) not to argue for this conclusion directly. Rather, I consider seven arguments for the moral legitimacy of FD, each of which will be found lacking. My emphasis falls not on the legal or constitutional questions associated with FD, but with its moral justification within a broadly liberal political framework. These arguments draw upon a variety of philosophical outlooks; three justify FD by appealing to justice or desert, three others justify FD based on its allegedly beneficial social consequences, and a final argument is a hybrid of both sorts of considerations. Not only do all these arguments fail, but eliminating FD could have salutary effects on our present climate of political discourse. -/- . (shrink)
abstract Ryan Tonkens proposes that my Kantian approach to suicide intervention with respect to the mentally ill (2002) wrongly assumes that the suicidally mentally ill are rational and are therefore rational agents to whom Kantian moral constraints ought to apply. Here I indicate how the empirical evidence concerning the suicidally mentally ill does not support Tonkens' criticism that the suicidally mentally ill are irrational. In particular, that evidence does not support the conclusion that such individuals are systemically practically irrational so (...) as to undermine the attribution of at least minimal rational autonomy to them. A Kantian moral framework, albeit one developed in a non-ideal direction, remains applicable to such individuals. (shrink)
I here defend my earlier doubts that VM patients serve as counterexamples to motivational internalism by highlighting the difficulties of belief attribution in light of holism about the mental and by suggesting that a better understanding of the role of emotions in the self-attribution of moral belief places my earlier Davidsonian "theory of mind" argument in a clearer light.
Critics often charge that Kantian ethics is implausibly rigoristic: that Kantianism recognizes a set of perfect duties, encapsulated in rules such as ‘don’t lie,’ ‘keep one’s promises,’ etc., and that these rules apply without exception. Though a number of Kantians have plausibly argued that Kantianism can acknowledge exceptions to perfect duties, this acknowledgment alone does not indicate how and when such exceptions ought to be made. This article critiques a recent attempt to motivate how such exceptions are to be made, (...) namely, the constitutive approach developed by Tamar Schapiro. I argue that the constitutive approach is vulnerable to the objection that it is too permissive, justifying many morally dubious exceptions to perfect duties. I conclude by briefly outlining an alternative ‘fine print’ approach to the rigorism objection that appears to avoid the objection leveled at Schapiro’s approach, focusing on how modifying the constituents of agents’ maxims can change the deontic status of an act of a generally impermissible kind. (shrink)
Christine Korsgaard has argued recently that the thesis that reasons are "essentially public" undermines the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons, thus refuting egoism by rejecting its commitment to the universal availability of agent-relative reasons. I conclude that Korsgaard's invocation of the essential publicity of reasons trades on ambiguities concerning the "sharing" of reasons and so does not refute egoism and does not ground moral normativity. Her account of the publicity of reasons shows that solipsism is incoherent, but the egoist (...) need not be a solipsist, nor is she an incompetent user of moral language or the language of reasons. (shrink)
Philosophical defenses of parents’ rights typically appeal to the interests of parents, the interests of children, or some combination of these. Here I propose that at least in the case of biological, non-adoptive parents, these rights have a different normative basis: namely, these rights should be accorded to biological parents because of the compensatory duties such parents owe their children by virtue of having brought them into existence. Inspried by Seana Shiffrin, I argue that procreation inevitably encumbers the wills of (...) children in otherwise morally objectionable ways. Such subjection generates duties to compensate children, even if the child’s life is on balance a benefit to her. The right to procreate is thus conditioned on prospective parent’s willingness to compensate for the harms of procreation. And because parents bear such compensatory duties, they must be accorded permissions (i.e., rights) to fulfill these duties. These rights include familiar exclusionary rights to promote children’s welfare, etc. Moreover, because subjecting children to harms or the risks thereof violates their autonomy, parental duties (and rights) include the provision of education and other goods that enable their subsequent autonomy as adults. Grounding parental rights in compensatory procreative duties avoids problems associated with appeals to the interests of children (e.g., that these interests do not seem to generate exclusive parental rights) or to the interests of parents (e.g., that these interests do not appear strong enough to permit the creation of a new, vulnerable human individual). (shrink)
Conservatives commonly claim that systems of formal education are biased against conservative ideology. I argue that this claim is incorrect, but not because there is no bias against conservatives in formal education. A wide swath of psychological evidence linking personality and ideology indicates that conservatives and liberals differ in their learning orientations, that is, in the values, motivations, and beliefs they bring to learning tasks. These differences in operative epistemologies explain many demographic phenomena relating educational achievement and political ideology. Systems (...) of formal education thus disadvantage conservatives, especially in the later stages of formal education. Conservatives are therefore ‘selected against’ in the process of formal education, not due to their values or ideology but because their learning orientations are not especially conducive to academic success beyond a certain point. However, because the bias against conservatives in not ideological in origin, a case cannot be made that conservatives are victims of institutional injustice. This bias against conservatives in formal education could be mitigated were the purposes of formal education radically modified (the education of the military class in Plato’s Republic serves as a model). But such a model of formal education would ill serve the needs of modern, industrialized, information-driven societies. (shrink)
In “On duties to oneself,” Marcus G. Singer argued that, contrary to long established philosophical tradition, there are no duties to oneself. Singer observes that to have a duty is to be accountable to someone for that duty’s fulfillment, and while she to whom a duty is owed may release the person who has the duty from being bound to fulfill it, the latter cannot release herself from the duty. For releasing oneself from a duty is no different from simply (...) opting not to fulfill it, which would make the duty no more than a mere option and rob it of its categorical character. Singer thus argues that (a) A has a duty against herself; (b) if A has a duty against herself, then A is accountable to herself for the duty’s performance; (c) if A has a duty against herself, A can release herself from the duty; and (d) because a person is accountable to the individual owed the duty for its fulfillment, no one can release herself from an obligation, form an inconsistent set. (shrink)
T.M. Scanlon (1998) proposes that promise breaking is wrong because it shows manipulative disregard for the expectations for future behavior created by promising. I argue that this account of promissory obligation is mistaken in it own right, as well as being at odds with Scanlon's contractualism. I begin by placing Scanlon's account of promising within a tradition that treats the creation of expectations in promise recipients as central to promissory obligation. However, a counterexample to Scanlon's account, his case of the (...) "Profligate Pal," will show that this view of promissory obligation, which I call the Expectations View, is incorrect. In its place, I propose an account of promissory obligation I call Promising as Accountability, according to which promising is a way of making oneself accountable to others for a future act. Not only is Promising as Accountability a more defensible approach to promissory obligation, it also better fits with certain general features of Scanlon's contractualism. (shrink)
Learning is any process that, by engaging with a person's rational powers, results in an improvement in that person's knowledge, skills, behaviors, or values. Learning can of course occur unaided. Teaching, however, is the deliberate effort to induce learning in another person. The ethics of teaching, then, addresses the ethical standards, values, or traits that govern deliberate efforts to induce learning in others.
Samuel Scheffler has recently defended what he calls the ‘afterlife conjecture’, the claim that many of our evaluative attitudes and practices rest on the assumption that human beings will continue to exist after we die. Scheffler contends that our endorsement of this claim reveals that our evaluative orientation has four features: non-experientialism, non-consequentialism, ‘conservatism,’ and future orientation. Here I argue that the connection between the afterlife conjecture and these four features is not as tight as Scheffler seems to suppose. In (...) fact, those with an evaluative orientation that rejects these four features have equally strong moral reasons to endorse the existence of the collective afterlife. (shrink)