Consider the following situation. It is the first day of school, and the new third-grade students file into the classroom to be shown to their seats for the coming year. As they enter, the third-grade teacher notices one small boy who is particularly unkempt. He looks to be in desperate need of bathing, and his clothes are dirty, torn and tight-fitting. During recess, the teacher pulls aside the boy's previous teacher and asks about his wretched condition. The other teacher informs (...) her that he always looks that way, even though the boy's family is quite wealthy. The reason he appears as he does, she continues, is that the family observes an odd practice according to which the children do not receive many important things – food, clothing, bathing, even shelter – unless they specifically request them. Since the boy, like many third-graders, has little interest in bathing and clean clothes, he just never asks for them. (shrink)
The idea that immoral behaviour can sometimes be admirable, and that moral behaviour can sometimes be less than admirable, has led several of its supporters to infer that moral considerations are not always overriding, contrary to what has been traditionally maintained. In this paper I shall challenge this inference. My purpose in doing so is to expose and acknowledge something that has been inadequately appreciated, namely, the moral aspect of nonmoral goods and evils. I hope thereby to show that, even (...) if immorality can be admirable, this poses no threat to morality. (shrink)
The Free Will Defence has been attacked as being unsound, implausible and, more recently, irrelevant. The first section of the paper returns to a discussion on the relevance of the Free Will Defence, arguing that the case for its irrelevance is inextricably impaled on the horns of a dilemma. In the second section it is shown that Free Will Theodicy, even in a form extended to include natural evil, need not be as implausible as it is sometimes portrayed for it (...) demands no more than that good, on the whole, outweighs evil, on the whole. Finally, some tempting objections to the strategy employed in this argument are considered and rejected, both on the grounds that they are untenable in themselves and on the paradoxical ground that, if valid, the objections would appear to rule out any creation. (shrink)
_Metaphysics: A Contemporary Introduction_ is for students who have already completed an introductory philosophy course and need a fresh look at the central topics in the core subject of metaphysics. It is essential reading for any student of the subject. This Fourth Edition is revised and updated and includes two new chapters on Parts and Wholes, and Metaphysical Indeterminacy or vagueness. This new edition also keeps the user-friendly format, the chapter overviews summarizing the main topics, concrete examples to clarify difficult (...) concepts, annotated further reading at the end of each chapter, endnotes, and a full bibliography. Topics addressed include: the problem of universals the nature of abstract entities the problem of individuation the nature of modality identity through time the nature of time the nature of parts and wholes the problem of metaphysical indeterminacy the Realism/anti-Realism debate. Wherever possible, Michael J. Loux and Thomas M. Crisp relate contemporary views to their classical sources in the history of philosophy. As experienced teachers of philosophy and important contributors to recent debates, Loux and Crisp are uniquely qualified to write this book. (shrink)
Michael J. Zimmerman explores whether and how our ignorance about ourselves and our circumstances affects what our moral obligations and moral rights are. He rejects objective and subjective views of the nature of moral obligation, and presents a new case for a 'prospective' view.
Introduction: Doing the right thing -- Utilitarianism : Bentham and J.S. Mill -- Libertarianism -- John Locke -- Markets and morals -- Immanuel Kant -- John Rawls -- Affirmative action -- Aristotle -- Liberals and communitarians -- Conclusion: Reconnecting politics and morals.
This essay focuses on a recently prominent notion of ground which is distinctive for how it links metaphysics to explanation. Ground is supposed to serve both as the common factor in diverse in virtue of questions as well as the structuring relation in the project of explaining how some phenomena are “built” from more fundamental phenomena. My aim is to provide an opinionated synopsis of this notion of ground without engaging with others. Ground, so understood, generally resists illumination by appeal (...) to more familiar models of explanation. Nevertheless, its distinctive explanatory and metaphysical aspects guide us on characterizing its explanatory logic and its metaphysical features. Some issues concerning the meta-question of what grounds ground are explored, as well as some recent skeptical challenges to ground. (shrink)
Every choice we make is set against a background of massive ignorance about our past, our future, our circumstances, and ourselves. Philosophers are divided on the moral significance of such ignorance. Some say that it has a direct impact on how we ought to behave - the question of what our moral obligations are; others deny this, claiming that it only affects how we ought to be judged in light of the behaviour in which we choose to engage - the (...) question of what responsibility we bear for our choices. Michael Zimmerman claims that our ignorance has an important bearing on both questions, and offers an account of moral obligation and moral responsibility that is sharply at odds with the prevailing wisdom. His book will be of interest to a wide range of readers in ethics. (shrink)
Intrinsic value has traditionally been thought to lie at the heart of ethics. Philosophers use a number of terms to refer to such value. The intrinsic value of something is said to be the value that that thing has “in itself,” or “for its own sake,” or “as such,” or “in its own right.” Extrinsic value is value that is not intrinsic.
A liberal society seeks not to impose a single way of life, but to leave its citizens as free as possible to choose their own values and ends. It therefore must govern by principles of justice that do not presuppose any particular vision of the good life. But can any such principles be found? And if not, what are the consequences for justice as a moral and political ideal? These are the questions Michael Sandel takes up in this penetrating (...) critique of contemporary liberalism. Sandel locates modern liberalism in the tradition of Kant, and focuses on its most influential recent expression in the work of John Rawls. In the most important challenge yet to Rawls' theory of justice, Sandel traces the limits of liberalism to the conception of the person that underlies it, and argues for a deeper understanding of community than liberalism allows. (shrink)
I defend (metaphysical) ground against recent, unanswered objections aiming to dismiss it from serious philosophical inquiry. Interest in ground stems from its role in the venerable metaphysical project of identifying which facts hold in virtue of others. Recent work on ground focuses on regimenting it. But many reject ground itself, seeing regimentation as yet another misguided attempt to regiment a bad idea (like phlogiston or astrology). I defend ground directly against objections that it is confused, incoherent, or fruitless. This vindicates (...) the very attempt to regiment ground. It also refocuses our attention on the genuine open questions about ground and away from the distracting, unpersuasive reasons for dismissing them. (shrink)
Interest surges in a distinctively metaphysical notion of ground. But a Schism has emerged between Orthodoxy’s view of ground as inducing a strict partial order structure on reality and Heresy’s rejection of this view. What’s at stake is the structure of reality (for proponents of ground), or even ground itself (for those who think this Schism casts doubt upon its coherence). I defend Orthodoxy against Heresy.
The principal aim of this book is to develop and defend an analysis of the concept of moral obligation. The analysis is neutral regarding competing substantive theories of obligation, whether consequentialist or deontological in character. What it seeks to do is generate solutions to a range of philosophical problems concerning obligation and its application. Amongst these problems are deontic paradoxes, the supersession of obligation, conditional obligation, prima facie obligation, actualism and possibilism, dilemmas, supererogation, and cooperation. By virtue of its normative (...) neutrality, the analysis provides a theoretical framework within which competing theories of obligation can be developed and assessed. This study is a major contribution to metaethics that will be of particular interest to all philosophers concerned with normative ethical theory. (shrink)
A commonly held view is that a central aim of metaphysics is to give a fundamental account of reality which refers only to the fundamental entities. But a puzzle arises. It is at least a working hypothesis for those pursuing the aim that, first, there must be fundamental entities. But, second, it also seems possible that the world has no foundation, with each entity depending on others. These two claims are inconsistent with the widely held third claim that the fundamental (...) just is the foundational. It is tempting to resolve the puzzle by rejecting the first or second claim, perhaps because it is obscure how the third claim might plausibly be challenged. But I develop a new analysis of fundamentality which challenges the third claim by allowing for an entity to be fundamental without being foundational. The analysis, roughly, is that an entity is fundamental just in case not all facts about it are grounded in facts about other entities. The possibility of fundamentality without foundations not only provides for a novel resolution to the puzzle, but has applications to some live debates: for example, it undermines Jonathan Schaffer's modal argument for priority monism. (shrink)
In this essay I elaborate a particular, and particularly important, morality: the morality of human rights. Next, I ask the ground-of-normativity question about the morality of human rights and go on to elaborate a religious response. Then, after explaining why one might be skeptical that there is a plausible secular response to the ground-of-normativity question, I comment critically on John Finnis's secular response. Finally, I consider what difference it makes if there is no plausible secular response to the ground-of-normativity question.
At the heart of ethics reside the concepts of good and bad; they are at work when we assess whether a person is virtuous or vicious, an act right or wrong, a decision defensible or indefensible, a goal desirable or undesirable. But there are many varieties of goodness and badness. At their core lie intrinsic goodness and badness, the sort of value that something has for its own sake. It is in virtue of intrinsic value that other types of value (...) may be understood, and hence that we can begin to come to terms with questions of virtue and vice, right and wrong, and so on. This book investigates the nature of intrinsic value: just what it is for something to be valuable for its own sake, just what sort of thing can have such value, just how such a value is to be computed. In the final chapter, the fruits of this investigation are applied to a discussion of pleasure, pain, and displeasure and also of moral virtue and vice, in order to determine just what value lies within these phenomena. (shrink)
This superbly crafted account of the notion of moral responsibility and of its relations to freedom, control, ignorance, negligence, attempts, omissions, compulsion, mental disorders, virtues and vices, desert, and punishment fills that gap. The treatment of character and luck is particularly sophisticated and well-argued.
The following argument is addressed: (1) a person is morally responsible for an event's occurring only if that event's occurring was not a matter of luck; (2) no event is such that its occurring is not a matter of luck; therefore, (3) no event is such that someone is morally responsible for its occurring. Two notions of control are distinguished: restricted and complete. (2) is shown false on the first interpretation, (1) on the second. The discussion involves a distinction between (...) resultant and situational luck, And it is argued that, Even when luck's role in life, And the unfairness that stems from it, Is acknowledged, Moral responsibility remains possible. (shrink)
In _The Immorality of Punishment_ Michael Zimmerman argues forcefully that not only our current practice but indeed any practice of legal punishment is deeply morally repugnant, no matter how vile the behaviour that is its target. Despite the fact that it may be difficult to imagine a state functioning at all, let alone well, without having recourse to punishing those who break its laws, Zimmerman makes a timely and compelling case for the view that we must seek and put (...) into practice alternative means of preventing crime and promoting social stability. (shrink)
Sceptical theists--e.g., William Alston and Michael Bergmann--have claimed that considerations concerning human cognitive limitations are alone sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil. We argue that, if the considerations deployed by sceptical theists are sufficient to undermine evidential arguments from evil, then those considerations are also sufficient to undermine inferences that play a crucial role in ordinary moral reasoning. If cogent, our argument suffices to discredit sceptical theist responses to evidential arguments from evil.
There has been much recent interest in a distinctively metaphysical kind of determinative explanation: ground. This paper concerns various skeptical challenges to ground’s relevance to metaphysics, such as that it is an empty posit, that the work it is supposed to do is appropriated by other notions, and that it is inapt for specific issues it should serve. I argue against these challenges. My strategy is both critical and constructive. Critical because I argue that versions of these challenges raised by (...) Elizabeth Barnes, Kathrin Koslicki, Mari Mikkola, and Jessica Wilson are not persuasive. Constructive because we may nevertheless learn from them new work for ground. (shrink)
The right-wing populism ascendant today is a symptom of the failure of progressive politics. Central to this failure is the uncritical embrace of a neo-liberal version of globalization that benefits those at the top but leaves ordinary citizens feeling disempowered. Progressive parties are unlikely to win back public support unless they learn from the populist protest that has displaced them —not by replicating its xenophobia and strident nationalism, but by taking seriously the legitimate grievances with which these ugly sentiments are (...) entangled. These grievances are not only economic but also moral and cultural; they are not only about wages and jobs but also about social esteem. (shrink)
I propose a theory of domination derived from republican political theory that is in contrast to the neo-republican theory of domination as arbitrary interference and domination as dependence. I suggest that, drawing on of the writings of Machiavelli and Rousseau, we can see two faces of domination that come together to inform social relations. One type of domination is extractive dominance where agents are able to derive surplus benefit from another individual, group, or collective resource, natural or human. Another is (...) what I call constitutive domination where the norms, institutions, and values of the community shape the rationality of subjects to accept forms of power and social relations and collective goals as legitimate forms of authority. Each of these make up two faces of a broader theory of social domination that is more concrete and politically compelling than that put forth by contemporary neo-republican theory. I argue that this understanding of domination should be seen as a kind of ‘radical... (shrink)
Researchers typically define animal signaling as morphology or behavior specialized for transmitting encoded information from a signaler to a perceiver. Although intuitively appealing, this conception is inherently metaphorical and leaves concepts of both information and encoding undefined. To justify relying on the information construct, theorists often appeal to Shannon and Weaver’s quantitative definition. The two approaches are, however, fundamentally at odds. The predominant definition of animal signaling is thus untenable, which has a number of undesirable consequences for both theory and (...) practice in the field. Theoretical problems include conceptual circularity and running afoul of fundamental evolutionary principles. Problems in empirical work include that research is often grounded in abstractions such as signal honesty and semanticity, and thereby distracted from more basic and concrete factors shaping communication. A revised definition is therefore proposed, making influence rather than transmission of encoded information the central function of animal signaling. This definition is conceptually sound, empirically testable, and inclusive, yet bounded. Implications are considered in both theoretical and empirical domains. (shrink)
Many philosophers hold that whether an act is overall morally obligatory is an ‘objective’ matter, many that it is a ‘subjective’ matter, and some that it is both. The idea that it is or can be both may seem to promise a helpful answer to the question ‘What ought I to do when I do not know what I ought to do?’ In this article, three broad views are distinguished regarding what it is that obligation essentially concerns: the maximization of (...) actual value, the maximization of expected value, and the perceived maximization of actual value. The first and third views are rejected; the second view is then refined and defended. The unfortunate upshot is that there may be no very helpful answer to the question just mentioned. As to the question posed in the title of the article, the answer unsurprisingly depends on what ‘objective’ and ‘subjective’ are taken to mean. (Published Online November 24 2006). (shrink)
This seminal collection on the ethical issues associated with infectious disease is the first book to correct bioethics’ glaring neglect of this subject. Timely in view of public concern about SARS, AIDS, avian flu, bioterrorism and antibiotic resistance. Brings together new and classic papers by prominent figures. Tackles the ethical issues associated with issues such as quarantine, vaccination policy, pandemic planning, biodefense, wildlife disease and health care in developing countries.
This book presents a detailed analysis of three ancient models of spatial magnitude, time, and local motion. The Aristotelian model is presented as an application of the ancient, geometrically orthodox conception of extension to the physical world. The other two models, which represent departures from mathematical orthodoxy, are a "quantum" model of spatial magnitude, and a Stoic model, according to which limit entities such as points, edges, and surfaces do not exist in (physical) reality. The book is unique in its (...) discussion of these ancient models within the context of later philosophical, scientific, and mathematical developments. (shrink)
A critique of contemporary critical theory that traces transformative shifts in the discipline during the twentieth century and argues for a reformulation of critical theory in order to ensure the legacy of its political project.
Is logic out of this world? This elusive question reveals a tension in our thinking about the basis of logic: both worldly and unworldly answers get something right and yet they conflict. My aim is to clarify the question and explore a conciliatory answer. I focus on a characterization of unworldliness in terms of ground. This allows for a distinction between proximal and distal unworldliness. That in turn reconfigures our approach to the question. It may now be taken as asking (...) for the proximal or the distal basis of logic. This helps alleviate the tension because the answer for the one needn’t conflict with a different answer for the other. I explore a case study culminating in an illustration of how a logical truth may indeed be proximally worldly but distally unworldly. I conclude by considering some potential extensions. (shrink)
The fitting-attitudes analysis of value, which states that something's being good consists in its being the fitting object of some pro-attitude, has recently been the focus of intense debate. Many objections have been levelled against this analysis. One objection to it concerns the ‘challenge from partiality’, according to which it can be fitting to display partiality toward objects of equal value. Several responses to the challenge have been proposed. This paper criticizes these and other responses and then offers a response (...) that, it is claimed, solves the challenge. (shrink)