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)
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.
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.
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)
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)
This paper considers three general views about the nature of moral obligation and three particular answers concerning the following question: if on Monday you lend me a book that I promise to return to you by Friday, what precisely is my obligation to you and what constitutes its fulfillment? The example is borrowed from W.D. Ross, who in The Right and the Good proposed what he called the Objective View of obligation, from which he inferred what is here called the (...) First Answer to the question. In Foundations of Ethics Ross repudiated the Objective View in favor of the Subjective View, from which he inferred a Second Answer. In this paper each of the Objective and Subjective Views and the First and Second Answers are rejected in favor of the Prospective View and a Third Answer. The implications of the Prospective View for another question closely related to the original question are then investigated: what precisely is your right regarding my returning the book and what constitutes its satisfaction? (shrink)
Many writers accept the following thesis about responsibility: (R) For one to be responsible for something is for one to be such that it is fitting that one be the object of some reactive attitude with respect to that thing. This thesis bears a striking resemblance to a thesis about value that is also accepted by many writers: (V) For something to be good (or neutral, or bad) is for it to be such that it is fitting that it be (...) the object of some pro-attitude (or indifference, or some contra-attitude). V has been the subject of intense debate in recent years, in part because of its incorporation into what has come to be called the “buck-passing” account of value. In particular, V is open to three challenges: that it is not necessarily the case that whatever is good is the fitting object of a pro-attitude; that it is not necessarily the case that whatever is the fitting object of a pro-attitude is good; and that, even if there is a strict equivalence between what is good and what is the fitting object of a pro-attitude, still the former is not to be analyzed in terms of the latter. The resemblance between V and R has not been previously commented on, but, once it is recognized, it is clear that R is open to challenges that resemble those to which V is vulnerable. This paper explores both the challenges to V and the parallel challenges to R and discusses responses that may be given to these challenges. The interrelation between V and R is then examined, and a general lesson is drawn concerning how to adjudicate disputes about the nature of moral responsibility. (shrink)
"Writing in a lively and refreshingly clear American English, Zimmerman provides an uncompromisingly honest and judicious account... of Heidegger’s views on technology and his involvement with National Socialism.... One of the most important books on Heidegger in recent years." —John D. Caputo "... superb... " —Thomas Sheehan, The New York Review of Books "... thorough and complex... " —Choice "... excellent guide to Heidegger as eco-philosopher." —Radical Philosophy "... engrossing, rich in substance... makes clear Heidegger's importance for the issue of (...) technology, ethics, and politics." —Religious Studies Review The relation between Martin Heidegger’s understanding of technology and his affiliation with and conception of National Socialism is the leading idea of this fascinating and revealing book. Zimmerman shows that the key to the relation between Heidegger’s philosophy and his politics was his concern with the nature of working and production. (shrink)
Recent Work on Intrinsic Value brings together for the first time many of the most important and influential writings on the topic of intrinsic value to have appeared in the last half-century. During this period, inquiry into the nature of intrinsic value has intensified to such an extent that at the moment it is one of the hottest topics in the field of theoretical ethics. The contributions to this volume have been selected in such a way that all of the (...) fundamental questions concerning the nature of intrinsic value are treated in depth and from a variety of viewpoints. These questions include how to understand the concept of intrinsic value, what sorts of things can have intrinsic value, and how to compute intrinsic value. The editors have added an introduction that ties these questions together and places the contributions in context, and they have also provided an extensive bibliography. The result is a comprehensive, balanced, and detailed picture of current thinking about intrinsic value, one that provides an indispensable backdrop against which future writings on the topic may be assessed. (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.
There has been considerable debate regarding the relative merits of two theses about moral obligation known as actualism and possibilism. Both theses seek to give expression to the general idea that one ought to do the best one can. According to actualism, one’s obligations turn on what would happen if one chose some course of action, whereas, according to possibilism, they turn on what could happen if one chose some course of action. There are two strands to the debate: the (...) substantive verdicts that the two theses render in particular cases, and the accounts that they yield of the conceptual structure of moral obligation. Possibilism is conceptually appealing, whereas actualism is not, but the latter may seem to render superior substantive verdicts. In this paper, it is argued that, by turning from the objectivist’s emphasis on what is actually best to the prospectivist’s emphasis on what one’s evidence indicates is best, possibilists can provide an account of moral obligation that is both conceptually and substantively attractive. (shrink)
The volume documents, and makes an original contribution to, an astonishing period in twentieth-century philosophy—the progress of Arne Naess's ecophilosophy from its inception to the present. It includes Naess's most crucial polemics with leading thinkers, drawn from sources as diverse as scholarly articles, correspondence, TV interviews and unpublished exchanges. The book testifies to the skeptical and self-correcting aspects of Naess's vision, which has deepened and broadened to include third world and feminist perspectives. Philosophical Dialogues is an essential addition to the (...) literature on environmental philosophy. (shrink)
The ancient question of what a good life consists in is currently the focus of intense debate. There are two aspects to this debate: the first concerns how the concept of a good life is to be understood; the second concerns what kinds of life fall within the extension of this concept. In this paper, I will attend only to the first, conceptual aspect and not to the second, substantive aspect. More precisely, I will address the preliminary, underlying question of (...) how to understand what it is in general for something to be good for someone, from which an understanding of the more particular concept of a good life may be derived. (shrink)
Many philosophers endorse the idea that there can be no moral responsibility without a moral community and thus hold that such responsibility is essentially interpersonal. In this paper, various interpretations of this idea are distinguished, and it is argued that no interpretation of it captures a significant truth. The popular view that moral responsibility consists in answerability is discussed and dismissed. The even more popular view that such responsibility consists in susceptibility to the reactive attitudes is also discussed, and it (...) is argued that this view at best supports only an etiolated interpretation of the idea that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal. (shrink)
Deep ecologists have criticized reform environmentalists for not being sufficiently radical in their attempts to curb human exploitation of the nonhuman world. Ecofeminists, however, maintain that deep ecologists, too, are not sufficiently radical, for they have neglected the cmcial role played by patriarchalism in shaping the cultural categories responsible for Western humanity’s domination of Nature. According to eco-feminists, only by replacing those categories-including atomism, hierarchalism, dualism, and androcentrism - can humanity learn to dweIl in harmony with nonhuman beings. After reviewing (...) the eco-feminist critique both of reform environmentalism and of deep ecology, I sketch a critical dialogue between eco-feminism and deep ecology. (shrink)
Radical ecology typically brings to mind media images of ecological activists standing before loggers' saws, staging anti-nuclear marches, and confronting polluters on the high seas. Yet for more than twenty years, the activities of organizations such as the Greens and Earth First! have been influenced by a diverse, less-publicized group of radical ecological philosophers. It is their work—the philosophical underpinnings of the radical ecological movement—that is the subject of _Contesting Earth's Future_. The book offers a much-needed, balanced appraisal of radical (...) ecology's principles, goals, and limitations. Michael Zimmerman critically examines the movement's three major branches—deep ecology, social ecology, and ecofeminism. He also situates radical ecology within the complex cultural and political terrain of the late twentieth century, showing its relation to Martin Heidegger's anti-technological thought, 1960s counterculturalism, and contemporary theories of poststructuralism and postmodernity. An early and influential ecological thinker, Zimmerman is uniquely qualified to provide a broad overview of radical environmentalism and delineate its various schools of thought. He clearly describes their defining arguments and internecine disputes, among them the charge that deep ecology is an anti-modern, proto-fascist ideology. Reflecting both the movement's promise and its dangers, this book is essential reading for all those concerned with the worldwide ecological crisis. (shrink)
Ray Kurzweil and others have posited that the confluence of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence, robotics, and genetic engineering will soon produce posthuman beings that will far surpass us in power and intelligence. Just as black holes constitute a ldquo;singularityrdquo; from which no information can escape, posthumans will constitute a ldquo;singularity:rdquo; whose aims and capacities lie beyond our ken. I argue that technological posthumanists, whether wittingly or unwittingly, draw upon the long-standing Christian discourse of ldquo;theosis,rdquo; according to which humans are capable of (...) being God or god-like. From St. Paul and Luther to Hegel and Kurzweil, the idea of human self-deification plays a prominent role. Hegel in particular emphasizes that God becomes wholly actualized only in the process by which humanity achieves absolute consciousness. Kurzweil agrees that God becomes fully actual only through historical processes that illuminate and thus transform the entire universe. The difference is that for Kurzweil and many other posthumanists, our offspringmdash;the posthumansmdash;will carry out this extraordinary process. What will happen to Home sapiens in the meantime is a daunting question. (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)
Recently several philosophers have argued that environmental reform movements cannot halt humankind’s destruction of the biosphere because they still operate within the anthropocentric humanism that forms the root of the ecological crisis. According to “radical” environmentalists, disaster can be averted only if we adopt a nonanthropocentric understanding of reality that teaches us to live harmoniouslyon the Earth. Martin Heidegger agrees that humanism leads human beings beyond their proper limits while forcing other beings beyond their limits as weIl. The doctrine of (...) the “rights of man” justifies human exploitation of nonhuman beings. Paradoxically, however, the doctrine of rights for nonhuman beings does not escape the orbit of humanism. According to Heidegger, a nonanthropocentric conception of humanity and its relation to nature must go beyond the doctrine of rights. We can dweIl harmoniously on Earth only by submitting to our primary obligation: to be open for the Being of beings. We need a new way of understanding Being, a new ethos, that lets beings manifest themselves not merely as objects for human ends, but as intrinsically important. Heidegger calls this ethos the “fourfold” of earth and sky, gods and mortals. Humanists argue that Heidegger is wrong to abandon the principle of human rights in favor of the notion that we are obligated to “let beings be,” while some radical environmentalists accuse hirn of being a humanist because he supposedly overestimates the importance of humankind’s ability to speak. Heidegger insists, however, that language makes possible culture, without which thereis no human experience of nature. An environmentally sound ethos. can arise, according to Heidegger, only from a shift within the cultural heritage of the West. Richard Rorty agrees that we must become open for a new “conversation” with the West, even if this requires abandoning traditionally important fields such as epistemology. The need to develop a new understanding of Being is so great that thinkers from the analytic and continental traditions of philosophy are finally initiating a long-overdue dialogue. (shrink)
This paper argues that Moore's principle of organic unities is false. Advocates of the principle have failed to take note of the distinction between actual intrinsic value and virtual intrinsic value. Purported cases of organic unities, where the actual intrinsic value of a part of a whole is allegedly defeated by the actual intrinsic value of the whole itself, are more plausibly seen as cases where the part in question has no actual intrinsic value but instead a plurality of merely (...) virtual intrinsic values. (shrink)
Kent Bach has argued that certain traditional problems of action theory (conceming the individuation of actions, their timing, their location, and the manner in which they enter into causal relations) arise only on the supposition that actions are events, and he has argued further that actions are not events. In this paper these arguments are examined and rejected.
Recent disclosures regarding the relationship between Heidegger’s thought and his own version of National Socialism have led me to rethink my earlier efforts to portray Heidegger as a forerunner of deep ecology. His political problems have provided ammunition for critics, such as Murray Bookchin, who regard deep ecology as a reactionary movement. In this essay, I argue that, despite some similarities, Heidegger’s thought and deep ecology are in many ways incompatible, in part because deep ecologists—in spite of their criticism of (...) the ecologically destructive character of technological modernity—generally support a “progressive” idea of human evolution. (shrink)