What determines whether an action is right or wrong? Morality, Rules, and Consequences: A Critical Reader explores for students and researchers the relationship between consequentialist theory and moral rules. Most of the chapters focus on rule consequentialism or on the distinction between act and rule versions of consequentialism. Contributors, among them the leading philosophers in the discipline, suggest ways of assessing whether rule consequentialism could be a satisfactory moral theory. These essays, all of which are previously unpublished, provide students in (...) moral philosophy with essential material and ask key questions on just what the criteria for an adequate moral theory might be. (shrink)
This paper has a threefold purpose: to question the adequacy of two familiar proposals for explaining the permissibility of harming others in self-defense, to suggest an alternative explanation, and to answer some objections to this latter explanation. By and large, discussions of the proposals whose adequacy I will question focus on what they imply about the permissibility of self-defense in controversial cases. I will argue here that the proposals themselves contain large and significant theoretical gaps. Accordingly, examining their implications for (...) controversial cases is premature, since they don’t adequately explain permissible self-defense in even the clearest cases—that is, those in which people defend themselves against “culpable attackers”. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer objections to an approach to formulating principles referring to moral rights that has come to known as “specification.” These objections focus on rights-principles in their role as premises of inferences to conclusions regarding the moral rights of individuals in particular situations. I argue on practical grounds that specified principles have no useful role to play in such inferences, and on theoretical grounds that the specificationist position is self-defeating. This latter argument also suggests an interpretation of (...) rights principles that avoids the objections to which specification is vulnerable. (shrink)
Although people generally agree that innocent targets of culpable aggression are justified in harming the aggressors in self-defence, there is considerable disagreement regarding whether innocents are justified in defending themselves when their doing so would harm other innocent people. I argue in this essay that harming innocent aggressors and active innocent threats in self-defence is indeed justified under certain conditions, but that defensive actions in such cases are justified as permissions rather than as claim rights. This justification therefore differs from (...) that of self-defence against culpable aggressors, since defensive acts of the latter type are justified as claim rights rather than mere permissions. I argue, however, that the two justifications are alike in that both rest on considerations of distributive justice. (shrink)
Discussions of the ethics of war commonly – and reasonably – assume that defensive wars are morally justified if any wars are. They also assume that explanations of why defensive warfare is morally justified must be based on principles that also explain the moral justifiability of individual self-defense. David Rodin has recently argued that the second of these assumptions is mistaken, and he has developed an alternative account of the morality of defensive warfare. The purpose of this paper is to (...) show that Rodin’s argument fails, and to explain how defensive warfare can indeed be justified in terms of principles that also apply to individual self-defense. (shrink)
A basic component of moral objections to embryonic stem cell research is the claim that human embryos have the same moral status as typical adult human beings. There is no reason to accept this claim, however, unless adult humans once existed as embryos—that is, unless the developmental history of adult humans contains embryos to which the adults are numerically identical. The purpose of this paper is to argue that there are no such identities, and hence that no adult human being (...) ever existed as an embryo. (shrink)
Even the most ardent defenders of a legal right to freedom of the press are likely to regard this right as having limitations; but how precisely the right should be limited is a matter of considerable disagreement. This issue is at least partly moral in character: it concerns the moral acceptability of laws which regulate or protect the activities of members of the press. I propose here to address this moral issue, and to do so within the broader framework of (...) considering whether establishing a legal right to freedom of the press—regardless of how it might be limited—is justifiable on moral grounds. In pursuing this investigation, I will devote special attention to familiar claims about the relation between press rights on the one hand, and “the people's right to know” on the other. (shrink)
ABSTRACT This paper is a reply to three objections raised by Seumas Miller against a ‘forced‐choice’account of the morality of self‐defence. It is argued that Miller's first objection rests on a misconception of how the forced‐choice account is supposed to work; that his second objection is simply mistaken; and that his third objection overlooks how the forced‐choice account explicitly accommodates the moral difference between self‐defence and ‘other‐defence.’Finally, it is suggested that Miller's entire approach is defective in its failure to examine (...) the principle of justice which underlies the forced‐choice account, and whether it applies to standard self‐defence situations. (shrink)
Arguments aimed at undermining certain accounts of the grounds of political obligations—no matter how successful they may be—fall far short of demonstrating that there are no such obligations. Doubts about the efficacy of these arguments in this latter regard seem even more justified when it is recognized that parallel lines of reasoning can be developed in the area of filial obligations , which arguments provide rather less than conclusive reasons for denying that there are filial obligations .Furthermore, we have good (...) reason to believe that there are political obligations if patriotism is a virtue, and also that patriotism is indeed a virtue. We therefore have a basis on which to affirm the existence of political obligations—a basis whose soundness is independent of the acceptability of particular accounts of the grounds of political obligation. Hence, even if standard accounts of the grounds of political obligations are problematic in certain respects, we should not regard this consideration as capable by itself of establishing that there are no such obligations. (shrink)
You and I are neighbors, with our houses situated closely together. You lead a group of rock musicians who can practice only in the evenings in your backyard; while I, on the other hand, enjoy nothing more than quiet evenings spent on my porch accompanied by the sounds of frogs and crickets. Presumably, you have a right to pursue your musical career, and I have a right quietly to enjoy my property. If we do indeed have these rights, however, then (...) they seem to conflict with each other, in that your exercising your right is incompatible with my exercising mine. (shrink)
This paper is about certain of the ways in which rights and liberties are interrelated. It is also about the distinction between "prima facie" and "on balance" rights. Although philosophers concerned with the former issue commonly reject the notion of a prima facie right or ignore it entirely, I argue that an adequate account of how rights are related to liberties must rest on the idea that some rights are only prima facie.
This paper is a rejoinder to Thaddeus Metz’s article “Censure Theory Still Best Accounts for Punishment of the Guilty: Reply to Montague.” In his article, Metz attempts to answer objections to censure theory that I had raised previously. I argue in my rejoinder that Metz’s defense of censure theory remains seriously problematic despite what he says in his reply.
A little-discussed aspect of the “conservative” position on abortion involves the claim that human beings exist at all stages of gestation — that even the human fertilized ovum is a human being. There are good reasons of both a practical and theoretical nature why this particular idea has received so little attention in the abortion controversy. On the practical side there is the fact that zygotes are rarely if ever the subjects of abortion decisions; and on the theoretical side, there (...) is the prima facie implausibility of the idea itself — an implausibility stemming from the fact that human zygotes possess none of the features that distinguish clear-cut examples of human beings from other living things.I would like to suggest, however, that there are good reasons — again both practical and theoretical — for examining with some care the idea that human zygotes are human beings. For even if this idea is not central to the abortion controversy, it has clear relevance to the morality of using intrauterine devices as a means of procreation control. (shrink)