Can war ever be justified? Why is it wrong to kill? In this new book Richard Norman looks at these and other related questions, and thereby examines the possibility and nature of rational moral argument. Practical examples, such as the Gulf War and the Falklands War, are used to show that, whilst moral philosophy can offer no easy answers, it is a worthwhile enterprise which sheds light on many pressing contemporary problems. A combination of lucid exposition and original argument makes (...) this the ideal introduction to both the particular debate about the ethics of killing and war, and also to the fundamental issues of moral philosophy itself. (shrink)
It is a welcome development when academic philosophy starts to concern itself with practical issues, in such a way as to influence people's lives. Recently this has happened with one moral issue in particular—but infortunately it is the wrong issue, and people's actions have been influenced in the wrong way. The issue is that of the moral status and treatment of animals. A number of philosophers have argued for what they call ‘animal liberation’, comparing it directly with egalitarian causes such (...) as women's liberation and racial equality and suggesting that, if racism and sexism are rationally indefensible, so is ‘speciesism’. If one ought to give equal consideration to the interests of all human beings, then, so they daim, one must on the same grounds and in the same way recognize that ‘all animals are equal’, be they human or non-human. We believe that this assimilation of ‘animal liberation’ to human liberation movements is mistaken. (shrink)
The concepts of freedom and equality lie at the heart of much contemporary political debate. But how, exactly, are these concepts to be understood? And do they really represent desirable political values? Norman begins from the premise that freedom and equality are rooted in human experience, and thus have a real and objective content. He then argues that the attempt to clarify these concepts is therefore not just a matter of idle philosophical speculation, but also a matter of practical politics, (...) for the philosophical conclusions we reach also have important implications for the day-to-day world of political action. Touching on the work of such influential thinkers as Mill, Berlin, Hayek, Nozick, Rawls, and Williams, this book serves as a valuable introduction to the central issues in political philosophy. (shrink)
This paper attempts to defend the value of equality against the accusation that it is an expression of irrational and disreputable feelings of envy of those who are better off. It draws on Rawls’ account of the sense of justice to suggest that resentment of inequalities may be a proper resentment of injustice. The case of resentment of ‘free riders’ is taken as one plausible example of a justified resentment of those who benefit unfairly from a scheme of cooperation. Further (...) examples then link the case of the free rider to other cases of unjust inequalities which are the appropriate objects of resentment and indignation. (shrink)
humanism /'hju:menizm/ n. an outlook or system of thought concerned with human rather than divine or supernatural matters. Albert Einstein, Isaac Asimov, E.M. Forster, Bertrand Russell, and Gloria Steinem all declared themselves humanists. What is humanism and why does it matter? Is there any doctrine every humanist must hold? If it rejects religion, what does it offer in its place? Have the twentieth century's crimes against humanity spelled the end for humanism? On Humanism is a timely and powerfully argued philosophical (...) defence of humanism. It is also an impassioned plea that we turn to ourselves, not religion, if we want to answer Socrates' age-old question: what is the best kind of life to lead? Although humanism has much in common with science, Richard Norman shows that it is far from a denial of the more mysterious, fragile side of being human. He deals with big questions such as the environment, Darwinism and 'creation science', euthanasia and abortion, and then argues that it is ultimately through the human capacity for art, literature and the imagination that humanism is a powerful alternative to religious belief. Drawing on a varied range of examples from Aristotle to Primo Levi and the novels of Virginia Woolf and Graham Swift, On Humanism is a lucid and much needed reflection on this much talked about but little understood phenomenon. (shrink)
This paper criticizes the conception of applied ethics as the top-down application of a theory to practical issues. It is argued that a theory such as utilitarianism cannot override our intuitive moral perceptions. We cannot be radically mistaken about the kinds of considerations which count as practical reasons, and it is the task of theoretical ethics to articulate the basic kinds of considerations which we appeal to in practical discussions. Dworkin's model of doing ethics is used to illustrate the appropriate (...) role for theory in a broader sense. In conclusion, some sceptical questions are raised about how far theoretical ethics can contribute to public policy, especially if this requires a consensus. (shrink)
The second edition of this accessible book features a new chapter on Nietzsche and an entirely new Part III that covers contemporary utilitarianism, rights-based ethical theories, contractarian ethics and virtue ethics, and recent debates between realism and anti-realism in ethics. The strengths of the first edition--its readability, historical approach, coverage of specific moral philosophers, and detailed recommended reading sections at the beginning of each chapter--combined with the new material make this an essential resource for all readers interested in ethics.
The conception of social justice as equality is defended in this paper by examining what may appear to be two inegalitarian conceptions of justice, as distribution according to desert and as distribution according to need. It is argued that claims of just entitlement arise within a context of reciprocal co-operation for mutual benefit. Within such a context there are special cases where it can be said that those who contribute more deserve more, and that those who need more should get (...) more, but those claims themselves presuppose a norm of equal contribution and equal benefit. (shrink)
Jonathan Dancy, in his 1994 Aristotelian Society Presidential Address, set out to show ''why there is really no such thing as the theory of motivation''. In this paper I want to agree that there is no such thing, and to offer reasons of a different kind for that conclusion. I shall suggest that the so-called theory of motivation misconstrues the question which it purports to answer, and that when we properly analyse the question and distinguish it clearly from other questions (...) with which it should not be confused, we do not need a theory of motivation at all. (shrink)
As a humanist I find it annoying when people claim that a life of creative activity and supportive relationships, taking on a determinate shape over time, is not enough because it lacks the essential element. It leaves out “spirituality” and has no room for God. What basis do they have for the claim that it’s not enough?
I want to consider the suggestion that certain essential components of human experience are by their nature distinctively religious, and thus that the atheist is either debarred from participating fully in such experiences, or fails to understand their real nature. I am going to look at five kinds of experience: • the experience of the moral 'ought'; • the experience of beauty; • the experience of meaning conferred by stories; • the experience of otherness and transcendence; • the experience of (...) vulnerability and fragility. These seem to me to be integral features of any meaningful human life. They are aspects of what it is to be human. Some theists would simply agree with that statement. Others, however, would say that though essentially human they are also essentially religious, and that the secular humanist's participation in such experiences is in some way defective. That is the claim which I want to consider and contest. (shrink)
The author defends his version of the parallel which can be drawn between Wittgenstein's 'private language' argument and the argument that practical reasons must necessarily be public reasons. This position is compared and contrasted with recent attempts by Christine Korsgaard and Ken O'Day to formulate a 'public reasons' argument. The position is defended against the criticism that it cannt account for the practical force of reasons. Finally it is argued that, although the claim that the reasons must be 'public' is (...) not to be confused with the claim that reasons must be 'other-regarding', the former claim does help to remove certain obstacles to the idea of other-regarding reasons. (shrink)
Valency switching can appear especially puzzling if we think of moral reasons as pushes and pullsconsiderations whose job it is to get us to act or to stop us acting. Talk of default valency doesn't remove the puzzle, it merely restates it. We need a different picture of reasonsperhaps as providing a map of the moral terrain which helps us to see which actions are appropriate to which situations, and who the appropriate agents are. The role of virtue concepts in (...) particular is more complex and varied than that of providing reasons for acting. A more holistic picture of reasons can make valency switching less mysterious. Key Words: default valency particularism reasons thick concepts valency switching virtues. (shrink)
The chief defect of all previous materialism is that things, reality, the sensible world, are conceived only in the form of objects of observation , but not as human sense activity , not as practical activity , not subjectively. Hence, in opposition to materialism, the active side was developed abstractly by idealism, which of course does not know real sense activity as such.