According to Peter Singer, virtually all of us would be forced by adequate reflection on our own convictions to embrace a radical conclusion about giving. The following principle, he says, is “surely undeniable” -- at least once we reflect on secure convictions concerning rescue, as in his famous case of the drowning toddler.
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In a wide-ranging inquiry Richard W. Miller provides new resources for coping with the most troubling types of moral conflict: disagreements in moral conviction, conflicting interests, and the tension between conscience and desires. Drawing on most fields in philosophy and the social sciences, including his previous work in the philosophy of science, he presents an account of our access to moral truth, and, within this framework, develops a theory of justice and an assessment of the role of morality in rational (...) choice. In Miller's view, we are often in a position to claim that our moral judgments are true descriptions of moral facts. But others, relying on contrary ways of moral learning, would reject truths that we are in a position to assert, in dissent that does not depend on irrationality or ignorance of relevant evidence or arguments. With this mixed verdict on moral realism, Miller challenges many received views of rationality, scientific method, and the relation between moral belief and moral choice. In his discussion of justice, Miller defends the adequacy, for modern political choices, of a widely shared demand that institutions be freely and rationally acceptable to all. Drawing on social research and economic theories, he argues that this demand has dramatically egalitarian consequences, even though it is a premise of liberals and conservatives alike. In the final chapters, Miller investigates the role and limits of morality in the choice of conduct, arguing for new perspectives on reason and impartiality. (shrink)
The United States has had a moral duty, at least since the end of 2010, actively to pursue negotiations with the Taliban and Pakistan to achieve a political settlement, conceding control of the Pashtun countryside to the Taliban.
Past criticisms to the contrary, methodological individualism in the social sciences is neither trivial nor obviously false. In the style of Weber's sociology, it restricts the ultimate explanatory repertoire of social science to agents' reasons for action. Although this restriction is not obviously false, it ought not to be accepted, at present, as a regulative principle. It excludes, as too far-fetched to merit investigation, certain hypotheses concerning the influence of objective interests on large-scale social phenomena. And these hypotheses, in fact, (...) merit empirical consideration. The attractiveness of methodological individualism as a regulative principle depends on two independent confusions, the conflation of an agent's reasons for action with the beliefs, needs, desires, or goals which are the reasons why he acted as he did, and the identification of explaining a phenomenon and describing its causes. (shrink)
G. A. Cohen incisively argued that our judgments of social justice should fit our convictions about how to interact with others in our personal lives. Ironically, the ordinary morality of cooperation invoked in his last book undermines his favored principle of equality, and supports John Rawls' reliance on a relevantly impartial choice promoting appropriate fundamental interests as a basis for distributive standards. His further objections to Rawls' account of distributive justice neglect the role of social relations in establishing the proper (...) scope of that impartiality and the moral force of Rawls' taxonomy of non-ideal societies. In contrast, the powerful evocation of goods of community at the end of Cohen's last book points to a genuine inadequacy. Conscientious fellow-citizens must take account of the impact of their political choices on options for sharing and caring. In finding a proper balance between these goods and competing individualist concerns, the original position is of too little use to sustain Rawls' assessment of his conception of justice as complete. In the face of our strong moral convictions about how to live together, both Cohen's luck egalitarianism and Rawls' barriers between aspirations to community and political choice must give way. (shrink)
Immoral excesses of American foreign policy are so severe and so deep-rooted that American patriotism is now a moral burden. This love, which pulls toward amnesia, wishful thinking and inattention to urgent foreign interests, should be replaced by commitment to a global social movement that seeks to hem in the American empire. Teachers can advance this cause without abusing their positions. But to do so, they must violate distinctive social expectations at different levels of American education.
We often legitimately ascribe reality both to social and to natural kinds. But the bases for these ascriptions are not entirely the same. In both cases, reality is typically determined by what characterizations of causal factors are indispensable to adequate explanation. Nonetheless, a psychological role as part of an identity that instances embrace is sometimes, distinctively, a condition for ascribing reality to a social kind. Although such assessments of reality can be construed as employing a standard of causal activity shared (...) with natural science, they reveal a distinctive moral dimension in the bases for ascribing reality to social kinds. (shrink)
Political choices favoring one''s country or one''s nationality are wrong if they conflict with a principle of universal free acceptability, prohibiting choices that violate every set of rules to which any willing cooperator would want all to conform. Despite its universalism, this principle requires patriotic favoritism in political choices and permits individuals to assert nationalist interests in claims for state aid. But it deprives patriotism and nationalism of any distinctive role in establishing the legitimacy of wars and uprisings. These restrictions (...) are appropriate even if stronger forms of patriotism and nationalism are psychologically indispensable for achieving social goals required for universal free acceptability. (shrink)
There has been a conflation by many Catholics of the Church's pro-life teaching with the strategy of overturning Roe v. Wade. In this paper, I argue that there are other ways for Catholics to think about and respond to the tragedy of abortion. First, I argue that there are serious limitations to the present legal strategy of overturning Roe. Second, I tum to social scientific data to describe the conditions that lead to abortions. Third, I argue that the Catholic strategy (...) should be mindful of the limits of the present legal strategy and should bedeveloped in accord with what the social scientific data reveals. Finally, since the multiple factors that lead to abortions demand a complex multi-faceted response, I suggest some ways Catholics should respond to the abortion problem within the Church and the wider political sphere. (shrink)
James Sterba’s From Rationality to Equality is a bold effort to show that those who reject morality, coerced provision for basic needs, or a demanding egalitarian standard of justice violate precepts of rationality, resist the implications of their own deep convictions, or negligently ignore ecological dangers. Without opposing his moral conclusions, I present doubts about his arguments. The assessment of higher-ranking altruistic reasons that he calls “Morality as Compromise” is offered as distinctively non-question-begging, but only seems to have this status (...) on a construal that makes it a tautology. Contrary to his charge of inconsistency, right-wing libertarians can rely on a non-arbitrary criterion of coercive worsening in defending the entitlements they favor while rejecting the enforceable welfare right that he supports. The duty to make sacrifices for remote generations on which he bases his demand for substantial equality is in need of defense that he does not provide and does not clearly have the consequence he claims. These gaps point to the need to rely on a broader range of moral convictions, integrated in more complex ways. (shrink)