We normally take it for granted that other people will live on after we ourselves have died. Even if we do not believe in a personal afterlife in which we survive our own deaths, we assume that there will be a "collective afterlife" in which humanity survives long after we are gone. Samuel Scheffler maintains that this assumption plays a surprising - indeed astonishing - role in our lives.
This book is a collection of eleven essays by one of the most interesting moral philosophers currently writing. It examines challenges to liberal thought posed by the changing circumstances of the modern world such as the conflicting tendencies toward global integration, and greater ethnic and communal identification. The author considers whether liberal principles of justice can accommodate social and global interdependencies while reaffirming the importance of individual responsibility and acknowledging the significance of people's diverse personal and communal allegiances.
In contemporary philosophy, substantive moral theories are typically classified as either consequentialist or deontological. Standard consequentialist theories insist, roughly, that agents must always act so as to produce the best available outcomes overall. Standard deontological theories, by contrast, maintain that there are some circumstances where one is permitted but not required to produce the best overall results, and still other circumstances in which one is positively forbidden to to do. Classical utilitarianism is the most familiar consequentialist view, but it is (...) widely regarded as an inadequate account of morality. Although Professor Scheffler agrees with this assessment, he also believes that consequentialism seems initially plausible, and that there is a persistent air of paradox surrounding typical deontological views. In this book, therefore, he undertakes to reconsider the rejection of consequentialism. He argues that it is possible to provide a rationale for the view that agents need not always produce the best possible overall outcomes, and this motivates one departure from consequentialism; but he shows that it is surprisingly difficult to provide a satisfactory rationale for the view that there are times when agents must not produce the best possible overall outcomes. He goes on to argue for a hitherto neglected type of moral conception, according to which agents are always permitted, but not always required, to produce the best outcomes. (shrink)
Many recent political philosophers have attempted to demonstrate that choice and responsibility can be incorporated into the framework of an egalitarian theory of distributive justice. This article argues, however, that the project of developing a responsibility-based conception of egalitarian justice is misconceived. The project represents an attempt to defuse conservative criticism of the welfare state and of egalitarian liberalism more generally. But by mimicking the conservative’s emphasis on choice and responsibility, advocates of responsibility-based egalitarianism unwittingly inherit the conservative’s unsustainable justificatory (...) ambitions, unattractive moralism, and questionable metaphysical commitments. More importantly, they misrepresent the nature of our concern with equality as a value. (shrink)
Some people believe that the demands of morality coincide with the requirements of an enlightened self-interest. Others believe that morality is diametrically opposed to considerations of self-interest. This book argues that there is another position, intermediate between these extremes, which makes better sense of the totality of our moral thought and practice. Scheffler elaborates this position via an examination of morality's content, scope, authority, and deliberative role. Although conflicts between morality and self-interest do arise, according to this position, nevertheless morality (...) is fundamentally a reasonable and humane phenomenon. Moreover, the psychological bases of effective moral motivation have sources deep within the self, and morally motivated individuals try to shape their own interests so as to avoid conflict with morality. Since human practices and institutions help to determine the prevalence of these motives, and since in this and other ways they influence the degree to which conflicts between morality and self-interest actually occur, the extent of such conflict is not fixed or immutable, and is in part a social and political issue. (shrink)
Valuing -- Morality and reasonable partiality -- Doing and allowing -- The division of moral labour : egalitarian liberalism as moral pluralism -- Is the basic structure basic? -- Cosmopolitanism, justice, and institutions -- What is egalitarianism? -- Choice, circumstance, and the value of equality -- Is terrorism morally distinctive? -- Immigration and the significance of culture -- The normativity of tradition -- The good of toleration.
Lately there has been a renewal of interest among political philosophers and theorists in the idea of cosmopolitanism. However, there is little consensus among contemporary theorists about the precise content of a cosmopolitan position. This article calls attention to two different strands in recent thinking about cosmopolitanism. One strand presents it primarily as a doctrine about justice. The other presents it primarily as a doctrine about culture and the self. Although both forms of cosmopolitanism have some appeal, each is sometimes (...) interpreted in ways that render it untenable. This article attempts to distinguish between the more and the less plausible versions of each form of cosmopolitanism. In each case, the distinction turns on how the normative status of particular interpersonal relationships and group affiliations is understood. (shrink)
In this anthology, distinguished scholars--Thomas Nagel, T.M. Scanlon, John Rawls, Robert Nozick, Samuela Scheffler, Conrad D. Johnson, Bernard Williams, Peter Railton, Amartya Sen, Philippa Foot, and Derek Parfit-- debate arguments for and against the moral doctrine of consequentialism to present a complete view of this important topic in moral philosophy.
In John Rawls’s theory, the role of the principles of justice is to regulate the basic structure of society—its major social, political and economic institutions—and to specify the fair terms of cooperation for free and equal persons. Some have interpreted Rawls as excluding contract law, and perhaps the private law as a whole, from the basic structure. However, this interpretation of Rawls is untenable, given the motivations for his emphasis on the basic structure and the highly inclusive characterisations he gives (...) of it. Yet if he includes private law within the basic structure, he seems committed to holding that its design and operations should be regulated by his two principles of justice, which govern the distribution of basic liberties, economic resources and opportunities. This would leave it unclear whether there was any room for values other than distributive values to inform the design of private law. Leaving no role for other values might be unproblematic if distributive justice were a master normative category with equal regulative authority over all basic social institutions. But we should not assume that this ‘distributivist paradigm’ gives the best interpretation either of private law or of the fair terms of cooperation for a society of free and equal people. We need to think further about how non-distributive values may inform the principles of justice that regulate the institutional structure of society. And we need to ask how much of law, whether public or private, is regulated solely by principles of justice that focus on the distribution of basic liberties, economic resources and opportunities. (shrink)
As the twentieth century begins to draw to a close, Europe is undergoing a process of political transformation whose outcome cannot be predicted with confidence, in part because the process is being driven by two powerful but conflicting tendencies. The first is the movement toward greater economic and political union among the countries of Western Europe. The second is the pressure, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Soviet Union, for the countries of Eastern Europe to fragment along ethnic (...) and communal lines. (shrink)
Reason and Value collects fifteen brand-new papers by leading contemporary philosophers on themes from the moral philosophy of Joseph Raz. The subtlety and power of Raz's reflections on ethical topics - including especially his explorations of the connections between practical reason and the theory of value - make his writings a fertile source for anyone working in this area. The volume honours Raz's accomplishments in the area of ethical theorizing, and will contribute to an enhanced appreciation of the significance of (...) his work for the subject. (shrink)
Morality can hardly perform a function, which is discussed in this chapter, unless it offers directives that not only can but frequently do differ from those of self-interest itself. The idea of potential congruence asserts that the relation between morality and the interests of the individual agent is characterized by a high degree of mutual accommodation, so that the frequency and severity of conflict between these two perspectives is significantly reduced. Conflicts are nevertheless possible in principle, but the extent to (...) which they arise in practice is not fixed or immutable. Instead, the frequency of conflict depends to a considerable degree on the character of the prevailing social and political institutions. Achieving convergence between morality and self-interest is in part a social and political task. The account of the “priority” of morality developed by Thomas Scanlon in his book What We Owe to Each Other is similar in a number of respects to this chapter's account of potential congruence. (shrink)
[ Samuel Scheffler] Some egalitarian liberals have proposed a division of moral labour between social institutions and individual agents, but the division-of-labour metaphor has been understood in different ways. This paper aims to disentangle some of these different understandings, with an eye to clarifying the appeal of the egalitarian-liberal project and the challenges that it faces. The idea of a division of moral labour is best understood as the expression of a strategy for accommodating diverse values. It is not an (...) apology for economic self-interest or a device for justifying personal acquisitiveness. /// [Véronique Munoz-Dardé] Are there distinctively political values? Certain egalitarians seem to think that equality is one such value. Scheffler's contribution to the symposium seeks to articulate a division of moral labour between norms of personal morality and the principles of justice that regulate social institutions, and using this suggests that the egalitarian critique of Rawls can be deflected. In this paper, instead, I question the status of equality as an intrinsic value. I argue that an egalitarianism which focuses on the status of equality as valuable in itself embraces a theory of value with the worst elements of utilitarianism while leaving behind any of the intuitive appeal that utilitarianism has. In its place I press that we need a political conception of egalitarianism which stresses the role we engage beyond those found in the norms of personal morality. (shrink)
By any reasonable standard of assessment, it is clear that human beings lead lives of wildly varying quality. People who live in different societies or belong to different social classes often differ greatly in their life expectancy, material resources, political rights and personal freedoms, and levels of nutrition and health, as well as in their access to education and medical care and their vulnerability to violence and assault. At the extremes, at least, these differences are normally accompanied by great differences (...) in the range of options people have available to them, in their prospects of achieving their aims, and in their sense of satisfaction with their own lives. Whereas many people in many countries enjoy a high level of prosperity and material comfort, and have a reasonable chance of achieving a significant measure of personal fulfillment over the course of their lives, there are many others who can look forward to little more than a miserable life and an early death. Although great progress has been made in combating the worst forms of poverty in recent decades, there continue to be people who live in conditions of extreme deprivation and malnutrition; people whose lack of medical care leaves them defenseless against infection and disease; people who have never received a formal education, have no political.. (shrink)