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.
Why should we care what happens to future generations? Samuel Scheffler argues that we are more invested in the fate of our descendants than we may realize. Implicit in our own attachments are powerful reasons for wanting the chain of human generations to persist into the indefinite future under conditions conducive to human flourishing.
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.
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)
Scheffler discusses the role of thick concepts in the context of Williams’s main ethical book. He is critical of Williams’s distinction between thick and thin concepts, pointing out that with great problems, justice cannot be said to be either thick or thin.
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)
In Human Morality, I attempt to do two things. The first is to distinguish carefully among questions concerning morality’s scope, content, authority, and deliberative role, and to emphasize the importance of addressing all four of these topics if we are to understand the relation between morality and the point of view of the individual agent. The second is to explore each of these topics myself, and, in so doing, to sketch one interpretation of the place of moral concerns in human (...) life. (shrink)
This collection of essays combines the discussion of abstract questions in moral and political theory with an attention to the normative dimension of current social and political controversies. There are essays on immigration, terrorism, toleration, political equality, the role of partiality in ethics, and the importance of tradition.
It is not uncommon for contemporary moral philosophers to appeal, in support or in criticism of one moral theory or another, to supposed features of or facts about persons. Rawls, for example, maintains that ‘utilitarianism does not take seriously the distinction between persons,’ and that since ‘the correct regulative principle for anything depends on the nature of that thing,’ we should not expect utilitarianism to be the correct regulative scheme for human beings. Nozick, in a similar spirit, suggests that the (...) deontological restrictions he calls ‘side constraints’ are desirable components of a moral conception because, without them, a moral scheme is unable to ‘sufficiently respect and take account of the fact that … [each individual] is a separate person,’ unable to take account of the fact that, with respect to each individual, ‘his is the only life he has.’ And Williams, to cite still another example, suggests that utilitarianism is a defective moral theory because ‘it cannot coherently describe the relations between a man's projects and his actions.'. (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)
The idea of equality exerts considerable influence on our moral imaginations, yet it has remained philosophically elusive. Although men and women have thought equality worth dying for, philosophers have been largely unable to give any systematic account of its importance as a moral ideal, or of its function in moral and political theory.
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 of equality as a political ideal without presupposing any values with which we engage beyond those found in the norms of personal morality. (shrink)
I am very grateful to Professors Darwall, Rorty, and Wolf for their serious and stimulating responses to my book. I will reply to their essays separately, since, for the most part, they raise separate issues.
[ 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)
Leibniz unterscheidet zwischen einem Begriff der metaphysischen Identität, welchen er gebraucht, um das Problem der persönlichen Identität zu lösen, und einem Begriff der moralischen Identität, welchen er verwendet, um das Problem, das ich „das Problem der moralischen Verantwortung“ nenne, zu lösen. In diesem Aufsatz versuche ich, eine systematische Darstellung des Verhältnisses zwischen metaphysischer und moralischer Identität in Leibniz' System zu geben. Ich untersuche die Natur und den Umfang des Unterschieds zwischen moralischer und metaphysischer Identität, die verschiedenen Probleme, die jeder der (...) beiden Begriffe lösen soll, und ich bestimme ihre relative Bedeutung. (shrink)
Moral sceptics appear to be as common outside of philosophy as they are within philosophy. And moral scepticism, unlike some philosophical issues, is very widely felt to be important, troubling, and persistent. My aims in this paper are to draw together some ideas from the recent philosophical literature, and to use these ideas as the basis for one kind of response to the moral sceptic. For reasons that will soon become clear, some anti-sceptical moral philosophers may feel that this response (...) to the sceptic is nothing but a form of concession. Yet my position represents an attempt to defend a kind of moral objectivity, to demonstrate at least the possibility of a certain sort of moral universality, and most especially to do justice to the very central role of morality in our lives. Thus I expect that many sceptics, too, will regard my position as unsatisfactory. It might be thought foolhardy to advance a position that seems likely to alienate so many parties to the dispute it addresses. But popular solutions to the problem of moral scepticism are in short supply, and I hope to show that my position can capture what is compelling in the sceptical argument, while at the same time doing justice to the dignity and importance of morality. (shrink)