In our philosophical tradition and our wider culture, we tend to think of persons as agents. This agential conception is flattering, but in this paper I will argue that it conceals a more complex truth about what persons are. In 1. I set the issues in context. In 2. I critically explore four features commonly presented as fundamental to personhood in versions of the agential conception: action, capability, choice and independence. In 3. I argue that each of these agential features (...) presupposes a non-agential feature: agency presupposes patiency, capability presupposes incapability, choice presupposes necessity and independence presupposes dependency. In 4. I argue that such non-agential features, as well as being implicit within the agential conception, are as apt to be constitutive of personhood as agential features, and in 5. I conclude. (shrink)
In this article we argue that the concept of need is as vital for moral theory as it is for moral life. In II we analyse need and its normativity in public and private moral practice. In III we describe simple cases which exemplify the moral demandingness of needs, and argue that the significance of simple cases for moral theory is obscured by the emphasis in moral philosophy on unusual cases. In IV we argue that moral theories are inadequate if (...) they cannot describe simple needs-meeting cases. We argue that the elimination or reduction of need to other concepts such as value, duty, virtue or care is unsatisfactory, in which case moral theories that make those concepts fundamental will have to be revised. In conclusion, we suggest that if moral theories cannot be revised to accommodate needs, they may have to be replaced with a fully needs-based theory. Correspondence:c1 [email protected] g. brock @auckland.ac.nz. (shrink)
Until recently, philosophers tended to be suspicious of the concept of need. Contributors to this volume build on recent work establishing its philosophical importance. David Wiggins, Gillian Brock and John O'Neill propose remedies for some mistakes made in ignoring or marginalising need, for example in need-free theories of rationality or justice. Christopher Rowe, Soran Reader and Sarah Miller highlight insights that emerge when the concept of need is explored through Plato, Aristotle and Kant - and others that emerge when historical (...) work is seen through the lens of need. Jonathan Lowe and Garrett Thomson consider the role need plays in the philosophies of action and mind. Bill Wringe, David Braybrooke and Sabina Alkire debate how our obligations relating to need are best understood and articulated, and how we can best ensure they are fulfilled, exploring for example how talk of need is related to talk of rights, well-being or capability. (shrink)
How can we justify partiality to those near to us, such as our own families, friends, neighbours and colleagues, when we could act in much more morally valuable ways by helping others who are merely distant from us? In 1972 Peter Singer used two now-famous examples, Pond and.
Our aims in this paper are: (1) to indicate some of the many ways in which needs are an important part of the moral landscape, (2) to show that the dominant contemporary moral theories cannot adequately capture the moral significance of needs, indeed, that the dominant theories are inadequate to the extent that they cannot accommodate the insights which attention to needs yield, (3) to offer some sketches that should be helpful to future cartographers charting the domain of morally significant (...) needs, and (4) to consider some anticipated objections to our project and offer some replies. (shrink)
A threat to women is obscured when we treat “abortion-as-evacuation” as equivalent to “abortion-as-killing.” This holds only if evacuating a fetus kills it. As technology advances, the equivalence will fail. Any feminist account of abortion that relies on the equivalence leaves moral room for women to be required to give up their fetuses to others when it fails. So an account of the justification of abortion-as-killing is needed that does not depend on the equivalence.
: A threat to women is obscured when we treat "abortion-as-evacuation" as equivalent to "abortion-as-killing." This holds only if evacuating a fetus kills it. As technology advances, the equivalence will fail. Any feminist account of abortion that relies on the equivalence leaves moral room for women to be required to give up their fetuses to others when it fails. So an account of the justification of abortion-as-killing is needed that does not depend on the equivalence.
Aristotle’s account of human needs is valuable because it describes the connections between logical, metaphysical, physical, human and ethical necessities. But Aristotle does not fully draw out the implications of the account of necessity for needs and virtue. The proper Aristotelian conclusion is that, far from being an inferior activity fit only for slaves, meeting needs is the first part of Aristotelian virtue.
In this paper I introduce my work in ethics, inviting others to draw on my approach to address the ethical issues that concern them. I set up the Centre for Ethical Philosophy at Durham University in 2007 to plug a puzzling gap in philosophical work to help us help the world. In 1. I set out ethical philosophy. In 2. I consider some implications, for example, that to do good we must pay much more attention to the beings around us, (...) less to ourselves. In 3. I consider the implications for how we should think about war and peace. In 4. I draw out some implications for good political practice. In 5. I consider objections and conclude. (shrink)
This chapter contains sections titled: Introduction Action and Passivity Capability/Incapability and Need Choice, Rationality, Freedom/Constraint Independence and Dependency References Further reading.
One of the most striking contributions of particularism to moral philosophy has been its emphasis on the relative opacity of the moral scene to the tools of rational analysis traditionally used by philosophers. Particularism changes the place of the philosopher in relation to the moral life, pointing up the limits to what philosophy can do here. The modern moral philosopher who takes particularism seriously no longer has the luxury, endemic in our tradition, of imagining that moral philosophy can be done (...) with only passing illustrative reference to experience, or that the truth about the whole of our moral life may be read of a list of a priori moral principles, whose rationality is underwritten by the mechanistic account of what it is to follow a rule that pre-Wittgensteinian philosophers took for granted. (shrink)
This paper discusses three topics in contemporary British ethical philosophy: naturalisms, moral reasons, and virtue. Most contemporary philosophers agree that 'ethics is natural' - in Section 1 I examine the different senses that can be given to this idea, from reductive naturalism to supernaturalism, seeking to show the problems some face and the problems others solve. Drawing on the work of John McDowell in particular, I conclude that an anti-supernatural non-reductive naturalism plausibly sets the limits on what we can do (...) in ethics. Moral reasons are widely discussed - in Section 2 I describe some of the criteria that used to distinguish moral practical reasons, and note possibilities and problems. Drawing on the work of Elizabeth Anscombe in particular, I suggest that an inclusive, minimalist account of moral reasons may be most fruitful. There has been a revival of philosophical interest in virtue ethics, which I take to be linked to the emergence of non-reductive naturalisms - in Section 3 I describe three points where virtue ethics has an especially significant contribution to make: learning, motivational self-sufficiency, and the question of whether virtues can be reasons. The naturalism of Section 1 constrains the accounts of moral reasons considered in Section 2, and depends upon an account of virtue as learned second nature, discussed in Section 3. (shrink)
Appeals to need abound in everyday discussion. People make claims about their own needs all the time, and they do so in a way that suggests these should have a certain moral force. Needs also play an important role in contemporary popular discourse about social justice, climate change, obligations to future generations, dealing fairly with refugees, treating animals humanely, and critiques of consumerist lifestyles - to name just a few of the many examples. The idea of need is present in (...) an increasing number of debates and domains. There is interest in need from several disciplines, not just philosophy, which also include psychology, economics, political science, social work and sociology. This volume, then, offers a fine introduction to an increasingly important concept in day-to-day life. In a new Foreword, Gillian Brock discusses the continuing significance of several innovative chapters in the book, indicating how they presaged new directions in philosophical conversation. Soran Reader (1963-2012) was Reader in Philosophy at Durham University. She was the author of Needs and Moral Necessity (2007). Gillian Brock is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Auckland and a recent Fellow at the Edmond J Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. She has published widely on ethics, political and social philosophy, and several applied ethics fields, along with a number of more inter-disciplinary areas. Her latest book is Justice for People on the Move (2022). (shrink)
In this paper I argue that cosmopolitanism prohibits war and requires a global approach to criminal justice. My argument proceeds by drawing out some implications of the core cosmopolitan intuition that every human being has a moral status which constrains how they may be treated. In the first part of this paper, I describe cosmopolitanism. In the second part, Cosmopolitanism and War, I analyse violence, consider the standards cosmopolitanism sets for its justification, and argue that war fails to meet them. (...) In the third part, Cosmopolitanism and Criminal Justice, I argue that cosmopolitanism implies a moral obligation to deal justly with human wrongdoing wherever it occurs. Cosmopolitan pacifism follows: war is prohibited, and a consistent global criminal justice system is required. In the fourth part, Why No Cosmopolitan Pacifists?, I consider why cosmopolitans tend not to identify as pacifists, and in the final part, Objections, I discuss some objections. (shrink)