In the mid twentieth century the philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein famously asserted that games are indefinable; there are no common threads that link them all. "Nonsense," says the sensible Bernard Suits: "playing a game is a voluntary attempt to overcome unnecessary obstacles." The short book Suits wrote demonstrating precisely that is as playful as it is insightful, as stimulating as it is delightful. Suits not only argues that games can be meaningfully defined; he also suggests that playing games is a central (...) part of the ideal of human existence, so games belong at the heart of any vision of Utopia. Originally published in 1978, The Grasshopper is now re-issued with a new introduction by Thomas Hurka and with additional material (much of it previously unpublished) by the author, in which he expands on the ideas put forward in The Grasshopper and answers some questions that have been raised by critics. (shrink)
Hurka gives an account of perfectionism, which holds that certain states of humans, such as knowledge, achievement and friendship are good apart from any pleasure they may bring, and that the morally right act is always the one that most promotes these states. Beginning with an analysis of its central concepts, Hurka tries to regain for perfectionism a central place in contemporary moral debate.
What are virtue and vice, and how do they relate to other moral properties such as goodness and rightness? Thomas Hurka defends a distinctive perfectionist view according to which the virtues are higher-level intrinsic goods, ones that involve morally appropriate attitudes to other, independent goods and evils. He develops this highly original view in detail and argues for its superiority over rival views, including those given by virtue ethics.
This is the first full historical study of a key strand in the development of modern moral philosophy. The subject is a school of British ethical theorists from the late 19th to the mid-20th century, including Sidgwick and Moore. Hurka shows what these philosophers thought, how they influenced each other, and how their ideas changed through time.
Many philosophers of the last century thought all moral judgments can be expressed using a few basic concepts — what are today called ‘thin’ moral concepts such as ‘good,’ ‘bad,’ ‘right,’ and ‘wrong.’ This was the view, ﬁ rst, of the non-naturalists whose work dominated the early part of the century, including Henry Sidgwick, G.E. Moore, W.D. Ross, and C.D. Broad. Some of them recognized only one basic concept, usually either ‘ought’ or ‘good’; others thought there were two. But they (...) all assumed that other moral concepts, including such ‘thick’ ones as the virtue-concepts ‘courageous’ and ‘kindly,’ can be reductively analyzed using one or more thin concepts and some more or less determinate.. (shrink)
Using Bernard Suits’s brilliant analysis (contra Wittgenstein) of playing a game, this paper examines the intrinsic value of game-playing. It argues that two elements in Suits’s analysis make success in games difficult, which is one ground of value, while a third involves choosing a good activity for the property that makes it good, which is a further ground. The paper concludes by arguing that game-playing is the paradigm modern (Marx, Nietzsche) as against classical (Aristotle) value: since its goal is intrinsically (...) trivial, its value is entirely one of process rather than product, journey rather than destination. (shrink)
Everyday moral thought uses the concepts of virtue and vice at two different levels. At what I will call a global level it applies these concepts to persons or to stable character traits or dispositions. Thus we may say that a person is brave or has a standing trait of generosity or malice. But we also apply these concepts more locally, to specific acts or mental states such as occurrent desires or feelings. Thus we may say that a particular act (...) was brave or that a desire or pleasure felt at a particular moment was malicious. Even when they concern acts, these last judgements are of virtuousness rather than of moral rightness. They therefore turn essentially on a person’s motives; while he can act rightly from a bad motive, he cannot act virtuously from a bad motive. But they assess the virtue or vice of particular acts and mental states rather than of persons or traits of character. These global and local uses of the virtue-concepts are clearly connected, in that we expect virtuous persons to perform and have, and virtuous traits to issue in, particular virtuous acts, desires, and feelings. A philosophical account of virtue should explain this connection, but there are two different ways of doing so. Each takes one of the two uses to be primary and treats the other as derivative, but they disagree about which is the primary use. A dispositional view takes the global use to be primary and identifies virtuous acts, desires, and feelings in part as ones that issue from virtuous.. (shrink)
Nietzsche is often regarded as a paradigmatically anti-theoretical philosopher. Bernard Williams has said that Nietzsche is so far from being a theorist that his text “is booby-trapped not only against recovering theory from it, but, in many cases, against any systematic exegesis that assimilates it to theory.” Many would apply this view especially to Nietzsche’s moral philosophy. They would say that even when he is making positive normative claims, as against just criticizing existing morality, his claims have neither the content (...) nor the organization characteristic of moral theory. (shrink)
Just because an angel is better than a stone, it does not follow that two angels are better than one angel and one stone. So said Aquinas (Summa contra Gentiles III, 71), and the sentiment was echoed by Leibniz. In section 118 of the Theodicy he wrote: "No substance is either absolutely precious or absolutely contemptible in the sight of God. It is certain that God attaches more importance to a man than to a lion, but I do not know (...) that we can bc sure that he prefers one man to an entire species of lions." Even Kant was bitten by this bug. In one of his pre-Critical works he was moved to say, à propos of lice, that even though they “may in our eyes be as worthless as you like, nevertheless it is of more consequence to Nature to conserve this species as a whole than to conserve a small number of members of a superior species." In these passages Aquinas, Leibniz, and Kant gave expression to a distinctive and interesting view about the value of animal species and animal populations. At its simplest, this is the view that there is a special value in the existence of animal species or in the existence of a wide variety of different animal species. But the view also goes deeper than this. An animal species, after all, is nothing over and above the individual animals which make it up, and the value which it contributes to the world must therefore be some function of the values contributed by those individual animals. At the deepest level, what the view expressed by Aquinas, Leibniz, and Kant holds is that the value which an individual animal contributes to thc world is not constant but varies with the number.. (shrink)
The moral issues about nationalism arise from the character of nationalism as a form of partiality. Nationalists care more about their own nation and its members than about other nations and their members; in that way nationalists are partial to their own national group. The question, then, is whether this national partiality is morally justified or, on the contrary, whether everyone ought to care impartially about all members of all nations. As Jeff McMahan emphasizes in [another chapter of the book (...) in which this essay appears], a philosophical examination of this question must consider the specific features of nationalism as one form of partiality among others. Some partiality--for example, toward one's spouse and children--seems morally acceptable and even a duty. According to commonsense moral thinking, one not only may but also should care more about one's family members than about strangers. But other instances of partiality, most notably racial partiality, are in most circumstances widely condemned. Is national partiality more like familial partiality or more like racial partiality? To answer this question, we must know what in general justifies attitudes of partiality. Caring more about certain people is appropriate when one stands in certain special relations to those people. But what are these relations, and to what degree do they hold among members of the same nation? Assuming they are present within families and not within races, to what degree are they present within nations? (shrink)
This paper distinguishes two interpretations of G. E. Moore''s principle of organic unities, which says that the intrinsic value of a whole need not equal the sum of the intrinsic values its parts would have outside it. A holistic interpretation, which was Moore''s own, says that parts retain their values when they enter a whole but that there can be an additional value in the whole as a whole that must be added to them. The conditionality interpretation, which has been (...) defended by Korsgaard, says that parts can change their values when they enter wholes, so no additional value is needed. The paper shows that the two interpretations, which differ on such apparently important issues as the nature of intrinsic value, can always yield the same conclusions about the overall value in a state of affairs, so there is in that sense nothing to choose between them. At the same time, though, the differences between the interpretations make sometimes one and sometimes the other more appropriate for expressing a given evaluative view. In this last connection the paper considers views about beauty, posthumous achievement, vices of disproportion, deserved and compassionate pain, and undeserved and malicious pleasure. (shrink)
[Thomas Hurka] Using Bernard Suits's brilliant analysis of playing a game, this paper examines the intrinsic value of game-playing. It argues that two elements in Suits's analysis make success in games difficult, which is one ground of value, while a third involves choosing a good activity for the property that makes it good, which is a further ground. The paper concludes by arguing that game-playing is the paradigm modern as against classical value: since its goal is intrinsically trivial, its value (...) is entirely one of process rather than product, journey rather than destination. /// [John Tasioulas] This paper contends that play, not achievement, is the primary intrinsic good internal to game-playing, and supports a relational, as opposed to formal, conception of achievement. (shrink)
The rhetoric of Principia Ethica, as of not a few philosophy books, is that of the clean break. Moore claims that the vast majority of previous writing on ethics has been misguided and that an entirely new start is needed. In its time, however, the book’s claims to novelty were widely disputed. Reviews in Mind, Ethics, and The Journal of Philosophy applauded the clarity of Moore’s criticisms of Mill, Spencer, and others, but said they were “not altogether original,” had for (...) the most part “already been brought out by other critics,” and were even “the standard criticisms.”1 To the Mind reviewer, “The book indicates throughout how strongly the author has been affected by Sidgwick’s views.”2 Hastings Rashdall rejected as historically inaccurate Moore’s claim that only Sidgwick before him had recognized that “good” is indefinable: “To say nothing of writers who (like Mr. Moore and myself) learned the doctrine largely from Sidgwick, I should contend that it was taught with sufficient distinctness by Plato ..., Aristotle, and a host of other writers who have studied in their school.”3 Rashdall also described Moore’s principle of organic unities as just “a new and striking way of stating a very old truth.”4 Some recent commentators have taken a similar line. Bernard Williams has said that much of Principia Ethica comes from Sidgwick,5 while Thomas Baldwin, discussing the book’s substantive values, has said the principle of organic unities “was expressly stated by Bradley,” while “McTaggart had for some years extolled the value of love, and the value of art is a central theme of romanticism.”. (shrink)
Michael Slote has defended a moral view that he calls "satisficing consequentialism." Less demanding than maximizing consequentialism, it requires only that agents bring about consequences that are "good enough." I argue that Slote's characterization of satisficing is ambiguous. His idea of consequences' being "good enough" admits of two interpretations, with different implications in (some) particular cases. One interpretation I call "absolute-level" satisficing, the other "comparative" satisficing. Once distinguished, these versions of satisficing appear in a very different light. Absolute-level satisficing is (...) indeed plausible and attractive, at least for subjective-good versions of consequentialism; comparative satisficing is not. (shrink)
Values typically come in pairs. Most obviously, there are the pairs of an intrinsic good and its contrasting intrinsic evil, such as pleasure and pain, virtue and vice, and desert and undesert, or getting what one deserves and getting its opposite. But in more complex cases there can be contrasting pairs with the same value. Thus, virtue has the positive form of benevolent pleasure in another’s pleasure and the negative form of compassionate pain for his pain, while desert has the (...) positive form of happiness for the virtuous and the negative form of pain for the vicious. (shrink)
This chapter surveys a variety of views about which states of affairs are intrinsically good, that is, in themselves or apart from their consequences. It considers the claims to intrinsic value of such states of individuals as pleasure, the fulfillment of desire, knowledge, achievement, moral virtue, and personal relationships; the different ways such goods can be compared and aggregated both within and across individual lives; and the possibility, given a principle of “organic unities,” of goods located in wholes larger than (...) individual lives, such as complex ecosystems. (shrink)
T. M. Scanlon has cited the value of friendship in arguing against a ‘teleological’ view of value which says that value inheres only in states of affairs and demands only that we promote it. This article argues that, whatever the teleological view's final merits, the case against it cannot be made on the basis of friendship. The view can capture Scanlon's claims about friendship if it holds, as it can consistently with its basic ideas, that (i) friendship is a higher-level (...) good consisting in appropriate attitudes to other goods and evils in a friend's life, (ii) these goods and evils have agent-relative value, i.e. more value than similar states of strangers, and (iii) the attitudes constituting friendship have less value than their objects. Given these independently plausible claims, the teleological view can agree with Scanlon that, e.g., it is wrong to betray a friend in order to promote more friendships among other people. (Published Online August 21 2006). (shrink)
In a chapter of The Methods of Ethics entitled “Ultimate Good”, Henry Sidgwick defends hedonism, the theory that pleasure and only pleasure is intrinsically good, that is, good in itself and apart from its consequences. First, however, he argues against the theory that virtue is intrinsically good. Sidgwick considers both a strong version of this theory — that virtue is the only intrinsic good — and a weaker version — that it is one intrinsic good among others. He tries to (...) show that neither version is or can be true. Against the strong version of the theory, Sidgwick argues as follows. Virtue is a disposition to act rightly, and right action is identified by the good it promotes. But this means that treating virtue as the only intrinsic good involves a “logical circle”: virtue is a disposition to promote what is good, where what is good is itself just a disposition to promote what is good. Virtue turns out to be a disposition to promote virtue. As Hastings Rashdall notes in a commentary on Sidgwick, one can accept many of this argument's premises yet reject its conclusion. One can agree that right action is identified by its consequences but still hold that virtue is the only intrinsic good. One can do this if one denies that the relevant consequences are good. This is the Stoic view: certain states are “preferred”, and thus supply the criterion of right action, but are not themselves intrinsically good. (shrink)
This paper examines H.A. Prichard's defense of the view that moral duty is underivative, as reflected in his argument that it is a mistake to ask “Why ought I to do what I morally ought?”, because the only possible answer is “Because you morally ought to.” This view was shared by other philosophers of Prichard's period, from Henry Sidgwick through A.C. Ewing, but Prichard stated it most forcefully and defended it best. The paper distinguishes three stages in Prichard's argument: one (...) appealing to his conceptual minimalism, one an epistemological argument that parallels Moore's response to skepticism about the external world, and one arguing that attempts to justify moral duties on non-moral grounds distort the phenomena by giving those duties the wrong explanation or ground. The paper concludes by considering Prichard's critique of ancient ethics and in particular the ethics of Aristotle. The paper is broadly sympathetic to Prichard's position and arguments; its aim is partly to make a case for him as a central figure in the history of ethics. (shrink)
Two main foundations have been proposed for the side-constraints that deontologists think make it sometimes wrong to do what will have the best effects. Thomist views agree with consequentialism that the bearers of value are always states of affairs, but hold that alongside the duty to promote good states are stronger duties not to choose against them.1 Kantian views locate the relevant values in persons, saying it is respect for persons rather than for any state that makes it wrong to (...) kill, lie, and so on.2 The central innovation of Stephen Darwall’s Welfare and Rational Care is to extend this Kantian idea from side-constraints to the concept of welfare, or of what is good for a person.3 As a good-to-be-promoted, welfare is usually understood as located in states of affairs. Darwall agrees that a person’s welfare involves her being in certain states, but argues that the value in these states derives from her value as a person. More specifically, his “rational care” theory of welfare equates a person’s welfare with those states it would be rational to want for her insofar as one cared for her for her sake, so an attitude to her is primary and to her states is derivative. Whereas standard theories take the concept of welfare to come first and define care as a desire for that, Darwall reverses this ordering. (shrink)
Abstract: The concepts of virtue and right action are closely connected, in that we expect people with virtuous motives to at least often act rightly. Two well-known views explain this connection by defining one of the concepts in terms of the other. Instrumentalists about virtue identify virtuous motives as those that lead to right acts; virtue-ethicists identify right acts as those that are or would be done from virtuous motives. This essay outlines a rival explanation, based on the "higher-level" account (...) of virtue defended in the author's Virtue, Vice, and Value . On this account rightness and virtue go together because each is defined by a (different) relation to some other, more basic moral concept. Their frequent coincidence is therefore like a correlation between A and B based not on either's causing the other but on their being joint effects of a single common cause. (shrink)
Whereas Bernard Suits argued that judged sports such as diving and figure skating are aesthetic performances rather than games, I argue that they’re simultaneously performances and games. Moreover, their two aspects are connected, since their prelusory goal is to dive or skate beautifully and the requirement to do somersaults or triple jumps makes achieving that goal more difficult. This analysis is similar to one given by Scott Kretchmar, but by locating these sports’ aesthetic side in their goals rather than in (...) their rules, it better captures the importance of beauty in them. (shrink)
In The Methods of Ethics Henry Sidgwick argued against deontology and for consequentialism. More specifically, he stated four conditions for self-evident moral truth and argued that, whereas no deontological principles satisfy all four conditions, the principles that generate consequentialism do. This article argues that both his critique of deontology and his defence of consequentialism fail, largely for the same reason: that he did not clearly grasp the concept W. D. Ross later introduced of a prima facie duty or duty other (...) things equal. The moderate deontology Ross's concept allows avoids many of Sidgwick's objections. And Sidgwick's statements of his own axioms equivocate in exactly the same way for which he criticized deontological ones. Only if they are read as other things equal can they seem intuitive and earn widespread agreement; but that form is too weak to ground consequentialism. And in the form that does yield consequentialism they are neither intuitive nor widely accepted. Sidgwick's arguments against a rival view and for his own were, in multiple ways, unfair. (shrink)
John Searle has charged R.M. Hare's prescriptivist analysis of the meaning of ‘good,’ ‘ought’ and the other evaluative words with committing what he calls the ‘speech act fallacy.’ This is a fallacy which Searle thinks is committed not only by Hare's analysis, but by any analysis which attributes to a word the function of indicating that a particular speech act is being performed, or that an utterance has a particular illocutionary force. ‘There is a condition of adequacy which any analysis (...) of the meaning of a word must meet,’ Searle writes, ‘and which the speech act analysis fails to meet. Any analysis of the meaning of a word must be consistent with the fact that the same word can mean the same thing in all the different kinds of sentences in which it can occur.' Hare maintains that the word ‘good’ is used to indicate the speech act of prescribing. He maintains that one of the principal functions of this word is to indicate that utterances of sentences containing it have prescriptive illocutionary force, and that an analysis of its meaning must make explicit and ineliminable reference to this force-indicating function. But ‘good’ regularly occurs in sentences utterances of which appear to have no prescriptive illocutionary force. (shrink)