Without wishing to suggest that professional philosophers would regard the book as philosophy, I can report that this book is definitely philosophical. Most of the book pertains to mathematical invention, but not just the psychology thereof, with many examples of the way in which mathematical advances move from two different and incompatible ways of viewing something to a higher viewpoint on it that makes better sense and better mathematics. A simple example of this is the invention of zero, where the (...) two incompatible viewpoints are that numbers are for counting and that there is nothing to count. The number one exemplified almost the same degree of blockage for the ancient Greeks, for whom the least number was two. It is perhaps unfortunate that the word that the author chose to represent the presence of such resolvable cognitive difficulties is ‘ambiguity’. As ambiguity is severely shunned by mathematicians and as there is none of it—as the word is normally used—in such situations as are described either before, when there are the two viewpoints, or later when there is a higher one, the use of ‘ambiguity’ would be misleading if it were not so adequately explained not to mean ambiguity. The excuse for using the word is claimed to be the genuine ambiguity of one of the simplest examples discussed, 3 + 4, with indifferently the meanings ‘add four to three’ and …. (shrink)
The question of what constitutes human flourishing elicits an extraordinary variety of responses, which suggests that there are not merely differences of opinion at work, but also different understandings of the question itself. So it may help to introduce some clarity into the question before starting work on one answer to it.
With each of our three criminal-law topics—defining offenses, apprehending suspects, and establishing punishments—we feel, I believe, strong moral resistance to the idea that our practices should be settled by a prospective-participant perspective. This becomes quite clear when we look at how the “reforms” suggested by institutional viewing might combine once we consider all three topics together: imagine a more extensive and swifter use of the death penalty in homicide cases coupled with somewhat lower standards of evidence; or think of backing (...) a strict-liability criminal statute with the death penalty. Of course, such “reforms” would increase the execution of innocents; but, their proponents will tell us, any penal system involves the punishment of some innocents, and, if it provides for the death penalty, the execution of some innocents. Moreover, why is it worse for innocents to be punished than for innocents to suffer an equivalent harm in some other way? Formulated from a prospective-participant perspective: Why not run a small risk of being innocently executed in exchange for reducing, much more significantly, the risk of dying prematurely in other ways? (shrink)
Difficult moral issues in economic life, such as evaluating the impact of hostile takeovers and plant relocations or determining the obligations of business to the environment, constitute the raison d'etre of business ethics. Yet, while the ultimate resolution of such issues clearly requires detailed, normative analysis, a shortcoming of business ethics is that to date it has failed to develop an adequate normative theory. 1 The failing is especially acute when it results in an inability to provide a basis for (...) fine-grained analyses of issues. Both general moral theories and stakeholder theory seem incapable of expressing the moral complexity necessary to provide practical normative guidance for many business ethics contexts. (shrink)