Particularism is in vogue in ethics today. Particularism is sometimes described as the idea that what is a sufficient moral reason in one situation need not be a sufficient moral reason in another situation. Indeed, it has been held, on particularism, what is a reason for an action in one situation might be a reason against the same type of action, or might not be a reason at all, in another situation. However, this description is insufficient. Even a generalist, such (...) as a utilitarian, may admit that, what is in one situation a sufficient reason for the rightness of an action may, in another situation, be a sufficient reason for its wrongness. For example, the fact that if I shoot at a certain person, I kill him, may, in one situation, be a sufficient reason not to shoot at him. It is sufficient for the wrongness of shooting at him if, in the situation, shooting at him suffices to guarantee that welfare does not get maximized. He is killed, say, and deprived of future pleasure, with no positive ‘side-effects’ whatever. (shrink)
The punchy central claim of Torbjörn Tännsjö's book is that act-utilitarianism best explains our considered intuitions about the moral status of different kinds of killing. An interesting aspect of this book is Tännsjö's revisionary methodology, which he names 'Applied Ethics (Turned Upside Down)'. So, why does Tännsjö choose applied ethics (turned upside down) to argue for act-utilitarianism's role in explaining our considered intuitions about killing and what, exactly, is his innovative method of moral investigation?
En dépit d’une carrière très productive dans les divers champs de la philosophie morale, Torbjörn Tännsjö, philosophe suédois né en 1946, reste sans aucun doute pour les lecteurs français un auteur à découvrir. Sa carrière universitaire le mena de l’Université de Göteborg à celle de Stockholm où il occupe depuis 2002 la chaire « Kristian Claëson » de philosophie pratique. Membre du Comité d’éthique suédois, il est à ce jour l’auteur d’une vingtaine de livres publiés tant en anglais que dans (...) s... (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the plausibility of a certain position in the philosophical literature within which the Repugnant Conclusion is treated, not as repugnant, but as an acceptable implication of the total welfare principle. I will confine myself to focus primarily on Törbjörn Tännsjö’s presentation. First, I reconstruct Tännsjö’s view concerning the repugnance of the RC in two arguments. The first argument is criticized for (a) addressing the wrong comparison, (b) relying on the controversial claim that (...) the privileged people in our actual world only have lives barely worth living and (c) that Tännsjö’s identification between Z-lives and privileged lives is restricted to certain versions of the notion ‘barely worth living’ – a restriction that weakens the force of the argument. The second argument is criticized because some of it premises entailed (b) and (d) for its implausible claim that non-imaginable outcomes cannot be compared. (shrink)
When and why is it right to kill? When and why is it wrong? Torbjörn Tännsjö examines three theories on the ethics of killing in this book: deontology, a libertarian moral rights theory, and utilitarianism. The implications of each theory are worked out for different kinds of killing: trolley-cases, murder, capital punishment, suicide, assisted death, abortion, killing in war, and the killing of animals. These implications are confronted with our intuitions in relation to them, and our moral intuitions are examined (...) in turn. Only those intuitions that survive an understanding of how we have come to hold them are seen as 'considered' intuitions. The idea is that the theory that can best explain the content of our considered intuitions gains inductive support from them. We must transcend our narrow cultural horizons and avoid certain cognitive mistakes in order to hold considered intuitions. In this volume, suitable for courses in ethics and applied ethics, Tännsjö argues that in the final analysis utilitarianism can best account for, and explain, our considered intuitions about all these kinds of killing. (shrink)
For elite athletes seeking a winning advantage, manipulation of their own genetic code has become a realistic possibility. In Genetic Technology and Sport, experts from sports science, genetics, philosophy, ethics, and international sports administration describe the potential applications of the new technology and debate the questions surrounding its use.
A set of moral problems known as The Trolley Dilemmas was presented to 3000 randomly selected inhabitants of the USA, Russia and China. It is shown that Chinese are significantly less prone to support utility-maximizing alternatives, as compared to the US and Russian respondents. A number of possible explanations, as well as methodological issues pertaining to the field of surveying moral judgment and moral disagreement, are discussed.
Like all causal theories in philosophy, the causal theory of action is plagued by the problem of deviant causal chains. I have proposed a solution on the basis of the assumption that mental states and events are causally efficacious in virtue of their contents. This solution has been questioned by Torbjörn Tännsjö (2009). First, I will reply to the objection, and then I will discuss Tännsjö’s alternative.
Derek Parfit has famously pointed out that ‘total’ utilitarian views, such as classical hedonistic utilitarianism, lead to the conclusion that, to each population of quite happy persons there corresponds a more extensive population with people living lives just worth living, which is better. In particular, for any possible population of at least ten billion people, all with a very high quality of life, there must be some much larger imaginable population whose existence, if other things are equal, would be better, (...) even though its members have lives that are barely worth living. This world is better if the sum total of well-being is great enough, and it is great enough if only enough sentient beings inhabit it. This conclusion has been considered by Parfit and others to be ‘repugnant’. (shrink)
This is a wide-ranging defense of a distinctive version of hedonistic act utilitarianism. It is plainly written, forthright, and stimulating. Also, it is replete with disputable assertions and arguments. I shall pursue one issue here, after sketching the project of each substantial chapter.
Coercive Care: The Ethics of Choice in Health and Medicine asks probing and challenging questions regarding the use of coercion in health care and social services. This book combines philosophical analysis with comparative studies of social policy and law in a large number of industrialized countries and proposes an ideal of judicial security on a global scale.
Given a reasonable coherentist view of justification in ethics, applied ethics, as here conceived of, cannot only guide us, in our practical decisions, but also provide moral understanding through explanation of our moral obligations. Furthermore, applied ethics can contribute to the growth of knowledge in ethics as such. We put moral hypotheses to crucial test in individual cases. This claim is defended against the challenges from moral intuitionism and particularism.
My objective in this project is to explore the concept of moral luck as it relates to sports. I am especially interested in constitutive luck. As a foundation I draw from both Bernard Williams and Thomas Nagel’s classic handling of moral luck, generally. Within the philosophy of sport are similar explorations of this nexus by Robert Simon and David Carr that also factor into the present work. My intent is to put a new lens in front of a puzzle drawn (...) from Torbjörn Tännsjö’s well-known article ‘Is Our Admiration of Sports Heroes Facistoid?’ Specifically, the idea that we might admire an athlete who excels without having worked hard for it. If we may call this puzzle ‘the talent problem,’ the questions driving the present work are as follows: what is the relationship between moral luck and the talent problem, and can this relationship provide a prescription for morally assessing the talent problem? The thesis that this exploratory work suggests that more complex games (and... (shrink)
Collectivities, just like individuals, exist, can act, bear responsibility for their acts and omissions, and be guilty. It sometimes makes sense to hold them responsible for what they do, or don't do, and to punish them for their misdeeds. With respect to many collectivities there is no practical purpose in holding them responsible, since there is no way that we can bring them to justice. But there are exceptions from this rule. In particular it is plausible to assume that sanctions (...) against entire nations or peoples or populations living in open and democratic states may be an effective means to setting them straight where, collectively, they act wrongly. The best present example of this seems to be the Israelis. (shrink)
Moral relativism comes in many varieties. One is a moral doctrine, according to which we ought to respect other cultures, and allow them to solve moral problems as they see fit. I will say nothing about this kind of moral relativism in the present context. Another kind of moral relativism is semantic moral relativism, according to which, when we pass moral judgements, we make an implicit reference to some system of morality (our own). According to this kind of moral relativism, (...) when I say that a certain action is right, my statement is elliptic. What I am really saying is that, according to the system of morality in my culture, this action is right. I will reject this kind of relativism. According to yet another kind of moral relativism, which we may call epistemic, it is possible that, when one person (belonging to one culture) makes a certain moral judgement, such as that this action is right, and another person (belong to another culture) makes the judgement that the very same action is wrong, they may have just as good reasons for their respective judgements; it is even possible that, were they fully informed about all the facts, equally imaginative, and so forth, they would still hold on to their respective (conflicting) judgements. They are each fully justified in their belief in conflicting judgements. I will comment on this form of moral relativism in passing. Finally, however, there is a kind of moral relativism we could call ontological, according to which, when two persons pass conflicting moral verdicts on a certain action, they may both be right. The explanation is that they make their judgements from the perspective of different, socially constructed, moral universes. So while it is true in the first person's moral universe that a certain action is right, it is true in the second person's moral universe that the very same action is wrong. I explain and defend this version of ontological moral relativism. (shrink)
Ought we to improve our cognitive capacities beyond the normal human range? It might be a good idea to level out differences between peoples cognitive capacities; and some people's reaching beyond normal capacities may have some good side-effects on society at large (but also bad side-effects, of course). But is there any direct gain to be made from having ones cognitive capacities enhanced? Would this as such make our lives go better? No, I argue; or at least there doesn't seem (...) to be any evidence suggesting that it would. And it doesn't matter whether we consider the question from a narrow hedonistic perspective, from a more refined hedonistic perspective, from a desire-satisfaction view, or from some reasonable objective list view of what makes a life go well. Only an extremely perfectionist – and implausible – view of what makes our lives go well could support any direct value in cognitive enhancement. Finally, our sense of identity gives us no good reasons to enhance even our capacity to remember. So, cognitive enhancement as such would not improve our lives. (shrink)
Donald Davidson brought to our attention deviant causal chains as a problem for causal theories of action. Consider Davidson's own example: " A climber might want to rid himself of the weight and danger of holding another man on a rope, and he might know that by loosening his hold on the rope he could rid himself of the weight and danger. This belief and want might so unnerve him as to cause him to loosen his hold, and yet it (...) might be the case that he never chose to loosen his hold, nor did he do it intentionally. " The loosening of the hold on the rope is an action, according to a simple causal theory of action earlier developed by Davidson , if we can describe it in a way that renders it intentional under that description. Is there a way of describing the climber's loosening of his hold of the rope as intentional? Did he intentionally loosen his hold? Well, his loosening his hold is both rationalized and explained causally with reference to the beliefs and desires held by the climber. But there seems to be something wrong with the causal chain.Is there a simple fix? Could we not say that even if the loosening of the hold on the rope is caused by a desire held by the climber it is not caused by any proximate desire of the climber ? Or, to give a new twist to this well-known argument, could we not say that the loosening of the hold on the rope is not caused in a way that is responsive to the desire? This latter idea has recently been suggested by Markus E. Schlosser as a simple solution to the …. (shrink)
A member of Jehovah’s Witnesses agreed to receive blood when alone, but rejected it once the elders were present. She insisted that the elders should stay, they were allowed to do so, and she bled to death. Was it all right to allow her to have the elders present when she made her final decision? Was it all right to allow her to bleed to death? It was, according to an anti-paternalist principle, which I have earlier defended on purely utilitarian (...) grounds. The thrust of the present argument is that the principle stands even in cases with context-sensitive preferences. However, my utilitarian argument to this effect must now rely on something other than J.S. Mill’s standard presumption that in most cases the individual makes the right choices for herself. A reference to the general trust in the system of healthcare is essential to the utilitarian defense of the anti-paternalistic principle. (shrink)
Jag argumenterar för att Torbjörn Tännsjö borde anse det fel att äta kött. Därför borde han bli vegetarian. Anledningen till detta är en artikel, "Why we ought to accept the repugnant conclusion", som Tännsjö publicerade 2002 i tidskriften Utilitas.
Population axiology concerns how to evaluate populations in regard to their goodness, that is, how to order populations by the relations “is better than” and “is as good as”. This field has been riddled with “paradoxes” which seem to show that our considered beliefs are inconsistent in cases where the number of people and their welfare varies. Already in Derek Parfit’s seminal contribution to the topic, an informal paradox — the Mere Addition Paradox — was presented and later contributions have (...) proved similar results.1 All of these contributions, however, have one thing in common: They all involve an adequacy condition that rules out Parfit’s Repugnant Conclusion: The Repugnant Conclusion: For any perfectly equal population with very high positive welfare, there is a population with very low positive welfare which is better, other things being equal.2 A number of theorists, however, have argued that we should accept the Repugnant Conclusion and hence that avoidance of this conclusion is not a convincing adequacy condition for a population axiology. Torbjörn Tännsjö, for example, argues that the Repugnant Conclusion is not at all repugnant but rather “an unsought, but acceptable, consequence of hedonistic utilitarianism”:3.. (shrink)
Why should we respect the privacy of donors of biological material? The question is answered in the present article in general philosophical terms from the point of view of an ethics of honour, a libertarian theory of rights, a view of respect for privacy based on the idea that autonomy is of value in itself, and utilitarianism respectively. For different reasons the ethics of honour and the idea of the value of autonomy are set to one side. It surfaces that (...) the moral rights theory and utilitarianism present conflicting answers to the question. The main thrust of the argument is that there is no way of finding an overlapping consensus, so politicians have to take decisions that are bound to be controversial in that they can be questioned on reasonable philosophical grounds. (shrink)
A simple hedonistic theory allowing for interpersonal comparisons of happiness is taken for granted in this article. The hedonistic theory is used to compare utilitarianism, urging us to maximize the sum total of happiness, with prioritarianism, urging us to maximize a sum total of weighed happiness. It is argued with reference to a few thought experiments that utilitarianism is, intuitively speaking, more plausible than prioritarianism. The problem with prioritarianism surfaces when prudence and morality come apart.