Consider the crucible of character theodicy, that we are permitted by God to meet with great evils in order to form a character with virtues like courage and sacrificial love whose significant exercise requires significant evils. …
Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that the value of our most important activities depends on the Afterlife: the continued existence of the human species in future generations. The argument begins with a speculative psychological hypothesis: that we would lose interest in most things if we believed that our species was about to go extinct (e.g. through general infertility of the current generation). I argue that even if we accept this hypothesis, it wouldn't follow that the Afterlife is a condition for the value of our activities. For many of our most important activities, the imminent extinction of the species would not affect the properties that make them worth pursuing. I go on to propose an alternative way of thinking about Scheffler’s hypothesis, showing that it reflects psychic trauma on the part of those who are aware that they are the last generation of the species.
One of the many rich and interesting themes in Gary Watson’s very impressive body of philosophical work is the idea that moral responsibility involves a distinctive kind of interpersonal address. There is a characteristic practice of addressing moral standards to other agents that is associated with at least one prominent form of responsibility, and this practice can help us to understand both the nature of moral requirements and the conditions of responsible moral agency.
The View from Here looks at a range of retrospective attitudes that humans take toward things that have happened in the past. Some tendency to react emotionally toward past occurrences, I contend, is an ineluctable concomitant of investment in the ongoing world of value. Thus to value or cherish someone or something is, inter alia, to be disposed not only to anxiety when it is threatened and to satisfaction when it fares well, but also to sadness or distress when it is damaged or destroyed. The book focuses primarily on two extreme forms of retrospective attitude that stand in opposition to each other, which I call all-in regret and unconditional affirmation. I suggest that the second of these distinctive attitudes is characteristic of attachment: the kind of emotional investment in persons and projects that typically gives our lives meaning and personal significance. To be attached in this way is, I suggest, to be prone to affirming unconditionally both the objects of one’s attachments and the historical conditions of their existence, in ways that preclude all-in regret about those very things. The upshot is that we can be committed, in virtue of our attachments, to affirming past decisions that may have been unjustified at the time when they were taken, and even monstrous historical conditions that cannot possibly be thought to be worthy of being affirmed.
Common-sense morality includes various agent-centred constraints, including ones against killing unnecessarily and breaking a promise. However, it’s not always clear whether, had an agent φ-ed, she would have violated a constraint. And sometimes the reason for this is not that we lack knowledge of the relevant facts, but that there is no fact about whether her φ-ing would have constituted a constraint-violation. What, then, is a constraint-accepting theory (that is, a theory that includes such constraints) to say about whether it would have been permissible for her to have φ- ed? In this paper, I canvass various possible approaches to answering this question and argue that teleology offers the most plausible approach—teleology being the view that every act has its deontic status in virtue of how its outcome (or prospect) ranks relative to those of its alternatives. So although, until recently, it had been thought that only deontological theories can accommodate constraints, it turns out that teleological theories not only can accommodate constraints, but can do so more plausibly than deontological theories can.
Here is a simple argument against abortion:
(1) If an entity (X) has a right to life, it is, ceteris paribus, not permissible to terminate that entity’s existence. (2) The foetus has a right to life. …
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher and
cultural critic who published intensively in the 1870s and 1880s. He
is famous for uncompromising criticisms of traditional European
morality and religion, as well as of conventional philosophical ideas
and social and political pieties associated with modernity. Many of
these criticisms rely on psychological diagnoses that expose false
consciousness infecting people’s received ideas; for that
reason, he is often associated with a group of late modern thinkers
(including Marx and Freud) who advanced a “hermeneutics of
suspicion” against traditional values (see Foucault  1990,
Ricoeur  1970, Leiter 2004).
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late
19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and
traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of
individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity,
power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those
situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of
“life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of
all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially
prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first
existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard
(1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading
figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets,
novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and
Today’s Virtual Colloquium is “Global and Local Atheisms” by Jeanine Diller. Dr. Diller received her PhD from the University of Michigan and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Philosophy and Program on Religious Studies of the University of Toledo in Ohio. …
In our view, behavior is to be understood as influenced by a number of different control systems. We shall focus in particular on what we will call the habit system, the desire system, and the planning system. These three systems are of crucial importance for determining almost all of our choices, addictive and otherwise. It seems likely that the first two of these systems are shared with other animals, but that the planning system is peculiar to humans. By describing these three systems, we aim to provide a framework that will clarify the mechanisms of addiction and the loss of control they involve.
Moses ben Maimon [known to English speaking audiences as Maimonides
and Hebrew speaking as Rambam] (1138–1204) is the greatest Jewish
philosopher of the medieval period and is still widely read today. The
Mishneh Torah, his 14-volume compendium of Jewish law,
established him as the leading rabbinic authority of his time and quite
possibly of all time. His philosophic masterpiece, the Guide of the
Perplexed, is a sustained treatment of Jewish thought and practice
that seeks to resolve the conflict between religious knowledge and
secular. Although heavily influenced by the Neo-Platonized
Aristotelianism that had taken root in Islamic circles, it departs from
prevailing modes of Aristotelian thought by emphasizing the limits of
human knowledge and the questionable foundations of significant parts
of astronomy and metaphysics.
“Contractarianism” names both a political theory of the
legitimacy of political authority and a moral theory about the origin
or legitimate content of moral norms. The political theory of
authority claims that legitimate authority of government must derive
from the consent of the governed, where the form and content of this
consent derives from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. The
moral theory of contractarianism claims that moral norms derive their
normative force from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. Contractarians are skeptical of the possibility of grounding morality
or political authority in either divine will or some perfectionist
ideal of the nature of humanity.
Killer robots. You have probably heard about them. You may also have heard that there is a campaign to stop them. One of the main arguments that proponents of the campaign make is that they will create responsibility gaps in military operations. …
According to the orthodox treatment of risk preferences in decision theory, they are to be explained in terms of the agent’s desires about concrete outcomes. The orthodoxy has been criticised both for conflating two types of attitudes and for committing agents to attitudes that do not seem rationally required. To avoid these problems, it has been suggested that an agent’s attitudes to risk should be captured by a risk function that is independent of her utility and probability functions. The main problem with that approach is that it suggests that attitudes to risk are wholly distinct from people’s (non-instrumental) desires. To overcome this problem, we develop a framework where an agent’s utility function is defined over chance propositions (i.e., propositions describing objective probability distributions) as well as ordinary (non-chance) ones, and argue that one should explain different risk attitudes in terms of different forms of the utility function over such propositions.
Party scene from Second Life
In 1993, Julian Dibbell wrote an article in The Village Voice describing the world’s first virtual rape. It took place in a virtual world called LambdaMOO, which still exists to this day. …
While there is substantial agreement that these are among the central points Moore wanted to make in Principia Ethica, there is substantial disagreement about what Moore was thinking of when he spoke of the naturalistic fallacy. There is also substantial disagreement about whether his claims about the naturalistic fallacy – whatever it may be -- deserve to be taken seriously. Some praise Moore’s discussion extravagantly; others dismiss it as a contemptible mess. In spite of these significant differences of opinion, commentators agree that arguments concerning the naturalistic fallacy played a big role in 20th Century Anglophone moral philosophy.
Hume's account of human thought and cognition is central to his philosophical project. But despite this, and the general acknowledgement of Hume's importance as a philosopher, his account of cognition has often been viewed as limited and simplistic. While the worries about this account are
I am going to discuss our intuitive sense of the motives for bad actions, especially very bad actions. The combination of intuitive grasp of motive with moral judgement is very delicate and problematic, as I shall argue. One connection with legal reasoning arises with sentencing decisions by judges. (Another is with the decision that a case is too trivial to hear.) I shall not say a lot about this connection, because I do not have the background for it. I shall assume, though, that judges often have considerable discretion in sentencing, in spite of sentencing guidelines in some jurisdictions, and that the moral character of the particular instance of a crime for which a particular person has been convicted plays a large role in this. (If this assumption is in fact less evident than it seems to me, please correct me.) Similar considerations apply when juries have discretion such as deciding whether the death penalty is to apply, but I shall not discuss these, again out of ignorance.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an American philosopher,
poet, and environmental scientist whose major work, Walden,
draws upon each of these identities in meditating on the concrete
problems of living in the world as a human being. He sought to revive
a conception of philosophy as a way of life, not only a mode of
reflective thought and discourse. Thoreau’s work was informed by
an eclectic variety of sources. He was well-versed in classical Greek
and Roman philosophy, ranging from the pre-Socratics through the
Hellenistic schools, and was also an avid student of the ancient
scriptures and wisdom literature of various Asian traditions.
Many countries have constitutions that protect individual rights. Strong form judicial review (hereinafter ‘strong JR’) is the practice whereby courts, usually the ‘supreme’ court in a given jurisdiction, have the final power to strike down legislation that they perceive to be in conflict with constitutionally protected rights. …
Population axiologists hope to shed light on central questions in population ethics (How many people should we want there to be? How well off should we want them to be? What if these things are in tension?) by ranking populations that differ with respect to the number of people they contain, and with respect to how well off those people are. But the enterprise of population axiology has, for thirty five years, been overshadowed by certain paradoxes – collections of propositions that are individually truthy (each looks true, at first glance), but jointly inconsistent (they cannot all be true). Here is one of the simplest :
We could imagine critters whose perceptual system works as follows: When they have an object in their visual field, instead of the perceptual system delivering the presence of a dog, it delivers something like:
dog:0.93, coyote:0.03, wolf:0.03, deer:0.01. …
"Reflective equilibrium" is sometimes treated as the method of ethics (Rawls 1971 is the classic source). In reflective equilibrium, one considers one's judgments, beliefs, or intuitions about particular individual cases (e.g., in such-and-such an emergency would it be bad to push someone in front of an oncoming trolley?). …
The world is ageing. A demographic shift is underway. According to some figures (Suzman et al 2015), the proportion of the worldwide population aged 65 or older will outnumber the proportion aged under 5 by the year 2020. …
Within Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Provincial Patient Relations Department employs Patient Relations Consultants (PRCs) to assist unsatisfied patients, investigate healthcare related concerns, and facilitate resolution. The patients, who are referred to as complainants, interpret their experience and come forward with their complaint; the PRC is responsible to then interpret the complaint and take it forward for redress. In doing so, offering complainants an apology is unavoidable. Patient relations is an interpretive practice, however, and there are shortcomings when apology is inserted into the conversation. In this article, I deconstruct apology from a patient relations perspective. I draw upon concepts in Richard Kearney’s Strangers, Gods and Monsters (2003), as well as the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida, to present an interpretive account of how the hospital is a host to strangers, and to patients. Following an unsatisfactory experience or adverse event, the patients become complainants, or monsters. The PRCs, who are also considered hosts, receive the monsters at their door and, in turn, they can become hostages to the monsters. In attempting to achieve “otherness” with the “monsters,” the phenomenon of apology is examined.
Clinical research attempts to address a relatively straightforward,
and extremely important challenge: how do we determine whether one
medical intervention is better than another, whether it offers greater clinical benefit and/or poses fewer risks? Clinicians may one day be
able to answer these questions by relying on computer models, thereby
avoiding reliance on clinical research and the ethical concerns it
raises. Until that day, clinical researchers begin by testing
potential new medical interventions in the laboratory, and often in
animals. While these methods can provide valuable information and, in
the case of animal research, raise important ethical issues of their
own, potential new interventions eventually must be tested in
To begin, I must express my gratitude to both Emily Crookston and David Kelley for their excellent commentaries on my book. Non-academics often don’t understand this, but it is always an honor to have colleagues criticize one’s work. I am honored. I hope my replies here do justice to their concerns.
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: (1) learning about the universe, and about ourselves as a part of the universe, and (2) learning how to make progress towards as good a world as possible. We solved the first problem when we created modern science in the 17th century, but we have not yet solved the second problem. This puts us in a situation of unprecedented danger. Modern science and technology enormously increase our power to act, but not our power to act wisely. All our current global crises have arisen as a result. What we need to do is learn from our solution to the first great problem of learning how to go about solving the second one. Properly implemented, this idea leads to a new kind of inquiry rationally devoted to helping humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible.
Part One gives context to the life of Mary (Primrose) Shepherd. It weaves the stories of her ancestors and her own stories into a wider social and historical context. The aim is to evoke a world from which to mark the emergence of Mary Primrose, Scotland’s first female philosopher.
What makes the combination of creating and parenting a child valuable for a person? On the one hand, the activity of creating on its own can be meaningless for the person who does it. Think of an anonymous sperm donor who never even meets the child he creates. On the other hand, the activity of parenting on its own seems quite meaningful. Think of a stepfather and the profound love he feels towards a child he helps to raise. It is therefore hard to see how there could be any value in the combination of creating and parenting a child over and above the value of parenting itself. This is a problem for those who believe that procreative-parenting uniquely contributes to the pursuit of a meaningful life. But the difficulty in locating the value of procreation in procreative-parenting is not the only problem facing those who believe that there is something special about the bond parents enjoy with the children they have a genetic and/or gestational connection with. Another problem they face is to show that this value is significant enough to give them the theoretical resources to address two pressing moral challenges to the practice of procreative-parenting.