Joseph Butler is best known for his criticisms of the hedonic and
egoistic “selfish” theories associated with Hobbes and
Bernard Mandeville and for his positive arguments that self-love and
conscience are not at odds if properly understood (and indeed promote
and sanction the same actions). In addition to his importance as a
moral philosopher Butler was also an influential Anglican theologian. Unsurprisingly his theology and philosophy were connected — his
main writings in moral philosophy were published sermons, a work of
natural theology, and a brief dissertation attached to that work. Although most of Butler’s moral arguments make rich use of passages
from scripture and familiar Christian stories and concepts, they make
little reference to — and depend little on the reader having
— any particular religious commitments.
Respect has great importance in everyday life. As children we are
taught (one hopes) to respect our parents, teachers, and elders,
school rules and traffic laws, family and cultural traditions, other
people's feelings and rights, our country's flag and leaders, the
truth and people's differing opinions. And we come to value respect
for such things; when we're older, we may shake our heads (or fists)
at people who seem not to have learned to respect them. We develop
great respect for people we consider exemplary and lose respect for
those we discover to be clay-footed, and so we may try to respect only
those who are truly worthy of our respect.
. As part of the week of recognizing R.A.Fisher (February 17, 1890 – July 29, 1962), I reblog a guest post by Stephen Senn from 2012/2017. The comments from 2017 lead to a troubling issue that I will bring up in the comments today. …
There is a vast literature that seeks to uncover features underlying moral judgment by eliciting reactions to hypothetical scenarios such as trolley problems. These thought experiments assume that participants accept the outcomes stipulated in the scenarios. Across seven studies (N = 968), we demonstrate that intuition overrides stipulated outcomes even when participants are explicitly told that an action will result in a particular outcome. Participants instead substitute their own estimates of the probability of outcomes for stipulated outcomes, and these probability estimates in turn influence moral judgments. Our findings demonstrate that intuitive likelihoods are one critical factor in moral judgment, one that is not suspended even in moral dilemmas that explicitly stipulate outcomes. Features thought to underlie moral reasoning, such as intention, may operate, in part, by affecting the intuitive likelihood of outcomes, and, problematically, moral differences between scenarios may be confounded with non-moral intuitive probabilities.
Traditionally philosophical discussions on moral responsibility have
focused on the human components in moral action. Accounts of how to
ascribe moral responsibility usually describe human agents performing
actions that have well-defined, direct consequences. In today’s
increasingly technological society, however, human activity cannot be
properly understood without making reference to technological
artifacts, which complicates the ascription of moral responsibility
(Jonas 1984; Waelbers
2009).[ 1 ]
As we interact with and through these artifacts, they affect the
decisions that we make and how we make them (Latour 1992).
It is often said that ‘what it is like’-knowledge cannot be acquired by consulting testimony or reading books [Lewis 1998; Paul 2014; 2015a]. However, people also routinely consult books like What It Is Like to Go to War [Marlantes 2014], and countless ‘what it is like’ articles and youtube videos, in the apparent hope of gaining knowledge about what it is like to have experiences they have not had themselves. This article examines this puzzle and tries to solve it by appealing to recent work on knowing-wh ascriptions. In closing I indicate the wider significance of these ideas by showing how they can help us to evaluate prominent arguments by Paul [2014; 2015a] concerning transformative experiences.
Autonomous agents are self-governing agents. But what is a
self-governing agent? Governing oneself is no guarantee that one will
have a greater range of options in the future, or the sort of
opportunities one most wants to have. Since, moreover, a person can
govern herself without being able to appreciate the difference between
right and wrong, it seems that an autonomous agent can do something
wrong without being to blame for her action. What, then, are the
necessary and sufficient features of this self-relation? Philosophers
have offered a wide range of competing answers to this question.
The internet has made it easier than ever to speak to others. It has empowered individuals to publish our opinions without first convincing a media company of their commercial value; to find and share others' views without the fuss of photocopying and mailing newspaper clippings; and to respond to those views without the limitations of a newspaper letter page. …
In ‘Freedom and Resentment’ P. F. Strawson argues that reactive attitudes like resentment and indignation cannot be eliminated altogether, because doing so would involve exiting interpersonal relationships altogether. I describe an alternative to resentment: a form of moral sadness about wrongdoing that, I argue, preserves our participation in interpersonal relationships. Substituting this moral sadness for resentment and indignation would amount to a deep and far-reaching change in the way we relate to each other – while keeping in place the interpersonal relationships, which, Strawson rightfully believes, cannot be eliminated.
International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
How should we think about the moral status of non-human (or pre-human) entities? Do animals/robots/foetuses have moral status? If so, why? It is important to get the answer right. Entities with moral status are objects of moral concern. …
For the past few weeks, people on- and offline have spoken up to question Winston Churchill’s legacy. They generally highlight his racism, his support for the use of concentration camps, his treatment of Ireland, his complicity in the Bengal famine, and more. …
A proper understanding of the moral and political significance of migration requires a focus on global inequalities. More specifically, it requires a focus on those global inequalities that affect people’s ability to participate in the production of economic goods and non-economic goods (e.g., relationships of intimacy and care, opportunities for self-expression, well-functioning institutions, etc.). We call cooperative infrastructures the complex material and immaterial technologies that allow human beings to cooperate in order to generate human goods. By enabling migrants to access high-quality cooperative infrastructures, migration contributes to the diffusion of technical and socio-political innovations; in this way, it positively affects the ability of individuals from poorer countries to participate in the production of human goods. However, migration can also damage the material and immaterial components of the cooperative infrastructures accessible in both host countries and sending countries; these potential downsides of migration should not be ignored, although arguably they can often be neutralized, alleviated, or compensated.
The Trolley Problem is the problem of explaining the moral contrast between two hypothetical cases. In Bystander, a runaway trolley is heading down a track towards five strangers, who will be killed if you do nothing. The trolley is a approaching a fork. If it is redirected by the push of a button, it will swerve on to a side track, where it will kill one stranger, instead of five. The circumstance is otherwise unexceptional. You have no special obligation to the strangers. They are not responsible for the runaway trolley and their life or death would have no unusual consequences, good or ill. You are a bystander at the button. What should you do? Footbridge is similar, except that the trolley can be stopped only by pushing a button that drops someone through a trapdoor on a footbridge over the track, where they will be killed by the trolley but halt its progress towards the five. Again, you are bystander at the button. What should you do?
John Austin is considered by many to be the creator of the school of
analytical jurisprudence, as well as, more specifically, the approach
to law known as “legal positivism.” Austin’s particular
command theory of law has been subject to pervasive criticism, but its
simplicity gives it an evocative power that continues to attract
Gertrude Elizabeth Margaret Anscombe was one of the most gifted
philosophers of the twentieth century. Her work continues to strongly
influence philosophers working in action theory and moral
philosophy. Like the work of her friend Ludwig Wittgenstein,
Anscombe’s work is marked by a keen analytic sensibility.
When philosophers, social scientists, and politicians seek to
determine the justice of institutional arrangements, their discussions
have often taken the form of questioning whether and under what
circumstances the redistribution of wealth or other valuable goods is
justified. This essay examines the different ways in which
redistribution can be understood, the diverse political contexts in
which it has been employed, and whether or not it is a useful concept
for exploring questions of distributive justice.
The word ‘pluralism’ generally refers to the view that
there are many of the things in question (concepts, scientific world
views, discourses, viewpoints etc.) The issues arising from there
being many differ widely from subject area to subject area. This entry
is concerned with moral pluralism—the view that there are many
different moral values. Moral value pluralism should be distinguished from political
pluralism. Political pluralism, which, like moral value pluralism, is
often referred to as ‘value pluralism’, is a view
associated with political liberalism. Political pluralism is concerned
with the question of what sort of restrictions governments can put on
people’s freedom to act according to their values.
Constantin Brancusi. Socrates
Image © The Museum of Modern Art;
Licensed by Scala/Art Resource, NY
©2005 Artists Rights Society (ARS),
New York/ADAGP, Paris
reproduced with permission
of the Brancusi Estate
The philosopher Socrates remains, as he was in his
B.C.E. ),[ 1 ]
an enigma, an inscrutable individual who, despite having written
nothing, is considered one of the handful of philosophers who forever
changed how philosophy itself was to be conceived. All our information
about him is second-hand and most of it vigorously disputed, but his
trial and death at the hands of the Athenian democracy is nevertheless
the founding myth of the academic discipline of philosophy, and his
influence has been felt far beyond philosophy itself, and in every
What does it mean for something, like the fact that rain is forecast, to be a normative reason for an action like taking your umbrella, or attitude like believing it will rain? According to a widely and perennially popular view, concepts of “reasons” are all concepts of some kind of explanation. But explanations of what? On one way of developing this idea, the concept of a normative reason for an agent S to perform an action A is that of an explanation why it would be good (in some way, to some degree) for S to do A. This Reasons as Explanations of Goodness hypothesis (REG) has numerous virtues, and has had a number of champions. But like every other extant theory of normative reasons it faces some significant challenges, which prompt many more philosophers to be skeptical that it can correctly account for (all) our reasons. This paper demonstrates how five different puzzles about normative reasons can be solved by careful attention to the concept of goodness, and in particular observing the ways in which it—and consequently, talk about reasons—is sensitive to context. Rather than asking simply whether or not certain facts are reasons for S to do A, we need to explore the contexts in which it is and is not correct to describe a certain fact as “a reason” for S to do A.
The Laws is one of Plato’s last dialogues. In it, he sketches
the basic political structure and laws of an ideal city named Magnesia. Despite the fact that the Laws treats a number of basic issues
in political and ethical philosophy as well as theology, it has
suffered neglect compared with the Republic. In recent years,
however, more scholarly attention has been paid to the Laws. This entry discusses some of the most important issues arising in
recent scholarship and suggests avenues for future research.
Julian Savulescu has long-defended the idea that if you are going to procreate then you have a duty to procreate the child with the best expected quality of life that it is possible for you to procreate. …
My article aims to revisit the aesthetic thought of the Austrian psychologist and philosopher Joseph Wilhelm Nahlowsky (1812–1885), as expounded in his formerly famous monograph Das Gefühlsleben. I show that although Nahlowsky was a direct heir of Herbart, his ideas were in keeping with both the contemporary debate about form and content and the then-emerging paradigm of psychological aesthetics. I describe his developments on aesthetic feelings and his remarkable attempt to elaborate a general psycho-affective theory on the experience of the aesthetic object. I also discuss the importance of the notion of form, inherited from Herbart, in his psychological aesthetics. Finally, I demonstrate that, in addition to having marked an ‘affective’ turn in Herbartianism, Nahlowsky was a key actor in the evolution of ideas in psychological aesthetics in the second half of the nineteenth century.
A satisfactory account of the nature of health is important for a wide range of theoretical and practical reasons. No theory offered in the literature thus far has been able to meet all the desiderata for an adequate theory of health. This paper introduces a new theory of health, according to which health is best defined in terms of dispositions at the level of the organism as a whole. After outlining the main features of the account and providing formal definitions of ‘health’, ‘healthy’, and ‘healthier than’, I present the main strengths of the proposed account. I argue that the proposed dispositional theory accounts for all paradigm cases of health and pathology, that it circumvents a number of problems faced by rival theories, and that it makes for a naturalistic theory of health with a rigorous metaphysical underpinning.
In this article I defend an unpopular, some might say discredited, position: psychological egoism, the thesis that we are always ultimately motivated by self-interest. In the course of this article we shall see that people may be mistaken about what really is in their self-interest. We will also see that people commonly rationalize the choice of a present good that turns out not to be in their self-interest. Perhaps most surprisingly, we will see that, thanks to the merging of self and other, I can see another’s interests and my own as forming a larger whole.
Timothy Sandefur’s lengthy article raises an array of issues. I’ve decided to go for depth over breadth and focus primarily on the question: What is the law? Law is what judges are supposed to uphold, after all, and we seem to have some serious differences over this. What is the law? Is it, as Sandefur claims, a promise? An abstraction? An understanding? A process? A becoming? At different stages, he characterizes it as all of these things.
Do we have a duty to explore space? In part one, I looked at Schwartz’s positive case for the existence of such a duty. That positive case rested on three main arguments. The first argument claimed that we have a duty to explore space in order to access scarce resources. …
Lucrezia Marinella was a Venetian author of the sixteenth century, who
published prolifically in a range of genres, primarily devotional
literature (in prose and verse) and philosophical polemics. Her work,
La nobiltà et l’eccellenza delle donne, co’
difetti et mancamenti de gli uomini, (The Nobility and
Excellence of Women and the Defects and Vices of Men), published
in 1600, was one of the first polemical treatises written by a woman
in Italian as part of an ongoing debate about the nature and worth of
women, often called the querelle des femmes (the debate about
women).[ 1 ]
The Nobility and Excellence of Women is an erudite
recapitulation of the arguments and evidence brought forward to
support claims for the merits of women, but it is more than a summary.
This paper argues that the controversy over GM crops is not best understood in terms of the supposed bias, dishonesty, irrationality, or ignorance on the part of proponents or critics, but rather in terms of differences in values. To do this, the paper draws upon and extends recent work of the role of values and interests in science, focusing particularly on inductive risk and epistemic risk, and it shows how the GMO debate can help to further our understanding of the various epistemic risks that are present in science and how these risks might be managed.
We provide formal definitions of degree of blameworthiness and intention relative to an epistemic state (a probability over causal models and a utility function on outcomes). These, together with a definition of actual causality, provide the key ingredients for moral responsibility judgments. We show that these definitions give insight into commonsense intuitions in a variety of puzzling cases from the literature.