110 research outputs found

    Contractualism

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    This essay begins by describing T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism according to which an action is right when it is authorised by the moral principles no one could reasonably reject. This view has argued to have implausible consequences with regards to how different-sized groups, non-human animals, and cognitively limited human beings should be treated. It has also been accused of being theoretically redundant and unable to vindicate the so-called deontic distinctions. I then distinguish between the general contractualist framework and Scanlon’s version of contractualism. I explain how the general framework enables us to formulate many other versions of contractualism some of which can already be found in the literature. Understanding contractualism in this new way enables us both to understand the structural similarities and differences between different versions of contractualism and also to see the different objections to contractualism as internal debates about which version of contractualism is correct

    The advice models of happiness: a response to Feldman

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    In his critical notice entitled ‘An Improved Whole Life Satisfaction Theory of Happiness?’ focusing on my article that was previously published in this journal, Fred Feldman raises an important objection to a suggestion I made about how to best formulate the whole life satisfaction theories of happiness. According to my proposal, happiness is a matter of whether an idealised version of you would judge that your actual life corresponds to the life-plan, which he or she has constructed for you on the basis of your cares and concerns. Feldman argues that either the idealised version will include in the relevant life-plan only actions that are possible for you to do or he or she will also include actions and outcomes that are not available for you in the real world. He then uses examples to argue that both of these alternatives have implausible consequences. In response to this objection, I argue that what it is included in the relevant life-plan depends on what you most fundamentally desire and that this constraint is enough to deal with Feldman’s new cases

    Consequentialist Options

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    According to traditional forms of act-consequentialism, an action is right if and only if no other action in the given circumstances would have better consequences. It has been argued that this view does not leave us enough freedom to choose between actions which we intuitively think are morally permissible but not required options. In the first half of this article, I will explain why the previous consequentialist responses to this objection are less than satisfactory. I will then attempt to show that agents have more options on consequentialist grounds than the traditional forms of act-consequentialism acknowledged. This is because having a choice between many permissible options can itself have value

    Contractualism and the Conditional Fallacy

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    Most contractualist ethical theories have a subjunctivist structure. This means that they attempt to make sense of right and wrong in terms of a set of principles which would be accepted in some idealized, non-actual circumstances. This makes these views vulnerable to the so-called conditional fallacy objection. The moral principles that are appropriate for the idealized circumstances fail to give a correct account of what is right and wrong in the ordinary situations. This chapter uses two versions of contractualism to illustrate this problem: Nicholas Southwood’s and a standard contractualist theory inspired by T.M. Scanlon’s contractualism. It then develops a version of Scanlon’s view that can avoid the problem. This solution is based on the idea that we also need to compare different inculcation elements of moral codes in the contractualist framework. This idea also provides a new solution to the problem of at what level of social acceptance should principles be compared

    Moral Error Theory and the Belief Problem

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    Moral error theories claim that (i) moral utterances express moral beliefs, that (ii) moral beliefs ascribe moral properties, and that (iii) moral properties are not instantiated. Thus, according to these views, there seems to be conclusive evidence against the truth of our ordinary moral beliefs. Furthermore, many error theorists claim that, even if we accepted moral error theory, we could still in principle keep our first-order moral beliefs. This chapter argues that this last claim makes many popular versions of the moral error theory incompatible with the standard philosophical accounts of beliefs. Functionalism, normative theories of beliefs, representationalism, and interpretationalism all entail that being sensitive to thoughts about evidence is a constitutive feature of beliefs. Given that many moral error theorists deny that moral beliefs have this quality, their views are in a direct conflict with the most popular views about the nature of beliefs

    Contractualism and the Counter-Culture Challenge

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    T. M. Scanlon’s contractualism attempts to give an account of right and wrong in terms of the moral code that could not be reasonably rejected. Reasonable rejectability is then a function of what kind of consequences the general adoption of different moral codes has for different individuals. It has been shown that moral codes should be compared at a lower than 100% level of social acceptance. This leads to the counter-culture challenge. The problem is that the cultural background of the individuals who have not internalized the majority code affects the consequences of the codes and furthermore there does not seem to be a non-arbitrary way of choosing the minority cultures. This chapter first surveys and critically evaluates different responses to this challenge. It then outlines a version of ‘Real World Contractualism’, which offers the best response to the counter-culture challenge

    Introduction

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    This chapter begins by explaining two widespread attitudes towards the methods of moral philosophy. The first common attitude is that the appropriate method for doing ethics was described by John Rawls when he formulated the reflective equilibrium method. Another common attitude is that moral philosophy has no method – anything goes in ethical theorising as long as the results are significant enough. The chapter then motivates the volume by arguing that these attitudes are not helpful. The reflective equilibrium method has its limits and yet not all ways of proceeding in ethics are equally good. For this reason, I argue that we need to be more aware of the argumentative strategies we employ in ethics. This requires being methodologically reflective and transparent and taking part in the debates about the merits and problems of different methodologies exactly in the way done in the chapters of this volume. The second half of the chapter then provides an outline of the other chapters. Here I focus on clarifying exactly how these chapters contribute to the new discussions about the methods of ethics

    Non-Naturalism and Reference

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    Metaethical realists disagree about the nature of normative properties. Naturalists think that they are ordinary natural properties: causally efficacious, a posteriori knowable, and usable in the best explanations of natural and social sciences. Non-naturalist realists, in contrast, argue that they are sui generis: causally inert, a priori knowable and not a part of the subject matter of sciences. It has been assumed so far that naturalists can explain causally how the normative predicates manage to refer to normative properties, whereas non-naturalists are unable to provide equally satisfactory metasemantic explanations. This article first describes how the previous non-naturalist accounts of reference fail to tell us how the normative predicates could have come to refer to the non-natural properties rather than to the natural ones. I will then use the so-called qua-problem to show how the causal theories of reference of naturalists also fail to fix the reference of normative predicates to unique natural properties. Finally, I will suggest that, just as naturalists need to rely on the non-causal mechanism of reference magnetism to solve the previous problem, non-naturalists, too, can rely on the very same idea to respond to the pressing metasemantic challenges that they face concerning reference

    Consequentializing Moral Dilemmas

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    The aim of the consequentializing project is to show that, for every plausible ethical theory, there is a version of consequentialism that is extensionally equivalent to it. One challenge this project faces is that there are common-sense ethical theories that posit moral dilemmas. There has been some speculation about how the consequentializers should react to these theories, but so far there has not been a systematic treatment of the topic. In this article, I show that there are at least five ways in which we can construct versions of consequentialism that are extensionally equivalent to the ethical theories that contain moral dilemmas. I argue that all these consequentializing strategies face a dilemma: either they must posit moral dilemmas in unintuitive cases or they must rely on unsupported assumptions about value, permissions, requirements, or options. I also consider this result's consequences for the consequentializing project

    Contextualism, Moral Disagreement, and Proposition Clouds

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    According to contextualist theories in metaethics, when you use a moral term in a context, the context plays an ineliminable part in determining what natural property will be the semantic value of the term. Furthermore, on subjectivist and relativist versions of these views, it is either the speaker's own moral code or her moral community's moral code that constitutes the reference-fixing context. One standard objection to views of this type is that they fail to enable us to disagree in ordinary conversations. In this chapter, I develop a new response to this objection on the basis of Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies' notion of proposition clouds. I argue that, because we live in a multicultural society, the conversational contexts we face will fail to disambiguate between all the things we could mean. This is why we can at best put into play proposition clouds when we make moral utterances. All the propositions in such clouds are then available for rejection and acceptance on the behalf of our audiences. The norms of conversation then guide us to make informative contributions to the conversation - accept and reject propositions in a way that leads to co-ordination of action and choice
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