Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy

Articles

Vol. 7, No. 2, May

Aggregation, Beneficence and Chance
IT IS PLAUSIBLE TO THINK THAT IT IS WRONG to cure many people's headaches rather than save someone else's life. On the other hand, it is plausible to think that it is not wrong to expose someone to a tiny risk of death when curing this person's headache....
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Vol. 7, No. 2, March

Objectivism and Prospectivism about Rightness
IMAGINE THAT I AM IN MY CAR, approaching a junction I know well. It is the middle of the night, there are rarely other cars and the chances that I would see a car coming if there was one are pretty good. Of course, there is a small chance that there...
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Vol. 7, No. 2, February

The Human Right to Political Participation
THE GROWING IMPORTANCE OF HUMAN RIGHTS after World War II set an end to the state-sovereignty doctrine as the main political norm in the global realm. Human rights became the center of a distinctively political and legal agenda for the global order...
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Vol. 7, No. 1, January

Moral Error Theory and the Argument from Epistemic Reasons
1. The Argument from Epistemic Reasons THE MORAL ERROR THEORY INVOLVES two components: a conceptual component and an ontological component. According to the conceptual component, moral facts and claims entail facts and claims about categorical normative...
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Vol. 7, No. 1, December

Evolutionary Debunking, Moral Realism and Moral Knowledge
THERE HAVE RECENTLY BEEN A NUMBER OF sharp criticisms directed against moral realism--the tripartite view that (i) sincere moral judgments express beliefs, rather than conative attitudes; (ii) some of these beliefs are true; and (iii) such beliefs,...
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August-September

Objective Morality, Subjective Morality and the Explanatory Question
DAVID HUME'S ASSESSMENT OF JOHN HAMBDEN, one of the principal instigators of the English Civil War, runs as follows: The attempt ... of totally annihilating monarchical power, was a very blameable extreme; especially as it was attended "with...
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The Normative Significance of Conscience
MEMBERS OF LIBERAL SOCIETIES respect conscience. They generally consider it wrong to force another to do something she thinks is morally odious. John Rawls asserts, "the question of equal liberty of conscience is settled. It is one of the fixed points...
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Vol. 6, No. 2, April

Could Morality Have a Source?
IT IS A COMMON IDEA THAT MORALITY, or moral truths, if there are any, must have some sort of source. if it is wrong to break a promise, or if our fundamental moral obligation is to maximize happiness, these facts must come from somewhere--perhaps from...
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Against the Being for Account of Normative Certitude
JUST AS WE CAN BE MORE OR LESS CERTAIN about empirical matters, e.g., that global warming is caused by humans or that the CIA planned the murder of President John F. Kennedy, we can be more or less certain about normative matters, e.g., that male circumcision...
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Moral Responsibility and Merit
In the contemporary moral responsibility debate, most theorists seem to be giving accounts of responsibility in the "desert-entailing sense." This is meant to distinguish it from causal or legal responsibility and to draw it closer to our other moral...
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November

The Humean Theory of Practical Irrationality
IN "THE NORMATIVITY OF INSTRUMENTAL REASON," Christine Korsgaard presents a problem for those who accept similarly structured Humean views of both action and rationality. (1) (I will call the conjunction of views she criticizes the double-Humean view.)...
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Gender Justice
1. Introduction AT THE NORMATIVE HEART OF FEMINISM lies the belief that nobody should be disadvantaged because of their sex. Here I propose, and defend, a principle of gender justice meant to capture the nature of a very wide range of injustices...
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The Locative Analysis of Good for Formulated and Defended
THE STRUCTURE OF THIS PAPER IS AS FOLLOWS. I begin [section] 1 by dealing with preliminary issues such as the different relations expressed by the "good for" locution. I then ([section] 2) outline the Locative Analysis of good for and explain its main...
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Vol. 5, No. 3, October

"Ought" and the Perspective of the Agent
I MAGINE A DOCTOR WHO IS FACED with a patient's disease that she knows will lead to death unless treated shortly. (1) Two possible treatments are available: A and B. After careful consideration of the available evidence, the doctor concludes that treatment...
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Vol. 5, No. 3, August

Self-Evidence and Disagreement in Ethics
SUPPOSE JANE TELLS SARAH THAT SHE BELIEVES that active euthanasia is wrong and Sarah responds by questioning whether it is reasonable for Jane to hold this belief, or whether Jane's belief is justified. In a typical case, Jane will attempt to show...
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April

Deviant Formal Causation
AN ARM GOES UP; IT IS A SIGNAL that the assassination is to go forward. The physical process that transpired could equally have been a stretching, a voting, or a taxi-hailing, but this particular process was in fact a signaling. The context in which...
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Vol. 5, No. 2, February 15

In Defense of the Wide-Scope Instrumental Principle
SUPPOSE THAT WHAT I SHALL CALL the instrumental principle is true: people have reason to take the known, necessary means to the ends they intend. (1) Then it appears to follow that your intentions to pursue ends, however you arrived at them, automatically...
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Vol. 5, No. 2, February 1

Meriting Concern and Meriting Respect
RECENTLY THERE HAS BEEN A SPATE of interest, among Kantian moral theorists, in the moral standing of conscious animals. (1) This interest is somewhat surprising, since Kant's approach to moral theory appears uncongenial to obligations toward animals....
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November

Saving Lives and Respecting Persons
IN THE DISTRIBUTION of resources, persons must be respected, or so many philosophers contend. (1) Unfortunately, such philosophers often leave it unclear why a certain allocation would respect persons, while another would not. In this paper, we explore...
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October

Is a Feminist Political Liberalism Possible?
IS A DISTINCTLY FEMINIST political liberalism possible? Certainly the answer depends in part on what one means by feminism, as there is substantive disagreement over what feminism is. For our purposes, all we mean by feminism is a view that is, broadly,...
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The Enforcement Approach to Coercion
STARTING IN THE 1960S, THE CONCEPT of coercion has received sustained attention from philosophers, resulting in a panoply of attempts to explain its nature and significance. Despite the apparent diversity in these efforts, the vast majority of them...
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September

Agent-Relative Restrictions and Agent-Relative Value
IN THIS PAPER, I POSE A CHALLENGE for attempts to ground all reasons in considerations of value. Some believe that all reasons for action are grounded in considerations of value. Some also believe that there are agent-centered restrictions, which provide...
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August

Four Solutions to the Alleged Incompleteness of Virtue Ethics
A STANDARD MODE OF ARGUMENT in moral philosophy is to argue that an ethical theory should be rejected because it counts as right what is intuitively wrong or as wrong what is intuitively right--that, like a logical system from which one can derive...
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Should Desert Replace Equality? Replies to Kagan
EQUALITY IS FUNDAMENTALLY COMPARATIVE: whether A is equal to B with respect to income, welfare, rights or anything else, depends on how much A has compared to B. With respect to equality, the absolute level of income, welfare or rights is not ultimately...
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June

Desire Satisfactionism and the Problem of Irrelevant Desires
DESIRE SATISFACTIONISM ABOUT WELFARE comes in two main varieties: unrestricted and restricted. (1) Both varieties entail that a person's well-being is determined entirely by the satisfactions and frustrations of his desires. But while the restricted...
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May

Pleasure, Desire and Oppositeness
WHY IS PAIN THE OPPOSITE OF PLEASURE? Several theories of pleasure and pain have substantial difficulty explaining this basic feature. Theories according to which pleasure and pain are individual sensations or features of sensations have particular...
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March

Benatar and the Logic of Betterness
THE PRIMARY ARGUMENT OF DAVID BENATAR'S Better Never to Have Been is an argument for the claim that coming into existence is always harmful, because it is always worse for an individual to begin to exist than never to have existed (Benatar 2006: 30-49)....
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Cosmic Coincidence and Intuitive Non-Naturalism
RECENTLY, MATTHEW BEDKE (2009) offered an intriguing argument against Intuitive Non-Naturalism in ethics (INN). INN is the conjunction of Ethical Non-Naturalism and Ethical Intuitionism. Ethical Non-Naturalism is the view that ethical facts or properties...
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February

When Will Your Consequentialist Friend Abandon You for the Greater Good?
ACCORDING TO A WELL-KNOWN OBJECTION to consequentialism, the answer to the preceding question is alarmingly straightforward: your consequentialist friend will abandon you the minute that she can more efficiently promote the good via options that do...
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What Knowledge Is Necessary for Virtue?
ARISTOTELIAN ETHICS PRIDES ITSELF ON its close fit with the endoxa concerning how virtues are properly conceptualized and invoked in our evaluation of agents. However, some critics contend that its picture of the virtues is, in reality, strikingly...
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January

Chance, Epistemic Probability and Saving Lives: Reply to Bradley
IN "SAVING PEOPLE AND FLIPPING COINS," Ben Bradley offers an intriguing counterexample to the principle of equal greatest chance (EGC). (1) The principle of equal greatest chance is designed to apply in contexts of moral equivalence. Let A and B be...
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October

A Danger of Definition: Polar Predicates in Metaethics
Odi et amo. Quare id faciam, fortasse requiris? Nescio, sed fieri sentio et excrucior. --Catullus Introduction Definitions are useful tools. They can be used to introduce new terms, precisify extant terms or analyze intuitive concepts. In...
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Preferentism and the Paradox of Desire
1. The Paradox Stated Actualist preferentism is a theory of welfare: a theory that says what it is for someone's life to go well for her. The theory's basic idea is that getting what one wants makes one's life go better. Like any theory of welfare,...
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What Is Wrong with Kamm and Scanlon's Arguments against Taurek
If you do nothing, Alan, Bob and Christine will die. Death will cost each the same: each will lose thirty-odd years of a good life. Their deaths will cost others the same: each will be missed by friends and family. Some medicine is nearby and with...
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August

Implanted Desires, Self-Formation and Blame
SOMETIMES A PERSON SEEMS less blameworthy for her actions when we learn how she came to be the sort of person she is. Consider, for example, how often novelists and scriptwriters invite us to reconsider our feelings toward an unlikable character by...
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In Defense of the Primacy of the Virtues
IN RECENT DECADES THERE HAS BEEN a great deal of interest in virtue ethics, broadly construed. There are, of course, many different such theories, and some dispute over what conditions a theory must meet to qualify as a virtue ethics. (1) In what follows,...
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June

Moorean Arguments and Moral Revisionism
And how on earth is it to be decided which of the two things it is rational to be most certain of? G. E. Moore, Four Forms of Scepticism (emphasis his) Introduction G. E. MOORE'S LEGACY TO MORAL philosophy has been both profound and controversial....
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April

Three Millian Ways to Resolve Open Questions
I. The Open Question Argument: First Version ETHICAL NATURALISM IS AS FOLLOWS: Ethical Naturalism (EN1) Each moral property is identical to some natural property. (EN2) Each moral term (e.g., good) refers to some natural property and has...
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March

Saving People and Flipping Coins
SUPPOSE YOU FIND YOURSELF IN A situation in which you can either save both A and B, or save only C. A, B and C are relevantly similar--all are strangers to you, none is more deserving of life than any other, none is responsible for being in a life-threatening...
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November

Moral Principles Are Not Moral Laws
1. Introduction WHAT ARE MORAL PRINCIPLES? The assumption underlying much of the recent debate between "moral generalists" and "moral particularists" is that moral principles are (or would be) moral laws--by which I mean generalizations or some...
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Caring and the Boundary-Driven Structure of Practical Deliberation
1. Limited deliberative attention as a problem for the theory of practical reasoning THE SORTS OF PRACTICAL QUESTIONS that agents seek to answer by deliberating are markedly diverse. An agent might deliberate in order to discover the best means...
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August

Hume's Internalism Reconsidered
A PRACTICAL REASON IS THE SORT of thing that is supposed to, as it were, "count in favor of" doing something. That some act is, say, morally required, prudentially required, aesthetically beautiful, etc., might be reasons to perform it. Intuitively...
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March

Contractualism, Reciprocity, Compensation
TWO GENERALLY RECOGNIZED moral duties are to reciprocate benefits one has received from others and to compensate harms one has done to others. In this paper I want to show that it is not possible to give an adequate account of either duty--or at least...
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February

"Simply in Virtue of Being Human": The Whos and Whys of Human Rights
ACCORDING TO JAMES GRIFFIN, human rights are rights that humans have "simply in virtue of being human." (1) This analysis of the concept of a human right strikes me as helpful and credible. Of course it raises deep questions. What is a right? What...
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September

Welfare, Achievement, and Self-Sacrifice
MANY PHILOSOPHERS HOLD that the achievement of one's goals can contribute to one's welfare apart from whatever independent contributions that the objects of those goals, or the processes by which they are achieved, make. (1) Call this the Achievement...
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August

Well-Being and Virtue
Happiness lies in conquering one's enemies, in driving them in front of oneself, in taking their property, in savoring their despair, in outraging their wives and daughters. Genghis Khan (1) INTRODUCTION Conventional wisdom once held that...
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July

A Unified Moral Terrain?
IN HIS BOOK What We Owe to Each Other, Thomas Scanlon offers what he calls a 'contractualist' analysis of moral reasons, according to which 'our thinking about right and wrong is structured by ... the aim of finding principles that others, insofar...
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January

Egalitarian Justice and Innocent Choice
THIS ARTICLE ARGUES THAT, in its standard formulation, luck-egalitarianism is false. In particular, I show that disadvantages that result from perfectly free choice can constitute egalitarian injustice. I also propose a modified formulation of luck-egalitarianism...
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August

Strict Liability and the Mitigation of Moral Luck
THE PHENOMENON OF accidental injury appears in both Bernard Williams' and Thomas Nagel's foundational articles on the problem of "moral luck." (2) That appearance is hardly surprising: Liability for accidental injury turns quite heavily on "elements...
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March

Explaining Reasons: Where Does the Buck Stop?
IT WOULD BE GOOD IF I could finally knock this paper into shape. That gives me a reason to sit down and work on it. Or is it the other way around? Is it that I have a reason to get on with it and that is why it would be good to do so? According to...
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November

First Force
Is the very existence of government morally problematic? Is government morally problematic, that is, in a way that a "state of nature" is not? Many political philosophers have thought so. I will argue that they are wrong. If that seems too easy, I...
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October

Cudworth and Normative Explanations
1.1 Understanding Normative Explanations MORAL THEORIES DO NOT PURPORT merely to tell us which things we ought to do. They also try to tell us why we ought to do them. Moral theories, that is, generally have explanatory ambitions. What they try...
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August

Is Gibbard a Realist?
COULD THERE BE PEACE at last in metaethics? Early expressivists like Ayer (1946) and Stevenson (1937) took their semantics for moral terms to be the very antithesis of realism about moral discourse. More recently, however, expressivists have become...
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June

Essentially Comparative Concepts
IN HIS "RETHINKING THE Good" (1), Larry Temkin discusses the claim that equality is essentially comparative (EEC). The notion of the essentially comparative is characterized roughly as follows: A principle (or moral idea) f, is essentially comparative...
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The Good, the Bad and the Blameworthy
ACCOUNTS OF MORAL responsibility come in two main flavors. There are accounts that hold that an agent is responsible for something (an act, omission, attitude, and so on) just in case that agent has--directly or indirectly--chosen that thing, and there...
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April

Two Approaches to Instrumental Rationality and Belief Consistency
IN SPEAKING OF INSTRUMENTAL RATIONALITY, philosophers usually have in mind the rational requirement of taking the necessary means to our ends. A central question of this paper is how this rational requirement is related to the rational requirement...
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The Myth of Instrumental Rationality
Recent interest in the nature and presuppositions of instrumental rationality was inspired to a considerable degree by arguments designed to show that it presupposes other forms or kinds of rationality, or (to put it in the nonequivalent way in which...
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"The Government Beguiled Me": The Entrapment Defense and the Problem of Private Entrapment
Introduction In the United States, a criminal defendant can show himself to be not guilty of the crime of which he is accused by showing that he was "entrapped" by agents of the government. Entrapment is not merely a mitigating factor to be considered...
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