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Showing papers in "Ethics in 2011"


Journal ArticleDOI
21 Mar 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: The authors argued that strong versions of the situationist critique of virtue ethics are empirically and conceptually unfounded, as well as that, even if one accepts that the predictive power of character may be limited, this is not a fatal problem for early Confucian virtue ethics.
Abstract: This article argues that strong versions of the situationist critique of virtue ethics are empirically and conceptually unfounded, as well as that, even if one accepts that the predictive power of character may be limited, this is not a fatal problem for early Confucian virtue ethics. Early Confucianism has explicit strategies for strengthening and expanding character traits over time, as well as for managing a variety of situational forces. The article concludes by suggesting that Confucian virtue ethics represents a more empirically responsible model of ethics than those currently dominant in Western philosophy.

306 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
28 Jul 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this article, Sen argued that justice would have to be about real steps that real people can take here and now to make the world a better place, not idealizing assumptions.
Abstract: People sometimes say, “Ideally, this is what we would do...” Often, someone who says this is making a throwaway remark as a preliminary to getting down to serious problem-solving. Needless to say, none of us wants to wake up some day only to realize that we spent a career elaborating what amounts to a throwaway remark. What would theorizing have to be like in order to matter? Amartya Sen has an answer. Theorizing about justice would have to be about real problems here and now. It would have to be about real steps that real people can take here and now to make the world a better place. Sen built his reputation by writing elegantly concise essays that got right to the point, made the point, then stopped. By contrast The Idea of Justice is a vast book, sprawling across the major landmarks of a long career. 1 There comes a time for reflecting on where one has been and what one has accomplished. This is Sen’s time. It is also time, Sen believes, for our theorizing about justice to part ways with Rawlsian ideal theory (xi). Rawls assumes that various idealizing assumptions facilitate progress in theorizing about justice. Rawls also treats justice as concerned more with perfecting institutions than perfecting relationships. 2 In Sen’s parlance, Rawls is thus a transcendental institutionalist, as are most political theorists (6, 8, 67). Sen tries to distance himself from this. Although Sen does not radically depart from Rawls, he does provide a glimpse of what a radical departure would be like. The contrast between ideal and nonideal theory is elusive. It expresses a concern about the point of theorizing, but the concern is actually a constellation of concerns related by family resemblance rather than shared essence. We worry about supposing that every question has an answer, or that every question has the same answer, or that everyone must agree on what that answer is, on pain of being irrational or evil. We worry about trying to discern what to do by asking what would be reasonable under ideal conditions. Critics with one of these concerns tend to have the others, too, but they are distinct. 3

182 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
29 Apr 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors argue that the Scanlonemanian view conflates the first two and ignores the importance of the third, and that a truly comprehensive theory must incorporate and explain three distinct conceptions of responsibility: attributability, answerability, and accountability.
Abstract: Recently T. M. Scanlon and others have advanced an ostensibly comprehensive theory of moral responsibility—a theory of both being responsible and being held responsible—that best accounts for our moral practices. I argue that both aspects of the Scanlonian theory fail this test. A truly comprehensive theory must incorporate and explain three distinct conceptions of responsibility—attributability, answerability, and accountability—and the Scanlonian view conflates the first two and ignores the importance of the third. To illustrate what a truly comprehensive theory might look like, I investigate what it would say about the difficult case of the psychopath.

164 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
29 Apr 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In what sense are persons equal, such that it is appropriate to treat them as equals? This difficult question has been strangely neglected by political philosophers as discussed by the authors, and a plausible answer can be found by adopting a particular interpretation of the idea of respect.
Abstract: In what sense are persons equal, such that it is appropriate to treat them as equals? This difficult question has been strangely neglected by political philosophers. A plausible answer can be found by adopting a particular interpretation of the idea of respect. Central to this interpretation is the thought that in order to respect persons we need to treat them as ‘opaque', paying attention only to their outward features as agents. This proposed basis of equality has important implications for the currency of egalitarian justice, ruling out a number of the equalizanda favored by contemporary egalitarians.

137 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Apr 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: The legitimate state theory as mentioned in this paper holds that a state has rights to territory if it effectively implements a system of law regulating property in that territory, its subjects have a legitimate claim to occupy the territory, and the state's system rules in the name of the people by protecting basic rights and providing for political participation.
Abstract: Nationalists hold that the state derives its territorial rights from the prior claim of a cultural nation to territory. This article develops an alternative account: the legitimate state theory. This view holds that a state has rights to territory if it meets the following four conditions: (a) it effectively implements a system of law regulating property in that territory; (b) its subjects have a legitimate claim to occupy the territory; (c) the state’s system of law “rules in the name of the people,” by protecting basic rights and providing for political participation; and (d) the state is not a usurper.

135 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jul 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors argue that freedom of choice requires non-frustration: the option you prefer must be accessible and no one has the power to block access; the doors should be open, and there should be no powerful doorkeepers.
Abstract: In Hobbes, freedom of choice requires nonfrustration: the option you prefer must be accessible. In Berlin, it requires noninterference: every option, preferred or unpreferred, must be accessible—every door must be open. But Berlin’s argument against Hobbes suggests a parallel argument that freedom requires something stronger still: that each option be accessible and that no one have the power to block access; the doors should be open, and there should be no powerful doorkeepers. This is freedom as nondomination. The claim is that freedom as noninterference is an unstable alternative between freedom as nonfrustration and freedom as nondomination.

70 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Apr 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this article, it was shown that if one is risk averse and time-biased, then one can be turned into a "pain pump" who will take a series of pills which leave you with more pain and better off in no respect.
Abstract: Most of us are “time-biased” in preferring pains to be past rather than future and pleasures to be future rather than past. However, it turns out that if you are risk averse and time-biased, then you can be turned into a “pain pump”—in order to insure yourself against misfortune, you will take a series of pills which leaves you with more pain and better off in no respect. Since this vulnerability seems rationally impermissible, while time-bias and risk aversion seem rationally permissible, we are left with a puzzle.

37 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Apr 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: This paper argued that nonreductivists are also committed to the claim that a thick concept is in itself evaluative, and not evaluatively shapeless because of any link to thin evaluation.
Abstract: This article aims to clarify the view that thick concepts are irreducibly thick. I do this by putting the disentangling argument in its place and then setting out what nonreductivists about the thick are committed to. To distinguish the view from possible reductive accounts, defenders of irreducible thickness are, I argue, committed to the claim that evaluative concepts and properties are nonevaluatively shapeless. This in turn requires a commitment to (radical) holism and particularism. Nonreductivists are also committed to the claim that a thick concept is in itself evaluative, and not evaluative because of any link to thin evaluation.

30 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Oct 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this paper, a contractarian response to Jeff McMahan's critique of the traditional war convention is presented. But it is based on the assumption that an outcome in which the current war conventions is accepted is better for all relevant parties than any other feasible outcome.
Abstract: This essay develops a contractarian response to Jeff McMahan’s critique of the traditional war convention. Contractarianism asserts, first, that an outcome in which the current war convention is accepted is better for all relevant parties than any other feasible outcome; second, that the war convention is fair; third, that soldiers accept the existing convention; fourth, that soldiers’ acceptance of the convention equalizes their moral status within wars vis-a-vis each other. The essay addresses McMahan’s powerful objections to each of the above statements.

28 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
21 Mar 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors argue that Estlund's "Qualified Acceptability Requirement" is untenable and that it is undermined by the notions of truth, consent, and reasonableness.
Abstract: In his recent book, David Estlund argues that democratic states can be legitimate while epistocracy cannot be legitimate. His argument rests on his “Qualified Acceptability Requirement,” according to which a state is legitimate only if its coercive enforcement of law can be justified on a basis that is acceptable to all possible qualified points of view. This principle may seem to express a Rawlsian liberal ideal, but I claim it is undermined by Rawlsian arguments. I argue that Estlund’s position faces a dilemma. I discuss objections grounded in the notions of truth, consent, and reasonableness. I conclude that Estlund’s Requirement is untenable.

24 citations


Journal ArticleDOI
01 Oct 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this article, the authors argue that soldiers are placed in a contradictory position between personal and institutional obligations, and they claim that soldiers can be victimized by the institution of war itself.
Abstract: This article explores the personal responsibility of soldiers for fighting in unjust wars. Its reference point is the position developed by Jeff McMahan in his recent Killing in War. I claim that McMahan fails to give sufficient importance to institutional justifications on this matter. I argue for this by developing what I call the argument to democratic duty, which I claim embodies much current thinking about the obligations of soldiers in a democratic culture. The upshot of my argument is that soldiers are placed in a contradictory position, between personal and institutional obligations. This is one sense in which soldiers can be victimized by the institution of war itself.

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jan 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors examine the scope of truth claims for which the Qualified Epistemic Claim applies, the test by which we know whether democracy is best, and the mechanism by which democracy has this supposed benefit, and conclude that although Estlund has presented some suggestive considerations in favor of the qualified epistemic claim, he does not present a convincing case for it.
Abstract: In Democratic Authority David Estlund advances what I call the “Qualified Epistemic Claim,” according to which democracy is the best epistemic strategy for revealing the truth from among those strategies that are generally acceptable. I examine this claim, focusing on three issues: the scope of truth claims for which it applies, the test by which we know whether democracy is best, and the mechanism by which democracy has this supposed benefit. I conclude that although Estlund has presented some suggestive considerations in favor of the Qualified Epistemic Claim, he does not present a convincing case for it.

Journal ArticleDOI
08 Dec 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: The authors defend the view that soldiers should disobey an order to fight in a war that lacks a just cause, argue against the contractarian approach to the morality of war, and develop an explanation of how the number of people who are harmed by defensive action can affect whether that action is proportionate in the "narrow" sense.
Abstract: This essay responds to four commentaries on my recently published book, Killing in War. It defends the view that soldiers ought to disobey an order to fight in a war that lacks a just cause, argues against the contractarian approach to the morality of war, develops an explanation of how the number of people who are harmed by defensive action can affect whether that action is proportionate in the “narrow” sense, and seeks to rebut the suggestion that an attacker’s desert may be relevant to the justification for harming him in self-defense.

Journal ArticleDOI
21 Mar 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: Consent theories of political obligation draw upon the unique powers consent exhibits in everyday dealings, but they are frustrated by the "problem of massive nonconsent" Expansions of what is counted as consent, such as tacit or hypothetical consent, have seemed untrue to the core concept of giving willing consent as mentioned in this paper.
Abstract: Consent theories of political obligation draw upon the unique powers consent exhibits in everyday dealings, but they are frustrated by the “problem of massive nonconsent” Expansions of what is counted as consent, such as tacit or hypothetical consent, have seemed untrue to the core concept of giving willing consent David Estlund proposes a novel conception, “normative consent,” to address the problem of massive nonconsent while being true to “the idiom of consent” This comment details consent’s virtues and shows that consent theories cannot claim enough of them to vindicate political obligation

Journal ArticleDOI
08 Dec 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this paper, it was shown that the limits of morally acceptable self-defense are not determined by anyone's deserts, and that deserts may have some subsidiary roles in the morality of self-defence.
Abstract: Jeff McMahan rejects the relevance of desert to the morality of self-defense. In Killing in War he restates his rejection and adds to his reasons. We argue that the reasons are not decisive and that the rejection calls for further attention, which we provide. Although we end up agreeing with McMahan that the limits of morally acceptable self-defense are not determined by anyone’s deserts, we try to show that deserts may have some subsidiary roles in the morality of self-defense. We suggest that recognizing this might help McMahan to answer some unanswered questions to which his own position gives rise.

Journal ArticleDOI
21 Mar 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: In this article, the authors defend the notion of normative consent by confining it to contexts involving consent to an authority, but argue that Estlund's attempt to deploy the doctrine fails, for it does not provide convincing reasons to think that citizens have any duty to consent.
Abstract: David Estlund’s Democratic Authority develops a novel doctrine of “normative consent,” according to which the nonconsent of those with a duty to consent is null. This article suggests that this doctrine can be defended by confining it to contexts involving consent to an authority, which raise distinctive normative challenges, but argues that Estlund’s attempt to deploy the doctrine fails, for it does not provide convincing reasons to think that citizens have any duty to consent. In closing, the article suggests that the doctrine of normative consent might yet do some useful work in a quite different theoretical setting.

Journal ArticleDOI
28 Jul 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: The authors developed a two-dimensional semantics that embraces attitudinal content of moral judgments while preserving realist convictions about the independence of moral facts from our attitudes, and provided realists with a satisfactory account of Moral Twin Earth cases and an improved response to Blackburn's supervenience argument.
Abstract: Moral realists can, and should, allow that the truth-conditional content of moral judgments is in part attitudinal. I develop a two-dimensional semantics that embraces attitudinal content while preserving realist convictions about the independence of moral facts from our attitudes. Relative to worlds “considered as counterfactual,” moral terms rigidly track objective, response-independent properties. But relative to different ways the actual world turns out to be, they nonrigidly track whatever properties turn out to be the objects of our relevant attitudes. This theory provides realists with a satisfactory account of Moral Twin Earth cases and an improved response to Blackburn’s supervenience argument.

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Jan 2011-Ethics
TL;DR: A response to four essays that critically discuss my book Democratic Authority is given in this paper, which takes up several methodological issues that put some of the critiques in a broader context among the issues discussed are "normative consent", which I offer as a new theory of authority; the "general acceptability requirement, which advances a broadly Rawlsian approach to political justification; and methodological questions about theory building, including a device I dub the "method of provisional leap".
Abstract: This piece is a response to four essays that critically discuss my book Democratic Authority In addition to responding to their specific criticisms, it takes up several methodological issues that put some of the critiques in a broader context Among the issues discussed are “normative consent,” which I offer as a new theory of authority; the “general acceptability requirement,” which advances a broadly Rawlsian approach to political justification; and methodological questions about theory building, including a device I dub the “method of provisional leap”