Moral Thought (moral + thought)

Distribution by Scientific Domains

Selected Abstracts

On Euthanasia: Blindspots in the Argument from Mercy

Sarah Bachelard
In the euthanasia debate, the argument from mercy holds that if someone is in unbearable pain and is hopelessly ill or injured, then mercy dictates that inflicting death may be morally justified. One common way of setting the stage for the argument from mercy is to draw parallels between human and animal suffering, and to suggest that insofar as we are prepared to relieve an animal's suffering by putting it out of its misery we should likewise be prepared to offer the same relief to human beings. In this paper, I will argue that the use of parallels between human and animal suffering in the argument from mercy relies upon truncated views of how the concept of a human being enters our moral thought and responsiveness. In particular, the focus on the nature and extent of the empirical similarities between human beings and animals obscures the significance for our moral lives of the kind of human fellowship which is not reducible to the shared possession of empirical capacities. I will suggest that although a critical examination of the blindspots in these arguments does not license the conclusion that euthanasia for mercy's sake is never morally permissible, it does limit the power of arguments such as those provided by Rachels and Singer to justify it. I will further suggest that examination of these blindspots helps to deepen our understanding of what is at stake in the question of euthanasia in ways that tend otherwise to remain obscured. [source]

Aligning Deweyan Pragmatism and Emersonian Perfectionism: Re-imagining Growth and Educating Grown-Ups

This essay examines in detail the triangulated conversation Naoko Saito constructs, in The Gleam of Light, among the voices of R. W. Emerson, John Dewey and Stanley Cavell. The pivot around which everything turns is the Emersonian ideal of moral perfectionism and, in particular, the implications of this ideal for the philosophy of education. As explicated by Cavell, this ideal concerns ,the dimension of moral thought directed less to restraining the bad than to releasing the good'. For the conscientious person, it is, at once, unavoidable and unattainable. In constructing a conversation among these and other authors, Saito establishes herself as an arresting voice by her thoughtful contributions to many contemporary controversies bearing upon our educational practices, not least of all ones about curricular reform as well as personal transformation. [source]

Cultivating Sentimental Dispositions Through Aristotelian Habituation

Jan Steutel
The beliefs both that sentimental education is a vital part of moral education and that habituation is a vital part of sentimental education can be counted as being at the ,hard core' of the Aristotelian tradition of moral thought and action. On the basis of an explanation of the defining characteristics of Aristotelian habituation, this paper explores how and why habituation may be an effective way of cultivating the sentimental dispositions that are constitutive of the moral virtues. Taking Aristotle's explicit remarks on ethismos as a starting point, we present habituation as essentially involving (i) acting as virtue requires, (ii) both frequently and consistently, and (iii) under the supervision of a virtuous tutor. If the focus is on the first two characteristics, habituation seems to be a proper method for acquiring skills or inculcating habits, rather than an effective way of cultivating virtuous sentimental dispositions. It will be argued, however, that even if only the first two characteristics are taken into account, habituation may be an efficacious means of moderating, reducing or restricting the child's affective dispositions where these are somehow excessive. But contrary to Aristotle's view, the effectiveness of processes of habituation that are directed at strengthening, deepening or broadening the child's sentimental dispositions where these are somehow deficient seems to be a function of the third characteristic, especially of the affective responses of the virtuous tutor to the child's behaviour. At the end of the paper, this predominantly non-cognitive account of the workings of Aristotelian habituation will be compared with Nancy Sherman's primarily cognitive view. [source]

Teaching & Learning Guide for: Moral Realism and Moral Nonnaturalism

Stephen Finlay
Authors' Introduction Metaethics is a perennially popular subject, but one that can be challenging to study and teach. As it consists in an array of questions about ethics, it is really a mix of (at least) applied metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and mind. The seminal texts therefore arise out of, and often assume competence with, a variety of different literatures. It can be taught thematically, but this sample syllabus offers a dialectical approach, focused on metaphysical debate over moral realism, which spans the century of debate launched and framed by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica. The territory and literature are, however, vast. So, this syllabus is highly selective. A thorough metaethics course might also include more topical examination of moral supervenience, moral motivation, moral epistemology, and the rational authority of morality. Authors Recommend: Alexander Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003). This is one of the few clear, accessible, and comprehensive surveys of the subject, written by someone sympathetic with moral naturalism. David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Brink rehabilitates naturalism about moral facts by employing a causal semantics and natural kinds model of moral thought and discourse. Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Smith's book frames the debate as driven by a tension between the objectivity of morality and its practical role, offering a solution in terms of a response-dependent account of practical rationality. Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson, Moral Relativism & Moral Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996). Harman argues against the objectivity of moral value, while Thomson defends it. Each then responds to the other. Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Jackson argues that reductive conceptual analysis is possible in ethics, offering a unique naturalistic account of moral properties and facts. Mark Timmons, Morality without Foundations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Timmons distinguishes moral cognitivism from moral realism, interpreting moral judgments as beliefs that have cognitive content but do not describe moral reality. He also provides a particularly illuminating discussion of nonanalytic naturalism. Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001). A Neo-Aristotelian perspective: moral facts are natural facts about the proper functioning of human beings. Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003). In this recent defense of a Moorean, nonnaturalist position, Shafer-Landau engages rival positions in a remarkably thorough manner. Terence Cuneo, The Normative Web (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Cuneo argues for a robust version of moral realism, developing a parity argument based on the similarities between epistemic and moral facts. Mark Schroeder, Slaves of the Passions (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Schroeder defends a reductive form of naturalism in the tradition of Hume, identifying moral and normative facts with natural facts about agents' desires. Online Materials: PEA Soup: A blog devoted to philosophy, ethics, and academia. Its contributors include many active and prominent metaethicists, who regularly post about the moral realism and naturalism debates. Metaethics Bibliography: Maintained by James Lenman, professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, this online resource provides a selective list of published research in metaethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: See especially the entries under ,metaethics'. Sample Syllabus: Topics for Lecture & Discussion Note: unless indicated otherwise, all the readings are found in R. Shafer-Landau and T. Cuneo, eds., Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology (Malden: Blackwell, 2007). (FE) Week 1: Realism I (Classic Nonnaturalism) G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, 2nd ed. (FE ch. 35). W. K. Frankena, ,The Naturalistic Fallacy,'Mind 48 (1939): 464,77. S. Finlay, ,Four Faces of Moral Realism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 820,49 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00100.x]. Week 2: Antirealism I (Classic Expressivism) A. J. Ayer, ,Critique of Ethics and Theology' (1952) (FE ch. 3). C. Stevenson, ,The Nature of Ethical Disagreement' (1963) (FE ch. 28). Week 3: Antirealism II (Error Theory) J. L. Mackie, ,The Subjectivity of Values' (1977) (FE ch. 1). R. Joyce, Excerpt from The Myth of Morality (2001) (FE ch. 2). Week 4: Realism II (Nonanalytic Naturalism) R. Boyd, ,How to be a Moral Realist' (1988) (FE ch. 13). P. Railton, ,Moral Realism' (1986) (FE ch. 14). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, ,New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth' (1991) (FE ch. 38). Week 5: Antirealism III (Contemporary Expressivism) A. Gibbard, ,The Reasons of a Living Being' (2002) (FE ch. 6). S. Blackburn, ,How To Be an Ethical Anti-Realist' (1993) (FE ch. 4). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, ,Nondescriptivist Cognitivism' (2000) (FE ch. 5). W. Sinnott-Armstrong, ,Expressivism and Embedding' (2000) (FE ch. 37). Week 6: Realism III (Sensibility Theory) J. McDowell, ,Values and Secondary Qualities' (1985) (FE ch. 11). D. Wiggins, ,A Sensible Subjectivism' (1991) (FE ch. 12). Week 7: Realism IV (Subjectivism) & Antirealism IV (Constructivism) R. Firth, ,Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer' (1952) (FE ch. 9). G. Harman, ,Moral Relativism Defended' (1975) (FE ch. 7). C. Korsgaard, ,The Authority of Reflection' (1996) (FE ch. 8). Week 8: Realism V (Contemporary Nonnaturalism) R. Shafer-Landau, ,Ethics as Philosophy' (2006) (FE ch. 16). T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), ch. 1. T, Cuneo, ,Recent Faces of Moral Nonnaturalism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 850,79 [DOI: 10.1111/j.1747-9991.2007.00102.x]. [source]

The Angelic Doctor and the Stagirite: Thomas Aquinas and Contemporary ,Aristotelian' Ethics

M. W. F. Stone
To what extent, if any, is the moral thought of Thomas Aquinas ,Aristotelian'? This question is not simply of historical interest, since it directs our attention to those areas of contemporary English-speaking moral philosophy where Thomas is discussed. In some quarters there is a tendency to classify Thomas as a thinker in the ,Aristotelian tradition', and his debt to Aristotle is thought to be apparent in his remarks on moral reasoning and virtue. Nowhere is this tendency more evident than in discussions of Thomas by supporters of modern virtue ethics. In this paper, I will argue that the relationship of Thomas's ethics to Aristotle is much more complicated than these discussions assume. Despite the strong and interesting affinities that exist between the practical philosophies of Thomas and Aristotle, the sum total of their common features can never disguise nor dilute the profound differences that separate them. The paper will conclude with some suggestions as to how an appreciation of these differences can enable us to cast Thomas's remarks on virtue in a different light. [source]

THIS ARTICLE HAS BEEN RETRACTED Conscience in Renaissance moral thought: a concept in transition?

M. W. F. Stone
This paper focuses on a neglected aspect of the history of the discussion of conscience in late fifteenth-century Europe. It seeks to explain how Adrian of Utrecht (1459,1523), a prominent scholastic theologian at Louvain, pondered the more subjective dimensions of conscience, and how his arguments can be appraised from the perspective of a wide-ranging discussion of the nature and function of moral cognition and judgement that took place in humanist and philosophical circles. Adrian's work is especially interesting for reason that he has important things to say about ,moral integrity', and ,convictions of the heart', ideas that bring into focus how highly personalized aspects of moral reflection impinge upon the activities of conscience. Having outlined Adrian's concerns, his description of the machinations of our moral conscience will then be set in context by comparing his account to that of a leading philosopher of his age, Marsilio Ficino (1433,1499). In addition to this, the thoughts of the celebrated ,Christian humanists' John Colet (1467,1519) and Desiderius Erasmus (1466/9,1536) will also be enlisted so that a richer picture of Renaissance ideas of conscience can emerge. [source]


The question of the relation between Judaism and natural law is important both for scholars and for reflective persons with an interest in the grounds of Jewish moral thought. There is a rich history of natural law theorizing that has had considerable influence, and there has been a revival of natural law theorizing in the contemporary period. The topic of the present discussion is of more than historical interest; it is a live question of real, current relevance. [source]