Since John Rawls, public reason theorists have attempted to show how liberal political norms could be acceptable to people with diverse religious and ethical viewpoints. However, these theories overlook the importance of the distinction between acceptability to realistic people and acceptability to viewpoints, which matters because public reason theories are committed to the former, but only deliver the latter, thereby failing to justify liberal norms. Public reason theories therefore face a dilemma: abandon realistic people and lose normative appeal, or retain realism and find a new way to justify liberalism.
Many find it reasonable to take our past actions into account when making choices for the future. In this paper, I address two important issues regarding taking past investments into account in prudential deliberation. The first is the charge that doing so commits the fallacy of honoring sunk costs. I argue that while it is indeed irrational to care about sunk costs, past investments are not sunk costs when we can change their teleological significance, roughly their contribution to our excellence as temporally extended, reasons-responsive, and goal-directed agents. I suggest some general principles for evaluating such significance. Second, it’s a live issue whether we should care about the fate of our past projects, even if we can now affect it. I reject Dale Dorsey’s recent answer, and argue that the puzzle he addresses turns out to be merely apparent, if we take seriously the fact that we are temporally extended.
The Projectability Challenge states that a metaethical view must explain how ordinary agents can, on the basis of moral experience and reflection, accurately and justifiably apply moral concepts to novel situations. In this paper, we argue for two primary claims. First, paradigm nonnaturalism can satisfactorily answer the projectability challenge. Second, it is unclear whether there is a version of moral naturalism that can satisfactorily answer the challenge. The conclusion we draw is that there is an important respect in which nonnaturalism holds an advantage over its most prominent naturalist rivals. The conclusion is interesting if only because it is widely assumed that naturalism has an easier time handling thorny problems in moral epistemology. We argue that there is at least one such problem of which this assumption is not true.
I outline a new approach to the question of when civil disobedience is legitimate by drawing on insights from the epistocracy literature. I argue that civil disobedience and epistocracy are similar in the sense that they both involve the idea that superior political judgment defeats majority authority, because this can lead to correct, i.e. just, prudent or morally right, political decisions. By reflecting on the question of when superior political judgment defeats majority authority in the epistocracy case, I identify considerations that also apply to the disobedience context. I conclude that disobedience in protest of law X performed by agents who know that X is wrong is legitimate when: 1) it is not reasonably disputable that the civil dissenter knows that X is wrong 2) the adoption of X is a high-stakes political decision and 3) no destabilizing effects ensue.
Democratic theorists have proposed a number of competing justifications for democratic order, but no theory has achieved a consensus. While expecting consensus may be unrealistic, I nonetheless contend that we can make progress in justifying democratic order by applying competing democratic theories to different stages of the democratic process. In particular, I argue that the selection of political officials should be governed in accord with aggregative democracy. This process should prize widespread participation, political equality, and proper preference aggregation. I then argue that the selection of public policies by political officials should be governed in accord with deliberative democracy. This process should prize high quality deliberation and political equality. A process democracy is a democracy that joins an aggregative process for selecting officials with a deliberative process for selecting policies. Democracy is justified and legitimate when it is structured in this way.
Does the moral badness of pain depend on who feels it? A common, but generally only implicitly stated view, is that it does not. This view, ‘unitarianism’, maintains that the same interests of different beings should count equally in our moral calculus. Shelly Kagan’s project in How to Count Animals, more or less (2019) is to reject this common view, and develop an alternative to it: a hierarchical view of moral status, on which the badness of pain does depend on who feels it. In this review essay, we critically examine Kagan’s argument for status hierarchy. In particular, we reject two of the central premises in his argument: that (1) moral standing is ultimately grounded in agency and (2) that unitarianism is overdemanding. We conclude that moral status may, despite Kagan’s compelling argument to the contrary, not be hierarchical.
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.
Virtually everyone believes that we have a duty to rescue fellow human-beings from serious danger when we can do so at small cost to ourselves – and this often forms the starting point for arguments in moral and political philosophy on topics such as global poverty, state legitimacy, refugees, and the donation of body parts. But how are we to explain this duty, and within what limits does it apply? It cannot be subsumed under a wider consequentialist requirement to prevent harm. Nor can it be understood as a duty of social justice that citizens owe to one another under a social contract for mutual protection. Instead it is a sui generis duty of justice that arises from the direct physical encounter between rescuer and victim, and is accordingly limited in scope. However the simplicity of the duty evaporates when multiple potential rescuers are present. Here responsibility lies with the collective as a whole until it is assigned by a fair procedure to individual members. Each individual is required as a matter of justice to discharge that share, but not more, though in the case that others do not comply, he will have a reason, and sometimes a humanitarian duty, to take up the slack.