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Value Vagueness

While the Republican politicians in my adopted state of Florida profess to love freedom, they also have been busy passing laws to restrict freedom. To illustrate, Governor DeSantis has opposed mask mandates and vaccine passports on the professed grounds of fighting “medical authoritarianism.” However, the Governor and the Republican dominated state legislature have banned ‘critical [More]

Why Constraints are Agent Neutral

My previous post argued that deontologists must prefer not to violate deontic constraints, or those constraints would lack normative significance. There is one last way that they might avoid my argument that constraints trivialize killing, namely, by holding that while the agent must prefer to abide by constraints, bystanders should prefer that the agent acts wrongly, killing one to save five.  This post will set out why I think that view is mistaken.By way of background: It's typically assumed that constraints must be agent-relative.  To explain why an agent should not kill one to prevent five other killings, deontologists often say things like, "Each agent has a special responsibility for their own actions -- that they not act wrongly, even to prevent more others from doing so." But in his groundbreaking paper, 'Agent-neutral deontology', Tom Dougherty pointed out that the injunction to not act wrongly, even to prevent more others from doing so can be given agent-neutral form, e.g.: "Each agent should [prefer and] ensure that no one kills to prevent more killings by others." (2013, 531)This agent-neutral conception of constraints seems much more intuitively appealing. It might be characterized as "patient-centered" rather than "agent-centered". As Setiya (2018, p. 97) put it, "when you should not cause harm to one in a way that will benefit others, you should not want others to do so either."  Whatever deontologists have [More]

Preferring to Act Wrongly

Deontologists hold that it's wrong to kill an innocent person, even to prevent five other such killings. Does it follow that they should prefer Five Killings over One Killing to Prevent Five?  If so, my previous argument kicks in to demonstrate that they care insufficiently about killing.  In this post, I want to argue that the alternative -- preferring to act wrongly -- results in an even worse theory.First, consider the objection that deontologists needn't take any stand on matters of preferability.  Perhaps they are just concerned to elucidate our obligations, and remain silent on all else.  But that doesn't help, because so long as there are further questions to be asked here (as there clearly are), their incomplete moral view must (if it is to have any hope of being correct) be coherently completable. That is, if certain verdicts about the deontic statuses of actions cannot be coherently combined with any plausible further claims about the relative preferability of various possible worlds, then those initial verdicts cannot all be true.  So we might as well move on to the question of what the most plausible completion of a deontological view would be: what verdicts about preferability fit best with the claim that it's wrong to kill one to prevent five killings.Okay. So, why not prefer One Killing to Prevent Five, while regarding it as impermissible to bring about? Here I think it's important to get clear on what kind of [More]

DeSantis Death Calculus

Harvard and Yale graduate Ron DeSantis has tripled down on assisting COVID ravage my adopted state of Florida. It is no wonder that liberals often see him as a villainous buffoon and a mini-Trump. This view does have some appeal. Floridians are being infected and dying at ever increasing rates at a time in which [More]

Space Joyrides for the Rich

While the rich have long enjoyed luxury cars, mansions and yachts, the newest luxury item is the spaceship. Musk has the most useful rockets—his SpaceX vessels can put satellites into orbit and reach the International Space Station. While they do have some innovations, they are essential an evolution of existing rockets rather than a revolution. [More]

Pollution: The Ethics of NIMBY

When it comes to pollution, people respond with a cry of NIMBY and let loose the dogs of influence. While there is some debate about its impact, this shows that everyone gets what is obviously true: pollution is unsightly, unpleasant, and unhealthy. Air pollution alone is deadly, killing millions of us each year. As such, [More]

Mandatory Vaccinations

I am vaccinated, I was back teaching in person in the Spring, and most of my regular in person activities are back to normal(ish). So, it is easy for me to forget that a pandemic is still raging. My usual reminders are the news reports on the preventable cases and deaths among the unvaccinated. Because [More]

Chick-fil-A & Donations

Chick-fil-A is best known for its chicken and past antagonism to the LGBTQ+ community.  Most recently, the company became the focus of attention when some Notre Dame students objected to allowing the company to open a restaurant on campus. Notre Dame ultimately decided in favor of Chick-fil-A, noting a change in which organizations it donates [More]

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