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Discounting Illicit Benefits

In 'The Means and the Good' (Analysis, forthcoming) Matthew Oliver argues that pluralist consequentialists can accommodate intuitions against using others as a means, on the model of how they can accommodate intuitions about desert:Just as it is bad for Emily to benefit from a stolen manuscript, it is bad for anyone to benefit from the use of another’s body or resources as a means. We can call this impersonal badness an impersonal-use-cost. As with a stolen manuscript, good results that are produced by using another person’s body or resources are heavily offset by an accompanying impersonal-use-cost.By, in effect, discounting illicit benefits, we get the result that killing one to save five does more harm than good.  But we also get the result that killing one to prevent five others from each killing one to save five likewise does more harm than good.  (I think the most natural way to understand this is not to regard the second-order killing as in itself extra bad; the killing is just as intrinsically bad as any other death, the problem is instead that any good that would follow from it -- including the prevention of other wrongful killings -- gets massively discounted.)It's a clever and interesting view!  But it seems really vulnerable to my argument against constraints, namely, that it unacceptably devalues the lives of the innocent victims who might be rescued.  Once an innocent person has been killed in an (even wrongful) attempt to save [More]

Critical Philosophy of Race

[New Entry by Linda Alcoff on September 15, 2021.] The field that has come to be known as the Critical Philosophy of Race is an amalgamation of philosophical work on race that largely emerged in the late 20th century, though it draws from earlier work. It departs from previous approaches to the question of race that dominated the modern period up until the era of civil rights. Rather than focusing on the legitimacy of the concept of race as a way to characterize human differences, Critical Philosophy of Race [More]

Companions in Guilt: Arguments in Metaethics

2021.09.03 : View this Review Online | View Recent NDPR Reviews Christopher Cowie and Richard Rowland (eds.), Companions in Guilt: Arguments in Metaethics, Routledge, 2020, 232pp., $160.00 (hbk), ISBN 9781138318335. Reviewed by Luke Elson, University of Reading The Moral Error Theory says that no positive moral claims (such as ‘murder is wrong’) are true. The most common argument for the theory is that the truth of such claims would involve the existence of objectionably ‘queer’ irreducibly normative or motivating properties (such as wrongness). In Mackie’s words, the queerness point is that it’s ‘in the end less paradoxical’ to reject the truth of positive moral claims than to accept their objectionable implications (1972: 42). Rather than directly arguing that (1) morality doesn’t really have the claimed implications, or (2) the implications are not so objectionable after all, ‘companions in guilt’ arguments (CGAs) purport to show that some other area of discourse also has those implications. CGAs do not offer... Read [More]

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