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Questions from McTaggart, Part 2

The summer fun continues.  Here’s a cool question raised by McT, quoted below:

"Both good and evil are quantitative.  …. Good values then form a series, as do evil values.  And these two constitute together the single series of values, of which the generating relation is "is better than" or "is worse than".  Of any two values, good or evil, one will be better than the other, which will be worse than the first.  This raises the question whether, after all, there are in reality two sorts of values, good and evil, or whether there is no such distinction, and no such positive qualities as good and evil but rather only relations of better and worse…. In a series of magnitudes each is larger or smaller than each of the others. But no magnitude is positively large or small.  Is the series of values like this?" [Nature of Existence, pp. 409-410.]

This strikes me as a pretty cool question.  Grant that there are objective facts concerning whether one thing is intrinsically better than another.  Why go further and say that some things are good or bad?


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Questions from McTaggart, Part 1

Folks, it’s time for some summer fun.  And everyone knows what that means — it means McTaggart!

Here’s a question McTaggart wondered about.  McTaggart’s discussion of the question appears in The Nature of Existence, vol II., Chapter LXVII. 

Suppose that pleasure is intrinsically good, and that the value of a pleasure is partially a function of how long it lasts.  If there are two pleasures, p1 and p2, that are otherwise equal, but p2 lasts twice as long as p1, then p2 is twice as good as p1. 

Suppose also that there are timeless persons, i.e., persons that exist but do not exist in time.  Suppose one of those persons has a feeling of pleasure.  How intrinsically valuable is that feeling?

(Grant that we can make sense of timeless persons having mental states.)

McTaggart thinks that the answer is "infinitely valuable", regardless of the intensity of the pleasure.  Is he right?

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Rights and Intrinsic Properties

I’m curious what people think of the following principle:

(RIP): Suppose that some person x has intrinsic feature F; suppose that x has a moral right to have F.  Suppose that some other person y can bring it about that y has F without violating anyone else’s moral rights.    Then y has a moral right to have  F.

I’ll explain the potential application of this principle (or something like it, if it needs tweaking) in a later post.

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Bleg Time

I have a bleg.  Can anyone recommend papers in ethics — preferably on value-theory or meta-ethics — that (i) are good pieces of philosophy, (ii) are very clearly written, (iii) are not exceptionally long, and (iv) could be profitably read by an intelligent but young undergrad who knows next to nothing about philosophy?


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Is the Eastern APA Worth It?

How much does it cost a department to interview job candidates at the Eastern APA?  And is the  information about the job candidates that one acquires worth that money? 


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Desire Bleg

Does anyone hold the following view? If so, who? Where? When? Why?

The notion of desire is to be understood/analyzed in terms of the notion of preference, perhaps along the following lines:

S wants that P =df. S prefers P to not-P.

(The basic idea is that what one wants is (i) determined by one’s preferences, where preference is a contrastive relation that links a subject to two other entities, and (ii) we should accordingly analyze desire in terms of preference.)


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Harm at a Distance?

Suppose Unrestricted
Desire Satisfactionism is true.  (UDS, is roughly, the view that how
well one’s life is going for oneself is determined by the extent to
which one’s desires are satisfied or frustrated.)  I have some naive
questions about harm given UDS, and some parallel questions about the
badness of death. More below the fold.


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