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By In Ideas Comments (28)

Illegal immigration is fine.

I recently finished a paper about illegal immigration. Here is my question: Is it wrong to immigrate illegally? Added challenge: Assume (contrary to fact) that immigration laws are justified, and that people typically have a duty to obey the law.

My thesis: Even with those assumptions, the answer is no; there is no moral reason not to violate immigration laws.

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By In Applied Ethics Comments (56)

Reparations for Slavery?

I just read a chapter about slave reparations by my colleague David
Boonin. David presents an interesting and surprisingly strong argument
in favor of reparations. (This argument apparently has been advanced
before, but this is the first time I heard it.) Here’s an abstract of
how it goes:

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By In Normative Ethics Comments (30)

Is equality good?

Welfare Egalitarianism (hereafter, Egalitarianism) is the view that it
is intrinsically good for people to be equally well off. Or more
generally: it is intrinsically better for people to be more nearly
equal in welfare.

Survey question for curiosity: how many readers think that’s true? How
many find the claim intuitively obvious? (Think of your answer before
reading the rest.)

Following is an argument against Egalitarianism that I’d like to hear
comments on. It uses some premises from population axiology:

  • The Unrepugnant Premise: For possible worlds x and y, if
    y has a lower population than x, a higher average utility, a higher
    total utility, and a perfectly equal distribution of utility, then y is
    better than x.
  • The Benign Addition Principle: If worlds x and y are so
    related that y would be the result of increasing the utility of
    everyone in x by some amount and adding some new people with worthwhile
    lives, then y is better than x.
  • Transitivity: If z is better than y and y is better than x, then z is better than x.

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By In Metaethics Comments (63)

The is-ought gap

In another thread, A.N. Prior’s attempted refutation of the is/ought gap came up. Here’s one of Prior’s examples:

a. Tea-drinking is common in England.
b. Therefore, tea-drinking is common in England, or all New Zealanders ought to be shot.

(a) entails (b), (a) is descriptive, and allegedly, (b) is evaluative.

There’s an unjustly neglected article by Toomas Karmo ("Some Valid (but no Sound) Arguments Trivially Span the Is-Ought Gap", Mind [1988]: 252-7) that responds to this sort of example and provides a general proof of a version of the is-ought gap. Karmo’s argument goes roughly like this:

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