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By In Discussions, Normative Ethics, P&PA Discussions, Value Theory Comments (24)

Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion at PEA Soup: Theron Pummer’s “Whether and Where to Give” with a critical précis by Johann Frick

Welcome to what we expect to be an engaging and productive discussion of Theron Pummer‘s “Whether and Where to Give.” The paper appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs, and it is available through open access here. Our conversation begins below with a critical précis by Johann Frick. Please join in the discussion!

Précis by Johann Frick:

It is a pleasure to kick off our discussion of Theron Pummer’s excellent and thought-provoking article “Whether and Where to Give” (Philosophy & Public Affairs, 2016). I will begin with a brief synopsis of some of Theron’s main claims, followed by some critical comments and questions.

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By In Discussions, P&PA Discussions, Value Theory Comments Off on Upcoming Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion at PEA Soup: Theron Pummer’s “Whether and Where to Give” with a critical précis by Johann Frick

Upcoming Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion at PEA Soup: Theron Pummer’s “Whether and Where to Give” with a critical précis by Johann Frick

We are pleased to announce our new discussion series based on recent articles from Philosophy and Public Affairs. Our first article for discussion will be Theron Pummer‘s “Whether and Where to Give,” available here. Here is the paper’s central thesis to whet your appetite:

The main claim I will argue for here is that in many cases it would be wrong of you to give a sum of money to charities that do less good than others you could have given to instead, even if it would not have been wrong of you not to give the money to any charity at all. … What makes my main claim particularly interesting is that it is inconsistent with what appears to be a fairly common assumption in the ethics of giving, according to which if it is not wrong of you to keep some sum of money for yourself, then it is likewise not wrong of you to donate it to any particular charity you choose. Roughly: if it is up to you whether to donate the money, it is also up to you where to donate the money. I will challenge this common assumption.

Johann Frick will start our conversation with a critical précis on April 7. Please join us for what we expect to be a lively and engaging discussion of the ethics of charitable giving.

 

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By In Action Theory, Ideas, Metaethics, Practical Rationality, Practical reasons, Reasons and rationality, Value Theory Comments (4)

Decisive Reasons and Rational Supererogation

I have a roughly formulated and half-baked inquiry:

Suppose that rationality endorses maximizing utility, but there is room for rational supererogation, and so it is sometimes rationally permissible to drink a coffee even if doing so does not maximize utility.

Would you say that there is no decisive reason against drinking the coffee because, although drinking the coffee is rationally inferior to another available option, it is still rationally permissible?  Or would you say that, because drinking the coffee is rationally inferior to another available option, there is decisive reason against drinking the coffee even though drinking it is rationally permissible?

I am attracted to a usage of decisive reason according to which the consideration that C pinpoints a decisive reason against A’s X-ing if and only if, because C, A should not X.  Given this usage, there is no decisive reason against drinking the coffee (from the point of view of rationality) because, although drinking the coffee is rationally inferior to another available option, drinking the coffee is still rationally permissible and so it is not true that one should not drink the coffee.  I wonder if folks would balk at this implication and see usages with this implication as thereby counter-intuitive.

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By In Ideas, Normative Ethics, Practical reasons, Value Theory Comments (5)

Panspermia

I have a test case that I’d like to get responses to, one that tests a certain kind of utilitarian intuition, mixed however, with an interesting conflating factor.
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By In Ideas, Moral Psychology, Normative Ethics, Value Theory Comments (3)

Madame Bovary’s Predicament

In this little exercise in analytic existentialism, I’m going to contrast two kinds of stories we can live through, and suggest that the transition from one to the other is both something most of us will experience and a major challenge for finding our lives meaningful. In the sphere of personal relationships, the first kind of story is exemplified by Jane Austen’s novels (among many others), and the second by the setup of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (among others). I’ll label them Adventure and Service, respectively. Though we’re at least culturally conditioned to prefer the first, there is meaning to be found in both – but perhaps only on condition that we succeed in each of them.
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By In Ideas, Normative Ethics, Value Theory Comments (5)

Does the Shape of an Outcome Matter?

I am interested in knowing whether consequentialists have thought and whether they should think that the shape of an outcome matters when it comes to how good the given outcome of an action or a policy is. Before we get to this question, I want to first motivate this thought with the obvious analogy of an individual’s life. (more…)

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By In Featured Philosophers, Normative Ethics, Uncategorized, Value Theory Comments (40)

Sophisticated Theories of Welfare (by Featured Philosopher Eden Lin)

In this post, I want to raise a problem for a kind of theory of welfare that has recently been on the rise. I will argue that because theories of this kind are false of newborn infants, we should think that they are also false of us.

Theories of welfare differ with respect to the amount of cognitive or psychological sophistication that they require on the part of the subjects to which they are meant to apply. If hedonism is the correct theory of your welfare, then a particular thing is basically good for you—good for you in the most fundamental, non-derivative way—if and only if and because it is a pleasure experienced by you. Thus, if hedonism is true of you, then the capacity for pleasure is the only capacity that you must possess to be positive in welfare. If desire satisfactionism is the correct theory of your welfare, then a particular thing is basically good for you if and only if and because it is the obtaining object of one of your desires. Thus, if this theory is true of you, then the capacity to have desires is the only capacity that you must possess to be positive in welfare. Since these two capacities are relatively simple, we can adopt the convenient (but potentially misleading) convention of calling these theories simple theories.

By contrast, if the correct theory of your welfare is a sophisticated theory, then a particular thing is basically good for you only if you are related to it in a way that involves a fair amount of cognitive or psychological sophistication. Consider a view on which a particular is basically good for you if and only if and because it is the obtaining object of one of your valuing attitudes, and on which valuing something requires (among other things) believing that it is good. If this view is true of you, then in order to be positive in welfare, you need to have a fairly sophisticated capacity: the capacity to value things, which partly consists in the capacity to have evaluative beliefs. As I read them, a number of philosophers have proposed sophisticated theories—including Donald Bruckner, Dale Dorsey, Connie Rosati, Valerie Tiberius, Wayne Sumner, and Benjamin Yelle.

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