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Peterson's expanded and updated second edition retains the key features of the original and presents the main positions and strategies in the latest philosophical literature on the subject. It will remain the most complete introduction to the subject as well as a resource for advanced study. Peterson organizes his selection of classical and contemporary sources into four parts: important statements addressing the problem of evil from great literature and classical philosophy; debates based on the logical, evidential, and existential versions of the problem; major attempts to square God's justice with the presence of evil, such as Augustinian, Irenaean, process, openness, and felix culpa theodicies; and debates on the problem of evil covering such concepts as a best possible world, natural evil and natural laws, gratuitous evil, the skeptical theist defense, and the bearing of biological evolution on the problem.

The second edition includes classical excerpts from the book of Job, Voltaire, Dostoevsky, Augustine, Aquinas, Leibniz, and Hume, and twenty-five essays that have shaped the contemporary discussion, by J. Whether a professional philosopher, student, or interested layperson, the reader will be able to work through a number of issues related to how evil in the world affects belief in God.

Table of Contents. Cover Download Save. Title Page, Copyright, Dedication pp. Contents pp. Preface to the Second Edition pp. Introduction: The Problem of Evil pp. Part I. Statements of the Problem. Explorations in Great Literature. The Lisbon Earthquake Voltaire pp. Rebellion Fyodor Dostoevsky pp. Treatments in Traditional Philosophy. No Evil Comes from God St. Thomas Aquinas pp. Part II.


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Versions of the Problem. The Logical Problem. Evil and Omnipotence J. Mackie pp. The Evidential Problem. Peterson pp. The Existential Problem. Adams pp. Part III. Perspectives in Theodicy. Augustinian Theodicy. See Singer ; Jackson ; Kidder A different kind of reply to the objection is to adjust consequentialism itself so that it is no longer impartial. Here are two simple examples of such theories:. Egoistic Consequentialism: Of all the things a person might do at any given moment, the morally right action is the one that has the best consequences for that person.

Friendly Consequentialism: Of all the things a person might do at any given moment, the morally right action is the one that has the best consequences for that person and her friends. For consequentialism, the simplest way to conceive of the goodness of consequences is in terms of how much they contain of something that is considered good, such as happiness or personal well-being, regardless of who gets it. What matters is the total amount, not who gets what.

Such a conception is egalitarian in the sense that it counts every bit of your happiness as being just as important as the same sized bits of my happiness. But one could object that in another sense, such a conception is not egalitarian because it does not care whether happiness is distributed equally or unequally among people.

If the greatest total can be created only by exploiting the miserable to make the happy even happier, then such consequentialism would seem to say that you should do it. But common sense may rebel against that idea as being unfair or unjust. Hence consequentialism is wrong. See Le Guin ; Rawls ; Harsanyi One reply to this objection is that our intuitive sense of fairness is not mainly concerned with distributions of ultimate goods like happiness or well-being. These are good because of the further goods that they tend to produce. Now, serious inequality in external goods tends to reduce the total happiness.

One reason is that, in general, external goods tend to produce more happiness or well-being when they go to people who have less of these goods than when they go to people who have more.

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For example, an extra dollar does more good for a poor person than for a rich person. That is a reason to think that promoting equality in external goods will tend to do more total good than promoting inequality. Hence actions and policies that promote equality in external goods will cause more happiness by promoting a sense of community. Further, institutions that secure basic external equalities, or that aim to protect whoever is poorest and weakest, tend to give everyone more security.

This makes life nicer and helps people be concerned for each other rather than fearful of each other, and they will therefore do more good for each other.


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Actions that promote egalitarian institutions, then, would tend to do the most good overall. Perhaps these points are the basis of our sense of the importance of equality. A different kind of reply to the objection is to propose that one of the ultimate standards for goodness of consequences should be equality. One might propose, for example, that the consequences of an action are good insofar as they promote the total happiness and promote equality of happiness or of other goods.

See Sidgwick However, once one introduces such a complex standard of goodness for consequences, questions arise as to how to rate the relative importance of the parts of the standard and about how such a view can be given theoretical elegance. For example, perhaps we can do the most good overall if we forcibly stop people from wasting their time and energy on pointless or harmful things like driving SUVs, watching television, eating meat, following sports, and so on.

See Frey You need only keep her bound and gagged in the cellar and force her to sign the checks. Consequentialism would seem to say that you should do this, but moral common sense says that you should not. Hence consequentialism is opposed to common sense and is probably wrong. For another example, suppose you are a surgeon with five patients, each about to die for lack of a certain medicine that you can obtain in sufficient quantity only by killing and grinding up a sixth patient. Should you do it?

Consequentialism says you should do this; but moral common sense says that you should not. Hence consequentialism is opposed to common sense and so is probably wrong. Foot Now, one reply to the extreme examples is that such opportunities are extremely unusual. At least that is true of the surgery example. Moral common sense is shaped by and for the demands of ordinary moral life and so common sense may not be very reliable in odd cases.

Hence the fact that consequentialism disagrees with common sense about odd cases is no disproof of consequentialism. To keep a big secret, you must actively mislead and deceive people and keep them at a distance. Continued deception about a serious matter is difficult, so at the outset you must take into account the chance that you will fail or give up. See Jackson Continued difficult deception uses up mental resources.

Hence if you have such a secret, your further projects will be more poorly chosen, designed, and carried out. Also, if you have important secrets, you may find it hard to have ordinary trust for others; you may become somewhat paranoid and ineffective. Further, if you have a big secret that would repel nice honest people, any nice honest person who learns your secret will not want to be your friend.

Anyone who does not know your secret will not really know you and hence cannot be your real friend. But we need nice honest friends if we are to be effective doers of good in the long run. We need them for practical help, for mental health, and to help us see ourselves clearly. We need to see ourselves clearly in order to do good effectively in the long run. Now, if you are the sort of person who actually would send money to save distant strangers, anything that cripples your efforts will hurt many people.

And if you are a skilled surgeon, anything that hampers your operations will hurt people.

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Hence the reasonable expectation is that harvesting the healthy patient would have bad consequences. A similar argument might be made regarding almost any scheme that would horrify nice honest people. For one thing, each of us is in a better position to understand her own affairs than you are and more naturally and reliably concerned than you are to make sure that her own affairs are carried out well. If you get involved in meddling, can you trust yourself to meddle in the right direction and with adequate care?

If you want to do good for me, doing the sorts of things that are normally thought of as violating my personal rights is probably a bad bet. That does not mean consequentialism tells you to leave me entirely alone. Consequentialism can still tell you to give me resources or opportunities, or to help me with my projects, or to help improve the laws of our community.

Further, it is important that people be free to make decisions for themselves, even poor decisions, because that is the only way that people develop strength of character and because constant experimentation is the only way humanity learns about the various possibilities of life. Hence consequentialism would seem to ask us to support laws that protect personal freedom against excessive interference by our neighbors or our government.

See Mill A different kind of reply to the objection is to propose a new standard for the goodness of consequences. One might propose, for example, that an action is good insofar as it decreases the amount of meddling in the world. Or one might propose instead that an action is good insofar as it causes less meddling and more total happiness.

Of course, once one introduces such a complex standard of goodness for consequences, questions arise about how to rate the relative importance of the parts of the standard and about how such a view can be given theoretical elegance. A further worry about this new proposal is that it still does not directly tell us not to meddle. For if we can minimize the total amount of meddling in the long run by meddling today perhaps by spying on terrorism suspects or by privately bombing the citizens of aggressive countries , this new theory tells us to do so. See Sen Consequentialism seems to tell us to make all our decisions by thinking about overall consequences.

But that way of thinking about life is, one might think, inhuman and immoral. When someone asks you a question, you should not stop to calculate the consequences before deciding whether to answer truthfully. If you decide by looking to the consequences, you are not really an honest person.

Also, when you are about to follow through on a project you have started, you should not stop to calculate the overall consequences anew before you proceed.

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A sane person will decide on a project and then simply follow through, unless some new situation arises. Anyone who stops to calculate consequences before taking any step to fulfill a commitment is not a person of integrity. And what moves you to spend an hour with your friend or spouse or child should not be impartial calculations about the overall impact on the world at large. If you decide by looking to the overall consequences, you do not really love that person. Therefore consequentialism is an inhuman and immoral theory and must be wrong.

See Williams ; Williams ; Stocker Now, this objection does not directly apply to Plain Consequentialism or Plain Scalar Consequentialism, for these theories do not say that we should think about consequences. On the contrary, if you think in the inhuman way described in the objection, your plans and your relationships are unlikely to go well, so Plain versions of consequentialism tend to oppose that way of thinking. Such thinking would be action that has bad consequences. See Bales , Railton Nor does the objection apply to Rule Consequentialism. Rule Consequentialism suggests that we should evaluate rules of behavior by asking what the consequences would be if everyone accepted this or that rule, but does not say that the rightness of actions has anything to do with the consequences of those actions themselves.

See Rawls The objection does, however, directly attack Reasonable Consequentialism and Dual Consequentialism, because these theories say that an action is morally wrong unless we have a reasonable estimate of its consequences. Perhaps it does not involve explicitly thinking about the consequences at all. As I proceed to feed my cat, I almost never think about the consequences of doing so versus not doing so, but surely it would be wrong to say that I have no view or that my view is not reasonable.

Double Consequentialism: The word "right" is ambiguous. This Double Consequentialism differs from the Dual Consequentialism of 1. To see the difference in principle between these theories, suppose there is a somewhat reliable authority on what specific kinds of actions are objectively right. For example, suppose God, who knows all the consequences, has announced that certain kinds of things are right.

Or suppose the recommendation that comes from you friend, your mother, your heart, or your prior resolution, reflects insight into the implications of your action that would not be reflected in the conscious estimates of consequences you might be able to work up on the spur of the moment. Further, suppose that God, society, your friend or your heart has sufficient authority on the points it addresses that the most reasonable way for you to estimate which of your own options are objectively right is to trust that authority.

If there is such an authority, then actions one chooses by deferring to the authority may be morally right according to Double Consequentialism even if they are morally wrong according to Dual Consequentialism. For example, suppose Paul is considering stealing money from his grandmother to help the poor. So far as he can reasonably guess, that scheme would have the best overall consequences. But he remembers that stealing is generally regarded as wrong.

Double Consequentialism says his choice is morally right, even though his decision was not based on estimates of consequences and went against his estimates. One might object that if the objectively right action is the one whose consequences are best, then general social opinion cannot be an authority on objective rightness, even on those issues where the general opinion is clear. For general social opinion does not agree that the objectively right action is the one whose consequences are best.

But this objection assumes that an authority on the question whether an action is objectively right would have to know exactly what objective rightness is. That assumption may be mistaken, because it is not true that an authority on whether something has a certain feature has to know exactly what that feature is. For example, suppose that many years ago, before anyone knew that gold is made of atoms or that it is the element with atomic number 79, Jack and Jill were hiking in unclaimed land and came upon some heavy shiny lumps.

Jack had no idea how to identify gold. But Jill had handled gold a few times before and could make a good guess about whether the lumps were really gold. For the moment, Jill was an authority for Jack on whether these lumps were gold. It was reasonable for him to rely on her imperfect judgment, even though neither of them knew quite what gold is.

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Since Double Consequentialism does not imply that you should estimate the consequences of your everyday actions, it seems to escape the objection that consequentialism requires inhuman and immoral thinking. One argument for consequentialism begins from the premise that whatever a person does, she does in order to produce some sort of good result.

It may be a benefit to herself or to someone else. It may be a short-run benefit or a long-run benefit. It may be a benefit of a particular kind: a financial benefit, a heath benefit, entertainment or knowledge. It may be the prevention of some harm. But whatever a person does, she does in order to produce some sort of benefit. Her expectation that it will produce or promote that good outcome is her reason for performing the action. Now, different kinds of benefits yield different kinds of reasons. For example, if a certain action would be good for the bank account but bad for the health, there is a financial reason for it and a health reason against it.

Similarly, if a certain action would be good for me but bad for you, there is a reason for it and a reason against it. To find out whether the action is rationally justifiable overall, one must look beyond these specific kinds of reason to find what overall reason there is. That is, one must look to see whether financial benefit outweighs the health drawback, and whether the benefit to me outweighs the harm to you. In other words, one must ask whether the action promotes benefit overall.

Therefore, an action is rationally justifiable insofar as it does good overall. And since we ought to do what is rationally justifiable, we ought to do whatever does the most good overall. Hence Consequentialism is true. One worry about the above argument is that its initial premise may be false. We may sometimes act not to produce a benefit, but in order to obey a principle we accept. For example, you may do something simply because you have promised or because it is required by law, without looking to the consequences.

Even if every action does aim at some benefit, this does not show that the benefit is the whole reason for each action. Perhaps our reason for each action is a combination of two things: the idea that the action will produce benefits and the idea that the action is morally permissible—that it would not violate any principles of morality. If every action is taken to produce some benefit, that shows only that the benefit is part of the reason for every action, not that the benefit is the whole reason. Another worry about the above argument is that it presupposes that the notion of overall benefit makes sense.

To see how someone might question that, think about skills and skill. Many of our actions are aimed at developing skill. But skill is not one thing.

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Many of our actions are aimed at developing a skil. To practice one skill, one must neglect or even undermine another skill. Boxing makes me worse at the piano. See Foot ; Scanlon A worry about the argument is that premise 5 may not be true. In choosing an action, one is normally not choosing its whole set of consequences, because one cannot know what most of the consequences are.

A second worry is that premise 1 may not support statement 2. Even though a whole set of consequences has no further consequences, it might have further implications. For not all implications are consequences. That is why the position of the hand matters to me. But of course I know that the position of the hand has no effect on my speed. For another example, one important implication of an action I take may be that I already am a certain kind of person. An action can show what kind of person I am even if it does not make me be that kind of person.

See Campbell and Sowden Thus it would seem that the standards of goodness vary with the kind of thing we are talking about. To say that a certain pebble is good is meaningless. Similarly, there are no general standards of goodness for whole sets of consequences in genera. If that is right, then consequentialism itself must be wrong because consequentialism is at root the idea that we ought to bring about good consequences.

See Geach ; Foot ; Thomson This controversial line of thought is not only an objection to the above argument for consequentialism, it is also an argument against consequentialism. For if 'good consequences' is meaningless, then it cannot be correct to define right action in terms of good consequences, as consequentialism normally does.

One worry about the above argument is that it is not clear why we should think Premise 1 is true. Why would the absence of bias mean being equally sympathetic with everyone? Perhaps an easier way to be free of bias is to have no sympathy for anyone. Another worry is that 1 and 2 do not imply 3.

For one thing, 1 and 2 do not tell us that the ideal spectator would have no concerns other than those she derives from sympathy, but 3 does make that assumption. For another thing, suppose this amazing being does lack all other concerns. Now, 2 tells us that she is full of desires that conflict with each other. Why would she have that additional desire? One might suppose that if a person has two conflicting desires, it is rational for her to replace them with a single compromise desire. But if the spectator replaces her conflicting desires, then according to 2 she no longer has the sympathy that makes her a reliable judge.

See Firth ; Hare , Seanor and Fotion Consider this argument for Plain Scalar Consequentialism, which is based on one proposed in Mill :. One worry about this argument is that 1 seems false. For example, people often procrastinate from laziness or fear, knowing that they are hurting themselves in the long run. And even people who do not believe in a life after death often give their lives for larger causes.

Another worry is that it is unclear exactly how 7 is supposed to imply 8. Even in mathematics, crossing the same thing out of both sides of a true equation does not always yield a new true equation. A shorter cousin of the above argument, focusing on the fulfillment of desire rather than on happiness, avoids those worries. One worry about this shorter argument is that Premise 2 may be false. For example, it sounds a bit odd to say that when you call someone a good person, you are calling her a desirable person. Presumably the stronger desires are to count for more. But if I desire something slightly and then intensely, which counts?

Should a desire count for more if it is held for a longer time? Should it count if it is based on a factual mistake or if it is malicious? See Griffin ; Scanlon There are many moral questions on which common sense is divided or simply stumped. People disagree with each other about the morality of using human embryos for stem cell research, downloading copyrighted music, giving little to the poor, eating animals, having certain kinds of sex, and many other things.

One of the main reasons to investigate moral theory is to learn how to approach these questions reasonably. But on many issues there is a broad range of solid agreement about what is morally obvious, at least in societies that have long permitted open discussion by all. We firmly agree, for example, that equality and rights are very important, that it is not wrong to favor our family and friends over strangers, that it is wrong to torture children, and so on.

When we are thinking about morality, that is usually because we are puzzled about some hard question. At such times we might overlook the fact that the aspects of morality that we agree on as obvious cover so much territory that they sketch the basic shape of civilized life. What is morality? The true answer would presumably have some sort of simplicity and would presumably support most of the concrete moral views that seem most obvious to our common sense. So if consequentialism agrees with common sense, that agreement is some reason to think that consequentialism is true.

Section 3 above presented several objections to consequentialism, arguing that consequentialism conflicts with one or another basic piece of common sense about morality. But in reply to most of these objections, Section 3 presented arguments to show that consequentialism supports those bits of common sense after all. A worry about this line of thought is that if there were some simple theory like consequentialism that captured what morality is about, one might think that we would have recognized it long ago.

But consequentialism is still controversial. For more discussion of consequentialism, see the consequentialism section of the article Ethics. Most of the best recent work on consequentialism is collected in the following anthologies. Any one of these collections provides an excellent introduction to consequentialism. In addition, the fine journal Utilitas is entirely devoted to the topic. William Haines Email: hainesw hkucc. Consequentialism Consequentialism is the view that morality is all about producing the right kinds of overall consequences.

Basic Issues and Simple Versions a. Introduction to Plain Consequentialism There is disagreement about how consequentialism can best be formulated as a precise theory, and so there are various versions of consequentialism. What is a "Consequence"? Plain Scalar Consequentialism Plain Consequentialism is a theory about which actions are right.

Expectable Consequentialism and Reasonable Consequentialism Of course, we cannot know the overall consequences of our actions. If you do not want to praise my conduct, you might prefer a new version of consequentialism: Reasonable Consequentialism: An action is morally right if and only if it has the best reasonably expected consequences.

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Dual Consequentialism Reasonable Consequentialism may be too simple. Rule Consequentialism If most people who live along a short river toss their garbage in the river, so that it is always full of garbage, then your tossing your own garbage in the river makes no difference to the river, and it saves the inconvenience of driving a few miles to the dump. Two Simple Arguments for Consequentialism In Section 2 we shall look at two initial reasons to think consequentialism is true and some worries about those reasons.

Only Results Remain Actions are transient things, soon gone forever. Love Arguably consequentialism is implicit in the very familiar conception of morality, shared by many cultures and traditions, which holds that moral perfection means loving all people, loving others as we love ourselves. Arguments Against Consequentialism We turn now to some of the most popular reasons to think consequentialism is false and some possible replies to these attacks a.

Partiality It is in the spirit of consequentialism to look at goodness ultimately from an impartial, impersonal point of view. Here are two simple examples of such theories: Egoistic Consequentialism: Of all the things a person might do at any given moment, the morally right action is the one that has the best consequences for that person. Equality For consequentialism, the simplest way to conceive of the goodness of consequences is in terms of how much they contain of something that is considered good, such as happiness or personal well-being, regardless of who gets it.

Human Thinking Consequentialism seems to tell us to make all our decisions by thinking about overall consequences. Another way of replying to the objection is to propose yet another version of consequentialism. Further Arguments for Consequentialism a. Reasons for Action One argument for consequentialism begins from the premise that whatever a person does, she does in order to produce some sort of good result. Premise When we are choosing among such wholes, nothing else is at stake. From 1 It can never be right to choose something worse over something better, when nothing else is at stake.

Premise It can never be right to choose a worse whole set of consequences over a better. From 2 and 3 In choosing an action, one is choosing its whole set of consequences. Premise One ought always to choose an action whose overall consequences are at least as good as the overall consequences of any of the alternative actions; in other words, consequentialism is true. From 4 and 5 A worry about the argument is that premise 5 may not be true. The Ideal Spectator Consider the following argument for consequentialism. What objectively ought to happen, what is objectively desirable, is whatever would be wished for by a spectator with full knowledge and no bias; that is, someone who knows everything and is equally sympathetic with everyone.

Premise An all-knowing impartial being would, overall, wish for the greatest possible balance of satisfaction of the desires of all people. From 2 What objectively ought to happen is whatever would promote the greatest possible balance of satisfaction of the desires of all people. From 1 and 3 The right action is the one that objectively ought to happen.

Premise The right action is whatever would promote the greatest possible balance of satisfaction of the desires of all people. From 4 and 5 Consequentialism is true. From 6 One worry about the above argument is that it is not clear why we should think Premise 1 is true. Premise What each person ultimately desires is only her own happiness. Premise What is good for you is happiness for you —and whatever promotes that. From 5 and 6 8. What is good is happiness—and whatever promotes that.

From 8 Plain Scalar Consequentialism is true. From 9 One worry about this argument is that 1 seems false. Premise An action is good insofar as it helps to satisfy desire. From 1 and 2 An action is good insofar as its consequences include the satisfaction of desire. From 3 Consequentialism is true. From 4 One worry about this shorter argument is that Premise 2 may be false. Common Sense There are many moral questions on which common sense is divided or simply stumped.

References and Further Reading a. Classic Works Bentham, Jeremy J. Burns and H. Hart, eds. An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation []. Oxford: Oxford University Press, Mill, John Stuart Roger Crisp, ed. Sidgwick, Henry. The Methods of Ethics , Seventh Edition []. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company,