This chapter, which examines views about abortion and death, discusses claims about abortion and explains some ways for considering these claims to be true. It analyzes whether abortion causes the death of a fetus and whether bringing death to a fetus greatly harms it, also discussing the relevant issues of nonsentient fetus, intermediate judgment argument, and the unequal harm of death judgment.
This article examines potential applications of the concept of cause to some central ethical concepts, views, and problems. In particular, it discusses the role of causation in the family of views known as consequentialism, the distinction between killing and letting die, the doctrine of double effect, and the concept of moral responsibility. The article aims to examine the extent to which an appeal to the concept of cause contributes to elucidating moral notions or to increasing the plausibility of moral views. Something that makes this task interestingly complex is the fact that the notion of causation itself is controversial and difficult to pin down. As a result, in some cases the success of its use in moral theory hinges on how certain debates about causation are resolved.
This article sketches and discusses four arguments for compatibilism. There are certainly other arguments that have been called ‘arguments for compatibilism’ and some of these arguments may even be arguments for compatibilism, but the article restricts its focus to four arguments that strike as particularly important. The arguments all share the compatibilist conclusion that determinism and freedom are consistent. The article does not exhaustively explore the historical or contemporary use or provenance of these arguments, nor does it fully document professional discussion of the arguments. The focus is exclusively on the arguments.
Stuart J. Youngner
Two factors, medical science's growing control over the timing of death and the increasingly desperate need for organs, have led to a reopening of the debate about the definition of death and have forced a consideration of aspects of the determination of death that had never been addressed before. Without the pressing need for organs, the definition of death would have remained on the back shelf, the conversation of a few interested philosophers or theologians. This article examines some new questions raised by medical technology and the frantic search for new, morally acceptable sources of human organs over the past thirty years. This examination concludes that death itself is a social construct and that, in a pluralistic society such as ours, a conclusive definition of death or determination of the moment of death is out of the reach of both medical science and philosophy.
John Martin Fischer
This article provides an overview of arguments for and against Frankfurt-type examples over the past few decades. It considers various strategies by which critics of these examples have tried to rescue PAP, or variations of it, and also considers various responses to these critics. It notes that moral responsibility does not require alternative possibilities, but also believes that freedom does imply alternative possibilities. The resulting view is called semicompatibilism. According to semicompatibilism, moral responsibility is compatible with determinism (since it does not require the power to do otherwise), whereas freedom (which does require this power) is not compatible with determinism. The article concludes with an explanation of what motivates this semicompatibilist position and how to give a positive compatibilist account of moral responsibility in terms of notions of guidance control and reasons-responsiveness.
This chapter sketches four forms of realism ascribed to four great historical figures that provide an important set of determinate versions of moral realism. Plato provides a picture according to which moral facts exist in a non-concrete realm of abstract universal properties. Aristotle provides a picture according to which moral facts exist as concrete facts in the world (in a stance-independent fashion). Hume provides a picture according to which moral facts have their basis in universal human sentiments. Kant provides a picture according to which moral facts are simply truths of universal reason. It is argued that the revolution in our understanding of metaphysical explanations that occurred between Aristotle and Hume has important consequences for realist views.
David W. Shoemaker
This article examines the relationship between the self and moral responsibility. It shows that what makes an action the person's own (what keeps the agent in the picture) with regard to responsibility is better expressed in terms of practical identity than in terms of personal identity. It argues that all such criteria of personal identity (psychological, biological, narrative) fail to provide a sufficient account of how a person can be morally responsible for an action and suggests that identity does not matter for moral responsibility.
This chapter examines traditional and nontraditional views about the morality aspect of killing in war, explaining that these views are derivative of deeper nonconsenqualist perspectives in ethics. It analyzes some aspects of standard just war theory, discusses the concept of jus in bello and collateral harm to noncombatants, and also offers alternatives to the standard jus in bello, including the equality thesis and moral equality or conventional equality.
This article examines Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) and the ways multiple selves have been depicted or implicated in some recent philosophical discussions. It considers recent approaches to the concept of self and suggests that none of them rule out the possibility of multiple selves. It contends that the 1998 work of Carol Rovane is perhaps the most appropriate for explaining these types of multiplicity. It discusses the desirability of self-unity understood as a norm of mental health and evaluates therapeutic intervention in the cases of radical multiplicity reported from the clinic.
David O. Brink
The temporal locations of benefits and harms matter to us. People prefer past pain to future pain, even when this choice includes more total pain. But should the location of benefits and harms matter to us, all else being equal? This question is an ethical one. This chapter deals with defending temporal neutrality, the thesis that agents should attach no normative significance to the temporal location of benefits and harms, all else being equal. A powerful argument for temporal neutrality comes from prudence. However, prudence also assigns normative significance only to benefits and harms that occur to oneself, not other agents. It also suggests that the fact that one is later compensated for present sacrifice is crucial to assigning equal importance to all parts of an agent's life, but not equally to all agents.
This article examines issues surrounding the importance or unimportance of personal identity. It distinguishes numerical identity from qualitative identity. It argues in defence of constitutional reductionism which holds that a person is reducible to but not identical to bodily and psychological events. It describes the results of some thought experiments (science fiction cases) to show that in many instances we are unable to decide about the identity of the person.
Christopher Taylor and Daniel Dennett
This article argues, in defense of compatibilism, that objections to compatibilist accounts of free agency are based on a flawed understanding of the relationship of such notions as possibility and causation to freedom and agency. It undertakes an analysis of the relevant notions of possibility and causation to show this. The article develops a compatibilist view, with special attention to technical issues about the nature of causation and possibility. In the process, it discusses recent technical views about the nature of causality, particularly that of Judea Pearl. It also develops some interesting analogies concerning the functioning of computers to argue that the flexibility, reflexivity, and creativity that free will requires are consistent with the hypothesis that human behavior, like that of intelligent machines, is determined.
This chapter examines the wrongness of killing and the badness of death in the context of Jeff McMahan's so-called Equal Wrongness (of Killing) Thesis, explaining that McMahan's formulation of the thesis contains an open-ended list of factors said to be irrelevant to the strength of the pro tanto objection to killing. The analysis reveals that The Equal Wrongness of Killing Thesis is meant to hold only for those cases where the respect-based pro tanto objection arises.