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  This page intentionally left blank part i Methodology This page intentionally left blank { 1 }Normative Ethicsback to the future Th e course of normative ethics in the twentieth century was a rollercoaster ride, from a period of skilled and confi dent theorizing in the fi rst third of the century,through a virtual disappearance in the face of various forms of skepticism in the middle third, to a partial revival, though shadowed by remnants of that skepticism,in the fi nal third. For them the property of goodness is not identical to any physical or natural property, and no “ought” can be derivedfrom an “is.” Th ey therefore accepted a realist version of the autonomy of ethics: at the level of fundamental principles, moral judgments are independent of all otherjudgments.

G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1903 ), pp. 189–202;

  Th e same holds for Moore’s formulation of the retributive theory of punish- ment in terms of his principle of organic unities, which says the value of a wholeneed not equal the sum of the values of its parts. In the case of punishment, Moore argues, a person’s having a vicious character is bad, as is his suff ering pain, but thecombination of a vicious character and pain in the same life is good as a combination,4 and suffi ciently good that infl icting the pain makes the overall situation better.

C. D. Broad, “Self and Others,” in Broad’s Critical Essays in Moral Philosophy (London: George Allen & Unwin, 1971 )

  It is a mistake, its partisans held, to think that whenever a single word applies to a set of objects there must besome single property they share; there may be only a loose set of “family resem- blances.” Th e attempt to capture that property in an abstract principle does notdeepen the insights of common sense but gets them entirely wrong. His central example of a concept that cannot be given a unifying analysis16 was that of a game, but in one of the great underappreciated books of the twen-tieth century Bernard Suits gives perfectly persuasive necessary and suffi cient con- ditions for something’s being a game.

G. J. Warnock, Contemporary Moral Philosophy (London: Macmillan, 1967 ), chs. 5 and 6; and Warnock

  When we imagine situations in which the humanpopulation has been reduced to a mere handful of people, as it is in the biblical story of Noah, or as it might be in the event of a nuclear holocaust, one of the fi rstthings that springs to our minds is the tremendous importance of increasing that population and of starting to repopulate the world with humans. Since the average principle holds that the value that a population contributes to the world is independent of its size, amove to the right along one of these lines (a move that represents an increase in the size of the population without any change in the average well-being) is not accompanied byany vertical rise (which represents an increase in value), and the only way to achieve such a rise is to move to a line that represents a higher average well-being.

I. Aristotelian Perfectionism

  Here perfectionism says, asBradley did, that, even if life without pleasure is inconceivable, “what we hold to against every possible modification of Hedonism, is that the standard and1 test is in higher and lower function, not in more or less pleasure.” Th e problem I want to discuss can arise in any perfectionism, but it is most use- fully discussed with a specifi c version in view. In any case, the second Aristotelian claim is that a life is better the more it is informed and aware, and the more it has unifi ed its Th e Well-Rounded Life 39 knowledge in one structure.

a. 6) , the most praiseworthy lives are devoted, as Aquinas’s was, to teaching as well as to study

  His central argument—that theoretical excellence realizes a separable and7 divine element in our nature —is of merely historical interest, as is the claim that it8 concerns the best objects. Th at contemplation off ers pure and continuous pleasure is irrelevant to perfectionism;9 that it is more self-suffi cient is dubious; and that it alone is loved for itself is false.

III. Balancing

  For simplicity, imagine the axes calibrated so that one unit of each perfec- tion is what an average person can achieve in a fi xed time, say one hour: Practical perfectionTheoretical perfectionfigure . Balancing Curves In the upper left of the graph, where the politician has achieved more practice than theory, the same overall improvement results from a large increase in action ora small increase in knowledge. Sir William Hamilton defi nes perfection10 as “the full and harmonious development of all our faculties”; Wilhelm von Humboldtcalls a human’s true end “the highest and most harmonious development of his powers11 to a complete and consistent whole”; and Rashdall describes a life where “many distin-12 guishable elements are harmonized and combined.” At times the point of these remarksis causal.

IV. Dilettantism and Concentration

  And this, in turn, suggests that many people’sachievement lines may be M-shaped, as in Figure 3.4 : Practical perfectionTheoretical perfectionfigure . M-Shaped Achievement Lines In the upper left and lower right of Figure 3.4, where the achievement of one good is quite high, the costs of concentration work strongly on that good to makethe line concave. Someone who does that will slide into the central trough of her achievement line, and onto a lower curve.17 It is this possibility—diff erent returns of perfection at diff erent levels, as well as to people with diff erent talents—that forces us to equate one unit of perfection with what an average person achieves in an hour (sec. III).

V. Many-Person Balancing

  Its fi rst question has always been, “What is the best whole human life?”—not “What is the best state ofa person at a time?” or “What is the best distribution of states across persons?” It would refl ect this concern a little to balance everywhere, but to give the conse-quences in single lives the greatest weight. A striking claim of Rawls’s A Th eory of Justice24 is that classical utilitarianism does not take seriously the separateness of persons,or, looking at the same fact from the inside, the unity of individual lives.

I. Concentration Versus Proportionality

  How is it rational, or appropriate, for you to feel about your act’s Earlier versions of this chapter were read in the spring of 1994 to the Conference on Incommensurability and Value in Colombiers-sur-Seulles, France, and the annual congress of the Canadian PhilosophicalAssociation in Calgary. On the contrary, what you should regret less is in part that you are not on a diff erent holiday now, and youshould regret this fact less because it now has less of a modal property that is and pain but also because, over time, its intrinsic appropriateness diminishes.

II. Monism and Rational Regret

  De Sousa, Stocker, Kekes, and Dancy, and also David Wiggins and Martha Nussbaum, hold that regret for alesser good is rational only when that good is an instance of a diff erent generic good than is the greater, and is therefore rational only given a pluralistic ratherthan a monistic theory of what is good. Th e claim that only pluralism allows rational regret is surely meant to be a substantive one ratherthan one that follows trivially from the meanings of “monism” and “pluralism.” But on this last understanding of the objection, the claim is just trivial.

III. Moderate Versus Extreme Pluralism

  Or perhaps the social aspect of discussing philosophy makes it16 A slightly diff erent theory says the situations involve just two generic goods: pleasure for A and pleasure for B in the fi rst pair and the pleasure of discussing philosophy and the pleasure of eating bagels Monism, Pluralism, and Rational Regret 71 better; this again requires just a moderate pluralism with social interaction as one extra good. Against what I think is the most widespread view, I shall argue that, far from being thegreatest good, virtue is a lesser good in the following sense: the value of a virtuous response to a good or evil object is always less than the value, either positive ornegative, of that object.

I. Th e Recursive Account

  But this omission is easily remedied by adding a defi nition of the virtues andvices that fi ts the characterization: (DV) Th e moral virtues are those attitudes to goods and evils which are intrinsically good, and the moral vices are those attitudes to goods and evilswhich are intrinsically evil. If we set aside any(minimal) value the fi rst person’s disposition has in itself, and also set aside the values in the other feel- ings and actions to which this disposition will lead at other times, is the fi rst person’s compassion better the account with further claims about nonconsequentialist forms of virtue, but can accept it as analyzing an important range of virtues and vices.

II. Virtue as a Lesser Good Some philosophers hold, high-mindedly, that virtue is the greatest intrinsic good

  Despite rejecting the lexicographic view, Rashdall still holds that virtue is the greatest good: “It seems to me perfectly clear that the moral consciousness doespronounce some goods to be higher, or intrinsically better than others; and that at7 the head of these goods comes virtue.” But it is not clear that this nonlexicographicview is possible. But if there is a constant relationship between the value of the virtue and that of the specifi c base-level state to which it is connected,this relationship can underwrite a general claim about the comparative value of virtue.

III. A Lesser Good: Diffi culties

  Ross cites this fact inarguing for the view: “If the goodness of pleasure were commensurable with the goodness or badness of moral disposition, it would be possible that such a pleasure[that is, a pleasure of cruelty] if suffi ciently intense should be good on the whole.18 But in fact its intensity is a measure of its badness.” As we have seen, however, there are compelling reasons to reject the lexicographic view. Moore defends a principle of organic unities that he states as follows: “Th e value of a whole must not be assumed to be the same as the sum1 of the values of its parts.” If two states are brought together so a certain relationholds between them, the resulting whole may have either more or less intrinsic value than the states would have if they existed alone.

II. Holism vs. Conditionality

  (It is familiar that a desire for knowledge can exist in the absence of knowledge. So can pleasure in knowledgeif a person takes pleasure in what he falsely believes is knowledge; considerAristotle’s taking pleasure in what he falsely believed was his explanatory knowledge of biology.) But if one of the positive attitudes is accompanied by the real existenceof the perfectionist state that is its object, the resulting value is greater than the attitude would have on its own. Th us, it is logically possible to hold that whenever the value of a part changes when it enters a whole, there is acompensating value in the whole as a whole that restores the overall value to the sum of the values the Two Kinds of Organic Unity 99 and fi nds additional values in wholes as wholes to the values their parts would have on their own.

II. Th ree Diff erences

  He holds that when the value of a person’s life is aff ected by a relation between himself and a state of the world such as the preservation of Venice, that relational fact and perhaps also the state of the world are internal to or parts of his life, even Two Kinds of Organic Unity 101 A second diff erence between the interpretations is suggested by a claim ofKorsgaard’s. Ross hold that the apportionment of happiness to virtue is a good present in a whole composed of a certain degree of virtue and acertain degree of happiness as a whole, and to be added to any further goodness in17 the virtue and happiness on their own.

III. Undeserved and Malicious Pleasure

  (For Bentham and Sidgwick this will mean the two are equally intense, for Moore and Mayerfeldthat the pleasure is to a specifi ed degree more intense.) Figure 7.7 makes a benev- olent pleasure of intensity n in the pleasure exactly as good as a compassionatepain of intensity n at the pain: the n –point on the curve in the top right quadrant is exactly as high as the n –point on the comparable curve in the top left . To refl ect this view, we can make the peaks on the curves to the left of thevertical axis higher, so they represent greater positive value, and also make those curves cut the vertical axis further below the origin, so ignoring that value is worse.(Th is will be another case where a broadly negative value is more potent: returning evil for evil will be more important than matching good with good.) Second, com-pare the slopes of the curves on either side of a peak.

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