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Philosophers who publish articles that make practical ethical recommendations are thereby offering advice. I consider what obligations they incur in advising. I analyse the giving of advice as a communicative act whose defining and characteristic aim is to secure acceptance of what is advised. Such advice need not be solicited or taken up. I distinguish advice from incitement and threats and specify the scope of the adviser's responsibility for others acting upon the advice. I explore how advice can be bad in how it is given and what is given. I consider, and criticise, various pleas for exemption from the responsibilities of philosophical advising: that advice was not meant; that it wouldn't make any difference anyway; and that the writing was not for those who might act on it. I examine the offering of philosophical advice to policy makers, comparing the views on this of Mary Warnock and Dan Brock. I conclude by asking practical normative philosophers to consider what they should do inasmuch as they are advising.
According to Stephen Macedo, ‘[liberal], democratic politics is not only about individual rights and limited government, it is also about justification… political justification… understood politically.’ ‘Political justification,’ he asserts, ‘is a core liberal goal.’ Gerald Gaus, similarly, writes that the ‘idea of public justification is at the heart of a contractual liberalism.’ Very many other contemporary political philosophers believe that the politics of a liberal polity must be justifiable to its Citizens. In what follows I shall seek to understand the basis for such a belief and, in particular, to expose two possible sources in the views of Locke and Kant. Neither source, I shall argue, provides any warrant for the demand in question. First the bald claim — that the politics of a polity needs justifying — must be unpacked. By way of initial clarification I shall say something about, respectively, ‘justification’ and ‘politics.’
A moral compromise is a compromise on moral matters; it is agreement in the face of moral disagreement but where there is agreement on the importance of consensus – namely that it secures a morally desirable outcome. It is distinguishable from other forms of agreement, and an important distinction between moral compromise with public agreement and moral compromise with public disagreement is also made. Circumstances in which the former might be permissible are outlined, and the sense in which it is allowed all things considered to agree is made clear. The relevant discussions of Dan Brock and Mary Warnock on the role of the philosopher to public policy are critically reviewed. Finally, a brief list is offered of the considerations relevant to an estimation of whether and, if so, when such compromise is allowed.
Isaiah Berlin: Liberty, Pluralism, and Liberalism. By George
Crowder. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2004. 256p. $59.95 cloth, $24.95
The conventional recent history of Anglophone normative political
philosophy, which credits John Rawls's publication of A Theory of
Justice (1971) with its rebirth, is unfair to those important figures
who came before Rawls—chiefly Karl Popper, Michael Oakeshott, F.A.
Hayek, and—the subject of this critical introduction—Isaiah
Berlin. There is a further irony in that what can be clearly identified as
the major theme of Berlin's lifework—moral pluralism—also
dominates the late writings of John Rawls and those influenced by him.
Indeed, it is arguable that the intense interest displayed in
Berlin's account of pluralism owes much to the importance of this
topic in contemporary moral and political philosophy. To some extent, even
the Berlin of the classic and influential lecture “Two Concepts of
Liberty”—which has for long constituted the inescapable
starting point for any serious analysis of this ideal—is
overshadowed by the Berlin who insists that the goods human beings pursue
are inescapably plural, conflicting, and incommensurable.
I argue that it is wrong deliberately to bring into existence an individual whose life we can reasonably expect will be of very poor quality. The individual's life would on balance be worth living but would nevertheless fall below a certain threshold. Additionally the prospective parents are unable to have any other child who would enjoy a better existence. Against the claims of John Harris and John Robertson I argue that deliberately to conceive such a child would not be to exercise the right to procreate. For this right is internally constrained by the requirement that any resultant child has the reasonable prospect of a minimally decent life.
Consider the following examples of behavior by Smith:
1. Smith, seated at her restaurant table, gives an order to the waiter;
2. Smith gets into a cab and names a destination;
3. Smith agrees to Jones's suggestion that they go back to Jones's apartment for a few drinks;
4. Smith casts her vote in some election.
In each of these instances what can Smith be understood as consenting to? Is she consenting to (1) pay the bill for whatever meal she orders; (2) pay the fare for the journey to her named destination; (3) sexual intimacy with Jones; and (4) accept the authority of whatever individual or political part is elected? The fact that Smith does not actually express her consent to each of these states of affairs or outcomes need not mean that she is not giving her consent to them. The idea that individuals can give their consent in ways other than by means of a formal verbal expression of agreement is a familiar, if controversial, one.
As befits a volume devoted to the topic of pluralism the contributing pieces collected here are varied. Their concern is with very different kinds of difference, and their conclusions range from an insistence that pluralism is both inevitable and desirable to a belief that it is unsustainable and perhaps remediable. The starting point for any discussion of pluralism is a recognition that we inhabit a world of differences. These differences are exhibited in moral outlooks, cultural identities, ways of life, religious beliefs, and even modes of philosophy. The mere fact of such differences is salient but unremarkable. What preoccupies philosophers is the question of the conclusions that are to be drawn from a proper recognition of this fact. And the central issue at dispute for philosophers is whether the fact of difference—plurality—licences a view—pluralism—that it is legitimate, rather than just inevitable, that such difference should persist.
It simplifies but does not necessarily exaggerate matters to suggest that philosophers are torn between two impulses. On the one hand, there is the conviction that the goal of philosophical argumentation is convergence upon a single agreed answer. Truth is one, and so too, it has been felt, is the good. Difference is a sign of failure, evidence that mistakes have been made somewhere by someone. To maintain otherwise is inconsistent with how one must understand the nature of truth or morality.