Consistency in ethical argument, and how to avoid it
Hanging around with Jackson: consistency in
ethical argument, and how to avoid it
When should we accept a conclusion – and when should we look harder? In
his John Locke lectures, Australian philosopher Frank Jackson writes:
A […] much-discussed case is the debate over abortion and infanticide. Most
of us take a very different attitude to abortion as opposed to infanticide: we
allow that the first is permissible in many circumstances, but that the second
is hardly ever permissible, and yet it is hard to justify this disparity in moral
This is a book about parents, power, and children and, in particular, the legitimacy of parents' power over their children. It takes seriously the challenge posed by moral pluralism, and considers the role of both theoretical rationality and practical judgement in resolving moral dilemmas associated with parental power. The book first examines the prevailing view about parental power: a certain form of paternalism, justified treatment of those who lack the qualities of an agent, and one that does not generate moral conflicts. It proposes an alternative, pluralist view of paternalism before showing that even paternalism properly understood is of limited application when we evaluate parental power. According to the caretaker thesis, parental power makes up for the deficits in children's agency, and for that reason children should be subjected to standard institutional paternalism. The liberation thesis stands at the other end of the spectrum concerning children's rights. The book then addresses the counter-argument that issues of legitimacy arise in the political domain and not in respect of parent-child relations. It also examines the 'right to parent' and whether parents should be licensed, monitored, or trained children's voluntariness and competence, and the right to provide informed consent for medical treatment and research participation. Finally, the book talks about parents' efforts to share a way of life with their children and the State's efforts to shape the values of future citizens through civic education. The overall approach taken has much more in common with the problem-driven political philosophy.
The unbearable desire for explicitness and
rationality in bioethics
Michael Parker and Micaela Ghisleni
‘[S]omeone can only claim that their actions or decisions stem from moral conviction or are dictated by moral considerations – are in short part of an attempt
to live by ethical standards, if they can say why those actions are right, if they
can show how they are justified. To have a moral belief is, whatever else it is, to
believe that the world will be a better place if certain things happen and others
do not, and that it will be a worse place if the
Realism resists the application of morality to war. Such resistance is
typically part of a more general moral scepticism that is applied not
just to the extreme circumstance of war but to international relations in general. The reason for this resistance is twofold. In the first
place, it springs from the conviction that the reality in question is
morally intractable, the dynamics of international relations and war
being seen to confound most, if not all, attempts to apply an alien,
moral structure to them. Secondly, and more urgently, it arises from
of dealing with terrorism is one that holds fast to
moral values. Though never an easy synthesis, an effective counterterrorism is, arguably, an ethical counterterrorism.
The tension between strategic and moral imperatives accompanies all counterterrorism. The aim in this chapter is to explore that
tension by examining some prominent features of the c ontemporary
fight against terrorism which raise moral concern. In each case,
there are two poles of the argument, the moral and the s trategic.
To avoid a one-sided moralism that, if acted upon, might leave a
The Victorians admired Julia Margaret Cameron for her evocative photographic portraits of eminent men like Tennyson, Carlyle, and Darwin. But Cameron also made numerous photographs called ‘fancy subjects’ that depicted scenes from literature, personifications from classical mythology, and biblical parables from the Old and New Testament. Julia Margaret Cameron’s ‘fancy subjects’ is the first comprehensive study of these works, examining Cameron’s use of historical allegories and popular iconography to embed moral, intellectual, and political narratives in her photographs. A work of cultural history as much as art history, this book examines cartoons from Punch and line drawings from the Illustrated London News; cabinet photographs and Autotype prints; textiles and wall paper; book illustrations and engravings from period folios, all as a way to contextualize the allegorical subjects that Cameron represented, revealing connections between her ‘fancy subjects’ and popular debates about such topics as biblical interpretation, democratic government, national identity, and colonial expansion.
The nature and experience of reading, for the common and uncommon reader across the centuries, is an enduring subject of interest for academics, journalists, fiction writers, poets, and those straddling these definitions. This book focuses on the period c. 1400-1600 and there is a lot of surviving evidence for popular reading in English during these two centuries. It examines four kinds of literature in four case studies, which represent an important constituent part of the whole body of popular texts available for study c. 1400-1600. Other studies might examine some of the many other forms of available evidence for popular reading in medieval and early modern England. There has been much excellent work on reading in recent years. The book focuses on religious texts, moral reading, practical texts, and fictional literature. The purpose of a case study is not to cover everything about a particular subject. Aside from the idea of 'covering everything' being intellectually flawed, each of the books examined here takes the investigation in a specific direction. A theme at the heart of the book is the evidence that the material item of manuscript and printed book can provide for reading practice and experience. Page layout including the interactions of different kinds or colours of script and of picture and writing are important visual aspects of the material evidence. These are often not separable from issues of literary form and voice (poetry, prose, gloss, instruction) and of language.
This book is about friendship between sovereign political agents, whose role in the modern world is performed by states. It focuses on relations of friendship that bind together whole polities. Apart from bilateral friendships, the world has seen multiple attempts to posit friendship as the true foundation of a properly organised international community. The attempts range from the World Alliance for Promoting International Friendship through Churches, to the United Nations Declaration on Principles of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation among States. There are two basic roles that friendship can play in the discourses on international relations. The first is as an anthropomorphic metaphor for the relations between states. The second functions as a constituent part of a normative argument seeking a change in international relations. The book highlights common ways in which classical literature uses the concept of friendship in the context of relations with foreign powers. David Ramsay references to 'the ties of ancient friendship' as an important gesture in communication with native Americans. The ethical concept of political friendship is never strictly separated from the performance of political roles. Samuel Pufendorf's description of commonwealths as moral persons stirred up intense debate over how to conceive the sum of such artificial persons and the relations between them. Finally, the book talks about normative and 'naturalist' consensual understanding by scrutinising the justificatory functions of friendship in diplomatic agreements.
has been threatened or received. In this respect moral reasoning
about war is seen to be no different from any other form of moral
reasoning, since some notion of proportionality seems inherent
in all moral judgement of situations of conflict, where one value
cannot be promoted without damage to some other competing
In such moral dilemmas the preservation of a certain symmetry
between the proposed course of action and the end that it serves is a
key (though not necessarily the sole) moral concern. It is when that
moral symmetry is missing, when the
How are we to evaluate parental power? In the next four chapters, I will
look at the conceptual and methodological issues raised by that question.
I make the case for a pluralist approach to methodology generally and
the conceptualisation of power more specifically. This is necessary, I will
try to show, as efforts to reduce plurality fail. When we evaluate parental
power, there is an irreducible plurality of morally significant features and
of relevant moral considerations. In addition, because of this irreducible