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Can causal relationships be established where one term of the relationship has to be char- acterized nonextensionally, that is, in terms of an agent's beliefs and intentions? This group of questions is conventionally allo- cated to the philosophy of action or to the philosophy of mind; but an answer to them-or at the very least some theories about why we do not need an answer to them-is presupposed by any account of morality. For what an agent is or can be depends upon what the answers are.

The force of this consideration can be brought out by consider- ing the answers presupposed by some novelists. Dickens's world is one of brisk practical effects where sentiments can become deeds the moment the material in which the deeds can be embod- ied, money and persons, becomes available and in which harm and benefit are matters of immediate human agency.

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Proust's world by contrast is one in which the inaccessibility of each consciousness to others--that range of illusions that constitutes a A Crisis in Moral Philosophy 17 hall of distorting mirrors-makes the character of our actions in the external world "in what? The irrefragable realities are pain, disillusionment, and art. In Tolstoy's world art is one of the illusions and the notion of large-scale contrivance is equally illusory: victories in war and the rise and fall of empires are not made or unmade, they happen.

All that is to hand is the immediate moral deed. It is crucial to recognize that in answering the questions or evaluating the answers of an Anscombe, a Quine, a Davidson, or a Wisdom on the philosophy of causality, action, and mind, we are deciding the case between Dickens, Tolstoy, and Proust, deciding it perhaps against all of them. What is not open to us is to leave the case undecided.

In our actions, even if we choose not to acknowledge it, we have to inhabit some such world. Thus ethics requires a systematic connection with the philosophy of causality, mind, and action. A second set of questions concerns law, evil, emotion, and the integrity of the self. Stoics, Thomists, and Kantians perceive the self as situated in a cosmic order in which it can receive fatal or near fatal wounds. Utilitarians perceive the self as always able to choose the most beneficial or least harmful course of action open to it, whatever that may involve the self in doing.

No deed is morally beyond the self; there are no limits. But from this standpoint, as Bernard Williams has noted, the traditional notion of a virtue of integrity disappears; for integrity consists precisely in setting unbreakable limits to what one will do. For Stoics, Thomists, and Kantians therefore my passions must be educated by reason, lest they betray my integrity; and this requires a thesis about the relation of reason to the passions and of both to law and to breaches of law. For a central distinctive emotion in the Thomist and Kantian schemes at least has to become that of remorse, the embodiment in feeling of repentance.

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Whereas a Utilitarian scheme may have some room for emotions of regret, but none surely for emotions of remorse or repentance. Here once again it is clear that systematic answers to metaphysical questions are presupposed by rival moral outlooks.

And so it is also with the third group of questions. Who am I? In what role do I act? Whom do I represent in acting? Who is answerable for what I do? If I am a German now, how can I stand in relationship to a Jew now? If my father burnt his grandparents? If my father stayed home and did nothing while his grandparents were burnt? Liberal political theory has en- visaged all the political and social, familial and ethnic char- acteristics of a moral agent as contingent and inessential except insofar as he chose them himself. Abstract, autonomous humanity has been its subject matter.

But the deeds of individuals are often corporate deeds: I am my family, my country, my party, my corporation, as it presents itself to the world. Their past is my past. Hence the question arises: how is moral identity related to political identity? Aristotle, Kant, Hegel, and Marx all give different answers.

Each answer presupposes a particular view of the state and of the relationship of state and citizen. So that I cannot solve the problems of ethics without making a systematic connection with political theory.


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The implications of my earlier thesis are now clear. Ours was once a culture in which the systematic interrelationship of these questions was recognized both by philosophers at the level of theory and in the presuppositions of everyday practice.

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But when we left behind us the ancient, medieval, and early modern worlds, we entered a culture largely and increasingly deprived of the vision of the whole, except at the aesthetic level. Each part of our experience is detached from the rest in quite a new way; and the activities of intellectual enquiry become divided and compart- mentalized along with the rest. The intellectual division of labor allocates problems in a piecemeal and partial way; and the conse- quent modes of thought answer very well to the experience of everyday life.

The consequences for moral philosophy are clear; it reflects in its modes the society and the culture of which it is a part. It becomes a symptom rather than a means of diagnosis.

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And it is unable to solve its own problems because it has been isolated as A Crisis in Moral Philosophy 19 a separate and distinct form of enquiry and so has been deprived of the systematic context that those problems require for their solution. The Fate of the Moral Sciences The history of how moral philosophy underwent its transItIon from large-scale systematic enquiry to piecemeal analysis-and therefore the explanation of why the search for the foundations of ethics is so frustrating-needs to be supplemented in at least three ways, if it is to be adequately characterized.

First, of course, there are the parallel intellectual transformations within adjacent enquiries. Not only has philosophy been subdivided, but the rest of the moral sciences have been similarly reapportioned. Hence arises that peculiarly modern phenomenon, the intellectual boundary stone jealously guarded by professionals and signalled by such cries as "But that's not philosophy! So moral philosophy since the eighteenth century has become partially defined in terms of what it is not or rather what it is no longer.

And consequently, the history of the changes in moral philosophy will be partially unintelligible, unless it is accompanied by a history of what used to be the moral sciences and their subsequent fate. This fate is symbolized by the fact that when Mill's translator came to translate the expression "the moral sciences," he had to invent the German word Geistes- wissenschaften, a word taken over by Dilthey and others for their own purposes; when in this century Englishmen came to translate such German writers, they proclaimed that Geisteswissenschaften is a word without any English equivalent.

Second there are significant questions of genre. It is far from unimportant that up to the early nineteenth century moral philoso- phy is written almost exclusively in books, whereas now it is written primarily in articles. Hume, Smith, and Mill still presuppose a generally educated public whose minds are informed by a shared stock of reading which provides both points of reference and touchstones. They seek in part, sometimes in large part, to add to the stock and alter these points of reference and touchstones.

This is a very different endeavor from the contemporary professionalized contri- butions to a dialogue to be shared only by professors. Philosophy becomes not only piecemeal, but occasional. It is perhaps worth noting here that part of the destruction of the generally educated mind is the sheer multiplication of professional philosophical literature.

From this point of view the increase in the number of philosophical journals-and the pressure to write that produces that increase-are almost unmitigated evils.

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The case for making nonpublication a prerequisite for tenure or promotion is becoming very strong. Finally it would be necessary to reflect upon the ideological functions served by recent moral philosophy's reflection of the liberal status quo. What is clear at the very least is that a moral philosophy which aspires to put our intuitions in order is going to be protective of those intuitions in one way, while a moral philosophy that claims to derive its tenets from an analysis of what it is to be rational, but that in fact has a large unadmitted component whose roots are quite other, is likely to be protective of them in another way.

That recent moral philosophy should function in this protective way is scarcely surprising if I am right in identifying that philosophy as the heir of the eighteenth cen- tury; for the morality that it protects is the heir of the eighteenth century too. But the eighteenth century claimed for its liberalism epistemological foundations of a kind philosophy has since had to repudiate; we hold no nontrivial truths to be self-evident, we cannot accept Bentham's psychology or Kant's view of the powers of reason.

Thus liberalism itself became foundationless; and since the morality of our age is liberal we have one more reason to expect the search for the foundations of ethics to be unrewarded. The foundations of ethics. Hume Foundations of morality are like all other foundations; if you dig too much about them the superstructure will come tumbling down. Butler To a philosopher the only sight less cheering than MacIntyre's portrait of philosophers attacking the views of other philosophers is that of a philosopher attacking philosophy. I propose to defend moral philosophy against MacIntyre's critique.

I shall focus on the work of John Rawls, both because I believe that MacIntyre's criticisms are incorrect, and because I believe that a proper understanding of Rawls's theory can throw some light on issues concerning the foundations of ethics as well as their relationship to science. It is strange that so little philosophical attention has been paid to specifying what might be meant by reference to the foundations of ethics, and I shall make some initial attempts to clarify that question.

Let us consider each of these features as they arise in Rawls's work. The starting point for moral theory, according to Rawls, is our considered moral judgments, i. The first task of moral theory is to formulate a set of principles or rules that accounts for these judgments. MacIntyre points out that we have no reason to suppose this set is consistent and, therefore, capable of being systematically and rationally articulated but whether this is so is an empilical question and it is reasonable from a methodological standpoint to assume consis- tency until we find otherwise.

The methodological device Rawls uses to generate the princi- ples of distributive justice is that of a hypothetical social con- tract. Nozick's views about natural rights. It is essential to recognize that it is only part of Rawls's defense that the principles chosen account for our considered judgments. If this were the whole story then we would, at most, have explained our moral judgments, not justified them. We would be doing moral psychology not moral philosophy. What is needed is what Kant called a "deduction," i. This is why Rawls's own analogy to the task of the theoretical linguist is faulty.


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  6. Rawls argues for the correctness of the principles chosen in terms of the independent plausibility of the contractual scheme. It is obvious that such a scheme makes many assumptions about the nature of the choice situation. There are assumptions about the list of principles from which the contractors are to choose a small set suggested by the history of moral theory , the formal constraints on the nature of the principles no proper names , the rationality of the contractors nonenvious , the information avail- able to them no knowledge of their social class , the procedures governing the choice unanimity , the domain that the principles are supposed to regulate the basic structure of the society , and others.

    These assumptions are in turn justified in terms of a large number of complex theoretical considerations. These include a Commentary 23 theory of the nature of persons autonomous individuals who assume responsibility for their fundamental projects , a theory of the function of principles of justice to provide an ordering of conflicting claims concerning the division of the products of social cooperation , a theory about the range of application of moral principles cases likely to arise given the circumstances that human beings are in , a theory of fair procedures which facts it is morally relevant for the contractors to know , a theory of moral motivation the contractors have, and view themselves as having, a sense of justice, and their desire to act on this conception normally determines their conduct , and more.

    The justification of a set of moral principles is an enormously compli- cated matter of seeing how the principles both account for con- judgments and cohere with, follow from, are made plausible by these are quite distinct relations of support a large body of other theories, views, and assumptions. Let me now enumerate what I consider to be mistakes in MacIntyre's accounts of Rawls. First, it is misleading to speak of Rawls constructing "the concept of justice" implying a moral imperialism.

    Rawls distinguishes between the concept of justice which is a purely formal notion characterized by the absence of arbitrary distinctions between persons and by rules determining a proper balance among competing claims and conceptions of justice which consist of the substantive principles which provide the content for the concept.

    The disagreement between Rawls and Nozick is over conceptions of justice, not concepts.

    A discussion with Dr Engelhardt.m4v

    Second, Rawls does not deny that our "intuitions" may be incoherent. He starts with them, he does not end with them, and he explicitly admits that even after reaching what he calls "reflective equilib- rium," different persons may "affirm opposing conceptions. Rawls agrees with MacIntyre that no conception of reason is sufficient to yield moral principles with substantive content.