The Geometry of Desert

Overview

People differ in terms of how morally deserving they are. And it is a good thing if people get what they deserve. Accordingly, it is important to work out an adequate theory of moral desert. But while certain aspects of such a theory have been frequently discussed in the philosophical literature, many others have been surprisingly neglected. For example, if it is indeed true that it is morally good for people to get what they deserve, does it always do the same amount of good when someone gets what they deserve? ...

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Overview

People differ in terms of how morally deserving they are. And it is a good thing if people get what they deserve. Accordingly, it is important to work out an adequate theory of moral desert. But while certain aspects of such a theory have been frequently discussed in the philosophical literature, many others have been surprisingly neglected. For example, if it is indeed true that it is morally good for people to get what they deserve, does it always do the same amount of good when someone gets what they deserve? Or does it matter how deserving the person is? If we cannot give someone exactly what they deserve, is it better to give too much-or better to give too little? Does being twice as virtuous make you twice as deserving? And how are we to take into account the thought that what you deserve depends in part on how others are doing? The Geometry of Desert explores a number of these less familiar questions, using graphs to illustrate the various possible answers. The result is a more careful investigation into the nature of moral desert than has ever previously been offered, one that reveals desert to have a hidden complexity that most of us have failed to recognize.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Geometry of Desert is a model of analytic rigor, clarity, and thoroughness. An enormous amount of thought, care, and effort went into writing this book, which explores the possibilities for the design and use of graphs in numerous settings and with considerable originality and inventiveness."—Saul Smilansky, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews

"Every few years a book appears that every philosopher, at least every philosopher in a particular field, must read. This volume by Kagan is such a book. It will be the subject of many graduate seminars and dissertations in the coming years.... Essential."—H. Oberdiek, CHOICE

"The Geometry of Desert is an extraordinary accomplishment. It is the most comprehensive and thoughtful discussion of the topic of desert in the literature."—Larry Temkin, Rutgers University

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199895595
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/7/2012
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 9.40 (w) x 6.70 (h) x 2.10 (d)

Meet the Author

Shelly Kagan is the Clark Professor of Philosophy at Yale, where he has taught since 1995. He was an undergraduate at Wesleyan University, and received his PhD in philosophy from Princeton University in 1982. Before coming to Yale, Professor Kagan taught at the University of Pittsburgh and at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He is the author of Death, The Limits of Morality, and the textbook, Normative Ethics. Videos of his undergraduate course on Death have been extremely popular online.

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Table of Contents

Preface
Acknowledgments
A Note to the Reader
1. MORAL DESERT
1.1 A Familiar Thought
1.2 Some Familiar Questions
1.3 Skepticism
1.4 Intrinsic Value
1.5 Unfamiliar Questions
PART I: NONCOMPARATIVE DESERT
2. FAULT FORFEITS FIRST
2.1 The Basic View
2.2 Pluralism
2.3 Extending the Account
2.4 Discount Rates and Multipliers
3. DESERT GRAPHS
3.1 Graphs
3.2 Varying Slopes
3.3 Rotation
3.4 Peaks
3.5 Multiple Peaks
3.6 Comparing Sides
3.7 Bell Motion
3.8 The Sym Mountain
3.9 Shift
4. SKYLINES
4.1 The Occupation of the X Axis
4.2 Constant Skylines
4.3 The V Shaped Skyline
4.4 Varieties of Desert
4.5 Taking Stock
PART II: COMPLICATIONS AND ALTERNATIVES
5. OTHER SHAPES
5.1 Plateaus
5.2 Retributivism and Plateaus
5.3 Simple Straight Lines
5.4 Bent Lines
5.5 Curved Desert
5.6 Detailing Curved Desert
5.7 Curved Plateaus
6. PLACING PEAKS
6.1 The Mapping Function
6.2 Curved Mapping Functions
6.3 Revisiting the Sym Mountain
6.4 Revisiting the V Shaped Skyline
6.5 Further Constraints on the Skyline
6.6 The Logical Limits of Bell Motion
6.7 Disaggregation
PART III: COMPARATIVE DESERT
7. THE RATIO VIEW
7.1 The Idea of Comparative Desert
7.2 Problems for the Ratio View
7.3 Optimism
7.4 The Impossibility Defense
7.5 Absolute Zero
8. SIMILAR OFFENSE
8.1 The Y Gap View
8.2 Reconsidering the Cases
8.3 More on the Y Gap Constraint
8.4 Percentages
8.5 A Fourth View
9. GRAPHING COMPARATIVE DESERT
9.1 Relative Advantage
9.2 Two Problems
9.3 Graphing the X Gap View
9.4 Motion Along the Y Axis
9.5 Graphing the Y Gap View
10. VARIATION
10.1 Comparative Bell Motion
10.2 Comparative Skylines
10.3 Moral Significance Again
10.4 Two More Possibilities
10.5 One Size Fits All
10.6 Sliding Up
11. GROUPS
11.1 Two Approaches
11.2 Size
11.3 Another Look
11.4 Adjusting the Graphs
11.5 Variable Steepness Reconsidered
PART IV: DESERT
12. DESERT TAKEN AS A WHOLE
12.1 Partial Values
12.2 Open Questions
12.3 Rough Comparability
12.4 Another Series
12.5 Other Values
13. RESERVATIONS
13.1 Deontology
13.2 Methodology
13.3 Ideology
Endnotes
References
Index

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