Innocence Lost: An Examination of Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing / Edition 1

Innocence Lost: An Examination of Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing / Edition 1

by Christopher Gowans
Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press, USA


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Innocence Lost: An Examination of Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing / Edition 1

Our lives are such that moral wrongdoing is sometimes inescapable for us. We have moral responsibilities to persons which may conflict and which it is wrong to violate even when they do conflict. Christopher W. Gowans argues that we must accept this conclusion if we are to make sense of our moral experience and the way in which persons are valuable to us. In defending this position, he critically examines the recent moral dilemmas debate. He maintains that what is important in this debate is not whether there are irresolvable moral conflicts, but whether there are moral conflicts in which wrongdoing is unavoidable. Though it would be incoherent to conclude moral deliberation by deciding to perform incompatible actions, he argues that there is nothing incoherent in supposing that we have conflicting moral responsibilities. In this way, he shows that it is possible to capture the intuitions of those who have defended the idea of moral dilemmas while meeting the objections of those who have rejected this idea. Gowans carefully evaluates utilitarian and Kantian analyses of moral dilemmas. He argues that these approaches eliminate genuine moral conflict only by displacing persons as direct objects of moral concern. As an alternative, he develops a more concrete account in which moral responsibilities to persons are central. On his account, we have moral responsibilities to particular persons by virtue of our appreciation of the intrinsic and unique value of each of these persons and of our connections with them. Gowans argues that when we think of our responsibilities in this way, we have reason to believe that they sometimes conflict and that it is wrong to violate them even when they doconflict. The book also includes discussions of Melville's Billy Budd, methodology in moral philosophy, moral pluralism, moral tragedy, and "dirty hands" in politics.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195085174
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Publication date: 04/28/1994
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 6.37(w) x 9.62(h) x 0.92(d)

About the Author

Fordham University

Table of Contents

1."The Angel Must Hang!": Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing in Melville's Billy Budd3
I.The Idea of Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing4
II.The Controversy about Billy Budd6
III.The Trial of Billy Budd8
IV.A Tragic Choice10
V.An Assessment of Vere14
VI.A Prospectus of Philosophical Issues16
2.Methodological Issues: Reflective Intuitionism25
I.The Importance of Methodology26
II.Hare's Linguistic Method28
III.A Reformulation of Rawls: From Reflective Equilibrium to Reflective Intuitionism32
IV.A Defense of Reflective Intuitionism36
3.Arguments for the Dilemmas Thesis46
I.The Dilemmas Thesis47
II.The Equality Argument49
III.The Incomparability Argument52
IV.The Phenomenological Argument57
V.Sinnott-Armstrong's Understanding of "Moral Dilemmas,"59
4.A Prescriptivist Argument against the Dilemmas Thesis66
I.Prescriptivism and the Dilemmas Thesis67
II.Attempts to Reconcile the Dilemmas Thesis and Intention-Prescriptivism72
III.Intention-Prescriptivism and a Common Argument against the Dilemmas Thesis75
IV.The Kantian Principle77
V.The Agglomeration Principle81
VI.The Significance of the Argument against the Dilemmas Thesis83
5.The Phenomenological Argument for the Remainders Thesis88
I.The Remainders Thesis89
II.The Phenomenological Argument Revisited93
III.The Phenomenological Argument and the Method of Reflective Intuitionism100
IV.The Status of Intuitions about Inescapable Moral Distress103
V.Some Common Explanations of Inescapable Moral Distress106
6.Responsibilities to Persons: An Explanation of Inescapable Moral Distress117
I.Normative Issues in the Debate about the Remainders Thesis117
II.Responsibilities to Persons121
III.More on Responsibilities128
IV.Conflicting Responsibilities and Inescapable Moral Distress131
V.Wrongdoing and Objectivity135
VI.Pluralism and Incomparability145
7.Utilitarian Critiques of the Phenomenological Argument155
I.Utilitarian and Kantian Explanations of Inescapable Moral Distress155
II.The Act-Utilitarian Rejection of Inescapable Moral Wrongdoing158
III.Mill's Critique of the Phenomenological Argument161
IV.Hare's Critique of the Phenomenological Argument166
V.The Utilitarian Account of Moral Rules168
VI.The Utilitarian Account of Inescapable Moral Distress175
8.Kantian Critiques of the Phenomenological Argument184
I.Respect for Persons as Ends in Themselves185
II.The Impossibility of Conflicting Obligations187
III.The Displacement of Persons192
IV.Donagan on Conflicting Grounds of Obligation196
V.Herman on Conflicting Grounds of Obligation203
VI.Korsgaard on Resisting Evil208
9.Innocence Lost218
I.The Ideal of Moral Innocence218
II.The Nature of Moral Tragedy224
III.The Problem of Dirty Hands228

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