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Bergqvist, Anna, , . Thick Concepts and Context Dependence
2013, Southwest Philosophy Review 29(1): 221-32.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper I develop my account of moral particularism, focussing on the nature of thick moral concepts. My aim is to show how the particularist can consistently uphold an non-reductive cognitivist ‘dual role’ view of thick moral concepts, even though she holds that the qualities ascribed by such concepts can vary in their moral relevance – so that to judge that something is generous or an act of integrity need not entail that the object of evaluative appraisal is good to some extent. A novel particularist account of thick concepts is proposed, in response to recent work on variance holism. The particularist rejects the holist’s attempt to preserve the idea that thick concepts are evaluative concepts by postulating a special semantic content, a contextually variable evaluative valence, as theoretically unmotivated and conceptually confused. Instead it is argued that the thick concepts have determinable evaluative content in situ only.

Comment: This paper deals with very specific issues relating to how a particularist ought to construe thick concepts. It may be useful as further reading on Jonathan Dancy’s work.

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Chan, Rebecca, , . Religious Experience, Voluntarist Reasons, and the Transformative Experience Puzzle
2016, Res Philosophica 93 (1):269-287 (2016)
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: Transformative experiences are epistemically and personally transformative: prior to having the experience, agents cannot predict the value of the experience and cannot anticipate how it will change their core values and preferences. Paul argues that these experiences pose a puzzle for standard decision-making procedures because values cannot be assigned to outcomes involving transformative experience. Responding philosophers are quick to point out that decision procedures are built to handle uncertainty, including the uncertainty generated by transformative experience. My paper enters here and contributes two points. First, religious experiences are transformative experiences that are especially resistant to these responses. Second, a procedure that appeals to voluntarist reasons – reasons arising from an act of the will – can allow an agent to rationally decide to undergo or avoid an outcome involving transformative experience. Combining these two points results in some interesting implications with respect to practical aspects of religion.

Comment: This text could be used as a further reading in a week focusing on transformative experiences. It would be most suitable for a third year module, but could also work in lower years.

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Chang, Ruth, , . Incommensurability, incomparability, and practical reason – Introduction
1997, Cambridge, MA.: Harvard University Press.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Back matter: Can quite different values be rationally weighed against one another? Can the value of one thing always be ranked as greater than, equal to, or less than the value of something else? If the answer to these questions is no, then in what areas do we find commensurability and comparability unavailable? And what are the implications for moral and legal decision making? This book struggles with these questions, and arrives at distinctly different answers.

Comment: In the introduction to the book Chang distinguishes between commensurability and comparability and argues that things can be compared and a choice can be made between them even if there is no single unit of value according to which they can be measured. The text is particularly useful in teaching introductory modules to value theory, especially on issues related to weighing conflicting values and to moral scepticism. Although very comprehensive, it is a challenging piece however.

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Driver, Julia, , . Ethics: The Fundamentals
2006, Wiley-Blackwell.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Editor’s Note: Ethics: The Fundamentals explores core ideas and arguments in moral theory by introducing students to different philosophical approaches to ethics, including virtue ethics, Kantian ethics, divine command theory, and feminist ethics. The first volume in the new Fundamentals of Philosophy series. Presents lively, real-world examples and thoughtful discussion of key moral philosophers and their ideas. Constitutes an excellent resource for readers coming to the subject of ethics for the first time.

Comment: This book offers good preliminary introductions to a number of topics in ethics. Each section could be assigned individually as a starting point for the given topic. The sections on utilitarianism and consequentialism are particularly good introductions. Primarily of use to early undergraduates or students who have not studied ethics before.

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French, Shannon E.; McCain, John, , . The Code of the Warrior: Exploring Warrior Values Past and Present
2004, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Back matter: Warrior cultures throughout history have developed unique codes that restrict their behavior and set them apart from the rest of society. But what possible reason could a warrior have for accepting such restraints? Why should those whose profession can force them into hellish kill-or-be-killed conditions care about such lofty concepts as honor, courage, nobility, duty, and sacrifice? And why should it matter so much to the warriors themselves that they be something more than mere murderers? The Code of the Warrior tackles these timely issues and takes the reader on a tour of warrior cultures and their values, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the “barbaric” Vikings and Celts, from legendary chivalric knights to Native American tribesmen, from Chinese warrior monks pursuing enlightenment to Japanese samurai practicing death. Drawing these rich traditions up to the present, the author quests for a code for the warriors of today, as they do battle in asymmetric conflicts against unconventional forces and the scourge of global terrorism.

Comment: A longish article, but very useful as a thorough critique of luck egalitarianism, for the author’s take on the capability approach, and for her account of democratic equality which revolves around the ideal of democratic citizenship

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Govier, Trudy, , . What’s Wrong with Slippery Slope Arguments?
1982, Canadian journal of philosophy. 12(2): 303-316.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Content: Govier distinguishes four kinds of slippery slope arguments – conceptual, precedential, causal and mixed – and argues that only the last kind are likely to ever be sound.

Comment: Useful in teaching about fallacious arguments in general, and about moral arguments an popular discourse about such arguments in particular.

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Harman, Elizabeth, , . Does moral ignorance exculpate?
2011, Ratio 24 (4):443-468.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Corbin Covington

Abstract: Non-moral ignorance can exculpate: if Anne spoons cyanide into Bill’s coffee, but thinks she is spooning sugar, then Anne may be blameless for poisoning Bill. Gideon Rosen argues that moral ignorance can also exculpate: if one does not believe that one’s action is wrong, and one has not mismanaged one’s beliefs, then one is blameless for acting wrongly. On his view, many apparently blameworthy actions are blameless. I discuss several objections to Rosen. I then propose an alternative view on which many agents who act wrongly are blameworthy despite believing they are acting morally permissibly, and despite not having mismanaged their moral beliefs.1

Comment: [This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Imafidon, Elvis, , . Exploring African Philosophy of Difference
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 15-30
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: It is the tradition of philosophy as a rational and critical human activity across borders to isolate specific human ideas both as syntax and as real and lived human experiences, bring them to the foreground, and make them occupy a crucial and specialized place in philosophical discourse. This is apparent in the many delimited branches of philosophy such as metaphysics – an inquiry into the fundamental principles underlying reality; epistemology – an inquiry concerning the nature, scope, and theories of human knowledge; axiology – an inquiry into the theories of human values; and philosophy of science – a critical examination of the nature, methods, and assumptions of science. African philosophy has thrived and flourished in the last six decades beginning as a reactionary scholarship to prior denial of the possibility of its existence, to becoming an established academic discipline. However, African philosophy although succeeding in establishing its general nature, themes, and problems, is still at the elementary stage of discussing specifics and delimiting its areas of inquiry into specialized fragments. Thus, beyond the general commentaries on African philosophy in existing literature, it is only recently that we find a few scholars writing and laying the groundwork on specialized themes in African philosophy such as African ethics, African epistemology, and African ontology. My goal in this chapter is to bring one essential human experience to the foreground in African philosophy as a specialized area of inquiry. The human experience that interests me here is the ubiquitous concept of difference and the peculiarities of its experience by Africans in Africa and beyond. My intention is to attempt a preliminary sketch of the meaning, nature, scope, and primary tasks of African philosophy of difference. I show, for instance, how African philosophy of difference can shift the discourse of difference from empirical manifestations of difference to an exploration of the theories that stands under such manifestations. I conclude that African philosophy of difference is crucial in understanding and dealing with the complex issues of identity, difference, and the other experienced in Africa in areas such as albinism, xenophobia, race, ethnicity, religion, disability, and politics. The possibility of such an inquiry also indicates the prospect of delimiting African philosophy to more specialized spheres of discourse.

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Korsgaard, Christine, , . On Having a Good
2014, Philosophy 89(3): 405-29.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: In some recent papers I have been arguing that the concept ‘good-for’ is prior to the concept of ‘good’ (in the sense in which final ends are good), and exploring the implications of that claim. One of those implications is that everything that is good is good for someone. That implication seems to fall afoul of our intuitions about certain cases, such as the intuition that a world full of happy people and animals is better than a world full of miserable ones, even if the people and animals are different in the two cases, so that there is no one for whom the second world is better. Such cases tempt people to think that there must be impersonal goods, and that what it means to say that something is good for you is that you are the one who ‘has’ some impersonal good. In this paper, I argue that if we approach things in this way, it is impossible to say what the ‘having’ consists of, what relation it names. This leads me to a discussion of various things we do mean by saying that something is good for someone, how they are related to each other, and what sorts of entities can ‘have a good.’ Finally, I explain why we think that a world full of happy people and animals is better than a world full of miserable ones, even if the people and animals are different in the two cases.

Comment: This is a fairly accessible piece arguing that the concept of ‘good-for’ is prior to ‘good’, such that nothing is good unless it is good for someone. It is useful for discussions about the sources of value.

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Morioka, Masahiro, , . Is Meaning in Life Comparable? From the Viewpoint of ‘The Heart of Meaning in Life’
2015, Journal of Philosophy of Life 5(3): 50-65.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by:

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to propose a new approach to the question of meaning in life by criticizing Thaddeus Metz’s objectivist theory in his book Meaning in Life: An Analytic Study. The author proposes the concept of ‘the heart of meaning in life,’ which alone can answer the question, ‘Alas, does my life like this have any meaning at all?’ and demonstrates that ‘the heart of meaning in life’ cannot be compared, in principle, with other people’s meaning in life. The answer to the question of ‘the heart of meaning in life’ ought to have two values, yes-or-no, and there is no ambiguous gray zone between them.This concept constitutes the very central content of meaning in life.

Comment: This article is adequate for undergraduate courses in Value Theory. The author develops his view by arguing against the theory developed by Thaddeaus Metz, so it would be recommendable (although it’s not necessary) to read some of Thaddeaus’ work first. It could be used as an Introductory or secondary reading. No previous knowledge of value theory is needed.

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Mulla, Zubin R. and Krishnan, Venkat R., , . Transformational Leadership. Do the Leader’s Morals Matter and Do the Follower’s Morals Change?
2011, Journal of Human Values 17 (2):129-143.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: In a study of 205 leader–follower pairs, we investigated the impact of the leader’s values and empathy on followers’ perception of transformational leadership and the effect of transformational leadership on followers’ values and empathy. The moderating effect of leader–follower relationship duration on the effect of transformational leadership on followers’ values and empathy was also investigated. We found that the leader’s values were related to transformational leadership and transformational leadership was related to followers’ values. Over time, the relationship between transformational leadership and followers’ empathy and values became stronger

Comment: This text provides an excellent background reading on issues related to leadership and business ethics, making clear connections between philosophical theory and its practical application.

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Paul, L.A., , . Transformative Experience
2014, Oxford University Press
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Abstract: How should we make choices when we know so little about our futures? L. A. Paul argues that we must view life decisions as choices to make discoveries about the nature of experience. Her account of transformative experience holds that part of the value of living authentically is to experience our lives and preferences in whatever ways they evolve.

Comment: This book raises interesting issues regarding imagination and how far we can imagine experiences, as well as ethics and decision making. It could be the basis for a whole module on the topic, or particular chapters could be discussed e.g. in relation to decision-making.

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Roberts, Debbie, , . Thick Concepts
2013, Philosophy Compass 8(8): 677-88.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: In ethics, aesthetics, and increasingly in epistemology, a distinction is drawn between thick and thinevaluative concepts. A common characterisation of the distinction is that thin concepts have only evaluative content whereas thick concepts combine evaluative and descriptive content. Because of thiscombination it is, again commonly, thought that thick concepts have various distinctive powersincluding the power to undermine the distinction between fact and value. This paper discusses theaccuracy of this view of the thick concepts debate, as well as assessing the prospects for a thickconcepts argument against the fact value distinction, while introducing the three main philosophicalpositions on the nature of thick concepts.

Comment: Useful in metaethics courses and relates to work by Bernard Williams, but it is also useful for translating to epistemic values too e.g. in virtue epistemology.

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Shapiro, Lisa, , . Descartes’s Ethics
2008, In Janet Broughton & John Carriero (eds.), A companion to Descartes. Oxford: Blackwell. pp. 445-463.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Alberto Vanzo

Abstract: I begin my discussion by considering how to relate Descartes’s more general concern with the conduct of life to the metaphysics and epistemology in the foreground of his philosophical project. I then turn to the texts in which Descartes offers his developed ethical thought and present the case for Descartes as a virtue ethicist. My argument emerges from seeing that Descartes’s conception of virtue and the good owes much to Stoic ethics, a school of thought which saw a significant revival in the seventeenth century. It does, however, deviate from classical Stoicism in critical ways. Towards the end of my discussion, I return to the question of the relation between Descartes’s ethics and his metaphysics and epistemology, and I suggest that the Discourse on the Method for Rightly Conducting Reason and the Meditations on First Philosophy are invested with the virtue ethical considerations of moral education and the regulation of the passions, respectively.

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Tiberius, Valerie, , . Humean Heroism: Value Commitments and the Source of Normativity
2000, Pacific Philosophical Quarterly, 81(4) 426-46.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper addresses the question “In virtue of what do practical reasons have normative force or justificatory power?” There seems to be good reason to doubt that desires are the source of normativity. However, I argue that the reasons to be suspicious of desire-based accounts of normativity can be overcome by a sufficiently sophisticated account. The position I defend in this paper is one according to which desires, or more generally, proattitudes, do constitute values and provide rational justifications of actions when they are organized in the right way.

Comment: A good defence of desire-based accounts of value, tackling some of the most intuitive objections (such as being “too subjective” and having no foundation in reason).

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