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Davis, Nancy, , . Contemporary deontology
1993, In Peter Singer (ed.), A Companion to Ethics. John Wiley & Sons.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Simon Fokt

Abstract: Many people profess to believe that acting morally, or as we ought to act, involves the self-conscious acceptance of some (quite specific) constraints or rules that place limits both on the pursuit of our own interests and on our pursuit of the general good. Though these people do not regard the furtherance of our own interests or the pursuit of the general good as ignoble ends, or ones that we are morally required to eschew, they believe that neither can be regarded as providing us with morally sufficient reason to take action. Those who hold such a view believe that there are certain sorts of acts that are wrong in themselves, and thus morally unacceptable means to the pursuit of any ends, even ends that are morally admirable, or morally obligatory. (How strong the prohibition is against performing such acts is a matter that will be taken up later.) Philosophers call such ethical views ‘deontological’ (from the Greek deon , ‘duty’), and contrast them to views that are ‘teleological’ in structure (from telos , Greek for ‘goal’). Those who hold teleological views reject the view that there are special kinds of acts that are right or wrong in themselves. For teleologists, the rightness or wrongness of our acts is determined by a comparative assessment of their consequences. […] The focus of this essay is on deontological theories.

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Foot, Philippa, , . Virtues and Vices
1978, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Laura Jimenez, Contributed by: Nomy Arpaly

Publisher’s Note: This collection of essays, written between 1957 and 1977, contains discussions of the moral philosophy of David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, and some modern philosophers. It presents virtues and vices rather than rights and duties as the central concepts in moral philosophy. Throughout, the author rejects contemporary anti? naturalistic moral philosophies such as emotivism and prescriptivism, but defends the view that moral judgements may be hypothetical rather than (as Kant thought) categorical imperatives. The author also applies her moral philosophy to the current debates on euthanasia and abortion, the latter discussed in relation to the doctrine of the double effect. She argues against the suggestion, on the part of A. J. Ayer and others, that free will actually requires determinism. In a final essay, she asks whether the concept of moral approval can be understood except against a particular background of social practices.

Comment: Foot stands out among contemporary ethical theorists because of her conviction that virtues and vices are more central ethical notions than rights, duties, justice, or consequences. Since the author discusses multiple relevant topics (abortion, euthanasia, free will/determination, and the ethics of Hume and Nietzsche) this book is a really complete reading for Ethics courses. The book can be used in both, undergraduate and postgraduate courses, but the last eight essays are more suitable for postgraduates.

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Hills, Alison, , . Is ethics rationally required?
2004, Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 47(1): 1-19.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: Sidgwick argued that utilitarianism was not rationally required because it could not be shown that a utilitarian theory of practical reason was better justified than a rival egoist theory of practical reason: there is a ‘dualism of practical reason’ between utilitarianism and egoism. In this paper, it is demonstrated that the dualism argument also applies to Kant’s moral theory, the moral law. A prudential theory that is parallel to the moral law is devised, and it is argued that the moral law is no better justified than this prudential theory. So the moral law is not rationally required. It is suggested that the dualism argument is a completely general argument that ethics cannot be rationally required.

Comment: This is a good and fairly accessible argument that casts doubt on the project of deriving morality from reason. It can be used alongside Kantian approaches to metaethics or reasons constituvism.

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Korsgaard, Christine, , . The Sources of Normativity
1996, Cambridge University Press.
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Added by: Chris Howard, Contributed by: Nomy Arpaly

Publisher’s Note: Ethical concepts are, or purport to be, normative. They make claims on us: they command, oblige, recommend, or guide. Or at least when we invoke them, we make claims on one another; but where does their authority over us – or ours over one another – come from? Christine Korsgaard identifies four accounts of the source of normativity that have been advocated by modern moral philosophers: voluntarism, realism, reflective endorsement, and the appeal to autonomy. She traces their history, showing how each developed in response to the prior one and comparing their early versions with those on the contemporary philosophical scene. Kant’s theory that normativity springs from our own autonomy emerges as a synthesis of the other three, and Korsgaard concludes with her own version of the Kantian account. Her discussion is followed by commentary from G. A. Cohen, Raymond Geuss, Thomas Nagel, and Bernard Williams, and a reply by Korsgaard.

Comment: Parts of this book are “must-read” in any metaethics course. Chapter 1 (skipping sections 1.3.1-1.3.4) is an excellent addition to a unit on the authority of morality; chapters 2 and 3 are equally excellent additions to a unit on (Kantian) metaethical constructivism.

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Korsgaard, Christine M., , . Creating the Kingdom of Ends
1996, Cambridge University Press
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Jojanneke Vanderveen

Publisher’s Note: Christine Korsgaard has become one of the leading interpreters of Kant’s moral philosophy. She is identified with a small group of philosophers who are intent on producing a version of Kant’s moral philosophy that is at once sensitive to its historical roots while revealing its particular relevance to contemporary problems. She rejects the traditional picture of Kant’s ethics as a cold vision of the moral life which emphasises duty at the expense of love and value. Rather, Kant’s work is seen as providing a resource for addressing not only the metaphysics of morals, but also for tackling practical questions about personal relations, politics, and everyday human interaction. This collection contains some of the finest current work on Kant’s ethics and will command the attention of all those involved in teaching and studying moral theory.

Comment: Very important contemporary defense of Kantian ethics. In an ethics/deontology class, Korsgaard should not be missed.

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Woollard, Fiona, , . Doing and Allowing Harm
2015, Oxford University Press
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Lizzy Ventham

Abstract: Fiona Woollard presents an original defence of the Doctrine of Doing and Allowing, according to which doing harm seems much harder to justify than merely allowing harm. She argues that the Doctrine is best understood as a principle that protects us from harmful imposition, and offers a moderate account of our obligations to offer aid to others.

Comment: This book gives a great overview to the debate about the difference between doing and allowing harm, as well as advancing its own view. I recommend it as further reading on courses in a number of topics, including any that cover non-consequentialism and those that cover certain applied ethical topics. Woollard also co-authors the stanford encyclopedia entry on the same topic, which I also include in my reading lists.

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