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Annas, Julia, , . Applying Virtue to Ethics
2015, Journal of Applied Philosophy 32(1): 1-14.
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Added by: Nick Novelli, Contributed by:

Abstract: Virtue ethics is sometimes taken to be incapable of providing guidance for an individual’s actions, as some other ethical theories do. I show how virtue ethics does provide guidance for action, and also meet the objection that, while it may account for what we ought to do, it cannot account for the force of duty and obligation.

Comment: This article presents a fairly detailed proposal of how virtue ethics could be implemented practically as a means of action-guidance. It would be useful as part of an examination of how virtue ethics could work in the real world beyond its abstract principles. It requires the context of awareness of virtue ethics to be properly understood, but any student who has received an introduction to the central concepts of virtue ethics should be able to understand it, including undergraduates.

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Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., , . Modern Moral Philosophy
1958, Philosophy 33(124): 1-19.
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Abstract: I will begin by stating three theses which I present in this paper. The first is that it is not profitable for us at present to do moral philosophy; that should be laid aside at any rate until we have an adequate philosophy of psychology, in which we are conspicuously lacking. The second is that the concepts of obligation, and duty – moral obligation and moral duty, that is to say – and of what is morally right and wrong, and of the moral sense of “ought,” ought to be jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of ethics which no longer generally survives, and are only harmful without it. My third thesis is that the differences between the wellknown English writers on moral philosophy from Sidgwick to the present day are of little importance.

Comment: Classic text which raises key problems for any theory of moral obligation. Very short, although also very dense. Could be a core reading, or a futher reading to provide important background.

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Baron, Marcia, , . A Kantian Take on the Supererogatory
2016, Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (4):347-362
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Abstract: This article presents a Kantian alternative to the mainstream approach in ethics concerning the phenomena that are widely thought to require a category of the supererogatory. My view is that the phenomena do not require this category of imperfect duties. Elsewhere I have written on Kant on this topic; here I shift my focus away from interpretive issues and consider the pros and cons of the Kantian approach. What background assumptions would lean one to favour the Kantian approach and what sorts would lean one to favour the mainstream approach? I also consider the possibility that in institutional contexts, there is a need for the category of the supererogatory. Here, it seems, we do need to know what we really have to do and what is beyond the call of duty; in this context, however, duty is not the Kantian moral notion, but rather is pegged to particular roles, or to the needs of the institution or group or club of which one is a member. But even here, I argue, the notion of the supererogatory is not crucial.

Comment: Provocactive paper that challenges the need for a special category of supererogatory actions. Would make a good specialised reading on this topic, or a good further reading for a module addressing Kantian moral theory or moral obligation more generally.

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Herman, Barbara, , . On the Value of Acting From the Motive of Duty
1981, Philosophical Review 90(3): 359-382.
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Abstract: Richard Henson attempts to take the sting out of this view of Kant on moral worth by arguing (i) that attending to the phenomenon of the overdetermination of actions leads one to see that Kant might have had two distinct views of moral worth, only one of which requires the absence of cooperating inclinations, and (ii) that when Kant insists that there is moral worth only when an action is done from the motive of duty alone, he need not also hold that such a state of affairs is morally better, all things considered, than one where supporting inclination is present. Henson’s proposals seem to me both serious and plausible. I do not think that either of his models, in the end, can take on the role Kant assigns to moral worth in the argument of the Groundwork. But seeing the ways Henson’s account diverges from Kant’s makes clearer what Kant intended in his discussion of those actions he credits with moral worth. […] An action has moral worth if it is required by duty and has as its primary motive the motive of duty. The motive of duty need not reflect the only interest the agent has in the action (or its effect); it must, however, be the interest that determines the agent’s acting as he did.

Comment: This article is a good discussion of the issue of acting out of inclination as opposed to duty in Kant's philosophy. It would provide a useful perspective on that issue in a course on Kant's philosophy. As it engages with R.G. Henson's argument on the subject, it would be usefully taught wherever his work is, but it could also be taught in isolation from it as familiarity with Henson's work is not required to understand the article.

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Woollard, Fiona, , Lindsey Porter. Breastfeeding and defeasible duties to benefit
2017, Journal of Medical Ethics 43(8): 515-518.
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Added by: Rie Iizuka, Contributed by:

Abstract: For many women experiencing motherhood for the first time, the message they receive is clear: mothers who do not breastfeed ought to have good reasons not to; bottle feeding by choice is a failure of maternal duty. We argue that this pressure to breastfeed arises in part from two misconceptions about maternal duty: confusion about the scope of the duty to benefit and conflation between moral reasons and duties. While mothers have a general duty to benefit, we argue that this does not imply a duty to carry out any particular beneficent act. Therefore, the expectation that mothers should breastfeed unless they have sufficient countervailing reasons not to is morally unwarranted. Recognising the difference between reasons and duties can allow us to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of supporting mothers who wish to breastfeed without subjecting mothers who bottle feed to guilt, blame and failure.

Comment: This paper is a good and clear introduction of the debate about breastfeeding. By appealing to the difference between reasons and duties the author discusses the benefits of breastfeeding and the importance of supporting mothers who wish to breastfeed.

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