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Brock, Gillian, Soran Reader. Needs-Centred Ethical Theory
2002, Journal of Value Inquiry 36 (4):425-434
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
Abstract:

Our aims in this paper are: (1) to indicate some of the many ways in which needs are an important part of the moral landscape, (2) to show that the dominant contemporary moral theories cannot adequately capture the moral significance of needs, indeed, that the dominant theories are inadequate to the extent that they cannot accommodate the insights which attention to needs yield, (3) to offer some sketches that should be helpful to future cartographers charting the domain of morally significant needs, and (4) to consider some anticipated objections to our project and offer some replies.

Comment: This paper outlines a novel approach to ethical theory which places needs as its center. In doing so, the authors engage with three other dominant moral theories of consequentialism, deontological ethics, and virtue ethics, and highlight the ways that a needs-based moral theory may address some of their shortcomings. For this reason, the text may be useful in the context of introductory ethics to highlight the merits and drawbacks of major ethical theories, but also to draw attention to the question of whether there is more work to be done in ethical philosophy. The paper is written in a clear and straightfoward style, and therefore will likely be accessible to a wide range of ability levels.

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Reader, Soran. Aristotle on Necessities and Needs
2005, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 57:113-136
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Aristotle’s account of human needs is valuable because it describes the connections between logical, metaphysical, physical, human and ethical necessities. But Aristotle does not fully draw out the implications of the account of necessity for needs and virtue. The proper Aristotelian conclusion is that, far from being an inferior activity fit only for slaves, meeting needs is the first part of Aristotelian virtue.

Comment: This paper complements, and in some ways underpins, Reader's other works on need-based ethical theory - therefore, one might choose to read it alongside some of her later development of her moral theory. It also offers an novel analysis of the Aristotelian approach to needs, which may prove useful in an introductory course as a non-traditional approach to or alternative perspective on the classical greek canon.

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Reader, Soran. Ethical Necessities
2011, Philosophy 86 (4):589-607
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In this paper I introduce my work in ethics, inviting others to draw on my approach to address the ethical issues that concern them. I set up the Centre for Ethical Philosophy at Durham University in 2007 to plug a puzzling gap in philosophical work to help us help the world. In 1. I set out ethical philosophy. In 2. I consider some implications, for example, that to do good we must pay much more attention to the beings around us, less to ourselves. In 3. I consider the implications for how we should think about war and peace. In 4. I draw out some implications for good political practice. In 5. I consider objections and conclude.

Comment: In this paper, Reader outlines her work in ethics conducted at the Centre for Ethical Philosophy at Durham in the late 2010s. While one should look to some of her other papers (also available on the DRL) for the in-depth, detailed working out of her need-based ethical theory, this paper discusses some of the implications of that theory for pacificism, political action, and the rest of academic philosophy.

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Reader, Soran. Needs and Moral Necessity
2007, New York: Routledge
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Needs and Moral Necessity analyses ethics as a practice, explains why we have three moral theory-types, consequentialism, deontology and virtue ethics, and argues for a fourth needs-based theory.

Comment: In this book, Reader defends a needs-based ethical theory and places it in the context of existing ethical theories. Her style of philosophy is straightforward and for the most part, absent of jargon, making it a very good resource for introductory teaching contexts. At the same time, her arguments are nuanced and developed, and it could just as easily be useful in the context of more advanced students. This book offers a critique of the dominant ethical theories existing in contemporary philosophical literature, and for this reason, could be useful in introductions to western social and political philosophy to teach alongside the traditional approaches to moral theory and to get students to challenge the hegemony of those approaches. It might also be useful as a way to discuss methodology and writing style in philosophy: Reader's approach and style of writing is very accessible to non-philosophers, but she still advances a fairly complex argument. Therefore, it could serve as an illustration of how written philosophy need not be technical or opaque in order to advance interesting claims.

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Reader, Soran, Gillian Brock. Needs, Moral Demands and Moral Theory
2004, Utilitas 16 (3):251-266
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Added by: Deryn Mair Thomas
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In this article we argue that the concept of need is as vital for moral theory as it is for moral life. In II we analyse need and its normativity in public and private moral practice. In III we describe simple cases which exemplify the moral demandingness of needs, and argue that the significance of simple cases for moral theory is obscured by the emphasis in moral philosophy on unusual cases. In IV we argue that moral theories are inadequate if they cannot describe simple needs-meeting cases. We argue that the elimination or reduction of need to other concepts such as value, duty, virtue or care is unsatisfactory, in which case moral theories that make those concepts fundamental will have to be revised. In conclusion, we suggest that if moral theories cannot be revised to accommodate needs, they may have to be replaced with a fully needs-based theory.

Comment: In this paper, Brock and Reader present a novel argument for the moral saliency of the concept of need. In doing so, they challenge the reduction of need to other concepts in existing moral theory. The text would be well paired with Reader's "Needs and Moral Necessity" (or used instead) as a way to discuss alternative perspectives on moral theory which depart from traditional ethical accounts (i.e. consequentialism, deontology, virtue ethics). The text might also be well paired with Reader's "The Other Side of Agency" to discuss the virtues of patient-centred (rather than agent-centred) moral theory.

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