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Anscombe, G. Elizabeth M., , . Modern Moral Philosophy
1958, Philosophy 33(124): 1-19.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

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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Hsieh, Nien-he, , . The Obligations of Transnational Corporations: Rawlsian Justice and the Duty of Assistance
2004, Business ethics quarterly, 14 (4), pp. 643-661.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: Building on John Rawls’s account of the Law of Peoples, this paper examines the grounds and scope of the obligations of transnational corporations that are owned by members of developed economies and operate in developing economies. The paper advances two broad claims. First, the paper argues that there are conditions under which TNCs have obligations to fulfill a limited duty of assistance toward those living in developing economies, even though the duty is normally understood to fall on the governments of developed economies. Second, by extending Rawls’s account to include a right to protection against arbitrary interference, the paper argues that TNCs can be said to have negative and positive obligations in the areas of human rights, labor standards, and environmental protection, as outlined in the U.N. Global Compact. More generally, the paper aims to further our understanding of the implications of Rawls’s account of justice.

Comment: This paper is particularly useful in teaching on international business ethics and as further reading on Rawls. It also offers interesting insights into wider issues related to duty of assistance and moral relativism.

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Humphreys, Rebekah , , . The Argument from Existence, Blood-Sports, and ‘Sport-Slaves’
2014, Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics, 27 (2): 331-345
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Rebekah Humphreys

Abstract: The argument from existence is often used as an attempted justification for our use of animals in commercial practices, and is often put forward by lay-persons and philosophers alike. This paper provides an analysis of the argument from existence primarily within the context of blood-sports (applying the argument to the example of game-birding), and in doing so addresses interesting and related issues concerning the distinction between having a life and living, or worthwhile life and mere existence, as well as issues surrounding our responsibilities to prospective and actual beings. However, my analysis of the argument will go beyond the animal ethics context; it is important that it does so in order to reveal the troublesome implications of the argument and to highlight the sorts of unethical practices it supports. In particular, in applying the argument to a relevant example concerning human beings, I will discuss how the argument from existence could be used to justify the ownership of slaves who were reared for slavery. My objective is to show just how problematic the argument from existence is, with the aim of laying the argument to rest once and for all.

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

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Purdy, Laura, , . Are Pregnant Women Fetal Containers?
1990, Bioethics 4(4): 273–291.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Content: Purdy offers a strong argument against overriding the decisions of pregnant women and tries to reconcile the significance of the dependence of the fetus on the mother with the mother’s right to control her own body.

Comment: Very useful as introductory or further reading on reproductive rights and/or abortion.
[This is a stub entry. Please add your comments to help us expand it]

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Roberts, Melinda A., , . The Nonidentity Problem
2013, E. N. Zalta (ed.), Stanford encyclopedia of philosophy [electronic resource]
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Introduction: The nonidentity problem focuses on the obligations we think we have in respect of people who, by our own acts, are caused both to exist and to have existences that are, though worth having, unavoidably flawed – existences, that is, that are flawed if those people are ever to have them at all. If a person’s existence is unavoidably flawed, then the agent’s only alternatives to bringing that person into the flawed existence are to bring no one into existence at all or to bring a different person – a nonidentical but better off person – into existence in place of the person whose existence is flawed. If the existence is worth having and no one else’s interests are at stake, it is unclear on what ground morality would insist that the choice to bring the one person into the flawed existence is morally wrong. And yet at the same time – as we shall see – it seems that in some cases that choice clearly is morally wrong. The nonidentity problem is the problem of resolving this apparent paradox.

The problem raises the question whether the (usually significant) good that an agent confers along with existence counterbalances the (usually limited) bad that an agent confers along with any unavoidably flawed existence in such a way that our existence-inducing act (usually) will be deemed permissible. And if it isn’t – if we think instead that obligations are left unsatisfied despite the good that comes with existence – is the moral of the story that moral obligation extends beyond what we must do for people? If we agree, in other words, that it is our obligation to create additional good, is it enough that we create additional good for each and every existing and future person? Or does the nonidentity problem show that our focus should instead be on creating additional good for the universe? As we query how to evaluate existence-inducing acts for their moral permissibility – as well as outcomes or possible futures or worlds, for their moral betterness against still other worlds – we find that some of our most deeply held intuitions regarding the nature and structure of morality are thrown into doubt.

Comment: This text offers a comprehensive introduction to the nonidentity problem and lists several illustrative thought experiments and examples used in the literature. It is a very helpful introductory or further reading for any topic which touches on the nonidentity problem.

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Shelby, Tommie, , . Justice, Deviance, and the Dark Ghetto
2007, Philosophy & Public Affairs 35(2): 126-160.
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Added by: Helen Morley, Contributed by:

Introduction: The problems I will focus on lie in the domain of the theory of justice. Specifically, my concern is to determine what kinds of criticisms of the ghetto poor’s behavior and attitudes are or are not appropriate given that the social circumstances under which they make their life choices are, at least in part, the result of injustice. If the overall social arrangement in which the ghetto poor live is unjust, this requires that we think about what their obligations are quite differently than we should if the society were judged to be just. In particular, I will argue that it is necessary to distinguish the civic obligations citizens have to each other from the natural duties all persons have as moral agents, both of which are affected, though in different ways, by the justness of social arrangements. In addition, among the natural duties all persons possess is the duty to uphold, and to assist in bringing about, just institutions, a political duty that has important, though generally overlooked, consequences for the debate about ghetto poverty.

Comment: Focuses on the moral obligations of subject to systemic and long term injustice, using a Rawlsian framework. Enhances a discussion of justice by considering the implications of justice on those treated unjustly.

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