Moral Dimensions

Moral Dimensions

T. M. Scanlon
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Harvard University Press
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Moral Dimensions
    Book Description:

    Scanlon reframes current philosophical debates as he explores the moral permissibility of an action. Blame, he argues, is a response to the meaning of an action rather than its permissibility. This analysis leads to a novel account of the conditions of moral responsibility and to important conclusions about the ethics of blame.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-04314-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 1-7)

    The doctrine of double effect holds that an action that aims at the death of an innocent person, either as its end or as a means to its end, is always wrong. In particular, it holds that such an action cannot be justified by its good effects, such as saving the lives of a greater number of innocent people. This doctrine gains plausibility from its ability to explain some otherwise puzzling cases. For example, if the limited amount of a drug that is available could be used either to save one patient or to save five others, it is permissible...

  5. 1 The Illusory Appeal of Double Effect
    (pp. 8-36)

    How does the moral assessment of an action, in particular the moral permissibility of performing it, depend on the agent’s intentions? This chapter and the next undertake an inquiry into this question. My main aim in this chapter is to explain why intent seems to be relevant to permissibility in the particular way claimed by the doctrine of double effect, even though this apparent significance is illusory. This leaves open the question, to be investigated in Chapter 2, of whether intent is relevant to permissibility in other ways. My second aim is to characterize the idea of moral permissibility and...

  6. 2 The Significance of Intent
    (pp. 37-88)

    I argued in Chapter 1 that an agent’s intentions are not relevant to permissibility of an action in the particular way that the doctrine of double effect would claim. I allowed that an agent’s intentions are relevant to forms of moral assessment other than questions of permissibility, and I tried to show that the plausibility of the doctrine of double effect arises from a failure to distinguish between different forms of moral assessment and different ways in which a moral principle may be employed.

    This distinction is frequently overlooked. In explaining why certain actions are impermissible, people often refer to...

  7. 3 Means and Ends
    (pp. 89-121)

    The familiar Kantian formula, that rational agents must be treated as ends in themselves and not merely as means, seems to express an important moral truth. But it is not clear how this appealing formula should be understood. The phrases “treating someone as an end,” “treating someone merely as a means,” and “using someone” can be used to invoke a number of different ideas with apparent moral force. One of my aims in this chapter is to identify these ideas and assess their moral importance.

    A second aim is more theoretical, and continues the theme of the earlier chapters. On...

  8. 4 Blame
    (pp. 122-214)

    In this chapter I offer an account of blame, based on the distinction between permissibility and meaning presented in the preceding chapters. Blame is a familiar aspect of moral experience, but it is surprisingly unclear exactly what it involves. Accounts of blame tend toward two ideas. The first idea is essentially evaluative: that to blame someone is to arrive at a negative assessment of his or her character. The second is punitive: blame is a kind of sanction, a milder form of punishment. Neither of these interpretations seems to me to fit the facts of our moral experience. The alternative...

  9. Notes
    (pp. 217-238)
  10. Bibliography
    (pp. 239-242)
  11. Index
    (pp. 243-247)