Toward Better Problems

Toward Better Problems: New Perspectives on Abortion, Animal Rights, the Environment, and Justice

Copyright Date: 1992
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 204
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  • Book Info
    Toward Better Problems
    Book Description:

    "Toward Better Problems is a work of considerable merit.... [Weston] is effective in showing how the 'theoretical' approach obscures the real values at issue and hinders their realization." --James Gouinlock, Emory University In Toward Better Problems, Anthony Weston develops a pragmatic approach to the pressing moral issues of our time. Weston seeks to address practical problems in the spirit of John Dewey: that is, by focusing on specific human concerns and multiple, overlapping values rather than on abstract philosophical principles. Weston showcases his method in sustained discussion of four highly controversial areas: abortion, animal rights, environmentalism, and justice. Weston takes up uncomfortable issues, such as how we raise food animals; test medicines, cosmetics, and chemicals on animals; and justify speciesism. He engages philosophically the treatment of land and seas as limitless garbage dumps, the creation of radioactive wastes and their disposal, and fundamental problems of social justice. But Weston's aim is not to "solve" such problems as if they were some kind of puzzle. The aim instead is to creatively transform such problematic situations into something more promising and tractable, thereby leaving us with "better problems."

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0354-4
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Anthony Weston
  4. Chapter 1 Practical Ethics in a New Key
    (pp. 1-8)

    Many other “practical ethics” books take up the same topics as this one: abortion, other animals, the environment, justice. Peter Singer covers much the same ground in a book called simplyPractical Ethics

    The actual practicality of the usual brand of practical ethics, however, is somewhat partial. What we are usually offered is the systematic application of some ethical theorytopractice. Singer’S book represents an admirably lucid application of utilitarianism. Others apply theories of rights to the same set of issues. In both of these cases, the broad outlines of an ethical theory are assumed in advance. The principles...

  5. Chapter 2 Pragmatic Attitudes
    (pp. 9-36)

    The most general introduction to pragmatic ethics would start with a view of the universe and of the place of human values in it. Dewey paints a picture of human beings as co-evolved parts of a complex natural order, in which “value” is not some special property that enters the natural world only through the grace of God or the discernment of the wise, but exists already, in profusion, all around us. Value is a form of desire; desire is a form of attraction common to all living things; living things are incomplete beings needing both sustenance and growth, subject...

  6. Chapter 3 Rethinking the Abortion Debate
    (pp. 37-68)

    Abortion may not be the most fortunate of ethical problems to take up at the start. We might do better to turn first to general questions of lifestyle or social welfare or the human relation to nature. Even with respect to abortion “the” issue may be far broader than it usually seems, which perhaps is why it has stayed alive so long. But We will come to these other questions in time. Now, however, abortion is one of the most salient problems that confronts us. If it is an unfortunate place-holder for so central a place, that too is part...

  7. Chapter 4 Other Animals
    (pp. 69-98)

    Drawing all-or-nothing lines at the beginning and end of human life may seem necessary, but we at least remain aware of some of the continuities thus sundered. An even more radical division between humans and all the other animals, however, has usually seemed perfectly natural, even a division so radical that the word “animal” itself is typically reserved for theotheranimals. The effects of this moral isolation are also extreme. Commercially raised chickens spend their whole lives in cages too small to allow them even to tum around, much less spread their wings or fly, or in huge sheds...

  8. Chapter 5 The Environment
    (pp. 99-132)

    We are beginning to struggle with the intimation that something is seriously wrong with our relation to the natural World. It is a little like suspecting cancer but not wanting to know. But the danger signs are all around us. Garbage dumped a hundred miles off the Atlantic coast is now washing up annually on beaches. The federal government is continuing its increasingly desperate search for a way to dispose of the highly toxic radioactive wastes that American nuclear reactors have been generating since they began operating, so far without any permanent disPosal plan at all. A state-sized chunk of...

  9. Chapter 6 Justice
    (pp. 133-164)

    The philosophical discussion of justice may seem somewhat remote from the discussions that this book has taken up so far. Not only does the topic itself seem more abstract; it has also become, partly for this reason, a celebrated occasion for full-fledged turns into ethical theory. Still, the discussion of justice is not different in kind from the previous discussions. For one thing, therearepractical issues at state, although they are not as clear as they ought to be. Second, it is not as if topics like abortion or the other animals have not also been made occasions for...

  10. Chapter 7 Conclusion
    (pp. 165-180)

    This book deliberately focuses on practical issues, since it is there, naturally enough, that pragmatism stakes its claim. By way of conclusion, however, we must at least briefly take up certain more general and (it seems) inevitable concerns about a pragmatic approach to ethics. One is the objection that pragmatic methods are unacceptably “relativistic.” I shall address this as “the question of critical standpoint.” The other is the objection that pragmatic methods are naively optimistic. I contest both charges—briefly, summarily, and in a mood that is itself partly reconstructive rather than just reactive. The place for detailed response is...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 183-208)
  12. Index
    (pp. 209-214)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)