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Monotonicity and Inadvisable Oughts

Daniel Muñoz & Jack Spencer have a great new paper, 'Knowledge of Objective ‘Oughts’: Monotonicity and the New Miners Puzzle' (forthcoming in PPR).  In it, they dispute that knowing that you objectively ought to do something entails that you subjective ought to do it, on the basis of non-maximal act-types, which might be performed in multiple ways (some ideal, some disastrous). Their argument depends upon 'ought' being upward monotonic (UM): "if you ought to do a certain act X, and X-ing entails Y-ing, then you ought to do Y."  I think their central case instead demonstrates why we should reject UM (and similar normative inheritance claims, as found, e.g., in Doug Portmore's Opting for the Best).In a classic mineshafts case, you know that (to save the most lives) either you objectively ought to block shaft A, or you objectively ought to block shaft B, but you don't know which.  Because blocking the wrong shaft would be disastrous, you rationally (or "subjectively") ought to block neither. M&S now highlight that the above disjunction, together with UM, entails the less-specific prescription that you objectively ought to block a shaft.  You could know this to be true, they argue, but still you (rationally) shouldn't block a shaft, given the risk of disaster.UM violates a plausible constraint on the objective ought: that if it would be morally worse for you to ϕ, then it is not the case that you objectively ought to ϕ.  [More]

The Denial of Death and Risk Assessment

The threat of widespread death from COVID-19 has become so all consuming that we're willing to give up real community, finances, jobs, possibly a healthy mental life, and, perhaps worst of all, the ability to buy toilet paper at any local store. We’ve somehow decided that all the things we thought we apparently valued prior to the disease can be set aside because this one option—stopping the spread of COVID-19—is the only thing that matters. [More]

Why vaccines should be compulsory

Imagine we develop a vaccine against the coronavirus (COVID-19). Suppose the vaccine has some very small chance of some serious side effects, for instance seizures. However, this vaccine can save millions of lives globally, in the same way as other vaccines do. You are the prime minister and you have to decide whether to make […] The post Why vaccines should be compulsory appeared first on OUPblog.         Related StoriesRe-reading Camus’s The Plague in pandemic timesHow G. E. M. Anscombe revolutionised 20th-century western philosophyWhy self-help won’t cure impostor [More]

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