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Moral Dimensions


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Table of Contents

* Preface * Introduction * The Illusory Appeal of Double Effect * The Significance of Intent * Means and Ends * Blame * Notes * Bibliography * Index

About the Author

T. M. Scanlon is Alford Professor of Natural Religion, Moral Philosophy, and Civil Polity at Harvard University.


In this detailed study, Scanlon (natural religion, moral philosophy, & civil polity, Harvard Univ.; What We Owe to Each Other) conducts an inquiry into the validity of the philosophical doctrine known as double (or secondary) effect, which holds that it is often permissible to do something harmful if and when the act also results in something good. For example, it has been argued that it is morally permissible to stop an attack on oneself, even if doing so results in harm or even death to the attacker. With this in mind, Scanlon considers the pros and cons of physician-assisted suicide, medical transplant cases, the unintended killing of noncombatants, the assignment of blame and forgiveness, and much more. This is not an easy book--the writing exemplifies philosophical analysis in the extreme, meaning that Scanlon tries to draw out the implications of each concept as fully as possible to reach a conclusion that is often not clear. Recommended only for advanced academic ethics collections.--Leon H. Brody, Falls Church, VA Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Scanlon offers a detailed account of a new analysis of key distinctions in theoretical ethics. These distinctions have very real consequences in a wide variety of practical issues, including debates regarding justified acts of war, the effort to justify terror or campaigns against terror, and seemingly intractable debates in biomedical ethics. Scanlon examines the permissibility of actions and the evaluations of actors, with a new account of both the initial--and as he sees it, illusory--attraction of the "doctrine of double effect." He argues that the illusion stems from confusion between two types of moral judgment, which apply principles in what Scanlon terms either "critical" or "deliberative" uses. Scanlon uses this difference to make an important new distinction between the permissibility of actions and their meaning, and to develop accounts of blame (linked to the meaning of an action) and moral responsibility that bear close attention. -- J. H. Barker Choice 20090301 The first half of the book, on permissibility and meaning, amounts to masterful and insightful philosophical housekeeping. The second half is revolutionary in the ways it tells us to think about blame. -- Allan Gibbard London Review of Books 20090528 Moral Dimensions is a penetrating study that forces--and enables--us to see the moral landscape in a fresh and nuanced way...Moral Dimensions culminates in a masterly exploration of blame, understood as a distinctive response to meaning. -- Gary Watson Times Literary Supplement 20110211

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