Chaired by Véronique Munoz-Darde
It is widely agreed that benevolence is not the whole of the moral life, but it is not as widely appreciated that benevolence is an irreducible part of that life. This paper argues that Kantian efforts to characterize benevolence, or something like it, in terms of reverence for rational agency fall short. Such reverence, while credibly an important part of the moral life, is no more the whole of it than benevolence.
Nomy Arpaly is a professor of philosophy at Brown University. She is the author of three books (one of which is co-authored with Timothy Schroeder) and various articles, all concerning what she still insists on calling "moral psychology”, though the students coming to her seminars are often disappointed to learn that the there will be no discussion of trolley cases, FMRI machines, or people asked about trolley cases while hooked to FMRI machines. She has written about rationality, akrasia, desire, reasons, virtue, deliberation, moral worth, moral responsibility, and the relationship between being a good person and having accurate moral beliefs. She is currently working on a new project in normative ethics.
Kantians may be unable to derive all of benevolence from reverence for rational agency, but the remaining lacuna is not as extensive as Arpaly thinks. For while we should take seriously Kantian worries about separating benevolence from reverence, a considerable part of benevolence can be explained in terms of reverence for rational agency on a plausible intepretation of the latter. Furthermore, Kantians have an irreducible role for benevolence within their ethics, which is different from the role of a self-standing virtue.
Erasmus Mayr is Professor of Philosophy at the Friedrich-Alexander University Erlangen-Nuremberg. His main research interests lie in philosophy of action and ethics; his publications include Understanding Human Agency (OUP 2011). Before coming to Erlangen, he studied philosophy and law at the LMU Munich, and spent some time at Oxford University and the Humboldt University in Berlin.
6–8 July 2018
Faculty of Philosophy
Radcliffe Observatory Quarter 555
Oxford OX2 6GG
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