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By Mike Otsuka

Heard of any good titles of articles in moral, legal, or political philosophy lately? (I’m just after good titles. Never mind the quality of the articles themselves.) Here are a couple off the top of my head:

Hillel Steiner, “Silver spoons and golden genes: talent differentials and distributive justice”, in The Genetic Revolution and Human Rights (OUP, 1999)


Peter Vallentyne, “Of mice and men: equality and animals”, Journal of Ethics (2005)

Steiner’s piece is on the relevance of nature and nurture to distributive justice. (Steiner laments that it was Thomas Nagel rather than he who coined the phrase “silver spoons and golden genes”.) Vallentyne’s is on whether egalitarians ought to massively redistribute resources from human beings to lesser animals in order to compensate the latter for their relatively unimpressive lives.

The title of this article …

G. A. Cohen, “If you’re an egalitarian, how come you’re so rich?” Journal of Ethics (2000)

…was good enough to end up on the cover of the author’s next book. I’m still waiting for someone to write a companion piece entitled “If you’re a libertarian, how come your income is so average?”.

But the best title I can think of is…

Larry Alexander and Michael Bayles, “Hercules or Proteus? The many theses of Ronald Dworkin”, Social Theory and Practice (1980)

Can anyone think of a wittier, more apt title of an article in moral, political, or legal philosophy? I’m looking forward to your nominations.


  1. 1. Posted by S. Matthew Liao | August 26, 2007 1:55 pm

    There’s Nathan Salmon’s “How to Become a Millian Heir” (1989) Noûs 23: 211-220, which is funny, but is in philosophy of language.

    Or Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit,” but that’s a book.

    I’ll keep thinking…

  2. 2. Posted by Mike Otsuka | August 26, 2007 2:25 pm

    “On Bullshit” was originally published as an article in the Raritan Review. So we can count that.

    Nathan Salmon’s title brings to mind David Kaplan’s “Transworld Heirlines”, in M. Loux (ed.), The Possible and the Actual, (Cornell University Press, 1979). But that’s also philosophy of language/metaphysics.

  3. 3. Posted by Mike Otsuka | August 28, 2007 9:09 pm

    I see that Hillel Steiner has another nice title:

    ‘Can a Social Contract be Signed by an Invisible Hand?’ in Democracy, Consensus and Social Contract (Sage, 1978) [on part I of Anarchy, State and Utopia]

    And David Boonin has a good track record:

    “Robbing PETA to Spay Paul: Do Animal Rights Include Reproductive Rights?” Between the Species, online edition, August 2003

    “Don’t Stop Thinking About Tomorrow: Two Paradoxes About Duties to Future Generations,” Philosophy and Public Affairs (1996)

    “Contractarianism Gone Wild: Carruthers and the Moral Status of Animals,” Between the Species (1994)

    “A Sheep in Wolf’s Clothing,” The Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (1993) [on Susan Wolf’s ‘Moral Saints’]

  4. 4. Posted by Don Loeb | September 17, 2007 5:17 am

    Here’s one I am dying to use: “Kamm’s Kurious Kasuistry””

    (Copyright and all that)

    I’ve recently used “How to Pull a Metaphysical Rabbit out of a Semantic Hat”. (Full name starts with “Moral Incoherentism:”)

    But the best I have heard in ages is Arthur Applebaum’s article on role ethics: “Professional Detachment: The Executioner of Paris”

  5. 5. Posted by Don Loeb | September 18, 2007 7:09 pm

    A colleague suggested “POPPER HAD A BRAND NEW BAG,” by JAMES BROWN.

    Another fine one (though a book) is by Roy Wood Sellars. In “LENDING A HAND TO HYLAS,” (1968) Sellars reformulates Berkeley’s THREE DIALOGUES in a way that gives the materialist (Hylas) much more of a fair shake. (Berekely had him seems utterly stumped by Philonus’s arguments!) Remember Moore’s famous gesticulative refutation of idealism? I’m pretty sure Sellars did too.

  6. 6. Posted by Thom Brooks | September 21, 2007 1:44 pm

    I’ve always found the title of an interview with Andrea Dworkin—“Dworkin on Dworkin”—a bit different. Rumour has it there is a response to this entitled “Dworkin on Dworkin on Dworkin” although I have never found it.

    Perhaps my best attempt was “Let a Thousand Nomoi Bloom? Four Problems with Robert Cover’s Nomos and Narrative” in Issues in Legal Scholarship (2006): 1-20.

  7. 7. Posted by Mark Sheehan | September 28, 2007 4:17 pm

    When I was at Graduate School I took a class with Jerry Fodor. We read his paper “Fodor’s Guide to Mental Representations” (MIND 1985, Spring, 66-97) – which I thought was quite a good title. I always wanted to write a reply but never did. I was going to call it:

    “Mental Representations on Five Dollars a Day: Why Fodor takes the cheap way out.”

    Feel free to use it – I’m unlikely to now!

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