Professor Philip Pettit from Princeton University gave a talk entitled “the Second Person Frame” this past Monday at Oxford’s Moral Philosophy Seminar. In a nutshell (if I understood him correctly), he argues that Stephen Darwall’s idea of the second person demands in The Second Person Standpoint, is plausible and similar to what he (Pettit) and Michael Smith have elsewhere called ‘co-reasoning.’ Pace Darwall though, Pettit argues that consequentialists can also explain the second person demands. A copy of his powerpoint presentation is here. He would welcome any comments/suggestions.

I have no affiliation with Northwestern, but I thought this might be of interest to readers of Ethics Etc.:

Theme: Ethical theory and political philosophy
Keynote speakers: Susan Wolf (UNC Chapel Hill) and David Velleman (NYU)
Dates: May 15th – 17th, 2008

Erica Roedder and I are writing about possible analogies between linguistics and moral theory. One such analogy is between the development of generative grammar and the approach to moral theory by Frances Kamm, which has received considerable discussion in Ethics, Etc. An early draft of our (highly speculative) paper is available online at and Erica and I will be extremely grateful for any comments and suggestions.

Gil Harman

What can we learn from moral paradoxes?

While each of the questions of my four previous posts in this series could be answered fairly decisively, this question is naturally more open. So I will be able to give only some indication as to why moral paradoxes matter, and why investigating them further should be worthwhile. But there is another reason why it is difficult to speak here with confidence: moral paradoxes, in the strict sense (as we explicated their nature in the first post) have been almost completely neglected. To the best of my knowledge, my recent book 10 MORAL PARADOXES is only the third book ever on this topic, at least within analytic philosophy (the predecessors, in a broad sense, being Derek Parfit’s REASONS AND PERSONS which introduces various paradoxes, and the late Gregory Kavka’s MORAL PARADOXES OF NUCLEAR DETERRENCE; both of them from the 1980s).

In our political philosophy reading group yesterday, we read Samuel Scheffler’s new essay “Immigration and the Significance of Culture” published in Philosophy & Public Affairs 35(2) (2007). It can be downloaded here.

There was quite a lot that colleagues objected to in the essay, but a major worry concerns a summary of his views at the end of his essay. Scheffler says:


The Near-Then-Far Case Poll
By S. Matthew Liao

Here’s a case from Frances Kamm which we have discussed previously:

The Near-Then-Far Case: You are passing near a child drowning in a pond, a child whom you are able to help. But, through no fault of yours, all of the following are true: You do not know that you are near the person, you do not know that he is in danger, and you do not know that you can help. After you are far away, you learn that you were near him when he was in danger, and you could have helped. You can still save him from that danger, in the way you could have when near, by putting $500 in a device that will activate a machine to scoop him out (377-78).

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