Epistemic ethics
By Nick Shackel

What is good and bad? What is virtue and vice? How should we live? These are the big questions of ethics. They are also deeply practical questions. The point is not simply to know the answers but to do what is right and to avoid what is wrong. Through action we pursue ends, manifest character and live life. Action is the nexus of ethical concern. Agents are the authors of action and are also the objects of ethical evaluation. The ethical standing of an agent bears a complex relation to their actions, to how they were sensitive to the ethically relevant facts in coming to their actions and to their general inclinations to act. But agency and action also require believers and belief. What is the ethical status of believers and belief, as such? And what relation do these evaluations surrounding action and belief have to one another?

Chapter 8 is intended to give some account of rights based on an independent, and hence potentially explanatorily prior, account of non-consequentialism. Non-consequentialism is to be understood as Kamm defined it early in the book: the denial that right and wrong action is determined by the goodness and badness of states of affairs, where states of affairs need not be pure outcomes but may include acts which have value or disvalue. The chapter is very long, with arguments, examples and bare assertions of intuitively plausible claims densely interwoven. In places this makes it difficult to follow the precise dialectical role that is being played by the assembled components and to decide whether one is being offered a single argument that extends over several pages, or a number of distinct arguments all for the same conclusion. For these reasons, whilst I shall try to give some flavour of the direction of the chapter as a whole, it will be a severe abbreviation, with significant omissions, and the arguments I extract may only partially represent the considerations that Kamm assembles.

In discussing issues such as, for example, whether prudential reasons can be accounted for in terms of desire based reasons, we sometimes contrast our present self with our future self. It’s possible that some arguments turn on whether my present and future selves are distinct or whether talk of these selves is just a misleading way of speaking of me now and in the future. 4 dimensionalism (4D) accounts for persistence through time in terms of temporal parts, and if it is true then my future self is not identical to my present self, but both are temporal parts of me, whilst I am a space time worm that is the fusion of all my temporal parts (for short, a maximal space time worm). Jim Stone has recently offered a refutation of 4D in Analysis. Here is my condensed version of his argument: