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Ethics and Morality

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An Ethics of Critical Responsiveness

Modern moral theories have crystallized around the logic of individual choices, abstracted from social and historical context. Yet most action, including moral theorizing, can equally be understood as a response, conscious or otherwise, to the social world out of which it emerges. In this novel account of moral agency, Elise Springer accords central importance to how we intervene in activity around us. To notice and address what others are doing with their moral agency is to exercise what Springer calls critical responsiveness.

Parents routinely turn to prenatal testing to screen for genetic or chromosomal disorders or to learn their child’s sex. What if they could use similar prenatal interventions to learn (or change) their child’s sexual orientation? Bioethicists have debated the moral implications of this still-hypothetical possibility for several decades. Some commentators fear that any scientific efforts to understand the origins of homosexuality could mean the end of gay and lesbian people, if parents shy away from having homosexual children.

Critical Perspectives on AI, Robots, and Ethics

One of the enduring concerns of moral philosophy is deciding who or what is deserving of ethical consideration. Much recent attention has been devoted to the "animal question"—consideration of the moral status of nonhuman animals. In this book, David Gunkel takes up the "machine question": whether and to what extent intelligent and autonomous machines of our own making can be considered to have legitimate moral responsibilities and any legitimate claim to moral consideration.

Philosophy, Science, and Ethics

Philosophical reflections on the environment began with early philosophers’ invocation of a cosmology that mixed natural and supernatural phenomena. Today, the central philosophical problem posed by the environment involves not what it can teach us about ourselves and our place in the cosmic order but rather how we can understand its workings in order to make better decisions about our own conduct regarding it. The resulting inquiry spans different areas of contemporary philosophy, many of which are represented by the fifteen original essays in this volume.

Exploring the Controversy

An estimated 100 million nonhuman vertebrates worldwide--including primates, dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, birds, rats, and mice--are bred, captured, or otherwise acquired every year for research purposes. Much of this research is seriously detrimental to the welfare of these animals, causing pain, distress, injury, or death. This book explores the ethical controversies that have arisen over animal research, examining closely the complex scientific, philosophical, moral, and legal issues involved.

Human Virtues of the Future

Predictions about global climate change have produced both stark scenarios of environmental catastrophe and purportedly pragmatic ideas about adaptation. This book takes a different perspective, exploring the idea that the challenge of adapting to global climate change is fundamentally an ethical one, that it is not simply a matter of adapting our infrastructures and economies to mitigate damage but rather of adapting ourselves to realities of a new global climate.

Contemporary Readings

Some of the most challenging questions in philosophical ethics concern the justification of action. Can you have reasons to do something that you are not, and perhaps cannot be, motivated to do? If reasons rest on desires, why respect the rights and interests of others when doing so prevents us from getting what we want? In other words, why be moral?

In Against Moral Responsibility, Bruce Waller launches a spirited attack on a system that is profoundly entrenched in our society and its institutions, deeply rooted in our emotions, and vigorously defended by philosophers from ancient times to the present. Waller argues that, despite the creative defenses of it by contemporary thinkers, moral responsibility cannot survive in our naturalistic-scientific system. The scientific understanding of human behavior and the causes that shape human character, he contends, leaves no room for moral responsibility.

Despite the emergence of computer games as a dominant cultural industry (and the accompanying emergence of computer games as the subject of scholarly research), we know little or nothing about the ethics of computer games. Considerations of the morality of computer games seldom go beyond intermittent portrayals of them in the mass media as training devices for teenage serial killers. In this first scholarly exploration of the subject, Miguel Sicart addresses broader issues about the ethics of games, the ethics of playing the games, and the ethical responsibilities of game designers.

Externalism and Moral Psychology

What are the psychological foundations of morality? Historically, the issue has been framed as one of emotion versus reason. Hume argued that reason is the slave of the passions and so morality must be based on them; Kant argued that moral law is given by rational agents to themselves in virtue of their rationality. The debate has continued in these terms to the present day. In Like-Minded, Andrew Sneddon argues that "reason" and "passion" do not satisfactorily capture all the important options for explaining the psychological foundations of morality.

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