Vol 3, Issue 1

Spring 2011
Artwork by David Alexander Smith

Table of Contents


  • What Does Blame Do To Relationships?

    Harry Adamson (St. John's College, University of Cambridge)

    To be blameworthy, according to T. M. Scanlon’s recent account, is to hold attitudes which violate the standards of a particular relationship, and to blame another is to alter one’s relationship appropriately with the blameworthy party in light of those attitudes. I make three objections. First, relationship-types do not determine the standards relative to which Scanlon defines impairment. Second, the notion of an ‘ideal’ relationship used by Scanlon is of no use when providing normative guidance to participants in non-ideal relationships—which is to say, that it’s no use to anybody. Third, that we cannot know how to alter relationships with someone at fault without knowing whether they are to blame; hence one cannot simply equate blaming someone with altering a relationship. I conclude with a discussion of the role that philosophy might play in understanding our relationships with other people.

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  • Maximizing Dharma: Krsna’s Consequentialism in the Mahabharata

    Joseph Dowd (University of California - Irvine)

    The Mahabharata, an Indian epic poem, describes a legendary war between two sides of a royal family. The epic’s plot involves numerous moral dilemmas that have intrigued and perplexed scholars of Indian literature. Many of these dilemmas revolve around a character named Krsna. Krsna is a divine incarnation and a self-proclaimed upholder of dharma, a system of social and religious duties central to Hindu ethics. Yet, during the war, Krsna repeatedly encourages his allies to use tactics that violate dharma. In this paper, I try to make sense of Krsna’s actions by analyzing them in terms of categories from Western moral philosophy. I show that Krsna seems to embrace an ethical approach called consequentialism, but that his version of consequentialism differs from Western theories of consequentialism by seeing adherence to dharma as an intrinsic good.

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  • To Know Is To Be Able To Do

    Brandon Hogan (University of Pittsburgh)

    In this paper, I articulate a (somewhat) novel conception of knowledge, one that integrates the most important insights of epistemic contextualism and the idea, for which I am indebted to the later Wittgenstein, that to know this or that is to be able to do something. On my conception, S knows that p if and only if p is true and S is able to Φ (where Φ is a variable determined by the context in which the knowledge claim is made). I contrast my conception of knowledge with epistemic contextualism and an account similar to my own put forward by John Hyman. Unlike the conceptions of knowledge I critique, my account allows us to better understand how the word “know” functions in conversation and what our intuitions track in the Gettier cases.

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  • On the Rescuing of Rights in Feminist Ethics: A Critical Assessment of Virginia Held’s Transformative Strategy

    Jeffrey Spring (University of Western Ontario)

    The following paper focuses on Virginia Held’s account of human rights. First, I provide an exegetical account of the feminist critique of rights. I then draw out and consider some of the tensions, differences, and challenges that exist between an ethics of care and an ethics of rights. Finally, I critically assess Held’s response to the feminist critique. Held’s contribution to an ethics of care signifies one noteworthy strategy for rescuing rights. Her transformative strategy is compelling, but her limited conceptualization of rights inclines her to opt for an approach that ‘fits’ rights within a framework of care. I argue that Held’s attempt to rescue rather than abandon rights by narrowly characterizing rights as a subset of care weakens the potential role of rights. A rescue effort that reclaims rights as moral practice embodying the values of care and justice would better serve Held’s transformative strategy.

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