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Nicholas Smyth
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Excellent, as always. "In our story, is Wilt's ownership just? Is Wilt entitled to his property?" I am inclined to think, in spite of what you claim in the first couple of paragraphs, that the persons in question, at this stage, do *not* have the complex system of concepts, reactive attitudes and values that go along with what we call "morality". I'm inclined to think that the question of Wilt's entitlement is nonsensical; we are dealing with a development that was a historical pre-requisite for the development of morality itself (The Genealogy of Morals is a great source for the idea that moral reactions emerged out of the creditor-debtor relationship, which seems to presuppose the idea of property). Of course, these kinds of thoughts will not be recieved well by the philosophers you mention here, whose ideological committments tend to blind them to the historical preconditions for their own views. That said, speculative genealogies can only do so much, but this one does a hell of a lot.
Toggle Commented Jan 29, 2012 on The Origins of Property II at Tomkow.com
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I agree. Thought-experiments must be taken to illustrate ethical problems, not to "Test" for compatibility or incompatibility amongst allegedly muddled "folk" intuitions, for exactly the reasons you state here. This is why I've always used the trolley problem simply as an illustrative guide, one which clearly points out the difference between comission and omission. The point about utilitarianism is not that it gets the answer to this particular problem wrong, but rather that it cannot make sense of this distinction. As an aside, I find the term "folk" distasteful: it has subtle class implications, according to which there are the ordinary, untutored and basically unreflective folk, and there are the philosophers who are privy to secret knowledge about them. We philosophers know that there are such things as "folk intuitions" that stand in need of justification, and the folk do not.
Toggle Commented May 1, 2011 on Trolley Problems at Tomkow.com
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May 1, 2011