- An original approach to how we relate to each other in the world
- Illuminates a variety of key moral debates and issues
Some goods that we generate for others, as when we give them attention or help or encouragement, require us to provide that benefit under the actual circumstances where we interact. Other goods that we generate require not just that we actually provide that sort of benefit but that we are also poised to provide it, even should actual circumstances change in various ways. These goods demand robust and not merely actual beneficence. Thus to give you friendship I must be robustly, not just accidentally, attentive to your needs; to give you a virtue like honesty I must be robustly disposed to tell you the truth; and to give you respect I must be robustly committed to showing restraint in my dealings with you.
In this original contribution to normative ethics, Philip Pettit charts the range of robustly demanding goods, building on his earlier work on the robust demands of freedom. He explores the rationale behind our concern for being able to rely on others to treat us well, not just for being lucky enough to enjoy good treatment. And then he traces the implications for ethics of giving a central place to robustly demanding goods. The lessons he draws teach us that there is a tighter connection between being good and doing good than is generally recognized; that it is harder to count as doing good than it is to count as doing evil; and that there is a serious issue, ignored in many ethical theories, about the basis on which we should deliberate in day-to-day decisions about what it is right to do.
The book amounts to a radical rethinking of ethics in which many standard positions shift or fall. The association between being good and doing good casts doubt on the orthodox dichotomy between evaluating agents and evaluating actions. The calibration between doing good and doing evil explains the Knobe effect, so called, as well as explaining the superficial appeal of doctrines like that of double effect. And the investigation of how to be guided in deliberating about the right reduces the gap between the recommendations of approaches like Kantianism, contractualism, and virtue theory and their common, consequentialist foe.
"Known for his cutting-edge work in social and political theory, Pettit (Princeton and Australian National Univ.) presents a superbly articulated, fine-grained, and timely account of ethics whose "first demand" is to cherish the quality of life and relationships... Essential." - (S. A. Mason, CHOICE)
"The rich, comprehensive view Pettit develops in this volume will more than repay engagement by philosophers working in normative ethics, and metaethics, and the theory of action." - (Paul Hurley, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Online)
Lecture 1. Robust demands and the need for virtue
My loyalty or fidelity or honesty means that I can be relied upon to display a concern for your interests across a range of possible scenarios, not just in actual or probable circumstances. But the good constituted by this robust concern materializes as a result of my virtuous dispositions, not just as a result of what I do. And so virtue is a way of making good, not just an aid to doing good; it creates value in its own right.
Lecture 2. Robust demands and the need for law
The common subjection to law means in any community that we give each other certain legal rights robustly, not just actually or probably. The freedom, respect and dignity that you thereby enjoy come about as a result of how we others are legally constrained; they do not materialize just as a result of what we do, or even, unlike virtue-based goods, as a result of what we are disposed to do. And so law is a distinct way of making good, not just an aid or prompt to doing good; it too creates value in its own right.
Lecture 3. Virtues, laws and consequentialism
The debate between consequentialism and opposing doctrines turns on whether doing right always means doing good: that is, promoting expected value. How is that debate going to develop once we see that we are required to be virtuous, not just to act virtuously; and to be legally constrained, not just to act legally? Which side in the debate is going to be better able to accommodate the robust demands of virtue-based and law-based values?