The Limits of Kindness

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2013-10-15
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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Caspar Hare presents a novel approach to questions of what we ought to do, and why we ought to do it. The traditional way to approach this subject is to begin by supposing a foundational principle, and then work out its implications. Consequentialists say that we ought to make the world impersonally better, for instance, while Kantian deontologists say that we ought to act on universalizable maxims. And contractualists say that we ought to act in accordance with the terms of certain hypothetical contracts. These principles are all grand and controversial. The motivating idea behind The Limits of Kindness is that we can tackle some of the most difficult problems in normative ethics by starting with a principle that is humble and uncontroversial. Being moral involves wanting particular other people to be better off. From these innocuous beginnings, Hare leads us to surprising conclusions about how we ought to resolve conflicts of interest, whether we ought to create some people rather than others, what we ought to want in an infinite world, when we ought to make sacrifices for the sake of needy strangers, and why we cannot, on pain of irrationality, attribute great importance to the boundaries between people.

Author Biography

Caspar Hare is Associate Professor of Philosophy at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He completed his PhD at Princeton University, and his previous book, On Myself, and Other Less Important Subjects (Princeton University Press, 2009) was about ethical egoism and the metaphysics of the self, and was named one of CHOICE Magazine's 'Outstanding Academic Titles for 2010'. He has published numerous articles on topics in ethics, metaphysics, and the theory of practical rationality in journals including Ethics, Nous, Analysis, Philosophical Studies, the Australasian Journal of Philosophy, the Journal of Philosophy, and Philosophy and Public Affairs.

Table of Contents

1. The Good Will
2. First Steps -- The Morality of Rescue
3. Rational Responses to Sweetening-Insensitive Preferences
4. Efficiency and the Greater Good
5. The Non-Identity Problem
6. Killing to Prevent Killings
7. Robust Essences
8. Rational Constraints on Desire-Like Attitudes
9. Morphing
10. Transparent Conflicts
11. Infinity and The Limits of Good Will
12. The Needy I
13. The Needy II
14. Commitment

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