Skip to main content

Editorial Note

The reader may have noticed that the last issues of ETMP encompass an increasing number of reviews of books, some of them written in another language than English. We are happy to have two active book review editors who make that ETMP now has a substantial book review section. This issue contains, among others, reviews of Emanuela Ceva, Interactive Justice (by Fabian Wendt), David Shoemaker, Responsibility from the Margins (by Anneli Jefferson) and Benjamin Eidelson Discrimination and Disrespect (by Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen).

Ron Aboodi opens this issue with an article on de dicto moral motivation: doing the right thing because it is right. He argues that lacking an effective de dicto moral motivation would put the agent in a bad position for responding in the morally-best manner (relative to her epistemic state) in a certain type of situations. Two central features of the relevant type of situations are (1) the appropriateness of the agent’s uncertainty concerning her underived moral values, and (2) the practical, moral importance of resolving this uncertainty. Aboodi argues that in some situations that are marked by these two features the most virtuous response is deciding to conduct a deep moral inquiry for a de dicto moral purpose. In the next paper, Andreas Christiansen examines the claim, commonly found in the ethical debate on genetic modification (GM), that some anti-GM argument would also apply to an established, ethically accepted technology, and that the anti-GM argument is therefore unsuccessful. Christiansen discusses whether this argumentative strategy, the Similarity Argument, is sound. After presenting a logically valid, generic form of the Similarity Argument, he shows that it is subject to three types of objections.

Jonathan Surrovell’s article deals with moral status. Many theories of moral status, Surrovell argues, that are intended to ground pro-choice views on abortion, tie full moral status to advanced cognitive capabilities. Extant accounts of this kind are inconsistent with the intuition that the profoundly cognitively disabled have full moral status. Surrovell improves upon these extant accounts by combining an anti-luck condition with Bonnie Steinbock’s stratification of moral status. Surrovell argues that modal accounts of luck provide a non-speciesist basis for attributing the lack of advanced cognitive capacities in humans to luck without doing the same for non-human animals. Many maintain, says Terrance McConell, that if a beneficiary has a right to a benefit provided by his benefactor, then the former cannot owe the latter gratitude for that benefit. In his paper he argues against that view. He gives examples in which benefactors provide others with benefits to which they have a right even though most others are denying them that right. These benefactors are moral standouts; they do what is right when most similarly situated agents fail to do so. McConell then spells out some of the features of these benefactors’ actions that make them worthy of gratitude.

The next two articles discuss issues in political theory. According to John Halstead, almost all democratic theorists accept ‘High Stakes Instrumentalism’ (HSI). According to HSI, we ought to use undemocratic procedures in order to prevent high stakes errors -- very substantively bad or unjust outcomes. However, democratically produced severe substantive injustice is much more common than many proponents of HSI have realised. Halstead examines the implications of this fact for democratic theory. Suppose, says Klemens Kappel in his paper, that we have a persistent disagreement about a particular set of policy options, not because of an underlying moral disagreement, or a mere conflict of interest, but rather because we disagree about a crucial non-normative factual assumption underlying the justification of the policy choices. The main question in Kappel’s paper is what political legitimacy requires in such cases, or indeed whether there are defensible answers to that question. Kappel argues that under certain plausible assumptions regarding legitimacy, there are serious difficulties in identifying legitimate choices in fact-dependent policy disagreements.

Two articles deal with questions in animals ethics. Kyle Johanssen discusses whether concern for the interests of wild animals requires us to intervene in nature, e.g., when child mortality rates among them are very high because many of them give birth to large numbers of uncared-for offspring. Johanssen argues that animal rights theorists should embrace fallibility-constrained interventionism: the view that intervention in nature is desirable but should be constrained by our ignorance of the inner workings of ecosystems. In the future, a new form of gene editing called Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats may give us the capacity to intervene without perpetually interfering with wild animals’ liberties. James Yeates & Julian Savalescu argue that the ethics of human-pet relationships should take the specific nature of these relationships into account, in particular the uniquely combined features of mutual companionship, quasi-family-membership, proximity, direct contact, privacy, dependence, and partiality. The approaches to ethical questions about pets should overlap with those of animal ethics and family ethics (and, for veterinary issues, with healthcare ethics), and so need not represent an isolated field of enquiry, but rather the intersection of those more established fields.

Perspectivists hold that what you ought to do is determined by your epistemic position. Objectivists hold that what you ought to do is determined by the facts irrespective of your perspective. In their paper, Jonathan Way & Daniel Whiting explore an influential argument for perspectivism which appeals to the thought that the normative is action guiding. The crucial premise of the argument is that you ought to φ only if you are able to φ for the reasons which determine that you ought to φ. They show that this premise can be understood in different ways. On one reading, it provides no support for perspectivism. On another reading, the premise lacks support. So, the argument fails. An important upshot of the paper is that the objectivist can embrace the thought about guidance. The subject of the next paper is the value of jokes. Nathaniel Sharadin examines the relationship between a joke’s being morally objectionable and its being funny. Drawing on recent work by Aaron Smuts, he identifies the mechanism by which the negative moral value of a joke can affect its comedic value negatively. Pace Smuts’ view, Sharadin argues that the very materials that underwrite the mechanism by which moral flaws can attenuate amusement, can also operate to make the negative moral value of a joke affect its comedic value positively.

Is faith a virtue? According to Ann Jeffrey, recent literature provides compelling arguments for a positive answer to this question. However, neo-Aristotelian virtue ethics depicts the fully virtuous person as having all the cognitive perfections necessary for possessing practical wisdom. The psychological profile of the fully virtuous person on the neo-Aristotelian picture is incompatible with faith’s role as a virtue which depends on limitations of its possessor. Jeffrey argues that because of tensions internal to the standard neo-Aristotelian view, the neo-Aristotelian has good reason to revise her account of virtue and picture of the fully virtuous person. In the last article of this issue, Filippo Santoni di Sio raises the question how should autonomous vehicles be programmed to behave in the event of an unavoidable accident in which the only choice open is one between causing different damages or losses to different objects or persons. In his paper, he addresses this question mainly from major principles and norms embedded in the Anglo-American jurisprudence and case law on the ‘doctrine of necessity’; and assesses which, if any, of these principles and norms can be utilised to find reasonable guidelines for solving the ethical issue of the regulation of the programming of autonomous vehicles in emergency situations.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to A. W. Musschenga.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Musschenga, A.W., Heeger, F.R. Editorial Note. Ethic Theory Moral Prac 20, 219–221 (2017).

Download citation

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: