virtue

Trust and Institutions

Last week I attended part of a fascinating conference on Trust, organized by the Blavatnik School of Government in Oxford. In her opening paper, Katherine Hawley raised many interesting questions, including those of whether trustworthiness is a virtue and whether it can be a virtue of institutions. Continue reading

Two Kinds of Compassion

Recent stories of those such as Miguel Pajares, who died from the Ebola virus after catching it from those for whom he was caring, seem to provide paradigmatic examples of compassion. Continue reading

How Should I Vote?

Yesterday’s elections in the UK raised again an old question, which receives surprisingly little public discussion. Should I vote on the basis of my own self-interest (or the interest of my family), or should I vote on moral, or ‘other-regarding’, considerations? Continue reading

Moral Luck Revisited

The tragic sinking of the South Korean ferry raises again the problem of moral luck which Bernard Williams did so much to expose in his famous 1976 article on that topic. The South Korean president has now claimed that the captain of the ferry is a murderer, implying that he is subject to the same degree of blame as any other murderer. Continue reading

Can you be too ethical?

In a recent column in The Guardian, Andrew Brown argues that there are several ways in which one might, in a sense, be ‘too ethical’: http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/dec/27/can-you-be-too-ethical Continue reading

A Puzzle about Parenting

Consider the following case. Sikes, walking home late one evening, comes across an envelope containing a thousand pounds outside a neighbour’s house. He’s pretty sure it belongs to the neighbour, as she’d told him she would be withdrawing the money from the bank to buy a new wheelchair for her disabled mother. It is clear to Sikes that no one is looking, so he scoops up the envelope and enters his own house. To most of us, this seems appalling behaviour. Sykes has selfishly put his own interests before those of his neighbour and her mother. Continue reading

Armstrong the Good Giraffe and the Moral Value of Effort

Let me introduce you to Armstrong the Good Giraffe. Appearing in the news last week due to his goodness (and probably his giraffeness), Armstrong is a man in a costume who goes around voluntarily doing good deeds. Throwing himself into helpful tasks – such as providing free water and bananas to runners, picking up litter from beaches, and cleaning cages at cats and dogs homes – Armstrong clocks up an impressive number of non-trivial good deeds. Most impressively of all, he reportedly enjoys it.

He comments that doing these good deeds makes him feel ‘happy’ and ‘cheery’ and that this is why he does them. At first glance, this may make us think he is particularly remarkable: he not only goes about investing more time and energy into being helpful than most would reasonably expect of a person, but he also relishes it. But, I want to ask, are people like Armstrong really at the top of the moral ranks? Is there not something about effort – about having to try – that we value? Continue reading

Buying authenticity: plagiarism checking and counter-checking

Alex Tabarrok on Marginal Revolution posted about how the software company Turnitin is not just helping schools detect student plagiarism, but also providing WriteCheck, a tool for checking that a paper is non-infringing. Are they providing a useful service for conscientious students to avoid unconscious infringement, or just playing both sides of the fence, profiting from an arms race where they sell all the arms?

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