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Morality: Its Nature and Justification by Bernard Gert (Oxford University Press)  For more than thirty years, philosopher Bernard Gert has been developing and refining his distinctive and comprehensive moral theory. His classic work, The Moral Rules: A New Rational Foundation for Morality, was first published in 1970. In 1988, Oxford published a fourth revision titled Morality: A New Justification of the Moral Rules. In this final revision, Gert has produced the fullest and most sophisticated account of this influential theoretical model. Here, he makes clear that morality is an informal system that does not provide unique answers to every moral question but does always limit the range of morally acceptable options, and so explains why some moral disagreements cannot be resolved. The importance placed on the moral ideals also makes clear that the moral rules are only one part of the moral system. A chapter that is devoted to justifying violations of the rules illustrates how the moral rules are embedded in the system and cannot be adequately understood independently of it. The chapter on reasons includes a new account of what makes one reason better than an­other and elucidates the complex hybrid nature of rationality.

Although Gert's moral theory is sophisticated, it is presented with a clarity that enables it to serve as an excellent introduction for beginning philosophy students, as well as fruitful read­ing for advanced undergraduate and graduate courses. Unlike most moral theories, his account of morality is developed in sufficient detail to be useful to those interested in prob­lems of applied ethics. This book will appeal to those engaged in business ethics, engineering ethics, environmental ethics, and especially medical ethics. In the manner of the works of Thomas Hobbes and John Stuart Mill, this book addresses the general philosophical reader and at the same time makes an important contribution to the philosophical literature.

This summary is based upon Gert’s own précis: Morality: Its Nature and Justification provides an account of morality which explains and justifies the thoughtful moral decisions and judgments of moral agents, including all of the readers of this book. The accounts of impartiality and rationality are also ac­counts of these concepts that explain their central and coherent use by thoughtful people in everyday life. The point is to describe these concepts, not to revise them. These descriptions of the concepts of impartiality, morality, and rational­ity also show the close but complex relationship between them. It is the actual coherent employment of these concepts, not what philosophers say about them, that is important. This is a book about common morality, not about philoso­phers' concepts of morality.

Morality's close relationship with impartiality and rationality becomes ap­parent only when a rational person uses only those beliefs that are shared by all rational persons (rationally required beliefs). Even with this limitation to ration­ally required beliefs, not all impartial rational persons will agree on all of their moral decisions and judgments, but they will all agree on the general moral sys­tem or framework that they use in making these moral decisions and judgments. However, if an impartial rational person uses idiosyncratic beliefs, e.g.., religious beliefs, there may be no way to reach agreement about morality. Any claim about all rational persons agreeing should be understood as a claim that all ra­tional persons who use only rationally required beliefs agree.

Given this limitation on beliefs, the relationship between rationality, impar­tiality, and morality can be formulated in several different ways. (1) All rational persons who seek agreement with other rational persons about whom they know only that they also have the rationally required beliefs must take the appropriate moral attitude toward the basic general moral rules, i.e.., that they be impartially obeyed with regard to rational persons. (2) All rational persons who view mo­rality as an informal public system that applies to all rational persons must also take the attitude toward the basic general moral rules that they be impartially obeyed with regard to all rational persons. (3) All rational persons who are im­partial with regard to all rational persons with respect to obeying the moral rules favor adopting morality as an informal public guide for all rational persons, in­cluding themselves.

Morality is not derived from the concepts of rationality and impartiality; rather the close relationship between these three concepts constitutes a justifica­tion of morality.

"Rationality" and "irrationality" are used in a number of different ways, but their most important philosophical use is as the fundamental normative terms. No moral agent, that is, no one who is responsible for his actions, would ever seriously ask, "Why should I act rationally?" when this is taken as asking, "Why shouldn't I act irrationally?"

This fundamental sense of "rationality" is captured by my account, which has three distinctive features.

The first is the explicit recognition that acting rationally requires no more than avoiding acting irrationally. Irrational actions rather than rational actions are fundamental; rational actions share no distinctive common feature except not being irrational, and so a detailed account of an irrational action is provided. This way of defining a rational action has the desirable result that the impor­tance of the category of rationally allowed actions is apparent. It explains what everyone knows, namely, that in many situations it is rationally allowed to act in any of several different incompatible ways. What is of particular philosophical interest is that in cases of conflict between morality and self-interest, it always will be rationally allowed to act in either way. But, surprisingly, it can also be rationally allowed to act both immorally and against one's self-interest, if doing so benefits some persons or groups for whom one is concerned, such as one's children, colleagues, members of one's religion, or fellow citizens.

The second feature is the hybrid character of rationality. An action can count as irrational in the basic sense only if it causes, or significantly increases the risks of, some harm to oneself. However, the reasons that can justify harm­ing oneself, that is, that can make harming oneself rational, are not limited to beliefs about harms and benefits to oneself. Beliefs about harms and benefits to others can be better or stronger reasons than beliefs about harms and benefits to oneself. The strength of a reason is completely determined by which otherwise irrational actions it can make rational. This depends completely upon the degree and kind of harm (evil) prevented or benefit (good) gained, and not by who suf­fers that harm or gains that good, oneself or someone else. The strength of a rea­son is completely distinct from the strength of a motive. The strength of a reason does not depend at all on how strongly it motivates, but is determined com­pletely by which otherwise irrational actions that it can make rational. This hy­brid character reinforces the conclusion that in cases of conflict between moral­ity and self-interest, it is rationally allowed to act in either way.

The third feature is that, when functioning as the fundamental normative concepts, reasons, rationality, and irrationality are identified by their content rather than by means of some formula, e.g., conflicting with maximizing the satisfaction of one's desires, that does not specify the content. This content is given by means of the following lists. An action is irrational in the basic sense only if it causes, or significantly increases the risks of (avoidable) death, pain, disability, loss of freedom, or loss of pleasure for oneself, and there is not an adequate reason for doing that action. A belief is a reason only if it involves avoiding one or more of the items on the previous list, or gaining greater con­sciousness, ability, freedom, or pleasure for anyone. The adequacy of the reason is determined in a particular case by determining if the harms avoided or goods gained compensate for the harm suffered. Since rational persons may rank the items on the list differently, they may sometimes disagree about which action they would advocate to someone for whom they are concerned. These lists provide objectivity to the concept of rationality, but this objectivity does not rule out any of the disagreements that rational persons actually have.

The account of an irrational action must account for both the normative function of irrationality and its content. Children are told that an action is irra­tional and should not be done because they will burn themselves, or break the toy they love, etc.. Later, when they can handle the complexity, it is pointed out that sometimes it may not be irrational to act in these ways and that in these situations they may sometimes do such actions. With varying degrees of suc­cess, we try to make clear how irrational kinds of actions can sometimes become rational in a particular situation, for example, when doing them helps someone else avoid a serious harm. The function and content are intimately related; our tone of voice and accompanying actions make clear that irrational actions are to be avoided, and at the same time make clear what kinds of actions are irrational. We explain when doing one of these kinds of actions is not irrational, that is, when there is an adequate reason for doing it.

Similarly, the account of reasons must provide not only the function of rea­sons, but also their content. It is because the primary function of reasons is to make otherwise irrational actions rational that reasons must have a specific content. If a child is going to act in a way that significantly increases the risk that he will harm himself, we demand that he provide us with reasons for acting in that way and only accept as reasons those that have a specific content. Rea­sons must have the specified content in order to perform the function of justify­ing actions, that is, making it allowable to do an otherwise irrational action. The account of a reason must provide both its function and its content; neither one without the other is adequate.

This account of rationality is formulated so that the question "Why act ra­tionally?" understood as "Why not act irrationally?" makes no sense. If rational­ity, or rather irrationality, is to play the philosophically significant role that it plays in ordinary life as well as in most philosophical theories, rational persons cannot ever favor acting irrationally. Were they ever to do so, irrationality would not be the basic normative concept, a role that, explicitly recognized or not, it has in ordinary life as well as in the works of all nonskeptical philosophers. To guarantee the fundamental normative status of irrationality, the critical test of all accounts of rationality must be whether they allow any moral agent to ever ad­vise anyone for whom they care, including themselves, to act irrationally. If any account of rationality would ever allow this, it is an inadequate account.

This account of rationality enables one to derive objective concepts of goods and evils, while still remaining dependent on the attitudes of rational per­sons. In the absence of reasons, evils or harms are what all rational persons avoid, and goods or benefits are what no rational person gives up or avoids. It follows that nothing can be both a good and an evil and that most things are neither goods nor evils. The content of irrationality and reasons is determined by the two lists of basic evils and goods that were given above. Everything that is universally regarded as a good, e.g.., health and wealth, and as an evil, disease and punishment, can be derived from these lists of basic goods and evils. This account also explains how a person may be in a situation where it is rational to choose the lesser of two evils. Since rational persons may rank the items on the list differently, there can be disagreement about what is better and worse without challenging the objectivity of the goods and evils.

The definition of the concept of impartiality is intended to capture what every­one means by saying that a person is acting impartially. "A is impartial in re­spect R with regard to group G if and only if A's actions in respect R are not influenced by which member(s) of G benefit or are harmed by these actions." What is distinctive about this account is its explicit recognition that talk about ' impartiality is elliptical, that there is no such thing as simply being impartial. Impartiality must be specified both with respect to the kind of action and with regard to the group toward whom one is impartial in this respect.

Distinguishing between impartiality and consistency shows that the widely accepted truism "impartiality requires treating like cases alike" is not true. A referee can be erratic in his refereeing without ceasing to be impartial, as long as his decisions are not influenced by who is benefited or harmed by them. How­ever, in most cases where impartiality is required, e.g.., in judges, referees, and umpires, consistency is also required.

Recognizing that impartiality must always be specified with regard to group and respect has important consequences for morality. Although almost everyone agrees that morality requires impartiality, there has been significant disagree­ment both about the group with regard to which morality requires impartiality and the respect in which morality requires impartiality with regard to this group. Moral impartiality is the kind of impartiality required by morality.

Kant and his followers claim that morality requires impartiality only with regard to moral agents, i.e.., only with regard to those who are themselves re­quired to act morally. Bentham and his followers claim that morality requires impartiality with regard to all sentient beings. The latter hold that basic moral judgments are appropriately made about the way moral agents treat any sentient beings, including nonhuman animals. The former hold that basic moral judg­ments are appropriately made only about the way moral agents treat other moral agents

Common morality accepts neither Kant nor Bentham. Rational persons need not agree on any unique determination of the group toward which morality re­quires impartiality. Although all agree that the minimal group must include all present moral agents and all former moral agents who are still sentient, some might want the group to include all potential sentient beings. But if the group toward which a person is impartial is smaller than the minimal group, e.g.., in­cludes only members of his race, religion, or nationality, then he is not acting morally. Disagreement among rational persons about the scope of morality, that is, about the size of the group toward which morality requires impartiality, is responsible for one class of unresolvable moral disagreements.

On the other hand, disagreement about the respect in which morality re­quires impartiality is resolvable. The differing views are exemplified in the writings of a single philosopher. In the second chapter of Utilitarianism, Mill says, "As between his own happiness and that of others, utilitarianism requires him to be as strictly impartial as a disinterested and benevolent spectator." Here, Mill seems to be holding that morality requires impartiality with respect to all of our actions that have any bearing on anyone's happiness. But in the fifth chap­ter, Mill says, "Impartiality ... does not seem to be regarded as a duty in itself, but rather as instrumental to some other duty." Here, Mill can be taken as hold­ing that morality requires impartiality only when one is considering the violation of a moral rule. This latter view is much closer to an adequate account of the respect in which morality requires impartiality.

To say that morality requires doing something means that an impartial ra­tional persons hold that a person should be liable to punishment for not doing that kind of action. Morality requires impartiality only with respect to obeying the basic general moral rules; it does not require impartiality with respect to following the basic general moral ideals. This account of moral impartiality ex­plains the following facts: (1) All rational persons agree that a moral agent should be liable to punishment for violating a moral rule with regard to some person when everyone knows that violating the rule with regard to that person is not acting impartially with regard to everyone in the group impartially protected by morality. (2) When no moral rule is being violated, no rational person favors liability to punishment for not following a moral ideal with regard to some per­son even when everyone knows that not following the ideal with regard to that person is not acting impartially with regard to everyone in the group impartially protected by morality.

"Morality" is sometimes used in such a wide sense that any decision about how to live one's life may count as a moral decision and any judgment about how one should act may count as a moral judgment. However, the concern of my book is with that concept of morality such that it provides all moral agents with a public guide that is known by all normal adults. Moral judgments are limited to those made about the actions (intentions, motives, and character) of persons who know what this guide prohibits, requires, discourages, encourages, and al­lows. This account of morality is not an attempt to invent a new moral system, but simply an attempt to describe that concept of morality which is relevant to its central use.

What is true of reasons and irrationality, namely, that both function and content are required for an adequate account, is also true of the concept of an immoral action. All of these concepts are taught not merely by pointing out their function but also by means of their content. For example, we teach children that it is immoral to hurt someone, to break a promise, or to deceive, and that they should not do these kinds of actions. When they can handle the complexity, we make it clear that sometimes it is not immoral to do these kinds of actions. Then, with varying degrees of success, we try to make clear that these actions are not immoral when they are done in circumstances such that one would be willing for everyone to know that they are allowed to do them. The Golden Rule and Kant's Categorical Imperative are among the better inadequate ways in which we try to make this point.

Morality differs from law and religion in that morality can be used to judge only the behavior of those who are not legitimately ignorant of what the moral system prohibits, etc.. Also, unlike law and religion, it is never irrational to act as morality encourages or requires. Incorporating all of the central features of mo­rality leads to the following definition of morality. "Morality is an informal public system applying to all rational persons, governing behavior that affects others, and includes what are commonly known as the moral rules, ideals, and virtues and has the lessening of evil or harm as its goal."

The phrase "public system" is used to refer to a guide to conduct that has the following two features: (1) All persons to whom it applies, all those whose behavior is to be guided and judged by that system, understand it and know what kind of behavior the system prohibits, requires, discourages, encourages, and allows. (2) It is not irrational for any of these persons to accept being guided and judged by that system.

The first of these features guarantees that no moral judgment is appropri­ately made about the behavior of anyone who is legitimately ignorant of what morality prohibits, etc.. Sometimes there may be disputes about whether a person is legitimately ignorant of what morality prohibits, etc.., but determining that someone is legitimately ignorant entails that it is inappropriate to make moral judgments concerning his behavior. This is why moral judgments are never made about the actions of nonhuman animals, infants, or those who are severely retarded.

The second feature of a public system, its relationship to rationality, is inti­mately related to the justification of morality. Only if morality has this second feature can morality be justified. If it were ever irrational to accept being guided or judged by morality, morality could not even be a public system, let alone one that all rational persons would favor adopting as the public system that applies to all of them. Although it is not irrational to act immorally, it is never irrational to act as morality encourages or requires. This justification of acting morally shows only that it is always rationally allowed to act morally, not that it is ra­tionally required.

The paradigm cases of public systems, namely, games, can be formal or informal. Formal public systems have a procedure for settling all disputes, in­formal public systems do not. Defining morality as an informal public system makes clear that there is no decision procedure that will settle all moral dis­agreements. Saying that this system applies to all rational persons is another way of saying that morality is universal, i.e.., that it is sometimes appropriate to make moral judgments about people in all societies at all times and places. All normal adult human beings have sufficient knowledge that they are not legitimately ig­norant of the kinds of actions that morality prohibits, etc..

That everyone knows the kinds of actions that morality prohibits, etc.., is an essential element of what is often called natural law theory. This account of mo­rality could be classified as a version of natural law theory except for the fact that most natural law theories now seem to involve some theological foundation. However, Hobbes holds a secular natural law theory, and my theory is in that tradition. This version of natural law theory is closely related to various versions of social contract theories of morality as well as to various consequentialist and Kantian theories, so that it is not surprising that this theory has been character­ized as a kind of social contract theory, as a Kantian theory, or as a kind of rule consequentialism.

Even though morality is an informal public system, that it is a public system that applies to all rational persons guarantees that there is overwhelming agreement concerning what the moral system prohibits, etc.. The philosophical de­scription of the moral system is based on this overwhelming agreement about moral matters. This moral theory explains both why there is such overwhelming agreement and why there are limited but important areas of disagreement.

Talk about the general moral rules is equivalent to talk about those simple kinds of actions that all rational persons agree would count as immoral unless the person doing the action has an adequate moral justification for doing that kind of action. These simple kinds of actions are killing, causing pain (both physical and mental), disabling, depriving of freedom, depriving of pleasure, deceiving, breaking promises, cheating, breaking the law, and failing to do one's duty. If all that is known about an action is that it is one of these kinds of ac­tions, all impartial rational persons are against doing it. Unless a person has an adequate justification, all impartial rational people favor requiring him not to do these kinds of actions, that is, favor making him liable to punishment if he does them.

Talk about general moral ideals is equivalent to talk about those simple kinds of actions that all rational persons agree would count as morally good ac­tions unless there were a moral rule prohibiting that action or a competing moral ideal. Examples of such simple kinds of actions are relieving pain and suffering, helping the needy, and encouraging people to avoid immoral actions. If all that one knows about an action is that it is one of these kinds of actions, all impartial rational persons would favor its being done. All impartial rational persons would favor encouraging people to do these kinds of actions, but they would not re­quire such actions. That is, they would not make someone liable to punishment for not doing them. When following a moral ideal conflicts with a moral rule or another moral ideal, rational persons may disagree about whether the action is morally good.

In addition to the general moral rules and ideals, morality also consists of a two-step decision procedure to be used when one is considering violating a moral rule. It involves, as the first step, describing the violation by means of its morally relevant features. These features include (1) what rule is being violated, (2) the harms caused, avoided (not caused), and prevented, (3) the relevant be­liefs and desires of the person toward whom the rule is being violated, (4) the relationship between that person and the person violating the rule, (5) the goods being promoted, (6) whether a moral rule violation is being prevented or (7) punished, (8) what alternatives are available, (9) whether the violation is being done intentionally or only knowingly, and (10) whether it is an emergency situation.

The second step of the procedure is estimating the effects of everyone knowing that this kind of violation is allowed (publicly allowed) and comparing that to one's estimate of the effects of this kind of violation not being publicly allowed. If all rational persons would estimate that the former would result in less harm than the latter, the violation is strongly justified; if all rational persons would estimate that the latter would result in less harm than the former, the vio­lation is unjustified; if rational persons disagree in their estimates of which would result in the least harm, then the violation is weakly justified. Since weakly justified violations may be justifiably punished, to call a violation weakly justified is to make a very weak claim.

This description of common morality shows that all of our moral judgments can be accounted for by regarding them as being derived from applying this coherent moral system to the facts. It is unlikely that people have this moral system consciously in mind when they make their moral decisions and judgments. However, if they use their own rankings of the evils and their own estimates of the consequences of a kind of action being publicly allowed, their explicitly use of this moral system would result in moral decisions and judgments virtually identical to the thoughtful moral decisions and judgments that they already make. (There is a strong analogy between knowing common morality and knowing the grammar of one's language.)

Common morality is essentially a systematic guide to moral behavior, and all evaluative moral judgments are judgments about the extent to which a moral agent abides by this guide. It is this moral system that explains the coherent moral decisions and judgments of rational persons. Any moral decision or judg­ment that is not accounted for by this description of the moral system can be shown to be incompatible with the vast majority of a person's other moral decisions and judgments. Common morality or the moral system is justified by showing that all rational persons, if they seek agreement among all moral agents, favor adopting common morality as a public system that applies to all rational persons.

Given the goal of reaching agreement among all moral agents, morality can be strongly justified, that is, all moral agents would favor each other adopting morality as a public guide for their behavior. However, only a weak justification for acting morally can be provided. Moreover, neither of these justifications can be provided unless the only beliefs used are those that are shared by all rational persons. Given this limitation on beliefs, it can be shown that it is rationally re­quired to endorse morality as a public system that applies to all rational persons. Given this same limitation, it can be shown only that it is always rationally al­lowed to act morally.

Although moral virtues are mentioned in the definition of morality, they are not basic features of the informal public system that is common morality; rather they are derived from the basic features of common morality. However, that the vir­tues can be so derived confirms the correctness of the account of common mo­rality. As a practical matter, the moral virtues are extremely important and mo­rality could be discussed solely in terms of these virtues. Moral virtues are those traits of character that all impartial rational persons want everyone to have. All of these virtues are closely related to the moral rules and moral ideals. To want people to have the moral virtues is to want them to obey the moral rules and to follow the moral ideals as an impartial rational person would. But since impar­tial rational persons can disagree, this does not provide a unique answer about how one should behave. A representative list of moral virtues would contain truthfulness, trustworthiness, fairness, law-abidingness, dependability, and kind­ness.

Moral virtues are not the only kind of virtues; there are also personal vir­tues, those traits of character that all rational persons want to have themselves. The most commonly discussed personal virtues are courage, prudence, and tem­perance. These virtues are not opposed to the moral virtues. On the contrary, it may be impossible for a person to have the moral virtues without having these personal virtues as well. Unfortunately, it is possible for one to have the per­sonal virtues without having the moral virtues. Like the moral virtues, the per­sonal virtues not only involve acting in certain ways, they also involve being motivated to act in these ways and even to enjoy acting in these ways. Raising children so that they have both the moral and the personal virtues is one of the most important tasks a person can perform.

This account of common morality has all of the features that most people take morality to have. It not only has the content that people normally take morality to have, it is related to impartiality and rationality in the way that most people think. This relationship is much weaker than many philosophers have wanted, but it is as strong as one can make it without significantly distorting one or more of the concepts involved. Chapters devoted to explaining why one should be moral and to clarifying the relationship of morality to law and government show that this account of morality satisfies most of what people realistically expect of morality.

Rationality, Rules, and Ideals: Critical Essays on Bernard Gert's Moral Theory edited by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Robert Audi, Norman K. Risjord (Rowman & Littlefield) is "A collection of critical essays worthy of Bernard Gert's major contri­bution to contemporary ethical theory. It was a pleasure to read the essays in conjunction with Gert's responses." -James P Sterba, University of Notre Dame

Bernard Gert's moral theory is among the clearest and most compre­hensive on the contemporary scene. It touches on elements of the dom­inant ethical orientations-utilitarianism, Kantianism, contractionism, and virtue ethics-without fitting neatly into any of those categories. For that reason, Gert's moral theory appeals to many ethicists dissatis­fied with each of the dominant formulations.

Rationality, Rules, and Ideals presents Gert's Morality, the reactions by a number of prominent scholars, and Gert's response. All told, it is a remarkably wide-ranging study of ethical theory. The work is broken down into six parts, making Rationality, Rules, and Ideals perfect for a broad-ranging course on ethical theory, following Gert's critiques of utilitariansim, Kantianism, and virtue ethics. Both students and pro­fessionals will find much material to work with in this volume. The papers contribute not only to the understanding of Gert's wide-ranging theory but to a number of important topics in ethics theory, the theory of rationality, and applied ethics.

Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is professor of philosophy at Dartmouth College. Robert Audi is professor of philosophy at the University of Nebraska. He edits the series Elements of Philosophy for Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.

Gert's Morality, like his earlier statements of his position, has many important virtues. First, it is among the clearest and most comprehensive moral theories on the contemporary scene. Second, it is bold and provocative: whether or not read­ers agree with him, Gert's forceful and straightforward formulations challenge one to grapple with his arguments. Third, in contrast with the relatively few competing comprehensive theories, Gert's moral theory is far more detailed and more concretely worked out, with numerous illustrations of each major point. By contrast with the much more common narrowly focused treatments of indi­vidual moral issues, Gert's position is far more systematic.

Because of these virtues, Gert's moral theory provides what many people are looking for. In recent years philosophers and others have expressed much dissatisfaction concerning the dominant orientations in ethics, particularly utilitarianism, Kantianism, contractarianism, and, more recently, virtue ethics. Gert's theory has affinities with each of these but does not fall neatly into any of these categories, because Gert tries to preserve the insights but avoid the problems in each of the traditional approaches. Also, Gert's theory is set forth, not with an overarching principle, but with a set of moral rules and ideals that are each ap­plicable to everyday life; so it fits better with the way that most common people think about morality.

The overall structure of Gert's theory contains three interconnected ele­ments: rationality, impartiality, and morality. Gert provides an original account of each of these concepts: a hybrid list theory of rationality, an analysis of impartiality as elliptical, and a definition of morality as public and universal. Mo­rality is conceived as constituted not only by moral rules-including standards and procedures for making reasonable exceptions to basic rules-but also by moral ideals and virtues. Gert's précis and the papers in this volume range over all of these topics. What follows is an indication of the scope of the papers in each part of the book.

Part I, Justification and Method, contains general papers by Ernst Tugendhat, Matthias Kettner, and Geoffrey Sayre-McCord. Tugendhat traces the devel­opment of Gert's claims for his justification of the moral rules and then argues that Gert conceded too much to his critics when he modified his views. Kettner argues that, while Gert provides a "value esperanto" that can be accepted by philosophers with widely disparate viewpoints, Gert's theory still needs to be supplemented by some insights from discourse ethics in order to achieve its practical goals. Sayre-McCord then contrasts Gert's "dumb bastard" theory with ideal observer theories and argues that moral theory need not be restricted to beliefs accepted by every rational person. Even if agents should not be held re­sponsible for unavoidable ignorance when they act, fundamental moral theory still may employ facts about human nature or society which only some rational persons know.

Part II, Rationality and Reasons, begins with a paper by Robert Audi in which Audi supports the basic thrust of Gert's approach to rationality but argues for three ideas that a theory of rationality, including Gert's, needs to incorporate. First, rationality might be a positive status; hence it is not simply the absence of irrationality. Second, rationality is comparative; hence it admits of greater and lesser degrees in persons or actions. Third, even when a type of a thing is ra­tional for a person to do, the person's doing it (the concrete token of that deed) may be done for a reason having nothing to do with the reason why it is the right thing to do; and then it might not be rational. Next, David Copp, after contrast­ing Gert's theory of rationality with more traditional theories in ways that com­mend Gert's theory, goes on to question whether any list theory of rationality can be helpful theoretically without being unified (such as by a concept of harm), whether it is sometimes irrational not to seek goods (as opposed to not avoiding losses of goods), and whether our desires, values, and life plans can provide reasons that can affect what it is rational for us to do. Michael Smith closes this section by defending his subjective desire-satisfaction theory of ra­tionality against Gert's criticisms of subjective theories. Smith argues that his subjective theory can accommodate the main aspects of Gert's theory that make it so intuitively attractive.

In part III, Consequences and Rules, Shelly Kagan argues forcefully that Gert has failed to snow that we are not both morally and rationally required to aid others. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong then interprets Gert as a special kind of rule consequentialist and defends a sophisticated version of act consequentialism against Gert's objections. In the end, Sinnott-Armstrong argues, the force of Gert's objections depends on the purpose of a moral theory, so Gert's criticisms fail to touch theories, including act consequentialism, that are supposed to serve purposes other than those of Gert's own theory. Susan Wolf defends Gert by lucidly presenting several practical and theoretical advantages of moral theories, like Gert's, that emphasize general rules instead of particular acts and their con­sequences.

This leads right into part IV, Ideals and Goods. John Deigh begins by sepa­rating several ways in which Gert distinguishes between moral rules and ideals and snowing now some of Gert's claims depend upon conflating these distinctions. In particular, Deigh challenges Gert's use of impartiality to distinguish rules from ideals. Then Deign proposes his own alternative account of moral ideals. Doug MacLean follows by characterizing Gert as a Hobbesian and re­vealing important advantages of a Hobbesian approach to morality, with its em­phasis on avoiding evils. Frances Kamm responds by revealing some ways in which Gert deviates from Hobbes and falls more in line with common sense morality, with its emphasis on the separateness of persons. Ted Bond closes this section by arguing that morality is not exclusively concerned with avoiding and preventing evils, but aims instead to "create and maintain the good relations among people which enable individual persons to live rich and fulfilling self­directed lives."

Part V, Virtue and Character, includes papers by Julia Driver and Marcia Baron. Driver claims that Gert's views on moral virtue are distorted by his defi­nition of morality as necessarily universal, public, and rational so that his ac­count of moral virtues is further from commonsense morality in this area than Gert acknowledges. Baron, while agreeing with Gert's moderate impartialism, argues that Gert's view of morality is too restricted because of his emphasis on punishment, which leaves Gert unable to recognize several kinds of moral wrongness that do not warrant explicit punishment of the kind that Gert has in mind. In particular, according to Baron, the moral importance of character and feelings is underestimated by Gert.

In part VI, Reply, Gert responds to the major objections raised by the other contributors. Although he admits that the critical papers nave shown him several ways in which details of his theory need to be reformulated, Gert argues that the core of his theory remains intact. Overall, his response snows that his view is more nuanced and resilient than many critics nave thought. This response by itself constitutes a major contribution to moral theory that should help focus future debates on these important issues.

It will be obvious that this book, together with Gert's Morality, constitutes ample material for a wide-ranging course in ethics. What is perhaps less obvious is that such a course can be offered at several different curricular levels, de­pending on the amount of material to be covered, the level of detail in which it is treated, and the character of the institution and students in question. The collec­tion is also designed to serve as material for a segment of a course. Each part can serve as a segment with a corresponding selection from Morality. Gert criti­cizes utilitarianism, Kantianism, and aspects of virtue ethics, and some of the papers respond in their defense; so the volume is eminently useful as a supple­ment to course sections on those topics. The same use could be made of the chapters in Morality on rationality and reason together with the corresponding section of this book.

Given the philosophical value of the papers, especially in the context of Gert's replies, we are confident that both professionals working in ethics and students of the subject will find much to work with here, whether in relation to teaching or in connection with research in the field. Each paper-particularly in the context of the admirably broad but concise précis of Morality Gert has provided-is essentially self-contained. The discussions at the conference made it plain that, both in philosophy and in other fields, there is a receptivity to the kinds of debates into which these papers enter. They contribute not only to un­derstanding Gert's wide-ranging theory but to a number of important topics in ethical theory, the theory of rationality, and applied ethics.

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