This essay presents a critical review of recent literature on evil in medieval philosophy, as understood by thinkers from Anselm of Canterbury onward. "Evil" is taken to include not only serious, deliberate wrongdoing, but also everyday sins done from ignorance or passion. Special attention is paid to Aquinas's De Malo, Giles of Rome and the aftermath of the 1277 Condemnation, scholarly disputes about Scotus's teachings, and commentaries on the Nicomachean Ethics by Walter Burley, Gerald Odonis, and John Buridan.
Aristotle's account of natural slavery appears to be internally inconsistent concerning whether slavery is advantageous to the natural slave. Whereas the Politics asserts that slavery is beneficial to the slave, the ethical treatises deny such a claim. Examination of Aristotle's arguments suggests a distinction which resolves the apparent contradiction. Aristotle distinguishes between the common benefit between two people who join together in an association And the same benefit which exists between a whole and its parts. Master and slave share no common benefit, but instead the slave receives the same benefit a master does, albeit only through participation in the master as a part within a whole. Although Aristotle's distinction hardly justifies his doctrine of slavery, it saves Aristotle from one alleged internal inconsistency and sheds light on what Aristotle means by association and the common good.
The accepted view that Gassendi's ethics is a Christianized form of Epicureanism is incomplete: there is extensive and direct influence of Aristotle's works on the key concepts of Gassendi's ethics, while Epicurean ethics is itself largely informed by Aristotle's views. In the first part of this paper, the notion of freedom as choice informed by rational judgment is examined, and the foundation of Gassendi's intellectualist view of freedom is established in Aristotle's notion of prohairesis. In the second part, the nature of happiness is examined, as well as the relationship between happiness and pleasure, and the contemplative as well as active components of happiness. The third part examines the significance of ethics as an ongoing activity of discernment and regulation of desires: the development of a "second nature" through habitual practice of virtues. The paper concludes with a brief consideration of Aristotle's influence on Gassendi's (and through him - on Locke's) political philosophy.
"Animal right" is an important political and philosophical concept that has its roots in the work of Francis Hutcheson. Developing ideas derived from his natural-law predecessors, Hutcheson stressed the category of acquired or adventitious right to explain how animals might gain rights through becoming members of a community guided by a moral sense. This theoretical innovation had consequences not just for animals, but for making sense of how all of the formerly rightless might gain rights. Examining Hutcheson's development of an important, if problematic, concept allows us to think of rights not through the natural right tradition of Locke, but rather in connection with Bentham—as granted to those who become useful to the community and grounded in feeling and utility, not reason or language.
This paper is concerned to bring out the philosophical contribution that Thomas Reid makes in his discussions of promising. Reid discusses promising in two contexts: he argues that the practice of promising presupposes the belief that the promisor is endowed with what he calls 'active power' (EAP, IV.6), and he argues against Hume's claim that the very act of promising—and the obligation to do as one promised—are "artificial," or the products of human convention (EAP, V.6). In addition to explaining what Reid says in each of these two contexts, the paper demonstrates that the two discussions are linked. It is, in part, because he thinks that promises are a special kind of act (they are what he calls 'social acts', which he contrasts with 'solitary acts')—performable solely through the exercise of our native, natural capacities—that he thinks that the practice of promising presupposes active power. Towards this end, the paper explains how Reid conceives of active power and explains his concept of a social act. The paper argues that, when considered as part of a single, unitary conception of the nature of promises, Reid's two discussions provide important insights into the nature of promising, particularly with regard to the sense in which promisory obligations are conditional: they are conditional upon a rather short list of circumstances that are not within our power—a shorter list than those on which other obligations are conditional.
Contemporary Kant scholarship generally takes 'humanity' in Kant's ethical writings to refer to beings with rational capacities. However, his claims that only the good will has unqualified goodness and that humanity is unconditionally valuable suggests that humanity might be the good will. This problem seems to have infiltrated some prominent scholarship, and Richard Dean has recently argued that, in fact, humanity is indeed the good will. This paper defends, and tries to make sense of, the more conventional view that humanity and the good will are distinct.