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10 Moral Paradoxes

ISBN: 978-0-470-69586-9
160 pages
April 2008, Wiley-Blackwell
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Presenting ten diverse and original moral paradoxes, this cutting edge work of philosophical ethics makes a focused, concrete case for the centrality of paradoxes within morality.
  • Explores what these paradoxes can teach us about morality and the human condition
  • Considers a broad range of subjects, from familiar topics to rarely posed questions, among them "Fortunate Misfortune", "Beneficial Retirement" and "Preferring Not To Have Been Born"
  • Asks whether the existence of moral paradox is a good or a bad thing
  • Presents analytic moral philosophy in a provocative, engaging and entertaining way; posing new questions, proposing possible solutions, and challenging the reader to wrestle with the paradoxes themselves
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List of Figures viii

Acknowledgments ix

Introduction 1

1 Fortunate Misfortune 11

2 The Paradox of Beneficial Retirement 23

3 Two Paradoxes about Justice and the Severity of Punishment 33

4 Blackmail: The Solution 42

5 The Paradox of Non-Punishment 50

6 On Not Being Sorry about the Morally Bad 59

7 Choice-Egalitarianism and the Paradox of the Baseline 67

8 Morality and Moral Worth 77

9 The Paradox of Moral Complaint 90

10 Preferring Not to Have Been Born 100

11 A Meta-Paradox: Are Paradoxes Bad? 113

12 Reflections on Moral Paradox 122

Postscript: The Future and Moral Paradox 134

References 138

Index 142

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Saul Smilansky is a professor in the department of philosophy at the University of Haifa, Israel. He is the author of the widely acclaimed book, Free Will and Illusion (2000) and has published articles in many of the leading philosophical journals.
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  • Presents 10 diverse and original examples of moral paradox, among them "Fortunate Misfortune", "Beneficial Retirement" and "Preferring Not To Have Been Born"
  • Explores what these paradoxes can teach us about morality and the human condition
  • Considers a broad range of subjects, from familiar topics to rarely posed questions
  • Makes a concrete case for the centrality of paradox within morality
  • Asks whether the existence of moral paradox is a good or a bad thing
  • Presents analytic moral philosophy in a provocative, engaging and entertaining way; posing new questions, proposing possible solutions, and challenging the reader to wrestle with the paradoxes themselves
See More
"This is an excellent book which I recommend wholeheartedly both as a source of beneficial thought experiments for the professional moral philosopher, and as a better stimulus for the student of moral philosophy than any theory-focused book could possibly be . . . It is clearly, elegantly and succinctly written, it is provocative and sometimes perplexing without ever crossing the line into the melodramatic or the precious and, perhaps best of all, it promotes tentative conclusions whilst leaving the reader plenty of space to pursue each of the issues further for herself." (The Analysis Trust, 3 July 2011)

“Smilansky’s examples are freshly minted… They’re thought provoking, and Smilansky’s discussion is a pleasure… [I]f we take morality seriously, we need to reflect with open minds about the kinds of cases he describes, and finding views we can live with will constitute some kind of progress in our moral life.” (Mark Sainsbury FBA, Times Literary Supplement)

“Saul Smilansky's 10 Moral Paradoxes is a delightful book. The paradoxes are easy to appreciate and though it's written in a light and accessible style, it still has plenty of philosophical heft. ” (Michael Cholbi, PEA Soup)

“His writing is clear and lively. He avoids unnecessary technicalities. His ideas are grounded in vivid examples.” (Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews, May 2009)

“[B]rief, succinct, and a pleasure to read. Some of the chapters (for instance, the chapter on Fortunate Misfortune) would also make excellent reading for seminars on any undergraduate course… It is well worth reading.” (Theoria)

"Smilansky has written a book in which he argues, in my view persuasively, that much of our thinking within and about morality leads to paradox... [He] delights in the complexity of the moral life and his approach is tailored to uncover rather than to conceal that complexity. Moral thinking can and should be as deep, as exhilarating and as surprising as intelligently reflective life itself... This is an excellent book which I recommend wholeheartedly... I know of no better book to serve as an introduction to moral philosophy." J.A. Burgess, Analysis, June 13, 2011

"This is a delightful and engaging little book. With its bite-size chapters, lively exposition, and important subject matter, this is the kind of book that can spark an interest in philosophy among those unfamiliar with it. But its appeal is not limited to neophytes; it poses significant new challenges to moral theory that even hardened professional philosophers will find stimulating and provocative."
Jeff McMahan, Rutgers University

"Smilansky has an unerring eye for noticing intriguing – sometimes quite startling – paradoxes, both in our common unreflective attitudes to much of the business of ordinary life and in our more reasoned positions on a wide variety of public issues and personal concerns. From retirement to blackmail to punishment to the nature of moral complaint, his ability to isolate the anomalies and inconsistencies that beset our thinking about these and other subjects provides us with a set of essays that are at once provocative and illuminating. No one can fail to benefit from reading this book."
Hillel Steiner, Manchester University

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