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10 Moral Paradoxes

10 Moral Paradoxes

Saul Smilansky

ISBN: 978-0-470-69586-9

Apr 2008, Wiley-Blackwell

160 pages

$26.99

Description

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

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

"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)


  • 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