The Robust Demands of the Good: Ethics with Attachment, Virtue, and Respect

ISBN : 9780198732600

Philip Pettit
304 Pages
148 x 222 mm
Pub date
May 2015
Uehiro Series in Practical Ethics
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  • An original approach to how we relate to each other in the world
  • Illuminates a variety of key moral debates and issues

Some goods that we generate for others, as when we give them attention or help or encouragement, require us to provide that benefit under the actual circumstances where we interact. Other goods that we generate require not just that we actually provide that sort of benefit but that we are also poised to provide it, even should actual circumstances change in various ways. These goods demand robust and not merely actual beneficence. Thus to give you friendship I must be robustly, not just accidentally, attentive to your needs; to give you a virtue like honesty I must be robustly disposed to tell you the truth; and to give you respect I must be robustly committed to showing restraint in my dealings with you. 
In this original contribution to normative ethics, Philip Pettit charts the range of robustly demanding goods, building on his earlier work on the robust demands of freedom. He explores the rationale behind our concern for being able to rely on others to treat us well, not just for being lucky enough to enjoy good treatment. And then he traces the implications for ethics of giving a central place to robustly demanding goods. The lessons he draws teach us that there is a tighter connection between being good and doing good than is generally recognized; that it is harder to count as doing good than it is to count as doing evil; and that there is a serious issue, ignored in many ethical theories, about the basis on which we should deliberate in day-to-day decisions about what it is right to do.
The book amounts to a radical rethinking of ethics in which many standard positions shift or fall. The association between being good and doing good casts doubt on the orthodox dichotomy between evaluating agents and evaluating actions. The calibration between doing good and doing evil explains the Knobe effect, so called, as well as explaining the superficial appeal of doctrines like that of double effect. And the investigation of how to be guided in deliberating about the right reduces the gap between the recommendations of approaches like Kantianism, contractualism, and virtue theory and their common, consequentialist foe.


1: The Robust Demands of Attachment
2: The Robust Demands of Virtue
3: The Robust Demands of Respect
4: The Rationale of Robust Demands
5: Doing Good and Being Good
6: Doing Good and Doing Evil
7: Doing Good and Doing Right
Appendix I. Reconstructing attachment, virtue and respect
Appendix II. Robustness and Probability
Appendix III. Robust robustness

About the author: 

Philip Pettit is L.S.Rockefeller University Professor of Politics and Human Values, Princeton University and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy, Australian National University. Among his books are The Common Mind (1993), Republicanism (1997), Rules, Reasons and Norms (2002), Made with Words (2008), On the Peoples Terms (2012) and Just Freedom (2014). He has co-authored The Economy of Esteem (2004, with Geoffrey Brennan), A Political Philosophy in Public Life (2010, with Jose Marti) and Group Agency(2011 with Christian List). Common Minds: Themes from the Philosophy of Philip Pettitappeared with OUP in 2007.

"Known for his cutting-edge work in social and political theory, Pettit (Princeton and Australian National Univ.) presents a superbly articulated, fine-grained, and timely account of ethics whose "first demand" is to cherish the quality of life and relationships... Essential." - S. A. Mason, CHOICE

"The rich, comprehensive view Pettit develops in this volume will more than repay engagement by philosophers working in normative ethics, and metaethics, and the theory of action." - Paul Hurley, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews Online

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