Professor Philip Pettit gave the 2011 Uehiro Lectures on 1-3 June with his characteristic imaginativeness, clarity, breadth of knowledge, and intellectual generosity. As a result, we were treated to a brilliant set of three lectures and ensuing discussions. Pettit set out by developing the concept of “robustly demanding" goods, whose existence in the actual world depends not just on a good state of affairs occurring in the actual world, but on good states of affairs occurring in various other possible worlds as well. In his first lecture, Pettit suggested that virtues deliver various robustly demanding goods including love and friendship, and argued that we desire the virtues in ourselves and others because of the value of robustly demanding goods. In his second lecture, he argued that freedom, dignity and respect are best conceived of as robustly demanding goods, and that they can and should be delivered by laws, norms and internal constraints. In his third lecture, Pettit defended consequentialism by arguing that if a consequentialist were to value robustly demanding goods, his theory would be significantly less revisionary of our ordinary moral judgments than consequentialism is typically taken to be. The arguments of all three lectures were surprising and creative, and the lectures will leave consequentialists and non-consequentialists alike with much to reflect on about the nature of the good and the right
Making Good: The Challenge of Robustly Demanding Values
Lecture 1. Robust demands and the need for virtue
My loyalty or fidelity or honesty means that I can be relied upon to display a concern for your interests across a range of possible scenarios, not just in actual or probable circumstances. But the good constituted by this robust concern materializes as a result of my virtuous dispositions, not just as a result of what I do. And so virtue is a way of making good, not just an aid to doing good; it creates value in its own right.
Resources: Listen to Lecture 1 (MP3)
Lecture 2. Robust demands and the need for law
The common subjection to law means in any community that we give each other certain legal rights robustly, not just actually or probably. The freedom, respect and dignity that you thereby enjoy come about as a result of how we others are legally constrained; they do not materialize just as a result of what we do, or even, unlike virtue-based goods, as a result of what we are disposed to do. And so law is a distinct way of making good, not just an aid or prompt to doing good; it too creates value in its own right.
Resources: Listen to Lecture 2 (MP3)
Lecture 3. Virtues, laws and consequentialism
The debate between consequentialism and opposing doctrines turns on whether doing right always means doing good: that is, promoting expected value. How is that debate going to develop once we see that we are required to be virtuous, not just to act virtuously; and to be legally constrained, not just to act legally? Which side in the debate is going to be better able to accommodate the robust demands of virtue-based and law-based values?
Resources: Listen to Lecture 3 (MP3)