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Boulder : Westview Press. Given this importance of sacrifice for some important topics in contemporary moral philosophy we might expect there to be a significant philosophical literature examining the nature of sacrifice. This is not the case. In fact, analytic philosophers have only recently started to see sacrifice as something that is worthy of sustained philosophical investigation in its own right.

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This debate about the nature of sacrifice remains in its infancy and there are not more than a handful papers on this topic, let alone an anthology. Thus the aim of this special issue is to foster a more explicit and direct discussion of the concept of sacrifice and its importance in moral philosophy.

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The papers in this volume make an important contribution to our understanding of sacrifice in three areas. The first group of papers investigates the nature of sacrifice. The next group of papers investigates the role of sacrifice in moral philosophy. Three of these papers investigate the role of sacrifice in our moral lives generally, while two investigate the role of sacrifice in relation to particular moral theories. The final two papers investigate the value of sacrifice in relation to political and theological issues.

The first widely agreed upon feature of sacrifice is that it must involve a cost to the agent performing the act. Jonathan Dancy Dancy, J. Moral Reasons. Oxford : Blackwell. This element of sacrifice has tended to be the focus of philosophical discussion, though it is perhaps a somewhat thinner notion than the everyday use of the term.

As Overvold Overvold, M. However, the claim that a sacrifice involves a cost to the agent leaves a number of questions unanswered.


The first concerns the relevant comparison against which an act should be considered costly. One option would be to hold that the relevant comparison is to the position the agent was in before performing the act. However, this seems to be the wrong approach, as cases where an agent opts to cut her losses and chooses the least costly option from a range of costly alternatives should not count as cases of sacrifice Archer Archer, A. Instead, we should view sacrifice in a counterfactual way, in which the agent is judged to have chosen a costly option over a less costly action that was available to her Archer Archer, A.

Carbonnell Carbonnell, V. We can also be said to make a sacrifice when we endure some loss that is not compensated for, where this is understood as one that is not directly replaced without loss. For example, consider a child who dedicates her life to becoming a gymnast and so loses out on many of the pleasures of a normal childhood such as playdates, ice cream and lazy weekend mornings. According to Carbonell, the gymnast should count as making a sacrifice even if her decision to dedicate her life to gymnastics results in a net gain in well-being. This view fits most comfortably with an objective list view of well-being according to which there are a number of different sources of well-being.

The contributions in this volume extend this discussion of the moral significance of sacrifice in a number of ways.

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He distinguishes various ways in which a sacrifice is of no special moral significance and then indicates different ways in which it is. He then considers the question whether a sacrifice can be morally required by presenting arguments in favour of and against that view. His discussion stresses the need for a finer-grained discussion of sacrifice and exemplifies some of the problems that a unified and systematic theory of sacrifice is facing. Most of the literature presupposes the standard account which views demandingness as a matter of costs to the agent but does not argue for it.

Very recently, however, various new theories have challenged this standard account. Van Ackeren defends the standard view of demandingness against the recent challenges by presenting a new variant of it. To van Ackeren demandingness is only a matter of costs to the agent.

First, he argues against the new difficulty view of demandingness by showing that difficulty can increase demandingness only by being costly. Second, he shows that restrictions of options can increase demandingness only by being costly. He distinguishes three ways restricting options can increase demandingness, namely by prohibiting actions that the agent wants to perform in order to promote his well-being, by limiting the development of future preferences and projects and also by making the society less open.

However, she then argues that sacrifices made on behalf of loved ones may be problematic for this account. This discussion not only highlights the intricate relation of sacrifice and well-being but also stresses the relational character of sacrifice.

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As we have already discussed, one of the main debates in which sacrifice plays an important role is the discussion of moral demandingness. Key to this discussion is the question of how much sacrifice to their own well-being can be morally demanded of people. The papers in this volume extend this discussion in several important ways. According to this principle, if we have the opportunity to fulfil important interests at not too high a cost then we have a duty to do so.

Collins investigates how the concept of sacrifice should inform our understanding and implementation of this principle.

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She argues that we need to accept a tripartite conception of sacrifice that includes agent-relative, recipient-relative, and ideal-relative sacrifice in interpreting and applying the assistance principle. In doing so, she provides a more nuanced and informative account of the assistance principle than can be found in the existing literature on the topic. She argues that some conflicts of values are genuine dilemmas, so that no resolution is morally clean. In cases of conflict in which self-sacrifice is one of the options, ambivalence may be particularly appropriate. There may be in such cases special sources of plurality and incommensurability of values, because in part the conflict is likely to be between something that is valued by a social group, and something that is valued particularly by an individual who has to consider self-sacrificing.

And in part it is because individuals may have trouble balancing self-regarding and other-regarding concerns in the process of value construction. Tessmann provides a rich elaboration of these complications, and presents cases in which we might suspect that someone has self-sacrificed too much or too little.

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  5. The intrinsic value of sacrifices is explained by the recursive account of value: sacrifices are intrinsically good if and because they are appropriate responses to intrinsic values, and appropriate responses to intrinsic values are themselves intrinsically good. Furthermore, sacrifices are difficult to make, and successful pursuit in difficult activities can also be intrinsically good. The second group of papers in this section discusses sacrifices with regard to one distinct normative moral theory.

    Slote starts by observing that sentimentalists are hesitant to offer accounts of moral reasons for action. Consequentialism is the normative ethical view that is most often objected to for the level of sacrifices it requires from people. He then argues that boundaries between ourselves and our special others are a common feature of our relations with special others but also a good-making feature of them.

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    He concludes that demandingness objections that rely on the argument in question fail. But he claims that the same observations about our relations with special others can give rise to a more plausible objection according to which there are demands strangers may not properly make on us. The final two papers in the volume consider, in different ways, the role that sacrifice can play in political protest.

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    According to a prominent feminist critique of care ethics, such acts may run counter to feminist aims. Feminist critics of care ethics claim that this approach to morality encourages women to engage in acts of self-sacrifice rather than to promote their own well-being and development. Yonatan completed his PhD in and since then has held a fellowship in the Humanities at Stanford University. His main interests are the philosophy of action, the philosophy of pratical reason and the contribution of these two fields to Ethics and to the theory of normativity in general.

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    Yonatan has argued against the view that it is conceptually impossible and psychologically implausible that we have direct control of our desires. He has explored the implication that such direct control of our desires may have for Humean theories of practical reason. In particular, he has agured that such control may enable Humean and instrumentalist views to solve problems of cooperation, problems that are usually presented as central reasons for the rejection of these views.