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Rethinking the GoodMoral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning$

Larry S. Temkin

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199759446

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199759446.001.0001

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(p.xi) Acknowledgments

(p.xi) Acknowledgments

Rethinking the Good
Oxford University Press

In finishing a book that one has spent much of one's life on, there is an acute awareness of the inadequacy of any set of acknowledgments. So many people have given me feedback and support over the years that it would be impossible to adequately thank them all. So let me begin with a general acknowledgment and apology. I am truly grateful to everyone who has had a hand in shaping this book. I am also deeply sorry to anyone I have inadvertently omitted, and to the many people listed here who have not been given their full due.

First, many thanks to Mike Atkins for convincing me, in the spring of 2009, to bring this book to fruition and to leave further work for another occasion; also, more important, for his lifelong friendship.

Second, I’d like to thank the copyeditor and production assistants at Oxford University Press for their careful and judicious contributions to this book. Among those deserving special mention are Hari Kumar, Natalie Johnson, and Lucy Randall. I am also grateful to Peter Momtchiloff for his support of this project from its earliest stages and, especially, to Peter Ohlin for his encouragement, enthusiasm, and patience throughout the many years I have been working on this book.

Chapter 3 draws on “A ‘New’ Principle of Aggregation,” Philosophical Issues 15 (2005): 218–34; chapter 4 draws on “Aggregation within Lives,” in Utilitarianism: The Aggregation Question, ed. Ellen F. Paul, Fred D. Miller, and Jeffrey Paul (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 1–29; chapter 5 draws on “A Continuum Argument for Intransitivity,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 25 (1996): 175–210; chapters 11 and 12 draw on “Intransitivity and the Mere Addition Paradox,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 (1987): 138–87, and on “Rethinking the Good, Moral Ideals and the Nature of Practical Reasoning,” in Reading Parfit, ed. Jonathan Dancy (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1997), 290–344; chapter 8 draws on “Worries about Continuity, Transitivity, Expected Utility Theory, and Practical Reasoning,” in Exploring Practical Philosophy, ed. Dan Egonsson, Jonas Josefsson, Björn Petersson, and Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen (Burlington: Ashgate, 2001), 95–108; and appendix E draws on “Intransitivity and the Person-Affecting Principle: A Response,” Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1999): 777–84. I am grateful to the editors of Philosophical Issues, Philosophy and Public Affairs, Basil Blackwell, Oxford University Press, Ashgate Publishing Limited, and Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for their permission to include material from those articles.

(p.xii) Much of this book was written during research leaves. For some of the most productive years of my life, I am indebted to fellowships from the National Humanities Center (1984–85), Harvard's Program in Ethics and the Professions (1994–95, since renamed the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics), All Souls College (1999–2000), the National Institutes of Health, Department of Clinical Bioethics (2005–6), and the Australian National University (January–June 2008). Helping to make those years interesting and enjoyable were my hosts, staffs, and colleagues. Although I can’t name them all, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Kent Mullikin, Leon Kass, Jeff Hunter, and Tom Regan (NHC); Dennis Thompson, Jean McVeigh, Helen Hawkins, Ted Aaberg, and Dan Wikler (HPEP); Warden John Davies, Julie Edwards, Derek Parfit, and Jerry Cohen (ASC); Zeke Emanuel, Becky Chen, David Wendler, Marion Danis, Christine Grady, and Frank Miller (NIH); and Robert Goodin, Di Crosse, David Chalmers, Alan Hájek, Thomas Pogge, and Christian Barry (ANU).

In the spring of 2010, I taught an eight-day seminar on my book at the University of Oslo. To my hosts, Carsten Hansen and Eyjólfur Emilsson, as well as the students, many thanks for your warm hospitality and feedback.

For the past ten years, I have received great support from my department chairs: Robert Matthews, Peter Klein, Brian McLaughlin, and Barry Loewer; and also from many administrators at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, especially, Barry Qualls. Also, I am enormously grateful to Dick Foley, Peter Klein, and, especially, Ruth Chang, for their roles in bringing me to Rutgers.

My current and former students and colleagues, both at Rutgers and at Rice University, have been a great source of pleasure, learning, and inspiration. And thanks to the wonderful staff at both Rutgers and Rice: Pauline Mitchell, Mercedes Diaz, Ann Lipovsky, Stacey Messing, Matt Wosniak, Carole Dachowicz, Susan Viola, Miranda Robinson, and Sue Brod.

I’d like to thank my teachers at Wisconsin: Michael Byrd, Fred Dretske, Robert Hambourger, Zane Parks, Marcus Singer, and, especially, Dennis Stampe; and also at Princeton: Paul Benacerraf, Michael Frede, Gil Harman, David Lewis, Tom Nagel, Tim Scanlon, and Margaret Wilson. And for their ongoing friendship and support, I’d also like to thank Dan Brock, Alan Code, Jerry Cohen, Keith DeRose, Frankie Egan, Zeke Emanuel, James Fishkin, Alvin Goldman, Peter Kivy, Doug Husak, Mark Kulstad, Bob Matthews, Tim Maudlin, Vishnya Maudlin, Howard McGary, Don Morrison, Ingmar Persson, Barry Qualls, Joseph Raz, Tim Scanlon, Gordon Schochet, Amartya Sen, Peter Singer, Holly Smith, Ernie Sosa, Dennis Thompson, and Dan Wikler.

To all those who have given me comments on this book's topics, many thanks. These people include Miguel Alzola, Marcello Antosh, Gustaf Arrhenius, Nick Beckstead, Jonathan Bennett, Ken Binmore, David Bourget, Baruch Brody, Joshua Burton, Tim Campbell, Alan Carter, Alan Code, Jerry Cohen, Tyler Cowen, Jonathan Dancy, Marion Danis, Keith DeRose, Kai Draper, Nir (p.xiii) Eyal, Waqas Farid, Christoph Fehige, Fred Feldman, Geoffrey Ferrari, Charles Fried, Alex Friedman, David Gauthier, Richard Grandy, Preston Green, Jim Griffin, Alan Hájek, Carsten Hansen, Gil Harman, Liz Harman, Carl Hoefer, Heine Holman, Susan Hurley, Cornelius Jakhelln, Michael Johnson, Olin Joynton, Evelyn Keyes, Chris Knapp, Keith Krebs, Stuart Kurtz, Michael Licciardi, Jerry Massey, Tim Maudlin, Dan McCormack, Liam Murphy, Tom Nagel, Jan Narveson, Alastair Norcross, Nikolaj Nottelmann, Toby Ord, Ingmar Persson, Wlodek Rabinowicz, Peter Railton, Melinda Roberts, John Roemer, Tim Scanlon, Peter Schweinsberg, Stefan Sciaraffa, Amartya Sen, Michael Sherry, Ernie Sosa, Jason Stanley, Gregory Trianosky, Peter Unger, Carlos Valdivia, Peter Vallentyne, J. David Velleman, Gerardo Vildostegui, Alex Voorhoeve, Robert Wachbroit, David Wasserman, Ryan Wasserman, Michael Weber, Andrew White, Jennifer Whiting, Dan Wikler, and Evan Williams.

Yitzhak Benbaji, Oscar Horta, and Gerard Vong deserve special mention for their very helpful comments on large portions of the book.

Ruth Chang, Shelly Kagan, Frances Kamm, and Jeff McMahan have given me enormously beneficial comments on several chapters. I am deeply indebted to them for their unstinting criticisms, and for the spirit of collegiality with which they have given them! My life has been greatly enriched, philosophically and otherwise, by our regular meetings.

I shall always be indebted to Richard Dees and Martin Halbert, already mentioned in my preface. But for their relentless worrying about Parfit's Mere Addition Paradox, I might never have returned to the issue that so vexed me in graduate school and that is so central to this book.

I owe thanks to Jake Nebel, for his help with the copyedited pages, the page proofs, and the final index. I also owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to Nick Beckstead and Tim Campbell, who not only gave me very helpful feedback on the book, but also were invaluable in the book's preparation. In addition to helping with the copyedited pages and the page proofs, they tirelessly and cheerfully proofed earlier drafts of the typescript and created the book's index, the bibliography, the lists of diagrams and examples, the abstracts, and so much more.

Mikhail Valdman and Jake Ross never fail to give me prompt, and enormously helpful, responses when I seek their advice. Mikhail commented on the entire draft, and I have revised the book at many points thanks to him. Jake commented on substantial portions of the book, and his insightful criticisms forced me to significantly revise my presentation of several of the book's key chapters.

Five others deserve separate mention.

Stuart Rachels was one of the first philosophers to respond to my article “Intransitivity and the Mere Addition Paradox,”1 and to challenge the transitivity (p.xiv) of the “all-things-considered better than” relation. He gave me extensive feedback on my early articles, and his own work on the topic was pathbreaking. Rachels's spectrum argument from torture to headaches2 inspired a great deal of my own work on the topic, including chapter 5 of this book.3 For many, Rachels's example, and its variants, is the most compelling challenge to the transitivity of the “all-things-considered better than” relation.

John Broome has been giving me useful feedback regarding this book's topics since before we knew each other! Derek Parfit sent him an early draft of my “Intransitivity and the Mere Addition Paradox” back in 1985—without my name on it—and John responded with an extremely perceptive set of comments addressed to “anon.” Derek forwarded John's comments to me, and we have been in contact about these issues ever since. I regard John as my harshest critic—and a good friend. I have learned much from his work,4 and from our many discussions.

I have profited from many useful discussions with Roger Crisp over the years, and his many judicious comments on the entire book improved it greatly. Beyond that, Roger has been a trusted friend, valuable critic, and source of encouragement for more than fifteen years. I greatly appreciate everything that he has done for me.

Shelly Kagan is, along with Derek Parfit, the best philosophical critic I know; and he gave me 117 pages of incredibly insightful single-spaced comments. I spent four full months responding to Shelly's comments, and there are few pages that have not been revised in light of his acute suggestions. I know that I have not adequately dealt with all of Shelly's worries. But thanks to his efforts, this book is vastly better than it otherwise would have been. I can’t thank him enough.

Derek Parfit is the editor of this series. He is also my teacher and mentor. My philosophical debt to Derek will be apparent throughout this book. Time and again, my arguments were inspired by his Reasons and Persons.5 However, my debt to Derek extends far beyond his written work. We have had many hundreds of hours of conversations, and each time I have learned from his deep insights, penetrating criticisms, and unrivaled originality. Beyond that, Derek has been an unwavering source of support and motivation. For much of my career, I have written with an audience of one in mind—Derek. It has always been my hope that one day I would produce a work worthy of all the (p.xv) time and encouragement that he has generously given me. Like the God that Nietzsche claims we invented, I know that my debt to Derek exceeds my ability to repay it. But perhaps this book, inspired by Derek, is a fitting tribute to his impact on me and my regard for him.

Next, a few personal acknowledgments to my wonderfully loving, and close-knit, family. I shan’t name all of my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, in-laws and brothers- and sisters-in-law—but they have all played an important part in my life.

My grandparents, Louis and Lee Temkin and Abraham and Faye Sigman, are long gone. But they were very dear to me, and they helped shape me, and my life prospects, in countless ways that made my life as a philosopher possible.

My parents, Bud and Lee Temkin, are the foundation on which my life has been built. There are few really important lessons that I have learned in my life that I didn’t learn from them. My parents taught me what it is to support and love someone wholeheartedly and unconditionally, but not blindly. Those aspects of my character that I take the most pride in, I owe to them.

My sister and brothers, Terrie, Mark, and Ron, have all played a major role in my life. Besides the great affection we have for each other, I appreciate all they have done on behalf of our family—much more than their fair share, I’m afraid.

My children, Daniel, Andrea, and Rebecca, are an unending source of joy and pride. They have also been great eye-openers for me. They have taught me that there is so much more to life than philosophy—for example, volleyball! When I was a teen, my grandmother once told me that when my father was born, she loved him so much that she thought it was unholy. At the time, I utterly failed to comprehend her meaning; I dismissed her comment as just so much neo-Victorian hyperbole. Stripped of its religious connotations, I understand it now.

Finally, I want to thank Meg, for sharing my life with me since we were sixteen. All that I owe to everyone else named in these acknowledgments, overwhelming as it is, is a pittance in comparison with what I owe to Meg. She is my rock, the one who provides stability and direction to me and my children. She is also my enabler, the one who has made a wonderful home for us wherever we have moved so that I could pursue my philosophy. Without Meg, I couldn’t have focused on my work the way that I have during my life. Without her, this book would never have been written. (p.xvi)


(1) Philosophy and Public Affairs 16 (1987): 138–87.

(2) Originally presented in his unpublished Philosophy, Politics and Economics thesis, “A Theory of Beneficence” (Oxford University, 1993).

(3) “A Continuum Argument for Intransitivity,” Philosophy and Public Affairs 25 (1996): 175–210.

(4) Especially from his two great books, Weighing Goods (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1991) and Weighing Lives (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

(5) Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1984.