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Title: U-Conservatism, or, Nihilism, value, and the duty to conserve
Author: Stanhope, Jonathan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7966 3551
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2019
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The thesis roughly begins with the widespread belief that modern societies face and perhaps foster a problematic lack of commitment to moral objectivity. And it roughly ends with a blueprint for a utopian deliberative institution called U-Conservatism, which is my best go at attenuating the problem but has other important functions too. Moreover, the road to U-Conservatism establishes many independently weighty claims across practical philosophy; hence, the contributions of the thesis exceed its regulative aims. I interpret the social problem in terms of credences in nihilism, argue that we should try to weaken them, and identify visible, extensive, deep moral disagreement as a leading cause. However, in light of certain features of moral belief, I recommend shifting focus to an ostensibly different region of categorical value. Narrowing disagreement there would plausibly weaken nihilistic credences regarding categorical normativity tout court. U-Conservatism - the 'U' standing for unforced, unpolitical, and relatively metaphysically unpresumptuous - is the best vehicle I can imagine. It would achieve and publicly present a large measure of consensus among a demographically and philosophically diverse range of people about what objects possess non-functional value. U-Conservatism's conservative element reflects that conserving is a categorically warranted response to objects of non-functional value, which encompasses, inter alia, aesthetic and historical value. Indeed, there's a duty to maximise the conservation of objects of non-functional value - applying to all agents - with implications for practical ethics and public policy. Beyond weakening nihilistic credences, U-Conservatism would make the duty simpler and less demanding to discharge by indicating priorities for active schemes of conservation and showing what in or about the relevant objects should be maintained or altered during conservation. Given its epistemic credentials, U-Conservatism would also promote the fairness of conservationist schemes and ensure the legitimacy of state action to deter or punish wrongful violations of the duty.
Supervisor: Leopold, David Sponsor: Clarendon Fund
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available