34 Improved Sentences and Short Passages

Here are 34 examples of how I've improved the writing in chapters 6-8 of The Elements of Moral Philosophy. I'll give you the fifth edition (5/e) versions followed by the sixth edition (6/e) versions.


Examples from Chapter 6, "The Idea of a Social Contract"

"Hobbes begins by asking what it would be like if there were no social rules and no commonly accepted mechanism for enforcing them. Imagine, if you will, that there was no such thing as government--no laws, no police, and no courts." (5/e, 141-142)
"Hobbes begins by asking what it would be like if there were no way to enforce social rules. Suppose there were no government institutions--no laws, no police, and no courts." (6/e, 80)

"Therefore, we will be in a kind of competition for them. But no one has what it takes to prevail in this competition, and no one--or almost no one--will be willing to forgo the satisfaction of his or her needs in favor of others." (5/e, 143)
"Therefore, we will have to compete for them. But no one has what it takes to prevail in this competition, and no one--or almost no one--will look after the needs of his neighbor." (6/e, 82)

"The reasonable person who wants to survive will try to seize what he needs and prepare to defend it from attack." (5/e, 143)
"Anyone who wants to survive will try to seize what he needs and prepare to defend it from attack." (6/e, 82)

"In the state of nature, it is every man for himself; it would be foolish for anyone to adopt the policy of 'looking out for others,' because doing so would put one's own interests in continual jeopardy." (5/e, 144)
"In the state of nature, it is every man for himself; it would be foolish for anyone to look out for others and put his own interests in jeopardy." (6/e, 82)

"You and Smith will both be better off if you simultaneously do what is not in your own individual self-interests."
"Since you and Smith both act selfishly, you both wind up worse off." (6/e, 85)

"You would be best off in the situation in which you were an egoist while other people were benevolent." (5/e, 148)
"You would be best off if you were selfish while other people were benevolent." (6/e, 86)

"As before, cooperation will not yield the optimum outcome (our being egoists while others are benevolent), but it will lead to a better result than could be obtained by each of us independently pursuing our own interests." (5/e, 149)
"As before, cooperation will not yield the optimum outcome (which we would get if we were selfish while others were benevolent), but it will lead to a better result than if we independently pursued our own interests." (6/e, 87)

"We agree to follow the moral rules because it is to our own advantage to live in a society in which the rules are accepted." (5/e, 150)
"We agree to follow the moral rules because we benefit from living in a place where the rules are accepted." (6/e, 87)

"When urged to rely on ordinary democratic processes, King pointed out that there had been many attempts at negotiation but that these efforts had met with little success." (5/e, 153)
"When urged to rely on ordinary democratic processes, King pointed out that all attempts to use these processes had failed." (6/e, 91)

"Today, with King acclaimed as one of the giants of American history, and with the civil rights movement remembered as a great moral crusade, it takes an effort to recall how controversial the strategy of civil disobedience was. Many liberals, while expressing sympathy for the goals of the movement, nevertheless denied that disobeying the law was a legitimate means of pursuing those goals." (5/e, 153)
"Today we remember King as a great moral leader. At the time, however, his strategy of civil disobedience was highly controversial. Many liberals expressed sympathy for his goals but didn't agree with his tactic of breaking the law." (6/e, 91)

"If the denial of these rights is sufficiently widespread and sufficiently systematic, we are forced to conclude that the terms of the social contract are not being honored. Thus, if we continue to demand that the disadvantaged group obey the law and otherwise respect society's institutions, we are demanding that they accept the burdens imposed by the social arrangement even though they are denied its benefits." (5/e, 155)
"Under such circumstances, the social contract is not being honored. By asking the disadvantaged group to obey the law and respect society's institutions, we are asking them to accept the burdens of social living while being denied its benefits." (6/e, 92)

"For when they are denied a fair share of the benefits of social living, the disenfranchised are, in effect, released from the social contract that otherwise would require them to support the arrangements that make those benefits possible." (5/e, 155)
"For when the disadvantaged are denied the benefits of social living, they are released from the contract that would otherwise require them to follow society's rules." (6/e, 92)

Examples from Chapter 7, "The Utilitarian Approach"

"It is not surprising that in the midst of all this change people might begin to think differently about ethics." (5/e, 89)
"It is not surprising that new ideas about ethics emerged during this era." (6/e, 97)

"This principle requires us to always choose whatever action or social policy would have the best consequences for everyone concerned." (5/e, 90)
"This principle requires us, in all circumstances, to produce the most happiness that we can." (6/e, 97)

"That, in its time, was a revolutionary idea." (5/e, 91)
"That was a revolutionary idea." (6/e, 98)

"But they do give a good indication of the kind of approach that Utilitarianism provides." (5/e, 91)
"But they do give us a good sense of how utilitarians approach moral issues." (6/e, 98)

"Bentham suggests that religion would endorse, not condemn, the utilitarian viewpoint if only its adherents would take seriously their view of God as a benevolent creator." (5/e, 92-93)
"Bentham suggests that the faithful would endorse, not condemn, the utilitarian standpoint if only they viewed God as a benevolent creator." (6/e, 100)

"Bentham was trained in the law, and he thought of the Principle of Utility as a guide both for legislators and for ordinary people making individual decisions. The purpose of the law is the same as that of morality: It should promote the general welfare of all citizens. Bentham thought it obvious that if the law is to serve this purpose, it should not restrict the freedom of citizens any more than necessary. In particular, no type of activity should be prohibited unless, in engaging in that activity, one is doing harm to others." (5/e, 93)
"Bentham was trained in the law, and he thought of the Principle of Utility as a guide for both legislators and ordinary people. The purpose of the law, he thought, is to promote the welfare of all citizens. In order to serve this purpose, it should restrict people's freedom as little as possible. In particular, no activity should be outlawed unless that activity is harmful or dangerous to others." (6/e, 100)

"The treatment of nonhumans has not traditionally been regarded as a serious moral issue." (5/e, 94)
"The treatment of nonhumans has traditionally been regarded as a trivial matter." (6/e, 104)

"Thus, the natural order of things permits humans to use animals for any purpose they see fit." (5/e, 94)
"Thus, by the natural order of things, we can treat animals in any way we like." (6/e, 104)

"In some ways, Bentham and Mill thought so, but they were careful to point out that this does not mean that animals and humans must always be treated in the same way." (5/e, 96)
"In some ways, Bentham and Mill thought so, but they did not believe that animals and humans must always be treated in the same way." (6/e, 106)

"Thus, our duty to promote happiness entails a duty to promote those special enjoyments for them, as well as to prevent any special unhappinesses to which they are vulnerable. At the same time, however, insofar as the welfare of other animals is affected by our conduct, we have a strict moral duty to take that into account, and their suffering counts equally with any similar suffering experienced by a human." (5/e, 96)
"Thus, our duty to promote happiness entails a duty to promote those special enjoyments for humans, as well as to prevent any special harms they might suffer. At the same time, however, we have a moral duty to take into account the suffering of animals, and their suffering counts equally with any similar suffering experienced by a human." (6/e, 106)

Examples from Chapter 8, "The Debate over Utilitarianism"

"The appeal of this theory to philosophers, economists, and others who theorize about human decision making has been enormous." (5/e, 100)
"This theory has profoundly influenced both philosophers and social scientists." (6/e, 109)

"But this way of explaining the misfortune seems to get things the wrong way around." (5/e, 102) "But this explanation gets things backwards." (6/e, 110)

"Appealing to the utilitarian standard, you might then conclude that it is better to stay home than to keep your promise." (5/e, 106)
"Appealing to the utilitarian standard, you might conclude that staying home is better than keeping your promise." (6/e, 114)

"Why is Utilitarianism vulnerable to this sort of criticism? It is because the only considerations that the theory holds relevant to determining what is right are ones having to do with the future." (5/e, 106)
"This criticism is possible because Utilitarianism cares only about the consequences of our actions." (6/e, 114)

"The first line of defense is to argue that the anti-utilitarian arguments make unrealistic assumptions about how the world works." (5/e, 109)
"The first defense says that the anti-utilitarian arguments make unrealistic assumptions." (6/e, 117)

"A case is described, and then it is said that from a utilitarian point of view a certain action is required--bearing false witness, violating someone's rights, or breaking a promise. It is then said that these things are not right. Therefore, it is concluded, the utilitarian conception of rightness cannot be correct." (5/e, 109)
"The critic describes a case and then says that Utilitarianism requires a certain action--bearing false witness, violating someone's rights, and so on. But, the critic says, these actions are obviously immoral. Therefore, Utilitarianism is incorrect." (6/e, 117)

"An act-utilitarian, faced with the situation described by McCloskey, would be tempted to incriminate the innocent man because the consequences of that particular act would be good." (5/e, 111)
"An act-utilitarian would incriminate the innocent man in McCloskey's example because the consequences of that particular act would be good." (6/e, 118)

"Finally, some utilitarians have offered a very different response to the anti-utilitarian arguments. Those arguments point out that the classical theory is at odds with ordinary notions of justice, individual rights, and so on; and this group responds, 'So what?' In 1961, J. J. C. Smart published a monograph titled An Outline of a System of Utilitarian Ethics. Reflecting on his position in that book, Smart said ..." (5/e, 112)
"Finally, some utilitarians have offered a very different response to the objections. Upon being told that Utilitarianism conflicts with common sense, they respond, 'So what?' Looking back at his own defense of Utilitarianism, J. J. C. Smart writes ..."(6/e, 120)

"And what could be more unintelligible than the idea that people have 'rights' unconnected to any benefits derived from the acknowledgment of those rights?" (5/e, 113)
"And how could people have a 'right to privacy' unless respecting that right brought about some benefit?" (6/e, 121)

"But when we condemn lies that lead to less unhappiness, our intuitive faculties are misfiring." (5/e, 114)
"But when we condemn lies that are beneficial, our intuitive faculties are misfiring." (6/e, 121)

"... it requires us to rethink matters that we have heretofore taken for granted." (5/e, 115)
"... it makes us think about things that we take for granted." (6/e, 122)

A better final sentence:
"If so, they might note that utilitarian philosophers of the day were criticized as simple-minded for advancing a moral theory that straightforwardly condemned such things." (5/e, 116)
"If so, they might note that utilitarian philosophers were ahead of their time in condemning such things." (6/e, 123)