Value Theory


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What kind of academic inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible?  Why are philosophers apparently so uninterested in this question?  Is it because most believe the kind of academic inquiry we have today, devoted primarily to the pursuit of knoweldge and technological know-how, is the best that we can have, judged from the perspective of helping humanity make progress towards a better world?  Why are philosophers apparently so uninterested in arguments which seem to show decisively that inquiry restricted to the pursuit of knowledge is both profoundly irrational, and a menace?  The successful pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how, dissociated from a more fundamental concern to help humanity resolve conflicts and problems of living in increasingly cooperatively rational ways, is almost bound to lead to trouble.  Scientific knowledge and technological know-how enormously increase our power to act - for some of us at ... (read more)
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Normative antirealism supposes that the only normative reasons are empirical, viz. those constituted by the actual attitudes of individuals and what follows from them.  However, the empirical normative attitudes of some individuals (e.g. normative realists) posit attitude-independent standards of normative judgement:  for example, rational measures of correctness (e.g. right and wrong) that are independent of the attitudes individuals actually have.  Since it follows from the actual attitudes of realists that there are independent normative standards, at least for them antirealism entails realism.  The antirealists respond that they have proven such independent standards to be fatally compromised:  when properly scrutinized they fail to follow even from the attitudes of realists.  But that's not an empirical claim!  The antirealist is replacing the question "What attitudes do persons actually have?" with the question "What personal attitudes stand up to scrutiny?", so withstanding scrutiny be ... (read more)

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Discussion on one of the other threads (“Toward a Uniform Vocabulary for Discussing Subjectivity”) has lately turned to neuro-aesthetics where it is only marginally relevant. So I wondered if perhaps the topic might deserve its own thread, especially given that aesthetics in all its forms is such a poor relation in analytic philosophy and generally gets so little attention.

I should explain my own position. I think neuro-aesthetics is bunkum. I won’t go into why for the moment – that will doubtless emerge as time goes on. I’m happy to suggest it as a topic, however, because (a) I’m aware it has many enthusiasts, (b) who knows? I may be wrong, (c) I think it warrants closer scrutiny than it usually seems to get, and (d) as I say, aesthetics in all its form gets very little attention anyway.

To encourage contributions, I should mention that I have an Achilles heel: I have read very little of the work by “leading” neuro-aestheticians. Some intellectual movements, I feel, have folly writte ... (read more)
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If you come across this paper while researching philosophy of love, you should watch this:
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In The Possibility of Altruism, Thomas Nagel advocates substituting reasons for the role in human motivation traditionally played by desires.  He sees the need because what people desire is an empirical matter revealed in behavior, and varies too greatly to provide the kind of inescapability he thinks morality requires:  reasons can be "agent-neutral", whereas desires must always be "agent-relative" (to use terms later introduced by Parfit).  But Nagel specifically rejects the possibility that this approach conflates causal explanation with normative justification:  "a close connection between the two is already embodied in the ordinary concept of a reason" (15).  

He proposes to dethrone desires by drawing attention to a particular problem regarding the role of "future desires" in practical reasoning.  For example, suppose I now purchase a bottle of water for quenching the thirst I anticipate I will experience later in my drive home.  How do we explain this purchase?&nbs ... (read more)
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The 25th edition of CSW’s Annual Graduate Research Conference will take place over two days, April 23&24, and will feature a keynote address, reception, networking luncheon, workshops, and a poster session.

THINKING GENDER 2015, CSW’s 25th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference, promises to strengthen scholarly networks and inspire lively conversation. To help make this landmark anniversary a memorable success, we have expanded the conference to a two-day schedule at UCLA’s Covel Commons and added a keynote address, poster exhibition, awards for papers and posters, student travel grants, workshops, and more.

We will open the conference with a keynote address, “Body Modifications: Violence, Labor, and the Subject of Feminism,” by Rebecca M. Herzig, the Christian A. Johnson Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Chair of the Program in Women and Gender Studies at Bates College (http://, from 2 to 3:15 pm. The keyno ... (read more)

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I have been rereading The Possibility of Altruism, and have been struck by (pace Nagel) the essential incoherence of cognitive judgment internalism, at least on a rationalist construal of cognitivism (e.g. as opposed to naturalism).

On such a cognitive view, the truth of a moral judgment -- e.g. that act A is right -- is determinable by some rational assessment, regardless of one's involvement in A.  That is, whether or not one is in a position to do A, it's rightness is something anyone can determine, analogous to the way one can determine that "5 + 7 = 12" or "P&Q --> P" are true.  It is a rational truth.

But in determining the truth of a moral judgment I have not thereby decided to do anything, even in cases where I am involved.  In this case (shame on me) I may not yet have decided to do what is right.  The argument will be that, insofar I have not decided to do A, I have failed to fully appreciate the rightness of A.  But we have seen that the determination of the right ... (read more)
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Can anyone suggest a good source/reference about the discussion of Edith Stein's conception of soul and women, probably a critique or commentary about her existent essays?
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  • Cora Cruz, 2015-03-22 : I recently read a good paper by Kris McDaniel of Syracuse University, entitled Edith Stein: On the Problem of Empathy, d... (read more)
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If you have any questions or comments on "The Zygote Argument is Invalid", I would enjoy discussing them on this thread!

I have noticed a small literature on Okin's objection to libertarianism. But I question whether this should be discussed under the heading of "Okin's objection". A very similar objection has been around for centuries by Robert Filmer, which the author briefly mentions but does not present. Filmer's objection is now discussed under the heading of the paradox of self-ownership.

It says that, given common knowledge, we cannot endorse both these propositions, which are essential to (standard?) libertarianism:
(1) Each person owns themselves.
(2) Each person owns the products of their labour.

According to Filmer, a person is the product of their parents' labour so they do not own themselves by (2).

Okin's version says that a person is the product of their mother's labour so they do not own themselves. (It seems she does not give a male parent even 0.000001% labour contribution.)

If the focus is mainly on whether a libertarian can say that individuals are self-owners, I feel it is unfair to discus ... (read more)
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I am trying to start a discussion for teaching INSEPARABILITY OF LOGIC AND ETHICS. A COLLEAGUE WROTE: I'm going to be teaching your "Inseparability of Logic and Ethics" in a couple weeks. I was wondering if you had any tips on doing so or thoughts about points to emphasize. I've always loved the paper and found your pedagogical techniques quite helpful.
MY ADVICE TO MY COLLEAGUE: First, before assigning the paper to be read, ask the students to look up “ethics” and “logic” in a dictionary or other reference work and then to write a paragraph on what the two have to do with each other. Second, after the students were supposed to have read the paper, ask them what they got out of it. Just let them talk and prompt them where necessary. No contentiousness. Third, read the first page aloud to them and see what happens. As you go read chunks aloud and ask questions—just like I did teaching you Tarski’s truth-definition paper. Fourth, go around the clas ... (read more)


► JOHN CORCORAN AND WILLIAM FRANK, Cosmic Justice Hypotheses.

  This applied-logic lecture builds on [1] arguing that character traits fostered by logic serve clarity and understanding in ethics, confirming hopeful views of Alfred Tarski [2, Preface, and personal communication].

  Hypotheses in one strict usage are propositions not known to be true and not known to be false or—more loosely—propositions so considered for discussion purposes [1, p. 38].

   Logic studies hypotheses by determining their implications (propositions they imply) and their implicants (propositions that imply them). Logic also studies hypotheses by seeing how variations affect implications and implicants. People versed in logical methods are more inclined to enjoy working with hypotheses and less inclined to dismiss them or to accept them without sufficient evidence.

  Cosmic Justice Hypotheses (CJHs), such as “in the fullness of time every act will be rewarded or punished in exact proportion to its goodness or badness ... (read more)


The writing describes a new sort of individual, “a delude”. People like Hitler would well fit the description. He was mentally healthy, however overwhelmed by grossly deluded opinions.

Here is the description from the text: 

"Even when a person is born possessing a healthy mental state, the familial and environmental assault during childhood with deluded opinions and behavior can be the basis for an individual to develop into a delude, an individual in a deluded mental state. In this writing, the label fool, or imbecile, is sometimes interchangeable with the underlying primary conditions of the delude. A fool is predisposed to accept deluded opinions as true; however, he or she can have an overall good awareness of social norms and laws that he or she learned to comply with. A fool is not, because of his mental condition alone, a villain. In contrast, the delude typically develops overwhelming extreme views. These views can be held as more important than any social or legal consideration ... (read more)

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THINKING GENDER 2015, UCLA Center for the Study of Women
Call for presentations: Power, Contested Knowledge, and Feminist Practices

How have feminist approaches altered the existing understanding of scientific knowledge and practices? Celebrating the 25th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, Thinking Gender 2015 invites submissions for individual papers, pre-constituted panels, and posters on topics that focus on the participation and/or contribution of marginalized individuals or groups who have been historically excluded from knowledge production. We welcome papers and posters—across all disciplines and historical periods—that engage with the concept of the body as a contested site intersecting with gender, race, sexuality, and identity and how it is related to certain agencies in particular contexts. We invite scholarship engaging the following topics or others related to the conference theme of "Power, Contested Knowledge, and Fe ... (read more)
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Dear all, can anyone suggest me source material on anti-essentialism discussed from a socialist feminist perspective. I am trying to develop a framework incorporating anti-essentialist, socialist feminist approaches.  

I want to draw a distinction between a "nation" (or other group) in terms of the individuals that make it up  and that "nation" (or other group) as a unified body. The former is entirely made up of reductive qualities; it has properties just in case the individuals have the property.  So the British nation loves tea, the Korean nation loves Kimchee and the German nation loves sausages etc.  The "unified body" has emergent qualities; sovereignty, a foreign policy, institutions, a seat at the United Nations etc.
It seems to me that the first "nation" can have some properties, in virtue of it's members having those properties that conflict with similar emergent properties of the second "nation".  For example Germany's actions in World War 1 were, at least thought to be, in the interest of Germany.  But that would appear to be "Germany" in the second sense of "nation". It doesn't seem to have advanced or even be aimed at advancing the individuals that made up the nation. 

That's two paragraphs ... (read more)
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So I'm currently writing my thesis, which Andy Clark is supervising, and all seems to be going well, but I was just wondering if people had any critical thoughts on the topic. My current abstract is below:

In The Extended Mind (1998, p18), Clark and Chalmers wrote that ‘‘As with any reconception of ourselves, [the extended mind] will have significant consequences. There are obvious consequences for philosophical views of the mind and for the methodology of research in cognitive science, but there will also be effects in the moral and social domains. It may be, for example, that interfering with someone’s environment will have the same moral significance as interfering with their person.’ (my italics). Little has been done to explore the consequences in these so-called moral and social domains. Problematically, the Extended Mind literature tends to focus on the role of the immediate environment on cognition, typically demonstrating the crucial role ... (read more)

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Any disagreement, agreement, argument or any evaluation would do. Need a help from you all to write a critical review for this article.
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It has recently occurred to me that the advocate of the Kantian Wille may, in significant measure, be victim of a kind of phenomenological illusion.  

We imagine the Kantian going serially down her list of desires -- "passive" matters of fact about what her experiences and behavior reveal to be her preferences -- and saying of each, "I could forebear that, if necessary.  So none of them, not one, is really me.  Me, my autonomous Wille, is distinct from every one of those desires."  A similar mistake led Newton to the postulation of Absolute Space; viz., relative effects are hypostatized into an independent existence.  What enables one to deny identity with any particular desire X is one's background awareness of all the other desires that are not X, whose cumulative preponderance overwhelms any particular desire.

Of course, the "background" cumulative awareness of all of one's desires is indeed separate from any particular desire, so in that sense there is indeed a Wille.  But it is not ... (read more)
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(1) That sentient life will one day come to an end is no solace for those sentients existing and suffering today.

(2) Whether it is better to have been or not to have been is a Cartesian koan I can ponder concrerning myself, but not one I have a right to decide concerning another sentient that is or has been; all the less right have I to create or support the creation of another sentient, out of nothing.

(3) Pain and pleasure are incommensurable; only pain is pertinent to moral musings like these: No number of orgasms (for me) compensates for one fallen sparrow; and, again, the sparrow’s pains or solaces are not for me to weigh -- for the sparrow.

(4) Christianity is particularly self-righteous and presumptuous on such questions, always ready to sanction temporal risk and suffering for the bodies of others for the salvation of their immaterial, immortal souls, sub specie aeternitatis.

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