Philosophers have long agreed that moral responsibility might not only have a freedom condition, but also an epistemic condition. Moral responsibility and knowledge interact, but the question is exactly how. Ignorance might constitute an excuse, but the question is exactly when. Surprisingly enough, the epistemic condition has only recently attracted the attention of scholars, and it is high time for a full volume on the topic. The chapters in this volume address the following central questions. Does the epistemic condition require (...) akrasia? Why does blameless ignorance excuse? Does moral ignorance sustained by one’s culture excuse? Does the epistemic condition involve knowledge of the wrongness or wrongmaking features of one’s action? Is the epistemic condition an independent condition, or is it derivative from one’s quality of will or intentions? Is the epistemic condition sensitive to degrees of difficulty? Are there different kinds of moral responsibility and thus multiple epistemic conditions? Is the epistemic condition revisionary? What is the basic structure of the epistemic condition? (shrink)
This introduction provides an overview of the current state of the debate on the epistemic condition of moral responsibility. In sect. 1, we discuss the main concepts ‘ignorance’ and ‘responsibility’. In sect. 2, we ask why agents should inform themselves. In sect. 3, we describe what we take to be the core agreement among main participants in the debate. In sect. 4, we explain how this agreement invites a regress argument with a revisionist implication. In sect. 5, we provide (...) an overview of the main responses to the regress argument. In sect. 6, we address the question why blameless ignorance excuses. In sect. 7, we describe further issues that are addressed in the book. In sect. 8, we conclude with some discussion of future directions the debate might take. (shrink)
Michelle Moody-Adams suggests that “the main obstacle to moral progress in social practices is the tendency to widespread affected ignorance of what can and should already be known.” This explanation is promising, though to understand it we need to know what willful (affected, motivated, strategic) ignorance actually is. This paper presents a novel analysis of this concept, which builds upon Moody-Adams (1994) and is contrasted with a recent account by Lynch (2016).
Many philosophers accept derivative blameworthiness for ignorant conduct – the idea that the blameworthiness for one’s ignorance can ‘transfer’ to blameworthiness for one’s subsequent ignorant conduct. In this chapter we ask the question what it actually means that blameworthiness would transfer, and explore four distinct views and their merits. On views (I) and (II), one’s overall degree of blameworthiness is determined by factors relevant to one’s ignorance and/or one’s subsequent conduct, and transfer only involves an increase in scope. On views (...) (III) and (IV), one’s overall degree of blameworthiness is determined by factors relevant to one’s ignorance as well as one’s subsequent conduct, and transfer might not only entail an increase in scope, but also in degree. (shrink)
The Access principle places an epistemic restriction on our obligations. This principle falls prey to the ‘Shirker Problem’, namely that shirkers could evade their obligations by evading certain epistemic circumstances. To block this problem, it has been suggested that shirkers have the obligation to learn their obligations. This solution yields a regress, yet it is controversial what the moral of the regress actually is. The aim of this paper is two-fold. First, I spell out this intricate dispute. Second, on the (...) basis of my analyses I propose solutions to the Shirker Problem. (shrink)
According to an influential view by Elizabeth Harman, moral ignorance, as opposed to factual ignorance, never excuses one from blame. In defense of this view, Harman appeals to the following considerations: that moral ignorance always implies a lack of good will, and that moral truth is always accessible. In this paper, I clearly distinguish these considerations, and present challenges to both. If my arguments are successful, sometimes moral ignorance excuses.
This book on infinite regress arguments provides (i) an up-to-date overview of the literature on the topic, (ii) ready-to-use insights for all domains of philosophy, and (iii) two case studies to illustrate these insights in some detail. Infinite regress arguments play an important role in all domains of philosophy. There are infinite regresses of reasons, obligations, rules, and disputes, and all are supposed to have their own moral. Yet most of them are involved in controversy. Hence the question (...) is: what exactly is an infinite regress argument, and when is such an argument a good one? (shrink)
It is widely assumed that it is rational to suspend one’s belief regarding a certain proposition only if one’s evidence is neutral regarding that proposition. In this paper I broaden this condition, and defend, on the basis of an improved ancient argument, that it is rational to suspend one’s belief even if the available evidence is not neutral – or even close to neutral.
Much of present-day epistemology is divided between internalists and externalists. Different as these views are, they have in common that they strip justification from its dialectical component in order to block the skeptic’s argument from disagreement. That is, they allow that one may have justified beliefs even if one is not able to defend it against challenges and resolve the disagreements about them. Lammenranta (2008, 2011a) recently argued that neither internalism nor externalism convinces if we consider the argument in its (...) most interesting format. In this paper I zoom in on this debate, and fix further details of Lammenranta’s lead. Specifically, I will side with skepticism that justification is dialectical, yet only if certain conditions are in place. (shrink)
Infinite regress arguments play an important role in many distinct philosophical debates. Yet, exactly how they are to be used to demonstrate anything is a matter of serious controversy. In this paper I take up this metaphilosophical debate, and demonstrate how infinite regress arguments can be used for two different purposes: either they can refute a universally quantified proposition (as the Paradox Theory says), or they can demonstrate that a solution never solves a given problem (as the Failure (...) Theory says). In the meantime, I show that Black’s view on infinite regress arguments (1996, this journal) is incomplete, and how his criticism of Passmore can be countered. (shrink)
In the literature, regress arguments often take one of two different forms: either they conclude that a given solution fails to solve any problem of a certain kind (the strong conclusion), or they conclude that a given solution fails to solve all problems of a certain kind (the weaker conclusion). This gives rise to a logical problem: do regresses entail the strong or the weaker conclusion, or none? In this paper I demonstrate that regress arguments can in fact (...) take both forms, and clearly set out the logical difference between them. Throughout the paper, I confine myself to metaphysical examples from the early Russell. Only now that we know they are valid can we start to discuss whether they are sound. (shrink)
Rationality requires us to have certain propositional attitudes (beliefs, intentions, etc.) given certain other attitudes that we have. Carroll’s Tortoise repeatedly shows up in this discussion. Following up on Brunero (Ethical Theory Moral Pract 8:557–569, 2005), I ask what Carroll-style considerations actually prove. This paper rejects two existing suggestions, and defends a third.
This dissertation is on infinite regress arguments in philosophy. Its main goals are to explain what such arguments from many distinct philosophical debates have in common, and to provide guidelines for using and evaluating them. Two theories are reviewed: the Paradox Theory and the Failure Theory. According to the Paradox Theory, infinite regress arguments can be used to refute an existentially or universally quantified statement (e.g. to refute the statement that at least one discussion is settled, or the (...) statement that discussions are settled only if there is an agreed-upon criterion to settle them). According to the Failure Theory, infinite regress arguments can be used to demonstrate that a certain solution fails to solve an existentially or universally quantified problem (e.g. to demonstrate that a certain solution fails to settle all discussions, or that it fails to settle even one discussion). In the literature, the Paradox Theory is fairly well-developed, and this dissertation provides the Failure Theory with the same tools. (shrink)
Pyrrhonism is the view that we should suspend all our beliefs in order to be rational and reach peace of mind. One of the main objections against this view is that it makes action impossible. One cannot suspend all beliefs and act normally at once. Yet, the question is: What is it about actions that they require beliefs? This issue has hardly been clarified in the literature. This is a bad situation, for if the objection fails and it turns out (...) that the Pyrrhonists found a way to secure peace of mind, we better know the details. In the following, I take up this systematic query and show how the objection can be made precise. Despite Sextus Empiricus? ingenious appearance/reality distinction, which is to ensure Pyrrhonism in this, I eventually argue that a life by appearances is quite unlike a normal life. (shrink)
Nelson Goodman defends the seemingly radical view that, in a certain sense, all facts depend on our perspective on the matter. We make the world, rather than merely find it. The aim of this contribution is three-fold: to make sense of Goodman's metaphysical perspectivalism, clearly explain how it differs from other branches of perspectivalism (epistemic and semantic), and put two issues on the agenda that deserve renewed attention.
This article critically reviews a new collection on Pyrrhonism edited by Diego Machuca, Pyrrhonism in Ancient, Modern, and Contemporary Philosophy, which fits within the recent focus on the systematic, philosophical import of Pyrrhonism. In this article I both situate and summarize the problems posed by the authors regarding the Pyrrhonist's position (concerning its coherence, its theoretical motivation, and its practical motivation), and indicate to what extent Pyrrhonists might be able to meet them. I conclude that, so far, Pyrrhonism, i.e. the (...) view which propagates global suspension of belief, remains a promising option. (shrink)
If an argument can be reconstructed in at least two different ways, then which reconstruction is to be preferred? In this paper I address this problem of argument reconstruction in terms of Ryle’s infinite regress argument against the view that knowledge-how requires knowledge-that. First, I demonstrate that Ryle’s initial statement of the argument does not fix its reconstruction as it admits two, structurally different reconstructions. On the basis of this case and infinite regress arguments generally, I defend a revisionary take (...) on argument reconstruction: argument reconstruction is mainly to be ruled by charity (viz. by general criteria which arguments have to fulfil in order to be good arguments) rather than interpretation. (shrink)
Is the content of our thoughts determined by norms such as ‘if I know that p, then I ought to believe that p’? Glüer & Wikforss (2009a) set forth a regress argument for a negative answer. The aim of this paper is to clarify and evaluate this argument. In the first part I show how it (just like an argument from Wittgenstein 1953) can be taken as an instance of an argument schema. In the second part, I evaluate the relevant (...) premises in some detail, and argue that the dialectical situation is slightly more complicated than a ‘dilemma of regress and idleness’, as Glüer & Wikforss have dubbed it. (shrink)
Important sceptical arguments by Sextus Empiricus, Hume and Boghossian (concerning disputes, induction, and relativism respectively) are based on circularities and infinite regresses. Yet, philosophers' practice does not keep circularities and infinite regresses clearly apart. In this metaphilosophical paper I show how circularity and infinite regress arguments can be made explicit, and shed light on two powerful tools of the sceptic.
This paper is about the Problem of Order, which is basically the problem how to account for both the distinctness of facts like a’s preceding b and b’s preceding a, and the identity of facts like a’s preceding b and b’s succeeding a. It has been shown that the Standard View fails to account for the second part and is therefore to be replaced. One of the contenders is Anti-Positionalism. As has recently been pointed out, however, Anti-Positionalism falls prey to (...) a regress argument which is to prove its failure. In the paper we spell out this worry, show that the worry is a serious one, and distinguish four possible strategies for Anti-Positionalism to deal with it. (shrink)
The general view is that metaphysical explanation is asymmetric. For instance, if resemblance facts can be explained by facts about their relata, then, by the asymmetry of explanation, these latter facts cannot in turn be explained by the former. The question however is: is there any reason to hold on to the asymmetry? If so, what does it consist in? In the paper we approach these questions by comparing them to analogous questions that have been investigated for scientific explanations. Three (...) main asymmetry criteria have been proposed for the latter: (i) causation, (ii) unification, and (iii) explanatory dependence. We argue that the last criterion, but not the former two, can be of help to metaphysical explanation: metaphysical explanations are asymmetric if the explanatory dependence criterion (in modified format) holds of them. (shrink)
What is the Problem of Universals? In this paper we take up the classic question and proceed as follows. In Sect. 1 we consider three problem solving settings and define the notion of problem solving accordingly. Basically I say that to solve problems is to eliminate undesirable, unspecified, or apparently incoherent scenarios. In Sect. 2 we apply the general observations from Sect. 1 to the Problem of Universals. More specifically, we single out two accounts of the problem which are based (...) on the idea of eliminating apparently incoherent scenarios, and then propose modifications of those two accounts which, by contrast, are based on the idea of eliminating unspecified scenarios. In Sect. 3 we spell out two interesting ramifications. (shrink)
According to Vallicella's 'Relations, Monism, and the Vindication of Bradley's Regress' (2002), if relations are to relate their relata, some special operator must do the relating. No other options will do. In this paper we reject Vallicella's conclusion by considering an important option that becomes visible only if we hold onto a precise distinction between the following three feature-pairs of relations: internality/externality, universality/particularity, relata-specificity/relata-unspecificity. The conclusion we reach is that if external relations are to relate their relata, they must be (...) relata-specific (and no special operator is needed). As it eschews unmereological complexes, this outcome is of relevance to defenders of the extensionality of composition. (shrink)