When people disagree about what is moral, we face an epistemological challenge—when the answer to a moral question is not obvious, how do we determine who is right? What if, under the circumstances, we do not have the means to show one party or the other is right? In recent years, a number of epistemologists have turned their attention to the general epistemic problem of how to respond reasonably to disagreement, and we can look to their work for guidance. While (...) there remains significant disagreement about how to respond to disagreement, I will focus on what I take to be the best position in the debate, known as the “Conciliatory” position (or “Conciliation” for short), which holds that parties to a disagreement should become less confident of their initial opinions to some degree, according to the credibility of the parties involved. Conciliation, if interpreted straightforwardly, has some counter-intuitive implications for unpopular opinions, including unpopular moral judgments. If a moral non-conformist becomes somewhat less confident of her view in response to each disagreement with a presumed epistemic peer, she will eventually have such a low degree of confidence in her initial view that she will effectively have switched positions. This result is troubling because almost everyone accepts moral views that were non-conforming views at some point in time, and these views probably would not have become widespread if non-conformists had changed their positions. I propose a modified version of Conciliation which would enable moral non-conformists to engage in cautious “experiments in living.” This modified view, I argue, is reasonable for those who are concerned, not only with correcting their own mistaken moral views, but with promoting moral progress in general. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to advance a long-standing debate about the nature of moral rights. The debate focuses on the questions: In virtue of what do persons possess moral rights? What could explain the fact that they possess moral rights? The predominant sides in this debate are the status theory and the instrumental theory. I aim to develop and defend a new instrumental theory. I take as my point of departure the influential view of Joseph Raz, which (...) for all its virtues is unable to meet the challenge to the instrumentalist that I will address: the problem of justifying the enforcement of rights. I then offer a new instrumental theory in which duties are grounded on individuals’ interests, and individuals rights exist in virtue of the duties owed to them. I argue that my theory enables the instrumentalist to give the right sort of justification for enforcing rights. (shrink)
This essay adds a theological voice to the current debate over the legacy of Gilles Deleuze. It discusses Peter Hallward's charge that Deleuze is best read as a mystical, theophanic philosopher who values creativity to the detriment of real creatures. It argues that while Hallward is right to discern a flight from bodies, relations, and politics in Deleuze, this is due not to Deleuze's contemplative mysticism, but rather to his strident rejection of any transcendence. The essay then draws upon Thomas (...) Merton in order to argue that only a fully contemplative engagement with transcendence allows us to save the sort of radical becoming that Deleuze sought but couldn't achieve. (shrink)
Jonathan Lear in Radical Hope tackles the idea of cultural devastation, in the specific case of the Crow Indians. What do we mean by “annihilation” of a culture? The moral point of view that he imagines as he reconstructs the eve and aftermath of this annihilation is not second personal, of obligation, but first personal, in the collective and singular, as told by the Crows, with Lear as “analyst.” Radical Hope is a study of representative character of a people—of virtue, (...) courage, resilience, and hope in the face of cultural collapse. The leading questions are shaped by ancient Greek ethics, but with a twist: On the brink of cultural death , what counts for us as good living and what is the nature of the virtues or excellences that constitute it? How might a leader, a phronimos , exemplify it? This puts it too narrowly. The questions, also, are Wittgensteinian: How does a nation go on, when the concepts and way of life it has lived by for centuries are no more? What does it mean to go on? What does it mean to stop when the marks of going on are no longer? (shrink)
Jonathan Lear in "Radical Hope" tackles the idea of cultural devastation, in the specific case of the Crow Indians. What do we mean by "annihilation" of a culture? The moral point of view that he imagines as he reconstructs the eve and aftermath of this annihilation is not second personal, of obligation, but first personal, in the collective and singular, as told by the Crows, with Lear as "analyst." "Radical Hope" is a study of representative character of a people—of virtue, (...) courage, resilience, and hope in the face of cultural collapse. The leading questions are shaped by ancient Greek ethics, but with a twist: On the brink of cultural death, what counts for us as good living and what is the nature of the virtues or excellences that constitute it? How might a leader, a phronimos, exemplify it? This puts it too narrowly. The questions, also, are Wittgensteinian: How does a nation go on, when the concepts and way of life it has lived by for centuries are no more? What does it mean to go on? What does it mean to stop when the marks of going on are no longer? (shrink)
While Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics does not provide a guide for action in the form of rules for a decision process as deontological or consequentialistethical theories purport to do, he does present a description of the virtuous agent and the virtues that this agent exercises in his choices of action. In this paper Iargue that Aristotle’s mature virtuous agent characteristically exercises the virtue of wisdom (sophia) as well as the practical virtues of character and intelligence in his choices of (...) action and that students of virtue (those sincerely interested in becoming virtuous by acting as the virtuous agent does) can derive certain action-guiding rules from a description of these three virtues and how they are exercised by the mature virtuous agent in any given choice of action. (shrink)
This is a field-based disguised case which describes a dilemma faced by the protagonists; do they continue to do business with a land developer who has assisted them in the past when now the developer chooses to, against their recommendations, also do business with their ex-business partner? The problem for the characters in question is whether or not to work on a project that will yield them a net profit of $4 million dollars (...) given the fact it would require them to work in the same development as their former business associate. The central characters are afraid that their ex-partner will be a destabilizing factor in the development of the project and that their work sites will be in jeopardy of being vandalized. Several factors complicate this situation including: the developer’s desire for a quick land purchase, the developer’s changing the discount rate from 20% to 10% perhaps based upon difficulties that surrounded the first land deal, the protagonists’ plans to build their own homes in this new development, and the negative relationship between the protagonists and the ex-business partner. The case has a difficulty level appropriate for a sophomore or junior level course. The case is designed to be taught in one class period (may vary from 50–80 min depending upon instructional approach employed, see instructor’s note) and is expected to require between three to five hours of outside preparation by students (again, depending upon instructor’s choice of class preparation method). (shrink)
Keller & Miller (K&M) assert that mental disorders could not have evolved as adaptations, but they fail to make their case against the theory of the evolutionary origin of bipolar disorder that I have proposed (Sherman 2001). Such an idea may be unorthodox, but it has considerable explanatory power and heuristic value. (Published Online November 9 2006).
Authenticity and diversity have both become catch words in contemporary North Atlantic societies. What has not, however, been widely explored is the interrelation ofthese two ideas. To this end, the present article takes up the sometime convergent, sometime divergent writings of Charles Taylor and Martin Heidegger, drawing out their thoughts on authenticity and showing how they can serve as a ground for a new form of cultural diversity. For both, authentic being-in-the-world affords us access to our own deep reservoir of (...) cultural material that is the necessary resource for fruitful engagement with other cultures.L’authenticité et la diversité font aujourd’hui figure de slogans dans les sociétés contemporaines de part et d’autre de l’Atlantique nord. En revanche, on a peu exploré les liens entre ces deux idées. À cette fin, cet article aborde les écrits tantôt convergents, tantôt divergents de Charles Taylor et Martin Heidegger pour prolonger leurs réflexions respectives sur l’authenticité et montrer en quoi elles peuventservir de fondement à une nouvelle forme de diversité culturelle. Pour tous deux, l’etre-au-monde authentique nous permet d’accéder au tréfonds du matériel culturel dont nous devons disposer pour que se nouent des rapports fructueux avec les autres cultures. (shrink)
In this paper I explore the role of manners and morals. In particular, what is the connection between emotional demeanor and the inner stuff of virtue? Does the fact that we can pose faces and hide our inner sentiments, i.e., 'fake it,' detract from or add to our capacity for virtue? I argue, following a line from the Stoics, that it can add to our virtue and that, as a result, moral education needs to take seriously both a commitment (...) to good character and a commitment to the 'aesthetic' of character. (shrink)
While few soldiers may have read the works of Epictetus or Marcus Aurelius, it is undoubtedly true that the ancient philosophy known as Stoicism guides the actions of many in the military. Soldiers and seamen learn early in their training "to suck it up," to endure, to put aside their feelings and to get on with the mission. Stoic Warriors is the first book to delve deeply into the ancient legacy of this relationship, exploring what the Stoic philosophy actually is, (...) the role it plays in the character of the military (both ancient and modern), and its powerful value as a philosophy of life. Marshalling anecdotes from military history--ranging from ancient Greek wars to World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq--Nancy Sherman illuminates the military mind and uses it as a window on the virtues of the Stoic philosophy, which are far richer and more interesting than our popularized notions. Sherman--a respected philosopher who taught at the US Naval Academy--explores the deep, lasting value that Stoicism can yield, in issues of military leadership and character; in the Stoic conception of anger and its control (does a warrior need anger to go to battle?); and in Stoic thinking about fear and resilience, grief and mourning, and the value of camaraderie and brotherhood. Sherman concludes by recommending a moderate Stoicism, where the task for the individual, both civilian and military, youth and adult, is to temper control with forgiveness, and warrior drive and achievement with humility and humor. Here then is a perceptive investigation of what makes Stoicism so compelling not only as a guiding principle for the military, but as a philosophy for anyone facing the hardships of life. (shrink)
John Hawthorne’s marvelous book contains a wealth of arguments and insights based on an impressive knowledge and understanding of contemporary discussion. We can address only a small aspect of the topic. In particular, we will offer our own answers to two questions about knowledge that he discusses.
Aristotle describes human happiness as a life of virtuous activity in Book One of the Nicomachean Ethics but as a life of contemplative activity and a life of ethically virtuous activity in Book Ten. In which kind of life does Aristotle ultimately believe that happiness consists? The answer lies in the role of philosophical wisdom within ethically virtuous activity. I argue that philosophical wisdom has a dual role: its exercise is the end of ethically virtuous activity and the virtue by (...) which that end is rationally apprehended. Just as ethically virtuous activity depends on the exercise of philosophical wisdom in this dual way, so human happiness can be understood as a single life of virtuous activity whose end is the exercise of philosophical wisdom in contemplative activity. The exercise of philosophical wisdom will include ethically virtuous activity as an end that includes what is desired for its sake. (shrink)
Although Adorno criticizes the existential tradition, it is frequently argued that he and Heidegger share a number of theoretical interests. Adorno does come into direct contact with existential thought at certain points, but it is Kierkegaard, not Heidegger, who more closely approaches his concerns. I begin by reviewing Adorno's Kierkegaard: Construction of the Aesthetic. I then argue that, unlike Hegel, who is also criticized by Adorno on various grounds, Kierkegaard has had an influence on Adorno that has been underappreciated. While (...) Adorno criticizes Kierkegaard for breaking off the subject-object dialectic, they converge in their attacks on identity-thinking, the retention of a negative utopian standpoint of critique, and a deliberately provocative style of writing, all of which are marshaled in defense of the individual, who is besieged by modern society. Unlike Kierkegaard, however, and despite the generally accepted view, I conclude by arguing that because Adorno does not break off the subject-object dialectic, he has the necessary theoretical resources to deal with the theory-practice problem. Key Words: Adorno communication dialectic individual Kierkegaard subject-object subjectivity theory-practice. (shrink)
This book is the first to offer a detailed analysis of Aristotelian and Kantian ethics together, in a way that remains faithful to the texts and responsive to debates in contemporary ethics. Recent moral philosophy has seen a revival of interest in the concept of virtue, and with it a reassessment of the role of virtue in the work of Aristotle and Kant. This book brings that re-assessment to a new level of sophistication. Nancy Sherman argues that Kant preserves a (...) notion of virtue in his moral theory that bears recognisable traces of the Aristotelian and Stoic traditions, and that his complex anthropology of morals brings him into surprising alliance with Aristotle. She develops her argument through close readings of major texts by both Aristotle and Kant, illustrating points of congruence and contrast. (shrink)
Most traditional accounts of Aristotle's theory of ethical education neglect its cognitive aspects. This book asserts that, in Aristotle's view, excellence of character comprises both the sentiments and practical reason. Sherman focuses particularly on four aspects of practical reason as they relate to character: moral perception, choicemaking, collaboration, and the development of those capacities in moral education. Throughout the book, she is sensitive to contemporary moral debates, and indicates the extent to which Aristotle's account of practical reason provides an alternative (...) to theories of impartial reason. (shrink)