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Profile: Alan Thomas (Tilburg University)
  1. Alan Thomas, Moran on Self-Knowledge and Practical Agency.
    Richard Moran’s Authority and Estrangement develops a compelling explanation of the characteristic features of self-knowledge that involve the use of ‘I’ as subject. Such knowledge is immediate in the sense of non-inferential, is not evidentially grounded and is epistemically authoritative.1 A&E develops its distinctive explanation while also offering accounts of other features of self-knowledge that are often overlooked, such as the centrality of self-knowledge characterised in this way to the concept of the person and its ethical importance. Moran recognises that (...)
     
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  2. Alan Thomas, Reconciling Conscious Absorption and the Ubiquity of Self-Awareness.
    This paper argues that there are two compelling intuitions about conscious experience, the absorption intuition and the ubiquity intuition. The former is the claim that conscious experience consists in intentional absorption in its objects; the latter is the claim that conscious experience ubiquitously exhibits a sense that the mental subject is conscious that she is so conscious. These two intuitions are in tension with each other and it seems no single theory of consciousness can respect both. Drawing on the early (...)
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  3. Alan Thomas, Maxims and Thick Ethical Concepts: Reply to Moore.
    Adrian Moore’s paper continues the development of a radical re-interpretation of Kant’s practical philosophy initiated by his Noble in Reason, Infinite in Faculty. [Moore, 2003] I have discussed elsewhere why it seems to me that Moore’s work, taken as a composite with that of his co-symposiasts today Philip Stratton-Lake and Burt Louden, adds up to a comprehensive and radical re-assessment of the contemporary significance of Kant’s practical philosophy which moral philosophers generally ought not to ignore. [Thomas, 2004] Moore states that (...)
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  4. Alan Thomas, Practical Reasoning and Normative Relevance: A Reply to Ridge and McKeever.
    The central concern of McKeever & Ridge’s paper is with whether or not the moral particularist can formulate a defensible distinction between default and non-default reasons. [McKeever & Ridge 2004] But that issue is only of concern to the particularist, they argue, because it allows him or her to avoid a deeper problem, an unacceptable “flattening of the normative landscape”. The particularist ought, McKeever & Ridge claim, to view this corollary of his or her position as a serious embarrassment. Unpacking (...)
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  5. Alan Thomas, Practical Reasoning, the First Person and Impartialism About Reasons.
    This paper considers the problem posed for impartialism about reasons by the claim that practical reasoning is essentially first personal. This argument, first put forward by Bernard Williams, has an obscure rationale. Barry Stroud has suggested that in the only sense in which it is true it is misrepresents the issue which is that substituting in a particular identity to a conclusion true of anyone can change the degree of support for a practical conclusion. This paper develops a complementary line (...)
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  6. Alan Thomas, The Permissibility of Prerogative Grounded Incentives in Liberal Egalitarianism.
    G. A. Cohen's critique of Rawlsian special incentives has been criticised as internally inconsistent on the grounds that Cohen concedes the existence of incentives that are legitimate because they are grounded on agent-centred prerogatives. This, Cohen's critics argue, invites a slippery slope argument: there is no principled line between those incentives Cohen permits and those he condemns. This paper attempts a partial defence of Cohen: a prerogative can be granted but then its operation internally qualified. (...)
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  7. Alan Thomas, Tilburg School of Humanities.
    This is a paper about ‘human rights pluralism’, and about how human rights’ inherent flexibility can be embraced by development policy-makers and practitioners in ways that can aid the goals of both development and human rights. The paper argues that, even though human rights are often expressed in legal terms – terms that are usually associated with the rigidity of obligation – human rights are inherently pluralistic. This is for two reasons. First, upon closer inspection, human rights laws, and especially (...)
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  8. Alan Thomas, Consequentialism and the Subversion of Pluralism.
    This paper critically analyses Brad Hooker's attempt to undercut pluralism by arguing that any plausible set of prima facie duties can be derived from a more fundamental rule consequentialist principle. It is argued that this conclusion is foreshadowed by the rationalist and epistemologically realist interpretation that Hooker imposes on his chosen methodology of reflective equilibrium; he is not describing pluralism in its strongest and most plausible version and a more plausible version of pluralism is described and defended.
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  9. Alan Thomas, Consequentialism, Integrity and Demandingness.
    In this paper I will develop the argument that a cognitivist and virtue ethical approach to moral reasons is the only approach that can sustain a non-alienated relation to one’s character and ethical commitments. [Thomas, 2005] As a corollary of this claim, I will argue that moral reasons must be understood as reasonably partial. A view of this kind can, nevertheless, recognise the existence of general and positive obligations to humanity. Doing so does not undermine the view by leading to (...)
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  10. Alan Thomas, Liberal Republicanism and the Role of Civil Society.
    The political liberalism of Rawls and Larmore is presented as uniquely able to solve the problems of modern political theory. In the face of a plurality of reasonable comprehensive conceptions of the good, a legitimate liberal state can legislate solely on the basis of a modular conception of justice affirmed from within each reasonable conception. However, it is argued that this view, while restrictive, has to permit the promotion of its own pre-conditions. This demanding duty of civic restraint requires citizens (...)
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  11. Alan Thomas, Minimalism and Quasi-Realism.
    Expressivism's problem in solving the Frege/Geach problem concerning unasserted contexts is evaluated in the light of Blackburn's own methodological commitment to assessing philosophical theories in terms of costs and benefits, notably quasi-realism's aim of minimising the ontological commitments of a broadly naturalistic worldview. The problem emerges when a competitor theory can explain the same phenomena at lower cost: the minimalist about truth has no problem with unasserted contexts whereas the quasi-realist/expressivist package does. However, this form of projectivism is supposed to (...)
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  12. Alan Thomas, Perceptual Knowledge, Representation and Imagination.
    The focus of this paper will be on the problem of perceptual presence and on a solution to this problem pioneered by <span class='Hi'>Kant</span> [1781; 1783] and refined by Sellars [Sellars, 1978] and Strawson [Strawson, 1971]. The problem of perceptual presence is that of explaining how our perceptual experience of the world gives us a robust sense of the presence of objects in perception over and above those sensory aspects of the object given in perception. Objects possess other properties which (...)
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  13. Alan Thomas, Remorse and Reparation: A Philosophical Analysis.
    The aim of this paper is to analyse the concept of remorse from the perspective of moral philosophy. This perspective may be less familiar than other approaches in this anthology, such as those of forensic psychiatry or law. In what ways does moral philosophy claim to be able to illuminate the nature of the concept of remorse? First, by presenting an account of this concept and its structure within a more general account of the nature of moral thought. Second, by (...)
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  14. Alan Thomas (2014). McDowell on Transcendental Arguments, Scepticism and “Error Theory”. International Journal for the Study of Skepticism 4 (2):109-124.
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  15. Alan Thomas (2014). Sen on Rawls's “Transcendental Institutionalism”: An Analysis and Critique. European Journal of Political Theory 13 (3):241-263.
    This paper evaluates Amartya Sen’s criticisms of Rawls’s theory of justice, in particular his critique of the ideal versus nonideal distinction in Rawls, and corrects what I take to be various misconceptions that underpin this critique. I will then move on to the more general issue of how we are to understand the role of the ideal versus nonideal distinction (and how we ought not to understand it) before going on to consider one focused application of Sen’s ideas. I will (...)
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  16. Alan Thomas (2013). Social Justice, American Style? Res Publica 19 (4):381-385.
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  17. Alan Thomas & Harriet Pattison (2013). Informal Home Education: Philosophical Aspirations Put Into Practice. Studies in Philosophy and Education 32 (2):141-154.
    Informal home education occurs without much that is generally considered essential for formal education—including curriculum, learning plans, assessments, age related targets or planned and deliberate teaching. Our research into families conducting this kind of education enables us to consider learning away from such imposed structures and to explore how children go about learning for themselves within the context of their own socio-cultural setting. In this paper we consider what and how children learn when no educational agenda is arranged for them (...)
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  18. Alan Thomas (2012). Giving Each Person Her Due: Taurek Cases and Non-Comparative Justice. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 15 (5):661-676.
    Taurek cases focus a choice between two views of permissible action, Can Save One and Must Save Many . It is argued that Taurek cases do illustrate the rationale for Can Save One , but existing views do not highlight the fact that this is because they are examples of claims grounded on non-comparative justice. To act to save the many solely because they form a group is to discriminate against the one for an irrelevant reason. That is a canonical (...)
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  19. Alan Thomas (2012). Liberal Republicanism, and the Idea of an Egalitarian Ethos. In T. Williamson (ed.), Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond. Wiley-Blackwell. 101.
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  20. Alan Thomas (2012). Property Owning Democracy, Liberal Republicanism, and the Idea of an Egalitarian Ethos. In T. Williamson (ed.), Property-Owning Democracy: Rawls and Beyond. Wiley-Blackwell.
    It is argued that only the embedding of Rawlsian political liberalism within a republican framework secures the content of his view against Cohen's critique of Rawlsian special incentives. That content is fully specified in the form of a property-owning democracy; only this background set of institutions (or one functionally equivalent to it) will secure the stability of Rawls's egalitarian principles. A liberal-republicanism, rather than political liberalism alone, offers deeper grounding for our commitment to a property-owning democracy as a privileged political (...)
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  21. Alan Thomas (2012). Rawls, Adam Smith and an Argument From Complexity to Property-Owning Democracy. The Good Society 21 (1):4-20.
    This paper foregrounds one argument in Rawls’s work that is crucial to his case for one, determinate, form of political economy: a property-owning democracy. Section one traces the evolution of this idea from the seminal work of Cambridge economist James Meade; section two demonstrates how a commitment to a property-owning democracy flows from Rawls’s own principles; section three focuses on Rawls’s striking critique of orthodox welfare state capitalism. This all sets the stage for an argument, presented in section four, from (...)
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  22. Alan Thomas (2011). Another Particularism: Reasons, Status and Defaults. [REVIEW] Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 14 (2):151-167.
    This paper makes the non-monotonicity of a wide range of moral reasoning the basis of a case for particularism. Non-monotonicity threatens practical decision with an overwhelming informational complexity to which a form of ethical generalism seems the best response. It is argued that this impression is wholly misleading: the fact of non-monotonicity is best accommodated by the defence of four related theses in any theory of justification. First, the explanation of and defence of a default/challenge model of justification. Secondly, the (...)
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  23. Alan Thomas (2011). Cohen's Critique of Rawls: A Double Counting Objection. Mind 120 (480):1099-1141.
    This paper assesses G. A. Cohen's critique of Rawlsian special incentives. Two arguments are identified and criticized: an argument that the difference principle does not justify incentives because of a limitation on an agent's prerogative to depart from a direct promotion of the interests of the worst off, and an argument that justice is limited in its scope. The first argument is evaluated and defended from the criticism that once Cohen has conceded some ethically grounded special incentives he cannot sustain (...)
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  24. Alan Thomas (2011). Charles T. Wolfe. Eidos 14:261-264.
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  25. Alan Thomas (2011). Virtue Ethics and an Ethics of Care: Complementary or in Conflict? Eidos 14:132-151.
    Este artículo compara y contrasta la ética de la virtud con la del cuidado, a fin de determinar su mutua relación. Se afirma que existe una tradición en la ética de la virtud que enfatiza que la virtud es conocimiento, e igualmente se concentra en el altruismo. No existe oposición entre esta forma de virtud y la ética del cuidado. Además, hay objeciones de principio a generalizar la necesidad de relaciones asimétricas de una ética del cuidado con el caso de (...)
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  26. Alan Thomas (2010). Alienation, Objectification, and the Primacy of Virtue. In Jonathan Webber (ed.), Reading Sartre: On Phenomenology and Existentialism. Routledge.
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  27. Alan Thomas (2009). Internal Reasons and Contractualist Impartiality. Utilitas 14 (02):135-.
    This paper interprets Bernard Williams's claim that all practical reasons must meet the internal reasons constraint. It is argued that this constraint is independent of any substantive Humean claims about reasons and its rationale is a content scepticism about the capacity of pure reason to supply reasons for action. The final sections attempt a positive reconciliation of the internal reasons account with the motivation for external reasons, namely, securing practical objecitivy in the form of a commitment to impartiality. Impartiality is (...)
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  28. Alan Thomas (2009). Perceptual Presence and the Productive Imagination. Philosophical Topics 37 (1):153-174.
  29. Alan Thomas (2008). The Genealogy of Epistemic Virtue Concepts. Philosophical Papers 37 (3):345-369.
    Abstract This paper examines the treatment of thick ethical concepts in Williams's work in order to evaluate the consistency of his treatment of ethical and epistemic concepts and to assess whether the idea of a thick concept can be extended from ethics to epistemology. A virtue epistemology is described modeled on a cognitivist virtue ethics. Williams's genealogy of the virtues surrounding propositional knowledge (the virtues of ?truthfulness?) is critically evaluated. It is concluded that this genealogy is an important contribution to (...)
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  30. Alan Thomas (2007). Practical Irrationality, Reflexivity and Sartre's Regress Argument. Teorema 26 (3).
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  31. Alan Thomas (2007). Practical Reasoning and Normative Relevance: A Reply to McKeever and Ridge. Journal of Moral Philosophy 4 (1):77-84.
    A putative problem for the moral particularist is that he or she fails to capture the normative relevance of certain considerations that they carry on their face, or the intuitive irrelevance of other considerations. It is argued in response that mastery of certain topic-specific truisms about a subject matter is what it is for a reasonable interlocutor to be engaged in a moral discussion, but the relevance of these truisms has nothing to do with the particularist/generalist dispute. Given that practical (...)
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  32. Alan Thomas (2006). Value and Context: The Nature of Moral and Political Knowledge. Oxford University Press.
    In Value and Context Alan Thomas articulates and defends the view that human beings do possess moral and political knowledge but it is historically and culturally contextual knowledge in ways that, say, mathematical or chemical knowledge is not. In his exposition of "cognitive contextualism" in ethics and politics he makes wide-ranging use of contemporary work in epistemology, moral philosophy, and political theory.
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  33. Alan Nelson, Alan Thomas & Stephen Mulhall (2005). History of Philosophy. Philosophical Books 46 (3):261-268.
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  34. Alan Thomas (2005). Reasonable Partiality and the Agent's Point of View. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 8 (1-2):25 - 43.
    It is argued that reasonable partiality allows an agent to attach value to particular objects of attachment via recognition of the value of the holding of that relation between agent and object. Such an explanation does not view the agent herself as capable of generating a disproportionate evaluation of objects simply because they are related to her. It thereby respects the objectivity and intelligibility of any evaluative claim. The reasonableness of partiality is ensured by a background context set by the (...)
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  35. Alan Thomas (2003). An Adverbial Theory of Consciousness. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2 (3):161-85.
    This paper develops an adverbial theory of consciousness. Adverbialism is described and endorsed and defended from its near rival, an identity thesis in which conscious mental states are those that the mental subject self-knows immediately that he or she is "in". The paper develops an account of globally supported self-ascription to embed this neo-Brentanian view of experiencing consciously within a more general account of the relation between consciousness and self-knowledge. Following O'Shaughnessy, person level consciousness is explained as a feature of (...)
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  36. Alan Thomas (2003). Introduction: Consciousness in Historical Perspective. Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences 2 (3):159-.
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  37. Alan Thomas (2003). Nagel's `Paradox' of Equality and Partiality. Res Publica 9 (3):257-284.
    Nagel' s pessimistic conclusion that current welfare state arrangements approximate to the most pragmatically effective way of reconciling the demands of morality and of an egalitarian liberalism, while not removing a deep seated incoherence between these view, can be resisted. The objective/subjective dichotomy, in this case applied via the agent-neutral/agent-relative distinction, is identified as his problematic assumption: understood in Hegelian terms as the "placing" of different categories of reason, even a minimal realism makes it difficult to understand how embedding agent-relativity (...)
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  38. Alan Thomas (2003). Nagel's Paradox of Liberty and Equality. Res Publica 9:257-284.
     
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  39. Alan Thomas (2003). Review of Onora O'Neill, Autonomy and Trust in Bioethics. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2003 (10).
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  40. Alan Thomas (1997). Kant, McDowell and the Theory of Consciousness. European Journal of Philosophy 5 (3):283-305.
    This paper examines some of the central arguments of John McDowell's Mind and World, particularly his treatment of the Kantian themes of the spontaneity of thought and of the nature of self-consciousness. It is argued that in so far as McDowell departs from Kant, his position becomes less plausible in three respects. First, the space of reason is identified with the space of responsible and critical freedom in a way that runs together issues about synthesis below the level of concepts (...)
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  41. Alan Thomas (1997). Minimalism Versus Quasi-Realism: Why the Minimalist has a Dialectical Advantage. Philosophical Papers 26 (3):233-239.
    Minimalist and quasi-realist approaches to problematic discourses such as the causal, moral and modal are compared and contrasted. The problem of unasserted contexts demonstrates that while quasi-realism can meet the challenge of reconstructing a logic of "commitment" to cover both "projected" and "detected" discourses, it can only do so at an unacceptable cost. The theory must globally revise logic, in spite of its implicit commitment to a substantial notion of truth for "detected" discourses. Thus, quasi-realism fails to meet its own (...)
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  42. Alan Thomas (1997). Values, Reasons and Perspectives. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 97 (1):61–80.
    Peter Winch seems to have described the following kind of paradox. Two agents in a morally dilemmatic situation can agree on the values in that situation and their bearing on decision but come to different all things considered verdicts about what to do. Yet this kind of blameless disagreement is not a Protagorean relativism in which "right" reduces to "right for A" and "right for B". This paper tries to preserve the appearances while avoiding relativism, abandoning cognitivism about value or (...)
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  43. Alan Thomas (1996). Book Reviews. [REVIEW] Mind 105 (420):628-632.
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  44. Alan Thomas (1996). Review. [REVIEW] British Journal for the Philosophy of Science 47 (2).
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  45. Alan Thomas (1995). Book Reviews. [REVIEW] Mind 104 (415):628-632.
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  46. Alan Thomas (1995). Review of Dancy's Moral Reasons. [REVIEW] Mind 104 (415):628-632.
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