Procrastination is frustrating. Because the procrastinator's frustration is self-imposed, procrastination can also be quite puzzling. I consider attempts at explaining, or explaining away, what appear to be genuine cases of procrastination. According to the position that I propose and defend, genuine procrastination exists and is supported by preference loops, which can be either stable or evanescent.
I focus on the idea that if, as a result of lacking any conscious goal related to X-ing and any conscious anticipation or awareness of X-ing, one could sincerely reply to the question ‘Why are you X-ing?’ with ‘I didn't realize I was doing that,’ then one's X-ing is not intentional. My interest is in the idea interpreted as philosophically substantial (rather than merely stipulative) and as linked to the familiar view that there is a major difference, relative to the (...) exercise of agential control, between acting on a conscious goal (even one the agent is not actively thinking about) and acting on a non-conscious goal (about which the sincerely ‘clueless’ response ‘I didn't realize I was doing that’ could be provided). After raising some doubts about the target idea, I consider the two most promising lines of defence. I argue that neither is convincing, and that we should reject the suggestion that the idea is properly accepted as a matter of common sense. Even absent any conscious goal related to X-ing and any conscious anticipation or awareness of X-ing, there is room for counting X-ing as intentional if X-ing is, or is appropriately related to, a non-conscious goal. (shrink)
This article briefly discusses the connection between moral philosophy and moral psychology, and then explores three intriguing areas of inquiry that fall within the intersection of the two fields. The areas of inquiry considered focus on (1) debates concerning the nature of moral judgments and moral motivation; (2) debates concerning good and bad character traits and character-based explanations of actions; and (3) debates concerning the role of moral rules in guiding the morally wise agent.
I propose a model of intention formation and argue that it illuminates and does justice to the complex and interesting relationships between intentions on the one hand and practical deliberation, evaluative judgements, desires, beliefs, and conduct on the other. As I explain, my model allows that intentions normally stem from pro-attitudes and normally control conduct, but it is also revealing with respect to cases in which intentions do not stem from pro-attitudes or do not control conduct. Moreover, it makes the (...) connection between forming an intention and altering one's deliberative framework transparent, and directly accounts for the fact that while intentions can affect how it makes sense for an agent to reason and what it makes sense for her to do, one cannot make an action that one is tempted to perform worth performing simply by forming a related intention. (shrink)
It is natural to assume that we would not be willing to compromise the environment if the conveniences and luxuries thereby gained did not have a substantial positive impact on our happiness. But there is room for skepticism and, in particular, for the thesis that we are compromising the environment to no avail in that our conveniences and luxuries are not having a significant impact on our happiness, making the costs incurred for them a waste. One way of defending the (...) no-avail thesis fits neatly with what I will call the exalted view , according to which the key to human happiness lies in the mental (or spiritual) realm rather than in the material realm. After considering this familiar approach to defending the no-avail thesis, I sketch out a very different approach—one that will, I hope, appeal to those who have doubts about the familiar line of defense. The alternative and novel approach builds on a strand of empirical research on (self-reports concerning) happiness that suggests that we are, in a way, quite shallow, and that our happiness depends on whether we are keeping up with the Joneses. I call this view concerning happiness the worldly view . My reasoning suggests that even if the current rift between exalted pictures of human nature and happiness, on the one hand, and worldly pictures of human nature and happiness, on the other, cannot be repaired, it need not hinder agreement on the plausibility of the no-avail thesis; rather, with the rift come two different routes to the same thesis. I conclude that we should take the no-avail thesis very seriously, and that evidence that we are shallow materialists need not be bad news for the environment(alist). (shrink)
There is a great deal of plausibility to the standard view that if one is rational and it is clear at the time of action that a certain move, say M1, would serve one’s concerns better than any other available move, then one will, as a rational agent, opt for move M1. Still, this view concerning rationality has been challenged at least in part because it seems to conflict with our considered judgments about what it is rational to do in (...) cases of temptation that share the structure of Warren Quinn’s self-torturer case. I argue that there is a way to accomodate our considered judgments about the relevant cases of temptation without giving up the standard view or dismissing, as in some way rationally defective, the concerns of the agents in the relevant cases. My reasoning relies on the idea that, at least in some cases, whether an action serves one’s concerns well depends on what action(s) or course(s) of action it is part of. In the final section of the paper, I explain how this idea sheds light on an important source of frustration in collective decision-making. (shrink)
It is widely held that instrumental reasoning to a practical conclusion is parasitic on non-instrumental practical reasoning. This conclusion is based on the claim that when there is no reason to adopt a certain end, there is no reason to take the means (qua means) to that end. But, as will be argued, while there is a sense of reason according to which the previous statement is true, there is another sense according to which it is false. Furthermore, in both (...) of the relevant senses of reason, it is true that reasons are considerations that ground correct conclusions of practical deliberation and correct advice. It follows that instrumental reasoning to a practical conclusion is not invariably parasitic on non-instrumental practical reasoning. The view that it is results from combining the idea that when there is no reason to adopt a certain end, there is no reason to take the means (qua means) to that end, with the common but faulty assumption that considerations that ground correct conclusions of practical deliberation and correct advice are all reasons in a single sense (sometimes referred to as the normative sense of reason). The assumption in question is implicit in, for example, the work of John Broome, T. M. Scanlon, Christine Korsgaard, and Stephen Darwall.1 Given the common identification of normative reasons with considerations that ground correct conclusions of practical deliberation and correct advice, the position that will be defended in this paper can be expressed by saying that there is not one but two senses of reason for which it is true that reasons are normative.. (shrink)
I consider the implications of incommensurability for the assumption, in rational choice theory, that a rational agent’s preferences are complete. I argue that, contrary to appearances, the completeness assumption and the existence of incommensurability are compatible. Indeed, reﬂection on incommensurability suggests that one’s preferences should be complete over even the incommensurable alternatives one faces.
The core argument in favor of the view immorality is a natural defect for human beings, which has been developed by Foot, assumes that if justice and compassion have important functions in human survival and reproduction, then injustice and cruelty are natural defects in human beings. But this ignores possibilities and results that cannot reasonably be ignored. Multiple and mixed naturally sound types can and do occur in nature. Moreover, research in the life sciences suggests that at least some bad (...) human behaviors, traits, or strategies are selected for and continue to have important survival-and-reproduction-related functions in human life. All this fits poorly with the position that immorality is a natural defect for human beings. Emerging as much more plausible is the competing view that, for human beings, natural soundness sometimes supports behaviors, traits, or strategies that conflict with (any ideal that can plausibly be called) moral goodness. (shrink)
I review the main models of disability and introduce a line of reasoning that has been neglected in the debate concerning disability and disadvantage. My reasoning suggests that while disablism can and should be combated, success will require more challenging transformations than those featured in the literature.
We seek to illuminate the prevalence of cooperation among biologically unrelated individuals via an analysis of agency that recognizes the possibility of bonding and challenges the common view that agency is invariably an individual-level affair. Via bonding, a single individual’s behavior patterns or programs are altered so as to facilitate the formation, on at least some occasions, of a larger entity to whom is attributable the coordination of the component entities. Some of these larger entities will qualify as agents in (...) their own right, even when the comprising entities also qualify as agents. In light of the many possibilities that humans actually enjoy for entering into numerous bonding schemes, and the extent to which they avail themselves of these possibilities, there is no basis for the assumption that cooperative behavior must ultimately emerge as either altruistic or self-interested; it can instead be the product of collective agency. (shrink)
Is there a mode of sincere advice in which the standards of the adviser are put aside in favor of the standards of the advisee? I consider two sorts of cases that appear to be such that the adviser is evaluating things from within the advisee’s system of standards even though this system conflicts with her own; and I argue that these cases are best interpreted in ways that dissolve this appearance. I then argue that the nature of sincere advice (...) precludes an adviser’s putting aside her own system of standards in favor of a competing system of standards. It follows that, contrary to what some have suggested, it cannot be that practical reason judgments—which are concerned with what an agent has reason to do or not to do and which can figure as advice— evaluate actions from within the agent’s (as opposed to the judger’s) system of standards. (shrink)
A variety of thought experiments suggest that, if the standard picture of practical rationality is correct, then practical rationality is sometimes an obstacle to practical success. For some, this in turn suggests that there is something wrong with the standard picture. In particular, it has been argued that we should revise the standard picture so that practical rationality and practical success emerge as more closely connected than the current picture allows. In this paper, I construct a choice situation—which I refer (...) to as the Newxin puzzle—and discuss its implications in relation to the revisionist approach just described. Using the Newxin puzzle, I argue that the approach leads to a more radically revisionist picture of practical rationality than current debate suggests. (shrink)
I focus on the broadly instrumentalist view that all genuine practical imperatives are hypothetical imperatives and all genuine practical deliberation is deliberation from existing motivations. After indicating why I see instrumentalism as highly plausible, I argue that the most popular version of instrumentalism, according to which genuine practical imperatives can take desires as their starting point, is problematic. I then provide a limited defense of what I see as a more radical but also more compelling version of instrumentalism. According to (...) the position I defend, genuine practical deliberation and genuine practical imperatives take as their starting point the agent's intentions and only the agent's intentions. (shrink)
Abstract I challenge the view that, in cases where time for deliberation is not an issue, instrumental rationality precludes myopic planning. I show where there is room for instrumentally rational myopic planning, and then argue that such planning is possible not only in theory, it is something human beings can and do engage in. The possibility of such planning has, however, been disregarded, and this disregard has skewed related debates concerning instrumental rationality.
ChrisoulaAndreou says procrastination qua imprudent delay is modeled by Warren Quinn’s self-torturer, who supposedly has intransitive preferences that rank each indulgence in something that delays his global goals over working toward those goals and who finds it vague where best to stop indulging. His pair-wise choices to indulge result in his failing the goals, which he then regrets. This chapter argues, contra the money-pump argument, that it is not irrational to have or choose from intransitive preferences; so (...) the agent’s delays are not imprudent, not instances of procrastination. Moreover, the self-torturer case is intelligible only if there is no vagueness and if the agent’s preferences are transitive. But then he would delay only from ordinary weakness of will. And when it is vague where best to stop indulging, rational agents would use symmetry-breaking techniques; so, again, any procrastination would be explained by standard weakness of will, not vagueness. (shrink)
ChrisoulaAndreou's “No Avail Thesis” states that many environmentally-harmful conveniences and luxuries do not significantly contribute to human happiness, making the costs they incur largely a waste. The first half of this short paper affirms the ethical importance of this thesis, with special reference to global climate change. Growing evidence suggests that implementing efficiency measures will not be sufficient to allow humanity to avoid catastrophic climate change and that such measures will have to be supplemented by reductions in (...) consumption itself. Convincing people that they can reduce consumption without harming their wellbeing could open up the political space needed to successfully mitigate climate change. The second half of the paper explores the implications of Andreou's “shallow” route to accepting the “No Avails Thesis,” grounded in empirical research that suggests people's sense of material wellbeing is largely set through interpersonal comparisons. Psychological evidence for this shallowness does seem to provide reasons for a wider range of ethical theorists to consider the “No Avails Thesis,” beyond its usual advocates among ethical perfectionists. However, from a practical perspective, this human shallowness stands as an impediment to effective political action on climate change. So philosophers concerned to convince a wider public of the “No Avails Thesis” may find themselves advocating perfectionist methods designed to help individuals question conventional ideals of material wellbeing. One way or another, effective action to avert catastrophic climate change probably depends on cultivating more adult views of the proper role of consumption in a good human life. (shrink)
ChrisoulaAndreou argues that even if our happiness is determined by our material standard of living, our standard of living could be lowered without lowering our happiness. In this response, I show how this claim can be challenged on both conceptual and empirical grounds. Conceptually, how justified we are in believing her claim depends on how we conceive of the 'we' it refers to. Empirically, there is economic evidence in tension with each of the several interpretations her position (...) admits of. I conclude that Andreou has not provided an argument that can reasonably persuade committed materialists that reducing their standard of living will not reduce their happiness. And I suggest that the search for such an argument ought to include attempts to articulate and defend a theory of well-being that shows how tenuous the connection between material luxury and quality of life really is. (shrink)
ChrisoulaAndreou argues that the predominant factor in the exalted and worldly views of human thriving involves a psychological measure of relative deprivation or advantage in relation to social competitors. This is the 'no avail' thesis: promoting self-sacrifice for the sake of conservation, in-and-of-itself, will remain ineffective as environmental policy. However, Andreou sets aside, to some extent, the applicability of philosophical discourse on happiness and human thriving, which is where this commentary is directed. Specifically, Aristotle's insights on (...) social prestige (exousia) being attained through philanthropy is discussed as a counter-narrative to present day materialist culture. For Aristotle, the Hellenic mentality was not to be of exclusionary competition but rather strengthening the community through competitive social power aimed at mutually enriching philia. This model provides a provocative case-study for insight on redirecting competitive human nature toward other ends. Additional supporting analysis is also provided on the emergence of the modern market economy using the works of economic historian Karl Polanyi. (shrink)
This comment takes issue with the opposition that Andreou draws between the “exalted” and the “worldly” view. It argues instead for a distinction between “miswanting” and “competitive consumption” as rival explanations for the failure of economic growth to increase average levels of subjectively reported happiness in developed nations. It ends with a caution against over-reliance upon happiness research as an argument for environmentally-motivated constraints on growth.
I agree with Andreou that people are 'highly adaptable when it comes to material goods.' But I would supplement her point about the influence of social comparisons on experiences of happiness with a point about the influence of habit. Andreou does briefly mention habituation, arguing that 'a good will give one less happiness once one has gotten used to having it.' While this may be true, though, it is also true that one's sense of how necessary a good (...) is to one's happiness actually increases once one has gotten used to having it. One becomes accustomed to having that good in one's life, incorporating it into one's routines, such that it becomes difficult to imagine life without it anymore. This phenomenon complicates Andreou's argument that being happy with less is possible if everyone has less: being happy with less also depends on (re)creating habits adapted to living with less. (shrink)