Metaethical non-naturalists maintain that normative or evaluative properties cannot be reduced to, or otherwise explained in terms of, natural properties. They thus have difficulty explaining what these irreducibly normative properties are supposed to be, other than by saying what they are not (e.g., they are not identical to any natural property, they are not causally efficacious, they are not empirically observable, etc.). I offer a partial, positive characterization of irreducibly normative properties in naturalistic terms. At a first pass, it is (...) this: that to attribute a normative or evaluative property to something is necessarily to commend or condemn that thing, due to the nature of the property. The view characterizes normativity in terms of the natural phenomenon of performing certain familiar speech acts. (shrink)
Subjective theories of well-being claim that how well our lives go for us is a matter of our attitudes towards what we get in life rather than the nature of the things themselves. This article explains in more detail the distinction between subjective and objective theories of well-being; describes, for each approach, some reasons for thinking it is true; outlines the main kinds of subjective theory; and explains their advantages and disadvantages.
It is a common idea that morality, or moral truths, if there are any, must have some sort of source, or grounding. It has also been claimed that constructivist theories in metaethics have an advantage over realist theories in that the former but not the latter can provide such a grounding. This paper has two goals. First, it attempts to show that constructivism does not in fact provide a complete grounding for morality, and so is on a par with realism (...) in this respect. Second, it explains why it seems that morality in fact couldn't have a source. (shrink)
One of the most important disputes in the foundations of ethics concerns the source of practical reasons. On the desire-based view, only one’s desires provide one with reasons to act. On the value-based view, reasons are instead provided by the objective evaluative facts, and never by our desires. Similarly, there are desire-based and non-desired-based theories about two other issues: pleasure and welfare. It has been argued, and is natural to think, that holding a desire-based theory about either pleasure or welfare (...) commits one to recognizing that desires do provide reasons for action – i.e., commits one to abandoning the value-based theory of reasons. The purpose of this paper is to show that this is not so. All of the following can be true: pleasure and welfare provide reasons; pleasure and welfare are to be understood in terms of desire; desires never provide reasons, in the relevant way. (shrink)
According to the argument from self-sacrifice, standard, unrestricted desire-based theories of welfare fail because they have the absurd implication that self-sacrifice is conceptually impossible. I attempt to show that, in fact, the simplest imaginable, completely unrestricted desire-based theory of well-being is perfectly compatible with the phenomenon of self-sacrifice – so long as the theory takes the right form. I go on to consider a new argument from self-sacrifice against this simple theory, which, I argue, also fails. I conclude that, contrary (...) to popular opinion, considerations of self-sacrifice do not pose a problem for preferentist theories of welfare. (shrink)
The most famous objection to the ontological argument is given in Kant's dictum that existence is not a real predicate. But it is not obvious how this slogan is supposed to relate to the ontological argument. Some, most notably Alvin Plantinga, have even judged Kant's dictum to be totally irrelevant to Anselm's version of the ontological argument. In this paper I argue, against Plantinga and others, that Kant's claim is indeed relevant to Anselm's argument, in the straightforward sense that if (...) the claim is true, then Anselm's argument is unsound. (shrink)
In "The Insignificance of Personal Identity to Bioethics," David Shoemaker argues that, contrary to common opinion, considerations of personal identity have no relevance to certain important debates in bioethics. My aim is to show that Shoemaker is mistaken concerning the relevance of personal identity to the abortion debate -– in particular, to Don Marquis’ well-known anti-abortion argument.
An introduction to the philosophical debate over what makes a person's life go well. It attempts to clarify the question of welfare and to explore several of the most important answers, while displaying the main contours of the dialectic.
An important and widely-endorsed argument for moral realism is based on alleged parallels between that doctrine and epistemic realism -- roughly the view that there are genuine epistemic facts, facts such as that it is reasonable to believe that astrology is false. I argue for an important disanalogy between moral and epistemic facts. Epistemic facts, but not moral facts, are plausibly identifiable with mere descriptive facts about the world. This is because, whereas the much-discussed moral open-question argument is compelling, the (...) little-discussed epistemic open-question argument is not. This paper is a critical notice of Terence Cuneo's The Normative Web: An Argument for Moral Realism (Oxford University Press, 2007). (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to present a new argument against so-called fitting attitude analyses of intrinsic value, according to which, roughly, for something to be intrinsically good is for there to be reasons to want it for its own sake. The argument is indirect. First, I submit that advocates of a fitting-attitude analysis of value should, for the sake of theoretical unity, also endorse a fitting-attitude analysis of a closely related but distinct concept: the concept of intrinsic value (...) for a person, i.e., the concept of welfare. Then I argue directly against fitting-attitude analyses of welfare. This argument, which is the focus of the paper, is based on the idea that whereas whether an event is good or bad for a person doesn’t change over time, the attitudes there is reason to have towards such an event can change over time. Therefore, one cannot explain the former in terms of the latter, as fitting-attitude analyses of welfare attempt to do. (shrink)
Jonathan Westphal's recent paper attempts to reconcile the view that propositions about the future can be true or false now with the idea that the future cannot now be real. I attempt to show that Westphal's proposal is either unoriginal or unsatisfying. It is unoriginal if it is just the well-known eternalist solution. It is unsatisfying if it is instead making use of a peculiar, tensed truthmaking principle.
One of the leading approaches to the nature of sensory pleasure reduces it to desire: roughly, a sensation qualifies as a sensation of pleasure just in case its subject wants to be feeling it. This approach is, in my view, correct, but it has never been formulated quite right; and it needs to be defended against some compelling arguments. Thus the purpose of this paper is to discover the most defensible formulation of this rough idea, and to defend it against (...) the most interesting objections. (shrink)
Hedonism and the desire-satisfaction theory of welfare ("desire satisfactionism") are typically seen as archrivals in the contest over identifying what makes one's life go best. It is surprising, then, that the most plausible form of hedonism just is the most plausible form of desire satisfactionism. How can a single theory of welfare be a version of both hedonism and desire satisfactionism? The answer lies in what pleasure is: pleasure is, in my view, the subjective satisfaction of desire. This thesis about (...) pleasure is clarified and defended only after we proceed through the dialectics that get us to the most plausible forms of hedonism and desire satisfactionism. (shrink)
The desire-satisfaction theory of welfare says, roughly, that one's life goes well to the extent that one's desires are satisfied. On standard 'actualist' versions of the theory, it doesn't matter what you desire. So long as you are getting what you actually want – whatever it is – things are going well for you. There is widespread agreement that these standard versions are incorrect, because we can desire things that are bad for us -– in other words, because there are (...) 'defective desires'. The aim of this paper is to defend the actualist desire-satisfaction theory against the problem of defective desires. I aim to show how the theory can accommodate the obvious fact that we can desire things that are bad for us. Admittedly, there are kinds of allegedly defective desire the theory cannot accommodate, but these desires, I argue, turn out not to be defective in the relevant way. (shrink)
Non-presentist A-theories of time (such as the growing block theory and the moving spotlight theory) seem unacceptable because they invite skepticism about whether one exists in the present. To avoid this absurd implication, Peter Forrest appeals to the "Past is Dead hypothesis," according to which only beings in the objective present are conscious. We know we're present because we know we're conscious, and only present beings can be conscious. I argue that the dead past hypothesis undercuts the main reason for (...) preferring non-presentist A-theories to their presentist rivals, rivals which straightforwardly avoid skepticism about the present. (shrink)