Most atheists are error theorists about theists; they claim that theists have genuine beliefs about the existence and nature of a divine being, but as a matter of fact no such divine being exists. Thus on their view the relevant theistic beliefs are mistaken. As error theorists, then, atheists need to arrive at some answer to the question of what practical course of action the atheist should adopt towards the theistic beliefs held by committed theists. The most natural answer and (...) the one that we see being implemented by many prominent atheists today, can be stated roughly as follows: -/- (1) Theistic Eliminativism: Atheists should marshal the best arguments at their disposal and present them to theists in the hopes that theists will come to appreciate that their religious beliefs are systemically erroneous. Furthermore, on coming to this realization, a theist should abandon not just his specific religious beliefs, but also more generally his religious practices and theistic framework for viewing the world, and adopt a secular point of view instead. -/- One of the main goals of this paper is to show that, despite its popularity, eliminativism is not the only option for the atheist to adopt. In order to do so, I draw on recent work in meta-ethics on moral error theories, work which has helped to outline a number of alterative courses of action that someone might take towards a group which is said to have widespread erroneous beliefs. (shrink)
Ellen Furlong and Laurie Santos helpfully summarize a number of fascinating studies of certain influences on both human and monkey behavior. As someone who works primarily in philosophy, I am not in a position to dispute the details of the studies themselves. But in this brief commentary I do want to raise some questions about the inferences Furlong and Santos make on the basis of those studies. In general, I worry that they may be overreaching beyond what their own data (...) suggests. (shrink)
Integrity is one of the leading normative concepts employed in our society. We frequently talk about the degree of integrity of community leaders and famous historical figures, and we highly value integrity in our elected public officials. But philosophers have had a difficult time arriving at consensus about what integrity consists in. Some claim that it is a purely formal relation of consistency, others that it has to do primarily with one‟s identity, and still others that it involves subjective or (...) objective moral requirements. The primarily goal here is to outline the leading facets of integrity in the contemporary philosophical literature. (shrink)
This chapter surveys work in meta-ethics in the past fifty years which explicitly deals with issues associated with evil. It discusses two examples from secular discussions: the argument developed by Gilbert Harman on the explanatory role of moral facts, and the argument developed by Gilbert Harman and John Doris on the empirical inadequacy of the virtues. The chapter then turns to two topics related to theistic meta-ethics: the problem of evil and moral realism, and theological voluntarism and evil.
The Euthyphro Dilemma is named after a particular exchange between Socrates and Euthyphro in Plato‟s dialogue Euthyphro. In a famous passage, Socrates asks, “Is the pious loved by the gods because it is pious, or is it pious because it is loved by the gods?” (Plato 1981: 10a), and proceeds to advance arguments which clearly favor the first of these two options (see PLATO). The primary interest in the Euthyphro Dilemma over the years, however, has primarily concerned the relationship between (...) God and morality in the monotheistic religious tradition, where God is taken to be omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent, having created the universe initially and still actively involved in it today. But as we will see at the end of this entry, there has also been a recent surge of interest in a version of the Dilemma which applies to so-called response-dependent accounts of normative properties in meta-ethics. (shrink)
I first summarize the main line of argument used by Harman and Doris against Aristotelian virtue ethics in particular. In section two I present what seems to me to be the most promising response to their argument. Finally in section three I briefly review and assess the other leading responses in the now sizable literature that has developed in this area.
In section one, I briefly review the Harman/Doris argument and outline the most promising response. Then in section two I develop what I take the real challenge to virtue ethics to be. The final section of the chapter suggests two strategies for beginning to address this challenge.
7.1 META-ETHICS AND AN ERROR THEORY ABOUT MORAL CHARACTER It is customary in philosophical ethics to distinguish between meta-ethics and normative ethical theory. Meta-ethics is often characterized as the non-moral study of ...
A number of philosophers have become convinced that the best way of trying to understand human agency is by arriving at an account of identification. My goal here is not to criticize particular views about identification, but rather to examine several assumptions which have been widely held in the literature and yet which, in my view, render implausible any account of identification that takes them on board. In particular, I argue that typically identification does not involve either reflective consideration of (...) our mental states or endorsement of those states. If it did, we would rarely be agents. (shrink)
The goal of this book is to develop a new framework for thinking about what moral character looks like today. My central claim will be that most people have moral character traits, but at the same time they do not have either the traditional ...
In several recent articles and in a forthcoming book, I have tried to articulate what I take the real challenge to virtue ethics to be from social psychology. In this article, I develop that challenge again by looking specifically at the virtue of forgiveness.
The Continuum Companion to Ethics offers a definitive guide to a key area of contemporary philosophy. The book covers all the fundamental questions asked by meta-ethics and normative ethical theory - areas that have continued to attract interest historically as well as topics that have emerged more recently as active areas of research. Fourteen specially commissioned essays from an international team of experts reveal where important work continues to be done in the field and, most valuably, the exciting new directions (...) the field is taking. The Companion explores issues pertaining to moral methodology, moral realism, ethical expressivism, constructivism and the error theory, morality and practical reason, moral psychology, morality and religion, consequentialism, Kantian ethics, virtue ethics, feminist ethics, moral particularism, experimental ethics, and biology, evolution, and ethics. Featuring a series of indispensable research tools, including important technical terms in ethics, a historical chronology, an extensive overview of contemporary meta-ethics and normative ethical theory, a detailed list of internet resources for research in ethics, and a thorough list of recommended works for further study, this is the essential reference tool for anyone working in contemporary philosophical ethics. (shrink)
In this paper, I raise three sets of issues inspired by Amy Coplan's paper, “Will the Real Empathy Please Stand Up.” They concern whether we need to distinguish between the three phenomena as Coplan suggests, what method(s) should be used in making those distinctions, and whether they are in fact made correctly.
The first section of this paper briefly summarizes my positive view of global helping traits. The remaining sections then develop the view in two new directions by examining the relationship between guilt, embarrassment, and helping behavior. It turns out that guilt and embarrassment reliably and cross-situationally enhance helping behavior, but in such a way that is incompatible with the nature of compassion as traditionally understood.
Much recent work in meta-ethics and ethical theory has drawn extensively on claims about moral psychology. The goal of this paper is to provide a broad overview of some of these claims and the implications that certain philosophers are taking them to have for the plausibility of moral relativism.
The study of morality continues to flourish in contemporary philosophy. As the chapters of this Companion illustrate, new and exciting work is being done on a wide range of topics from the objectivity of morality to the relationship between morality and religious, biological, and feminist concerns. Along with this vast amount of work has come a proliferation of technical terminology and competing positions. The goal of this chapter is to provide an overview of the terrain in contemporary ethics.
In a number of recent papers, I have begun to develop a new theory of character which is conceptually distinct both from traditional Aristotelian accounts as well as from the positive view of local traits outlined by John Doris. On my view, many human beings do have robust traits of character which play an important explanatory and predictive role, but which are triggered by certain situational variables which preclude them from counting as genuine Aristotelian virtues. Like others in this discussion, (...) I have focused on helping behavior in particular, and have gone on to argue that much of the social psychology literature is compatible with this new approach. The goal of this paper is to develop the model as it pertains to helping behavior further by examining how helping-relevant traits can serve as impediments to helping behavior. (shrink)
A wealth of research in social psychology over the past twenty years has examined the role that guilt plays in our mental lives. In this paper, I examine just one aspect of this vast literature, namely the relationship between guilt and prosocial behavior. Researchers have typically found a robust positive correlation between feelings of guilt and helping, and have advanced psychological models to explain why guilt seems to have this effect. Here I present some of their results as well as (...) draw out certain important implications that seem to follow for moral psychology and ethical theory. (shrink)
Thanks largely to the work of Robert Adams and Philip Quinn, the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a resurgence of interest in divine command theory as a viable position in normative theory and meta-ethics. More recently, however, there has been some dissatisfaction with divine command theory even among those philosophers who claim that normative properties are grounded in God, and as a result alternative views have begun to emerge, most notably divine intention theory (Murphy, Quinn) and divine motivation (...) theory (Zagzebski). My goal here is to outline a distinct theory, divine desire theory, and suggest that, even if it is not clearly superior to these extant views, it is at least worthy of serious consideration.1 As far as this paper is concerned, the discussion will be limited just to the deontic status of actions (obligatory, permissible, forbidden), and so no attempt will be made to also account for axiological properties such as goodness or evil. In order to get oriented to the range of deontological views in this area, consider the following three rough characterizations. (shrink)
Due largely to the work of Mark Murphy and Philip Quinn, divine will theory has emerged as a legitimate alternative to divine command theory in recent years. As an initial characterization, divine will theory is a view of deontological properties according to which, for instance, an agent S‟s obligation to perform action A in circumstances C is grounded in God‟s will that S A in C. Characterized this abstractly, divine will theory does not specify which kind of mental state is (...) supposed to ground S‟s obligation; it could be God‟s desires, beliefs, intentions, or emotions. My purpose here is not to challenge this view. Rather, I want to examine the decision by Murphy and Quinn to base their version of divine will theory on God‟s intentions, and argue that this may have been an unwise move. As an alternative, I suggest that those who are initially attracted to divine will theory would be better served to develop the view with a focus on God‟s desires rather than intentions. (shrink)
The central virtue at issue in recent philosophical discussions of the empirical adequacy of virtue ethics has been the virtue of compassion. Opponents of virtue ethics such as Gilbert Harman and John Doris argue that experimental results from social psychology concerning helping behavior are best explained not by appealing to so-called ‘global’ character traits like compassion, but rather by appealing to external situational forces or, at best, to highly individualized ‘local’ character traits. In response, a number of philosophers have argued (...) that virtue ethics can accommodate the empirical results in question. My own view is that neither side of this debate is looking in the right direction. For there is an impressive array of evidence from the social psychology literature which suggests that many people do possess one or more robust global character traits pertaining to helping others in need. But at the same time, such traits are noticeably different from a traditional virtue like compassion. (shrink)
I first summarize the central issues in the debate about the empirical adequacy of virtue ethics, and then examine the role that social psychologists claim positive and negative mood have in influencing compassionate helping behavior. I argue that this psychological research is compatible with the claim that many people might instantiate certain character traits after all which allow them to help others in a wide variety of circumstances. Unfortunately for the virtue ethicist, however, it turns out that these helping traits (...) fall well short of exhibiting certain central features of compassion. (shrink)
In this paper, I hope to provide an account of the conditions of moral realism whereby there are still significant metaphysical commitments made by the realist which set the view apart as a distinct position in the contemporary meta-ethical landscape. In order to do so, I will be appealing to a general account of what it is for realism to be true in any domain of experience, whether it be realism about universals, realism about unobservable scientific entities, realism about artifacts, (...) and so forth. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to consider Joshua Gert’s novel view of subjective practical rationality in his book Brute Rationality. After briefly outlining the account, I present two objections to his view and then consider his own objections to a rival approach to understanding subjective rationality which I take to be much more plausible.
The three essays which make up this symposium engage with some of the most important issues in the theory of action and agency today. Among the topics which are considered at length are the possibility of practical knowledge, the relationship between knowledge how versus knowledge that, the constitution of intentions, the importance of knowledge without observation, the difference between genuine actions versus mere bodily movements, the role of making sense in action and valuing, the nature of valuing and of values, (...) the relationship between being an actor and acting, the objectivity of values, the alleged existence of formal coherence requirements like non-contradiction, closure, and means-end coherence, the aim of belief and intention, the instrumental value of formal requirements, and the availability of an error theory for such requirements. My hope is that this symposium will help foster continued interest in these and other related issues about agency and action. In what follows I offer a brief overview of each paper. (shrink)
Cases involving amoralists who no longer care about the institution of morality, together with cases of depression, listlessness, and exhaustion, have posed trouble in recent years for standard formulations of motivational internalism. In response, though, internalists have been willing to adopt narrower versions of the thesis which restrict it just to the motivational lives of those agents who are said to be in some way normal, practically rational, or virtuous. My goal in this paper is to offer a new set (...) of counterexamples to motivational internalism, examples which are effective both against traditional formulations of the thesis as well as against many of these more recent restricted proposals. (shrink)
The Humean theory of motivation remains the default position in much of the contemporary literature in meta-ethics, moral psychology, and action theory. Yet despite its widespread support, the theory is implausible as a view about what motivates agents to act. More specifically, my reasons for dissatisfaction with the Humean theory stem from its incompatibility with what I take to be a compelling model of the role of motivating reasons in first-person practical deliberation and third-person action explanations. So after first introducing (...) some assumptions about the nature of agency in section one, I will turn to articulating and defending this account of motivating reasons in sections two through four of the paper. Section five then provides some background on the Humean theory before I argue directly against it in section six and critically examine the leading arguments for the view in section seven. Given limitations of space, however, I save the task of developing a positive anti-Humean view for another occasion. (shrink)
Joel Kupperman's latest book is a wide ranging discussion of many of the leading issues in contemporary ethical theory. Its main aim is to advance a view which he calls "multi level indirect consequentialism" as a viable alternative to traditional act and rule consequentialist positions. Such a view purports to secure many of the agent centered constraints and options which are familiar from ordinary morality, as well as to take seriously considerations of fairness and respect for persons. Needless to say, (...) Kupperman's project is ambitious, and his book provides us with a preliminary sketch of the proposal. In what follows, I first summarize the two parts of Ethics and Qualities of Life and then offer some critical remarks. (shrink)
Much attention in the recent resurgence of interest in virtue ethics has been paid to the virtues. At the same time, however, comparatively little has been written about vices. In Deadly Vices, Gabriele Taylor aims to remedy this by offering a detailed discussion of the vices that are traditionally labeled the seven deadly sins: sloth, envy, avarice, pride, anger, lust, and gluttony. Among her central claims about them is that they are each focused primarily on the self, and that they (...) lead to self-destruction and inhibit our flourishing in ways that we can understand without having to appeal to an objective account of flourishing. Taylor takes her conclusions to “offer at least negative support for some central claims of an Aristotelian-type virtue-theory” (p. 1). (shrink)
The concern of this paper is not with the truth of any particular realist or anti-realist view, but rather with determining what it is to be a realist or anti-realist in the first place. While much skepticism has been voiced in recent years about the viability of such a project, my goal is to articulate interesting and informative conditions whereby any view in any domain of experience can count as either a realist or an anti-realist position.
In a number of recent papers, Michael Bratman has defended a policy-based theory of identification which represents the most sophisticated and compelling development of a broadly hierarchical approach to the problems about identification which Harry Frankfurt drew our attention to over thirty years ago. Here I first summarize the bare essentials of Bratman's view, and then raise doubts about both its necessity and sufficiency. Finally I consider his objections to rival value-based models, and find those objections to be less compelling (...) than he makes them out to be. (shrink)
The view to be defended in this paper is intended to be a novel and compelling model of instrumental practical reasoning, reasoning aimed at determining how to act in order to achieve a given end in a certain set of circumstances. On standard views of instrumental reasoning, the end in question is the object of a particular desire that the agent has, a desire which, when combined with the agent’s beliefs about what means are available to him or her in (...) order to satisfy that desire, can cause the formation of an independent desire or intention to engage in the relevant means. One of the main goals in what follows is to show that such views provide an inadequate understanding of instrumental practical reasoning when it comes to the practical lives of agents. (shrink)
"This book is a posthumous collection of some of the best papers of a distinguished, many-sided philosopher of religion, edited by one of his last students. The foreword is a humorous, piquant, and appreciative personal reminisence by Eleonore Stump.... this excellent selection of his papers on religion leaves one with high esteem for a thoroughly expert philosopher who was also a deep, compassionate, and truthful human being."-Robert C. Roberts, Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews .
My goal in this brief introduction is twofold: first, to briefly sketch some of the life of this remarkable man; and second, to provide an overview of the papers that make up this collection. The papers themselves have been organized around the following central topics in Quinn’s research: religious ethics, religion and tragic dilemmas, religious epistemology, religion and political liberalism, Christian philosophy of religion, and religious diversity.
In 1903 G.E. Moore celebrated a robust nonnaturalistic form of moral realism with the publication of his Principia Ethica. Subsequent years have witnessed the development and refinement of a number of views motivated at least in part by a deep resistance to the metaphysical and epistemological commitments of nonnaturalism. Over time, Moore’s view arguably has become the position of last resort for philosophers working in metaethics. Exactly one hundred years later, analytic metaethics has come full circle with the publication of (...) Russ Shafer-Landau’s Moral Realism: A Defence. Shafer-Landau confidently elaborates and defends a form of nonnaturalism about moral facts and properties, and conjoins his moral metaphysics with an anti-Humean theory of motivation, motivational externalism, reasons externalism, moral rationalism, and a hybrid of selfevident justification and reliabilism in moral epistemology. Needless to say, Shafer-Landau’s book is highly ambitious with respect to both the number of controversial theses it tries to defend as well as the antecedent skepticism it attempts to overcome. Regardless of whether its arguments are ultimately successful, Moral Realism deserves to be taken very seriously by anyone interested in metaethics, moral psychology, and the philosophy of action.1 In what follows, I will consider all five parts of Moral Realism in order, offering a brief summary of some of the main ideas in each section as well as raising a few objections (although without being able, in the space available, to do justice to all or even the majority of the interesting arguments with which the book is filled). (shrink)
My initial hope when I first saw Miller’s book was that here at least would be a work which satisfies the long standing need for a comprehensive introduction to contemporary metaethics which is accessible enough to be employed in advanced undergraduate courses and introductory graduate seminars. This hope was only partially realized, however, as Miller ends up oscillating between clear presentations of extant debates in the recent literature and his own extended attempts to determine where the truth of the matter (...) lies. The result is an interesting book that likely will appeal both to those looking for a classroom text in metaethics as well as to experts on the relevant issues. (shrink)
This is the first book by Joshua Gert, son of the well-known moral philosopher Bernard Gert. Among other things, Gert argues for a novel account of both objective and subjective rationality, a new theory of normative reasons, and a distinctive approach to construing the relationship between reasons for action and rationality. The result is an impressive book filled with interesting arguments and objections, which should advance philosophical discussions on a number of important issues.
The aim of William Casebeer’s book is ‘to show that, theoretically speaking, there is no reason to rule out a scientific naturalized ethics tout court, and that, practical speaking, by taking into account recent developments in evolutionary biology and the cognitive sciences, the outlines of one promising form of such an ethics can be sketched’ (p. 1-2). The result is an interesting treatment of a wide variety of issues at the intersection of cognitive science, meta-ethics, normative theory, and evolutionary psychology, (...) a treatment that is often suggestive but also frequently lacking in detailed argumentation. (shrink)
Much of the literature in contemporary analytic metaethics has grown rather stale – the range of possible positions seems to have been exhaustively delineated, and most of the important arguments on all sides have been clearly articulated and evaluated. In order to advance discussion in this area, I examine more fundamental issues about the nature of agency. In my view, the heart of what it is to exhibit intentional agency in the world is to identify with the relevant components of (...) practical reasoning from the first person perspective. Chapter one attempts to arrive at sufficient conditions for desire identification by examining the structure of instrumental practical reasoning. But it turns out that this story about identification cannot be told until we first have available a separate account of norm identification. The best way of developing this latter account is by understanding the phenomenon of first person volitional impossibility. With the resources in hand from the first two chapters, we can articulate sufficient conditions in chapter three for desire, norm, and action identification, as well as critically evaluate rival hierarchical views. Finally, chapter four is devoted to a preliminary consideration of our sense of our own wills as free. (shrink)
This volume is a collection of papers, all but one of which were presented at a conference on the same topic at the University of Montreal in 2001. The editors have also added a brief introduction, half of which is devoted to a very quick overview of some of the relevant background literature on weakness of will and practical irrationality, while the other half summarizes the main claims of each of the papers in the volume. The contributors, in order of (...) appearance, are Michael Smith, Richard Holton, Philip Pettit, Christine Tappolet, Sarah Stroud, Sergio Tenenbaum, Gary Watson, Ralph Wedgwood, Duncan MacIntosh, Joseph Heath, and Ronald de Sousa. As is common in reviews of collections such as this one, I will first briefly summarize each contribution, and then comment in more detail on one of the papers. (shrink)