An enduring question in political and legal philosophy concerns whether we have a general moral obligation to follow the law. In this paper, I argue that Philip Soper’s intuitively appealing effort to give new life to the idea of legal obligation by characterising it as a duty of deference is ultimately unpersuasive. Soper claims that people who understand what a legal system is and admit that it is valuable must recognise that they would be morally inconsistent to deny that (...) they owe deference to state norms. However, if the duty of deference stemmed from people’s decision to regard the law as valuable as Soper argues, then people who do not admit the value of the state would have no duty as such to defer to its norms. And, more importantly, people who admit the value of the state would have a duty not to defer to particular norms, namely those norms which violate the values that ground their preference for a state. This critique of Soper operates within his parameters by accepting his claim that moral consistency generates reasons to act. Even on those terms, Soper’s defence of legal obligation as a duty of deference is unpersuasive. (shrink)
Substantive accounts of autonomy place value constraints on the objects of autonomous choice. According to such views, not all sober and competent choices can be autonomous: some things simply cannot be autonomously chosen. Such an account is developed and appealed to, by Thomas Hill Jr, in order to explain the intuitively troubling nature of choices for deferential roles. Such choices are not consistent with the value of self-respect, it is claimed. In this paper I argue that Hill's attempt to explain (...) the problem with such a choice, and Marcia Baron's interpretation and defence of his view, fail in this task. The troubling nature of some choices for deference cannot be explained in terms of a substantive self-respect condition for autonomy. (shrink)
Much of the literature on practical authority concerns the authority of the state over its subjects—authority to which we are, as G. E. M. Anscombe says, subject “willy nilly”. Yet many of our “willy” (or voluntary) relationships also seem to involve the exercise of practical authority, and this species of authority is in some ways even more puzzling than authority willy nilly. In this paper I argue that voluntary authority relies on a form of voluntary obligation that is akin (in (...) some respects) to the kind of obligation one undertakes in making a promise. Voluntary authority depends, that is, on the possibility of taking on certain obligations more or less at will. It is generated through an interpersonal transaction that involves a directed act of deference, on one side, paired with appropriate uptake of that deference, on the other. Deference, in the relevant sense, should be understood as a normative power that is exercised when agents transfer deliberative discretion to others, undertaking directed obligations to treat others’ directives as content-independent and peremptory reasons. Voluntary authority, thus understood, is both grounded in and constrained by the equal moral authority or autonomy of the participants, since only autonomous agents have the standing to defer in a normatively significant way. (shrink)
Some democratic theorists have argued that contemporary people should practice only a civility that recognizes others as equal persons, and eschew any form of deference to authority as a feudalistic cultural holdover that ought to be abandoned in the modern era. Against such views, this essay engages early Confucian views of ethics and society, including their analyses of different sorts of authority and status, in order to argue that, properly understood, deference is indeed a virtue of considerable importance (...) for contemporary democratic societies and the citizens who constitute them. (shrink)
Everyone agrees, I think, that there is something fishy about moral deference and expertise, but that's where consensus ends. This paper has two aims – the first is to mount a defense of moral deference, and the second is to offer a (non-debunking) diagnosis of its fishiness. I defend moral deference by connecting the discussion of moral deference to the recent discussion of the appropriate response to uncertainty. It is, I argue, morally obligatory to minimize the (...) risk of one's wrongdoing (at least when all other things are held equal), and this moral requirement entails that deferring to a moral expert is sometimes not just morally permissible but also admirable, and indeed morally required. If moral deference is often justified, why is it fishy? I offer an explanation in terms of the emotions moral judgments are often related to, and their nature (roughly speaking) as directed at the good or bad, right or wrong, de re rather than de dicto. The combination of this vindication of moral deference and diagnosis of its fishiness nicely accommodates, I argue, some related phenomena, like the (neglected) fact that our uneasiness with moral deference is actually a particular instance of uneasiness with opaque evidence in general when it comes to morality, and the (familiar) fact that the scope of this uneasiness is wider than the moral as it includes other normative domains. (shrink)
Temporal externalists argue that ascriptions of thought and utterance content can legitimately reflect contingent conceptual developments that are only settled after the time of utterance. While the view has been criticized for failing to accord with our.
The critical resources furnished bydeconstruction have more than occasionally beenturned with negative effect on traditional andmore recent conceptions of liberal learning,including the reaffirmation of the humanitiesassociated with philosophical hermeneutics. Thefirst two sections of the paper review thecontrasting and mutually opposed stancestowards learning represented by earlyformulations of deconstruction and ofhermeneutics. An exploration is thenundertaken in the later sections ofdevelopments that have taken place in bothdeconstruction and hermeneutics since theDerrida-Gadamer encounter in Paris in 1981.While not in any sense assimilatinghermeneutics to deconstruction or (...) vice versa,this exploration identifies significant shiftsin later formulations of both which provide amore inclusive context for understandinglearning as a human undertaking, including theidentification of tensions that are morepromising than negative. (shrink)
Tyler Burge’s influential arguments have convinced most philosophers that a thinker can have a thought involving a particular concept without fully grasping or having mastery of that concept. In Burge’s (1979) famous example, a thinker who lacks mastery of the concept of arthritis nonetheless has thoughts involving that concept. It is generally supposed, however, that this phenomenon – incomplete understanding, for short – does not require us to reconsider in a fundamental way what it is for a thought to involve (...) a particular concept. In this paper, I argue that the real significance of incomplete understanding has not been appreciated. To the extent that theorists of content address the phenomenon of thoughts involving incompletely grasped contents at all, they tend to assume that some hand-waving about deference to other thinkers who fully grasp the relevant concepts will take care of the inconvenient cases of incomplete understanding. The main lesson of Burge’s arguments is often taken to be that the content of language and thought is socially determined. On this picture, we do not need to change our basic view about what it is to have a concept; we just need to recognize that some thinkers can manage to have a concept by piggybacking on others. In contrast, on the view I defend, taking incomplete understanding seriously forces us to rethink some of our most basic assumptions about the nature of mental content. Deference is a red herring. The role of society in determining the content of thought is not the main lesson, but at most a useful clue as to the nature of mental and linguistic content. (shrink)
Use theories of meaning (UTMs) seem ill-equipped to accommodate the intuition that ignorant but deferential speakers use natural kind terms (e.g. 'zinc') and technical expression (e.g. 'credit default swap') with the same meanings as the experts do. After all, their use deviates from the experts', and if use determines meaning, a deviant use ordinarily would determine a deviant meaning. Yet the intuition is plausible and advocates of UTMs believe it can be accommodated. I examine Gilbert Harman's and Paul Horwich's views, (...) and argue that they do not offer a satisfactory reconciliation of the intuition with the theory. I propose an accommodation based on a novel account of semantic deference, and show that it is consistent with UTMs that a speaker may use a word with a certain meaning without fully or adequately knowing it. (shrink)
The idea that reference is multiply grounded allows causal-historical theories of reference to account for reference change. It also threatens the stability of reference in light of widespread error and confusion. I describe the problem, so far unrecognised, and provide a solution based on the phenomenon of semantic deference, which I differentiate from reference-borrowing. I conclude that deference has an authentic foundational semantic role to play.
Fodor (1998) argues that most lexical concepts have no internal structure. He rejects what he calls Inferential Role Semantics (IRS), the view that primitive concepts are constituted by their inferential relations, on the grounds that this violates the compositionality constraint and leads to an unacceptable form of holism. In rejecting IRS, Fodor must also reject meaning postulates. I argue, contra Fodor, that meaning postulates must be retained, but that when suitably constrained they are not susceptible to his arguments against IRS. (...) This has important implications for the view that certain of our concepts are deferential. A consequence of the arguments I present is that deference is relegated to a relatively minor role in what Sperber (1997) refers to as reflective concepts; deference has no important role to play in the vast majority of our intuitive concepts. (shrink)
I discuss Paolo Casalegno's objections to my views about semantic normativity as presented in my book Lexical Competence (MIT Press, 1997) and in a later paper. I argue that, contrary to Casalegno's claim, the phenomenon of semantic deference can be accounted for without having to appeal to an “objective” notion of reference, i.e. to the view that words have the reference they have independently of whatever knowledge or ability is available to or within the linguistic community. Against both Casalegno (...) and Timothy Williamson, I argue that a semantic norm based on objective reference would be really inapplicable, even though a speaker might believe to be guided by such a norm. (shrink)
The combination of this vindication of moral deference and diagnosis of its fishiness nicely accommodates, I argue, some related phenomena, like the (neglected) fact that our uneasiness with moral deference is actually a particular instance of uneasiness with opaque evidence in general when it comes to morality, and the (familiar) fact that the scope of this uneasiness is wider than the moral as it includes other normative domains.
Do citizens have an obligation to obey the law? This book differs from standard approaches by shifting from the language of obedience (orders) to that of deference (normative judgments). The popular view that law claims authority but does not have it is here reversed on both counts: Law does not claim authority but has it. Though the focus is on political obligation, the author approaches that issue indirectly by first developing a more general account of when deference is (...) due to the view of others. Two standard practices that political theorists often consider in exploring the question of political obligation - fair-play and promise-keeping - can themselves be seen as examples of a duty of deference. In this respect the book defends a more general theory of ethics whose scope extends beyond the question of political obligation to questions of duty in the case of law, promises, fair play and friendship. (shrink)
It is a truism that the attitude of deference to the text plays a lesser role in Anglo-Saxon philosophy than in other philosophical traditions. Works of philosophy written in English have, it is true, spawned a massive secondary literature dealing with the ideas, problems or arguments they contain. But they have almost never given rise to works of commentary in the strict sense, a genre which is however a dominant literary form not only in the Confucian, Vedantic, Islamic, Jewish (...) and Scholastic traditions of the past, but also in relation to more recent German-language philosophy (thus for example in work on Hegel, Heidegger or Wittgenstein). Moreover Anglo-Saxon philosophers have themselves embraced the commentary form when dealing with Greek or Latin philosophers outside their own tradition. The paper seeks to establish the reasons for this imbalance by examining those factors which might be conducive to the growth of a commentary literature in a given culture. (shrink)
The twelve elegant essays in this slim volume by Robert Cummings Neville, Ritual and Deference: Extending Chinese Philosophy in a Comparative Context, originating in lectures and projects of varying purposes, crystallize Neville’s “Confucian program” of comparative philosophy, which has been taking shape in his earlier works. More accessible than his other monographs, its apparent simplicity is deceptive. While it would inspire and benefit even the novice, only those who have traveled some distance on the same arduous journey would fully (...) appreciate the depth of its understanding and the clarity achieved through struggle with the perennial identity crisis and methodological problems of comparative .. (shrink)
This review article discusses the relationship between deference and the presumption of constitutionality, as discussed in Brian Foley’s book, Deference and the Presumption of Constitutionality. Foley argues for the rejection of the presumption of constitutionality as it operates in the Irish Constitution, proposing instead a ‘due deference’ approach. This approach would require courts to give varying degrees of weight to the legislature’s conclusions that particular legislative provisions are constitutional. The article praises Foley’s book, particularly its stronger justification (...) of due deference which focuses on its ability to foster a culture of justification which, in turn, facilitates popular sovereignty. The review also provides a criticism of the argument made in the book and discusses its application to the UK constitution. First, the review argues that the focus on constitutional as opposed to institutional factors to determine deference may, in practice, undermine Foley’s justification of due deference. Second it argues that Foley’s justification of deference may be best served in the UK constitution by a theory of democratic dialogue as opposed to the application of due deference. (shrink)
The question whether semantics is a normative discipline can be formulated as a question about the meaning of the word “means”. If I assert, “The word ‘gatto’ in Italian means cat,” what have I done? The naturalist about meaning claims that I have asserted that a certain natural relation obtains between Italian speakers’ tokens of “gatto” and cats. Or at least, I have asserted something about the way Italian speakers use the word “gatto”, which way presumably has something to do (...) with cats. The normativist claims, on the contrary, that what I have said is that in speaking Italian one ought to use the word “gatto” in a certain way, which way has something to do with cats. What I have done is endorse a certain proposal about how to use the word, which, if accepted, will have normative force. (shrink)
This essay explores the question of how to be good. My starting point is a thesis about moral worth that I’ve defended in the past: roughly, that an action is morally worthy if and only it is performed for the reasons why it is right. While I think that account gets at one important sense of moral goodness, I argue here that it fails to capture several ways of being worthy of admiration on moral grounds. Moral goodness is more multi-faceted. (...) My title is intended to capture that multi-facetedness: the essay examines saintliness, heroism, and sagacity. The variety of our common-sense moral ideals underscores the inadequacy of any one account of moral admirableness, and I hope to illuminate the distinct roles these ideals play in our everyday understanding of goodness. Along the way, I give an account of what makes actions heroic, of whether such actions are supererogatory, and of what, if anything, is wrong with moral deference. At the close of the essay, I begin to explore the flipside of these ideals: villainy. (shrink)
She was intensely sympathetic. She was immensely charming. She excelled in the difficult arts of family life. She sacrificed herself daily. If there was chicken, she took the leg, if there was a draught, she sat in it—in short, she was so constituted that she never had a mind or wish of her own, but preferred to sympathise always with the minds and wishes of others. — Virginia Woolf (1979, 59).
It has become increasingly popular to suggest that non-individualistic theories of content undermine our purported a priori knowledge of such contents because they entail that we lack the ability to distinguish our thoughts from alternative thoughts with different contents. However, problems relating to such knowledge of 'comparative' content tell just as much against individualism as non-individualism. Indeed, the problems presented by individualistic theories of content for self-knowledge are at least, if not more, serious than those presented by non-individualistic theories. Consequently, (...) considerations of self-knowledge give one no reason to embrace individualism. If anything, they give one reason to reject it. (shrink)
My paper is a response to Paul Horwich’s Reflections on Meaning (2005) chapter 2, “A Use Theory of Meaning”, which develops a theory, “UTM”, presented in Meaning (1998), and responds to some criticisms, including mine in “Meaning and Use” (2002).
The world we lost, and now barely understand, was one where everyone knew her place, and her attendant duties. Civilized groups were the likeliest to insist on a diversity of rôle and rule. Primitive societies are ones where there are rather fewer such distinctions. Slaves and merchants offered a way of being outside the orders, and from the older point of view, the life of slaves and merchants is exactly what the ‘liberal’ ideal entails. No one can count on her (...) connections; everything is up for sale; no one is dishonoured by the acts of friends or family; only animal passions keep us all together. Even in societies that profess egalitarian theories, castes and classes re-emerge. If there is another option it may lie in drawing, as the ancients did, a clear division between selfhood and nature: even in a traditionally hierarchical society it is possible to recall the mere selves that play their various parts. In a would-be egalitarian society that hopes for something more than the hedonic or agonistic bonds that may bind small-scale communities together, recalling, and reconstructing, that distinction may be even more important. Footnotes1 This paper is intended as a prolegomenon to a larger study of NeoPlatonist ethics. I am grateful for the Leverhulme Trust's support for this project. (shrink)
Why is neural activity in a particular area expressed as experience of red rather than green, or as visual experience rather than auditory? Indeed, why does it have any conscious expression at all? These familiar questions indicate the explanatory gap between neural activity and ‘what it’s like’-- qualities of conscious experience. The comparative explanatory gaps, intermodal and intramodal, can be separated from the absolute explanatory gap and associated zombie issues--why does neural activity have any conscious expression at all?. Here I (...) focus on comparative gaps: why is neural activity in a given area expressed as this type of experience rather than that type of experience? (shrink)
The overwhelming consensus amongst epistemologists is that there is no salient epistemological difference between the addressees of a speaker’s testimony and non-addressees. I argue that this overwhelming consensus is mistaken. Addressees of a speaker’s testimony are entitled to pass the epistemic buck or defer justificatory responsibility for their beliefs back to the testimonial speaker, while non-addressees are not. I then develop a provisional account of address that is in a position to mark this epistemic distinction between addressees and non-addressees.
Fodor’s theory of concepts holds that the psychological capacities, beliefs or intentions which determine how we use concepts do not determine reference. Instead, causal relations of a specific kind between properties and our dispositions to token a concept are claimed to do so. Fodor does admit that there needs to be some psychological mechanisms mediating the property–concept tokening relations, but argues that they are purely accidental for reference. In contrast, I argue that the actual mechanisms that sustain the reference determining (...) concept tokening relations are necessary for reference. Fodor’s atomism is thus undermined, since in order to refer with a concept it is necessary to possess some specific psychological capacities. (shrink)
Kripke’s most important arguments in Naming and Necessity against the description theory of reference of proper names are the arguments from ignorance and error concerning names of historical figures. The aim of this paper is to put forward a reply to these arguments. The answer to them is grounded on the development of one component of the version of the description theory proposed by the authors that are regarded as the classical contemporary advocates of this theory, namely Searle and Strawson; (...) one of the targets of Kripke’s arguments is precisely the version of the description theory of reference submitted by these authors. The development of that component results in a sort of description theory of reference not affected by Kripke’s arguments from ignorance and error concerning the names of historical figures, deferential descriptivism. (shrink)