Dixon et al. suggest that the psychological literature on intergroup relations should shift from theorizing to A focus on social change exposes the importance of psychological theories involving collective phenomena like social norms and institutions. Individuals' attitudes and emotions may follow, rather than cause, changes in social norms and institutional arrangements.
The following is a transcript of the interview I (Yasuko Kitano) conducted with Neil Levy (The Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics, CAPPE) on the 23rd in July 2009, while he was in Tokyo to give a series of lectures on neuroethics at The University of Tokyo Center for Philosophy. I edited his words for publication with his approval.
The concept of luck has played an important role in debates concerning free will and moral responsibility, yet participants in these debates have relied upon an intuitive notion of what luck is. Neil Levy develops an account of luck, which is then applied to the free will debate. He argues that the standard luck objection succeeds against common accounts of libertarian free will, but that it is possible to amend libertarian accounts so that they are no more vulnerable to (...) luck than is compatibilism. But compatibilist accounts of luck are themselves vulnerable to a powerful luck objection: historical compatibilisms cannot satisfactorily explain how agents can take responsibility for their constitutive luck; non-historical compatibilisms run into insurmountable difficulties with the epistemic condition on control over action. Levy argues that because epistemic conditions on control are so demanding that they are rarely satisfied, agents are not blameworthy for performing actions that they take to be best in a given situation. It follows that if there are any actions for which agents are responsible, they are akratic actions; but even these are unacceptably subject to luck. Levy goes on to discuss recent non-historical compatibilisms, and argues that they do not offer a viable alternative to control-based compatibilisms. He suggests that luck undermines our freedom and moral responsibility no matter whether determinism is true or not. (shrink)
In this highly original book, Donald Levy considers the most important and persuasive of these philosophical criticisms, as articulated by four figures: Ludwig Wittgenstein, William James, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Adolf Grunbaum.
The author comments on the article “The Neurobiology of Addiction: Implications for Voluntary Control of Behavior,‘ by S. E. Hyman. Hyman’s article suggests that addicted individuals have impairments in cognitive control of behavior. The author agrees with Hyman’s view that addiction weakens the addict’s ability to align his actions with his judgments. The author states that neuroethics may focus on brains and highlight key aspects of behavior but we still risk missing explanatory elements. Accession Number: 24077912; Authors: Levy, Neil (...) 1,2; Email Address: firstname.lastname@example.org; Affiliations: 1: University of Melbourne, Parkville 3010, Australia; 2: University of Oxford; Subject: ADDICTIONS; Subject: ALCOHOLISM; Subject: COGNITION; Subject: BEHAVIOR; Subject: JUDGMENT; Subject: HYMAN, S. E.; Subject: NEUROBIOLOGY; Number of Pages: 2p. (shrink)
This article summarizes the theory of federalism as non-domination Iris Marion Young began to develop in her final years, a theory of self-government that tried to recognize interconnectedness. Levy also poses an objection to that theory: non-domination cannot do the work Young needed of it, because it is a theory about the merits of decisions not about jurisdiction over them. The article concludes with an attempt to give Young the last word.
In 1997, a Scottish surgeon by the name of Robert Smith was approached by a man with an unusual request: he wanted his apparently healthy lower left leg amputated. Although details about the case are sketchy, the would-be amputee appears to have desired the amputation on the grounds that his left foot wasn’t part of him – it felt alien. After consultation with psychiatrists, Smith performed the amputation. Two and a half years later, the patient reported that his life had (...) been transformed for the better by the operation . A second patient was also reported as having been satisfied with his amputation . (shrink)
The extended mind thesis is the claim that mental states extend beyond the skulls of the agents whose states they are. This seemingly obscure and bizarre claim has far-reaching implications for neuroethics, I argue. In the first half of this article, I sketch the extended mind thesis and defend it against criticisms. In the second half, I turn to its neuroethical implications. I argue that the extended mind thesis entails the falsity of the claim that interventions into the brain are (...) especially problematic just because they are internal interventions, but that many objections to such interventions rely, at least in part, on this claim. Further, I argue that the thesis alters the focus of neuroethics, away from the question of whether we ought to allow interventions into the mind, and toward the question of which interventions we ought to allow and under what conditions. The extended mind thesis dramatically expands the scope of neuroethics: because interventions into the environment of agents can count as interventions into their minds, decisions concerning such interventions become questions for neuroethics. (shrink)
Doxastic responsibility matters, morally and epistemologically. Morally, because many of our intuitive ascriptions of blame seem to track back to agents’ apparent responsibility for beliefs; epistemologically because some philosophers identify epistemic justification with deontological permissibility. But there is a powerful argument which seems to show that we are rarely or never responsible for our beliefs, because we cannot control them. I examine various possible responses to this argument, which aim to show either that doxastic responsibility does not require that we (...) control our beliefs, or that as a matter of fact we do exercise the right kind of control over our beliefs. I argue that the existing arguments are all wanting: in fact, our lack of control over our beliefs typically excuses us of responsibility for them. (shrink)
Frankfurt-style cases are widely taken to show that agents do not need alternative possibilities to be morally responsible for their actions. Many philosophers take these cases to constitute a powerful argument for compatibilism: if we do not need alternative possibilities for moral responsibility, it is hard to see what the attraction of indeterminism might be. I defend the claim that even though Frankfurt-style cases establish that agents can be responsible for their actions despite lacking alternatives, agents can only be responsible (...) if they possess certain powers, and possession of these powers is - arguably - incompatible with determinism. Because this is the case, Frankfurt-style cases fail to advance the debate between compatibilism and incompatibilism. (shrink)
The United States Supreme Court hasrecently ruled that virtual child pornographyis protected free speech, partly on the groundsthat virtual pornography does not harm actualchildren. I review the evidence for thecontention that virtual pornography might harmchildren, and find that it is, at best,inconclusive. Saying that virtual childpornography does not harm actual children isnot to say that it is completely harmless,however. Child pornography, actual or virtual,necessarily eroticizes inequality; in a sexistsociety it therefore contributes to thesubordination of women.
Disorders of volition are often accompanied by, and may even be caused by, disruptions in the phenomenology of agency. Yet the phenomenology of agency is at present little explored. In this paper we attempt to describe the experience of normal agency, in order to uncover its representational content.
Recent findings in neuroscience, evolutionary biology and psychology seem to threaten the existence or the objectivity of morality. Moral theory and practice is founded, ultimately, upon moral intuition, but these empirical findings seem to show that our intuitions are responses to nonmoral features of the world, not to moral properties. They therefore might be taken to show that our moral intuitions are systematically unreliable. I examine three cognitive scientific challenges to morality, and suggest possible lines of reply to them. I (...) divide these replies into two groups: we might confront the threat, showing that it does not have the claimed implications for morality; or we might bite the bullet, accepting that the claims have moral implications, but incorporating these claims into morality. I suggest that unless we are able to bite the bullet, when confronted by cognitive scientific challenges, there is a real possibility that morality will be threatened. This fact gives us a weighty reason to adopt a metaethics that makes it relatively easy to bite cognitive scientific bullets. Moral constructivism, in one of its many forms, makes these bullets more palatable; therefore, the cognitive scientific challenges provide us with an additional reason to adopt a constructivist metaethics. (shrink)
The self-deceived are usually held to be moral responsible for their state. I argue that this attribution of responsibility makes sense only against the background of the traditional conception of self-deception, a conception that is now widely rejected. In its place, a new conception of self-deception has been articulated, which requires neither intentional action by self-deceived agents, nor that they possess contradictory beliefs. This new conception has neither need nor place for attributions of moral responsibility to the self-deceived in paradigmatic (...) cases. Accordingly, we should take the final step toward abandoning the traditional conception, and drop the automatic attribution of responsibility. Self-deception is simply a kind of mistake, and has no more necessary connection to culpability than have other intellectual errors. (shrink)
Theories of self-deception divide into those that hold that the state is characterized by some kind of synchronic tension or conflict between propositional attitudes and those that deny this. Proponents of the latter like Al Mele claim that their theories are more parsimonious, because they do not require us to postulate any psychological mechanisms beyond those which have been independently verified. But if we can show that there are real cases of motivated believing which are characterized by conflicting propositional attitudes, (...) however, the parsimony argument against incongruent mental state accounts is undermined. I argue that anosognosia presents us with a real-life example of motivated belief together with (sub)-doxastic conflict. (shrink)
Children, even very young children, distinguish moral from conventional transgressions, inasmuch as they hold that the former, but not the latter, would still be wrong if there was no rule prohibiting them. Many people have taken this finding as evidence that morality is objective, and therefore universal. I argue that reflection on the phenomenon of imaginative resistance will lead us to question these claims. If a concept applies in virtue of the obtaining of a set of more basic facts, then (...) it is authority independent, and we therefore resist the attempts of authorities to claim that it does not apply. Thus, the moral/conventional distinction is a product of imaginative resistance to claims that a concept does not apply when its supervenience base is in place (or vice versa). All we can rightfully conclude from the fact that children are disposed to make the moral/conventional distinction is that our moral concepts belong to the class of authority-independent concepts. Though the set of basic facts in virtue of which an authority-independent concept obtains must be objective, the concept itself might be conventional, inasmuch as we could easily draw its boundaries wider or narrower, or fail to have a concept that corresponds to these properties at all. (shrink)
It is, as Dana Nelkin (2004) says, a rare point of agreement among participants in the free will debate that rational deliberation presupposes a belief in freedom. Of course, the precise content of that belief – and, indeed, the nature of deliberation – is controversial, with some philosophers claiming that deliberation commits us to a belief in libertarian free will (Taylor 1966; Ginet 1966), and others claiming that, on the contrary, deliberation presupposes nothing more than an epistemic openness that is (...) entirely compatible with determinism (Dennett 1984; Kapitan 1986). Since, however, the claim that deliberation presupposes freedom is accepted by all sides in the free will debate, it ought to be possible to frame a minimal version that is neutral between compatibilism and incompatibilism, and which therefore can be accepted by everyone. Peter van Inwagen has advanced the best-known such claim: ‘all philosophers who have thought about deliberation agree on one point: one cannot deliberate about whether to perform a certain act unless one believes it is possible for one to perform it’ (van Inwagen 1983: 154). It is the purpose of this paper to argue that van Inwagen, and the many philosophers who have followed him in this regard, is wrong. (shrink)
According to a common philosophical distinction, the `original' intentionality, or `aboutness' possessed by our thoughts, beliefs and desires, is categorically different from the `derived' intentionality manifested in some of our artifacts –- our words, books and pictures, for example. Those making the distinction claim that the intentionality of our artifacts is `parasitic' on the `genuine' intentionality to be found in members of the former class of things. In Kinds of Minds: Toward an Understanding of Consciousness, Daniel Dennett criticizes that claim (...) and the distinction it rests on, and seeks to show that ``metaphysically original intentionality'' is illusory by working out the implications he sees in the practical possibility of a certain type of robot, i.e., one that generates `utterances' which are `inscrutable to the robot's designers' so that we, and they, must consult the robot to discover the meaning of its utterances. I argue that the implications Dennett finds are erroneous, regardless of whether such a robot is possible, and therefore that the real existence of metaphysically original intentionality has not been undermined by the possibility of the robot Dennett describes. (shrink)
In a recent article, George Sher argues that a realistic conception of human agency, which recognizes the limited extent to which we are conscious of what we do, makes the task of specifying a conception of the kind of control that underwrites ascriptions of moral responsibility much more difficult than is commonly appreciated. Sher suggests that an adequate account of control will not require that agents be conscious of their actions; we are responsible for what we do, in the absence (...) of consciousness, so long as our obliviousness is explained by some subset of the mental states constitutive of the agent. In this response, I argue that Sher is wrong on every count. First, the account of moral responsibility in the absence of consciousness he advocates does not preserve control at all; rather, it ought to be seen as a variety of attributionism (a kind of account of moral responsibility which holds that control is unnecessary for responsibility, so long as the action is reflective of the agent’s real self). Second, I argue that a realistic conception of agency, that recognizes the limited role that consciousness plays in human life, narrows the scope of moral responsibility. We exercise control over our actions only when consciousness has played a direct or indirect role in their production. Moreover, we cannot escape this conclusion by swapping a volitionist account of moral responsibility for an attributionist account: our actions are deeply reflective of our real selves only when consciousness has played a causal role in their production. (shrink)
Abstract The typical explanation of an event or process which attracts the label ‘conspiracy theory’ is an explanation that conflicts with the account advanced by the relevant epistemic authorities. I argue that both for the layperson and for the intellectual, it is almost never rational to accept such a conspiracy theory. Knowledge is not merely shallowly social, in the manner recognized by social epistemology, it is also constitutively social: many kinds of knowledge only become accessible thanks to the agent's embedding (...) in an environment that includes other epistemic agents. Moreover, advances in knowledge typically require ongoing immersion in this social environment. But the intellectual who embraces a conspiracy theory risks cutting herself off from this environment, and therefore epistemically disabling herself. Embracing a conspiracy theory therefore places at risk the ability to engage in genuine enquiry, including the enquiry needed properly to evaluate the conspiracy theory. (shrink)
Both libertarian and compatibilist approaches have been unsuccessful in providing an acceptable account of free will. Recent developments in cognitive neuroscience, including the connectionist theory of mind and empirical findings regarding modularity and integration of brain functions, provide the basis for a new approach: neural holism. This approach locates free will in fully integrated behavior in which all of a person's beliefs and desires, implicitly represented in the brain, automatically contribute to an act. Deliberation, the experience of volition, and cognitive (...) and behavioral shortcomings are easily understood under this model. Assigning moral praise and blame, often seen as grounded in the notion that a person has the ability to have done otherwise, will be shown to reflect instead important aspects of signaling in social interactions. Thus, important aspects of the traditional notion of free will can be accounted for within the proposed model, which has interesting implications for lifelong cognitive development. (shrink)
Proponents of evolutionary psychology take the existence of humanuniversals to constitute decisive evidence in favor of their view. Ifthe same social norms are found in culture after culture, we have goodreason to believe that they are innate, they argue. In this paper Ipropose an alternative explanation for the existence of humanuniversals, which does not depend on them being the product of inbuiltpsychological adaptations. Following the work of Brian Skyrms, I suggestthat if a particular convention possesses even a very small advantageover (...) competitors, whatever the reason for that advantage, we shouldexpect it to become the norm almost everywhere. Tiny advantages aretranslated into very large basins of attraction, in the language of gametheory. If this is so, universal norms are not evidence for innatepsychological adaptations at all. Having shown that the existence ofuniversals is consistent with the so-called Standard Social ScienceModel, I turn to a consideration of the evidence, to show that thisstyle of explanation is preferable to the evolutionary explanation, atleast with regard to patterns of gender inequality. (shrink)
This short article is a reply to Fine's criticisms of Haidt's social intuitionist model of moral judgement. After situating Haidt in the landscape of meta-ethical views, I examine Fine's argument, against Haidt, that the processes which give rise to moral judgements are amenable to rational control: first-order moral judgements, which are automatic, can nevertheless deliberately be brought to reflect higher-order judgements. However, Haidt's claims about the arationality of moral judgements seem to apply equally well to these higher-order judgements; showing that (...) we can exercise higher-order control over first-order judgements therefore does not show that our judgements are rational. I conclude by sketching an alternative strategy for vindicating the rationality of moral judgements: by viewing moral argument as a community-wide and distributed enterprise, in which knowledge is produced by debate and transferred to individuals via testimony. (shrink)
To the extent that indeterminacy intervenes between our reasons for action and our decisions, intentions and actions, our freedom seems to be reduced, not enhanced. Free will becomes nothing more than the power to choose irrationally. In recognition of this problem, some recent libertarians have suggested that free will is paradigmatically manifested only in actions for which we have reasons for both or all the alternatives. In these circumstances, however we choose, we choose rationally. Against this kind of account, most (...) fully developed by Robert Kane, critics have pressed the demand for contrastive explanations. Kane has responded by arguing that the demand does not need to be met: responsibility for an action does not require that there be a contrastive explanation of that action. However, this response proves too much: it implies that agents are responsible not only for the actions they choose, but also for the counterfactual actions which were equally available to them. (shrink)
Janna Thompson has outlined ‘the apology paradox’, which arises whenever people apologize for an action or event upon which their existence is causally dependent. She argues that a sincere apology seems to entail a wish that the action or event had not occurred, but that we cannot sincerely wish that events upon which our existence depends had not occurred. I argue that Thompson’s paradox is a backward-looking version of Parﬁt’s (forward-looking) ‘non-identity problem’, where backward- and forward-looking refer to the perspective (...) of an agent apologizing for or contemplating an action. The temporal perspective of the agent gives us the tools with which to dissolve the air of paradox which surrounds these problems. Each is best grasped from one temporal perspective, but the para- doxes arise when we attempt to examine it simultaneously from another. The evaluations appropriate to the apology paradox and the non-identity problem are therefore time-indexed. (shrink)
_Libertarian restrictivists hold that agents are rarely directly free. However, they seek to reconcile their views_ _with common intuitions by arguing that moral responsibility, or indirect freedom (depending on the version of_ _restrictivism) is much more common than direct freedom. I argue that restrictivists must give up either the_ _claim that agents are rarely free, or the claim that indirect freedom or responsibility is much more common_ _than direct freedom. Focusing on Kane’s version of restrictivism, I show that the view (...) holds people responsible_ _for actions when (merely) compatibilist conditions are met. Since this is unacceptable by libertarian lights,_ _they must either accept that compatibilist conditions on moral responsibility are sufficient, or make their_ _restrictivism more extreme than it already is._. (shrink)
Peter Baumann uses the Monty Hall game to demonstrate that probabilities cannot be meaningfully applied to individual games. Baumann draws from this first conclusion a second: in a single game, it is not necessarily rational to switch from the door that I have initially chosen to the door that Monty Hall did not open. After challenging Baumann’s particular arguments for these conclusions, I argue that there is a deeper problem with his position: it rests on the false assumption that what (...) justifies the switching strategy is its leading me to win a greater percentage of the time. In fact, what justifies the switching strategy is not any statistical result over the long run but rather the “causal structure” intrinsic to each individual game itself. Finally, I argue that an argument by Hilary Putnam will not help to save Baumann’s second conclusion above. (shrink)
The authors attempt to show that certain forms of behavior of the human immune system are illuminatingly regarded as errors in that system's operation. Since error-ascription can occur only within the context of an intentional/teleological characterization of the system, it follows that such a characterization is illuminating. It is argued that error-ascription is objective, non-anthropomorphic, irreducible to any purely causal form of explanation of the same behavior, and further that it is wrong to regard all errors of the immune system (...) as due to malfunction or maladaptation. <br>. (shrink)
Libertarians like Robert Kane believe that indeterminism is necessaryfor free will. They think this in part because they hold both (1) thatmy being the ultimate cause of at least part of myself is necessary forfree will and (2) that indeterminism is necessary for this ``ultimateself-causation''. But seductive and intuitive as this ``USCLibertarianism'' may sound, it is untenable. In the end, nometaphysically coherent (not to mention empirically valid) conception ofultimate self-causation is available. So the basic intuition motivatingthe USC Libertarian is ultimately (...) impossible to fulfill. (shrink)
: Bernard Rollin argues that it is permissible to change an animal's telos through genetic engineering, if it doesn't harm the animal's welfare. Recent attempts to undermine his argument rely either on the claim that diminishing certain capacities always harms an animal's welfare or on the claim that it always violates an animal's integrity. I argue that these fail. However, respect for animal dignity provides a defeasible reason not to engineer an animal in a way that inhibits the development of (...) those functions that a member of its species can normally perform, even if the modification would improve the animal's welfare. (shrink)
Abstract : Libet’s famous experiments, showing that apparently we become aware of our intention to act only after we have unconsciously formed it, have widely been taken to show that there is no such thing as free will. If we are not conscious of the formation of our intentions, many people think, we do not exercise the right kind of control over them. I argue that the claim this view presupposes, that only consciously initiated actions could be free, places a (...) condition upon freedom of action which it is in principle impossible to fulfil, for reasons that are conceptual and not merely contingent. Exercising this kind of control would require that we control our control system, which would simply cause the same problem to arise at a higher-level or initiate an infinite regress of controllings. If the unconscious initiation of actions, as well as the takings of decisions, is incompatible with control over them, then free will is impossible on conceptual grounds. Thus, Libet’s experiments do not constitute a separate, empirical, challenge to our freedom. (shrink)