People rely on reason to think about and navigate the abstract world of human relations in much the same way they rely on maps to study and traverse the physical world. Starting from that simple observation, renowned geographer Gunnar Olsson offers in Abysmal an astonishingly erudite critique of the way human thought and action have become deeply immersed in the rhetoric of cartography and how this cartographic reasoning allows the powerful to map out other people’s lives. A spectacular reading (...) of Western philosophy, religion, and mythology that draws on early maps and atlases, Plato, Kant, and Wittgenstein, Thomas Pynchon, Gilgamesh , and Marcel Duchamp, Abysmal is itself a minimalist guide to the terrain of Western culture. Olsson roams widely but always returns to the problems inherent in reason, to question the outdated assumptions and fixed ideas that thinking cartographically entails. A work of ambition, scope, and sharp wit, Abysmal will appeal to an eclectic audience—to geographers and cartographers, but also to anyone interested in the history of ideas, culture, and art. (shrink)
IN LATE SPRING 2007, professor Allan Gibbard gave the Hägerström Lectures at Uppsala University, Sweden, under the title of “Meaning as a Normative Concept”. He met up with Gunnar Björnsson and Arvid Båve to talk about the views he develops and defends in the lectures.
We defend a contextualist account of deontic judgments as relativized both to (i) information and to (ii) standards or ends, against recent objections that turn on practices of moral disagreement. Kolodny & MacFarlane argue that information-relative contextualism cannot accommodate the connection between deliberation and advice; we suggest in response that they misidentify the basic concerns of deliberating agents. For pragmatic reasons, semantic assessments of normative claims sometimes are evaluations of propositions other than those asserted. Weatherson, Schroeder and others have raised (...) parallel objections to standard-relative contextualism; we argue for a parallel solution. (shrink)
Recent work in experimental philosophy shows that folk intuitions about moral responsibility are sensitive to a surprising variety of factors. Whether people take agents to be responsible for their actions in deterministic scenarios depends on whether the deterministic laws are couched in neurological or psychological terms (Nahmias et. al. 2007), on whether actions are described abstractly or concretely, and on how serious moral transgression they seem to represent (Nichols & Knobe 2007). Finally, people are more inclined to hold an agent (...) responsible for bringing about bad than for bringing about good side effects that the agent is indifferent about (Knobe 2003). Elsewhere, we have presented an analysis of the everyday concept of moral responsibility that provides a unified explanation of paradigmatic cases of moral responsibility, and accounts for the force of both typical excuses and the most influential skeptical arguments against moral responsibility or for incompatibilism. In this article, we suggest that it also explains the divergent and apparently incoherent set of intuitions revealed by these new studies. If our hypothesis is correct, the surprising variety of judgments stems from a unified concept of moral responsibility. -Knobe, J. (2003) Intentional Action and Side Effects in Ordinary Language. Analysis 63, pp.190–93. -Nahmias, E.; Coates, J.; Kvaran. T. (2007) Free will, moral responsibility, and mechanism: experiments on folk intuitions. Midwest studies in Philosophy XXXI -Nichols, S.; Knobe, J. (2007) Moral responsibility and determinism: the cognitive science of folk intuitions, Noûs 41:4, 663-685. (shrink)
Recently, contextualism about epistemic modals and predicates of taste have come under fire from advocates of assessment relativistic analyses. Contextualism, they have argued, fails to account for what we call "felicitous insensitive assessments". In this paper, we provide one hitherto overlooked way in which contextualists can embrace the phenomenon by slightly modifying an assumption that has remained in the background in most of the debate over contextualism and relativism. Finally, we briefly argue that the resulting contextualist account is at least (...) as plausible as the relativist alternative and should be carefully considered before contextualism is abandoned for relativism. (shrink)
Many philosophers think that moral objectivism is supported by stable features of moral discourse and thinking. When engaged in moral reasoning and discourse, people behave ‘as if’ objectivism were correct, and the seemingly most straightforward way of making sense of this is to assume that objectivism is correct; this is how we think that such behavior is explained in paradigmatically objectivist domains. By comparison, relativist, error-theoretic or non-cognitivist accounts of this behavior seem contrived and ad hoc. After explaining why this (...) argument should be taken seriously (recent arguments notwithstanding), I argue that it is nevertheless undermined by considerations of moral disagreement. Even if the metaphysical, epistemic and semantic commitments of objectivism provide little or no evidence against it, and even if the alternative explanations of ‘objectivist’ traits of moral discourse and thinking are speculative or contrived, objectivism is itself incapable of making straightforward sense of these traits. Deep and widespread moral disagreement or, rather, the mere appearance of such disagreement, strongly suggests that the explanations operative in paradigmatically objective discourse fail to carry over to the moral case. Since objectivism, no less than relativism, non-cognitivism and error-theories, needs non-trivial explanations of why we behave ‘as if’ objectivism were correct, such behavior does not presently provide reason to accept objectivism. (shrink)
Skeptical worries about moral responsibility seem to be widely appreciated and deeply felt. To address these worries—if nothing else to show that they are mistaken—theories of moral responsibility need to relate to whatever concept of responsibility underlies the worries. Unfortunately, the nature of that concept has proved hard to pin down. Not only do philosophers have conflicting intuitions; numerous recent empirical studies have suggested that both prosaic responsibility judgments and incompatibilist intuitions among the folk are influenced by a number of (...) surprising factors, sometimes prompting apparently contradictory judgments. In this paper, we show how an independently motivated hypothesis about responsibility judgments provides a unified explanation of the more important results from these studies. According to this ‘Explanation Hypothesis’, to take an agent to be morally responsible for an event is to take a relevant motivational structure of the agent to be part of a significant explanation of the event. We argue that because of how explanatory interests and perspectives affect what we take as significant explanations, this analysis accounts for the puzzling variety of empirical results. If this is correct, the Explanation Hypothesis also provides a new way of understanding debates about moral responsibility. (shrink)
Despite recent efforts to improve on counterfactual theories of causation, failures to explain how effects depend on their causes are still manifest in a variety of cases. In particular, theories that do a decent job explaining cases of causal preemption have problems accounting for cases of causal intransitivity. Moreover, the increasing complexity of the counterfactual accounts makes it difficult to see why the concept of causation would be such a central part of our cognition. In this paper, I propose an (...) account of our causal thinking that not only explains the hitherto puzzling variety of causal judgments, but also makes it intelligible why we would employ such an elusive concept. (shrink)
Substantial metaphysical theory has long struggled with the question of negative facts, facts capable of making it true that Valerie isn’t vigorous. This paper argues that there is an elegant solution to these problems available to anyone who thinks that there are positive facts. Bradley’s regress and considerations of ontological parsimony show that an object’s having a property is an affair internal to the object and the property, just as numerical identity and distinctness are internal to the entities that are (...) numerically identical or distinct. For the same reasons, an object’s lacking a property must be an affair internal to the object and the property. Negative facts will thus be part of any ontology of positive facts. (shrink)
History of Western Thought is a comprehensive introduction to the history of Western philosophy from the Pre-Socratics to Twentieth Century thought. In addition to all the key figures, the book covers figures whose contributions have so far been overlooked such as Vico, Montesquieu, Durkheim and Weber.
In assessing the veridicality of utterances, we normally seem to assess the satisfaction of conditions that the speaker had been concerned to get right in making the utterance. However, the debate about assessor-relativism about epistemic modals, predicates of taste, gradable adjectives and conditionals has been largely driven by cases in which seemingly felicitous assessments of utterances are insensitive to aspects of the context of utterance that were highly relevant to the speaker’s choice of words. In this paper, we offer an (...) explanation of why certain locutions invite insensitive assessments, focusing primarily on ’tasty’ and ’might’. We spell out some reasons why felicitous insensitive assessments are puzzling and argue briefly that recent attempts to accommodate such assessments (including attempts by John MacFarlane, Kai von Fintel and Anthony Gillies) all fail to provide more than hints at a solution to the puzzle. In the main part of the paper, we develop an account of felicitous insensitive assessments by identifying a number of pragmatic factors that influence the felicity of assessments. Before closing, we argue that the role of these factors extend beyond cases considered in the debate about assessor-relativism and fit comfortably with standard contextualist analyses of the relevant locutions. (shrink)
It is generally agreed that constructions of the form “if P, Q” are capable of conveying a number of different relations between antecedent and consequent, with pragmatics playing a central role in determining these relations. Controversy concerns what the conventional contribution of the if-clause is, how it constrains the pragmatic processes, and what those processes are. In this essay, I begin to argue that the conventional contribution of if-clauses to semantics is exhausted by the fact that these clauses introduce a (...) proposition without presenting it as true so that the consequent can be understood in relation to it. Given our cognitive interests in such non-truth-presentational introductions, conditionals will make salient the wide but nevertheless disciplined variety of contents that we naturally attribute to them; no further substantial constraints of the sorts proposed by standard theories of conditionals are needed to explain the phenomena. If this is correct, it provides prima facie evidence for a radically contextualist account of conditionals according to which conditionals have no truth-evaluable or intuitively complete content absent some contextually provided, sufficiently salient relation between antecedent and consequent. (shrink)
In this paper, we do three things. First, we put forth a novel hypothesis about judgments of moral responsibility according to which such judgments are a species of explanatory judgments. Second, we argue that this hypothesis explains both some general features of everyday thinking about responsibility and the appeal of skeptical arguments against moral responsibility. Finally, we argue that, if correct, the hypothesis provides a defense against these skeptical arguments.
Contributing Authors: Lilli Alanen & Frans Svensson, David Alm, Gustaf Arrhenius, Gunnar Björnsson, Luc Bovens, Richard Bradley, Geoffrey Brennan & Nicholas Southwood, John Broome, Linus Broström & Mats Johansson, Johan Brännmark, Krister Bykvist, John Cantwell, Erik Carlson, David Copp, Roger Crisp, Sven Danielsson, Dan Egonsson, Fred Feldman, Roger Fjellström, Marc Fleurbaey, Margaret Gilbert, Olav Gjelsvik, Kathrin Glüer & Peter Pagin, Ebba Gullberg & Sten Lindström, Peter Gärdenfors, Sven Ove Hansson, Jana Holsanova, Nils Holtug, Victoria Höög, Magnus Jiborn, Karsten Klint (...) Jensen, Sigurður Kristinsson, Isaac Levi, Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen, David Makinson, Anna-Sofia Maurin, Philippe Mongin, Kevin Mulligan, Lennart Nordenfelt, Jonas Olson, Erik J. Olsson, Ingmar Persson, Johannes Persson, Björn Petersson, Philip Pettit, Hans Rott, Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen, Krister Segerberg, John Skorupski, Howard Sobel, Fredrik Stjernberg, Fred Stoutland, Caj Strandberg, Pär Sundström, Folke Tersman, Torbjörn Tännsjö, Peter Vallentyne, Bruno Verbeek, Stella Villarmea, and Michael J. Zimmerman. (shrink)
Emotivists hold that moral opinions are wishes and desires, and that the function of moral language is to “express” such states. But if moral opinions were but wishes or desires, why would we see certain opinions as inconsistent with, or following from other opinions? And why should our reasoning include complex opinions such as the opinion that a person ought to be blamed only if he has done something wrong? Indeed, why would we think that anything is conditional on his (...) doing something wrong unless “doing something wrong” signifies a real kind of action? -/- Many have believed, and seemingly on good grounds, that these questions lack good answers, and that emotivism is doomed for that very reason. What I will argue, however, is that once emotivism is recognized for what it is, namely an empirical theory about the psychological nature of moral opinions, and once we relate it to a general theory of human reasoning, moral reasoning and intuitions of inconsistency and consequence are only to be expected. Recent objections to earlier emotivist or “expressivist” accounts can thus be met, and the phenomena of inconsistency and consequence fully embraced by emotivists. (shrink)