By describing the aim of triangulation as locating the object of thoughts and utterances, Davidson has given it the double role of accounting for both the individuation of content and the sense in which content necessarily is public. The focus of this article is on how triangulation may contribute to the individuation of content. I maintain that triangulation may serve to break into the intentional circle of meaning and belief, yet without forcing us to renounce the claims concerning the interdependence (...) of belief and meaning and the irreducibility of meaning. In the first two sections the concept of triangulation is introduced and examined. In the following section, I present a problem for triangulation that takes the form of a dilemma. Triangulation, as Davidson describes it, is either pre-cognitive or propositional. In neither case can it in a satisfactory way determine content. In section 4, I suggest that reconceiving triangulation in terms of joint attention will solve the problem. Joint attention is not a purely causal process, nor does it involve propositional thought. The next section presents an analysis of joint attention, and explains how joint attention may contribute to determine content by paving the way for language entry. Finally, an account is given of how subjects during the process of joint attention may express and understand communicative intentions without engaging in higher-order thought. (shrink)
This book is a systematic and constructive treatment of a number of traditional issues at the foundations of ethics. These issues concern the objectivity of ethics, the possibility and nature of moral knowledge, the relationship between the moral point of view and a scientific or naturalist world-view, the nature of moral value and obligation, and the role of morality in a person's rational lifeplan. In striking contrast to traditional and more recent work in the field, David Brink offers an (...) integrated defense of the objectivity of ethics. (shrink)
David Brink presents a study of T. H. Green's Prolegomena to Ethics (1883), a classic of British idealism. Green develops a perfectionist ethical theory that brings together the best elements in the ancient and modern traditions and that provides the moral foundations for Green's own influential brand of liberalism. Brink's book situates the Prolegomena in its intellectual context, examines its main themes, and explains Green's enduring significance for the history of ethics and contemporary ethical theory.
We have looked at worries about expressivism and other forms of noncognitivism. The externalist solution may also seem to be a solution of last resort, because it may seem to deny the platitude that moral judgments are motivationally efficacious. For this reason, we might look seriously at rationalist theories of moral motivation, because they promise to represent moral judgments as intrinsically motivational without giving up cognitivism.
Our puzzle about moral motivation can be seen as a tension that we encounter when we try to reconcile intellectual and practical aspects of morality. Cognitivists interpret moral judgments as expressing cognitive attitudes, such as belief. Moral judgments ascribe properties – axiological, deontic, and aretaic – to persons, actions, institutions, and policies. Internalists believe that moral judgments necessarily engage the will and motivate. We expect people to be motivated to act in accord with their moral judgments and would find it (...) odd for people to be systematically indifferent to what they judge morally significant. It is also a common view that motivation involves pro-attitudes, such as desires. We explain intentional action as the product of informational states, such as beliefs, and practical states, such as desires. But beliefs and desires are logically independent states; no belief entails any particular desire. These assumptions are in tension. (shrink)
This argument would show weak internalism to be a conceptual truth. But this argument is not compelling. Sometimes when we say that I have a reason to φ, we mean • (a) There is a behavioral norm that enjoins φ-ing and applies to me. In this sense of reason, moral norms do imply reasons. There are as many kinds of reasons as there are norms, including moral reasons, legal reasons, reasons of etiquette. But we often have something more in mind (...) in ascribing reasons. (shrink)
SOME THINK THAT MORAL REALISTS CANNOT RECOGNIZE THE PRACTICAL OR ACTION-GUIDING CHARACTER OF MORALITY AND SO REJECT MORAL REALISM. THIS FORM OF ANTI-REALISM DEPENDS UPON AN INTERNALIST MORAL PSYCHOLOGY. BUT AN EXTERNALIST MORAL PSYCHOLOGY IS MORE PLAUSIBLE AND ALLOWS THE REALIST A SENSIBLE EXPLANATION OF THE ACTION-GUIDING CHARACTER OF MORALITY. CONSIDERATION OF THE PRACTICAL CHARACTER OF MORALITY, THEREFORE, DOES NOT UNDERMINE AND, INDEED, SUPPORTS MORAL REALISM.
Hate speech employs discriminatory epithets to insult and stigmatize others on the basis of their race, gender, sexual orientation, or other forms of group membership. The regulation of hate speech is deservedly controversial, in part because debates over hate speech seem to have teased apart libertarian and egalitarian strands within the liberal tradition. In the civil rights movements of the 1960s, libertarian concerns with freedom of movement and association and equal opportunity pointed in the same direction as egalitarian concerns with (...) eradicating racial discrimination and the social and economic inequalities that this discrimination maintained. But debates over hate speech regulation seem to force one to give priority to equality or to liberty. On the one hand, egalitarian concerns may seem to require restricting freedom of expression. Hate speech is an expression of discriminatory attitudes that have a long, ugly, and sometimes violent history. As such, hate speech is deeply offensive to its victims and socially divisive. Though one might well be reluctant to restrict speech, it might seem that the correct response to hate speech, as with other forms of discrimination, is regulation. On the other hand, libertarian concerns may seem to constrain the pursuit of equality. Though one may abhor hate speech and its effects, the cure might seem at least as bad as the disease. Freedoms of expression are among our most fundamental liberties. Offensive ideas are part of the price one must pay to protect these constitutional rights. This being so, it might seem that the correct response to hate speech is more speech—presumably egalitarian speech condemning hate speech—not the restriction of speech. (shrink)
This paper focuses on normative questions about intertemporal distribution that might seem parallel to more familiar questions about interpersonal distribution. Temporal neutrality is the claim that the temporal location of benefits and harms within a life should not affect their normative significance and implies that agents should have equal concern for all parts of their lives. I focus on temporal neutrality as a demand of prudence. A traditional rationale for temporal neutrality appeals to the idea of compensation: whereas there is (...) no automatic interpersonal compensation for sacrifice, because benefactor and beneficiary are different people, intrapersonal compensation is automatic, because benefactor and beneficiary are the same person. This is why sacrifice of one's present interests for the sake of one's later greater good is a paradigm of rationality. Despite the hegemony of temporal neutrality, it appears to have some counter-intuitive implications -- it may seem to be undermined by reductionist accounts of personal identity, it may seem to compromise fidelity to one's ideals in cases involving diachronic changes of personal ideals, it may seem committed to problematic assumptions about the symmetry of death and prenatal nonexistence, and it might suggest that our apparent preference for pain being in the past is irrational when the alternative would be a smaller future pain. I consider these objections to temporal neutrality and argue that its normative and metaphysical commitments are surprisingly robust. (shrink)
The situationist literature in psychology claims that conduct is not determined by character and reflects the operation of the agent’s situation or environment. For instance, due to situational factors, compassionate behavior is much less common than we might have expected from people we believe to be compassionate. This article focuses on whether situationism should revise our beliefs about moral responsibility. It assesses situationism’s implications against the backdrop of a conception of responsibility that is grounded in norms about the fair opportunity (...) to avoid wrongdoing that require that agents be normatively competent and possess situational control. Despite the low incidence of compassionate behavior revealed in situationist studies, situationism threatens neither situational control nor normative competence. Nonetheless situationism may force revision in our views about responsibility in particular contexts, such as wartime wrongdoing. Whereas a good case can be made that the heat of battle can create situational pressures that significantly impair normative competence and thus sometimes provide a full or partial excuse, there is reason to be skeptical of attempts to generalize this excuse to other contexts of wartime wrongdoing. If so, moral responsibility can take situationism on board without capsizing the boat. (shrink)
Consideration of the objection from the personal point of view reveals the resources of utilitarianism. The utilitarian can offer a partial rebuttal by distinguishing between criteria of rightness and decision procedures and claiming that, because his theory is a criterion of rightness and not a decision procedure, he can justify agents' differential concern for their own welfare and the welfare of those close to them. The flexibility in utilitarianism's theory of value allows further rebuttal of this objection; objective versions of (...) utilitarianism can treat self-determination or autonomy as a dominant good which trumps even large magnitudes of lesser goods such as pleasure. After the resources of utilitarianism are exhausted, though, there remains a worry, generated by the personal point of view, about utilitarianism's impartiality. But this worry is correctly viewed, not as a moral worry about the merits of utilitarianism as a moral theory, but as a worry about morality concerning the rationality or supremacy of impartial moral demands. Whether or not this worry can be answered, the fact that it arises supports rather than undermines a utilitarian account of morality. (shrink)
In The Sources of Normativity (1996) Christine Korsgaard provides a dialectical examination of different conceptions of the sources of normativity or reasons -- conceptions that appeal to voluntarism, realism, and reflective endorsement -- that culminates in her own Kantian or neo- Kantian conception of normativity that is grounded in autonomy. Her method is dialectical (Dialectical) inasmuch as her neo-Kantian conception is supposed to reveal the truth or grain of truth in each of the three prior conceptions. Korsgaard begins Lecture 1 (...) with a statement of the main problems that arise in connection with the normativity of ethics. She factors normative adequacy into answers to two kinds of problems (12-13). (shrink)
Thomas Nagel's The Possibility of Altruism (1970) is one of the few sustained attempts to reject instrumental and prudential conceptions of practical reason and to defend the possibility of practical reason that is impartial or altruistic. Nagel makes claims about both moral motivation and practical reason, and each claim has both negative and positive constituents.
Doubts about the adequacy of appeals to impartial practical reason give those with rationalist sympathies reason to explore the metaphysical, and not merely strategic, reconciliation of prudence and altruism contained in metaphysical egoism. Even if we recognize impartial practical reason, the supremacy of moral demands may depend upon the plausibility of metaphysical egoism. For as long as we recognize the demands of prudence, the conflict between altruism and prudence will threaten altruism's supremacy. We might consider one version of metaphysical egoism (...) that appeals to psychological reductionism about personal identity and exploits some Platonic and Aristotelian analogies between intrapersonal and interpersonal relations and concern. (shrink)
This contribution reconstructs and assesses Gideon Yaffe’s claims in his book Attempts about what constitutes an attempt, what can count as evidence that an attempt has been made, whether abandonment is a genuine defense, and whether attempts should be punished less severely than completed crimes. I contrast Yaffe’s account of being motivated by an intention and the completion of an attempt in terms of the truth of the completion counterfactual with an alternative picture of attempts as temporally extended decision trees (...) that are complete insofar as the agent has progressed toward the final act in the tree. I suggest that this alternative scalar conception of attempt may provide a more plausible account of the defense of abandonment. I also raise questions about whether Yaffe has provided an adequate justification of his mix of luck skepticism about censure and luck realism about punishment. (shrink)
Given these worries about strategic ethical egoism, we might conclude that morality and rationality are two independent points of view. We might agree that morality is impartial but insist that practical reason is instrumental or prudential. If so, we can see how there might be conflicts between practical reason and other-regarding morality, because other-regarding duties need not always advance the agent's own aims and interests. If there can be such conflicts, then immoral action is not necessarily irrational. If so, we (...) should reject the rationalist element in the problematic about the authority of morality. On this view, the authority, but not the scope or content, of morality depends on the aims or interests of agents. (shrink)
This essay explores a conception of responsibility at work in moral and criminal responsibility. Our conception draws on work in the compatibilist tradition that focuses on the choices of agents who are reasons-responsive and work in criminal jurisprudence that understands responsibility in terms of the choices of agents who have capacities for practical reason and whose situation affords them the fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing. Our conception brings together the dimensions of normative competence and situational control, and we factor normative (...) competence into cognitive and volitional capacities, which we treat as equally important to normative competence and responsibility. Normative competence and situational control can and should be understood as expressing a common concern that blame and punishment presuppose that the agent had a fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing. This fair opportunity is the umbrella concept in our understanding of responsibility, one that explains it distinctive architecture. (shrink)
This paper is both a survey and a review of the current state of the debate concerning verisimilitude. As a survey it is intended for the interested outsider who wants both easy access to and some comparison between the respective approaches. As a review it covers the first three books on the topic: those of Oddie. Niiniluoto and Kuipers.
This paper continues the power ordering approach to verisimilitude. We define a parameterized verisimilar ordering of theories in the finite propositional case, both semantically and syntactically. The syntactic definition leads to an algorithm for computing verisimilitude. Since the power ordering approach to verisimilitude can be translated into a standard notion of belief revision, the algorithm thereby also allows the computation of membership of a belief-revised theory.
Prudence and authenticity are sometimes seen as rival virtues. Prudence,as traditionally conceived, is temporally neutral. It attaches no intrinsic significance to the temporal location of benefits or harms within the agent’s life; the prudent agent should be equally concerned about all parts of her life. But people’s values and ideals often change over time, sometimes in predictable ways, as when middle age and parenthood often temporize youthful radicalism or spontaneity with concerns for comfort,security, and predictability. In situations involving diachronic, intrapersonal (...) conflicts of value, prudence—in particular,temporal neutrality—appears to require the agent to subordinate her current ideals to her future ones or at least to moderate pursuit of current ideals in light of future ones. But this demand may seem to sacrifice authenticity, if we suppose that authenticity requires acting on the ideals that the agent reflectively and sincerely accepts at the time of action. This tension between prudence and authenticity raises interesting questions about temporal neutrality, the structure of intrapersonal conflicts of value, the nature of ideals, and the demands of authenticity. After examining various aspects of this puzzle, I defend the commitments of prudence in situations involving intrapersonal value conflict and argue that authenticity—understood as being true to oneself— actually supports temporal neutrality. I conclude by suggesting how this defense of prudence lends credibility to the more general demand of temporal neutrality. (shrink)
A cognitivist interpretation of moral inquiry treats it, like other kinds of inquiry, as aiming at true belief. A dialectical conception of moral inquiry represents the justification for a given moral belief as consisting in its intellectual fit with other beliefs, both moral and nonmoral. The essay appeals to semantic considerations to defend cognitivism as a default metaethical view; it defends a dialectical conception of moral inquiry by examining Sidgwick's ambivalence about the probative value of appeal to common moral beliefs (...) or intuitions. The essay then addresses two main concerns about the compatibility of cognitivist and dialectical conceptions of moral inquiry. The probative value of moral intuitions requires that they be sufficiently approximately true. The individual and collective benefits of regulating our interactions by norms like those of commonsense morality help explain how we can view ourselves as sufficiently reliable detectors of moral properties. But the probative value of moral intuitions may also seem threatened by the existence of pervasive moral disagreement both within and between cultures. However, a dialectical conception of moral inquiry has resources for resolving moral disagreement; in fact, the dialectical examination of diverse moral perspectives contributes to the justification of moral beliefs. (shrink)
This essay articulates a conception of responsibility and excuse in terms of the fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing and explores its implications for insanity, incompetence, and psychopathy. The fair opportunity conception factors responsibility into conditions of normative competence and situational control and factors normative competence into cognitive and volitional capacities. This supports a conception of incompetence that recognizes substantial impairment of either cognitive or volitional capacities as excusing, provided the agent is not substantially responsible for her own incompetence. This conception (...) helps frame the question whether psychopathy is excusing. The most common rationale for excusing psychopathy appeals to claims about cognitive incompetence. However, there are good philosophical and empirical reasons to be skeptical that psychopaths lack the relevant cognitive capacities. There is more to be said for a volitional rationale for excuse. The crucial question here is whether the problems psychopaths have with impulse control and conforming their behavior to the relevant moral and criminal norms are systematic enough to demonstrate genuine volitional incompetence. The available empirical evidence should leave us skeptical about the merits of this volitional rationale for excuse. (shrink)
I argue that disputes within constitutional theory about whether recent supreme court decisions exceed the scope of legitimate judicial review and disputes within legal theory about the nature and determinacy of law are best seen and assessed as disputes over the nature of legal interpretation. I criticize the interpretive assumptions on which these disputes generally depend and defend a theory of interpretation which tends to vindicate the determinacy of law even in hard cases and the style of recent court decisions (...) which many critics find troublesome. (shrink)
Write a short paper, approximately 6-8 pages, on one of the following topics. (Some of these topics could also be considered for the longer paper. Some might be better suited for a short paper and some might be better suited for a long paper, but most could be adapted (narrowed or expanded) to work for either purpose.) It is possible to write on another topic, if you prefer, but it is necessary to meet with me in advance and to agree (...) on the contours of an alternate topic. This paper is due in class on Wednesday, May 2. (Students wishing to write the longer paper first should consult with me to okay their topic and set up a different timetable.) Students are welcome to consult me on the topics and readings associated with their papers. (shrink)
This is probably an overly ambitious Syllabus for a ten week seminar. I regard the early part of the Syllabus (roughly, §§1-9) as pretty fixed. We may have to choose among the later topics (§§10- 12), and I welcome student input on these decisions. Required readings are preceded by `(A)`; recommended readings are preceded by `(B)`. Full references are available on the Select Bibliography. Most of the required readings come from the required texts. Required readings not found in the required (...) texts, and some recommended readings, can be found on Electronic Reserves. If you have trouble locating any of the recommended readings, let me know; I can try to help. (shrink)
Consequentialism is often criticized for failing to accommodate impersonal constraints and personal options. A common consequentialist response is to acknowledge the anticonsequentialist intuitions but to argue either that the consequentialist can, after all, accommodate the allegedly recalcitrant intuitions or that, where accommodation is impossible, the recalcitrant intuition can be dismissed for want of an adequate philosophical rationale. Whereas these consequentialist responses have some plausibility, associational duties represent a somewhat different challenge to consequentialism, inasmuch as they embody neither impersonal constraints nor (...) personal options, but rather personal constraints. Our intuitions about associational duties resist capture within the intellectual net of consequentialism, and such duties do admit of a philosophical rationale at least as plausible as anything the consequentialist has to offer. (shrink)
Allan Gibbard’s book Thinking How to Live is an important sequel to his earlier and very in uential book Wise Choices, Apt Feelings. His earlier book defended a conception of morality as involving distinctive moral feelings of guilt, shame, and resentment that it is rational for someone to have and went on to defend an expressivist conception of rationality according to which judgments of rationality involve acceptance of norms for behavior and feeling. Though Gibbard offered a novel conception of the (...) semantics and logic of normative judgment, he spent much of that book discussing the evolution, psychology, and social dynamics of normative commitment. Thinking How to Live has a narrower focus. Though Gibbard regards morality as one form of normativity or practical reason, he largely avoids discussion of morality, focusing instead on normativity or practical reason. Here too, his focus is narrower, restricted primarily to issues about the semantics, logic, and epistemology of normative judgment. The new book reinterprets the earlier notion of accepting a norm in terms of planning or commitment to a plan. One consequence of this reinterpretation is to make the expressivist character of Gibbard’s account of normative judgment clearer. He then proceeds to explain normative judgment in terms of commitment to a set of contingency plans, which allows him to defend an account of normative inference and reasoning. In fact, Gibbard argues that his expressivist conception of normative judgment allows him to defend ver-. (shrink)
The purpose of this document is to consider possible industrial policy measures that could be contemplated by the South African Government to provide support for the export competitiveness of the country’s processed fruit products. It follows an earlier analysis by Don Ross, which argued for the conclusion that the industry meets key criteria for economically justifiable industrial policy assistance. That is, it offers a premium product that can be amplified in value by brand strengthening, can be positioned more advantageously than (...) at present in international value chains, and would benefit from an environment made more competitive by liberalization of international trade practices and reduction in management of input prices (chiefly tin plate and sugar). In short: the main factors now limiting the competitiveness of the industry’s exports derive neither from its product characteristics nor from independent market dynamics, but from exogenous constraints that are in principle correctible by policy. (shrink)
While much has been written on specificity (e.g., in texts on new institutional economics, agency theory, and team production theory), there are still some insights to be learnt by business ethicists. This article approaches the issue from the perspective of team production, and will propose a new form of corporate governance: enlightened corporate governance, which takes into consideration the specific investments of employees. The article argues that, in addition to shareholders, employees also bear a residual risk which arises due to (...) their specific investments. This residual risk presents a valid and legitimate basis for residual claims. In this way, employees can be seen as residual claimants due to the fact that their income depends upon a hazardous quasi rent. Therefore, this article will call on the fiduciary duty of board members to protect those employees who are exposed to such residual risks and may thus be vulnerable as a result. This leads to a fundamental change of perspective on the “theory of the firm” – a change which will adopt the theories of new institutional economics, agency theory, and team production theory in order to promote business ethics research. Against this background, enlightened corporate governance aims to follow the criterion of specific investments as a legitimate basis for residual claims. Furthermore, it seeks to understand the consequences for board members, and to promote the sharing of control and ownership. The article will close with some discussion of the implications and future prospects for business ethics. (shrink)