Harry Frankfurt and J. David Velleman both offer accounts of paradigmatic action. To greatly oversimplify, Frankfurt roots our agency in our capacity to care, while Velleman places it in our cognitive capacity to make sense of ourselves. This paper argues that both views have an important piece of the truth. The paper advances a pluralistic account of paradigmatic agency. (updated 7/30/07).
I argue that the knowledge argument is best understood as an argument for the existence of non-physical properties of material objects, or colours. I suggest that the knowledge argument is standardly presented as an argument for the existence of qualia because it is implicitly assumed that physics “tell us” that what it is like to perceive colour is determined, not by properties of material objects, but by properties of perceiving subjects; hence any gaps in Mary’s knowledge must be gaps in (...) her knowledge about perceiving subjects. If nothing else, this physicalist assumption is odd given that the knowledge argument is supposed to be an argument against physicalism. Using the knowledge argument as an argument for the existence of non-physical colours is consistent with the transparency of perceptual experience. Moreover, rejecting the physicalist assumption behind the orthodox interpretation of the knowledge argument undermines the motivation for thinking of non-physical colours as epiphenomenal. (shrink)
This paper has two parts. The first is an exposition of John Foster's argument that ultimate reality, whatever else it might be, is not physical, and could not be. The second part is a somewhat tentative discussion of this argument, in which I consider ways it might be challenged or amended. I suggest that while Foster's argument may not render materialism untenable, at the very least it forces the materialist to adopt certain other controversial views, and so is a (...) force to be reckoned with. I shall use the term physical anti-realism (and sometimes just anti-realism) to denote the thesis that ultimate reality does not, and cannot possibly, contain anything material or physical. By physicalism (or materialism or physical realism) I mean the doctrine that ultimate reality can be physical, at least in part. What Foster means by "ultimate reality" will be explained shortly, but it can be taken roughly to mean: the world as it really is, objectively, as opposed to how it appears to be, or how we conceive it to be. The full-scale version of Foster's argument for physical anti-realism is to be found in the first eleven chapters of The Case for Idealism.2 In the remaining six chapters, he argues that the best way of accommodating this negative result is to adopt a version of phenomenalism, by holding that the physical world exists, but only as a "creation" of contingent constraints on the course of human sensory experience. In what follows, I shall be concerned only with the negative part of Foster's argument, his case against physicalism. Foster himself has recently provided a shorter version of his argument, in "The Succinct Case for Idealism".3 The latter work, henceforth The Succinct Case, as opposed to just The Case, is mainly given over to the anti-realist argument, and provides an excellent introduction to it. The exposition which follows may well be longer than the entire Succinct Case (and, alas, much less elegant).. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss and reply to Malcolm Thorburn's important article 'Justifications, Powers, and Authority', Yale Law Journal 117 (2008), 1070. My discussion raises a wide range of conceptual and doctrinal questions about Thorburn's account of justification defences, and about the theory of justfication defences more generally. The paper also trespasses on some broader questions about the nature of law and its relationship to morality.
Law, unlike morality, is made by someone. So it may, unlike morality, have aims, which are the aims of its makers (either individually or collectively). Not all law has aims, however, because not all law-making is intentional. Customary law is made by convergent actions that are performed without the intention of making law, and so without any further intention to achieve anything by making law, i.e. without any aim. There are also some other modes of accidental law-making. However for the (...) time being we will focus on law that is intentionally made, and therefore is capable of having aims. (shrink)
It is hard to think of any contemporary writers who have done more than John Goldberg and Ben Zipursky to reassert and reinvigorate what might be called the classical interpretation of the common law of torts. I, for one, am greatly in their debt. They have taught me a great deal, not only about torts but also about how to combine legal argument felicitously with philosophical insight and historical scholarship. Like them, and partly because of them, I believe that the (...) classical interpretation is the correct one. Other familiar ways of explaining what is going on in the common law of torts, while often illuminating in their own ways, are parasitic. They rely on the classical interpretation, often surreptitiously, for their appeal or even their intelligibility. (shrink)
Although famous as an economist, Amartya Sen is no less distinguished as a philosopher. In this he is far from unique. The same went for the founding father of economics, Adam Smith. But in these days of increased academic specialization the combination of philosopher and economist is rarer than once it was. Moreover the philosophical contributions of contemporary economists, such as they are, tend to be relatively narrow. Some, notably John Harsanyi and Thomas Schelling, are rightly lauded by philosophers for (...) helping to illuminate what Hegel called ‘the cunning of reason’ – the strange twists, loops, and blind alleys that obstruct or divert us, individually or collectively, in the pursuit of value. When it comes to the identification of the value to be pursued, on the other hand, it is harder to think of recent economists who have done important work. The preference-based theory of value treated as axiomatic by many economists is regarded as comic by many moral philosophers, even those with otherwise consilient utilitarian leanings. To break loose from the preference-based theory of value, while continuing to carry credibility for pioneering work in economics, takes a person of truly exceptional imagination, discipline, and versatility. (shrink)
Recently, much attention has been paid to ‘rational requirements’ and, especially, to what I call ‘rational requirements of formal coherence as such’. These requirements are satisfied just when our attitudes are formally coherent: for example, when our beliefs do not contradict each other. Nevertheless, these requirements are puzzling. In particular, it is unclear why we should satisfy them. In light of this, I explore the conjecture that there are no requirements of formal coherence. I do so by trying to construct (...) a theory of error for the idea that there are such requirements. (shrink)
is to be answerable; answerability is to a person or body who has the right or standing to call me to account. ... Claims of the form ‘A is responsible for X’ are therefore incomplete: they must be filled out by specifying ... to whom A is responsible for X. That specification need not be explicit ... but it must be available. (Duff 2007, 23-25.).
This paper takes some first steps in a study of the thesis that “ought” implies “can.” Considerable attention is given to the proper interpretation of the thesis, including the interpretation of “ought,” the interpretation of “can,” and the interpretation of “implies.” Having chosen a particular interpretation of the thesis to work on—in some ways its broadest interpretation—the paper tries to bring out some considerations that bear on its truth or falsity. After an excursion into the general theory of value, this (...) paper finds it false. The paper concludes with the suggestion that part of its allure comes of confusion with another thesis, namely the thesis that “ought to try” implies “can succeed.” Suitably qualified, this last thesis is true, and the false thesis that “ought” implies “can” basks in the reflected glory. Left for another day are narrower interpretations of “ought” implies “can” which may protect it against my objections. (shrink)
In this paper, written for a volume on the work of Robert Alexy, I discuss the idea that law makes certain distinctive claims, an idea familiar from the work of both Alexy and Joseph Raz. I begin by refuting some criticisms by Ronald Dworkin of the very idea of law as a claim-maker. I then discuss whether, as Alexy and Raz agree, law's claim is a moral one. Having arrived at an affirmative verdict, I discuss the content of law's (...) moral claim. Is it, as Alexy says, a claim to moral correctness? Or is it, as Raz says, a claim to moral authority? (An appendix examines Oliver Wendell Holmes' judicial work to show that, pace Dworkin, Holmes does indeed make moral claims for law.). (shrink)
Law as a leap of faith -- Legal positivism : 5 1/2 myths -- Some types of law -- Can there be a written constitution? -- How law claims, what law claims -- Nearly natural law -- The legality of law -- The supposed formality of the rule of law -- Hart on legality, justice, and morality -- The virtue of justice and the character of law -- Law in general.
Michael Moore and I agree about the moral importance of how our actions turn out. We even agree about some of the arguments that establish that moral importance. In Causation and Responsibility, however, Moore foregrounds one argument that I do not find persuasive or even helpful. In fact I doubt whether it even qualifies as an argument. He calls it the In this comment I attempt to analyze Moore's in some detail and thereby to bring out why it does not (...) help. In the process I raise some problems about the rationality of the emotions, which may be where Moore and I part company. We both believe that emotions should be taken more seriously by moral philosophy. But apparently we have radically different views about what this means. (shrink)
We report key themes arising from a postgraduate workshop organized by the King's Interdisciplinary Discussion Society (KIDS) held in April 2011. KIDS believe that health is a phenomenon that transcends disciplinary boundaries, and therefore issues relating to health care and medical ethics are best addressed with an interdisciplinary approach. The workshop, entitled ‘Everyday Ethics and Primary Healthcare’, included poster presentations and oral presentations from participants from a range of disciplines and occupational backgrounds which highlighted the challenges faced by primary health-care (...) workers. Three common themes emerged: the impersonal and cumbersome work environment that can result from the encroachment of rationalizing tools; the tension between ‘ethical practice as an ongoing sensibility’ and ‘ethical practice as “box-ticking”’; and the contested nature of what constitutes ‘health’. Participants felt that the interdisciplinary perspective was helpful in elucidating the various ethical issues arising in primary health care. (shrink)
The existence of unwritten constitutions, such as that of the UK, strikes some as puzzling. However the existence of unwritten constitutions turns out to be easier to explain than the existence of written constitutions, such as that of the US. In this paper I explore, and attempt to answer, some tricky conceptual questions thrown up by written constitutions.
HLA Hart has sometimes been associated with the false proposition that there is 'no necessary connection between law and morality'. Nigel Simmonds is the latest critic to make the association. He offers an 'ironic' interpretation of a famous passage in Hart's The Concept of Law in which the proposition is apparently rejected as false by Hart. In this paper I explain why, even if Simmonds's ironic interpretation is tenable, it does not associate Hart with the proposition in the way that (...) Simmonds believes that it does. More affirmatively, I show that among several necessary connections between law and morality that Hart defends, there is an important indirect one that runs from law to legality, from legality to justice, and from justice to morality. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss the proposal that the law of torts exists to do justice, more specifically corrective justice, between the parties to a tort case. My aims include clarifying the proposal and defending it against some objections (as well as saving it from some defences that it could do without). Gradually the paper turns to a discussion of the rationale for doing corrective justice. I defend what I call the ‘continuity thesis’ according to which at least part of (...) the rationale for doing corrective justice is to mitigate one’s wrongs, including one’s torts. I try to show how much of the law of torts this thesis helps to explain, but also what it leaves unexplained. In the process I show (what I will discuss in a later companion paper) that ‘corrective justice’ cannot be a complete answer to the question of what tort law is for. (shrink)
Sometimes emotions excuse. Fear and anger, for example, sometimes excuse under the headings of (respectively) duress and provocation. Although most legal systems draw the line at this point, the list of potentially excusatory emotions outside the law seems to be longer. One can readily imagine cases in which, for example, grief or despair could be cited as part of a case for relaxing or even eliminating our negative verdicts on those who performed admittedly unjustified wrongs. To be sure, the availability (...) of such excuses depends on what wrong one is trying to excuse. No excuse is available in respect of all wrongs. Some wrongs, indeed, are inexcusable. This throws up the interesting question of what makes a particular emotion apt to excuse a particular wrong. Why is fear, for example, more apt to excuse more serious wrongs than, say, pride or shame? This question leads naturally to another. Why are some emotions, such as lust, greed, and envy, apparently not apt to furnish any excuses at all? Can one not be overcome by them? Can they not drive one to wrongdoing as readily as fear and grief? Or is that not the point? (shrink)
The wrongness of rape -- Rationality and the rule of law in offences against the person -- Complicity and causality -- In defence of defences -- Justifications and reasons -- The gist of excuses -- Fletcher on offences and defences -- Provocation and pluralism -- The mark of responsibility -- The functions and justifications of criminal law and punishment -- Crime : in proportion and in perspective -- Reply to critics.
This paper considers some aspects of the morality of complicity, understood as participation in the wrongs of another. The central question is whether there is some way of participating in the wrongs of another other than by making a causal contribution to them. I suggest that there is not. In defending this view I encounter, and resist, the claim that it undermines the distinction between principals and accomplices. I argue that this distinction is embedded in the structure of rational agency.
In this article we consider and cast doubt on two doctrines given prominence and prestige by the utilitarian tradition in ethics. According to the interest theory of value, value is realized only in the advancement of people's interests. According to the well-being theory of interests, people's interests are advanced only in the augmentation of their well-being. We argue that it is possible to resist these doctrines without abandoning the value-humanist doctrine that the value of anything has to be explained in (...) terms of its potential to contribute to human lives and their quality. (Published Online November 24 2006). (shrink)
Socially responsible investment is a rapidly emerging phenomenon within the field of personal investment. However, the factors that lead investors to choose socially responsible investment products are not well understood, especially in an Australian context. This study provides a comparative examination of conventional and socially responsible investors, with the aim of identifying such factors. A total of 55 conventional investors and 54 ethical investors participated in the study by completing mailed questionnaires about their investment and general behaviour and their attitudes (...) and beliefs. Results indicated some important differences between socially responsible and conventional investors in their beliefs of the importance of ethical issues, their investment decision-making style, and their perceptions of moral intensity. These results support the notion that socially responsible investors differ in critical ways to conventional investors, and are discussed in terms of theoretical and practical implications. (shrink)
This paper tackles three common misconceptions about responsibility. The first misconception is that it is against our interests to be responsible for our actions. The second is that our responsibility for our actions is fixed at the time when we act. The third is that we can only be responsible to someone in particular, not responsible full stop. The three misconceptions turn out to be related, and disabusing ourselves of them helps us to rediscover the most fundamental point of the (...) courtroom trial. (shrink)