Contemporary Debates in Moral Theory features pairs of newly commissioned essays by some of the leading theorists working in the field today. Brings together fresh debates on the most controversial issues in moral theory Questions include: Are moral requirements derived from reason? How demanding is morality? Are virtues the proper starting point for moral theorizing? Lively debate format sharply defines the issues, and paves the way for further discussion. Will serve as an accessible introduction to the major topics in contemporary (...) moral theory, while also capturing the imagination of professional philosophers. (shrink)
William James had the courage to experience the collision of European and American ways of thinking head on, and to emerge from it with a new philosophy - one displaying a remarkable vitality for dealing with the transformative issues at the core of the human condition. This easy to read introduction to his life and work explains why James' work is overwhelmingly valuable to us today in getting to grips with the spiritual dimension of human experience.
The Essential William James covers the primary topics for which James is still closely studied: the nature of experience, the functions of the mind, the criteria for knowledge, the definition of “truth,” the ethical life, and the religious life. His notable terms, still resonating in their respective fields, are all covered here, from “stream of consciousness” and “pure experience” to the “will to believe,” the “cash-value of truth,” and the distinction between the religiously “healthy soul” and the “sick (...) soul.” This volume’s eighteen selections receive the bulk of the attention and citation from scholars, provide excellent coverage of core topics, and have a broad appeal across many academic disciplines. (shrink)
In his introduction to this collection, John representative. McDermott presents James's thinking in all its manifestations, stressing the importance of radical empiricism and placing into perspective the doctrines of pragmatism and the will to believe. The critical periods of James's life are highlighted to illuminate the development of his philosophical and psychological thought. The anthology features representive selections from The Principles of Psychology, The Will to Believe , and The Variety of Religious Experience in addition to the complete (...) Essays in Radical Empiricism and A Pluralistic Universe . The original 1907 edition of Pragmatism is included, as well as classic selections from all of James's other major works. Of particular significance for James scholarship is the supplemented version of Ralph Barton Perry's Annotated Bibliography of the Writings of William James , with additions bringing it up to 1976. (shrink)
When William James spoke about belief to the philosophy clubs of Yale and Brown in 1896, he forewarned his audience of the nature of his comments by describing them as a “sermon on justification by faith” (James 13), titling the talk “The Will to Believe.” Although there is disagreement about the substance of James’s remarks, it is fairly innocuous to assert that James thought they were appropriate because of the prevalence of the “logical spirit” of many (...) of those who practiced academic philosophy that led them to the conclusion that religious faith was untenable. Aware of his audience, James presents his view on the permissibility of religious faith on the terms and grounds familiar to professional philosophers. .. (shrink)
Many philosophers, in different areas, are tempted by what variously goes under the name of Contextualism, Speaker Relativism, Indexical Relativism. (I’ll just use Indexical Relativism in this paper.) Thinking of certain problematic expressions as deriving their content from elements of the context of use solves some problems. But it faces some problems of its own, and in this paper I’m interested in one in particular, namely, the problem of disagreement. Two alternative theories, tempting for just the same kinds of expressions (...) as Indexical Relativism is meant to handle, promise to solve the problem of disagreement. I’ll argue that they do not live up to their promise. At the end of the paper, I’ll ask what exactly disagreement amounts to, and I’ll canvass some purported solutions. (shrink)
In 1971, Simon Blackburn worked out an argument against moral realism appealing to the supervenience of the moral realm on the natural realm.1 He has since revised the argument, in part to take account of objections,2 but the basic structure remains intact. While commentators3 seem to agree that the argument is not successful, they have not agreed upon what goes wrong. I believe this is because no attempt has been made to see what happens when Blackburn's argument is addressed to (...) particular varieties of moral realism. As I see it, we must look to these various brands if we want to understand just where the concept of supervenience can be usefully employed. (shrink)
This is a paper about the problem of realism in meta-ethics (and, I hope, also in other areas, but that hope is so far pretty speculative). But it is not about the problem of whether realism is true. It is about the problem of what realism is. More specifically, it is about the question of what divides meta-ethical realists from irrealists. I start with a potted history of the Good Old Days.
This paper is about Truth Minimalism, Norm Expressivism, and the relation between them. In particular, it is about whether Truth Minimalism can help to solve a problem thought to plague Norm Expressivism. To start with, let me explain what I mean by 'Truth Minimalism' and 'Norm Expressivism.'.
In this article I set out a reason for believing in a form of metaethical relativism. In rough terms, the reason is this: a widely held thesis, internalism, tells us that to accept (sincerely assert, believe, etc.) a moral judgment logically requires having a motivating reason. Since the connection is logical, or conceptual, it must be explained by a theory of what it is to accept a moral claim. I argue that the internalist feature of moral expressions can best be (...) explained by my version of moral relativism, which I call "speaker relativism.". (shrink)
Normative theorists like to divide normative theories into classes. One special point of focus has been to place utilitarianism into a larger class of theories which do not necessarily share its view about what is alone of impersonal intrinsic value, namely, individual human well-being, but do share another structural feature, roughly its demand that each person seek to maximize the realization of what is of impersonal intrinsic value. The larger class is distinguished from its complement in two apparently different ways. (...) Let us look briefly at these two ways. (shrink)
Internalism says that if an agent judges that it is right for her to 0, then she is motivated to 0. The disagreement between Internalists and Externalists runs deep, and it lingers even in the face of clever intuition pumps. An argument in Michael Smith's The Moral Problem seeks some leverage against Externalism from a point within normative theory. Smith argues by dilemma: Externalists either fail to explain why motivation tracks moral judgment in a good moral agent or they attribute (...) a kind of fetishism to good moral agents. I argue that there are alternative models of moral motivation available to Externalists, in particular a model according to which a good moral agent is one who is effectively regulated by a second order desire to desire to do what is right. (shrink)
Noted psychologist and philosopher develops his own brand of pragmatism, based on theories of C. S. Peirce. Emphasis on "radical empiricism," versus the transcendental and rationalist tradition. One of the most important books in American philosophy. Note.
In chapter five of Wise Choices, Apt Feelings Allan Gibbard develops what he calls a ‘normative logic’ intended to solve some problems that face an expressivist theory of norms like his. The first is “the problem of embedding: The analysis applies to simple contexts, in which it is simply asserted or denied that such-and-such is rational. It says nothing about more complex normative assertions.”1 That is the problem with which I will be concerned. Though he doesn’t list it as one (...) of the problems to be solved, Gibbard’s devices also explain what it means to say that a certain normative argument is ‘valid’, that one normative statement follows from some others. Both of these questions arise because of the ways we ordinarily think and speak, ways which on a simplistic version of expressivism appear not to make any sense. An expressivist committed to making sense of the way we ordinarily think and speak in normative language owes some account of embeddings and of logic. Gibbard’s device seems to me the clearest and most systematic of any expressivist attempt to meet these challenges. (shrink)
The status of the body figures paradoxically in the interrelated discourses of whiteness, aesthetic taste, and hipness. While Richard Dyer’s analysis of whiteness argues that white identity is “in but not of the body,” Carolyn Korsmeyer’s and Julia Kristeva’s feminist analyses of aesthetic “taste” demonstrate that this faculty is traditionally conceived as something “of” but not “in” the body. While taste directly distances whiteness from embodiment, hipness negatively affirms this same distance: the hipster proves his elite status within white culture (...) by positioning himself as, in the words of James Chance’s song title, “Almost Black.” The notion of hip contributes to my analysis of taste by focusing on both the gender politics of white embodiment, and how, by taking the social body as object of the prepositions “in” and “of,” these discourses of taste and hipness produce individual bodies as white, and maintain Whiteness as a socio-political norm. (shrink)
1. In ‘A problem for expressivism’ Frank Jackson and Philip Pettit argue ‘that expressivists do not have a persuasive story to tell about how ethical sentences can express attitudes without reporting them and, in particular, without being true or false’ (1998: 240). Brieﬂy: expressivists say that ethical sentences serve to express non-cognitive attitudes, but that these sentences do not report non-cognitive attitudes. The view that ethical sentences do report non-cognitive attitudes is not Expressivism (and not non-cognitivism), but rather a version (...) of cognitivism. According to (what we’ll call) Subjectivism, a typical ethical sentence like ‘Abortion is wrong’ reports the speaker’s non-cognitive attitude toward abortion; it says, in effect, that abortion is the object of some attitude of the speaker’s. Expressivists, by contrast, say that the sentence expresses a non-cognitive attitude toward abortion, but does not say that the speaker has it. Ayer put it this way: I can say that I am bored by uttering the sentence ‘I am bored’, but I can express boredom, without saying that I am bored, by yawning (Ayer 1952: 109). (shrink)
Internalism says that if an agent judges that it is right for her to φ, then she is motivated to φ. The disagreement between Internalists and Externalists runs deep, and it lingers even in the face of clever intuition pumps. An argument in Michael Smith's The Moral Problem seeks some leverage against Externalism from a point within normative theory. Smith argues by dilemma: Externalists either fail to explain why motivation tracks moral judgment in a good moral agent or they attribute (...) a kind of fetishism to good moral agents. I argue that there are alternative models of moral motivation available to Externalists, in particular a model according to which a good moral agent is one who is effectively regulated by a second order desire to desire to do what is right. (shrink)
What is an emotion? -- The dilemma of determinism -- The perception of reality -- The hidden self -- Habit -- The will -- The gospel of relaxation -- On a certain blindness in human beings -- What makes a life significant -- Philosophical conceptions and practical results -- The Philippine tangle -- The sick soul -- The Ph. D. octopus -- Does "consciousness" exist? -- The energies of men -- Concerning Fechner -- The moral equivalent of war.
Non-cognitivists claim to be able to represent normative judgment, and especially moral judgment, as an expression of a non-cognitive attitude. There is some reason to worry whether their treatment can incorporate agent centred theories, including much of common sense morality. In this paper I investigate the prospects for a non-cognitivist explanation of what is going on when we subscribe to agent centred theories or norms. The first section frames the issue by focusing on a particularly simple and clear agent centred (...) theory, egoism. The second section poses the difficulty faced by non-cognitivist analyses of such theories and norms, and runs briefly through a couple of abortive attempts to solve it. The third section offers a solution and explains it. The fourth section uses the account developed in the third section to show in what way agent centred judgments are universalizable and in what way they are not. (shrink)
This paper addresses the project of philosophical autobiography, using two different perspectives. On the one hand, the societal, economic, and family contexts of William James are addressed, and connected a modern academic context of business ethics research, marketing and purchasing decision making, and the continuing financial crisis. The concepts of “stream of consciousness” and “acting as-if” are connected to recent literature on William James. On the other hand, the significance of family context, and the possible connection between the (...) William James family and the author, is addressed through shared family narratives interspersed throughout the paper. (shrink)
In general, the technical apparatus of decision theory is well developed. It has loads of theorems, and they can be proved from axioms. Many of the theorems are interesting, and useful both from a philosophical and a practical perspective. But decision theory does not have a well agreed upon interpretation. Its technical terms, in particular, ‘utility’ and ‘preference’ do not have a single clear and uncontroversial meaning.How to interpret these terms depends, of course, on what purposes in pursuit of which (...) one wants to put decision theory to use. One might want to use it as a model of economic decision-making, in order to predict the behavior of corporations or of the stock market. In that case, it might be useful to interpret the technical term ‘utility’ as meaning money profit. Decision theory would then be an empirical theory. I want to look into the question of what ‘utility’ could mean, if we want decision theory to function as a theory of practical rationality. I want to know whether it makes good sense to think of practical rationality as fully or even partly accounted for by decision theory. I shall lay my cards on the table: I hope it does make good sense to think of it that way. For, I think, if Humeans are right about practical rationality, then decision theory must play a very large part in their account. And I think Humeanism has very strong attractions. (shrink)