This is the first book by Joshua Gert, son of the well-known moral philosopher Bernard Gert. Among other things, Gert argues for a novel account of both objective and subjective rationality, a new theory of normative reasons, and a distinctive approach to construing the relationship between reasons for action and rationality. The result is an impressive book filled with interesting arguments and objections, which should advance philosophical discussions on a number of important issues.
The notion that plants, as well as animals, have a moral status is examined both in general, and with respect to the status of particularly rare plants that may be deemed to be lacking in general instrumentality, such as the Joshua tree. The work of Passmore, Singer and Santos is adduced, and several lines of argument revolving around preservation, sentiency and attractiveness to humans are constructed.
Abstract: The paper provides a general account of value relations. It takes its departure in a special type of value relation, parity, which according to Ruth Chang is a form of evaluative comparability that differs from the three standard forms of comparability: betterness, worseness and equal goodness. Recently, Joshua Gert has suggested that the notion of parity can be accounted for if value comparisons are interpreted as normative assessments of preference. While Gert's basic idea is attractive, the way he (...) develops it is flawed: His modeling of values by intervals of permissible preference strengths is inadequate. Instead, I provide an alternative modeling in terms of intersections of rationally permissible preference orderings. This yields a general taxonomy of all binary value relations. The paper concludes with some implications of this approach for rational choice. (shrink)
What is the relation between acting intentionally and acting for a reason? While this question has generated a considerable amount of debate in the philosophy of action, on one point there has been a virtual consensus: actions performed for a reason are necessarily intentional. Recently, this consensus has been challenged by Joshua Knobe and Sean Kelly, who argue against it on the basis of empirical evidence concerning the ways in which ordinary speakers of the English language describe and explain (...) certain side-effect actions. Knobe and Kelly's argument is of interest not only because it challenges a widely accepted philosophical thesis on the basis of experimental evidence, but also because it indirectly raises an important and largely neglected question, the question of whether or in what sense an agent can perform a side-effect action for a reason. In this article, I address this question and provide a positive answer to it. Specifically, I argue that agents act for a reason whenever they perform side-effect actions as trade-offs. Thus, I claim that there are three distinct types of rational action: actions performed as ends in themselves, actions performed as means to further ends, and side-effect actions performed as trade-offs. Given this multiplicity of types of rational action, the question of whether or not actions performed for a reason are necessarily intentional is in need of refinement. The more specific question that lies at the heart of this article is whether or not side-effect actions performed as trade-offs are necessarily intentional. I conclude that, contrary to what Knobe and Kelly suggest, the question remains open. (shrink)
This book promises a ‘radical reappraisal’ (Kates 2005, xv) of Derrida, concentrating particularly on the relationship of Derrida to philosophy, one of the most vexed questions in the reception of his work. The aim of the book is to provide the grounds for this reappraisal through a reinterpretation in particular of two of the major works Derrida published in 1967: Speech and Phenomena and Of Grammatology. However the study of the development of Derrida's work is the real achievement of the (...) book as Kates discusses major works dating from the 1954 study of genesis in Husserl's phenomenology through to the essays on Levinas and Foucault in the early 1960's as part of his story of how Derrida arrived at the writing of the two major works from 1967. (shrink)
The book is devoted to the thought of one of the 20th century's most interesting philosophers of religion. Heschel, a traditional Polish Jew who became a modern thinker, was also an impressive prophet of interreligious dialogue.
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)
Neuroscience and psychology have recently turned their attention to the study of the subpersonal underpinnings of moral judgment. In this article we critically examine an influential strand of research originating in Greene's neuroimaging studies of ‘utilitarian’ and ‘non-utilitarian’ moral judgement. We argue that given that the explananda of this research are specific personal-level states—moral judgments with certain propositional contents—its methodology has to be sensitive to criteria for ascribing states with such contents to subjects. We argue that current research has often (...) failed to meet this constraint by failing to correctly ‘fix’ key aspects of moral judgment, criticism we support by detailed examples from the scientific literature. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is a new and somewhat controversial method of philosophical inquiry in which philosophers conduct experiments in order to shed light on issues of philosophical interest. This typically involves surveying ordinary people to find out their "intuitions" (roughly, pre-theoretical judgments) about hypothetical cases important to philosophical theorizing. The controversy surrounding this methodology arises largely because it departs from more traditional ways of doing philosophy. Moreover, some of its practitioners have used it to argue that the more traditional methods are (...) flawed. In Experimental Philosophy, Joshua Knobe and Shaun Nichols are set with the task of introducing readers to this burgeoning field by putting together a collection of some of its most important articles. Given how controversial it has become, this is a heavy burden. I'm happy to say that they have put together a valuable collection that serves as a diplomatic introduction to this exciting new style of research. (shrink)
Social commentators have long asked whether racial categories should be conserved or eliminated from our practices, discourse, institutions, and perhaps even private thoughts. In A Theory of Race, Joshua Glasgow argues that this set of choices unnecessarily presents us with too few options. Using both traditional philosophical tools and recent psychological research to investigate folk understandings of race, Glasgow argues that, as ordinarily conceived, race is an illusion. However, our pressing need to speak to and make sense of social (...) life requires that we employ something like racial discourse. These competing pressures, Glasgow maintains, ultimately require us to stop conceptualizing race as something biological, and instead understand it as an entirely social phenomenon. (shrink)
I evaluate two new objections to an infinitist account of epistemic justification, and conclude that they fail to raise any new problems for infinitism. The new objections are a refined version of the finite-mind objection, which says infinitism demands more than finite minds can muster, and the normativity objection, which says infinitism entails that we are epistemically blameless in holding all our beliefs. I show how resources deployed in response to the most popular objection to infinitism, the original finite-mind objection, (...) can be redeployed to address the two new objections. (shrink)
A Very Bad Wizard is a collection of delightful interviews or conversations conducted by philosopher Tamler Sommers. Sommers interviews an array of researchers--from psychologists to primatologists to philosophers--who all have one thing in common: their work has direct implications for the study of morality. The distinguished interviewees are Galen Strawson, Philip Zimabrdo, Franz De Waal, Michael Ruse, Joseph Henrich, Joshua Greene, Liane Young, Jonathan Haidt, Stephen Stich, and William Ian Miller. I read the book on my flights back to (...) the West Coast after picking it up a few days prior in Massachusetts. I simply couldn't put it down! It truly is--as Steven Pinker states in his blurb--both thought-provoking and entertaining. It is a lively way into some of the most fascinating interdisciplinary research on ethics--what often now goes under the heading "moral psychology.". (shrink)
John Searle (1932-) is one of the most famous living American philosophers. A pupil of J. L. Austin at Oxford in the 1950s, he is currently Mills Professor of the Philosophy of Mind and Language at the University of California, Berkeley. In 1995 John Searle published "The Construction of Social Reality", a text which not only promises to disclose the institutional backdrop against which speech takes place, but initiate a new 'philosophy of society'. Since then "The Construction of Social Reality" (...) has been subject to a flurry of criticism. While many of Searle's interlocutors share the sense that the text marks an important breakthrough, he has time and again accused critics of misunderstanding his claims. Despite Searle's characteristic crispness and clarity there remains some confusion, among both philosophers and sociologists, regarding the significance of his proposals. This book traces some of the high points of this dialogue, leveraging Searle's own clarifications to propose a new way of understanding the text. In particular, Joshua Rust looks to Max Weber in suggesting that Searle has articulated an ideal type. In locating The Construction of Social Reality under the umbrella of one of sociology's founding fathers, this book not only makes Searle's text more accessible to the readers in the social sciences, but presents Max Weber as a thinker worthy of philosophical reconsideration. Moreover, the recharacterization of Searle's claims in terms of the ideal type helps facilitate a comparison between Searle and other social theorists such as Talcott Parsons. (shrink)
Editorial: Dimensions of Experimental Philosophy Content Type Journal Article Pages 315-318 DOI 10.1007/s13164-010-0037-9 Authors Joshua Knobe, Program in Cognitive Science and Department of Philosophy, Yale University, New Haven, CT USA Tania Lombrozo, Department of Psychology, UC Berkeley, 3210 Tolman Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA Edouard Machery, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Pittsburgh, 1017 CL, Pittsburgh, PA 15260, USA Journal Review of Philosophy and Psychology Online ISSN 1878-5166 Print ISSN 1878-5158 Journal Volume Volume 1 Journal Issue (...) Volume 1, Number 3. (shrink)
However widely--and differently--Jacques Derrida may be viewed as a "foundational" French thinker, the most basic questions concerning his work still remain unanswered: Is Derrida a friend of reason, or philosophy, or rather the most radical of skeptics? Are language-related themes--writing, semiosis--his central concern, or does he really write about something else? And does his thought form a system of its own, or does it primarily consist of commentaries on individual texts? This book seeks to address these questions by returning to (...) what it claims is essential history: the development of Derrida's core thought through his engagement with Husserlian phenomenology. Joshua Kates recasts what has come to be known as the Derrida/Husserl debate, by approaching Derrida's thought historically, through its development. Based on this developmental work, Essential History culminates by offering discrete interpretations of Derrida's two book-length 1967 texts, interpretations that elucidate the until now largely opaque relation of Derrida's interest in language to his focus on philosophical concerns. A fundamental reinterpretation of Derrida's project and the works for which he is best known, Kates's study fashions a new manner of working with the French thinker that respects the radical singularity of his thought as well as the often different aims of those he reads. Such a view is in fact "essential" if Derrida studies are to remain a vital field of scholarly inquiry, and if the humanities, more generally, are to have access to a replenishing source of living theoretical concerns. (shrink)
I argue that Greene’s research, although fascinating for many reasons, doesn’t undermine deontological moral philosophy. This is because both sentimentalist and rationalist moral epistemologies, applied to deontological value, predict exactly the data Greene has found. My discussion proceeds in three steps. In the first section I summarize Greene’s brief against deontology. In the second section I draw on standard accounts of moral emotions to suggest that there are ‘deontological emotions’ made rational by appearances of ‘deontological value.’ Finally, I outline a (...) modest but realist intuitionist account of moral intuitions that connects deontological emotion to putative deontological value in a way that predicts Greene’s findings. (shrink)
Joshua Gert presents a new account of normative practical reasons and the way in which they contribute to the rationality of action. He argues that, rather than simply "counting in favor of" action, normative reasons play two logically distinct roles--that of requiring action and that of justifying action. Gert's book will appeal to a range of readers interested in practical reasoning in particular, and moral theory more generally.
In Rabinowicz (2008), I considered how value relations can best be analysed in terms of fitting pro-attitudes. In the formal model of that paper, fitting pro-attitudes are represented by the class of permissible preference orderings on a domain of items that are being compared. As it turns out, this approach opens up for a multiplicity of different types of value relationships, along with the standard relations of , , and . Unfortunately, the approach is vulnerable to a number of objections. (...) I believe these objections can be avoided if one re-interprets the underlying notion of preference: instead of treating preference as a attitude directed towards a pair of items, we can think of it as a difference of degree between attitudes of favouring. Each such monadic attitude has just one item as its object. Given this re-interpretation, permissible preferences can be modelled by the class of permissible assignments of degrees of favouring to items in the domain. From this construction, we can then recover the old modelling in terms of the class of permissible preference orderings, but the previous objections to that model no longer apply. (shrink)
The famous quip "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like" sums up many people's ideas about how to judge a work of art; but there are inherent limitations if we rely on immediate impressions in judging what should be enduring products of our culture. While some might criticize this as a return to "elitism," Joshua Fineberg argues that without some way of determining intrinsic value, there can be no movement forward for creators or their (...) audience. He draws on contemporary thought about "Design space" and "Universal Grammar" to show how intrinsic values can be rediscovered. He then looks at the importance of multimedia in allowing multiple points of entry for the discovering of new works, finally showing how the composer can "Design music for human beings"--creating a kind of art that can preserve the research agenda of conceptual work without renouncing the understanding of human listeners and performers embodied by craft. Classical Music: Why Bother? will intrigue all listeners of contemporary music, students of musical thought, and composers-but it will also interest students of contemporary aesthetics. It answers the age-old question "How can we bring a new audience to contemporary art?" - and challenges both the creators and their audience to broaden their ideas about what is valuable and lasting in today's culture. (shrink)
Is it possible (or desirable) to live without illusions? Can artistry assist in the project of forging a unified self? What does our use of metaphor have to do with who we are? In this groundbreaking study, Joshua Landy explores Proust's original and sophisticated answers to these and related questions. At the same time, he asks why Proust chose to embed his theories within a work of fiction-one, indeed, in which the narrator's claims cannot always be trusted-rather than a (...) straightforward treatise. What we stand to gain, it turns out, from reading Proust's philosophical narrative is something far more than a new way of thinking: it is also, and more importantly, a new way of living. Provocative and illuminating, Philosophy as Fiction will transform the way we think about the relationship between philosophy, literature, and life. (shrink)
Advocates of the use of intuitions in philosophy argue that they are treated as evidence because they are evidential. Their opponents agree that they are treated as evidence, but argue that they should not be so used, since they are the wrong kinds of things. In contrast to both, we argue that, despite appearances, intuitions are not treated as evidence in philosophy whether or not they should be. Our positive account is that intuitions are a subclass of inclinations to believe. (...) Our thesis explains why intuitions play a role in persuasion and inquiry, without conceding that they are evidential. The account also makes predictions about the structure of intuitions that are confirmed by independent arguments. (shrink)
Suppose that Ann says, “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” Her audience may well agree. Her knowledge ascription may seem true. But now suppose that Ben—in a different context—also says “Keith knows that the bank will be open tomorrow.” His audience may well disagree. His knowledge ascription may seem false. Indeed, a number of philosophers have claimed that people’s intuitions about knowledge ascriptions are context sensitive, in the sense that the very same knowledge ascription can seem true (...) in one conversational context but false in another. This purported fact about people’s intuitions serves as one of the main pieces of evidence for epistemic contextualism. (shrink)
It used to be a commonplace that the discipline of philosophy was deeply concerned with questions about the human condition. Philosophers thought about human beings and how their minds worked. They took an interest in reason and passion, culture and innate ideas, the origins of people’s moral and religious beliefs. On this traditional conception, it wasn’t particularly important to keep philosophy clearly distinct from psychology, history, or political science. Philosophers were concerned, in a very general way, with questions about how..
An empirical study of people's intuitions about freedom of the will. We show that people tend to have compatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more concrete, emotional way but that they tend to have incompatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more abstract, cognitive way.
Much of the philosophical literature on causation has focused on the concept of actual causation, sometimes called token causation. In particular, it is this notion of actual causation that many philosophical theories of causation have attempted to capture.2 In this paper, we address the question: what purpose does this concept serve? As we shall see in the next section, one does not need this concept for purposes of prediction or rational deliberation. What then could the purpose be? We will argue (...) that one can gain an important clue here by looking at the ways in which causal judgments are shaped by people‘s understanding of norms. (shrink)
Many have thought that there is a problem with causal commerce between immaterial souls and material bodies. In Physicalism or Something Near Enough, Jaegwon Kim attempts to spell out that problem. Rather than merely posing a question or raising a mystery for defenders of substance dualism to answer or address, he offers a compelling argument for the conclusion that immaterial souls cannot causally interact with material bodies. We offer a reconstruction of that argument that hinges on two premises: Kim’s Dictum (...) and the Nowhere Man principle. Kim’s Dictum says that causation requires a spatial relation. Nowhere Man says that souls can’t be in space. By our lights, both premises can be called into question. We’ll begin our evaluation of the argument by pointing out some consequences of Kim’s Dictum. For some, these will be costs. We will then present two defeaters for Kim’s Dictum and a critical analysis of Kim’s case for Nowhere Man. The upshot is that Kim’s argument against substance dualism fails. (shrink)
It has been standard philosophical practice in analytic philosophy to employ intuitions generated in response to thought-experiments as evidence in the evaluation of philosophical claims. In part as a response to this practice, an exciting new movement—experimental philosophy—has recently emerged. This movement is unified behind both a common methodology and a common aim: the application of methods of experimental psychology to the study of the nature of intuitions. In this paper, we will introduce two different views concerning the relationship that (...) holds between experimental philosophy and the future of standard philosophical practice (what we call, the proper foundation view and the restrictionist view), discuss some of the more interesting and important results obtained by proponents of both views, and examine the pressure these results put on analytic philosophers to reform standard philosophical practice. We will also defend experimental philosophy from some recent objections, suggest future directions for work in experimental philosophy, and suggest what future lines of epistemological response might be available to those wishing to defend analytic epistemology from the challenges posed by experimental philosophy. (shrink)
If you start taking courses in contemporary cognitive science, you will soon encounter a particular picture of the human mind. This picture says that the mind is a lot like a computer. Specifically, the mind is made up of certain states and certain processes. These states and processes interact, in accordance with certain general rules, to generate specific behaviors. If you want to know how those states and processes got there in the first place, the only answer is that they (...) arose through the interaction of other states and processes, which arose from others... until, ultimately, the chain goes back to factors in our genes and our environment. Hence, one can explain human behavior just by positing a collection of mental states and psychological processes and discussing the ways in which these states and processes interact. This picture of the mind sometimes leaves people feeling deeply uncomfortable. They find themselves thinking something like: 'If the mind actually does work like that, it seems like we could never truly be morally responsible for anything we did. After all, we would never be free to choose any behavior other than the one we actually performed. Our behaviors would just follow inevitably from certain facts about the configuration of the states and processes within us.' Many philosophers think that this sort of discomfort is fundamentally confused or wrongheaded. They think that the confusion here can be cleared up just by saying something like: 'Wait! It doesn't make any sense to say that the interaction of these states and processes is preventing you from controlling your own life. The thing you are forgetting is that the interaction of these states and processes – this whole complex system described by cognitive science – is simply you. So when you learn that these states and processes control your behavior, all you are learning is that you are controlling your behavior. There is no reason at all to see these discoveries as a threat to your freedom or responsibility.'2 Philosophers may regard this argument as a powerful one, perhaps even irrefutable.. (shrink)
A singular thought about an object o is one that is directly about o in a characteristic way—grasp of that thought requires having some special epistemic relation to the object o, and the thought is ontologically dependent on o. One account of the nature of singular thought exploits a Russellian Structured Account of Propositions, according to which contents are represented by means of structured n-tuples of objects, properties, and functions. A proposition is singular, according to this framework, if and only (...) if it contains an object as a constituent. One advantage of the framework of Russellian Structured propositions is that it promises to provide a metaphysical basis for the notion of a singular thought about an object, grounding it in terms of constituency. In this paper, we argue that the attempt to ground the peculiar features of singular thoughts in terms of metaphysical constituency fails, and draw some consequences of our discussion for other debates. (shrink)
When people are trying to determine whether an entity is capable of having certain kinds of mental states, they can proceed either by thinking about the entity from a *functional* standpoint or by thinking about the entity from a *physical* standpoint. We conducted a series of studies to determine how each of these standpoints impact people’s mental state ascriptions. The results point to a striking asymmetry. It appears that ascriptions of states involving phenomenal consciousness are sensitive to physical factors in (...) a way that ascriptions of other states are not. (shrink)
Recent experimental philosophy arguments have raised trouble for philosophers' reliance on armchair intuitions. One popular line of response has been the expertise defense: philosophers are highly-trained experts, whereas the subjects in the experimental philosophy studies have generally been ordinary undergraduates, and so there's no reason to think philosophers will make the same mistakes. But this deploys a substantive empirical claim, that philosophers' training indeed inculcates sufficient protection from such mistakes. We canvass the psychological literature on expertise, which indicates that people (...) are not generally very good at reckoning who will develop expertise under what circumstances. We consider three promising hypotheses concerning what philosophical expertise might consist in: (i) better conceptual schemata; (ii) mastery of entrenched theories; and (iii) general practical know-how with the entertaining of hypotheticals. On inspection, none seem to provide us with good reason to endorse this key empirical premise of the expertise defense. (shrink)
Claims about people's intuitions have long played an important role in philosophical debates. The new field of experimental philosophy seeks to subject such claims to rigorous tests using the traditional methods of cognitive science – systematic experimentation and statistical analysis. Work in experimental philosophy thus far has investigated people's intuitions in philosophy of language, philosophy of mind, epistemology, and ethics. Although it is now generally agreed that experimental philosophers have made surprising discoveries about people's intuitions in each of these areas, (...) considerable disagreement remains about the philosophical significance of the key findings. Some have argued that work in experimental philosophy should be assessed by asking whether it can contribute to the kind of inquiry that is normally pursued within analytic philosophy, while others suggest that work in experimental philosophy is best understood as a contribution to a more traditional sort of philosophical inquiry that long predates the birth of analytic philosophy. (shrink)
Roughly, psychological egoism is the thesis that all of a person's intentional actions are ultimately self-interested in some sense; psychological altruism is the thesis that some of a person's intentional actions are not ultimately self-interested, since some are ultimately other-regarding in some sense. C. Daniel Batson and other social psychologists have argued that experiments provide support for a theory called the "empathy-altruism hypothesis" that entails the falsity of psychological egoism. However, several critics claim that there are egoistic explanations of the (...) data that are still not ruled out. One of the most potent criticisms of Batson comes from Elliott Sober and David Sloan Wilson. I argue for two main theses in this paper: (1) we can improve on Sober and Wilson’s conception of psychological egoism and altruism, and (2) this improvement shows that one of the strongest of Sober and Wilson's purportedly egoistic explanations is not tenable. A defense of these two theses goes some way toward defending Batson‘s claim that the evidence from social psychology provides sufficient reason to reject psychological egoism. (shrink)
It has often been suggested that people’s ordinary capacities for understanding the world make use of much the same methods one might find in a formal scientific investigation. A series of recent experimental results offer a challenge to this widely-held view, suggesting that people’s moral judgments can actually influence the intuitions they hold both in folk psychology and in causal cognition. The present target article distinguishes two basic approaches to explaining such effects. One approach would be to say that the (...) relevant competencies are entirely non-moral but that some additional factor (conversational pragmatics, performance error, etc.) then interferes and allows people’s moral judgments to affect their intuitions. Another approach would be to say that moral considerations truly do figure in workings of the competencies themselves. It is argued that the data available now favor the second of these approaches over the first. (shrink)
A recent study of moral intuitions, performed by Joshua Greene and a group of researchers at Princeton University, has recently received a lot of attention. Greene and his collaborators designed a set of experiments in which subjects were undergoing brain scanning as they were asked to respond to various practical dilemmas. They found that contemplation of some of these cases (cases where the subjects had to imagine that they must use some direct form of violence) elicited greater activity in (...) certain areas of the brain associated with emotions compared with the other cases. It has been argued (e.g., by Peter Singer) that these results undermine the reliability of our moral intuitions, and therefore provide an objection to methods of moral reasoning that presuppose that they carry an evidential weight (such as the idea of reflective equilibrium). I distinguish between two ways in which Greene's findings lend support for a sceptical attitude towards intuitions. I argue that, given the first version of the challenge, the method of reflective equilibrium can easily accommodate the findings. As for the second version of the challenge, I argue that it does not so much pose a threat specifically to the method of reflective equilibrium but to the idea that moral claims can be justified through rational argumentation in general. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy has emerged as a very specific kind of response to an equally specific way of thinking about philosophy, one typically associated with philosophical analysis and according to which philosophical claims are measured, at least in part, by our intuitions. Since experimental philosophy has emerged as a response to this way of thinking about philosophy, its philosophical significance depends, in no small part, on how significant the practice of appealing to intuitions is to philosophy. In this paper, I defend (...) the significance of experimental philosophy by defending the significance of intuitions—in particular, by defending their significance from a recent challenge advanced by Timothy Williamson. (shrink)
At least since the middle of the twentieth century, philosophers have tended to identify weakness of will with akrasia—i.e. acting, or having a disposition to act, contrary to one‘s judgments about what is best for one to do. However, there has been some recent debate about whether this captures the ordinary notion of weakness of will. Richard Holton (1999, 2009) claims that it doesn’t, while Alfred Mele (2010) argues that, to a certain extent, it does. As Mele recognizes, the question (...) about an ordinary concept here is one apt for empirical investigation. We evaluate Mele’s studies and report some experiments of our own in order to investigate what in the world the ordinary concept of weakness of will is. We conclude that neither Mele nor Holton (previously) was quite right and offer a tentative proposal of our own: the ordinary notion is more like a prototype or cluster concept whose application is affected by a variety of factors. (shrink)
Recent experimental research has revealed surprising patterns in people's intuitions about free will and moral responsibility. One limitation of this research, however, is that it has been conducted exclusively on people from Western cultures. The present paper extends previous research by presenting a cross-cultural study examining intuitions about free will and moral responsibility in subjects from the United States, Hong Kong, India and Colombia. The results revealed a striking degree of cross-cultural convergence. In all four cultural groups, the majority of (...) participants said that (a) our universe is indeterministic and (b) moral responsibility is not compatible with determinism. (shrink)
Joshua Greene has argued that several lines of empirical research, including his own fMRI studies of brain activity during moral decision-making, comprise strong evidence against the legitimacy of deontology as a moral theory. This is because, Greene maintains, the empirical studies establish that “characteristically deontological” moral thinking is driven by prepotent emotional reactions which are not a sound basis for morality in the contemporary world, while “characteristically consequentialist” thinking is a more reliable moral guide because it is characterized by (...) greater cognitive command and control. In this essay, I argue that Greene does not succeed in drawing a strong statistical or causal connection between prepotent emotional reactions and deontological theory, and so does not undermine the legitimacy of deontological moral theories. The results that Greene relies on from neuroscience and social psychology do not establish his conclusion that consequentialism is superior to deontology. (shrink)
College students implicitly judge interracial sex and gay sex to be morally wrong Some moral intuitions arise from psychological processes that are not fully accessible to consciousness. For instance, most people disapprove of consensual adult incest between siblings, but are unable to articulate why—they just feel that it is wrong (Haidt, 2001). More generally, there is evidence for at least two sources of moral judgment: explicit conscious reasoning and tacit intuitions, which are motivated by emotional responses (Greene et al., 2001) (...) and learned associations (Greenwald & Banaji, 1995). (shrink)
Much of the agenda for contemporary philosophical work on moral responsibility was set by Strawson’s (1962) essay ‘Freedom and Resentment.’ In that essay, Strawson suggests that we focus not so much on metaphysical speculation as on understanding the actual practice of moral responsibility judgment. The hope is that we will be able to resolve the apparent paradoxes surrounding moral responsibility if we can just get a better sense of how this practice works and what role it serves in people’s lives. (...) Many of the philosophers working on moral responsibility today would disagree with some of the substantive conclusions Strawson reached in that early essay, but almost all have been influenced to some degree by his methodological proposals. Thus, almost all participants in the contemporary debate about moral responsibility make some appeal to the ordinary practice of moral responsibility judgment. Each side tries to devise cases in which the other side’s theory yields a conclusion that diverges from people’s ordinary judgments, and to the extent that a given theory actually is shown to conflict with ordinary judgments, it is widely supposed that we have strong reason to reject the theory itself. It seems to us that this philosophical effort to understand the ordinary practice of moral responsibility judgment has in some ways been a great success and in other ways a dismal failure. We have been extremely impressed with the ingenuity philosophers have shown in constructing counterexamples to each other’s theories, and we think that a number of participants in the debate have been successful in coming up with cases in which their opponents’ theories yield conclusions that conflict with ordinary judgments. But we have been less impressed with attempts to actually develop theories that accord.. (shrink)
Joshua Knobe (2003a) has discovered that the perceived goodness or badness of side effects of actions influences people's ascriptions of intentionality to those side effects. I present the paradigmatic cases that elicit what has been called the Knobe effect and offer some explanations of the Knobe effect. I put these explanations into two broad groups. One explains the Knobe effect by referring to our concept of intentional action. The other explains the Knobe effect without referring to our concept of (...) intentional action. I discuss some problems with these explanations and conclude with some possible avenues for future research. (shrink)
In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge in Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these bank cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make in his critique of Stanley. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our intuitions about such cases are. To account for these (...) results, one must develop a better conception of the connection between a subject's interests and her body of knowledge than those offered by Stanley and Schaffer. (shrink)
Pascal's Wager is finding ever more defenders who aim to undermine the old Many Gods Objection. It is my thesis that they are mistaken. After describing the Wager and the objection, I report on Jeff Jordan's repeated attempt to limit legitimate religious hypotheses to those that are traditional. In separate sections I criticize Jordan, first coming from epistemology and second from anthropology. Then I describe George Schlesinger's repeated appeal to the ‘simplest’ religious hypothesis, and argue that it fails for similar (...) reasons. Finally, I summarize and reject miscellaneous defences of Pascal by Robert Anderson, Bradley Armour-Garb, James Franklin, Joshua Golding, and Nicholas Rescher. (shrink)
It is widely believed that the primary function of folk psychology lies in the prediction, explanation and control of behavior. A question arises, however, as to whether folk psychology has also been shaped in fundamental ways by the various other roles it plays in people’s lives. Here I approach that question by considering one particular aspect of folk psychology – the distinction between intentional and unintentional behaviors. The aim is to determine whether this distinction is best understood as a tool (...) used in prediction, explanation and control or whether it has been shaped in fundamental ways by some other aspect of its use. (shrink)
Deliberation and democratic legitimacy -- Moral pluralism and political consensus -- Associations and democracy (with Joel Rogers) -- Freedom of expression -- Procedure and substance in deliberative democracy -- Directly-deliberative polyarchy (with Charles Sabel) -- Democracy and liberty -- Money, politics, political equality -- Privacy, pluralism, and democracy -- Reflections on deliberative democracy -- Truth and public reason.
Closure for justification is the claim that thinkers are justified in believing the logical consequences of their justified beliefs, at least when those consequences are competently deduced. Many have found this principle to be very plausible. Even more attractive is the special case of Closure known as Single-Premise Closure. In this paper, I present a challenge to Single-Premise Closure. The challenge is based on the phenomenon of rational self-doubt – it can be rational to be less than fully confident in (...) one's beliefs and patterns of reasoning. In rough outline, the argument is as follows: Consider a thinker who deduces a conclusion from a justified initial premise via an incredibly long sequence of small competent deductions. Surely, such a thinker should suspect that he has made a mistake somewhere. And surely, given this, he should not believe the conclusion of the deduction even though he has a justified belief in the initial premise. (shrink)
Experimental philosophy is a new interdisciplinary field that uses methods normally associated with psychology to investigate questions normally associated with philosophy. The present review focuses on research in experimental philosophy on four central questions. First, why is it that people's moral judgments appear to influence their intuitions about seemingly nonmoral questions? Second, do people think that moral questions have objective answers, or do they see morality as fundamentally relative? Third, do people believe in free will, and do they see free (...) will as compatible with determinism? Fourth, how do people determine whether an entity is conscious? (shrink)
Our interest in this paper is to drive a wedge of contention between two different programs that fall under the umbrella of “experimental philosophy”. In particular, we argue that experimental philosophy’s “negative program” presents almost as significant a challenge to its “positive program” as it does to more traditional analytic philosophy.
It has long been known that people’s causal judgments can have an impact on their moral judgments. To take a simple example, if people conclude that a behavior caused the death of ten innocent children, they will therefore be inclined to regard the behavior itself as morally wrong. So far, none of this should come as any surprise. But recent experimental work points to the existence of a second, and more surprising, aspect of the relationship between causal judgment and moral (...) judgment. It appears that the relationship can sometimes go in the opposite direction. That is, it appears that our moral judgments can sometimes impact our causal judgments. (Hence, we might first determine that a behavior is morally wrong and then, on that basis, arrive at the conclusion that it was the cause of various outcomes.). (shrink)
We think of logic as objective. We also think that we are reliable about logic. These views jointly generate a puzzle: How is it that we are reliable about logic? How is it that our logical beliefs match an objective domain of logical fact? This is an instance of a more general challenge to explain our reliability about a priori domains. In this paper, I argue that the nature of this challenge has not been properly understood. I explicate the challenge (...) both in general and for the particular case of logic. I also argue that two seemingly attractive responses – appealing to a faculty of rational insight or to the nature of concept possession – are incapable of answering the challenge. (shrink)
Shows that the very same asymmetries that arise for intentionally also arise from deciding, desiring, in favor of, opposed to, and advocating. It seems that the phenomenon is not due to anything about the concept of intentional action in particular. Rather, the effects observed for the concept of intentional action should be regarded as just one manifestation of the pervasive impact of moral judgment.
In this paper, we develop an account of the justification thinkers have for employing certain basic belief-forming methods. The guiding idea is inspired by Reichenbach's work on induction. There are certain projects in which thinkers are rationally required to engage. Thinkers are epistemically justified in employing any belief-forming method such that "if it doesn't work, nothing will" for successfully engaging in such a project. We present a detailed account based on this intuitive thought and address objections to it. We conclude (...) by commenting on the implications that our account may have for other important epistemological issues and debates. (shrink)
An extensive body of research suggests that the distinction between doing and allowing plays a critical role in shaping moral appraisals. Here, we report evidence from a pair of experiments suggesting that the converse is also true: moral appraisals affect doing/allowing judgments. Specifically, morally bad behavior is more likely to be construed as actively ‘doing’ than as passively ‘allowing’. This finding adds to a growing list of folk concepts influenced by moral appraisal, including causation and intentional action. We therefore suggest (...) that the present finding favors the view that moral appraisal plays a pervasive role in shaping diverse cognitive representations across multiple domains. (shrink)