Up until fairly recently it was philosophical orthodoxy – at least within analytic aesthetics broadly construed – to hold that the appreciation and evaluation of works as art and moral considerations pertaining to them are conceptually distinct. However, following on from the idea that artistic value is broader than aesthetic value, the last 15 years has seen an explosion of interest in exploring possible inter-relations between the appreciative and ethical character of works as art. Consideration of these issues has a (...) distinguished philosophical history but as the Compass survey article suggests ('Art, Morality and Ethics: On the (Im)Moral Character of Art Works and Inter-Relations to Artistic Value.' Philosophy Compass 1.2 (2006): 129–43), it is only very recently that figures in the field have returned to it to develop more precisely what they take the relationships to be and why. Consensus is, unsurprisingly, lacking. The reinvigoration of the issues has led sophisticated formalists or autonomists to mount a more considered defence of the idea that aesthetic and literary values are indeed conceptually distinct from the justification or otherwise of the moral perspective or views endorsed in a work (Topic I). The challenges presented by such a defence are many but amongst them are appeals to critical practice (Lamarque and Olsen), scepticism about whether or not art really can give us bona fide knowledge (Stolnitz) and the recognition that truth often seems to be far removed from what it is we value in our appreciation of works (Lamarque). One way to motivate consideration of the relevance of a work's moral character to its artistic value concerns the phenomena of imaginative resistance. At least sometimes it would seem that, as Hume originally suggested, we either cannot or will not enter imaginatively into the perspective solicited by a work due to its morally problematic character (Topic II). In some cases, it would seem that as a matter of psychological fact, we cannot do so since it is impossible for us to imagine how it could be that a certain attitude or action is morally permissible or good (Walton). The question then is whether or not this is a function of morality in particular or constraints on imaginative possibility more generally and what else is involved. At other times, the phenomena seem to be driven by a moral reluctance to allow ourselves to enter into the dramatic perspective involved (Moran) or evaluation of the attitude expressed (Stokes). Nonetheless, it is far from obvious that this is so of all the attitudes or responses we judge to be morally problematic. After all, it looks like we can and indeed often do suspend or background particular cognitive and moral commitments in engaging with all sorts of works (Nichols and Weinberg). If the moral character of a work interacts with how we appreciate and evaluate them, then the pressing question is this: is there any systematic account of the relationship available to us? One way is to consider the relationship between our emotional responses to works and their moral character (Topic III). After all, art works often solicit various emotional responses from us to follow the work and make use of moral concepts in so doing (Carroll). Indeed, whether or not a work merits the sought for emotional responses often seems to be internally related to ethical considerations (Gaut). Yet, it is not obvious that we should apply our moral concepts or respond emotionally in our imaginative engagement with works as art as we should in real life (Kieran, Jacobson). A different route is via the thought that art can convey knowledge (Topic IV). There might be particular kinds of moral knowledge art distinctively suited to conveying (Nussbaum) or it may just be that art does so particularly effectively (Carroll, Gaut, Kieran). Either way where this can be tied to the artistic means and appreciation of a work it would seem that to cultivate moral understanding contributes to the value of a work and to betray misunderstanding is a defect. Without denying the relevance of the moral character of a work some authors have wanted to claim that sometimes the immoral aspect of a work can contribute to rather than lessen its artistic value (Topic V). One route is to claim that there is no systematic theoretical account of the relationship available and what the right thing to say is depends on the particular case involved (Jacobson). Another involves the claim that this is so when the defect connects up in an appropriate way to one of the values of art. Thus, it has been claimed, only where a work reveals something which adds to intelligibility, knowledge or understanding in virtue of its morally problematic aspect can this be so (Kieran). The latter position looks like it could in principle be held whilst nonetheless maintaining that the typical or standard relationship is as the moralists would have it. Yet perhaps allowing valence change for such reasons is less a mark of principled explanation and more a function of downright inconsistency or incoherence (Harold). The topics themselves and suggested readings given below follow the structure articulated above as further amplified in the Compass survey article. The design and structure given below can be easily compressed or expanded further. Author Recommends 1. Carroll, Noël. 'Art, Narrative and Moral Understanding.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 126–60. This article develops the idea that engaging with narrative art calls on moral concepts and emotions and can thereby clarify our moral understanding. 2. Carroll, Noël. Beyond Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays . Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2009. Part IV consists of six distinct essays on questions concerning the inter-relations between art and morality including the essay cited above and the author's articulation and defence of moderate moralism. 3. Gaut, Berys. 'The Ethical Criticism of Art.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 182–203. 4. Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. This monograph provides the most exhaustive treatment of the issues and defends the claim that, where relevant, whenever a work is morally flawed it is of lesser value as art and wherever it is morally virtuous the work's value as art is enhanced. Chapters 7 and 8 defend concern ethical knowledge and chapter 10 is a development of the article cited above concerning emotional responses. Chapter 3 also gives a useful conceptual map of the issues and options in the debate. 5. Jacobson, Daniel. 'In Praise of Immoral Art.' Philosophical Topics 25 (1997): 155–99. A wide ranging and extended treatment of relevant issues which objects to generalising moral treatments of our responses to art works and defends the idea that particular works can be better because of rather than despite their moral defects. 6. Kieran, Matthew. 'Forbidden Knowledge: The Challenge of Cognitive Immoralism.' Art and Morality . Ed. Sebastian Gardner and José Luis Bermúdez. London: Routledge, 2003. 56–73. A general argument for immoralism is elaborated by outlining when, where and why a work's morally problematic character can contribute to its artistic value for principled reasons (through enhancing moral understanding). 7. Kieran, Matthew. Revealing Art . London: Routledge, 2005. Chapter 4. This chapter argues against both aestheticism and straightforward moralism about art, elaborating a defence of immoralism in relation to visual art whilst ranging over issues from pornographic art to the nature and demands of different genres in art. 8. Lamarque, Peter. 'Cognitive Values in the Arts: Marking the Boundaries.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art. Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, 127–39. This article concisely outlines and defends a sophisticated aestheticism that denies the importance of truth to artistic value. 9. Stolnitz, Jerome. 'On the Cognitive Triviality of Art.' British Journal of Aesthetics 32.3 (1992): 191–200. This article articulates and defends the claim that no knowledge of any interesting or significant kind can be afforded by works appreciated and evaluated as art. 10. Walton, Kendall. 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality, I.' Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. 68 (1994): 27–51. This article builds on some comments from Hume to develop the idea that when engaging with fictions it seems impossible imaginatively to enter into radically deviant moral attitudes. Online Materials 'Aesthetics and Ethics: The State of the Art.' American Society of Aesthetics online (Jeffrey Dean): http://www.aesthetics-online.org/articles/index.php?articles_id=15 >. 'Art, Censorship and Morality' downloadable podcast of Nigel Warburton interviewing Matthew Kieran at Tate Britain (BBC/OU Open2.net as part of the Ethics Bites series): http://www.open2.net/ethicsbites/art-censorship-morality.html >. 'Art, Morality and Ethics: On the (Im)Moral Character of Art Works and Inter-Relations to Artistic Value.' Philosophy Compass 1.2 (2006): 129–43 (Matthew Kieran): http://www3.interscience.wiley.com/journal/118557779/abstract >. 'Ethical Criticism of Art.' Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Ella Peek): http://www.iep.utm.edu/a/art-eth.htm >. 'Fascinating Fascism.' New York Review of Books Piece Discussing Leni Riefenstahl (Susan Sontag): http://www.nybooks.com/articles/9280 >. 'The Beheading of St. John the Baptist (1450s), Giovanni de Paolo' (Tom Lubbock): http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/great-works/great-works-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-1450s-giovanni-di-paolo-1684900.html >. Vladimir Nabokov and Lionel Trilling discuss Lolita (CBS): http://www.listal.com/video/3848698 >. Sample Syllabus Topic I Autonomism/Aestheticism • Anderson, James C. and Jeffrey T. Dean. 'Moderate Autonomism.' British Journal of Aesthetics 38.2 (1998): 150–66. • Beardsley, Monroe. Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism . New York: Harcourt, Brace and World, 1958. Chapter 12. • Kant, Immanuel. The Critique of Judgement.Trans. James Creed Meredith . Oxford: Oxford UP, 1952 . • Lamarque, Peter. 'Cognitive Values in the Arts: Marking the Boundaries.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006, 127–39. • ——. 'Tragedy and Moral Value.' Australasian Journal of Philosophy 73.2 (1995): 239–49. • Lamarque, Peter and Stein Olsen. Truth, Fiction and Literature . Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1994. Chapter 10. • Stolnitz, Jerome. 'On the Cognitive Triviality of Art.' British Journal of Aesthetics 32.3 (1992): 191–200. Topic II Imaginative Capacities, Intelligibility and Resistance • Moran, Richard. 'The Expression of Feeling in Imagination.' Philosophical Review 103.1 (1994): 75–106. • Nichols, Shaun. 'Just the Imagination: Why Imagining Doesn't Behave Like Believing'. Mind & Language 21.4 (2006): 459–74. • Stokes, Dustin. 'The Evaluative Character of Imaginative Resistance'. British Journal of Aesthetics 46.4 (2006): 387–405. • Tanner, Michael. 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality, II'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. Vol. 68 (1994): 51–66. • Walton, Kendall (1994). 'Morals in Fiction and Fictional Morality, I'. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Suppl. Vol. 68 (1994): 27–51. • Weinberg, Jonathan. 'Configuring the Cognitive Imagination.' New Waves in Aesthetics . Eds. K. Stock and K. Thomson-Jones. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008. 203–23. Topic III Moralism and Emotions • Carroll, Noël. 'Moderate Moralism.' British Journal of Aesthetics 36.3 (1996): 223–37. • Carroll, Noël. 'Art, Narrative and Moral Understanding.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998.126–60. • Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Chapter 10. • ——. 'The Ethical Criticism of Art.' Aesthetics and Ethics: Essay at the Intersection . Ed. Jerrold Levinson. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1998. 182–203. • Hume, David. 'Of the Standard of Taste.' Selected Essays . Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993 . 133–53. • Kieran, Matthew. 'Emotions, Art and Immorality.' Oxford Handbook to the Philosophy of Emotions . Ed. Peter Goldie. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009. 681–703. • Tolstoy, Leo. What is Art? . London: Penguin, 2004. Chapters 5 and 15. Topic IV Moralism and Knowledge • Aristotle. Poetics . Trans. M. Heath. London: Penguin, 1996 [367–322 BC]. • Carroll, Noël. 'The Wheel of Virtue: Art, Literature and Moral Knowledge.' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 60.1 (2002): 3–26. • Gaut, Berys. Art, Emotion and Ethics . Oxford: Oxford UP, 2007. Chapters 7 and 8. • Gaut, Berys. 'Art and Cognition.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 115–26. • Kieran, Matthew. 'Art, Imagination and the Cultivation of Morals.' Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 54.4 (1996): 337–51. • Nussbaum, Martha. 'Finely Aware and Richly Responsible: Literature and the Moral Imagination.' Love's Knowledge . New York: Oxford UP, 1990. 148–68. • Plato. The Republic . Trans. D. Lee. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974. Book 10. Topic V Immoralist Contextualism • Harold, James. 'Immoralism and the Valence Constraint.' British Journal of Aesthetics 48.1 (2008): 45–64. • Jacobson, Daniel. 'In Praise of Immoral Art.' Philosophical Topics 25 (1997): 155–99. • ——. 'Ethical Criticism and the Vices of Moderation.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 342–55. • John, Eileen. 'Artistic Value and Moral Opportunism.' Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art . Ed. Matthew Kieran. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 331–41. • Kieran, Matthew. 'Forbidden Knowledge:The Challenge of Cognitive Immoralism.' Art and Morality . Ed. Sebastian Gardner and José Luis Bermúdez. London: Routledge, 2003. 56–73. • Kieran, Matthew. Revealing Art . London: Routledge, 2005. Chapter 4. • Patridge, Stephanie. 'Moral Vices as Artistic Virtues: Eugene Onegin and Alice.' Philosophia 36.2 (2008): 181–93. Focus Questions 1. What is the strongest argument for the claim that the moral character of a work is not relevant to its artistic value? Does artistic or literary criticism tend to concern itself with the truth or morality of works? If so, in what ways? If not, why do you think this is? 2. What different explanations might there be for difficulty with or resistance to imaginatively entering into attitudes you take to be immoral? How might this relate to the way our imaginings work as contrasted with belief? How might different literary or artistic treatments of the same subject matter make a difference? 3. How do narrative works draw on our moral concepts and responses? Can we suspend our normal moral commitments or application of moral concepts in responding emotionally to art works? Should we respond emotionally to art works as we ought to respond to real world events we witness? Why? Why not? 4. How, if at all, do art works convey moral understanding? How, if at all, is this related to the kinds of moral knowledge art works can teach or reveal to us? When, where and why might this be tied to the artistic value of a work? How can we tell where a work enhances our moral understanding as opposed to misleading or distorting it? 5. What art works do you value overall as art which commend or endorse moral values and attitudes that you do not? Is appreciation of them always marred or lessened by the morally dubious aspect? If not, what explains the differences in evaluation? What, if anything, might you learn by engaging with works which endorse moral attitudes or apply moral concepts different from those you take to be justified? How, if at all, might this connect up with what makes them valuable as art? (shrink)
Why does art matter to us, and what makes good art? Why is the role of imagination so important in art? Illustrated with carefully chosen color and black-and-white plates of examples from Michelangelo to Matisse and Poussin to Jackson Pollock, Revealing Art explores some of the most important questions we can ask about art. Matthew Kieran clearly but forcefully asks how art inspires us and disgusts us and whether artistic judgment is simply a matter of taste, and if art (...) can be immoral or obscene, should it be censored? He brings such abstract issues to life with fascinating discussions of individual paintings, photographs and sculptures, such as Michelangelo's Pietà, Andres Serrano's Piss Christ and Jackson Pollock's Summertime. He also suggests some answers to problems that any one in an art gallery or museum is likely to ask themselves: what is a beautiful work of art, and can art really reveal something true about our own nature? Revealing Art is ideal for anyone interested in debates about art today, or who has simply stood in front of a painting and felt baffled. (shrink)
Imagination is a central concept in aesthetics with close ties to issues in the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of language, yet it has not received the kind of sustained, critical attention it deserves. Imagination, Philosophy and the Arts represents the work of fifteen young yet distinguished philosophers of art, who critically examine just how and in what form the notion of imagination illuminates fundamental problems in the philosophy of art. All new papers, a strong collection on the imagination (...) in philosophy, particularly in relation to literature and the visual arts. The book falls in three parts: emotional imagination, fiction-making imagination and sensory imagination. The volume opens up several new frontiers that will attract substantial interest in philosophers of art, as well as philosophers working on mental representation, emotion theory, perception and fiction. These papers make a large contribution to developing our understanding of 'imagination' in new directions and setting the research agenda for the next decade. (shrink)
Apparently snobbery undermines justification for and legitimacy of aesthetic claims. It is also pervasive in the aesthetic realm, much more so than we tend to presume. If these two claims are combined, a fundamental problem arises: we do not know whether or not we are justified in believing or making aesthetic claims. Addressing this new challenge requires an epistemological story which underpins when, where and why snobbish judgement is problematic, and how appreciative claims can survive. This leads towards a virtue-theoretic (...) account of art appreciation and aesthetic justification, as contrasted with a purely reliabilist one – a new direction for contemporary aesthetics. (shrink)
Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art features pairs of newly commissioned essays by some of the leading theorists working in the field today. Brings together fresh debates on eleven of the most controversial issues in aesthetics and the philosophy of art Topics addressed include the nature of beauty, aesthetic experience, artistic value, and the nature of our emotional responses to art. Each question is treated by a pair of opposing essays written by eminent scholars, and especially commissioned (...) for the volume. 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 aesthetics, while also capturing the imagination of professional philosophers. (shrink)
The paper proceeds by criticising the central accounts of obscenity proffered by Feinberg, Scruton and the suggestive remarks of Nussbaum and goes on to argue for the following formal characterization of obscenity: x is appropriately judged obscene if and only if either (A) x is appropriately classified as a member of a form or class of objects whose authorized purpose is to solicit and commend to us cognitive-affective responses which are (1) internalized as morally prohibited and (2) does so in (...) ways found to be or which are held to warrant repulsion and (3) does so in order to (a) indulge first order desires held to be morally prohibited or (b) indulge the desire to be morally transgressive or the desire to feel repulsed or (c) afford cognitive rewards or (d) any combination thereof or (B) x successfully elicits cognitive-affective responses which conform to conditions (1)-(3). (shrink)
On a contemporary Humean-influenced view, the responses of suitably idealized appreciators are presented as tracking, or even determining, facts about artistic value. Focusing on the intra-personal case, this paper argues that (i) facts about the refinement and reconfiguration of aesthetic character together with (ii) the manner in which autobiography and character are implicated in artistic appreciation make it de facto unlikely that we can reliably come to know how our ideal counterpart would respond to a given artwork. Attribution of superhuman (...) abilities to our ideal counterpart partially addresses this worry, but undermines a central feature of the theoretical motivation for the idealizing model. Insofar as response-dependent accounts of artistic value are inextricably tied to an idealizing view of critics, we have reason to reject them. (shrink)
The contributions to this volume provide a thorough introduction to the major topics in contemporary aesthetics and the philosophy of art, in the distinctive format of philosophers engaging in head-to-head debate at a level accessible to ...
In the following essay I explore some implications of Kieran Cashell’s notably original recent book Aftershock. This is a searching examination of how we might treat transgressive artwork by exploring certain shortcomings of the aesthetic tradition and equally certain shortcomings of those who speak with artistic authority (critics, commentators, and artists themselves). Cashell cuts through a grossly impacted volume of subterfuge in order to advance arguments that question how we have come to appreciate artwork and which show how some (...) transgressive artwork challenges conventional ways of considering art. This he achieves by deploying an impressive roster of theorists, commentators, critics and artists, dismissing various kinds of hyperbole and revealing what is left standing after a vigorous clearance. Cashell strikes at the foundations of the aesthetic tradition and locates some instances of transgressive art in a pivotal position where they may be appreciated not through the aesthetic tradition of disinterestedness but through the traditionally compromising (for aesthetics) paradigm of ethics. I illustrate this with specific reference to Cashell’s Chapter Two where he discusses Marcus Harvey’s publicly and critically reviled painting Myra. Cashell defends this painting, not through any appeal to the liberal-minded ‘freedom-of-speech’ principle, but for its sheer resistance to processing via the traditional idea of aesthetic disinterest. He recommends that the painting be regarded – without any loss of aesthetic worth – as immoral and disturbing and for just this reason as inviting us to join in human solidarity with those who were affected by the crimes associated with Myra Hindley. By thus merging ethical consideration with the response to an aesthetic artform the merits of the painting are preserved while its full force is sustained against the morally enfeebling aspect of Kantian aesthetic disinterest. (shrink)
The aims of this paper are (1) to reconstruct the dialectic between two rival theories on the relation between art and morality, (2) to argue against Berys Gaut’s recent defense of ethicism, and (3) to elaborate some of my critical remarks and propose new considerations in favor of immoralism. To a first approximation, an ethicist maintains that the moral value of a work of art, when relevant, is an important element of its artistic value. In particular, assuming that the moral (...) value of a work, w, is relevant for its artistic value, if w has an immoral character (in a sense to be specified), then its aesthetic value is lessened. In addition, if w has a morally positive character, then w is also artistically more .. (shrink)
Modern philosophy has been vexed by the question "Why should I be moral?" and by doubts about the rational authority of moral virtue. In Reasons without Rationalism, Kieran Setiya shows that these doubts rest on a mistake.
In this volume, Kieran McGroarty provides a philosophical commentary on a section of the Enneads written by the last great Neoplatonist thinker, Plotinus. The treatise is entitled "Concerning Well-Being" and was written at a late stage in Plotinus' life when he was suffering from an illness that was shortly to kill him. Its main concern is with the good man and how he should pursue the good life. The treatise is therefore central to our understanding of Plotinus' ethical theory, (...) and the commentary seeks to explicate and elucidate that theory. Plotinus' views on how one should live in order to fulfill oneself as a human being are as relevant now as they were in the third century AD. All Greek and Latin is translated, while short summaries introducing the content of each chapter help to make Plotinus' argument clear even to the non-specialist. (shrink)
Kieran Cronin aims in this book to show how a Christian perspective may have something fruitful to contribute to the language of rights. In so doing, he examines some of the complexities involved in using this language, drawing from literature in moral philosophy and jurisprudence in the process. The novelty of his approach lies in the attempt to distinguish two complimentary aspects within metaethics, aspects which the author calls the 'discursive' and the 'imaginative'. Cronin regards the use of models (...) (which are extended metaphors) as providing a bridge between these two aspects, and the imaginative metaethics which emerges is seen to be rich in possibilities for both secular and Christian understandings of rights-talk. (shrink)
Argues that it is not by inference from intention that I know what I am doing intentionally. Instead, the reverse is true: groundless knowledge of intention rests on the will as a capacity for non-perceptual, non-inferential knowledge of action. The argument adapts and clarifies considerations of "transparency" more familiar in connection with belief.
Argues that "internalism about reasons" owes its appeal to a function argument from the nature of agency. Internalism is thus revealed as a species of ethical rationalism. (This paper introduces a volume of recent work on internal and external reasons.).
Argues for a causal-psychological account of acting for reasons. This view is distinguished from a more ambitious causal theory of action, clarified as far as possible, and motivated—against non-reductive, teleological, and behaviourist alternatives—on broadly metaphysical grounds.
Argues that we know without observation or inference at least some of what we are doing intentionally and that this possibility must be explained in terms of knowledge-how. It is a consequence of the argument that knowing how to do something cannot be identified with knowledge of a proposition.
Philosophical perplexity about intention begins with its appearance in three guises: intention for the future, as when I intend to complete this entry by the end of the month; the intention with which someone acts, as I am typing with the further intention of writing an introductory sentence; and intentional action, as in the fact that I am typing these words intentionally. As Elizabeth Anscombe wrote in a similar context, ‘it is implausible to say that the word is equivocal as (...) it occurs in these different cases’ and from the fact that ‘we are tempted to speak of “different senses” of a word which is clearly not equivocal, we may infer that we are pretty much in the dark about the character of the concept which it represents’ (Anscombe 1963, p. 1). (shrink)
Argues that the view propounded in "Practical Knowledge" (Ethics 118: 388-409) survives objections made by Sarah Paul ("Intention, Belief, and Wishful Thinking," Ethics 119: 546-557). The response gives more explicit treatment to the nature and epistemology of knowing how.
Argues for a "cognitivist" account of the instrumental principle, on which it is the application of theoretical reason to the beliefs that figure in our intentions. This doctrine is put to work in solving a puzzle about instrumental reason that plagues alternative views.
I argue that the answer is yes. The epistemic assumptions of moral theory deprive us of resources needed to resist the challenge of moral disagreement, which its practice at the same time makes vivid. The paper ends by sketching a kind of epistemology that can respond to disagreement without skepticism: one in which the fundamental standards of justification for moral belief are biased toward the truth.
Argues that, in acting for a reason, one takes that reason to explain one's action, not to justify it: reasons for acting need not be seen "under the guise of the good". The argument turns on the need to explain the place of "practical knowledge" - knowing what one is doing - in intentional action. A revised and expanded version of this material appears in Part One of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007).
It has seemed to many philosophers—perhaps to most—that believing is not voluntary, that we cannot believe at will. It has seemed to many of these that this inability is not a merely contingent psychological limitation but rather is a deep fact about belief, perhaps a conceptual limitation. But it has been very difficult to say exactly why we cannot believe at will. I earlier offered an account of why we cannot believe at will. I argued that nothing could qualify both (...) as having been done “at will,” in the relevant sense, and as a belief. Thus, no believer could believe at will. If my arguments are correct, our inability to believe at will reveals no genuine lack in our powers of mind, any more than an inability to draw a square circle reveals a lack of artistic skill. My account has been recently criticized by Kieran Setiya, who has provided an account of his own. Here I revisit and defend my account, hopefully in a way that will both make my thought clearer and illumine some of the broader differences between Setiya’s approach and my own. I then briefly consider Setiya’s own argument, in part to further develop the contrast. (shrink)
Argues that practical irrationality is akin to moral culpability: it is defective practical thought which one could legitimately have been expected to avoid. It is thus a mistake to draw too tight a connection between failure to be moved by reasons and practical irrationality (as in a certain kind of "internalism"): one's failure may be genuine, but not culpable, and therefore not irrational.
Argues that we cannot form beliefs at will without failure of attention or logical confusion. The explanation builds on Williams' argument in "Deciding to Believe," attempting to resolve some well-known difficulties. The paper ends with tentative doubts about the idea of judgement as intentional action.
Argues against "the guise of the good" as a claim about rational agency, conceding that it may hold true as a principle of human nature. Themes discussed along the way – extending the argument of "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton, 2007) – include: desires as appearances of the good, the intelligibility of vice, and the kind of essentialist claim that permits exceptions.
Argues from the planning theory of intention – as an account of means-end coherence – to a comprehensive form of ethical rationalism. Having raised objections to this result, the paper ends by sketching a way out.
Argues from the possibility of basic intentional action to a non-propositional theory of knowing how. The argument supports a broadly Anscombean conception of the will as a capacity for practical knowledge.
Argues that doubts about the inference from 'p' to 'I believe that p' do not support reflective theories of self-knowledge over an inferential or rule-following view. (This note is a reply to Matthew Boyle, "Transparent Self-Knowledge," Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, Supplementary Volume 85: 223-241.).
The relationship of the author's intention to the meaning of a literary work has been a persistently controversial topic in aesthetics. Anti-intentionalists Wimsatt and Beardsley, in the 1946 paper that launched the debate, accused critics who fueled their interpretative activity by poring over the author's private diaries and life story of committing the 'fallacy' of equating the work's meaning, properly determined by context and linguistic convention, with the meaning intended by the author. Hirsch responded that context and convention are not (...) sufficient to determine a unique meaning for a text; to avoid radical ambiguity we must appeal to the author's intention, which actualizes one of the candidate meanings. Subsequent writers have defended refined versions of these views, and a variety of positions on the spectrum between them, in a debate that remains central to philosophical aesthetics. While much of the debate has focused on literature, similar questions arise with respect to the interpretation of visual artworks. Some of the readings listed below address this matter explicitly. Author Recommends: William K. Wimsatt and Monroe C. Beardsley, 'The Intentional Fallacy', Sewanee Review 54 (1946): 468–88. Locus classicus of the anti-intentionalist position: Wimsatt and Beardsley hold that appeal to the author's intention is always extraneous, since intention cannot override the role of linguistic convention and context in determining meaning. Criticism, they argue, should thus proceed by careful examination of the literary work rather than by sifting through biographical material that might hint at the author's intentions. E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967). The seminal statement of actual intentionalism: Hirsch holds that 'meaning is an affair of consciousness and not of physical signs or things' (23), though he allows that linguistic convention constrains the meanings the author can intend for a particular utterance. He argues that the author's intention is necessary to fix meaning, since the application of conventions alone would typically leave a text wildly indeterminate. Alexander Nehamas, 'The Postulated Author: Critical Monism as a Regulative Ideal', Critical Inquiry 8 (1981): 133–49. Nehamas argues for a version of hypothetical intentionalism according to which interpretation is a matter of attributing an intended meaning to a hypothetical author, distinct from the historical writer. This view allows the interpreter to find meaning even in features of the work that may have been mere accidents on the part of the historical writer. Gary Iseminger, ed., Intention and Interpretation (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1992). Intention and Interpretation is an outstanding collection including both classic and new essays representing most of the major viewpoints in the debate. Noël Carroll, 'Art, Intention, and Conversation', Intention and Interpretation , ed. Gary Iseminger (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1992), 97–131. The essay defends modest actual intentionalism, according to which the work's meaning is one compatible both with the author's meaning intentions and with the conventionally allowable meanings of the text. Carroll holds that literature is on a continuum with ordinary conversation, to which an intentionalist analysis is apt; for this reason he rejects anti-intentionalism and hypothetical intentionalism, which emphasize the purported autonomy of literary works from their authors. Daniel Nathan, 'Irony, Metaphor, and the Problem of Intention', Intention and Interpretation , ed. Gary Iseminger (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1992), 183–202. Nathan argues that even irony and metaphor, which are often thought to require an analysis in terms of the author's actual intentions, are in fact best understood on an anti-intentionalist approach. Jerrold Levinson, 'Intention and Interpretation in Literature', The Pleasures of Aesthetics: Philosophical Essays (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1996), 175–213. Revised version of 'Intention and Interpretation: A Last Look', Intention and Interpretation , ed. Gary Iseminger (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1992), 221–56. The essay defends a version of hypothetical intentionalism according to which the meaning of a literary work is the meaning that would be attributed to the actual author by members of the ideal audience. Levinson argues that literary works should be treated differently from everyday utterances, since it is a convention of literature that its works are substantially autonomous from their authors. Paisley Livingston, Art and Intention: A Philosophical Study (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2005). Livingston examines competing accounts of the nature of intentions as they pertain to a variety of issues in the philosophy of art, including the ontology of art, the nature of authorship, and art interpretation. In chapter 6, Livingston argues for partial intentionalism, according to which some, but not all, of a work's meanings are non-redundantly determined by the author's intentions. Stephen Davies, 'Authors' Intentions, Literary Interpretation, and Literary Value', British Journal of Aesthetics 46 (2006): 223–47. Davies defends the value-maximizing view, according to which, when there is more than one conventional meaning consistent with the work's features, the meaning that should be attributed to the work is the one that makes the work out to be most aesthetically valuable. He allows for the attribution of multiple meanings when more than one candidate (approximately) maximizes the work's value. Online Materials: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/beardsley-aesthetics/ Beardsley's Aesthetics (Michael Wreen) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/conceptual-art/ Conceptual Art (Elisabeth Schellekens) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/speech-acts/ Speech Acts (Mitchell Green) http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/hermeneutics/ Hermeneutics (Bjørn Ramberg and Kristin Gjesdal) Sample Syllabus: Week 1: Foundations 1. Wimsatt and Beardsley, 'The Intentional Fallacy'. 2. Livingston, 'What Are Intentions?', Art and Intention , 1–30. Weeks 2–3: Actual Intentionalism 1. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation , ch. 1–2, 1–67. 2. Gary Iseminger, 'An Intentional Demonstration?', Intention and Interpretation , ed. Iseminger, 76–96. Optional reading: 1. Stephen Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels, 'Against Theory', Critical Inquiry 8 (1982): 723–742. 2. Stephen Knapp and Walter Benn Michaels, 'Against Theory 2: Hermeneutics and Deconstruction', Critical Inquiry 14 (1987): 49–58. Weeks 4–5: Modest, Moderate and Partial Intentionalism 1. Carroll, 'Art, Intention, and Conversation'. 2. Robert Stecker, Interpretation and Construction: Art, Speech, and the Law (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), ch. 2, 29–51. 3. Livingston, 'Intention and the Interpretation of Art', Art and Intention , 135–74. Optional reading: 1. Carroll, 'Interpretation and Intention: The Debate between Hypothetical and Actual Intentionalism', Metaphilosophy 31 (2000): 75–95. 2. Stecker, 'Moderate Actual Intentionalism Defended', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 64 (2006): 429–38. Weeks 6–7: Hypothetical Intentionalism 1. William E. Tolhurst, 'On What a Text Is and How It Means', British Journal of Aesthetics 19 (1979): 3–14. 2. Nehamas, 'Postulated Author'. 3. Levinson, 'Intention and Interpretation in Literature'. Optional reading: 1. Nehamas, 'What an Author Is', Journal of Philosophy 83 (1986): 685–91. 2. Nehamas, 'Writer, Text, Work, Author', Literature and the Question of Philosophy , ed. A. J. Cascardi (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1987), 265–91. 3. Levinson, 'Hypothetical Intentionalism: Statement, Objections, and Replies', Is There a Single Right Interpretation? , ed. M. Krausz (University Park, PA: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002), 309–18. Week 8: The Value-Maximizing View 1. Davies, 'The Aesthetic Relevance of Authors' and Painters' Intentions', Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 41 (1982): 65–76. 2. Davies, 'Authors' Intentions, Literary Interpretation, and Literary Value'. Weeks 9–10: Anti-Intentionalism 1. Beardsley, 'The Authority of the Text,' The Possibility of Criticism (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1970), 16–37. 2. Nathan, 'Irony, Metaphor, and the Problem of Intention'. 3. Nathan, 'Art, Meaning, and Artist's Meaning', Contemporary Debates in Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art , ed. M. Kieran (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2006), 282–95. Optional reading: 1. Beardsley, 'Intentions and Interpretations: A Fallacy Revived', The Aesthetic Point of View: Selected Essays , ed. M. J. Wreen and D. M. Callen (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982), 188–207. 2. Nathan, 'Irony and the Author's Intentions', British Journal of Aesthetics 22 (1982): 246–56. Sample Mini-Syllabus: Week 1: Foundations 1. Wimsatt and Beardsley, 'The Intentional Fallacy'. 2. Livingston, 'What Are Intentions?', Art and Intention , 1–30. Week 2: Actual and Modest Intentionalism 1. Hirsch, Validity in Interpretation , ch. 1–2, 1–67. 2. Carroll, 'Art, Intention, and Conversation'. Week 3: Hypothetical Intentionalism and Anti-Intentionalism 1. Levinson, 'Intention and Interpretation in Literature'. 2. Nathan, 'Irony, Metaphor, and the Problem of Intention'. Focus Questions 1. Is the difficulty of ascertaining the author's intentions a good reason to reject actual intentionalism? 2. Should literary works be seen as largely autonomous from their authors, even if we think that interpretation of ordinary utterances is properly a matter of ascertaining the speaker's intentions? 3. Are linguistic context and convention sufficient to determine the meaning of a literary work, or is the author's intention required to stave off an unacceptable degree of ambiguity? 4. Should the author's intentions about the genre or category to which the work belongs have a different status than intentions about the work's meaning? 5. Can the author's intentions have a non-redundant role to play in fixing meaning even if we take the role of context and linguistic convention seriously? 6. Should we expect the author's intention to play the same role (if any) in the interpretation of visual artworks that it plays in the interpretation of literature, or do differences between these two art forms require distinct approaches? (shrink)
This paper addresses two recent debates in aesthetics: the ‘moralist debate’, concerning the relationship between the ethical and aesthetic evaluations of artworks, and the ‘cognitivist debate’, concerning the relationship between the cognitive and aesthetic evaluations of artworks. Although the two debates appear to concern quite different issues, I argue that the various positions in each are marked by the same types of confusions and ambiguities. In particular, they demonstrate a persistent and unjustified conflation of aesthetic and artistic value, which in (...) turn is based on a more general failure to explicitly tackle the demarcation of aesthetic value. As such, the claims of each side are rendered ambiguous in respect of the relation that is supposed to hold between all these types of value and artistic value. These issues are discussed in light of a recent argument proposed by Matthew Kieran, to undermine, to some extent, the conceptual distinction between aesthetic, cognitive-ethical, and artistic values in our appraisal of art works. In rejecting his argument, I defend the conceptual distinction and a pluralistic conception of artistic value that allows for cognitive and ethical values to count as artistic, but not aesthetic, values. (shrink)
In the "Transcendental Aesthetic" of the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant offers an argument for transcendental idealism. This argument is one focus of the longstanding controversy between "one-world" and "two-world" interpretations of the distinction between things in themselves and things as they appear. I present an interpretation of the argument of the "Aesthetic" that supports a novel "one-world" interpretation. On this interpretation, Kant is concerned with the mind-dependence of spatial and temporal properties; and with the idea that space and time (...) can be identified with mental objects. I end by arguing that, for Kant, even on a "one-world" interpretation, we do not know the nature or even the existence of mind-independent things. (shrink)
Both local and global issues are typically dealt with in the Social Studies curriculum, or in curriculum areas with other names but similar intents. In the literature about Social Studies the imagination has played little role, and consequently it hardly appears in texts designed to help teachers plan and implement Social Studies lessons. What is true of Social Studies is also largely reflected in general texts concerning planning teaching. Clearly many theorists and practitioners are concerned to engage students' imaginations in (...) learning, even though they use terms other than 'imagination' in doing so. This article suggests that a more explicit attention to imagination can make our efforts to engage students in learning more effective. We provide, first, a working definition of imagination, then show how students' imaginations can be characterized in terms of the 'cognitive toolkits' they bring to learning. We look at such 'cognitive tools' as stories, images, humor, binary oppositions, a sense of mystery and how these can be used to engage students' imaginations in learning Social Studies and other content from kindergarten to about grade four. We then consider 'cognitive tools' commonly deployed by students from about grade four to grade nine, including a sense of reality, the extremes of experience and limits of reality, and associating with the heroic. We also provide examples of how using such tools could influence planning and teaching Social Studies topics. (shrink)
Considering her fame, Iris Murdoch's presence in contemporary philosophy is surprisingly limited. She is rarely cited and less often discussed. The reasons for this neglect are various, but they include the difficulty of finding definite arguments in her work. This essay attempts to recover "The Sovereignty of Good" as an intervention in existing and perennial disputes. Murdoch defends a radical internalism about moral reasons that avoids the problem of ethical rationalism and the question "Why be moral?" She derives this conception (...) from a general theory of concepts that has Platonic roots, a theory on which the conditions of concept-possession are tied to the norms of practical and theoretical reason. As well as saving morality from the sceptic, this theory supports an ontological proof of the reality of the Good. (shrink)
Argues for a deflationary account of epistemic agency. We believe things for reasons and our beliefs change over time, but there is no further sense in which we are active in judgement, inference, or belief.
This paper takes a phenomenological hermeneutic orientation to explicate and explore the notion of the grey zone of health and illness and seeks to develop the concept through an examination of the case of alcohol consumption. The grey zone is an interpretive area referring to the irremediable zone of ambiguity that haunts even the most apparently resolute discourse. This idea points to an ontological indeterminacy, in the face of which decisions have to be made with regard to the health of (...) a person (e.g., an alcoholic), a system (e.g., the health system), or a society. The fundamental character of this notion will be developed in relation to the discourse on health and the limitations of different disciplinary practices. The case of alcohol consumption will be used to tease out the grey zone embedded in the different kinds of knowledge made available through the disciplinary traditions of medical science, with its emphasis on somatic well-being, and anthropology, with its focus on communal well-being. This tension or grey zone embedded in different knowledge outcomes will be shown to have a discursive parallel with the dialogue between the Athenian, the Spartan, and the Cretan in Plato’s Laws. Making use of the dialogical approach as described by Gadamer, the Athenian’s particular resolution of the tension will be explored as a case study to demonstrate the necessarily particular analysis involved in a grey zone resolution. (shrink)
Upon what kind of moral order does capitalism rest? Conversely, does the market give rise to a distinctive set of beliefs, habits, and social bonds? These questions are certainly as old as social science itself. In this review, we evaluate how today's scholarship approaches the relationship between markets and the moral order. We begin with Hirschman's characterization of the three rival views of the market as civilizing, destructive, or feeble in its effects on society. We review recent work at the (...) intersection of sociology, economics, and political economy and show that these views persist both as theories of market society and moral arguments about it. We then argue that a fourth view, which we call moralized markets, has become increasingly prominent in economic sociology. This line of research sees markets as cultural phenomena and moral projects in their own right, and seeks to study the mechanisms and techniques by which such projects are realized in practice. (shrink)
This paper takes the passing of Peter McHugh as an occasion to examine the intellectual development of his work. The paper is mainly focused on the product of his collaboration with his colleague and friend, Alan Blum. As such, it addresses the tradition of social inquiry, Analysis, which they cofounded. It traces the influence of Harold Garfinkel’s Ethnomethodology on McHugh and on the beginning of Analysis. The collaboration with Blum is examined through a variety of coauthored works but most especially (...) in the two books On the Beginning of Social Inquiry (1974) and Self Reflection in the Arts and Sciences (1984). It also examines the relation of his independent writing before 1974, and since 1984 to the expression of the tradition of inquiry as exemplified in those two texts. The paper builds on some interview material with Peter McHugh and reflects on the influence of Peter the teacher as well as the theorist McHugh. Most especially, through its engagement with this material, it seeks to exemplify the dialectic and living nature of the program called Analysis. (shrink)
Argues against the form of instrumentalism on which being practically rational is being efficient in the pursuit of one's ends. The trait of means-end efficiency turns out to be a defect of character, and therefore cannot be identified with practical reason at its best.
This paper addresses the problem of reflexivity in modern social inquiry in general and in sociology in particular. This problem is inherited from Weber''s very conception of sociology, is transformed by phenomenology and ethnomethodology, deepened by the linguistic turn of hermeneutics and Wittgenstein''s later philosophy, and has been the central concern of the work of Alan Blum and Peter McHugh. The issues and spectres raised by reflexivity are methodological arbitrariness, the need to take responsibility for one''s own talk (and the (...) cultural assumptions embedded in talk) and, finally, the deep fear of nihilism – the sense that with regard to inquiry (along with everything else in the world) nothing matters. As such, reflexivity raises the most fundamental issue that can be raised for modern social inquiry. Through an oriented interpretation of the work of Blum and McHugh and other contemporary social theorists (particularly Gadamer and Arendt), this paper works through what a dialectical engagement with these issues look like. (shrink)
Ethical decision making involves complex emotional, cognitive, social, and philosophical challenges. Even if someone wants to be ethical, he or she may not have clearly articulated what that means, or know how to go about making a decision consistent with his or her values. Information technology may be able to help. A decision support system could offer individuals and groups some guidance, assisting them in making a decision that reflects their underlying values. The first step towards a design science of (...) ethical decision support is to develop a theoretical base on which first-generation systems can be built. This paper brings together work in cognitive, social and moral psychology, information systems, and philosophy relevant to ethical decision making. Attributes of a system that would support ethical decision making are described. (shrink)