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Profile: Manuel Vargas (University of San Francisco)
  1. Manuel Vargas, Reconsidering Scientific Threats to Free Will.
    In “Free Will and Substance Dualism: The Real Scientific Threat to Free Will?” Al Mele extends his groundbreaking work on scientific arguments against free will. He replies to charges that he has missed the real threat to free will posed by experimental work, and he focuses on two issues: (1) the claim that the “real” threat of scientific work is bound up with substance dualism, and (2) recent work by Soon et al. that has been taken to show that some (...)
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  2. Manuel Vargas (forthcoming). Situationism and Moral Responsibility: Free Will in Fragments. In Tillman Vierkant, Julian Kiverstein & Andy Clark (eds.), Decomposing the Will. Oxford UP.
    Many prominent accounts of free will and moral responsibility make use of the idea that agents can be responsive to reasons. Call such theories Reasons accounts. In what follows, I consider the tenability of Reasons accounts in light of situationist social psychology and, to a lesser extent, the automaticity literature. In the first half of this chapter, I argue that Reasons accounts are genuinely threatened by contemporary psychology. In the second half of the paper I consider whether such threats can (...)
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  3. Manuel Vargas (2014). Razian Responsibility. Jurisprudence 5 (1):161-172.
    Razian Responsibility: A Review of Joseph Raz, From Normativity to Responsibility.
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  4. Manuel Vargas & Gideon Yaffe (eds.) (2014). Rational and Social Agency: The Philosophy of Michael Bratman. Oup Usa.
    Michael Bratman's work has been unusually influential, with significance in disciplines as diverse as philosophy, computer science, law, and primatology.The essays in this volume engage with ideas and themes prominent in Bratman's work. The volume also includes a lengthy reply by Bratman that breaks new ground and deepens our understanding of the nature of action.
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  5. Susan Blackmore, Thomas W. Clark, Mark Hallett, John-Dylan Haynes, Ted Honderich, Neil Levy, Thomas Nadelhoffer, Shaun Nichols, Michael Pauen, Derk Pereboom, Susan Pockett, Maureen Sie, Saul Smilansky, Galen Strawson, Daniela Goya Tocchetto, Manuel Vargas, Benjamin Vilhauer & Bruce Waller (2013). Exploring the Illusion of Free Will and Moral Responsibility. Lexington Books.
     
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  6. Manuel Vargas (2013). Building Better Beings: A Theory of Moral Responsibility. Oxford University Press.
    Part I: Building blocks. 1. Folk convictions -- 2. Doubts about libertarianism -- 3. Nihilism and revisionism -- 4. Building a better theory -- Part II. A theory of moral responsibility. 5. The primacy of reasons -- 6. Justifying the practice -- 7. Responsible agency -- 8. Blame and desert -- 9. History and manipulation --10. Some conclusions.
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  7. Manuel Vargas (2013). How to Solve the Problem of Free Will. In Paul Russell & Oisin Deery (eds.), The Philosophy of Free Will: Essential Readings From the Contemporary Debates. Oup Usa. 400.
  8. Manuel Vargas (2012). Why the Luck Problem Isn't. Philosophical Issues 22 (1):419-436.
    The Luck Problem has existed in one form or another since David Hume, at least. It is perhaps as old as Stoic objections to the Epicurean swerve. Although the general issue admits of different formulations with subtly different emphases, the characterization of it that will serve as my target focuses on “cross-worlds” luck, a kind of luck that arises when the decision-making of agents is indeterministic.
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  9. Manuel Vargas (2011). Revisionist Accounts of Free Will: Origins, Varieties, and Challenges. In Robert Kane (ed.), Oxford Handbook on Free Will, 2nd Edition. Oxford UP.
    The present chapter is concerned with revisionism about free will. It begins by offering a new characterization of revisionist accounts and the way such accounts fit (or do not) in the familiar framework of compatibilism and incompatibilism. It then traces some of the recent history of the development of revisionist accounts, and concludes by remarking on some challenges for them.
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  10. Manuel Vargas (2010). Are Psychopathic Serial Killers Evil? Are They Blameworthy for What They Do? In Sarah Waller (ed.), Serial Killers and Philosophy. Blackwell.
    At least some serial killers are psychopathic serial killers. Psychopathic serial killers raise interesting questions about the nature of evil and moral responsibility. On the one hand, serial killers seem to be obviously evil, if anything is. On the other hand, psychopathy is a diagnosable disorder that, among other things, involves a diminished ability to understand and use basic moral distinctions. This feature of psychopathy suggests that psychopathic serial killers have at least diminished responsibility for what they do. In this (...)
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  11. Manuel Vargas (2010). Fischer, John Martin. Our Stories: Essays on Life, Death, and Free Will. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009 . Pp. 184. $65.00 (Cloth). [REVIEW] Ethics 120 (3):600-604.
  12. Manuel Vargas (2010). On the Value of Philosophy: The Latin American Case. Comparative Philosophy 1 (1):33-52.
    There is very little study of Latin American Philosophy in the English-speaking philosophical world. This can sometimes lead to the impression that there is nothing of philosophical worth in Latin American philosophy or its history. The present article offers some reasons for thinking that this impression is mistaken, and indeed, that we ought to have more study of Latin American philosophy than currently exists in the English-speaking philosophical world. In particular, the article argues for three things: (1) an account of (...)
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  13. Manuel Vargas (2010). Responsibility in a World of Causes. Philosophic Exchange 40:56-78.
    There is a familiar chain of reasoning that goes something like this: if everything is caused, no one is free, and thus, no one can be morally responsible. Reasoning like this has made scientific explanations of human behavior (e.g., biology, psychology, and neuroscience) threatening to familiar ideas of responsibility, blameworthiness, and merit. Rather than directly attacking the chain of reasoning that gives rise to these worries, I explore an alternative approach, one that begins by considering the "use" of moral responsibility. (...)
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  14. Manuel Vargas (2010). The Revisionist Turn: A Brief History of Recent Work on Free Will. In Jesus Aguilar, Andrei Buckareff & Keith Frankish (eds.), New Waves in Philosophy of Action. Palgrave.
    I’ve been told that in the good old days of the 1970s, when Quine’s desert landscapes were regarded as ideal real estate and David Lewis and John Rawls had not yet left a legion of influential students rewriting the terrain of metaphysics and ethics respectively, compatibilism was still compatibilism about free will. And, of course, incompatibilism was still incompatibilism about free will. That is, compatibilism was the view that free will was compatible with determinism. Incompatibilism was the view that free (...)
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  15. Manuel Vargas (2009). Five Questions on Philosophy of Action. In Jesus Aguilar & Andre Buckareff (eds.), Philosophy of Action: 5 Questions.
    In terms of my own first-personal narrative, the most obvious proximal cause of my theorizing about agency was a graduate seminar on free will taught by Peter van Inwagen. It was my first semester of graduate school, and van Inwagen’s forceful presentation of incompatibilism made a big impression on me. I left that course thinking incompatibilism was both obvious and irrefutable. The only problem was that I didn’t stay at Notre Dame. I transferred to Stanford in the following year, where (...)
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  16. Manuel Vargas (2009). Revisionism About Free Will: A Statement and Defense. Philosophical Studies 144 (1):45-62.
    This article summarizes and extends the moderate revisionist position I put forth in Four Views on Free Will and responds to objections to it from Robert Kane, John Martin Fischer, Derk Pereboom, and Michael McKenna. Among the principle topics of the article are (1) motivations for revisionism, what it is, and how it is different from compatibilism and hard incompatibilism, (2) an objection to libertarianism based on the moral costs of its current epistemic status, (3) an objection to the distinctiveness (...)
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  17. Manuel Vargas (2009). Taking the Highway on Skepticism, Luck, and the Value of Responsibility. [REVIEW] Journal of Moral Philosophy 6 (2):249-265.
    I consider some themes and issues arising in recent work on moral responsibility, focusing on three recent books—Carlos Moya’s Moral Responsibility, Al Mele’s Free Will and Luck, and John Martin Fischer’s My Way. I argue that these texts collectively suggest some difficulties with the way in which many issues are currently framed in the free will debates, including disputes about what constitutes compatibilism and incompatibilism and the relevance of intuitions and ordinary language for describing the metaphysics of free will and (...)
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  18. Manuel Vargas (2009). Revisionism About Free Will: A Statement & Defense. Philosophical Studies 144 (1):45 - 62.
    This article summarizes and extends the moderate revisionist position I put forth in Four Views on Free Will and responds to objections to it from Robert Kane, John Martin Fischer, Derk Pereboom, and Michael McKenna. Among the principle topics of the article are (1) motivations for revisionism, what it is, and how it is different from compatibilism and hard incompatibilism, (2) an objection to libertarianism based on the moral costs of its current epistemic status, (3) an objection to the distinctiveness (...)
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  19. Manuel Vargas (2009). Reasons and Real Selves. Ideas Y Valores 58 (141):67-84.
    connection to the action, or alternately, the idea that an agent must be in some sense responsive to reasons.1 Indeed, we might even understand much of the past couple of decades of philosophical work on moral responsibility as concerned with investigating which of these two approaches offers the most viable account of moral responsibility. Here, I wish to revisit an idea basic to all of this work. That is, I consider whether there is even a fundamental distinction between these approaches. (...)
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  20. Manuel Vargas (2009). Review of Mele, Effective Intentions: The Power of Conscious Will. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2009 (9).
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  21. Shaun Nichols & Manuel Vargas (2008). How to Be Fair to Psychopaths. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 14 (2):153-155.
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  22. Manuel Vargas (2007). Revisionism. In John Martin Fischer (ed.), Four Views on Free Will. Blackwell Pub..
     
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  23. Manuel Vargas (2007). Real Philosophy, Metaphilosophy, and Metametaphilosophy. CR 7 (3):51-78.
    This is an essay on philosophical methodology, the disciplinary prejudices of the Anglophone philosophical world, and how these things interact with some aspects of the content and form of Latin American philosophy to preclude the latter's integration with mainstream Anglophone philosophical work. Among the topics discussed of interest to analytic philosophers: metaphilosophy, the status hierarchy of philosophical subfields, experimental philosophy, and patterns of openness and exclusion in philosophy. Among the topics of interest to philosophers interested in Latin American philosophy and (...)
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  24. Manuel Vargas (2007). Response to Kane, Fischer, and Pereboom. In John Martin Fischer (ed.), Four Views on Free Will. Blackwell Pub..
  25. Manuel Vargas & Shaun Nichols (2007). Psychopaths and Moral Knowledge. Philosophy, Psychiatry, and Psychology 14 (2):157-162.
  26. Manuel Vargas (2006). Dead Serious: Evil and the Ontology of the Undead. In Richard Greene & K. Silem Mohammed (eds.), The Undead and Philosophy. Open Court.
    I don’t know whether undead beings exist. I also think it is an open question whether anyone is evil in, say, the way bad guys are depicted in supernatural horror films and serial killer movies. I do think it’s nevertheless puzzling that the undead are frequently portrayed as evil in that way. I’m inclined to think that if we were to stumble across any undead they would be less likely to be evil than any random live person we stumble across. (...)
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  27. Manuel Vargas (2006). On the Importance of History for Responsible Agency. Philosophical Studies 127 (3):351-382.
    In this article I propose a resolution to the history issue for responsible agency, given a moderate revisionist approach to responsibility. Roughly, moderate revisionism is the view that a plausible and normatively adequate theory of responsibility will require principled departures from commonsense thinking. The history issue is whether morally responsible agency – that is, whether an agent is an apt target of our responsibility-characteristic practices and attitudes – is an essentially historical notion. Some have maintained that responsible agents must have (...)
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  28. Manuel Vargas (2006). Philosophy and the Folk: On Some Implications of Experimental Work For Philosophical Debates on Free Will. Journal of Cognition and Culture 6 (1):239-254.
    I discuss experimental work by Nichols, and Nichols and Knobe, with respect to the philosophical problems of free will and moral responsibility. I mention some methodological concerns about the work, but focus principally on the philosophical implications of the work. The experimental results seem to show that in particular, concrete cases we are more willing to attribute responsibility than in cases described abstractly or in general terms. I argue that their results suggest a deep problem for traditional accounts of compatibilism, (...)
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  29. Manuel Vargas (2006). Review of James Stacey Taylor (Ed.), Personal Autonomy: New Essays on Personal Autonomy and its Role in Contemporary Moral Philosophy. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews 2006 (8).
    I once heard a colleague opine that we would be better off if there were a 50-year moratorium on philosophers using the word 'autonomy'. He went on to argue that we could get along just fine without the word, and that a good number of confusions would be dispelled along the way. This collection of new papers goes a long way toward responding to this challenge in ways that both undercut and vindicate aspects of this complaint.
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  30. Manuel Vargas (2005). Compatibilism Evolves?: On Some Varieties of Dennett Worth Wanting. Metaphilosophy 36 (4):460-475.
    I examine the extent to which Dennett’s account in Freedom Evolves might be construed as revisionist about free will or should instead be understood as a more traditional kind of compatibilism. I also consider Dennett’s views about philosophical work on free agency and its relationship to scientific inquiry, and I argue that extant philosophical work is more relevant to scientific inquiry than Dennett’s remarks may suggest.
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  31. Manuel Vargas (2005). Eurocentrism and the Philosophy of Liberation. APA Newsletter on Hispanic/Latino Issues 4 (2):8-17.
    Proponents of the philosophy of liberation generally counsel that various forms of liberation in at least the Americas requires that we should fight Eurocentrism and resist the ontology and conceptual framework of Europe. However, most of the work done in this tradition relies heavily on the terminology and theoretical apparatus of various strands of European philosophy. The apparent disconnect between the aims and methods (or if you like, the theory and practice) has given rise to a criticism I call The (...)
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  32. Manuel Vargas (2005). Problems for Tracing. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29:269-290.
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  33. Manuel Vargas (2005). Practical Reason, Instrumental Irrationality, and Time. Philosophical Studies 126 (2):241 - 252.
    Standard models of practical rationality face a puzzle that has gone unnoticed: given a modest assumption about the nature of deliberation, we are apparently frequently briefly irrational. I explain the problem, consider what is wrong with several possible solutions, and propose an account that does not generate the objectionable result.
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  34. Manuel Vargas (2005). The Revisionist's Guide to Responsibility. Philosophical Studies 125 (3):399-429.
    Revisionism in the theory of moral responsibility is the idea that some aspect of responsibility practices, attitudes, or concept is in need of revision. While the increased frequency of revisionist language in the literature on free will and moral responsibility is striking, what discussion there has been of revisionism about responsibility and free will tends to be critical. In this paper, I argue that at least one species of revisionism, moderate revisionism, is considerably more sophisticated and defensible than critics have (...)
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  35. Manuel Vargas (2005). The Trouble with Tracing. Midwest Studies in Philosophy 29 (1):269–291.
    In this paper I argue that the widely relied upon idea of “tracing” in the theory of moral responsibility is considerably more problematic than has been previously acknowledged. The difficulty I raise stems from requirements imposed by the knowledge condition on moral responsibility. Suppose you believed that being a responsible agent (at least paradigmatically) involves being suitably sensitive to situation-relevant moral concerns. On this view, agents that are not suitably sensitive to the relevant moral concerns (these may include non-human animals, (...)
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  36. Manuel Vargas (2004). Book Review: Unprincipled Virtue by Nomy Arpaly. [REVIEW] Journal of Ethics 8 (2):201-204.
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  37. Manuel Vargas (2004). Guttrom Fløistad, Ed., Contemporary Philosophy: A New Survey: Volume 8: Philosophy of Latin America Reviewed By. Philosophy in Review 24 (4):259-261.
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  38. Manuel Vargas (2004). Libertarianism and Skepticism About Free Will: Some Arguments Against Both. Philosophical Topics 32 (1&2):403-26.
    In this paper I criticize libertarianism and skepticism about free will. The criticism of libertarianism takes some steps towards filling in an argument that is often mentioned but seldom developed in any detail, the argument that libertarianism is a scientifically implausible view. I say "take some steps" because I think the considerations I muster (at most) favor a less ambitious relative of that argument. The less ambitious claim I hope to motivate is that there is little reason to believe that (...)
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  39. Manuel Vargas (2004). Responsibility and the Aims of Theory: Strawson and Revisionism. Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 85 (2):218-241.
    In recent years, reflection on the relationship between individual moral responsibility and determinism has undergone a remarkable renaissance. Incompatibilists, those who believe moral responsibility is incompatible with determinism, have offered powerful new arguments in support of their views. Compatibilists, those who think moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, have responded with ingenious counterexamples and alternative accounts of responsibility. Despite the admirable elevation of complexity and subtlety within both camps, the trajectory of the literature is somewhat discouraging. Every dialectical stalemate between (...)
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  40. Manuel Vargas (2000). Lessons From the Philosophy of Race in Mexico. Philosophy Today, SPEP Supplement 2000 26 (Supplement):18-29.
  41. Manuel Vargas, Social Explanations and the Free Will Problem.
    There is strikingly little agreement across academic fields about the existence of free will, what experimental results show, and even what the term ‘free will’ means. In Lee and Harris’ “A Social Perspective on Debates About Free Will” the authors argue that group identities and their attendant social rewards are part of the problem. As they portray it, “different philosophical stances create social groups and inherent conflict, hindering interdisciplinary intellectual exploration on the question of free will because people incorporate their (...)
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