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Profile: Mark Alfano (Delft University of Technology, Australian Catholic University)
  1.  50
    Mark Alfano, The Topology of Communities of Trust.
    Hobbes emphasized that the state of nature is a state of war because it is characterized by fundamental and generalized distrust. Exiting the state of nature and the conflicts it inevitably fosters is therefore a matter of establishing trust. Extant discussions of trust in the philosophical literature, however, focus either on isolated dyads of trusting individuals or trust in large, faceless institutions. In this paper, I fill the gap between these extremes by analyzing what I call the topology of communities (...)
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  2. Markus Christen, Mark Alfano, Endre Bangerter & Daniel Lapsley (2013). Ethical Issues of 'Morality Mining': When the Moral Identity of Individuals Becomes a Focus of Data-Mining. In Hakikur Rahman & I. Ramos (eds.), Ethical Data Mining Applications for Socio-Economic Development. IGI Global 1-21.
  3. Mark Alfano & Don Loeb (2014). Experimental Moral Philosophy. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy:1-32.
    Experimental moral philosophy began to emerge as a methodology in the last decade of the twentieth century, a branch of the larger experimental philosophy (X-Phi, XΦ) approach. From the beginning, it has been embroiled in controversy on a number of fronts. Some doubt that it is philosophy at all. Others acknowledge that it is philosophy but think that it has produced modest results at best and confusion at worst. Still others think it represents an important advance.
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  4. Mark Alfano (2015). Placebo Effects and Informed Consent. American Journal of Bioethics 15 (10):3-12.
    The concepts of placebos and placebo effects refer to extremely diverse phenomena. I recommend dissolving the concepts of placebos and placebo effects into loosely-related groups of specific mechanisms, including (potentially among others) expectation-fulfillment, classical conditioning, and attentional-somatic feedback loops. If this approach is on the right track, it has three main implications for the ethics of informed consent. First, because of the expectation-fulfillment mechanism, the process of informing cannot be considered independently from the potential effects of treatment. Obtaining informed consent (...)
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  5.  98
    Mark Alfano (2013). Character as Moral Fiction. Cambridge University Press.
    Everyone wants to be virtuous, but recent psychological investigations suggest that this may not be possible. Mark Alfano challenges this theory and asks, not whether character is empirically adequate, but what characters human beings could have and develop. Although psychology suggests that most people do not have robust character traits such as courage, honesty and open-mindedness, Alfano argues that we have reason to attribute these virtues to people because such attributions function as self-fulfilling prophecies – children become more studious if (...)
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  6. Mark Alfano (2013). Identifying and Defending the Hard Core of Virtue Ethics. Journal of Philosophical Research 38:233-260.
    Virtue ethics has been challenged on empirical grounds by philosophical interpreters of situationist social psychology. Challenges are necessarily challenges to something or other, so it’s only possible to understand the situationist challenge to virtue ethics if we have an antecedent grasp on virtue ethics itself. To this end, I first identify the non-negotiable “hard core” of virtue ethics with the conjunction of nine claims, arguing that virtue ethics does make substantive empirical assumptions about human conduct. Next, I rearticulate the situationist (...)
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  7.  46
    Mark Alfano (2016). Swanton, Christine. The Virtue Ethics of Hume & Nietzsche. [REVIEW] Ethics 126 (4):1120-1124.
    This book has a noble aim: to free virtue ethics from the grip of the neo-Aristotelianism that limits its scope in contemporary Anglophone philosophy. Just as there are deontological views that are not Kant’s or even Kantian, just as there are consequentialist views that are not Bentham’s or even utilitarian, so, Swanton contends, there are viable virtue ethical views that are not Aristotle’s or even Aristotelian. Indeed, the history of both Eastern and Western philosophy suggests that the majority of normative (...)
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  8.  81
    Mark Alfano, Latasha Holden & Andrew Conway (forthcoming). Intelligence, Race, and Psychological Testing. In Naomi Zack (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy and Race.
    This chapter has two main goals: to update philosophers on the state of the art in the scientific psychology of intelligence, and to explain and evaluate challenges to the measurement invariance of intelligence tests. First, we provide a brief history of the scientific psychology of intelligence. Next, we discuss the metaphysics of intelligence in light of scientific studies in psychology and neuroimaging. Finally, we turn to recent skeptical developments related to measurement invariance. These have largely focused on attributability: Where do (...)
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  9.  71
    Mark Alfano & Brian Robinson (forthcoming). Gossip as a Burdened Virtue. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.
    Gossip is often serious business, not idle chitchat. Gossip allows those oppressed to privately name their oppressors as a warning to others. Of course, gossip can be in error. The speaker may be lying or merely have lacked sufficient evidence. Bias can also make those who hear the gossip more or less likely to believe the gossip. By examining the social functions of gossip and considering the differences in power dynamics in which gossip can occur, we contend that gossip may (...)
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  10.  62
    Markus Christen, Mark Alfano & Brian Robinson (forthcoming). A Multi-Modal, Cross-Cultural Study of the Semantics of Intellectual Humility. AI and Society.
    Intellectual humility can be broadly construed as being conscious of the limits of one’s existing knowledge and capable to acquire more knowledge, which makes it a key virtue of the information age. However, the claim “I am (intellectually) humble” seems paradoxical in that someone who has the disposition in question would not typically volunteer it. There is an explanatory gap between the meaning of the sentence and the meaning the speaker ex- presses by uttering it. We therefore suggest analyzing intellectual (...)
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  11. Mark Alfano (2012). Expanding The Situationist Challenge To Responsibilist Virtue Epistemology. Philosophical Quarterly 62 (247):223-249.
    The last few decades have witnessed the birth and growth of both virtue epistemology and the situationist challenge to virtue ethics. It seems only natural that eventually we would see the situationist challenge to virtue epistemology. This article articulates one aspect of that new challenge by spelling out an argument against the responsibilist brand of virtue epistemology. The trouble can be framed as an inconsistent triad: many people know quite a bit; knowledge is true belief acquired and retained through the (...)
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  12.  54
    Mark Alfano (forthcoming). A Schooling in Contempt: Emotions and the Pathos of Distance. In Paul Katsafanas (ed.), Routledge Philosophy Minds: Nietzsche. Routledge
    Nietzsche scholars have developed an interest in his use of “thick” moral psychological concepts such as virtues and emotions. This development coincides with a renewed interest among both philosophers and social scientists in virtues, the emotions, and moral psychology more generally. Contemporary work in empirical moral psychology posits contempt and disgust as both basic emotions and moral foundations of normative codes. While virtues can be individuated in various ways, one attractive principle of individuation is to index them to characteristic emotions (...)
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  13. Brian Robinson, Paul Stey & Mark Alfano (2013). Virtue and Vice Attributions in the Business Context: An Experimental Investigation. [REVIEW] Journal of Business Ethics 113 (4):649-661.
    Recent findings in experimental philosophy have revealed that people attribute intentionality, belief, desire, knowledge, and blame asymmetrically to side- effects depending on whether the agent who produces the side-effect violates or adheres to a norm. Although the original (and still common) test for this effect involved a chairman helping or harming the environment, hardly any of these findings have been applied to business ethics. We review what little exploration of the implications for business ethics has been done. Then, we present (...)
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  14.  33
    Mark Alfano (2016). Christoph Luetge, Hannes Rusch, & Matthias Uhl , Experimental Ethics: Toward an Empirical Moral Philosophy. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-4.
    It would be unkind but not inaccurate to say that most experimental philosophy is just psychology with worse methods and better theories. In Experimental Ethics: Towards an Empirical Moral Philosophy, Christoph Luetge, Hannes Rusch, and Matthias Uhl set out to make this comparison less invidious and more flattering. Their book has 16 chapters, organized into five sections and bookended by the editors’ own introduction and prospectus. Contributors hail from four countries (Germany, USA, Spain, and the United Kingdom) and five disciplines (...)
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  15. Mark Alfano (2016). Friendship and the Structure of Trust. In Alberto Masala & Jonathan Webber (eds.), From Personality to Virtue. Oxford 186-206.
    In this paper, I describe some of what I take to be the more interesting features of friendship, then explore the extent to which other virtues can be reconstructed as sharing those features. I use trustworthiness as my example throughout, but I think that other virtues such as generosity & gratitude, pride & respect, and the producer’s & consumer’s sense of humor can also be analyzed with this model. The aim of the paper is not to demonstrate that all moral (...)
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  16. Mark Alfano, James Beebe & Brian Robinson (2012). The Centrality of Belief and Reflection in Knobe-Effect Cases. The Monist 95 (2):264-289.
    Recent work in experimental philosophy has shown that people are more likely to attribute intentionality, knowledge, and other psychological properties to someone who causes a bad side effect than to someone who causes a good one. We argue that all of these asymmetries can be explained in terms of a single underlying asymmetry involving belief attribution because the belief that one’s action would result in a certain side effect is a necessary component of each of the psychological attitudes in question. (...)
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  17.  8
    Mark Alfano & Don Loeb (2014). Experimental Moral Philosophy. In .
    Experimental moral philosophy began to emerge as a methodology inthe last decade of the twentieth century, a branch of the largerexperimental philosophy approach. From the beginning,it has been embroiled in controversy on a number of fronts. Somedoubt that it is philosophy at all. Others acknowledge that it isphilosophy but think that it has produced modest results at best andconfusion at worst. Still others think it represents an important advance., Before the research program can be evaluated, we should have someconception of (...)
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  18.  42
    Jacob Berger & Mark Alfano (2016). Virtue, Situationism, and the Cognitive Value of Art. The Monist 99 (2).
    Virtue-based moral cognitivism holds that at least some of the value of some art consists in conveying knowledge about the nature of virtue and vice. We explore here a challenge to this view, which extends the so-called situationist challenge to virtue ethics. Evidence from social psychology indicates that individuals’ behavior is often susceptible to trivial and normatively irrelevant situational influences. This evidence not only challenges approaches to ethics that emphasize the role of virtue but also undermines versions of moral cognitivism, (...)
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  19. Mark Alfano & Gus Skorburg (forthcoming). The Embedded and Extended Character Hypotheses. In Julian Kiverstein (ed.), Philosophy of the Social Mind. Routledge
    This paper brings together two erstwhile distinct strands of philosophical inquiry: the extended mind hypothesis and the situationist challenge to virtue theory. According to proponents of the extended mind hypothesis, the vehicles of at least some mental states (beliefs, desires, emotions) are not located solely within the confines of the nervous system (central or peripheral) or even the skin of the agent whose states they are. When external props, tools, and other systems are suitably integrated into the functional apparatus of (...)
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  20. Mark Alfano (2013). Nietzsche, Naturalism, and the Tenacity of the Intentional. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 44 (3):457-464.
    In Beyond Good and Evil, Nietzsche demands that “psychology shall be<br>recognized again as the queen of the sciences.” While one might cast a dubious glance at the “again,” many of Nietzsche’s insights were indeed psychological, and many of his arguments invoke psychological premises. In Genealogy, he criticizes the “English psychologists” for the “inherent psychological absurdity” of their theory of the origin of good and bad, pointing out the implausibility of the claim that the utility of unegoistic<br>actions would be forgotten. Tabling (...)
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  21.  17
    Mark Alfano, Andrew Higgins & Jacob Levernier (forthcoming). Mapping Human Values: Enhancing Social Marketing Through Obituary Data-Mining. In Eda Gurel-Atay & Lynn Kahle (eds.), Social and Cultural Values in a Global and Digital Age. Routledge
    Obituaries are an especially rich resource for identifying people’s values. Because obituaries are succinct and explicitly intended to summarize their subjects’ lives, they may be expected to include only the features that the author(s) find most salient, not only for themselves as relatives or friends of the deceased, but also to signal to others in the community the socially-recognized aspects of the deceased’s character. We report three approaches to the scientific study of virtue and value through obituaries. We begin by (...)
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  22.  33
    Mark Alfano (2015). Becoming Less Unreasonable: A Reply to Sherman. Social Epistemology Review and Reply Collective 4 (7):59-62.
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  23.  32
    Mark Alfano (forthcoming). How One Becomes What One Is: The Case for a Nietzschean Conception of Character Development. In Iskra Fileva (ed.), Perspectives on Character. Oxford
  24.  32
    Philipp Koralus & Mark Alfano (forthcoming). Reasons-Based Moral Judgment and the Erotetic Theory. In Jean-Francois Bonnefon & Bastian Tremoliere (eds.), Moral Inference.
    We argue that moral decision making is reasons-based, focusing on the idea that people encounter decisions as questions to be answered and that they process reasons to the extent that they can see them as putative answers to those questions. After introducing our topic, we sketch the erotetic reasons-based framework for decision making. We then describe three experiments that extend this framework to moral decision making in different question frames, cast doubt on theories of moral decision making that discount reasons (...)
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  25. Mark Alfano (2013). Virtues, Intelligences, and Situations. [REVIEW] Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 16:671-673.
  26.  47
    Markus Christen & Mark Alfano (2013). A Research Program for Empirically Informed Ethics. In Empirically Informed Ethics. Springer 3-27.
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  27. Mark Alfano (2010). The Tenacity of the Intentional Prior to the Genealogy. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 40:29-46.
    I have argued elsewhere that the psychological aspects of Nietzsche’s later works are best understood from a psychodynamic point of view. Nietzsche holds a view I dubbed the tenacity of the intentional (T): when an intentional state loses its object, a new object replaces the original; the state does not disappear entirely. In this essay I amend and clarify (T) to (T``): When an intentional state with a sub-propositional object loses its object, the affective component of the state persists without (...)
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  28.  23
    Mark Alfano & Gus Skorburg (forthcoming). Extended Knowledge, the Recognition Heuristic, and Epistemic Injustice. In Duncan Pritchard, Jesper Kallestrup, Orestis Palermos & Adam Carter (eds.), Extended Knowledge. Oxford
    We argue that the interaction of biased media coverage and widespread employment of the recognition heuristic can produce epistemic injustices. First, we explain the recognition heuristic as studied by Gerd Gigerenzer and colleagues, highlighting how some of its components are largely external to, and outside the control of, the cognitive agent. We then connect the recognition heuristic with recent work on the hypotheses of embedded, extended, and scaffolded cognition, arguing that the recognition heuristic is best understood as an instance of (...)
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  29.  36
    Markus Christen, Mark Alfano, Endre Bangerter & Daniel Lapsley (2013). Ethical Issues of 'Morality Mining': When the Moral Identity of Individuals Becomes a Focus of Data-Mining. In Hakikur Rahman & I. Ramos (eds.), Ethical Data Mining Applications for Socio-Economic Development. IGI Global 1-21.
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  30.  84
    Mark Alfano (2015). Ramsifying Virtue Theory. In Current Controversies in Virtue Theory. Routledge 123-35.
    In his contribution, Mark Alfano lays out a new (to virtue theory) naturalistic way of determining what the virtues are, what it would take for them to be realized, and what it would take for them to be at least possible. This method is derived in large part from David Lewis’s development of Frank Ramsey’s method of implicit definition. The basic idea is to define a set of terms not individually but in tandem. This is accomplished by assembling all and (...)
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  31.  75
    Markus Christen, Mark Alfano & Brian Robinson, The Semantic Neighborhood of Intellectual Humility. Proceedings of the European Conference on Social Intelligence.
    Intellectual humility is an interesting but underexplored disposition. The claim “I am (intellectually) humble” seems paradoxical in that someone who has the disposition in question would not typically volunteer it. There is an explanatory gap between the meaning of the sentence and the meaning the speaker expresses by uttering it. We therefore suggest analyzing intellectual humility semantically, using a psycholexical approach that focuses on both synonyms and antonyms of ‘intellectual humility’. We present a thesaurus-based method to map the semantic space (...)
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  32. Mark Alfano (forthcoming). Genealogy Revisited. [REVIEW] Journal of Moral Philosophy.
    “Another Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality?” one might be excused for asking at the sight of Simon May’s new collection. This volume has to contend for shelf space with homonymic monographs by Lawrence Hatab (2008) and David Owen (2007), as well as Daniel Conway’s (2008) Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morals, a compilation of the same name edited by Christa Acampora (2006), and Brian Leiter’s Nietzsche on Morality (2002). Add to this that Hatab contributes to May’s collection, Owen and (...)
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  33.  58
    Mark Alfano (2015). An Enchanting Abundance of Types: Nietzsche’s Modest Unity of Virtue Thesis. Journal of Value Inquiry 49 (3):417-435.
    Although Nietzsche accepted a distant cousin of Brian Leiter’s “Doctrine of Types,” according to which, “Each person has a fixed psycho-physical constitution, which defines him as a particular type of person,” the details of his actual view are quite different from the flat-footed position Leiter attributes to him. Leiter argues that Nietzsche thought that type-facts partially explain the beliefs and actions, including moral beliefs and actions, of the person whom those type-facts characterize. With this much, I agree. However, the Doctrine (...)
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  34.  71
    Mark Alfano (2014). What Are the Bearers of Virtues? In Hagop Sarkissian & Jennifer Wright (eds.), Advances in Moral Psychology. Continuum 73-90.
    It’s natural to assume that the bearers of virtues are individual agents, which would make virtues monadic dispositional properties. I argue instead that the most attractive theory of virtue treats a virtue as a triadic relation among the agent, the social milieu, and the asocial environment. A given person may or may not be disposed to behave in virtuous ways depending on how her social milieu speaks to and of her, what they expect of her, and how they monitor her. (...)
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  35. Mark Alfano (forthcoming). Epistemic Situationism: An Extended Prolepsis. In Mark Alfano & Abrol Fairweather (eds.), Epistemic Situationism. Oxford University Press
    This paper is an extended prolepsis in favor of epistemic situationism, the thesis that epistemic virtues are not sufficiently widely distributed for a virtue-theoretic constraint on knowledge to apply without leading to skepticism. It deals with four objections to epistemic situation: 1) that virtuous dispositions are not required for knowledge, 2) that the Big Five or Big Six personality model proves that intellectual virtues are a reasonable ideal, 3) that the cognitive-affective personality system framework proves that intellectual virtues are a (...)
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  36.  86
    Mark Alfano & Abrol Fairweather, Situationism and Virtue Theory. Oxford Bibliographies in Philosophy.
    Virtues are dispositions to see, think, desire, deliberate, or act well, with different philosophers emphasizing different permutations of these activities. Virtue has been an object of philosophical concern for thousands of years whereas situationism—the psychological theory according to which a great deal of human perception, thought, motivation, deliberation, and behavior are explained not by character or personality dispositions but by seemingly trivial and normatively irrelevant situational influences—was a development of the 20th century. Some philosophers, especially John Doris and Gilbert Harman (...)
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  37. Mark Alfano (2013). The Most Agreeable of All Vices: Nietzsche as Virtue Epistemologist. British Journal for the History of Philosophy 21 (4):767-790.
    It’s been argued with some justice by commentators from Walter Kaufmann to Thomas Hurka that Nietzsche’s positive ethical position is best understood as a variety of virtue theory – in particular, as a brand of perfectionism. For Nietzsche, value flows from character. Less attention has been paid, however, to the details of the virtues he identifies for himself and his type. This neglect, along with Nietzsche’s frequent irony and non-standard usage, has obscured the fact that almost all the virtues he (...)
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  38.  91
    Mark Alfano (forthcoming). Can People Be Virtuous? In Current Controversies in Virtue Theory. Routledge
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  39. Mark Alfano (2009). Sensitivity Theory and the Individuation of Belief-Formation Methods. Erkenntnis 70 (2):271 - 281.
    In this paper it is argued that sensitivity theory suffers from a fatal defect. Sensitivity theory is often glossed as: (1) S knows that p only if S would not believe that p if p were false. As Nozick showed in his pioneering work on sensitivity theory, this formulation needs to be supplemented by a further counterfactual condition: (2) S knows that p only if S would believe p if p were true. Nozick further showed that the theory needs a (...)
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  40.  41
    Mark Alfano (2012). Wilde Heuristics and Rum Tum Tuggers: Preference Indeterminacy and Instability. Synthese 189 (S1):5-15.
    Models in decision theory and game theory assume that preferences are determinate: for any pair of possible outcomes, a and b, an agent either prefers a to b, prefers b to a, or is indifferent as between a and b. Preferences are also assumed to be stable: provided the agent is fully informed, trivial situational influences will not shift the order of her preferences. Research by behavioral economists suggests, however, that economic and hedonic preferences are to some degree indeterminate and (...)
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  41.  59
    Brian Robinson, Paul Stey & Mark Alfano (2015). Reversing the Side-Effect Effect: The Power of Salient Norms. Philosophical Studies 172 (1):177-206.
    In the last decade, experimental philosophers have documented systematic asymmetries in the attributions of mental attitudes to agents who produce different types of side effects. We argue that this effect is driven not simply by the violation of a norm, but by salient-norm violation. As evidence for this hypothesis, we present two new studies in which two conflicting norms are present, and one or both of them is raised to salience. Expanding one’s view to these additional cases presents, we argue, (...)
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  42.  40
    Mark Alfano & Brian Robinson (2015). Bragging. Thought: A Journal of Philosophy 3 (4):263-272.
    The speech act of bragging has never been subjected to conceptual analysis until now. We argue that a speaker brags just in case she makes an utterance that is an assertion and is intended to impress the addressee with something about the speaker via the belief produced by the speaker's assertion. We conclude by discussing why it is especially difficult to cancel a brag by prefacing it with, ‘I'm not trying to impress you, but…’ and connect this discussion with Moore's (...)
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  43. Mark Alfano (2011). Explaining Away Intuitions About Traits: Why Virtue Ethics Seems Plausible (Even If It Isn't). Review of Philosophy and Psychology 2 (1):121-136.
    This article addresses the question whether we can know on the basis of folk intuitions that we have character traits. I answer in the negative, arguing that on any of the primary theories of knowledge, our intuitions about traits do not amount to knowledge. For instance, because we would attribute traits to one another regardless of whether we actually possessed such metaphysically robust dispositions, Nozickian sensitivity theory disqualifies our intuitions about traits from being knowledge. Yet we do think we know (...)
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  44.  38
    Mark Alfano (2014). Emotions in the Moral Life, by Robert Roberts. Mind 123 (492):1238-1242.
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  45.  70
    Mark Alfano (2014). Stereotype Threat and Intellectual Virtue. In Owen Flanagan & Abrol Fairweather (eds.), Naturalizing Virtue. Cambridge University Press 155-74.
    For decades, intelligence and achievement tests have registered significant differences between people of different races, ethnicities, classes, and genders. We argue that most of these differences are explained not as reflections of differences in the distribution of intellectual virtues but as evidence for the metacognitive mediation of the intellectual virtues. For example, in the United States, blacks typically score worse than whites on tests of mathematics. This might lead one to think that fewer blacks possess the relevant intellectual virtues, or (...)
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  46.  61
    Mark Alfano (2015). How One Becomes What One is Called: On the Relation Between Traits and Trait-Terms in Nietzsche. Journal of Nietzsche Studies 46 (1):261-269.
    Despite the recent surge of interest in Nietzsche’s moral psychology and his conceptions of character and virtue in particular, little attention has been paid to his treatment of the relation between character traits and the terms that designate them. In this paper, I argue for an interpretation of this relation: Nietzsche thinks there is a looping effect between the psychological disposition named by a character trait-term and the practice of using that term.
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  47.  10
    Mark Alfano (2015). Response to Open Peer Commentaries on “Placebo Effects and Informed Consent”. American Journal of Bioethics 15 (10):1-3.
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  48.  4
    Mark Alfano (forthcoming). Christoph Luetge, Hannes Rusch, & Matthias Uhl , Experimental Ethics: Toward an Empirical Moral Philosophy. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice:1-4.
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  49.  6
    Mark Alfano (2014). Extending the Situationist Challenge to Reliabilism About Inference. In Abrol Fairweather & Owen Flanagan (eds.), Virtue Epistemology Naturalized: Bridges between Virtue Epistemology and Philosophy of Science. Synthese Library 103-122.
  50.  87
    Mark Alfano (2009). A Danger of Definition: Polar Predicates in Moral Theory. Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 3 (3).
    In this paper, I use an example from the history of philosophy to show how independently defining each side of a pair of contrary predicates is apt to lead to contradiction. In the Euthyphro, piety is defined as that which is loved by some of the gods while impiety is defined as that which is hated by some of the gods. Socrates points out that since the gods harbor contrary sentiments, some things are both pious and impious. But “pious” and (...)
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