where, according to Schiffer, the concept of an F is pleonastic just in case the concept itself licenses entailments of the form: S ⇒ ∃xFx. These are what he calls "somethingfrom-nothing" entailments and the various practices in which such entailments are made are what he calls "hypostatisizing practices" (p.57). The concept of a proposition is pleonastic, according to this definition, because it licenses the move from a claim like 'Fido is a dog,' a claim containing only the singular term 'Fido' (...) referring to Fido, to the claim 'It is true that Fido is a dog,' which is a claim that contains the singular term 'that Fido is a dog' referring to the proposition that Fido is a dog. (iv) Propositions are pleonastic entities, as anything that falls under a pleonastic concept is, by definition, a pleonastic entity. And (v) The nature of propositions, as pleonastic entities, is fully determined by the hypostatizing practices that are constitutive of the concept of a proposition together with those necessary a priori truths that are applicable to things of any kind. Schiffer's idea is thus that propositions are entities, but that they are entities of a particularly insubstantial kind, as they have no hidden nature waiting to be discovered by.. (shrink)
Mackie's argument for the Error Theory is described. Four ways of responding to Mackie's argument—the Instrumental Approach, the Universalization Approach, the Reasons Approach, and the Constitutivist Approach—are outlined and evaluated. It emerges that though the Constitutivist Approach offers the most promising response to Mackie's argument, it is difficult to say whether that response is adequate or not.
Chomsky, meanwhile, has long expressed great reluctance even to recommend reading material to his audiences, let alone how they ought to vote, on the basis that they shouldnâ€™t be substituting his judgment for their own. At the same time he has equally consistently maintained that elections are an elaborate PR charade unworthy of more than the briefest attention, a stance he somehow considers consistent with the petitionâ€™s call to put the presidential elections at the top of our list of concerns (...) this year. Fortunately, these two fine dissidents havenâ€™t joined in the vilification of Nader that has become all the rage among Democrats and all-too-many progressives, at least not yet. (shrink)
Much work in recent moral psychology attempts to spell out what it is for a desire to be an agent’s own, or, as it is often put, what it means for an agent to be identified with certain of her desires rather than others. The aim of such work varies. Some suggest that an account of what it is for a desire to be an agent’s own provides us with an account of what it is for an agent to value (...) something. Others suggest that an account of what it is for a desire to be an agent’s own tells us what it is for an agent to be free or autonomous. (shrink)
Can we draw substantive conclusions about the reasons for action agents have from premisses about the desires of their idealized counterparts? The answer is that we can. The argument for this conclusion is Rawlsian in spirit, focusing on the choices that our idealized counterparts must make simply in virtue of being ideal, and inferring from these choices the contents of the desires that they must have. It turns out that our idealized counterparts must have desires in which we ourselves figure (...) as both agents and patients, and in which others must figure too, though only as patients. (shrink)
Many claim that a plausible moral theory would have to include a principle of beneficence, a principle telling us to produce goods that are both welfarist and agent-neutral. But when we think carefully about the necessary connection between moral obligations and reasons for action, we see that agents have two reasons for action, and two moral obligations: they must not interfere with any agent's exercise of his rational capacities and they must do what they can to make sure that agents (...) have rational capacities to exercise. According to this distinctively deontological view of morality, though we are obliged to produce goods, the goods in question are non-welfarist and agent-relative. The value of welfare thus turns out to be, at best, instrumental. (shrink)
Imagine that Bloggs is faced with a choice between giving a benefit to his child, or a slightly greater benefit to a complete stranger. The benefit is whatever the child or the stranger can buy for $100 — Bloggs has $100 to give away — and it just so happens that the stranger would buy something from which he would gain a slightly greater benefit than would Bloggs's child. Let's stipulate that Bloggs believes this to be, and let's stipulate, as (...) well, that he believes that the consequences of his actions are otherwise identical. He chooses to give the benefit to his child. What do we learn about Bloggs from his choice? We learn that Bloggs cares more about his child than he does about complete strangers. Nor is anyone likely to be surprised by this, for it just goes to show that he is much like the rest of us. He gives preferential treatment to his nearest and dearest when he acts, those with whom he has a special relationship, much as we do. (shrink)
In On What Matters Derek Parfit argues that facts about reasons for action are grounded in facts about values and against the view that they are grounded in facts about the desires that subjects would have after fully informed and rational deliberation. I describe and evaluate Parfit's arguments for this value-based conception of reasons for action and find them wanting. I also assess his response to Sidgwick's suggestion that there is a Dualism of Practical Reason. Parfit seems not to notice (...) that his preferred value-based conception of reasons for action augurs strongly in favour of a view like Sidgwick's. 1. (shrink)
Humeans hold that actions are movements of an agent's body that are suitably caused by a desire that things be a certain way and a belief on the agent's behalf that something she can just do, namely perform a movement of her body of the kind to be explained, has some suitable chance of making things that way (Davidson 1963). Movements of the body that are caused in some other way aren't actions, but are rather things that merely happen to (...) agents. (shrink)
When we say that a subject has attitudes that she is rationally required to have, does that entail that she has those attitudes for reasons? In other words, is there a deep nexus between being rational and responding to reasons? Many have argued that there is. For example, Derek Parfit tells us that 'to be rational is to respond to reasons' (Parfit 1997, p.99). But I am not so sure. I begin by considering this question in the domain of theoretical (...) rationality. The question in this domain is whether, when a subject has the beliefs that she is required to have by the norms of theoretical rationality, she is responding to reasons that there are for having those beliefs. Armed with a moderately clear answer to this question in the theoretical domain, I consider their relationship in the practical domain. When a subject has the desires that she is required to have by the norms of practical rationality, is she responding to reasons that there are for having those desires? Part of the interest of these questions lies in improving our understanding of reasons for action. I will say a little about this towards the end. (shrink)
I take issue with two suggestions of Joel Feinberg's: first, that it is incoherent to suppose that human life as such is absurd, and, second, that a particular human life may be absurd and yet saved from being tragic by being fulfilled. I also argue that human life as such may well be absurd and I consider various responses to this.
The Oxford Handbook of Contemporary Philosophy is the definitive guide to what's going on in this lively and fascinating subject. Jackson and Smith, themselves two of the world's most eminent philosophers, have assembled more than thirty distinguished scholars to contribute incisive and up-to-date critical surveys of the principal areas of research. The coverage is broad, with sections devoted to moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, philosophy of mind and action, philosophy of language, metaphysics, epistemology, and philosophy of the sciences. This (...) Handbook will be a rich source of insight and stimulation for philosophers, students of philosophy, and for people working in other disciplines of the humanities, social sciences, and sciences, who are interested in the state of philosophy today. (shrink)
The five essays in Part III of Philip Pettit’s Rules, Reasons and Norms are a brilliant blend of normative and empirical concerns. Their starting point is the distinction between two sorts of question we can ask about institutions. Institution arrangements bring about certain outcomes: they foster attitudes, cement relationships, and provide certain people with benefits and others with burdens. One question we can ask concerns the justification of institutions; the other concerns the feasibility of institutions, relative to some outcome. Let (...) me begin by explaining the distinction. I will then say a little about the use Pettit makes of it in his essays. (shrink)
Over the last fifteen years, Michael Smith has written a series of seminal essays about the nature of belief and desire, the status of normative judgment, and the relevance of the views we take on both these topics to the accounts we give of our nature as free and responsible agents. This long awaited collection comprises some of the most influential of Smith's essays. Among the topics covered are: the Humean theory of motivating reasons, the nature of normative reasons, Williams (...) and Korsgaard on internal and external reasons, the nature of self-control, weakness of will, compulsion, freedom, responsibility, the analysis of our rational capacities, moral realism, the dispositional theory of value, the supervenience of the normative on the non-normative, the error theory, rationalist treatments of moral judgment, the practicality requirement on moral judgment and non-cognivist. This collection will be of interest to students in philosophy and psychology. (shrink)
The requirements of instrumental rationality are often thought to be normative conditions on choice or intention, but this is a mistake. Instrumental rationality is best understood as a requirement of coherence on an agent's non-instrumental desires and means-end beliefs. Since only a subset of an agent's means-end beliefs concern possible actions, the connection with intention is thus more oblique. This requirement of coherence can be satisfied either locally or more globally, it may be only one among a number of such (...) requirements on an agent's total set of desires and beliefs, and it has no special connection with reasoning. An appreciation of these facts leads to a better understanding of both the nature and the significance of instrumental rationality. (shrink)
Jonathan Dancy’s Practical Reality is, I think, best understood as an attempt to undermine our allegiance to these two purported constitutive claims about action. If we must think that psychological states figure in the explanation of action then, according to Dancy, we should suppose that those psychological states are beliefs rather than desire-belief pairs. Dancy thus prefers pure cognitivism to Humeanism. But in fact he thinks that we have no business accepting any form of psychologism in the first place; no (...) business accepting a theory that explains an agent’s actions by reference to that agent’s psychological states. For though it is indeed a truism that actions are explained by reasons, Dancy argues that psychological states are only rarely, if ever, reasons. He thus prefers the unadorned normative story, a story which contents itself with explaining actions by laying out the considerations in the light of which the agent acted as he did, to any form of psychologism. I will consider Dancy’s arguments for these claims in turn. (shrink)
Evaluative judgements have both belief-like and desire-like features. While cognitivists think that they can easily explain the belief-like features, and have trouble explaining the desire-like features, non-cognitivists think the reverse. I argue that the belief-like features of evaluative judgement are quite complex, and that these complexities crucially affect the way in which an agent's values explain her actions, and hence the desire-like features. While one form of cognitivism can, it turns out that non-cognitivism cannot, accommodate all of these complexities. The (...) upshot is that that form of cognitivism can explain both features of evaluative judgements, and that non-cognitivism can explain neither. (shrink)
Simon Blackburn attempts to answer these questions in the early part of his wonderful new book Ruling Passions (Blackburn 1998). Unsurprisingly, despite my admiration for his book, I think he fails to identify a special feature of desires and aversions that makes them especially suitable for expression in normative claims. For all that he says the desires and aversions he picks out are much like the addict’s desire to take drugs. There are revisions Blackburn could make which would make his (...) account more plausible. However, if he were to make these revisions, then he might just as well abandon his non-cognitivism in favor of a version of non-cognitivism’s close cognitivist cousin: subjectivism. (shrink)
Russ Schafer-Landau’s ‘Moral judgement and normative reasons’ is admirably clear and to the point (Schafer-Landau 1999). He presents his own version of the argument for the practicality requirement on moral judgement – that is, for the claim that those who have moral beliefs are either motivated or practically irrational – that I gave in The Moral Problem (Smith 1994), and he then proceeds to identify several crucial problems. In what follows I begin by making some comments about his presentation of (...) the argument. I then confront the problems. (shrink)
The actions that agents perform in social situations are often influenced by the moral justifications they are able to provide of their behaviour. Boltanski and Thévenot point out that this fact appears to be in tension with the standard models of social explanation which seek to explain behaviour in social situations in terms of self-interested motivations. In this note I consider this tension, and caution against reading too much into it.
The Sources of Normativity is an ambitious and demanding book. It is impossible to do full justice to The Sources of Normativity in a review essay such as this. I shall therefore concentrate on Korsgaard’s partisan goal: her defence of a Kantian view about the sources of normativity. It was evidently this part that most excited the commentators when they first heard Korsgaard deliver her Tanner Lectures. I suspect it is the part of the book that will most excite the (...) general reader as well. Certainly it was the part that most intrigued me. (shrink)
This article was conceived as a sequel to “The Humean Theory of Motivation.” The paper addresses various challenges to the standard account of the explanation of intentional action in terms of desire and means-end belief, challenges that didn’t occur to me when I wrote “The Humean Theory of Motivation.” I begin by suggesting that the attraction of the standard account lies in the way in which it allows us to unify a vast array of otherwise diverse types of action explanation. (...) I go on to consider a range of other challenges to the standard account of the explanation of action: Rosalind Hursthouse’s challenge based on the possibility of what she calls “arational” actions (Hursthouse 1991); Michael Stocker’s challenge based on the idea that some explanations of action are nonteleological (Stocker 1981); Mark Platts’s challenge based on the idea that our evaluative beliefs can sometimes explain our actions all by themselves (Platts 1981); a voluntarist challenge based on the possibility of explaining actions by the exercise of self-control; and a challenge from Jonathan Dancy based on the idea that reasons can themselves sometimes explain actions all by themselves (Dancy 1994). (shrink)
Holton, we acknowledge, has given a good counter-example to a theory, and that theory is interesting and worth refuting. The theory we have in mind is like Smith's, but is more reductionist in spirit. It is a theory that ties value to Reason and to processes of reasoning, or inference - not to the recognition of reasons and acting on reasons. Such a theory overestimates the importance of logic, truth, inference, and thinking things through for yourself independently of any ideas (...) about where you might end up. Now it might well be thought that any Kantian theory of value would need to be tied to just such a conception of Reason. But while the theory behind The Moral Problem is Kantian in some very salient respects, the survival of Smith's analysis of value in the face of Holton's argument is very instructive. It teaches us a memorable moral: that a Kantian theory like Smith' s does not need to be tied - even loosely - to an overly intellectualised, logocentric conception of Reason. (shrink)
It seems to be a truism that whenever we do something - and so, given the omnipresence of trying (Hornsby 1980), whenever we try to do something - we want to do that thing more than we want to do anything else we can do (Davidson 1970). However, according to Frog, when we have will power we are able to try not to do something that we ‘really want to do’. In context the idea is clearly meant to be that (...) what we really want to do and what we most want to do are one and the same. But how is this meant to be so much as possible? It seems to require that our desire not to do what we most want to do is both our strongest desire and not our strongest desire. And that is a blatant contradiction. This is the so-called ‘paradox of self-control’ (Mele 1987). The aim of our paper is to explain how to make sense of the story of Frog and Toad. (shrink)
The idea that there is such an analytic connection will hardly come as news. It amounts to no more and no less than an endorsement of the claim that all reasons are 'internal', as opposed to 'external', to use Bernard Williams's terms (Williams 1980). Or, to put things in the way Christine Korsgaard favours, it amounts to an endorsement of the 'internalism requirement' on reasons (Korsgaard 1986). But how exactly is the internalism requirement to be understood? What does it tell (...) us about the nature of reasons? And where-in lies its appeal? My aim in this paper is to answer these ques- tions. (shrink)
If an agent judges that she morally ought to PHI in certain circumstances C then, according to internalists, absent practical irrationality, she must be motivated, to some extent, to PHI in C. Internalists thus accept what I have elsewhere called the ‘practicality requirement on moral judgement’. There are many different theories about the nature and content of moral judgement that aspire to explain and capture the truth embodied in internalism, and these theories share little in common beyond that aspiration. Worse (...) still, as I will argue in what follows, these theories are perhaps best thought of as lying around the perimeter of a wheel, much like Fortune’s Wheel, with each theory that lies further on along the perimeter representing itself as motivated by difficulties that beset the theory that precedes it. The mere existence of Internalism’s Wheel need not pose a problem for internalists, of course. They may believe that the truth about ethics lies wherever Internalism’s Wheel stops spinning. But a problem evidently does arise if Internalism’s Wheel is in perpetual motion, for then the truth about ethics presumably lies nowhere at all on Internalism’s Wheel. Somewhat tentatively, then, my conclusion is that the nonreductive, non-relative version of the dispositional theory of value provides a stable stopping point for Internalism's Wheel. (shrink)
Some contemporary theories treat phenomena like weakness of will, compulsion and wantonness as practical failures but not as failures of rationality: say, as failures of autonomy or whatever. Other current theories-the majority see the phenomena as failures of rationality but not as distinctively practical failures. They depict them as always involving a theoretical deficiency: a sort of ignorance, error, inattention or illogic. They represent them as failures which are on a par with breakdowns of theoretical reason; the failures may not (...) have exact theoretical analogues, exact analogues in the breakdown of belief, but they are of essentially the same, cognitive kind. Our approach gives us quite a different view of things. The pathologies which we identify in our taxonomy are distinctively rational failures and distinctively practical failures; they are failures of pure practical reason. (shrink)
Granted that desire is always present in the genesis of human action, is it something on the presence of which the agent always reflects? I may act on a belief without coming to recognize that I have the belief. Can I act on a desire without recognizing that I have the desire? In particular, can the desire have a motivational presence in my decision making, figuring in the background, as it were, without appearing in the content of my deliberation, in (...) the foreground? We argue, perhaps unsurprisingly, that yes, desire can figure in the background without figuring in the foreground: we call this the strict background view of desire. But we then show, and this is where the surprise comes, that the strict background view of desire has significant implications for contemporary moral philosophy. (shrink)
My topic is the debate in moral psychology between the rationalist and the anti-rationalist over the proper relation between reason and desire. My aim is not to adjudicate this debate, but rather to clarify what is at stake, for, it seems to me, both parties are prone to misconceive the issues that divide them.
Communism, in Marx' mind, did not mean simple liberation, but the economics of liberation. The realm of necessity (technē) was to become the primary field for emancipation (praxis), the latter taking form in new institutions, responsive to real socio-economic needs. In this sense, the problem of technocracy and the corporatist ethos in Marx are part of a broader discursive structure, which links the experiences of workers through the industrial revolution with the philosophies ofpraxis as they reach from Hegel through Marković.
How are we to define red? We seem to face a dilemma. For it seems that we must define red in terms of looks red. But looks red is semantically complex. We must therefore define looks red in terms of red. Can we avoid this dilemma? Christopher Peacocke thinks we can. He claims that we can define the concept of being red in terms of the concept of being red; the concept of a sensational property of visual experience. Peacocke agrees (...) that his definition of red makes use of a concept that those who possess the concept of being red need not possess; namely, red. But he thinks that this does not matter. For, he says, the definition is justified provided we can specify what it is to possess the concept of being red in terms of the concept of being red. What he tries to show is that this might be so even if no-one could possess the concept of being red unless he possessed the concept of being red. Peacocke has two attempts at showing this. However, both these attempts fail. What Peacocke does show is something weaker. He shows that, using red, we can construct a concept that gives what he calls the constitutive role of the concept of being red; but, importantly, that it gives the constitutive role of red does not suffice for what Peacocke says is required for giving a definition. Thus, if we accept Peacocke's standard for definition, it follows that he gives us no way of avoiding the original dilemma. If this is right then perhaps we should join with those like Colin McGinn who think that we should give up our attempts to define our secondary quality concepts. (shrink)
In this essay, I shall assume that at least some groups are moral agents, a view successfully argued for by Peter French (1972, 1979, 1981). To that view I add only the following two refinements: (a) The reality of group or organizational agents depends on the existence of rules that constitute them. Because a moral agent acts in a community of moral agents, it is important that the rules that give a group agent its identity be accepted not only by (...) persons in the group but also by the persons and groups with which that group can reasonably be expected to interact. (b) The rule structure of groups provides a basis for claims about the (in)-voluntariness of group action. This is especially important in moral contexts. My primary concern in the essay will be to lay a conceptual foundation for certain normative questions about group moral agency. The questions with which I shall be concerned have to do most directly with the structure of the organization itself and only indirectly with its interactions with others. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)