One of the major historical effects of Quine’s attacks upon the analytic-synthetic distinction has been to popularise the belief that philosophy is continuous with science. Currently, most philosophers believe that such continuity is an inevitable consequence of naturalism. This article argues that though Quine’s semantic holism does imply that there is no sharp distinction between truths discoverable by scientific investigation and truths discoverable by philosophical investigation, it also implies that there is a perfectly sharp and natural distinction between natural science (...) and naturalistic philosophy. (shrink)
Are any of our beliefs justified? Are they rational? The skeptic thinks that our epistemic justifications are undeserved. Nicholas Nathan confronts the skeptic and questions the value of his argument. Skeptical arguments are against justified and rational belief as well as for ignorance. Nathan argues that the truth value of trivial arguments are a matter of indifference. He tests this conjecture with a varied collection of counterexamples: arguments for ignorance, neo-Cartesian and infinite regress arguments, and also more critically (...) with arguments against justified and rational belief. (shrink)
A systematic study of rational or justified belief, which throws fresh light on current debates about foundations and coherence theories of knowledge, the validation of induction and moral scepticism. Dr Nathan focuses attention on the largely unsatisfiable desires for active and self-conscious assurance of truth liable to be engendered by philosophical reflection about total belief-systems and the sources of knowledge. He extracts a kernel of truth from the doctrine that a regress of justification is both necessary and impossible, contrasts (...) the resultant scepticism with more familiar complaints about the inapplicability of supposedly essential cognitive concepts and explores the feasibility of non-Humean modes of consolation. This is an original and carefully constructed book, which will interest professional philosophers and advanced students of epistemology. (shrink)
Beneath metaphysical problems there often lies a conflict between what we want to be true and what we believe to be true. Nathan provides a general account of the resolution of this conflict as a philosophical objective, showing that there are ways of thinking it through systematically with a view to resolving or alleviating it. The author also studies in detail a set of interrelated conflicts about the freedom and the reality of the will. He shows how difficult it (...) is to find a freedom either of decision or of action which is both an object of reflective desire and an object of rational belief. He also examines conflicts about volition as such, contending that the veridicality of volitional experience is no less easy to doubt than the veridicality of our experience of colors. In this context, arguments emerge for a voluntarist theory of the self. Nathan's important book will be essential reading for all philosophers interested in free will, volition, the self, and the methodology of metaphysics. (shrink)
Jewish Biomedical Law deals with the controversial issues of abortion, assisted reproduction, genetics, the obligation to heal, patient autonomy, treatment of the terminally ill, the definition of death, organ donations, and the allocation of scarce medical resources in Jewish Law. -/- The volume focuses upon the complex interplay between legal and moral elements in the decision-making process, particularly when questions of life and death (such as abortion and treatment of the terminally ill) are involved. Sinclair argues that the moral (...) element in Jewish biomedical law is of a universal, rational nature, and its theoretical basis may be located in a weak form of Natural law theory regarding the value of human life in the Jewish legal tradition. -/- The concept of patient autonomy in Jewish biomedical law is more limited than in contemporary liberal jurisprudence, and is based upon theological as well as strictly legal elements. The influence of scientific thinking upon the decision-making process in Jewish biomedical law is illustrated in a discussion of the contemporary debate concerning the permissibility of heart transplants. -/- In most chapters, Jewish law is compared and contrasted with Canon and Common Law, and the volume also discusses the role played by Jewish biomedical law in modern, secular Israeli law. In this context, it addresses the thorny issue of combining religious law with democratic principles within the framework of a secular legal system. (shrink)
This paper is a reply to Michael Lynch's "Truth, Value and Epistemic Expressivism" in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research for 2009. It argues that Lynch's argument against expressivism fails because of an ambiguity in the employed notion of an 'epistemically disengaged standpoint'.
This paper applies the theory of teleosemantics to the issue of moral content. Two versions of teleosemantics are distinguished: input-based and output-based. It is argued that applying either to the case of moral judgements generates the conclusion that such judgements have both descriptive (belief-like) and directive (desire-like) content, intimately entwined. This conclusion directly validates neither descriptivism nor expressivism, but the application of teleosemantics to moral content does leave the descriptivist with explanatory challenges which the expressivist does not face. Since teleosemantics (...) ties content to function, the paper also offers an account of the evolutionary function of moral judgements. (shrink)
What are the conditions on a successful naturalistic account of moral properties? In this paper I discuss one such condition: the possibility of moral concepts playing a role in good empirical theories on a par with those of the natural and social sciences. I argue that Peter Railton’s influential account of moral rightness fails to meet this condition, and thus is only viable in the hands of a naturalist who doesn’t insist on it. This conclusion generalises to all versions of (...) naturalism that give a significant role to a dispositional characterisation of moral properties. I also argue, however, that the epistemological and semantic motivations behind naturalism are consistent with a version of naturalism that doesn’t insist on the explanatory condition. The conclusion is that those naturalists who are attracted to accounts of moral properties such as Railton’s would do better not to insist on this\break condition. (shrink)
This paper advances three necessary conditions on a successful account of sentential negation. First, the ability to explain the constancy of sentential meaning across negated and unnegated contexts (the Fregean Condition). Second, the ability to explain why sentences and their negations are inconsistent, and inconsistent in virtue of the meaning of negation (the Semantic Condition). Third, the ability of the account to generalize regardless of the topic of the negated sentence (the Generality Condition). The paper discusses three accounts of negation (...) available to moral expressivists. The first—the dominant commitment account—fails to meet the Fregean Condition. The two remaining accounts—commitment semantics and the expression account—satisfy all three conditions. A recent argument that the dominant commitment account is the only option available to expressivists is considered and rejected. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the explanationist argument in favour of moral realism fails. According to this argument, the ability of putative moral properties to feature in good explanations provides strong evidence for, or entails, the metaphysical claims of moral realism. Some have rejected this argument by denying that moral explanations are ever good explanations. My criticism is different. I argue that even if we accept that moral explanations are (sometimes) good explanations the metaphysical claims of realism do not (...) follow. (shrink)
Ever since Kant published his Critique of Pure Reason, most philosophers have taken the distinction between science and philosophy to depend upon the existence of a class of truths especially amenable to philosophical investigation. In recent times, Quine’s arguments against the analytic-synthetic distinction have cast doubt over the existence of such a class of special philosophical truths and consequently many now doubt that there is a sharp distinction between science and philosophy. In this paper, I present a perfectly sharp distinction (...) between science and philosophy that does not depend upon any distinction between philosophical and scientific truths. (shrink)
The moral belief problem is that of reconciling expressivism in ethics with both minimalism in the philosophy of language and the syntactic discipline of moral sentences. It is argued that the problem can be solved by distinguishing minimal and robust senses of belief, where a minimal belief is any state of mind expressed by sincere assertoric use of a syntactically disciplined sentence and a robust belief is a minimal belief with some additional property R. Two attempts to specify R are (...) discussed, both based on the thought that beliefs are states that aim at truth. According to the first, robust beliefs are criticisable to the extent that their content fails to match the state of the world. This sense fails to distinguish robust beliefs from minimal beliefs. According to the second, robust beliefs function to have their content match the state of the world. This sense succeeds in distinguishing robust beliefs from minimal beliefs. The conclusion is that the debate concerning the cognitive status of moral convictions needs to address the issue of the function of moral convictions. Evolutionary theorising may be relevant, but will not be decisive, in answering this question. (shrink)
This paper elaborates and defends an expressivist account of the claims of mind-independence embedded in ordinary moral thought. In response to objections from Zangwill and Jenkins it is argued that the expressivist 'internal reading' of such claims is compatible with their conceptual status and that the only 'external reading' available doesn't commit expressivisists to any sort of subjectivism. In the process a 'commitment-theoretic' account of the semantics of conditionals and negations is defended.
In this paper I grant the Humean premise that some reasons for action are grounded in the desires of the agents whose reasons they are. I then consider the question of the relation between the reasons and the desires that ground them. According to promotionalism , a desire that p grounds a reason to φ insofar as A’s φing helps promote p . According to motivationalism a desire that p grounds a reason to φ insofar as it explains why, in (...) certain circumstances, A would be motivated to φ. I then give an argument favouring motivationalism, namely that promotionalism entails that agents have reasons to perform physically impossible actions, whereas motivationalism entails that there are no such reasons. Although this is a version of the ‘Too Many Reasons’ objection to promotionalism, I show that existing responses to that problem do not transfer to the case of reasons to perform physically impossible actions. In the penultimate section I consider and reject some objections to motivationalism made by promotionalists. The conclusion is that Humeans about reasons for action should prefer motivationalism. (shrink)
Moral discourse is propositionally clothed, that is, it exhibits those features – such as the ability of its sentences to intelligibly embed in conditionals and other unasserted contexts – that have been taken by some philosophers to be constitutive of discourses that express propositions. If there is nothing more to a mental state being a belief than it being characteristically expressed by sentences that are propositionally clothed then the version of expressivism which accepts that moral discourse is propositionally clothed (‘quasi-realism’) (...) is self-refuting. Fortunately for quasi-realists, this view of belief, which I label ‘minimalism’, is false. I present three arguments against it and dismiss two possible defences (the first drawn from the work of Wright, the second given by Harcourt). The conclusion is that the issue between expressivists and their opponents cannot be settled by the mere fact that moral discourse wears propositional clothing. (shrink)
Jerry Fodor and Ernest Lepore have recently criticized Davidson's methodology of radical interpretation because of its apparent failure to reflect how actual interpretation is achieved. Responding to such complaints, Davidson claims that he is not interested in the empirical issues surrounding actual interpretation but instead focuses on the question of what conditions make interpretation possible. It is argued that this exchange between Fodor and Lepore on one side, and Davidson on the other, cannot be viewed simply as a naturalist reaction (...) to non-naturalist philosophical inquiry. Through a careful excavation of the hidden assumptions and commitments underlying this debate, we recognize a more serious disagreement over the intellectual obligations of naturalism; a position with a firm hold on current philosophical imaginations. In the process, we gain a new appreciation for how such commitments shape these naturalist positions, and recognize that any resolution to this specific debate will require careful attention to the divergent commitments that are its real source. (shrink)
Direct Realists believe that perception involves direct awareness of an object not dependent for its existence on the perceiver. Howard Robinson rejects this doctrine in favour of a Sense-Datum theory of perception. His argument against Direct Realism invokes the principle ‘same proximate cause, same immediate effect’. Since there are cases in which direct awareness has the same proximate cerebral cause as awareness of a sense datum, the Direct Realist is, he thinks, obliged to deny this causal principle. I suggest that (...) although Direct Realism is in more than one respect implausible, it does not succumb to Robinson’s argument. The causal principle is true only if ‘proximate cause’ means ‘proximate sufficient cause’, and the Direct Realist need not concede that there is a sufficient cerebral cause for direct awareness of independent objects. (shrink)
Many expressivists have employed a claim about the practicality of morality in support of their view that moral convictions are not purely descriptive mental states. In this paper I argue that all extant arguments of this form fail. I distinguish several versions of such arguments and argue that in each case either the sense of practicality the argument employs is too weak, in which case there is no reason to think that descriptive states cannot be practical or the sense of (...) practicality the argument employs is too strong, in which case there is no reason to think moral convictions are practical. I also discuss and dismiss an attempted patch of such arguments provided by Humean Psychology. The conclusion is that expressivists need to look to sources other than the alleged practicality of morality to support their position. In concluding remarks I suggest one such alternative. (shrink)
This paper assesses the potential of organisational culture as a means for improving ethics in organisations. Organisational culture is recognised as one determinant of how people behave, more or less ethically, in organisations. It is also incresingly understood as an attribute that management can and should influence to improve organisational performance. When things go wrong in organisations, managers look to the culture as both the source of problems and the basis for solutions. Two models of organisational culture and ethical behaviour (...) are evaluated. They rest on different understandings of organisational culture and the processes by which ethics are enhanced. Firstly, the prevailing approach holds that creating a unitary cohesive culture around core moral values is the solution to enhancing ethical behaviour. Both the feasibility and desirability of this approach, in terms of ethical outcomes, is questioned. The second model queries the existence of organisational culture at all, arguing that organisations are nothing more than shifting coalitions of subcultures. In this second model, the very porousness of the subcultures provides a catalyst for the scrutiny and critique of norms and practices. Such diversity and debate is construed as potentially a better safeguard for ethical behaviour than the uniformity promised by the unitary, strong culture model. (shrink)
Recent trends in philosophical naturalism have their chief source in Quine's influential call to 'naturalize' epistemology, which recommended that philosophical concerns be seen as simply one part of a scientifically informed attempt to understand the natural world. The result is the view described as 'scientific naturalism' where philosophy now must defer to science when addressing questions of knowledge, meaning and existence. This naturalist turn is sometimes portrayed as a novel and radical transformation of philosophy, one that holds the promise of (...) genuine philosophical progress. However, there have been many other twentieth century American philosophers trained in different contexts and issues who have been .. (shrink)
Many philosophers argue that the face-value of moral practice provides presumptive support to moral realism. This paper analyses such arguments into three steps. (1) Moral practice has a certain face-value, (2) only realism can vindicate this face value, and (3) the face-value needs vindicating. Two potential problems with such arguments are discussed. The first is taking the relevant face-value to involve explicitly realist commitments; the second is underestimating the power of non-realist strategies to vindicate that face-value. Case studies of each (...) of these errors are presented, drawn from the writings of Shafer-Landau, Brink and McNaughton, and from recent work in experimental metaethics. The paper then considers weak presumptive arguments, according to which both realist and non-realist vindications of moral practice are possible, but the realist vindications are more natural. It is argued that there is no sense of ‘natural’ available that can make these arguments work. The conclusion is that all extant presumptive arguments for moral realism fail. (shrink)
There is an apparent problem in identifying a basis for equality. This problem vanishes if what I call the ‘intuited response’ is successful. According to this response, there is no further explanation of the significance of the feature in virtue of which an individual matters, beyond the bare fact that it is the feature in virtue of which an individual matters. I argue against this claim, and conclude that if the problem of identifying a basis for equality is to be (...) resolved, it is necessary to defend a substantive account of the independent significance of some feature. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the common practice of employing moral predicates as explaining phrases can be accommodated on an expressivist account of moral practice. This account does not treat moral explanations as in any way second-rate or derivative, since it subsumes moral explanations under the general theory of program explanations (as defended by Jackson and Pettit). It follows that the phenomenon of moral explanations cannot be used to adjudicate the debate between expressivism and its rivals.
This essay reconsiders Davidson’s critical attribution of the scheme–content distinction to Quine’s naturalized epistemology. It focuses on Davidson’s complaint that the presence of this distinction leads Quine to mistakenly construe neural input as evidence. While committed to this distinction, Quine’s epistemology does not attempt to locate a justificatory foundation in sensory experience and does not then equate neural intake with evidence. Quine’s central epistemological task is an explanatory one that attempts to scientifically clarify the route from stimulus to science. Davidson’s (...) critical remarks wrongly assign concerns to Quine’s view that it does not have and further obscures the status of his naturalized conception of epistemology. (shrink)
In this article, we document the growing influence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the realm of socially responsible investing (SRI). Drawing from ethical and economic perspectives on stakeholder management and agency theory, we develop a framework to understand how and when NGOs will be most influential in shaping the ethical and social responsibility orientations of business using the emergence of SRI as the primary influencing vehicle. We find that NGOs have opportunities to influence corporate conduct via direct, indirect, and interactive (...) influences on the investment community, and that the overall influence of NGOs as major actors in socially responsible investment is growing, with attendant consequences for corporate strategy, governance, and social performance. (shrink)
It is hardly a secret that with the philosophy of David Hume a conception of habit comes to occupy center-stage within epistemological and psychological reflection. Habit or custom is the "great guide of human life,"1 particularly in that it conditions, as the ground of the association of ideas, all our inductions concerning the objects of experience, and our beliefs that causal relations obtain between them. Yet according to Hume, we cannot say what habit itself is. Certainly, An Enquiry Concerning Human (...) Understanding describes a general and apparently common conception of "habit or custom"—terms which are presented as synonymous—in the following manner: "Wherever the repetition of any particular act or operation .. (shrink)
"The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice." (Martin Luther King) -/- A moral explanation is an explanation of a particular or type of event (or fact or state of affairs) that features moral terms in the explaining phrase. Here are some examples. First, one way of the above quote is as the claim that, in the broad sweep of history, societies tend toward more just institutions, and that they do so precisely because these institutions (...) are just. This is a moral explanation of social development. Second, historians might claim that “The injustice of slavery contributed to its demise”: this is a moral explanation of a historical event. Third, I might say that “I believe that Hitler was morally depraved because he was morally depraved”: this is a moral explanation of a moral belief. Finally, philosophers sometimes say things like “In the original Trolley case, it is morally right to flick the switch, because this will lead to the morally best outcome”: this is a moral explanation of a particular moral fact. -/- The issue of the availability of moral explanations of these types is relevant to both normative ethics and metaethics. In normative ethics the availability of moral explanations is bound up with the possibility of general normative theories. In metaethics the issue of moral explanations is closely tied to the doctrine of moral realism. In what follows I first trace the relevance of moral explanations to normative ethics and metaethics, before considering some examples in detail. (shrink)
Some Christians combine a doctrine about Christ which implies that there is more than one divine self with the doctrine that God revealed to the Jews a monotheism according to which there is just one divine self. I suggest that it is less costly for such Christians to achieve consistency by abandoning the second of these doctrines than to achieve it by abandoning the first.
I argue for two principles by combining which we can construct a sound cosmological argument. The first is that for any true proposition p's if 'there is an explanation for p's truth' is consistent then there is an explanation for p's truth. The second is a modified version of the principle that for any class, if there is an explanation for the non-emptiness ofthat class, then there is at least one non-member ofthat class which causes it not to be empty.
The main theme of the article is the tension between the obligation to preserve life, and the value of timely death. This tension is resolved by distinguishing between precipitating death, which is prohibited, and merely removing an impediment to it, which is permitted. In contemporary Jewish law, a distinction is made between therapy, which may be discontinued, and life-support, which must be maintained until the establishment of death. Another theme is that of “soft” patient autonomy, and its role in dealing (...) with the dying in both traditional Jewish law and Israel’s Terminal Patient Law, 2005. Preventing suffering in relation to a dying person, and praying for his or her death are also discussed in the article. (shrink)
This essay presents a model-theoretic account of dispositional properties, according to which dispositions are not ordinary properties of real entities; dispositions capture the behavior of abstract, idealized models. This account has several payoffs. First, it saves the simple conditional analysis of dispositions. Second, it preserves the general connection between dispositions and regularities, despite the fact that some dispositions are not grounded in actual regularities. Finally, it brings together the analysis and the explanation of dispositions under a unified framework.
This essay is concerned with concentrations of entities, which play an important—albeit often overlooked—role in scientific explanation. First, I discuss an example from molecular biology to show that concentrations can play an irreducible causal role. Second, I provide a preliminary philosophical analysis of this causal role, suggesting some implications for extant theories of causation. I conclude by introducing the concept of causation by concentration, a form of statistical causation whose widespread presence throughout the sciences has been unduly neglected and which (...) deserves to be studied in more depth. 1 Introduction2 Solving Lillie's Paradox: Lysogenic Induction in Phage λ3 Repressor Concentration and the Tuning of the Switch4 Concentration and Causality5 Preemption in Concentrations: Analysis and Implications6 Causation by Concentration: General Definition, Refinements, and Further Applications. (shrink)
In "Warrant and Proper Function" Plantinga argues that atheistic Naturalism is self-defeating. What is the probability that our cognitive faculties are reliable, given this Naturalism and an evolutionary explanation of their origins? Plantinga argues that if the Naturalist is modest enough to believe that it is irrational to have any belief as to the value of this probability, then he is irrational even to believe his own Naturalism. I suggest that Plantinga's argument has a false premise, and that even if (...) his argument were sound there would be reasons for doubting whether the Naturalist should respond to it by abandoning his Naturalism. (shrink)
While philosophers tend to consider a single type of causal history, biologists distinguish between two kinds of causal history: evolutionary history and developmental history. This essay studies the peculiarity of development as a criterion for the individuation of biological traits and its relation to form, function, and evolution. By focusing on examples involving serial homologies and genetic reprogramming, we argue that morphology (form) and function, even when supplemented with evolutionary history, are sometimes insufficient to individuate traits. Developmental mechanisms bring in (...) a novel aspect to the business of classification—identity of process-type—according to which entities are type-identical across individuals and natural kinds in virtue of the fact that they form and develop through similar processes. These considerations bear important metaphysical implications and have potential applications in several areas of philosophy. (shrink)