I argue that ethical reductionism is better than nonreductionism at fitting moral properties into successful scientific explanations and doesn't face the kind of multiple realizability that threatens reductionism in philosophy of mind.
I present a novel objection to fine-tuning arguments for God's existence: the metaphysical possibility of different psychophysical laws allows any values of the physical constants to support intelligent life forms, like protons and electrons in love.
I defend hedonism about moral value by first presenting an argument for moral skepticism, and then showing that phenomenal introspection gives us a unique way to defeat the skeptical argument and establish pleasure's goodness.
Focusing mainly on Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I argue that Nietzsche is an error theorist about existing moral discourse who encourages us to pursue a kind of subjective nonmoral value arising from our passions.
Propositionalism is the view that the contents of intentional attitudes have a propositional structure. Objectualism opposes propositionalism in allowing the contents of these attitudes to be ordinary objects or properties. Philosophers including Talbot Brewer, Paul Thagard, Michelle Montague, and Alex Grzankowski attack propositionalism about such attitudes as desire, liking, and fearing. This paper defends propositionalism, mainly on grounds that it better supports psychological explanations.
Some philosophers (including Urmson, Humberstone, Shah, and Velleman) hold that believing that p distinctively involves applying a norm according to which the truth of p is a criterion for the success or correctness of the attitude. On this view, imagining and assuming differ from believing in that no such norm is applied. I argue against this view with counterexamples showing that applying the norm of truth is neither necessary nor sufficient for distinguishing believing from imagining and assuming. Then I argue (...) that the different functional properties of these mental states are enough to distinguish them, and that norm-application doesn't help us draw the functional distinctions. (shrink)
I argue that one intends that ϕ if one has a desire that ϕ and an appropriately related means-end belief. Opponents, including Setiya and Bratman, charge that this view can't explain three things. First, intentional action is accompanied by knowledge of what we are doing. Second, we can choose our reasons for action. Third, forming an intention settles a deliberative question about what to do, disposing us to cease deliberating about it. I show how the desire-belief view can explain why (...) these phenomena occur when they occur, and why they don't when they don't. (shrink)
I argue that the Doctrine of Double Effect is accepted because of unreliable processes of belief-formation, making it unacceptably likely to be mistaken. We accept the doctrine because we more vividly imagine intended consequences of our actions than merely foreseen ones, making our aversions to the intended harms more violent, and making us judge that producing the intended harms is morally worse. This explanation fits psychological evidence from Schnall and others, and recent neuroscientific research from Greene, Klein, Kahane, and Schaich (...) Borg. It explains Mikhail and Hauser’s “universal moral grammar” and an interesting phenomenon about Double Effect cases noted by Bennett. When unequally vivid representations determine our decisions, we typically misjudge the merits of our options and make mistakes. So if Double Effect is a product of unequal vividness, it is likely to be mistaken. This argument, I claim, fits Berker’s specifications for good empirically grounded arguments in ethics. (shrink)
Christine Korsgaard has argued that Humean views about action and practical rationality jointly imply the impossibility of irrational action. According to the Humean theory of action, agents do what maximizes expected desire-satisfaction. According to the Humean theory of rationality, it is rational for agents to do what maximizes expected desire-satisfaction. Thus Humeans are committed to the impossibility of practical irrationality – an unacceptable consequence. -/- I respond by developing Humean views to explain how we can act irrationally. Humeans about action (...) should consider the immediate motivational forces produced by an agent's desires. Humeans about rationality should consider the agent's dispositional desire strengths. When (for example) vivid sensory or imaginative experiences of desired things cause some of our desires to produce motivational force disproportional to their dispositional strength, we may act in ways that do not maximize expected desire-satisfaction, thus acting irrationally. I argue that this way of developing Humean views is true to the best reasons for holding them. (shrink)
This essay defends a strong version of the Humean theory of motivation on which desire is necessary both for motivation and for reasoning that changes our desires. Those who hold that moral judgments are beliefs with intrinsic motivational force need to oppose this view, and many of them have proposed counterexamples to it. Using a novel account of desire, this essay handles the proposed counterexamples in a way that shows the superiority of the Humean theory. The essay addresses the classic (...) objection that the Humean theory cannot explain the feeling of obligation, Stephen Darwall's example of motivationally potent reasoning that is not based on preexisting desires, Thomas Scanlon's criticism that the Humean theory fails to account for the structure and phenomenology of deliberation, and the phenomenon of akrasia as discussed by John Searle. In each case a Humean account explains the data at least as thoroughly as opposing views can, while fitting within a simpler total account of how we deliberate and act. (shrink)
I argue that if David Lewis’ modal realism is true, modal realists from different possible worlds can fall in love with each other. I offer a method for uniquely picking out possible people who are in love with us and not with our counterparts. Impossible lovers and trans-world love letters are considered. Anticipating objections, I argue that we can stand in the right kinds of relations to merely possible people to be in love with them and that ending a trans-world (...) relationship to start a relationship with an actual person isn't cruel to one's otherworldly lover. (shrink)