Assuming that we do not freely do what we unavoidably do, and that to wish for and seek something is to have it as an end of action, these two claims from the Doctrine of Virtue seem inconsistent.3 The inconsistency, if genuine, is not harmless. The first claim (hereafter, ‘E’), and equivalent statements elsewhere express the extent of Kant’s belief in free will, as well as feature in his arguments that there are ends that are duties, and that such duties (...) cannot be constrained by others but only self-constrained.4 The second claim (hereafter, ‘H’) and equivalent statements elsewhere feature in Kant’s arguments that we can have no direct duty to pursue our own happiness, that prudential rationality is distinct from mere skillfulness, and that, unlike the Categorical Imperative (CI), the problem of the ‘possibility’ of a hypothetical imperative needs no solution.5 This is, in other words, an inconsistency between basic premises of Kant’s moral philosophy. I am not confident that there is any way of squaring E and H, given the uses to which Kant puts them. I am confident that the most plausible ways that Kantians have tried to put.. (shrink)
Kantian ethics can at times appear to defend the position that there is a unique sort of value that plays a foundational role in morality. For instance, Kant’s most well known work in ethics, the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals, begins by trying to establish that a good will is good ‘without qualification’ and then ends with a first statement of the fundamental principle that divides right from wrong, the Categorical Imperative.1 This presentation can make it seems as if (...) Kant believes the authority carried by the Categorical Imperative is somehow supposed to be grounded in the value of a good will. Again, the humanity formulation of the Categorical Imperative, the formulation that tell us we must respect the humanity in ourselves and others by treating it as an end in itself, appears to allude to a special value possessed by some feature of persons, their humanity, and then explain the authority of moral obligation by way of that value.2 This extolling of the value of humanity and the dramatic refrain about the unique value of a good will both appear to portray Kant as telling us to notice the peculiar value that they possess and see that this value demands that we adjust our deliberation and actions. We appear to be told that the good will and humanity are bits of metaphysical glitter, jewels carrying their value around with them, and that this unique glitter is source of the authority of moral obligation. (shrink)
Kantian ethics can at times appear to defend the position that there is a unique sort of value that plays a foundational role in morality. For instance, Kant's most well known work in ethics, the Groundwork of the Metaphysic of Morals , begins by trying to establish that a good will is good without qualification' and then ends with a first statement of the fundamental principle that divides right from wrong, the Categorical Imperative.1 This presentation can make it seems as (...) if Kant believes the authority carried by the Categorical Imperative is somehow supposed to be grounded in the value of a good will. Again, the humanity formulation of the Categorical Imperative, the formulation that tell us we must respect the humanity in ourselves and others by treating it as an end in itself, appears to allude to a special value possessed by some feature of persons, their humanity, and then explain the authority of moral obligation by way of that value.2 This extolling of the value of humanity and the dramatic refrain about the unique value of a good will both appear to portray Kant as telling us to notice the peculiar value that they possess and see that this value demands that we adjust our deliberation and actions. We appear to be told that the good will and humanity are bits of metaphysical glitter, jewels carrying their.. (shrink)
A few pages into the Groundwork Kant claims that only actions from duty have moral worth.ii Even though as an aside he also says that a dutiful action from sympathy or honor, though lacking in moral worth, "deserves praise and encouragement", it is tempting not to take him very seriously. One suspects that he regards this praise as only a poor and morally insignificant cousin of the esteem reserved for actions from duty. In the end, it seems hard to avoid (...) the conclusion that, for him, only dutiful actions from duty deserve any morally significant positive evaluation.iii This conclusion in turn raises a standard objection:iv How can this be squared with the fact that we think highly of actions motivated, not by duty, but by desires to help those we love or those for whom we feel compassion? Of course, if we could ignore our suspicions and take Kant's aside seriously, the conflict would lessen. Contrary to the standard objection, Kant does indeed think that actions motivated by such desires are worthy of praise and encouragement. But the difficulties would not, for then we would then have to answer serious questions about the nature of the "praise" deserved by a dutiful action not performed from duty, what moral significance (if any) a Kantian view can attribute to it, and the relationship it has to moral worth. (shrink)
Since Plato wrote of political obligation in his dialogue Crito, obligation in general has been of ongoing interest to philosophers. In that dialogue, Socrates argues that he was under an obligation to obey the laws of Athens and comply with a sentence of death. During the course of the argument, he raises and offers solutions to many of the central issues about obligation that philosophers still puzzle over. For instance, how can obligations have the grip on us that they do—in (...) some cases, so that we are willing to die rather than not fulfill them? What is the nature and justification of moral and legal obligations? Do we have an obligation to obey the state, and if so, why? (shrink)
Although relativism is most often associated with ethics, one can find defenses of relativism in virtually any area of philosophy. In what follows, I will narrow my focus considerably. I first discuss the general structure of relativist positions and arguments. I will then examine several influential ideas concerning relativism in the late 20th century. Finally, I end by considering the rise of relativism in one area outside of ethics, epistemology.
You might think a simple “No” would suffice as an answer. But there are features of Kant’s ethics that appear to be strikingly similar to virtue oriented views, so striking that some Kantians themselves have argued that Kant’s ethics in fact shares these features with virtue ethics. In what follows, I will argue against this view, though along the way I will acknowledge the features of Kant’s view that make it appear more like a kind of virtue ethics than it (...) really is. (shrink)
'You ought to make something of yourself.' That certainly has the ring of truth about it. But is there really any obligation to develop yourself? Those who let abilities lie idle are shortsighted, of course. But are they guilty of anything more than imprudence? It is easy to think that there could be a moral fault in failing to help others such as your children to develop their talents and abilities. But what about not developing your own? And if this (...) is a moral failing, is the fault solely in your having let others down in some way? Or is there fault in having let yourself down as well? (shrink)
So Michael Slote argues. There is and can be no obligation to foster one's own wellbeing for Kantians, only an obligation to foster the wellbeing of others. And any distinctively Kantian position both denies that our own wellbeing is the source of our moral duties and denies that a concern for wellbeing can be a morally worthy motive. So not only is the agent's own good not foundational to morality; it is of no moral importance. Hence, Slote concludes, the devaluation (...) of the moral agent. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose that the inquiry known as a/the theory of argument is the “invention” of Trudy Govier, using that term in its rhetorical sense, viz., the process of choosing ideas appropriate to the subject. In her (1987) paper, “Is a Theory of Argument Possible?” Govier used the idea of theory of argument to focus her discussion on problems in argument analysis and evaluation that came to light in the 1970s and 1980s. The idea of a theory of (...) argument was already there but Govier “discovered” it in the sense that she made its potential clear. (shrink)
One of the distinctive features of rhetorical approaches to the study of argumentation is the emphasis placed on the role of the audience. Here one thinks immediately of the influence of Chaïm Perelman and of his and Lucie Olbrechts-Tyteca’s The New Rhetoric. There is something importantly right about an audience-centered approach to argumentation. Clearly if you wish to persuade an audience of your position (or gain the acceptance of your thesis), you must engage that audience and in some sense carry (...) them with you from your starting points to your conclusion. Still, when I read theorists who place strong emphasis on the role of audience (for example, Perelman and Olbrechts-Tyteca in The New Rhetoric .. (shrink)
When considering the interactions between rhetoric and argumentation, readers of this journal will no doubt be reminded of the seminal work of Henry W. Johnstone Jr. (1959; 1978) who gathered both concerns together in ways that were designed to engage philosophers and persuade them of the intellectual seriousness of both enterprises. He was, of course, a principal force among those who brought Chaïm Perelman’s work to the attention of audiences in North America, and he himself entered into deep and fruitful (...) dialogues with Perelman by way of reviewing the value that rhetoric brought to argumentation and logic, as well as to philosophy generally. His interest in philosophical argumentation prompted an early .. (shrink)
One current line of argument against the legalization of same-sex marriage, advocated primarily by the New Natural Lawyers, is that marriage is a pre-political institution that has, as an essential element, a bodily union requirement. They argue that same-sex couples cannot realize bodily union in their sexual activities and thus cannot meet the structural requirements of marriage. Accordingly, they argue that the same-sex marriage debate must be framed as a debate about what marriage is, and not, as it was in (...) the anti-miscegenation precedents, about who can get married. I argue that their position, which promulgates a set of pernicious stereotypes about same-sex couples, is, first of all, internally inconsistent. According to their own metaphysical principles about bodily union, they provide no rational basis for the claim that same-sex couples cannot realize bodily union and thus that same-sex couples cannot be married. Second, I argue for a deflationary account of the significance of bodily union. While same-sex couples, like heterosexual couples, can realize bodily union, this sort of union has no moral significance and thus cannot be the factor that distinguishes marriages from other sorts of relationships. Finally, I suggest that they have no basis for their claims about the inferiority of same-sex relationships. (shrink)
In this reflection piece, Ralph Johnson provides an account of the development of informal logic and how it intersected with the Critical Thinking Movement. Section I is an account of the origins of what Johnson calls the “Informal Logic Initiative.” Section II discusses how the Informal Logic Initiative connected with the Critical Thinking Movement at the Sonoma State University Conferences starting in 1981. Section III discusses the relationship between logic and critical thinking. Section IV describes “The Network Problem,” which emerged (...) for Johnson in the mid-1980s – largely as a result of his experiences at critical thinking conferences, especially the Sonoma State conference. Section V expresses some concerns about the current status of critical thinking as an educational idea and about the Critical Thinking Movement. (shrink)
In reaction to a particularly scathing review of his Practice in Christianity, Kierkegaard postulated what he called a ‘preacher-machine.’ As we will see, the preacher-machine is only one type of character-machine, for, in Practice in Christianity, there are five other such machines. Starting up these character-machines will allow for an analysis of the repulsion of the God-man, Christ himself. This repulsion is important because Kierkegaard claims that it is the condition for the emergence of faith. After discussing repulsion, Kierkegaard will (...) locate a singular mistake of Christendom, which will allow him to offer his remedy to this problem. In doing so, I will claim, Kierkegaard makes a particularly forceful claim about the true status of Christianity. We begin by attempting an articulation of a definition of monstrosity before setting the scene of these six machines. (shrink)
Hamblin’s Fallacies remains one of the crucial documents in the development of informal logic and argumentation theory. His critique of traditional approaches to the fallacies (what he dubbed ‘The Standard Treatment’) helped to revitalize the study of fallacies. Recently I had occasion to reread Fallacies and came to the conclusion that some of my earlier criticisms (1989, 1990) had missed the real force of what was going on there, that I and others have perhaps not fully appreciated what Hamblin is (...) up to. In this paper, I plan to revisit Fallacies and make manifest its coherence. (shrink)
Is there any moral obligation to improve oneself, to foster and develop various capacities in oneself? From a broadly Kantian point of view, Self-Improvement defends the view that there is such an obligation and that it is an obligation that each person owes to him or herself. The defence addresses a range of arguments philosophers have mobilized against this idea, including the argument that it is impossible to owe anything to yourself, and the view that an obligation to improve onself (...) is overly 'moralistic'. Robert N. Johnson argues against Kantian universalization arguments for the duty of self-improvement, as well as arguments that bottom out in a supposed value humanity has. At the same time, he defends a position based on the notion that self- and other-respecting agents would, under the right circumstances, accept the principle of self-improvement and would leave it up to each to be the person to whom this duty is owed. (shrink)
The Management by Objective (MBO) system was widely discredited by the 1980s as not delivering on its promises of efficiency, worker motivation, etc. Now some universities around the world seek to employ such a system for faculty evaluation. This paper comments on the reasons the MBO was largely abandoned in the business world, provides the use of the MBO in Korean education as a case study of current use, and gives suggestions of the conditions under which the MBO or similar (...) evaluation systems would likely be disastrous in an academic environment. This is followed by a series of criteria that a fair and equitable faculty evaluation system should have. (shrink)
It is unfortunate that Hamblin’s contributions do not get him the credit he deserves for his remarkable achievements. Although his contributions to philosophy are well enough recognized, and his early contributions to computing have been acknowledged, it seems strange that his work has not been widely enough recognized for the interdisciplinary effect it has had. There has been a feedback loop whereby his theories on formal dialogue systems and imperatives were taken up in argumentation, applied in computing, and then used (...) in this form to refine argumentation methods. (shrink)
The first section of the Groundwork begins “It is impossible to imagine anything at all in the world, or even beyond it, that can be called good without qualification— except a good will.”1 Kant’s explanation and defense of this claim is followed by an explanation and defense of another related claim, that only actions performed out of duty have moral worth. He explains that actions performed out of duty are those done from respect for the moral law, and then culminates (...) the first section with a formulation of that law, “I ought never to act except in such a way that I could also will that my maxim should become a universal law”. Kant dubs this fundamental principle of morality “the Categorical Imperative”. (shrink)
Much recent work on Kant's argument that the Categorical Imperative is the fundamental principle of morality has focused on the gap in that argument between the conclusion that rational agents conform to laws that apply to every rational agent, and the requirement contained in the Universal Law of Nature formula.1 While it seems plausible – even trivial– that a rational agent, insofar as she is a rational agent, conforms to whatever laws there are that are valid for all rational agents, (...) there does not appear to be any obvious route from this seemingly trivial claim to the controversial and substantive principle of acting only on maxims that one can at the same time rationally will every rational agent to act on.2 In what follows, I argue that the connection between rational agency and mere conformity to universally valid laws is not as trivial as it may seem. Many readers, I suspect, assume that Kant makes the trivial claim about rational agency because rational agency is rational, and being rational requires conforming to those laws that apply to all rational beings. For instance, this assumption is implicit in Onora O'Neill claim that "the interest of a Kantian universality test is that it aims to ground an ethical theory on notions of consistency and rationality rather than upon considerations of desire and preference."3 But, as I contend in what follows, the requirement to conform to laws valid for all rational agents is based on the fact that rational agency is, not rational, but agency. Indeed, the arguments leading to the first formulation of the Categorical Imperative rely on the idea of rational willing as a kind of causation in order to show this. And, as it turns out, the claim that the concept of causation contains the idea of conformity to universally valid laws is not a trivial claim. (shrink)
Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) argued that moral requirements are based on a standard of rationality he dubbed the “Categorical Imperative” (CI). Immorality thus involves a violation of the CI and is thereby irrational. Other philosophers, such as Locke and Hobbes, had also argued that moral requirements are based on standards of rationality. However, these standards were either desirebased instrumental principles of rationality or based on sui generis rational intuitions. Kant agreed with many of his predecessors that an analysis of practical reason (...) will reveal only the requirement that rational agents must conform to instrumental principles. Yet he argued that conformity to the CI (a non-instrumental principle) and hence to moral requirements themselves, can nevertheless be shown to be essential to rational agency. This argument was based on his striking doctrine that a rational will must be regarded as autonomous, or free in the sense of being the author of the law that binds it. The fundamental principle of morality — the CI — is none other than the law of an autonomous will. Thus, at the heart of Kant's moral philosophy is a conception of reason whose reach in practical affairs goes well beyond that of a Humean ‘slave’ to the passions. Moreover, it is the presence of this self-governing reason in each person that Kant thought offered decisive grounds for viewing each as possessed of equal worth and deserving of equal respect. (shrink)
You might think a simple “No” would suffice as an answer. But there are features of Kant’s ethics that appear to be strikingly similar to virtue oriented views, so striking that some Kantians themselves have argued that Kant’s ethics in fact shares these features with virtue ethics. In what follows, I will argue against this view, though along the way I will acknowledge the features of Kant’s view that make it appear more like a kind of virtue ethics than it (...) really is. My plan is to first set out the distinctive features of what is nowadays called “virtue ethics”, those features that make it a genuine alternative to other normative theories. I then consider the features Kant’s view might share in common with virtue ethics and the case for saying that it is, therefore, fundamentally the same sort of theory. I follow these two sections with an argument against this position. I want to warn you at the outset, however, that my argument itself will be quite unsurprising, since it is an argument that has been central to the way in which most philosophers have understood Kant’s ethics. Any novelty I can claim here is in my account of what makes virtue ethics a genuine alternative to other normative theories, and my defense of this argument against those, in particular Barbara Herman, who have apparently found the argument unpersuasive. (shrink)
This paper is an exercise in intellectual history, an attempt to understand how a specific term—”informal logic”— came to be interpreted in so many different ways. I trace the emergence and development of “informal logic” to help explain the many different meanings, how they emerged and how they are related. This paper is also, to some degree, an account of a movement that developed outside the mainstream of philosophy, whose origins lie in a desire to make logic useful (echoing Dewey).
Data from 949 families of Caucasian and 400 families of Japanese ancestry who took part in the Hawaii Family Study of Cognition were used to ascertain the associations of parental cognitive ability, parental education and paternal occupation with offspring cognitive ability. In particular, analyses were focused on testing the possible moderating effects of parental socioeconomic status on the familial transmission of cognitive abilities. Parental cognitive ability was substantially associated and parental education and paternal occupation only trivially associated with offspring performance. (...) In contrast to the findings of Turkheimer etal. (2003), there was no evidence in these data that familiality for cognitive abilities was lower in the lower as opposed to upper levels of socioeconomic status. These results were consistent across measures, ethnicity and sex of offspring. (shrink)
Many people claim to have had direct perceptual awareness of God. William Alston, Richard Swinburne, Gary Gutting, and others have based their philosophical views on these reports. But using analogies from our encounters with humans whose abilities surpass our own, we realize that something essential is missing from these reports. The absence of this element renders it highly unlikely that these people have actually encountered a divine being. (Published Online August 11 2004).
This is an examination of three main strategies used by engineering educators to integrate ethics into the engineering curriculum. They are: (1) the standalone course, (2) the ethics imperative mandating ethics content for all engineering courses, and (3) outsourcing ethics instruction to an external expert. The expectations from each approach are discussed and their main limitations described. These limitations include the insular status of the stand-alone course, the diffuse and uneven integration with the ethics imperative, and the orphaned status of (...) ethics using the outside expert. A fourth option is proposed — a special modular option. This strategy avoids the limitations of earlier approaches and harmonizes well with curricular objectives and professional values. While some help is provided by a professional ethicist, the headliner for the series of seminars is a high-profile engineer who shares an ethics dilemma encountered in professional practice. Students discuss the case and propose solutions. (shrink)
In an earlier paper I identified two desiderata of a theory of practical reasons which favour internalism, and then argued that forms of this doctrine which are currently on offer lose either one or the other in trying to avoid the conditional fallacy. Michael Brady, Mark van Roojen and Josh Gert have separately attempted to respond to my argument. I set out reasons why all fail.
In this paper, I respond to papers on my Manifest Rationality (2000) by Leo Groarke, Hans Hansen, David Hitchcock, and Christopher Tindale presented at the meetings of the Ontario Philosophical Society, October 2000. From the many useful challenges they have directed at my position, I have chosen to focus on two. The dominant issue raised by their papers concerns my definition of argument, and particularly problems with the idea of a dialectical tier. I have selected that as the first strand. (...) Second, several have raised questions that deal with the relationship between logic, rhetoric and dialectic. That is the second strand. (shrink)