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Profile: Ralph Wedgwood (University of Southern California)
  1. Ralph Wedgwood, Akrasia and Uncertainty.
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  2. Ralph Wedgwood, Objective and Subjective 'Ought'.
    Over the years, several philosophers have argued that deontic modals, like ‘ought’ and ‘should’ in English, and their closest equivalents in other languages, are systematically polysemous and context-sensitive. Specifically, one way in which these ‘ought’-concepts differ from each other is that some of these concepts are more “objective”, while others are more “subjective” or “information-relative”: when ‘ought’ expresses one of these more objective concepts, what an agent “ought” to do in a given situation may be determined by facts that neither (...)
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  3. Ralph Wedgwood, The Coherence of Thrasymachus.
    In Book I of the Republic, or so I shall argue, Plato gives us a glimpse of sheer horror. In the character, beliefs, and desires of Thrasymachus, Plato aims to personify some of the most diabolical dangers that lurk in human nature. In this way, the role that Thrasymachus plays for Plato is akin to the role that for Hobbes is played by the bellum omnium contra omnes, the war of all against all, which would allegedly be the inevitable result (...)
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  4. Ralph Wedgwood, The Weight of Moral Reasons.
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  5. Ralph Wedgwood, Utility or Choiceworthiness?
    Suppose that rational choices are to be defined as choices that maximize some sort of expectation of some sort of value. What sort of value should this definition appeal to? According to a familiar neo-Humean view, the answer is ‘Utility’, where utility is defined as a measure of subjective preference. According to a rival neo-Aristotelian view, the answer is ‘Choiceworthiness’, where choiceworthiness is an irreducibly normative notion – the notion of an action that is good in a certain way. This (...)
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  6. Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). A Priori Bootstrapping. In Albert Casullo & Joshua Thurow (eds.), The A Priori In Philosophy. Oxford University Press.
    This paper explores the problems that are raised by a certain traditional sceptical paradox. The conclusion will be that the most challenging problem raised by this paradox does not primarily concern the justification of beliefs; it concerns the justification of belief-forming practices. This conclusion is supported by showing that if we can solve the sceptical problem for belief-forming practices, then it will be a relatively straightforward matter to solve the problem that concerns the justification of beliefs.
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  7. Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). The Right Thing to Believe. In Timothy Chan (ed.), The Aim of Belief. Oxford University Press.
    Many philosophers have claimed that “belief aims at the truth”. But is there any interpretation of this claim on which it counts as true? According to some philosophers, the best interpretation of the claim takes it as the normative thesis that belief is subject to a truth-norm. The goal of this essay is to clarify this normative interpretation of the claim. First, the claim can be developed so that it applies to partial beliefs as well as to flat-out full beliefs. (...)
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  8. Ralph Wedgwood (2013). Doxastic Correctness. Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 87 (1):217-234.
    If beliefs are subject to a basic norm of correctness—roughly, to the principle that a belief is correct only if the proposition believed is true—how can this norm guide believers in forming their beliefs? Answer: this norm guides believers indirectly: believers are directly guided by requirements of rationality—which are themselves explained by this norm of correctness. The fundamental connection between rationality and correctness is probabilistic. Incorrectness comes in degrees; for beliefs, these degrees of incorrectness are measured by quadratic scoring rules, (...)
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  9. Ralph Wedgwood (2013). Rational 'Ought' Implies 'Can'. Philosophical Issues 23 (1):70-92.
    Every kind of ‘ought’ implies some kind of ‘can’ – but there are many kinds of ‘ought’ and even more kinds of ‘can’. In this essay, I shall focus on a particular kind of ‘ought’ – specifically, on what I shall call the “rational ‘ought’”. On every occasion of use, this kind of ‘ought’ is focused on the situation of a particular agent at a particular time; but this kind of ‘ought’ is concerned, not with how that agent acts at (...)
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  10. Ralph Wedgwood (2013). 1. The 'Aim'of Belief. In Timothy Chan (ed.), The Aim of Belief. Oxford University Press. 123.
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  11. Ralph Wedgwood (2013). Taking Morality Seriously: A Defense of Robust Realism. By David Enoch. (Oxford UP, 2011. Pp. Xii + 295. Price £40.00.). [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly 63 (251):389-393.
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  12. Ralph Wedgwood (2013). 1 The Sceptical Paradox. In Albert Casullo & Joshua C. Thurow (eds.), The a Priori in Philosophy. Oup Oxford. 226.
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  13. Ralph Wedgwood (2012). Justified Inference. Synthese 189 (2):1-23.
    What is the connection between justification and the kind of consequence relations that are studied by logic? In this essay, I shall try to provide an answer, by proposing a general conception of the kind of inference that counts as justified or rational.
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  14. Ralph Wedgwood (2012). Outright Belief. Dialectica 66 (3):309–329.
    Sometimes, we think of belief as a phenomenon that comes in degrees – that is, in the many different levels of confidence that a thinker might have in various different propositions. Sometimes, we think of belief as a simple two-place relation that holds between a thinker and a proposition – that is, as what I shall here call "outright belief".
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  15. Ralph Wedgwood (2012). Review: Elizabeth Brake, Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law. [REVIEW] Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews.
    This is a review of Elizabeth Brake's book Minimizing Marriage: Marriage, Morality, and the Law (Oxford University Press, 2012).
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  16. Ralph Wedgwood (2012). The Nature and Value of Knowledge: Three Investigations, by Duncan Pritchard, Alan Millar, and Adrian Haddock. [REVIEW] Analysis 72 (1):187-189.
    This is a review of "The nature and value of knowlege: Three investigations", by Duncan Pritchard, Alan Millar, and Adrian Haddock (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 2011).
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  17. Ralph Wedgwood (2011). Gandalf's Solution to the Newcomb Problem. Synthese (14):1-33.
    This article proposes a new theory of rational decision, distinct from both causal decision theory (CDT) and evidential decision theory (EDT). First, some intuitive counterexamples to CDT and EDT are presented. Then the motivation for the new theory is given: the correct theory of rational decision will resemble CDT in that it will not be sensitive to any comparisons of absolute levels of value across different states of nature, but only to comparisons of the differences in value between the available (...)
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  18. Ralph Wedgwood (2011). Defending Double Effect. Ratio 24 (4):384-401.
    This essay defends a version of the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) – the doctrine that there is normally a stronger reason against an act that has a bad state of affairs as one of its intended effects than against an otherwise similar act that has that bad state of affairs as an unintended effect. First, a precise account of this version of the DDE is given. Secondly, some suggestions are made about why we should believe the DDE, and about (...)
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  19. Ralph Wedgwood (2011). Instrumental Rationality. Oxford Studies in Metaethics 6:280-309.
    Is there any distinctive aspect of rationality that deserves the label of “instrumental rationality”? Recently, Joseph Raz (2005) has argued that instrumental rationality is a “myth”. In this essay, I shall give some qualified support to Raz’s position: as I shall argue, many philosophers have indeed been seduced by certain myths about instrumental rationality. Nonetheless, Raz’s conclusion is too strong. Instrumental rationality is not itself a myth: there really is a distinctive aspect of rationality that deserves the label of “instrumental (...)
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  20. Ralph Wedgwood (2011). Primitively Rational Belief-Forming Processes. In Andrew Reisner & Asbjørn Steglich-Petersen (eds.), Reasons for Belief. Cambridge University Press. 180--200.
    Intuitively, it seems that some belief-forming practices have the following three properties: 1. They are rational practices, and the beliefs that we form by means of these practices are themselves rational or justified beliefs. 2. Even if in most cases these practices reliably lead to correct beliefs (i.e., beliefs in true propositions), they are not infallible: it is possible for beliefs that are formed by means of these practices to be incorrect (i.e., to be beliefs in false propositions). 3. The (...)
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  21. Ralph Wedgwood (2011). Scanlon on Double Effect. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 83 (2):464-472.
    In this new book Moral Dimensions, T. M. Scanlon (2008) explores the ethical significance of the intentions and motives with which people act. According to Scanlon, these intentions and motives do not have any direct bearing on the permissibility of the act. Thus, Scanlon claims that the traditional Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is mistaken. However, the way in which someone is motivated to act has a direct bearing on what Scanlon calls the act's "meaning". One particularly important kind of (...)
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  22. Ralph Wedgwood (2010). Schroeder on Expressivism: For – or Against? [REVIEW] Analysis 70 (1):117-129.
    This is a critical discussion of Mark Schroeder's book, "Being For: Evaluating the Semantic Program of Expressivism" (Oxford University Press, 2008).
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  23. Ralph Wedgwood (2010). The Moral Evil Demons. In Richard Feldman & Ted Warfield (eds.), Disagreement. Oxford University Press.
    Moral disagreement has long been thought to create serious problems for certain views in metaethics. More specifically, moral disagreement has been thought to pose problems for any metaethical view that rejects relativism—that is, for any view that implies that whenever two thinkers disagree about a moral question, at least one of those thinkers’ beliefs about the question is not correct. In this essay, I shall outline a solution to one of these problems. As I shall argue, it turns out in (...)
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  24. Ralph Wedgwood (2010). The Nature of Normativity: Reply to Holton, Railton, and Lenman. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 151 (3):479-491.
    In this article, I reply to the comments that Richard Holton, Peter Railton, and James Lenman have made on my 2007 book "The Nature of Normativity".
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  25. Ralph Wedgwood (2010). The Nature of Normativity: Précis. Philosophical Studies 151 (3):445 - 448.
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  26. James M. Lindsay, Stephen Schlesinger, Kishore Mahbubani, Ruth Wedgwood, John J. Davenport, Francisco Panizza, Romina Miorelli, Jessica Wolfendale & David Sussman (2009). Carnegie Council. Ethics and International Affairs 23.
     
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  27. Ralph Wedgwood (2009). Intrinsic Values and Reasons for Action. In Ernest Sosa & Enrique Villanueva (eds.), Metaethics. Wiley Periodicals, Inc.. 342-363.
    What reasons for action do we have? What explains why we have these reasons? This paper articulates some of the basic structural features of a theory that would provide answers to these questions. According to this theory, reasons for action are all grounded in intrinsic values, but in a way that makes room for a thoroughly non-consequentialist view of the way in which intrinsic values generate reasons for aaction.
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  28. Ralph Wedgwood (2009). Brill Online Books and Journals. Phronesis 54 (4-5).
     
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  29. Ralph Wedgwood (2009). Diotima's Eudaemonism: Intrinsic Value and Rational Motivation in Plato's Symposium. Phronesis 54 (4):297-325.
    This paper gives a new interpretation of the central section of Plato’s Symposium (199d–212a). According to this interpretation, the term ‘καλόν’, as used by Plato here, stands for what many contemporary philosophers call “intrinsic value”; and “love” (ἔρως) is in effect rational motivation, which for Plato consists in the desire to “possess” intrinsically valuable things – that is, according to Plato, to be happy – for as long as possible. An explanation is given of why Plato believes that “possessing” intrinsically (...)
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  30. Ralph Wedgwood (2009). The "Good" and the "Right" Revisited. Philosophical Perspectives 23 (1):499-519.
    Moral philosophy has long been preoccupied by a supposed dichotomy between the “good” and the “right”. This dichotomy has been taken to define certain allegedly central issues for ethics. How are the good and the right related to each other? For example, is one of the two (as many philosophers have put it) “prior” to the other? If so, is the good prior to the right, or is the right prior to the good?
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  31. Ralph Wedgwood (2009). The Normativity of the Intentional. In Ansgar Beckermann & Brian P. McLaughlin (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of the Philosophy of Mind. Oxford University Press.
    Many philosophers have claimed that the intentional is normative. (This claim is the analogue, within the philosophy of mind, of the claim that is often made within the philosophy of language, that meaning is normative.) But what exactly does this claim mean? And what reason is there for believing it? In this paper, I shall first try to clarify the content of the claim that the intentional is normative. Then I shall examine a number of the arguments that philosophers have (...)
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  32. Ruth Wedgwood (2009). Democracies, Human Rights, and Collective Action. Ethics and International Affairs 23 (1):27-37.
  33. Ralph Wedgwood (2008). Contextualism About Justified Belief. Philosophers' Imprint 8 (9):1-20.
    This paper presents a new argument for a form of contextualism about ‘justified belief’, the argument being based on considerations concerning the nature of belief. It is then argued that this form of contextualism, although it is true, cannot help to answer the threat of scepticism. However, it can explain many other puzzling phenomena: it can give an account of the linguistic mechanisms that determine how the extension of ‘justified belief’ shifts with context; it can help to defuse some puzzles (...)
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  34. Ralph Wedgwood (2008). Review: Kieran Setiya: Reasons Without Rationalism. [REVIEW] Mind 117 (468):1130-1135.
    This is a review of Kieran Setiya's book, "Reasons without Rationalism" (Princeton University Press, 2007).
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  35. Ralph Wedgwood (2007). Butler on Virtue, Self-Interest, and Human Nature. In Paul Bloomfield (ed.), Morality and Self-Interest. Oxford University Press.
    This essay gives a new interpretation of some of the central ethical doctrines of Bishop Butler's Sermons -- in particular, of his claim that a review of the empirical facts of human nature shows that we have "an obligation to the practice of virtue", and of the precise claims that he makes about the relations between morality and self-interest.
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  36. Ralph Wedgwood (2007). Christopher Peacocke's The Realm of Reason. [REVIEW] Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (3):776-791.
    In this book, Christopher Peacocke proposes a general theory about what it is for a thinker to be entitled to form a given belief. This theory is distinctively rationalist: that is, it gives a large role to the a priori, while insisting that the propositions or contents that can be known a priori are not in any way “true in virtue of meaning” (and without in any other way denigrating these propositions as “trivial”, or as propositions that “tell us nothing (...)
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  37. Ralph Wedgwood (2007). Normativism Defended. In Brian P. McLaughlin & Jonathan D. Cohen (eds.), Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Mind. Blackwell. 85--102.
    The aim of this chapter is to defend the claim that “the intentional is normative” against a number of objections, including those that Georges Rey has presented in his contribution to this volume. First, I give a quick sketch of the principal argument that I have used to support this claim, and briefly comment on Rey’s criticisms of this argument. Next, I try to answer the main objections that have been raised against this claim. First, it may seem that the (...)
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  38. Ralph Wedgwood (2007). The Nature of Normativity. Oxford University Press.
    This is a book about normativity -- where the central normative terms are words like 'ought' and 'should' and their equivalents in other languages. It has three parts: The first part is about the semantics of normative discourse: what it means to talk about what ought to be the case. The second part is about the metaphysics of normative properties and relations: what is the nature of those properties and relations (if any) whose pattern of instantiation makes propositions about what (...)
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  39. Ralph Wedgwood (2007). The Realm of Reason by Christopher Peacocke. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 74 (3):776-791.
    This is a critical notice of Christopher Peacocke's book, "The Realm of Reason" (Oxford University Press, 2004).
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  40. Ralph Wedgwood (2006). How We Know What Ought to Be. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society 106 (1):61–84.
    This paper outlines a new approach to the epistemology of normative beliefs, based on a version of the claim that “the intentional is normative”. This approach incorporates an account of where our “normative intuitions” come from, and of why it is essential to these intuitions that they have a certain weak connection to the truth. This account allows that these intuitions may be fallible, but it also seeks to explain why it is rational for us to rely on these intuitions (...)
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  41. Ralph Wedgwood (2006). The Internal and External Components of Cognition. In Robert J. Stainton (ed.), Contemporary Debates in Cognitive Science. Malden MA: Blackwell Publishing. 307--325.
    Timothy Williamson has presented several arguments that seek to cast doubt on the idea that cognition can be factorized into internal and external components. In the first section of this paper, I attempt to evaluate these arguments. My conclusion will be that these arguments establish several highly important points, but in the end these arguments fail to cast any doubt either on the idea that cognitive science should be largely concerned with internal mental processes, or on the idea that cognition (...)
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  42. Ralph Wedgwood (2006). The Meaning of 'Ought'. Oxford Studies in Metaethics 1:127-160.
    In this paper, I apply the "conceptual role semantics" approach that I have proposed elsewhere (according to which the meaning of normative terms is given by their role in practical reasoning or deliberation) to the meaning of the term 'ought'. I argue that this approach can do three things: It can give an adequate explanation of the special connection that normative judgments have to practical reasoning and motivation for action. It can give an adequate account of why the central principles (...)
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  43. Ralph Wedgwood (2006). The Meaning of the 'Ought'. In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume 1. Clarendon Press.
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  44. Ralph Wedgwood (2006). The Normative Force of Reasoning. Noûs 40 (4):660–686.
    What exactly is reasoning? Like many other philosophers, I shall endorse a broadly causal conception of reasoning. Reasoning is a causal process, in which one mental event (say, one’s accepting the conclusion of a certain argument) is caused by an antecedent mental event (say, one’s considering the premises of the argument). Just like causal accounts of action and causal accounts of perception, causal accounts of reasoning have to confront a version of what has come to be known as the problem (...)
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  45. Ralph Wedgwood (2005). Railton on Normativity. [REVIEW] Philosophical Studies 126 (3):463-479.
    This is a critical discussion of Part III of Peter Railton's recent book Facts, Values, and Norms: Essays Toward a Morality of Consequence (Cambridge University Press, 2003).
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  46. Ralph Wedgwood (2004). The Metaethicists' Mistake. Philosophical Perspectives 18 (1):405–426.
    According to normative judgment internalism (NJI), normative judgments -- that is, judgments of the form 'I ought to F' and the like -- are "essentially practical", in the sense that they are in some way essentially connected to practical reasoning, or to motivation for action. Many metaethicists believe that if NJI is true, then it would cast grave doubts on any robustly realist (RR) conception of normative judgments. These metaethicists are mistaken. This mistake about the relations between NJI and RR (...)
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  47. Ralph Wedgwood (2003). Choosing Rationally and Choosing Correctly. In Sarah Stroud & Christine Tappolet (eds.), Weakness of Will and Practical Irrationality. Oxford University Press. 201--229.
    According to the "recognitional" view of practical reason, rational practical reasoning consists in trying to figure out which of the available options are good things to do, and then choosing accordingly. According to the rival "constructivist" view, rational practical reasoning consists in complying with certain conditions of purely formal coherence or procedural rationality. Christine Korsgaard objects that recognitional views cannot answer the "normative question". But constructivist views are vulnerable to the same objection. One version of the recognitional view is immune (...)
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