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Profile: Ralph Wedgwood (University of Southern California)
  1. 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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  2.  69
    Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). The Pitfalls of 'Reasons'. Philosophical Issues 25.
    Many philosophers working on the branches of philosophy that deal with the normative questions have adopted a "Reasons First" program. This paper criticizes the foundational assumptions of this program. In fact, there are many different concepts that can be expressed by the term 'reason' in English, none of which are any more fundamental than any others. Indeed, most of these concepts are not particularly fundamental in any interesting sense.
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  3.  25
    Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). Internalism Re-Explained. In Julien Dutant (ed.), The New Evil Demon Problem. Oxford University Press
    Internalism is the thesis that whether or not an attitude (such as a belief or an intention) or a mental event (such as a judgment or a decision) counts as justified or rational is determined purely by what is going on in the thinker's mind at (or immediately before) the relevant time. This essay gives an explanation for why this sort of internalism is true. (In this way, it gives a restatement, in a revised form, of the kind of explanation (...)
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  4. Ralph Wedgwood (2002). The Aim of Belief. Philosophical Perspectives 16 (s16):267-97.
    It is often said, metaphorically, that belief "aims" at the truth. This paper proposes a normative interpretation of this metaphor. First, the notion of "epistemic norms" is clarified, and reasons are given for the view that epistemic norms articulate essential features of the beliefs that are subject to them. Then it is argued that all epistemic norms--including those that specify when beliefs count as rational, and when they count as knowledge--are explained by a fundamental norm of correct belief, which requires (...)
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  5.  34
    Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). Review of Being Realistic About Reasons, by T. M. Scanlon. [REVIEW] Philosophical Quarterly.
    This is a review of T. M. Scanlon's book "Being Realistic about Reasons", which is based on the Locke Lectures that Scanlon gave in Oxford in 2009.
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  6.  27
    Ralph Wedgwood (2015). An Inferentialist Conception of the A Priori. Oxford Studies in Epistemology 5:295–314.
    This paper offers an account of the a priori. According to this account, the fundamental notion is not that of a priori knowledge, or even of a priori justified belief, but a notion of an a priori justified inferential disposition. The rationality or justification of such a priori justified inferential dispositions is explained purely by some of the basic cognitive capacities that the thinker possesses, independently of any further experiences or other conscious mental states that the thinker happens to have (...)
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  7. 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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  8. Ralph Wedgwood (2001). Conceptual Role Semantics for Moral Terms. Philosophical Review 110 (1):1-30.
    This paper outlines a new approach to the task of giving an account of the meaning of moral statements: a sort of "conceptual role semantics", according to which the meaning of moral terms is given by their role in practical reasoning. This role is sufficient both to distinguish the meaning of any moral term from that of other terms, and to determine the property or relation (if any) that the term stands for. The paper ends by suggesting reasons for regarding (...)
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  9. 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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  10.  16
    Ralph Wedgwood (2014). Moral Disagreement Among Philosophers. In Michael Bergmann & Patrick Kain (eds.), Challenges to Moral and Religious Belief: Disagreement and Evolution. Oxford University Press 23-39.
    There is not only moral disagreement among ordinary people: there is also moral disagreement among philosophers. Since philosophers might seem to be in the best possible position to reach the truth about morality, such disagreement may suggest that either there is no single truth about morality, or at least if there is, it is unknowable. The goal of this paper is to rebut this argument: the best explanation of moral disagreement among philosophers is quite compatible with the thesis that many (...)
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  11. 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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  12. 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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  13. 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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  14.  39
    Ralph Wedgwood (2014). Rationality as a Virtue. Analytic Philosophy 55 (4):319-338.
    A concept that can be expressed by the term ‘rationality’ plays a central role in both epistemology and ethics -- and especially in formal epistemology and decision theory. It is argued here that when the term is used in this way, the concept of “rationality” is the concept of a kind of virtue, with all the central features that are ascribed to the virtues by Plato and Aristotle, among others. Interpreting rationality as a kind of virtue helps to solve several (...)
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  15.  12
    Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). Is Civil Marriage Illiberal? In Elizabeth Brake (ed.), Beyond Marriage. Oxford University Press
    This paper defends the institution of civil marriage against the objection that it is inconsistent with political liberalism, and so should be either totally abolished or else transformed virtually beyond recognition.
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  16. 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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  17. 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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  18.  82
    Ralph Wedgwood (2002). Internalism Explained. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2):349-369.
    According to epistemological internalism, the rationality of a belief supervenes purely on "internal facts" about the thinker's mind. But what are "internal facts"? Why does the rationality of a belief supervene on them? The standard answers are unacceptable. This paper proposes new answers. "Internal facts" are facts about the thinker's nonfactive mental states. The rationality of a belief supervenes on such internal facts because we need rules of belief revision that we can follow directly, not by means of following any (...)
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  19.  96
    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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  20.  88
    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.  75
    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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  22.  39
    Ralph Wedgwood (2002). Internalism Explained. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 65 (2):349-369.
    According to epistemological internalism, the rationality of a belief supervenes purely on "internal facts" about the thinker's mind. But what are "internal facts"? Why does the rationality of a belief supervene on them? The standard answers are unacceptable. This paper proposes new answers. "Internal facts" are facts about the thinker's nonfactive mental states. The rationality of a belief supervenes on such internal facts because we need rules of belief revision that we can follow directly, not by means of following any (...)
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  23. 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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  24. Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). Objective and Subjective 'Ought'. In Nate Charlow & Matthew Chrisman (eds.), Deontic Modality. Oxford University Press
    This essay offers an account of the truth conditions of sentences involving deontic modals like ‘ought’, designed to capture the difference between objective and subjective kinds of ‘ought’ This account resembles the classical semantics for deontic logic: according to this account, these truths conditions involve a function from the world of evaluation to a domain of worlds (equivalent to a so-called “modal base”), and an ordering of the worlds in such domains; this ordering of the worlds itself arises from two (...)
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  25.  55
    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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  26.  76
    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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  27. Ralph Wedgwood (1999). The Fundamental Argument for Same-Sex Marriage. Journal of Political Philosophy 7 (3):225–242.
    This paper offers an argument in favour of the conclusion that it is seriously unjust to exclude same-sex couples from the institution of civil marriage. The argument is based on an interpretation of what the institution of marriage essentially is, and of its essential rationale; the crucial claim is that although marriage is a legal institution, it is also a social institution, involving a "social meaning" -- a body of common knowledge and expectations about marriage that is generally shared throughout (...)
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  28. 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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  29.  71
    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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  30. 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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  31.  53
    Ralph Wedgwood (2009). Intrinsic Values and Reasons for Action. In Ernest Sosa & Enrique Villanueva (eds.), Metaethics. Wiley Periodicals, Inc. 321-342.
    What reasons for action do we have? What explains why we have these reasons? In this paper, I shall articulate some of the basic structural features of a theory that would provide answers to these questions. So my primary focus here is on the nature of reasons for action themselves, not on the meaning of the terms that can be used to talk about such reasons. However, it seems plausible that the term "reason for action" is in fact used in (...)
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  32.  88
    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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  33.  89
    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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  34. 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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  35.  78
    Ralph Wedgwood (2002). Practical Reason and Desire. Australasian Journal of Philosophy 80 (3):345 – 358.
    Many philosophres have attempted to argue from the "Humean Theory of Motivation" (HTM) and the "Internalism Requirement" (IR) to the "Humean Theory of Practical Reason" (HTPR). This argument is familiar, but it has rarely been stated with sufficient precision. In this paper, I shall give a precise statement of this argument. I shall then rely on this statement to show two things. First, the HTPR is false: it is incompatible with some extremely plausible assumptions about weakness of will or akrasia. (...)
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  36.  61
    Ralph Wedgwood (1999). The a Priori Rules of Rationality. Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 59 (1):113-131.
    Both these ideas are intuitively plausible: rationality has an external aim, such as forming a true belief or good decision; and the rationality of a belief or decision is determined purely by facts about the thinker’s internal mental states. Unlike earlier conceptions, the conception of rationality presented here explains why these ideas are both true. Rational beliefs and decisions, it is argued, are those that are formed through the thinker’s following ‘rules of rationality’. Some rules count as rules of rationality (...)
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  37.  48
    Ralph Wedgwood (2000). The Price of Non-Reductive Physicalism. Noûs 34 (3):400-421.
    Nonreductive physicalism faces a serious objection: physicalism entails the existence of an enormous number of modal facts--specifically, facts about exactly which physical properties necessitate each mental property; and, it seems, if mental properties are irreducible, these modal facts cannot all be satisfactorily explained. The only answer to this objection is to claim that the explanations of these modal facts are themselves contingent. This claim requires rejecting "S5" as the appropriate logic for metaphysical modality. Finally, it is argued that rejecting "S5" (...)
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  38.  88
    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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  39.  83
    Ralph Wedgwood (2013). The Weight of Moral Reasons. Oxford Studies in Normative Ethics (Ed. Mark Timmons) 3:35-58.
    This paper starts by giving an interpretation of the notorious question "Why be moral?" Then, to answer that question, it develops an account of why some moral reasons -- specifically, the moral reasons that ground moral requirements -- are sufficiently weighty that they outweigh all countervailing reasons for action.
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  40.  70
    Ralph Wedgwood (1999). The Price of Non-Reductive Moral Realism. Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (3):199-215.
    Non-reductive moral realism is the view that there are moral properties which cannot be reduced to natural properties. If moral properties exist, it is plausible that they strongly supervene on non-moral properties- more specifically, on mental, social, and biological properties. There may also be good reasons for thinking that moral properties are irreducible. However, strong supervenience and irreducibility seem incompatible. Strong supervenience entails that there is an enormous number of modal truths (specifically, truths about exactly which non-moral properties necessitate which (...)
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  41.  75
    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 “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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  42.  68
    Ralph Wedgwood (2013). Akrasia and Uncertainty. Organon F: Medzinárodný Časopis Pre Analytickú Filozofiu 20 (4):483–505.
    According to John Broome, akrasia consists in a failure to intend to do something that one believes one ought to do, and such akrasia is necessarily irrational. In fact, however, failing to intend something that one believes one ought to do is only guaranteed to be irrational if one is certain of a maximally detailed proposition about what one ought to do; if one is uncertain about any part of the full story about what one ought to do, it could (...)
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  43. Ralph Wedgwood (2013). A Priori Bootstrapping. In Albert Casullo & Joshua Thurow (eds.), The A Priori In Philosophy. Oxford University Press 226-246.
    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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  44.  12
    Ralph Wedgwood (forthcoming). Two Grades of Non-Consequentialism. Criminal Law and Philosophy:1-20.
    In this paper, I explore how to accommodate non-consequentialist constraints with a broadly value-based conception of reasons for action. It turns out that there are two grades of non-consequentialist constraints. The first grade involves attaching ethical importance to such distinctions as the doing/allowing distinction, and the distinction between intended and unintended consequences that is central to the Doctrine of Double Effect. However, at least within the value-based framework, this first grade is insufficient to explain rights, which ground weighty reasons against (...)
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  45.  95
    Ralph Wedgwood (2002). Practical Reasoning as Figuring Out What is Best: Against Constructivism. Topoi 21 (1-2):139-152.
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  46. 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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  47.  88
    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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  48.  89
    Ralph Wedgwood (2013). The Right Thing to Believe. In Timothy Chan (ed.), The Aim of Belief. Oxford University Press 123-139.
    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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  49.  80
    Ralph Wedgwood (2001). Sensing Values? Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 63 (1):215-223.
    This is a reply to Mark Johnston's paper "The Authority of Affect", Philosophy and Phenomenological Research (2001).
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  50.  60
    Ralph Wedgwood (1997). The Essence of Response-Dependence. European Review of Philosophy 3:31-54.
    Many philosophers have thought that colours or flavours or values are in some way less objective than shape or mass or motion. This paper explores the approach to capturing this thought that is based on the idea of ‘response-dependence’. First, it is argued that the conceptions of response-dependence developed by Mark Johnston, Philip Pettit and Crispin Wright fail to capture this thought adequately. Then, the rest of the paper proposes an alternative conception, based in part on Kit Fine's notion of (...)
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