Revisionism in the theory of moral responsibility is the idea that some aspect of responsibility practices, attitudes, or concept is in need of revision. While the increased frequency of revisionist language in the literature on free will and moral responsibility is striking, what discussion there has been of revisionism about responsibility and free will tends to be critical. In this paper, I argue that at least one species of revisionism, moderate revisionism, is considerably more sophisticated and (...) defensible than critics have realized. I go on to argue for the advantages of moderate revisionist theories over standard compatibilist and incompatibilist theories. (shrink)
The present chapter is concerned with revisionism about free will. It begins by offering a new characterization of revisionist accounts and the way such accounts fit (or do not) in the familiar framework of compatibilism and incompatibilism. It then traces some of the recent history of the development of revisionist accounts, and concludes by remarking on some challenges for them.
Philosophers who theorize about whether free will is compatible with causal determinism often rely on ordinary intuitions to bolster their theory. A revisionist theory of free will takes a different approach, saying that the best philosophical theory of what we ought to think about free will conflicts with what we ordinarily do think about free will. I contend that revisionism has not been taken as seriously as should be because philosophers have not realized the extent to which ordinary intuitions (...) are inconsistent. I present an experiment that gives empirical evidence for revisionism. The experiment shows that, in spite of the fact that the ?is compatible with? relation is symmetric, folk intuitions change as a function of whether we ask ?Is determinism compatible with free will?? versus ?Is free will compatible with determinism?? The paper explores possible explanations for why folk intuitions do not mirror the symmetry of the ?is compatible with? relation, but regardless of which of these explanations is correct, I argue that we must be revisionists in at least this sense: what we ought to believe about free will cannot include everything we do believe about free will. (shrink)
In recent years, a revisionist process focused on logical positivism can be observed, particularly regarding Carnap’s work. In this paper, I argue against the interpretation that Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions having been published in the International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, co-edited by Carnap, is evidence of the revisionist idea that Carnap “would have found Structure philosophically congenial”. I claim that Kuhn’s book, from Carnap’s point of view, is not in philosophy of science but rather in history of science (...) (in the context of a sharp discovery–justification distinction). It could also explain the fact that, despite his sympathetic letters to Kuhn as editor, Carnap never refers to Kuhn’s book in his work in philosophy of science. (shrink)
Revisionists claim that the retributive intuitions informing our responsibility-attributing practices are unwarranted under determinism, not only because they are false, but because if we are all victims of causal luck , it is unfair to treat one another as if we are deserving of moral and legal sanctions. One (moderate) revisionist strategy recommends a deflationary concept of moral responsibility, and that we justify punishment in consequentialist rather than retributive terms. Another (strong) revisionist strategy recommends that we eliminate all concepts of (...) guilt, blame and punishment, and treat dangerous criminals as we treat people with contagious diseases. I argue against both strong and moderate revisionism that (1) it is not unfair to hold persons desert-entailingly responsible (in a weaker sense of âdesertâ) insofar as they take an interest in being treated as appraisable, and (2) that it is unfair to persons not to treat them as desert-entailingly responsible (in this weaker sense) contrary to their interests in being treated as such. The interest-based argument, I conclude, give us a justification for communicating retributive attitudes, but may still require a weak revision of our retributive practices, in the direction of a communicative theory of punishment. (shrink)
To propose a revisionist ontology of art one has to hold that our everyday intuitions about the identity and persistence conditions of various kinds of artworks can be massively mistaken. In my presentation I defend this view: our everyday intuitions about the nature of art can be (and sometimes are) mistaken. First I reconstruct an influential argument of Amie L. Thomasson (2004; 2005; 2006; 2007a; 2007b) against the fallibility of our intuitive judgments about the identity and persistence conditions of various (...) kinds of artworks. Second, I present three objections to this account: two of them concern the semantic and pragmatic rules regulating the use of art-kind terms, while the third one is based on the assumption that the history of art partly comprises a series of successful attempts of transgression of artistic conventions and expectations, therefore our artistic intuitions are dynamic. Taking this point I finally argue that in philosophy of art we need a “reverse” methodology: first we have to provide a general definition, containing all the sufficient and necessary conditions of artworks (“being an artwork”) in any period within the history of art. Only after completing this task are we ready to answer the metaphysical question about the ontological status of works of art. (shrink)
In recent years, reﬂection on the relationship between individual moral responsibility and determinism has undergone a remarkable renaissance. Incompatibilists, those who believe moral responsibility is incompatible with determinism, have offered powerful new arguments in support of their views. Compatibilists, those who think moral responsibility is compatible with determinism, have responded with ingenious counterexamples and alternative accounts of responsibility. Despite the admirable elevation of complexity and subtlety within both camps, the trajectory of the literature is somewhat discouraging. Every dialectical stalemate between (...) incompatibilists and compatibilists seems to be superseded by a similar though often more subtle stalemate.1 The stalemates have two sources. On the one hand, incompatibilists again and again ﬁnd powerful intuitive support from our folk concept. On the other hand, compatibilists seem right to insist that even if determinism were true, this would not mitigate our need for a concept of responsibility. (shrink)
I’ve been told that in the good old days of the 1970s, when Quine’s desert landscapes were regarded as ideal real estate and David Lewis and John Rawls had not yet left a legion of inﬂuential students rewriting the terrain of metaphysics and ethics respectively, compatibilism was still compatibilism about free will. And, of course, incompatibilism was still incompatibilism about free will. That is, compatibilism was the view that free will was compatible with determinism. Incompatibilism was the view that free (...) will was incompatible with determinism.1 What philosophers argued about was whether free will was compatible with determinism. Mostly, this was an argument about how to understand claims that one could do otherwise. You needn’t have bothered to talk about moral responsibility, because it was just obvious that you couldn’t have moral responsibility without free will. The literature was a temple of clarity. Then, somehow, things began to go horribly wrong. To be sure, there had been some activity in the 1960s that would have struck some observers as ominous. Still, it was not until the 1980s that those initial warning signs gave way to real trouble. The meanings of terms twisted. (shrink)
In this paper we suggest a revisionist perspective on two significant figures in early modern life science and philosophy: William Harvey and John Locke. Harvey, the discoverer of the circulation of the blood, is often named as one of the rare representatives of the ‘life sciences’ who was a major figure in the Scientific Revolution. While this status itself is problematic, we would like to call attention to a different kind of problem: Harvey dislikes abstraction and controlled experiments (aside from (...) the ligature experiment in De Motu Cordis), tends to dismiss the value of instruments such as the microscope, and emphasizes instead the privileged status of ‘observed experience’. To use a contemporary term, Harvey appears to rely on, and chiefly value, ‘tacit knowledge’. Secondly, Locke’s project is often explained with reference to the image he uses in the Epistle to the Reader of his Essay, that he was an “underlabourer” of the sciences. In fact, despite the significant medical phase of his career, Locke’s ‘empiricism’ turns out to be above all a practical (i.e. ‘moral’) project, which focuses on the delimitation of our powers in order to achieve happiness, and rejects the possibility of naturalizing knowledge. When combined, these two cases suggest a different view of some canonical moments in early modern natural philosophy. (shrink)
This article summarizes and extends the moderate revisionist position I put forth in Four Views on Free Will and responds to objections to it from Robert Kane, John Martin Fischer, Derk Pereboom, and Michael McKenna. Among the principle topics of the article are (1) motivations for revisionism, what it is, and how it is different from compatibilism and hard incompatibilism, (2) an objection to libertarianism based on the moral costs of its current epistemic status, (3) an objection to the (...) distinctiveness of semicompatibilism against conventional forms of compatibilism, and (4) whether moderate revisionism is committed to realism about moral responsibility. (shrink)
In the literature on supervaluationism, a central source of concern has been the acceptability, or otherwise, of its alleged logical revisionism. I attack the presupposition of this debate: arguing that when properly construed, there is no sense in which supervaluational consequence is revisionary. I provide new considerations supporting the claim that the supervaluational consequence should be characterized in a ‘global’ way. But pace Williamson (1994) and Keefe (2000), I argue that supervaluationism does not give rise to counterexamples to familiar (...) inference-patterns such as reductio and conditional proof. (shrink)
Revisionist interpretation of Mill needs to be extended to deal with a residue of puzzles about his moral theory and its connection with his theory of liberty. The upshot shows his reinterpretation of his Benthamite tradition as a form of ‘philosophical utilitarianism’; his definition of the art of morality as collective self-defence; his ignoring of maximization in favour of ad hoc dealing in utilities; the central role of his account of the justice of punishment; the marginal role of the internal (...) sanction in his criterion of moral wrong; his deep respect for common-sense morality; and his restriction of the scope of morality so as to claim for the utilitarian tradition the whole realm of the aesthetics of conduct as part of a general theory of practical reason. (shrink)
Revisionism in the theory of moral responsibility is, roughly, the idea that some aspect of our responsibility practices, attitudes, or concept is in need of revision. In this paper, I argue that (1) in spite of being an increasingly prevalent thread in discussions of moral responsibility, revisionism is poorly understood, (2) the limited critical discussion there has been of it does not reflect the complexities and nuances of revisionist theories, and (3) at least one species of revisionismmoderate (...) class='Hi'>revisionism- has some advantages over conventional compatibilist and incompatibilist theories. If I am right, one result is that the outcome of prominent debates about the compatibility (or not) of determinism and our commonsense thinking about moral responsibility may be less crucial than they seem. (shrink)
Personal pronoun revisionism (so-called by Olson, E. 2007. What are We? A Study in Personal Ontology. Oxford: Oxford University Press) is a response to the problem of the thinking animal on behalf of the neo-Lockean theorist. Many worry about this response. The worry rests on asking the wrong question, namely: how can two thinkers that are so alike differ in this way in their cognitive capacities? This is the wrong question because they don't. The right question is: how can (...) they fail to be the same? From the materialist viewpoint shared by the animalist and neo-Lockean they can't. Personal pronoun revisionism is a consequence of their cognitive identity. (shrink)
This article summarizes and extends the moderate revisionist position I put forth in Four Views on Free Will and responds to objections to it from Robert Kane, John Martin Fischer, Derk Pereboom, and Michael McKenna. Among the principle topics of the article are (1) motivations for revisionism, what it is, and how it is different from compatibilism and hard incompatibilism, (2) an objection to libertarianism based on the moral costs of its current epistemic status, (3) an objection to the (...) distinctiveness of semicompatibilism against conventional forms of compatibilism and (4) whether moderate revisionism is committed to realism about moral responsibility. (shrink)
The Catholic moral tradition has consistently offered the distinction between ordinary and extraordinary means as a framework for making end-of-life decisions. Recent papal allocutions, however, have raised the question of whether providing artificial nutrition to patients in a persistent vegetative state is to be considered ordinary and thus morally obligatory in all cases. I argue that this “revisionist” position is contrary to Catholic teaching and that enforcing such a position would endanger the ability of Catholic health care institutions to minister (...) to all their constituents. (shrink)
Abstract The paper argues that James's conception of truth is non?revisionist, that is, it sanctions common use of the notion of truth, but criticizes foundation?alist philosophical accounts of that notion. This interpretation conflicts with traditional interpretations of James such as Russell's and Moore's, and contemporary interpretations such as Dummett's, all of which are revisionist. To the extent that objections raised against James's pragmatism depend on such revisionist reading, this paper constitutes a defence of James. The paper argues, further, that non? (...) class='Hi'>revisionism distinguishes James from logical positivism and contemporary verificationism, and that James seeks to defend rather than renounce metaphysics. On this issue the paper disagrees with Rorty, who ascribes to James an extreme anti?metaphysical stance. (shrink)
We understand metahistory as an approach that studies how histories within a particular discipline have been written and focus on insider scientists’ reconstructions of twin research. Using the concept of ethical-political affordances we suggest that such histories are based on a management of resources that prove to be beneficial for representing one’s own research traditions in a positive light. Instead of discussing information on the context and intellectual life of pioneers of the twin method, which include high-caliber eugenicists and Nazi (...) ideologues, and on how the twin method has been used and abused, insider scientists’ accounts present twin research as neutral, objective and void of any kind of political connotations. We show how important leaders of German twin research have been historically managed, and how their contributions have been distorted and omitted. Reasons for historical revisionism by omission and for selectively revised accounts of the past are discussed. Suggestions for writing accounts of the twin method are included and focus on the necessity of self-reflection, considerations regarding one’s own ethical-political inclinations, and review of the existing historical literature. In analyzing these connections, we attempt to understand how science, politics and history interact. (shrink)
Written in the wake of a critical incident which the author considers worrying and yet characteristic of the times we live in, this article contends that the conflation heretofore evident between critical historical thinking (revisionism) and negationism is ultimately harmful to the historical discipline since it can serve the interests of the deniers and indirectly grant an argument to radical postmodernists who demote history to a loosely constructed form of personal fiction. On the other hand, it also eschews the (...) belief in historical scholarship as an immiscible category demarcated by impenetrable boundaries, which is habitually associated with empirical positivism. Furthermore, it argues strongly for the introduction of a diachronic perspective in the study of revisionism not only to show the steady process of professionalization of the discipline but to disclose an often neglected or denied aspect: its contribution to the evolution of philosophical thought. (shrink)
This paper outlines one way of thinking about the problem of free will, some general reasons for dissatisfactions with traditional approaches to solving it, and some considerations in favor of pursuing a broadly revisionist solution to it. If you are looking for a student-friendly introduction to revisionist theorizing about free will, this is probably the thing to look at.
There is an enduring story about empiricism, which runs as follows: from Locke onwards to Carnap, empiricism is the doctrine in which raw sense-data are received through the passive mechanism of perception; experience is the effect produced by external reality on the mind or ‘receptors’. Empiricism on this view is the ‘handmaiden’ of experimental natural science, seeking to redefine philosophy and its methods in conformity with the results of modern science. Secondly, there is a story about materialism, popularized initially by (...) Marx and Engels and later restated as standard, ‘textbook’ history of philosophy in the English-speaking world. It portrays materialism as explicitly mechanistic, seeking to reduce the world of qualities, sensations, and purposive behaviour to a quantitative, usually deterministic physical scheme. Building on some recent scholarship, I aim to articulate the contrarian view according to which neither of these stories is true. On the contrary, empiricism turns out to be less ‘science-friendly’ and more concerned with moral matters; materialism reveals itself to be, in at least a large number of cases, a ‘vital’, anti-mechanistic doctrine which focuses on the unique properties of organic beings. This revision of two key philosophical episodes should reveal that our history of early modern philosophy is dependent to a great extent on ‘special interests’, whether positivistic or Kantian, and by extension lead us to rethink the relation and distinction between ‘science’ and ‘philosophy’ in this period. (shrink)
In this paper I offer from a source compatibilist's perspective a critical discussion of "Four Views on Free Will" by John Martin Fischer, Robert Kane, Derk Pereboom, and Manuel Vargas. Sharing Fischer's semi-compatibilist view, I propose modifications to his arguments while resisting his coauthors' objections. I argue against Kane that he should give up the requirement that a free and morally responsible agent be able to do otherwise (in relevant cases). I argue against Pereboom that his famed manipulation argument be (...) resisted by contending that the agents in it are free and responsible. And I also argue against Vargas by challenging the sense in which his revisionist thesis differs from a position like Fischer's and mine. I close by reflecting on the nature of desert. All seem to assume it is central to the debate, but what is it? (shrink)
I examine the extent to which Dennett’s account in Freedom Evolves might be construed as revisionist about free will or should instead be understood as a more traditional kind of compatibilism. I also consider Dennett’s views about philosophical work on free agency and its relationship to scientiﬁc inquiry, and I argue that extant philosophical work is more relevant to scientiﬁc inquiry than Dennett’s remarks may suggest.
This paper addresses three problems: the problem of formulating a coherent relativism, the Sorites paradox and a seldom noticed difficulty in the best intuitionistic case for the revision of classical logic. A response to the latter is proposed which, generalised, contributes towards the solution of the other two. The key to this response is a generalised conception of indeterminacy as a specific kind of intellectual bafflement - Quandary. Intuitionistic revisions of classical logic are merited wherever a subject matter is conceived (...) both as liable to generate Quandary and as subject to a broad form of evidential constraint. So motivated, the distinctions enshrined in intuitionistic logic provide both for a satisfying resolution of the Sorites paradox and a coherent outlet for relativistic views about, e.g., matters of taste and morals. An important corollary of the discussion is that an epistemic conception of vagueness can be prised apart from the strong metaphysical realism with which its principal supporters have associated it, and acknowledged to harbour an independent insight. (shrink)
In this lively and entertaining book, Terence Ball maintains that 'classic' works in political theory continue to speak to us only if they are periodically re-read and reinterpreted from alternative perspectives. That, the author contends, is how these works became classics, and why they are regarded as such. Ball suggests a way of reading that is both 'pluralist' and 'problem-driven'--pluralist in that there is no one right way to read a text, and problem-driven in that the reinterpretation is motivated by (...) problems that emerge while reading these texts. In addition, the subsequent readings and interpretations become more and more suffused with the interpretations of others. This tour de force, always entertaining and eclectic, focuses on the core problems surrounding many of the major thinkers. Was Machiavelli really amoral? Why did language matter so much to Hobbes--and why should it matter to us? Are the roots of the totalitarian state to be found in Rousseau? Were the utilitarians sexist in their view of the franchise? The author's aim is to show how a pluralist and problem-centered approach can shed new light on old and recent works in political theory, and on the controversies that continue over their meaning and significance. Written in a lively and accessible style, the book will provoke debate among students and scholars alike. (shrink)
Central to discussion of supervaluationist accounts of vagueness is the extent to which they require revisions of classical logic and if so, whether those revisions are objectionable. In an important recent Journal of Philosophy article, J.R.G. Williams presents a powerful challenge to the orthodox view that supervaluationism is objectionably revisionary. Williams argues both that supervaluationism is non-revisionary and that even if it were, those revisions would be unobjectionable. This note shows that his arguments for both claims fail.
According to the standard (recent) history of connectionism (see for example the accounts offered by Hecht-Nielsen (1990: pp. 14-19) and Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1988), or Papert's (1988: pp. 3-4) somewhat whimsical description), in the early days of Classical Computational Theory of Mind (CCTM) based AI research, there was also another allegedly distinct approach, one based upon network models. The work on network models seems to fall broadly within the scope of the term 'connectionist' (see Aizawa 1992), although the term had (...) yet to be coined at the time. These two approaches were "two daughter sciences" according to Papert (1988: p. 3). The fundamental difference between these two 'daughters', lay (according to Dreyfus and Dreyfus (1988: p. 16)) in what they took to be the paradigm of intelligence. Whereas the early connectionists took learning to be fundamental, the traditional school concentrated upon problem solving. (shrink)
The article shows that Mill's ethical theory is intimately connected with his theory of human improvement. This can be discerned by analyzing how his utilitarianism differs from Bentham's version. Mill regards the received doctrine as inadequate and he defends it against its critics by making major changes. The article argues that Mill's introduction of qualitative distinctions among pleasures and his emphasis on the higher pleasures were designed to accommodate utilitarianism to his belief in self-cultivation and progress. It concludes that Mill's (...) revisions make utilitarianism more plausible, although problems remain. (shrink)
A reply to Quentin Smith's argument (abstracted in this section; 9607133) that important ideas of the "new theory of reference" do not emanate from the work of Saul Kripke, as is commonly assumed, but from an article by Ruth Barcan Marcus (1961). In an analysis of the historical records, Smith's claims are found to be false. It is argued that Marcus's papers do not concern natural language & do not contain defenses of proper names. Kripke's role, unlike that of Marcus, (...) is claimed to be central in the elaboration of the theory of reference. (shrink)
In a comprehensive survey of contemporary scholarship on Zhang Zai's (1020-1077) development of the notion qi ( 'vital energy') in the context of his critique of the Buddhist, I observe that there is a prevalent imposition of a Western concept, namely, 'substance monism', on his understanding of qi . It is assumed that he posits that 'the myriad things ( wanwu )' and 'the vast emptiness ( taixu )' are simultaneously differentiated and unified in that they are but different manifestations (...) of an undifferentiated singular entity, that is, qi . I argue that such understanding distorts the 'logic' of Zhang Zai's qi that accounts for the simultaneous differentiation and the unity of 'the myriad things' and 'the vast emptiness' in terms of relationally opposed polarities and the dynamic unity amongst them. I also argue that this understanding distorts his practical message that emphasizes the endeavor to create coherence among our differences without recourse to a realm of 'oneness' that transcends our differences. (shrink)