Objective chance and morality are rarely discussed together. In this paper, I argue that there is a surprising similarity in the epistemic standing of our beliefs about both objective chance and objective morality. The key similarity is that both of these sorts of belief are undermined -- in a limited, but important way -- by plausible genealogical accounts of the concepts that feature in these beliefs. The paper presents a brief account of Richard Joyce's evolutionary hypothesis of the genealogy of (...) morality, and refines the debunking argument which he consequently mounts against moral beliefs. The evolutionary hypothesis in question suggests that we could easily have failed to believe that moral judgments have a peculiarly categorical force. This aspect of our moral belief, then, is unreliable. The paper then turns to chance, and presents a more speculative hypothesis about the cultural evolution of ideas about chance, as a peculiarly physical and objective form of probability. It is argued that, in the same way that our beliefs about morality could easily have lacked the commitment to inescapable force, our beliefs about chance could easily have lacked various idiosyncratic commitments. By a similar argument then, these aspects of our chance beliefs are unreliable. In the final section of the paper, I review some recent objections to genealogical debunking arguments, due to Roger White and Guy Kahane, showing how the form of argument developed in this paper is immune to these criticisms. (shrink)
Nations are understood to have a right to go to war, not only in defense of individual rights, but in defense of their own political standing in a given territory. This paper argues that the political defensive privilege cannot be satisfactorily explained, either on liberal cosmopolitan grounds or on pluralistic grounds. In particular, it is argued that pluralistic accounts require giving implausibly strong weight to the value of political communities, overwhelming the standing of individuals. Liberal cosmopolitans, it is argued, underestimate (...) the difficulties in disentangling a state’s role in upholding or threatening individual interests from its role in providing the social context that shapes and determines those very interests. The paper proposes an alternative theory, “prosaic statism”, which shares the individualistic assumptions of liberal cosmopolitanism, but avoids a form of fundamentalism about human rights, and is therefore less likely to recommend humanitarian intervention in non-liberal states. (shrink)
The most familiar philosophical conception of objective chance renders determinism incompatible with non-trivial chances. This conception – associated in particular with the work of David Lewis – is not a good fit with our use of the word ‘chance’ and its cognates in ordinary discourse. In this paper we show how a generalized framework for chance can reconcile determinism with non-trivial chances, and provide for a more charitable interpretation of ordinary chance-talk. According to our proposal, variation in an admissible ‘evidence (...) base’ generates a spectrum of different chance functions. Successive coarse-grainings of the evidence base generates a partial ordering of chance functions, with finer trumping coarser if known. We suggest that chance-attributions in ordinary discourse express different chance functions in different contexts, and we sketch a potential contextual mechanism for making particular chance functions salient. The mechanism involves the idea that admissible evidence is available evidence: propositions that could be known. A consequence is that attributions of objective chances inherit the relatively familiar context-sensitivity associated with the modal ‘could’. We show how this context-dependency undermines certain arguments for the incompatibility of chance with determinism. (shrink)
If A is better than B and B is better than C, then A is better than C, right? Larry Temkin and Stuart Rachels say: No! Betterness is nontransitive, they claim. In this paper, I discuss the central type of argument advanced by Temkin and Rachels for this radical idea, and argue that, given this view very likely has sceptical implications for practical reason, we would do well to identify alternative responses. I propose one such response, which employs the idea (...) that rational agents might regard some options as incommensurate in value, and will reasonably employ a heuristic of status quo maintenance to avoid suboptimal choices from incommensurate goods. (shrink)
Contents: 1. The concept of chance; 2. The classical picture; 3. Ways the world might be; 4. Possibilities of thought; 5. Chance in phase space; 6. Possibilist theories of chance; 7. Actualist theories of chance; 8. Anti-realist theories of chance; 9. Chance in quantum physics; 10. Chance in branching worlds; 11. Time and evidence; 12. Debunking chance.
What difference does it make to matters of value, for a desire satisfactionist, if a given desire is *absent*, rather than *present*? I argue that it is most plausible to hold that the state in which a given desire is satisfied is, other things being equal, incommensurate with the state in which that desire does not exist at all. In addition to illustrating the internal attractions of the view, I demonstrate that this idea has attractive implications for population ethics. Finally, (...) I show that the view is not subject to John Broome's `greedy neutrality' worry. (shrink)
We present a probabilistic extension to active path analyses of token causation (Halpern & Pearl 2001, forthcoming; Hitchcock 2001). The extension uses the generalized notion of intervention presented in (Korb et al. 2004): we allow an intervention to set any probability distribution over the intervention variables, not just a single value. The resulting account can handle a wide range of examples. We do not claim the account is complete --- only that it fills an obvious gap in previous active-path approaches. (...) It still succumbs to recent counterexamples by Hiddleston (2005), because it does not explicitly consider causal processes. We claim three benefits: a detailed comparison of three active-path approaches, a probabilistic extension for each, and an algorithmic formulation. (shrink)
In this paper we present an account of practical rationality and weakness of will in terms of rational capacities. We show how our account rectifies various shortcomings in Michael Smith's related theory. In particular, our account is capable of accommodating cases of weak-willed behaviour that are not `akratic', or otherwise contrary to the agent's better judgement. Our account differs from Smith's primarily by incorporating resolve: a third rational capacity for resolute maintenance of one's intentions. We discuss further two ways to (...) explain the importance of resolve to practical rationality: one based on Richard Holton's recent work, and an alternative, non-consequentialist account. (shrink)
This paper examines the idea that there might be natural kinds of causal processes, with characteristic diachronic structure, in much the same way that various chemical elements form natural kinds, with characteristic synchronic structure. This claim -- if compatible with empirical science -- has the potential to shed light on a metaphysics of essentially dispositional properties, championed by writers such as Bird and Ellis.
In recent decades, the analysis of causal relations has become a topic of central importance in analytic philosophy. More recently, dispositional properties have also become objects of intense study. Both of these phenomena appear to be intimately related to counterfactual conditionals and other modal phenomena such as objective chance, but little work has been done to directly relate them. This collection contains ten essays by scholars working in both metaphysics and in philosophy of science, examining the relation between dispositional and (...) causal concepts. (shrink)
Just war theory is a difficult, even paradoxical, philosophical topic. It is not just that warfare involves large-scale, organised, deliberate killing, and hence might seem the very paradigm of immorality. The just war tradition sharply divorces the question of whether or not it is permissible to resort to war – the question of jus ad bellum – from the question of how and against whom one may inflict harm once at war – the question of jus in bello. As Michael (...) Walzer notes,1 this separation of jus in bello from jus ad bellum means that we can meaningfully talk of an unjust war being fought justly, and vice versa: soldiers defending against aggression might nevertheless be criminals for the way in which they do it; while soldiers prosecuting an aggressive war, provided they fight it in the right way, are without culpability. This paper will draw upon the morality of individual self-defence to explain certain important features of the traditional jus in bello: the permissibility of killing, even by soldiers who lack justice on their side; the principles that govern surrender and the taking of prisoners of war; and the principle of discrimination between soldiers and civilians. Our explanation will not leave all aspects of the jus in bello undisturbed: it has consequences that are revisionary in at least some respects, this being the upshot of trying to explain the jus in bello in individualist terms. Partly because of such consequences, approaching the morality of war in individualist terms is neither straightforward nor uncontroversial.2 But we are prepared to accept.. (shrink)
This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke-Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to repair dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes - interfering dispositions and conditions - to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, contrary dispositions of the agent, because in (...) all cases, at least some of the interfering dispositions are both relatively permanent and intrinsic to the agent. The presence of these instrinsic and relatively permanent states renders the ascription of a rule-following disposition to the agent false. (shrink)
Humean metaphysics is characterized by a rejection of necessary connections between distinct existences. Dispositionalists claim that there are basic causal powers. The existence of such properties is widely held to be incompatible with the Humean rejection of necessary connections. In this paper I present a novel theory of causal powers that vindicates the dispositionalist claim that causal powers are basic, without embracing brute necessary connections. The key assumptions of the theory are that there are natural types of causal processes, and (...) that manifestations of powers are identified with certain kinds of causal processes. From these assumptions, the modal features of powers are explained in terms of internal relations between powers themselves and the process-types in which powers are manifested. (shrink)
This paper develops two ideas with respect to dispositional properties: (1) Adapting a suggestion of Sungho Choi, it appears the conceptual distinction between dispositional and categorical properties can be drawn in terms of susceptibility to finks and antidotes. Dispositional, but not categorical properties, are not susceptible to intrinsic finks, nor are they remediable by intrinsic antidotes. (2) If correct, this suggests the possibility that some dispositions—those which lack any causal basis—may be insusceptible to any fink or antidote. Since finks and (...) antidotes are a major obstacle to a conditional analysis of dispositions, these dispositions that are unfinkable may be successfully analysed by the conditional analysis of dispositions. This result is of importance for those who think that the fundamental properties might be dispositions which lack any distinct causal basis, because it suggests that these properties, if they exist, can be analysed by simple conditionals and that they will not be subject to ceteris paribus laws. (shrink)
This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke–Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to employ dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes—interfering dispositions and conditions—to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, contrary dispositions of the agent, because in all cases, at least (...) some of the interfering dispositions are both relatively permanent and intrinsic to the agent. The presence of these intrinsic and relatively permanent states renders the ascription of a rule-following disposition to the agent false. (shrink)
This paper presents an attempt to integrate theories of causal processes—of the kind developed by Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe—into a theory of causal models using Bayesian networks. We suggest that arcs in causal models must correspond to possible causal processes. Moreover, we suggest that when processes are rendered physically impossible by what occurs on distinct paths, the original model must be restricted by removing the relevant arc. These two techniques suffice to explain cases of late preëmption and other cases (...) that have proved problematic for causal models. (shrink)
Michael Smith has resisted Harry Frankfurt's claim that moral responsibility does not require the ability to have done otherwise. He does this by claiming that, in Frankfurt cases, the ability to do otherwise is indeed present, but is a disposition that has been `finked' or masked by other factors. We suggest that, while Smith's account appears to work for some classic Frankfurt cases, it does not work for all. In particular, Smith cannot explain cases, such as the Willing Addict, where (...) the Frankfurt devise - e.g. the addiction - is intrinsic to the agent. (shrink)
D. M. Armstrong has objected that the Dispositionalist theory of laws and properties is modally inverted, for it entails that properties are constituted by relations to non-actual possibilia. I contend that, if this objection succeeds against Dispositionalism, then Armstrong's nomic necessitation relation is also modally inverted. This shows that at least one of Armstrong's reasons for preferring a nomic necessitation theory is specious.
Marc Lange objects to scientific essentialists that they can give no better account of the counterfactual invariance of laws than Humeans. While conceding this point succeeds ad hominem against some essentialists, I show that it does not undermine essentialism in general. Moreover, Lange's alternative account of the relation between laws and counterfactuals is - with minor modification - compatible with essentialism.
David McCarthy has recently suggested that our compensation and liability practices may be interpreted as reflecting a fundamental norm to hold people liable for imposing risk of harm on others. Independently, closely related ideas have been criticised by Stephen R. Perry and Arthur Ripstein as incompatible with central features of negligence law. We aim to show that these objections are unsuccessful against McCarthy’s Risk–liability theory, and that such an approach is a promising means both for understanding the moral basis of (...) liability for negligence and for reasoning about possible reforms of the institution of negligence law. (shrink)
Necessitarian accounts of the laws of nature meet an apparent difficulty: for them, counterlegal conditionals, despite appearing to be substantive, seem to come out as vacuous. I argue that the necessitarian may use the presuppositions of counterlegal discourse to explain this. If the typical presupposition that necessitarianism is false is made explicit in counterlegal utterances, we obtain sentences such as 'If it turns out that the laws of nature are contingent, then if the laws had been otherwise, then such and (...) such would have been the case', which are non-vacuous and very often true. This goes a long way towards resolving the difficulty for necessitarianism. (shrink)
Is a Nozickian theory of rights compatible with a no-fault motor insurance scheme? I say, Yes. The argument turns on an explication of the basis on which a Nozickian justifies the prohibition of merely risky activities.