In Essays on the Active Powers, Thomas Reid offers two different accounts of motives. According to the first, motives are the ends for which we act. According to the second, they are mental states, such as desires, that incite us to action. These two accounts, I claim, do not fit comfortably with Reid's agent causal account of human action. My project in this article is to explain why and then to propose a strategy for reconciling these two accounts with Reid's (...) views about action. (shrink)
This essay is in the philosophy of Christian liturgy. Specifically, it explores the liturgical practice, at home in the Eastern Orthodox Church, of venerating icons, asking: What is it about the liturgical role of icons that would make behavior such as touching and kissing them appropriate? After arguing that the standard answers to this question offered by Western and Eastern Christians are inadequate, I develop an account according to which the icons are instruments of divine action. More exactly, I claim (...) that they are vehicles of divine discourse. The behavior exhibited toward icons on the part of Eastern Christians, I maintain, makes excellent sense on the assumption that they are responses to speech acts performed by God by way of God’s appropriating the art of the church. (shrink)
Hume bequeathed to rational intuitionists a problem concerning moral judgment and the will – a problem of sufficient severity that it is still cited as one of the major reasons why intuitionism is untenable.1 Stated in general terms, the problem concerns how an intuitionist moral theory can account for the intimate connection between moral judgment and moral motivation. One reason that this is still considered to be a problem for intuitionists is that it is widely assumed that the early intuitionists (...) made little progress towards solving it. In this essay, I wish to challenge this assumption by examining one of the more subtle intuitionist responses to Hume, viz., that offered by Thomas Reid. For reasons that remain unclear to me, Reid's response to Hume on this issue has been almost entirely neglected. I shall argue that it is nonetheless one that merits our attention, for at least two reasons. In the first place, Reid's response to Hume's challenge to rational intuitionism bears a close affinity to the type of response that he offers to Hume's broadly skeptical challenge to realist views regarding our perception of the external world. Since Reid's strategy in the latter case is widely regarded as exhibiting significant promise, it is natural to wonder whether, when applied to the moral domain, this type of strategy displays similar promise.2 I will suggest that it does. That is, I will suggest that since Reid's broadly nativist position in perception is one well worth considering, then so also is his broadly nativist account of moral motivation. Second, Reid's position regarding moral motivation represents an intriguing attempt to blend a broadly intuitionist view with important insights from the sentimentalist tradition. In this respect, Reid's view is a genuine hybrid position unlike that offered by other intuitionists such as Richard Price. The synthetic character of Reid's position, I claim, gives it a unique type of theoretical richness, since it incorporates some very attractive features of both rational intuitionism and sentimentalism. (shrink)
Metaethics is a perennially popular subject, but one that can be challenging to study and teach. As it consists in an array of questions about ethics, it is really a mix of (at least) applied metaphysics, epistemology, philosophy of language, and mind. The seminal texts therefore arise out of, and often assume competence with, a variety of different literatures. It can be taught thematically, but this sample syllabus offers a dialectical approach, focused on metaphysical debate over moral realism, which spans (...) the century of debate launched and framed by G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica. The territory and literature are, however, vast. So, this syllabus is highly selective. A thorough metaethics course might also include more topical examination of moral supervenience, moral motivation, moral epistemology, and the rational authority of morality. Authors Recommend: Alexander Miller, An Introduction to Contemporary Metaethics (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2003). This is one of the few clear, accessible, and comprehensive surveys of the subject, written by someone sympathetic with moral naturalism. David Brink, Moral Realism and the Foundations of Ethics (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989). Brink rehabilitates naturalism about moral facts by employing a causal semantics and natural kinds model of moral thought and discourse. Michael Smith, The Moral Problem (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994). Smith's book frames the debate as driven by a tension between the objectivity of morality and its practical role, offering a solution in terms of a response-dependent account of practical rationality. Gilbert Harman and Judith Jarvis Thomson, Moral Relativism & Moral Objectivity (Cambridge, MA: Blackwell, 1996). Harman argues against the objectivity of moral value, while Thomson defends it. Each then responds to the other. Frank Jackson, From Metaphysics to Ethics (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998). Jackson argues that reductive conceptual analysis is possible in ethics, offering a unique naturalistic account of moral properties and facts. Mark Timmons, Morality without Foundations (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999). Timmons distinguishes moral cognitivism from moral realism, interpreting moral judgments as beliefs that have cognitive content but do not describe moral reality. He also provides a particularly illuminating discussion of nonanalytic naturalism. Philippa Foot, Natural Goodness (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2001). A Neo-Aristotelian perspective: moral facts are natural facts about the proper functioning of human beings. Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism: A Defence (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2003). In this recent defense of a Moorean, nonnaturalist position, Shafer-Landau engages rival positions in a remarkably thorough manner. Terence Cuneo, The Normative Web (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Cuneo argues for a robust version of moral realism, developing a parity argument based on the similarities between epistemic and moral facts. Mark Schroeder, Slaves of the Passions (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2007). Schroeder defends a reductive form of naturalism in the tradition of Hume, identifying moral and normative facts with natural facts about agents' desires. Online Materials: PEA Soup: http://peasoup.typepad.com A blog devoted to philosophy, ethics, and academia. Its contributors include many active and prominent metaethicists, who regularly post about the moral realism and naturalism debates. Metaethics Bibliography: http://www.lenmanethicsbibliography.group.shef.ac.uk/Bib.htm Maintained by James Lenman, professor of philosophy at the University of Sheffield, this online resource provides a selective list of published research in metaethics. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: http://plato.stanford.edu See especially the entries under 'metaethics'. Sample Syllabus: Topics for Lecture & Discussion Note: unless indicated otherwise, all the readings are found in R. Shafer-Landau and T. Cuneo, eds., Foundations of Ethics: An Anthology (Malden: Blackwell, 2007). (FE) Week 1: Realism I (Classic Nonnaturalism) G. E. Moore, Principia Ethica, 2nd ed. (FE ch. 35). W. K. Frankena, 'The Naturalistic Fallacy,'Mind 48 (1939): 464–77. S. Finlay, 'Four Faces of Moral Realism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 820–49 [DOI: [DOI link]]. Week 2: Antirealism I (Classic Expressivism) A. J. Ayer, 'Critique of Ethics and Theology' (1952) (FE ch. 3). C. Stevenson, 'The Nature of Ethical Disagreement' (1963) (FE ch. 28). Week 3: Antirealism II (Error Theory) J. L. Mackie, 'The Subjectivity of Values' (1977) (FE ch. 1). R. Joyce, Excerpt from The Myth of Morality (2001) (FE ch. 2). Week 4: Realism II (Nonanalytic Naturalism) R. Boyd, 'How to be a Moral Realist' (1988) (FE ch. 13). P. Railton, 'Moral Realism' (1986) (FE ch. 14). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'New Wave Moral Realism Meets Moral Twin Earth' (1991) (FE ch. 38). Week 5: Antirealism III (Contemporary Expressivism) A. Gibbard, 'The Reasons of a Living Being' (2002) (FE ch. 6). S. Blackburn, 'How To Be an Ethical Anti-Realist' (1993) (FE ch. 4). T. Horgan and M. Timmons, 'Nondescriptivist Cognitivism' (2000) (FE ch. 5). W. Sinnott-Armstrong, 'Expressivism and Embedding' (2000) (FE ch. 37). Week 6: Realism III (Sensibility Theory) J. McDowell, 'Values and Secondary Qualities' (1985) (FE ch. 11). D. Wiggins, 'A Sensible Subjectivism' (1991) (FE ch. 12). Week 7: Realism IV (Subjectivism) & Antirealism IV (Constructivism) R. Firth, 'Ethical Absolutism and the Ideal Observer' (1952) (FE ch. 9). G. Harman, 'Moral Relativism Defended' (1975) (FE ch. 7). C. Korsgaard, 'The Authority of Reflection' (1996) (FE ch. 8). Week 8: Realism V (Contemporary Nonnaturalism) R. Shafer-Landau, 'Ethics as Philosophy' (2006) (FE ch. 16). T. M. Scanlon, What We Owe to Each Other (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1998), ch. 1. T, Cuneo, 'Recent Faces of Moral Nonnaturalism', Philosophy Compass 2/6 (2007): 850–79 [DOI: [DOI link]]. (shrink)
Moral realism of a paradigmatic sort -- Defending the parallel -- The parity premise -- Epistemic nihilism -- Epistemic expressivism : traditional views -- Epistemic expressivism : nontraditional views -- Epistemic reductionism -- Three objections to the core argument.
A substantial collection of seminal articles, Foundations of Ethics covers all of the major issues in metaethics. Covers all of the major issues in metaethics including moral metaphysics, epistemology, moral psychology, and philosophy of language. Provides an unparalleled offering of primary sources and expert commentary for students of ethical theory. Includes seminal essays by ethicists such as G.E. Moore, Simon Blackburn, Gilbert Harman, Christine Korsgaard, Michael Smith, Bernard Williams, Jonathan Dancy, and many other leading figures of ethical theory.
The overarching aim of this essay is to argue that moral realists should be "causalists" or claim that moral facts of certain kinds are causally efficacious. To this end, I engage in two tasks. The first is to develop an account of the sense in which moral facts of certain kinds are causally efficacious. After having sketched the concept of what I call a "configuring" cause, I contend that the exercise of the moral virtues is plausibly viewed as a configuring (...) cause. The second is to show that the causalist position I develop can withstand objections inspired by the work of Robert Audi and Jaegwon Kim. (shrink)
Widely acknowledged as the principal architect of Scottish common sense philosophy, Thomas Reid is increasingly recognized today as one of the finest philosophers of the eighteenth century. Combining a sophisticated response to the skeptical and idealist views of his day, Reid's thought represents an important alternative to Humean skepticism, Kantian idealism and Cartesian rationalism. This work covers not only his philosophy but his scientific research and extensive historical influence.
The central purpose of this essay is to consider some of the more prominent reasons why realists have rejected the Humean theory of motivation. I shall argue that these reasons are not persuasive, and that there is nothing about being a moral realist that should make us suspicious of Humeanism.