D.M. Armstrong is an eminent Australian philosopher whose work over many years has dealt with such subjects as: the nature of possibility, concepts of the particular and the general, causes and laws of nature, and the nature of human consciousness. This collection of essays, all specially written for this volume, explore the many facets of Armstrong's work, concentrating on his more recent interests. There are four sections to the book: possibility and identity, universals, laws and causality, philosophy of mind. The (...) contributors comprise an international group of philosophers from the United States, England, and Australia. An interesting feature of the volume is that Armstrong himself has written responses to each of the essays. There is also a complete bibliography of Armstrong's writings. (shrink)
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong's recent defense of moral skepticism raises the debate to a new level, but I argue that it is unsatisfactory because of problems with its assumption of global skepticism, with its use of the Skeptical Hypothesis Argument, and with its use of the idea of contrast classes and the correlative distinction between "everyday" justification and "philosophical" justification. I draw on Chisholm's treatment of the Problem of the Criterion to show that my claim that I know that, e.g., baby-torture (...) is wrong, is no more question-begging than Sinnott-Armstrong's denial that I know this. (shrink)
This report is also a consolidated response to three memoranda. The legal division requested an historical review as patent support. Engineering has solicited input on product development. Thirdly, I am responding to a plea from the Personnel Department. Their headhunters have asked for more specific advice on how to recruit skeptics.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has argued against moral intuitionism, according to which some of our moral beliefs are justified without needing to be inferred from any other beliefs. He claims that any prima facie justification some non-inferred moral beliefs might have enjoyed is removed because many of our moral beliefs are formed in circumstances where either (1) we are partial, (2) others disagree with us and there is no reason to prefer our moral judgement to theirs, (3) we are emotional in (...) a way that clouds our judgement, (4) the circumstances are conducive to illusion, or (5) the source of our moral beliefs is unreliable or disreputable. I take issue with the elements of Sinnott-Armstrong’s argument that centre on (1) to (3) and (5), concluding that his case against moral intuitionism is unpersuasive. (shrink)
In a series of recent papers, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has used findings in social psychology to put pressure on the claim that our moral beliefs can be non-inferentially justified. More specifically, he has suggested that insofar as our moral intuitions are subject to what psychologists call framing effects, this poses a real problem for moral intuitionism. In this paper, we are going to try to add more fuel to the empirical fire that Sinnott-Armstrong has placed under the feet of the (...) intuitionist. Along the way, we first provide an overview of what Sinnott-Armstrong calls the Master Argument against intuitionism. Then we examine some of the literature on framing effects—especially as it pertains to moral philosophy. Finally, we present the results of a new study which create yet another hurdle intuitionists must clear if they want to motivate their view. It appears that in addition to being influenced by framing effects, our moral intuitions are also influenced by an actor–observer bias as well—a bias whereby we hold other people to different moral standards than we would hold ourselves even if we were in the same situation. If we’re right, the burden is on the moral intuitionist to explain why we should have faith in our moral intuitions despite the gathering evidence concerning their seeming unreliability. And by our lights, this is something that simply cannot be done from the armchair. (shrink)
In his recent book Moral Skepticisms Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues in great detail for contrastivism with respect to justified moral belief and moral knowledge. I raise three questions concerning this view. First, how would Sinnott-Armstrong account for constraints on admissible contrast classes? Secondly, how would he deal with notorious problems concerning relevant reference classes? Finally, how can he account for basic features of moral agency? It turns out that the last problem is the most serious one for his account.
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has recently criticized moral intuitionism by bringing to light some compelling empirical evidence indicating that we are unreliable at forming moral judgments non-inferentially. The evidence shows that our non-inferentially arrived-at moral convictions are subject to framing effects; that is, they vary depending on how the situation judged is described. Thomas Nadelhoffer and Adam Feltz, following in Sinnott-Armstrong's footsteps, have appealed to research indicating that such judgments are also subject to actor-observer bias; that is, they vary depending on (...) whether the situation judged includes the judger as an actor in, or an observer of, the situation. The accuracy of this empirical evidence will not be challenged in what follows. What will be called into question is its purported relevance for moral intuitionism. To that end we will consider a version of moral intuitionism developed by Iris Murdoch that not only accommodates but essentially relies on the existence of various kinds of distorting factors including framing effects and actor-observer bias. (shrink)
Benjamin Libet, Do we have free will? -- Adina L. Roskies, Why Libet's studies don't pose a threat to free will? -- Alfred r. mele, libet on free will : readiness potentials, decisions, and awareness? -- Susan Pockett and Suzanne Purdy, Are voluntary movements initiated preconsciously? : the relationships between readiness potentials, urges, and decisions? -- William P. Banks and Eve A. Isham, Do we really know what we are doing? : implications of reported time of decision for theories of (...) volition? -- Elisabeth Pacherie and Patrick Haggard, What are intentions? -- Mark Hallett, Volition : how physiology speaks to the issue of responsibility? -- John-Dylan Haynes, Beyond Libet : long-term prediction of free choices from neuroimaging signals? -- F. Carota, M. Desmurget, and A. Sirigu, Forward modeling mediates motor awareness? -- Tashina Graves, Brian Maniscalco, and Hakwan Lau, Volition and the function of consciousness? -- Deborah Talmi and Chris D. Frith, Neuroscience, free will, and responsibility? -- Jeffrey P. Ebert and Daniel M. Wegner, Bending time to one's will? -- Thalia Wheatley and Christine Looser, Prospective codes fulfilled : a potential neural mechanism of the will? -- Terry Horgan, The phenomenology of agency and the libet results? -- Thomas Nadelhoffer, The threat of shrinking agency and free will disillusionism? -- Gideon Yaffe, Libet and the criminal law's voluntary act requirement? -- Larry Alexander, Criminal and moral responsibility and the libet experiments? -- Michael S. Moore, Libet's challenge(s) to responsible agency? -- Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Lessons from Libet?. (shrink)
We all seem to think that we do the acts we do because we consciously choose to do them. This commonsense view is thrown into dispute by Benjamin Libet's eyebrow-raising experiments, which seem to suggest that conscious will occurs not before but after the start of brain activity that produces physical action. Libet's striking results are often claimed to undermine traditional views of free will and moral responsibility and to have practical implications for criminal justice. His work has also stimulated (...) a flurry of further fascinating scientific research--including findings in psychology by Dan Wegner and in neuroscience by John-Dylan Haynes--that raises novel questions about whether conscious will plays any causal role in action. Critics respond that both commonsense views of action and traditional theories of moral and legal responsibility, as well as free will, can survive the scientific onslaught of Libet and his progeny. To further this lively debate, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Lynn Nadel have brought together prominent experts in neuroscience, psychology, philosophy, and law to discuss whether our conscious choices really cause our actions, and what the answers to that question mean for how we view ourselves and how we should treat each other. (shrink)
In Moral Knowledge? New Readings in Moral Epistemology, editors Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Mark Timmons bring together eleven specially commissioned essays by distinguished moral philosophers exploring the nature and possibility of moral knowledge. Each essay represents a major position within the exciting field of moral epistemology in which a proponent of the position presents and defends his or her view and locates it vis-a-vis competing views. The authors include established philosophers such as Peter Railton, Robert Audi, Richard Brandt, and Simon (...) Blackburn, as well as newer voices in the field. Topics covered include moral skepticism, moral truth, projectivism, contractarianism, coherentism, feminist views, quasi-realism, and pragmatism. The lively and clear selections do not presuppose specialized knowledge of philosophy, and the philosophical vocabulary used throughout the anthology is uniform, in order to facilitate understanding by those not familiar with the field. The first chapter includes a sustained critical discussion of the major views represented in the following chapters, thereby furnishing beginning students with appropriate background to understand the selections. The volume is further enhanced by an index and an extensive bibliography. An excellent text for undergraduate and graduate courses, Moral Knowledge provides the most up-to-date work on moral knowledge and justification. (shrink)
In order for us to have epistemic justification, Sinnott-Armstrong believes we do not have to be able to rule out all sceptical hypotheses. He suggests that it is sufficient if we have 'modestly justified beliefs', i.e., if our evidence rules out all non-sceptical alternatives. I argue that modest justification is not sufficient for epistemic justification. Either modest justification is independent of our ability to rule out sceptical hypotheses, but is not a kind of epistemic justification, or else modest justification is (...) a kind of epistemic justification, but is not truly independent of our ability to rule out sceptical hypotheses. (shrink)
All contentious moral issues--from gay marriage to abortion and affirmative action--raise difficult questions about the justification of moral beliefs. How can we be justified in holding on to our own moral beliefs while recognizing that other intelligent people feel quite differently and that many moral beliefs are distorted by self-interest and by corrupt cultures? Even when almost everyone agrees--e.g. that experimental surgery without consent is immoral--can we know that such beliefs are true? If so, how? These profound questions lead to (...) fundamental issues about the nature of morality, language, metaphysics, justification, and knowledge. They also have tremendous practical importance in handling controversial moral questions in health care ethics, politics, law, and education. Sinnott-Armstrong here provides an extensive overview of these difficult subjects, looking at a wide variety of questions, including: Are any moral beliefs true? Are any justified? What is justified belief? The second half of the book explores various moral theories that have grappled with these issues, such as naturalism, normativism, intuitionism, and coherentism, all of which are attempts to answer moral skepticism. Sinnott-Armstrong argues that all these approaches fail to rule out moral nihilism--the view that nothing is really morally wrong or right, bad or good. Then he develops his own novel theory,--"moderate Pyrrhonian moral skepticism"--which concludes that some moral beliefs can be justified out of a modest contrast class but no moral beliefs can be justified out of an extreme contrast class. While explaining this original position and criticizing alternatives, Sinnott-Armstrong provides a wide-ranging survey of the epistemology of moral beliefs. (shrink)
Over the last decade there have been various attempts to use empirical data about people’s dispositions to choose to undermine various moral positions by arguing that our judgements about what to do are unreliable. Usually they are directed at non-consequentialists by consequentialists, but they have also been directed at all moral theories by skeptics about morality. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has been one of the leading proponents of such general skepticism. He has argued that empirical results particularly undermine intuitionist moral epistemology. (...) This paper is an attempt to look at what intuitionists should say in response. Consider the following argument : Regress (R1) If any person S is ever justified in believing a normative claim that p then S must be able to infer p from other beliefs of S. (shrink)
In a series of recent papers, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong has developed a novel argument against moral intuitionism. I suggest a defense on behalf of the intuitionist against Sinnott-Armstrong’s objections. Rather than focus on the main premises of his argument, I instead examine the way in which Sinnott-Armstrong construes the intuitionistic position. I claim that Sinnott-Armstrong’s understanding of intuitionism is mistaken. In particular, I argue that Sinnott-Armstrong mischaracterizes non-inferentiality as it figures in intuitionism. To the extent that Sinnott-Armstrong’s account of intuitionism (...) has been adopted by others uncritically, intuitionists have cause for concern. I develop an alternative, and more accurate, reading of what is non-inferential about intuitionistic moral knowledge. In light of this alternative reading, certain elements of Sinnott-Armstrong’s case against intuitionism are significantly weakened. But perhaps more importantly, this paper helps clarify what circumspect intuitionists mean when they claim that some moral knowledge is non-inferential. (shrink)
The question of whether or not God exists is endlessly fascinating and profoundly important. Now two articulate spokesmen--one a Christian, the other an atheist--duel over God's existence in a lively and illuminating battle of ideas. In God?, William Lane Craig and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong bring to the printed page two debates they held before live audiences, preserving all the wit, clarity, and immediacy of their public exchanges. With none of the opaque discourse of academic logicians and divinity-school theologians, the authors (...) make claims and comebacks that cut with precision. Their arguments are sharp and humorous, as each philosopher strikes quickly to the heart of his opponent's case. For example, Craig claims that we must believe in God to explain objective moral values, such as why rape is wrong. Sinnott-Armstrong responds that what makes rape wrong is the harm to victims of rape, so rape is immoral even if there is no God. From arguments about the nature of infinity and the Big Bang, to religious experience and divine action, to the resurrection of Jesus and the problem of evil, the authors treat us to a remarkable display of intelligence and insight--a truly thought-provoking exploration of a classic issue that remains relevant to contemporary life. (shrink)
In this article, I discuss whether intuitive moral judgements have epistemic value. Are they mere expressions of irrational feelings that should be disregarded or should they be taken seriously? In section 2, I discuss the view of some social psychologists that moral intuitions are, like other social intuitions, under certain conditions more reliable than conscious deliberative judgements. In sections 3 and 4, I examine whether intuitive moral judgements can be said not to need inferential justification. I outline a concept of (...) moral intuition as a seeming whose seemingness resides in special, phenomenological features such as a felt veridicality, appropriateness, familiarity, or confidence, and whose justificatory force is influenced by the reliability of the belief-producing procedures and by a subject's competence in applying moral concepts. I argue that subjects can come to realise that the beliefs expressed in their intuitive judgements evoke a sense of non-inferential credibility. In section 5, I first discuss the contribution of moral expertise to the non-inferential credibility of a person's intuitions. Subsequently, I discuss whether Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is right in saying that we can never claim non-inferential justification for our intuitions because they are subject to all kinds of distorting influences. (shrink)
Moral phenomenology is (roughly) the study of those features of occurrent mental states with moral significance which are accessible through direct introspection, whether or not such states possess phenomenal character – a what-it-is-likeness. In this paper, as the title indicates, we introduce and make prefatory remarks about moral phenomenology and its significance for ethics. After providing a brief taxonomy of types of moral experience, we proceed to consider questions about the commonality within and distinctiveness of such experiences, with an eye (...) on some of the main philosophical issues in ethics and how moral phenomenology might be brought to bear on them. In discussing such matters, we consider some of the doubts about moral phenomenology and its value to ethics that are brought up by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Michael Gill in their contributions to this issue. (shrink)
In a beautiful recent essay, the philosopher Walter Sinnott-Armstrong explains the reasons for his departure from evangelical Christianity, the religious culture in which he was brought up. Sinnot-Armstrong contrasts the interpretive methods used by good philosophers and fundamentalist believers: Good philosophers face objections and uncertainties. They follow where arguments lead, even when their conclusions are surprising and disturbing. Intellectual honesty is also required of scholars who interpret philosophical texts. If I had distorted Kant’s view to make him reach a (...) conclusion that I preferred, then my philosophy professor would have failed me. The contrast with religious reasoning is stark. My Christian friends seemed happy to hide serious problems in the Bible and in their arguments. They preferred comfort to intellectual honesty. I couldn’t. To what extent can we, historians of philosophy, claim the virtue of intellectual honesty? Speaking frankly, I do not find the practice criticized by Sinnot-Armstrong’s philosophy professor rare or unusual at all. We very frequently distort the views of past philosophers in order to reach the conclusions we prefer. We just call it “Charitable Interpretation.” In this essay, I discuss and criticize the logic behind so-called charitable interpretations in the history of philosophy. This phenomenon is ubiquitous and is not at all restricted to a particular philosophical strand or ideology. Analytic philosophers and post-modernists, Marxists, liberals, secularists, and fundamentalists, we all engage in the very same domestication project. Even more disturbing than the sheer ideological pervasiveness of this phenomenon is the fact that, on many occasions, superb philosophers and historians take part in this fairly childish endeavor. In the first part of this essay, I discuss the general logic of charitable interpretations in the history of philosophy, mostly by addressing discussions in metaphysics and epistemology. In the second part, I focus on the somewhat less noticed use of charitable interpretations in the study of political philosophy, and point out the quintessential role ideology plays in these discussions. In both parts, I concentrate mostly on the interpretation of Spinoza’s thought. I do so not because I have special fondness for Spinoza (“guilty as charged,” I admit), but because Spinoza is such a beast (and may I add, an enchanting beast) and attracts a disproportionate share of the domestication efforts from historians and philosophers of all creeds and persuasions. In the third and final part of the paper, I will begin to outline an alternative methodology, which suggests that past philosophers can be most relevant to our current philosophical discussion, to the extent that they provide us with well-motivated challenges to our common-sense beliefs. Such challenges have the invaluable virtue of being able to undermine our most fundamental and secure beliefs, and force us to engage with the most fundamental questions. What more can we expect from good philosophy? (shrink)
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is a condition in which a person appears to possess more than one personality, and sometimes very many. Some recent criminal cases involving defendants with DID have resulted in "not guilty" verdicts, though the defense is not always successful in this regard. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Stephen Behnke have argued that we should excuse DID sufferers from responsibility, only if at the time of the act the person was insane (typically (...) delusional); otherwise the presumption should be that persons with DID are indeed responsible for their actions. We find their interpretation of DID and of the way in which the requirements for criminal insanity relate to this condition worrying and likely to result in injustice to DID sufferers. Our thesis is that persons with DID cannot be responsible for their actions if the usual features of the condition are present. A person with DID is a single person in the grip of a very serious mental disorder. By focusing on the features of DID which have, as we argue, the effect of deluding the patient, we try to show that such a person is unable to fulfill the ordinary conditions of responsible agency (namely, autonomy and self-control). (shrink)
Walter Sinnott-Armstrong argues that 'ought' does not entail 'can', but instead conversationally implicates it. I argue that Sinnott-Armstrong is actually committed to a hybrid view about the relation between 'ought' and 'can'. I then give a tensed formulation of the view that 'ought' entails 'can' that deals with Sinnott-Armstrong's argument and that is more unified than Sinnott-Armstrong's view.
This collection of previously unpublished essays addresses a number of issues arising out of philosophical controversies over the possibility of genuine moral dilemmas. Issues addressed include the form of a moral dilemma; the paradoxes a moral dilemma is said to entail; the question of whether a moral dilemma must exhibit inconsistency; the role of intractable circumstances in occasioning moral dilemmas; and the plausibility of supposing that there might be rational ways of addressing moral dilemmas in practice. The contributors, writing from (...) a number of widely differing points of view, include Simon Blackburn, Ruth Barcan Marcus, Alan Donagan, Terrance McConnell, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Mary Mothersill, Norman Dahl, David Brink, Peter Railton, Thomas E. Hill, Jr., Christopher Gowans, and H.E. Mason. (shrink)
Metaethics, understood as a distinct branch of ethics, is often traced to G. E. Moore's 1903 classic, Principia Ethica. Whereas normative ethics is concerned to answer first-order moral questions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, metaethics is concerned to answer second-order non-moral questions about the semantics, metaphysics, and epistemology of moral thought and discourse. Moore has continued to exert a powerful influence, and the sixteen essays here (most of them specially written for the volume) represent the most (...) up-to-date work in metaethics after, and in some cases directly inspired by, the work of Moore. Contributors include Robert Audi, Stephen Barker, Paul Bloomfield, Panayot Butchvarvov, Jonathan Dancy, Stephen Darwall, Jamie Dreier, Allan Gibbard, Brad Hooker, Terry Horgan, Connie Rosati, Russ Shafer-Landau, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Michael Smith, Philip Stratton-Lake, Sigrun Svavarsdottir, Mark Timmons, and Judith Jarvis Thompson. (shrink)
This paper explores whether brain images may be admitted as evidence in criminal trials under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which weighs probative value against the danger of being prejudicial, confusing, or misleading to fact finders. The paper summarizes and evaluates recent empirical research relevant to these issues. We argue that currently the probative value of neuroimages for criminal responsibility is minimal, and there is some evidence of their potential to be prejudicial or misleading. We also propose experiments that will (...) directly assess how jurors are influenced by brain images. (shrink)
For over thirty years, Robert Audi has produced important work in ethics, epistemology, and the theory of action. This volume features thirteen new critical essays on Audi by a distinguished group of authors: Fred Adams, William Alston, Laurence BonJour, Roger Crisp, Elizabeth Fricker, Bernard Gert, Thomas Hurka, Hugh McCann, Al Mele, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Raimo Tuomela, Candace Vogler, and Timothy Williamson. Audi's introductory essay provides a thematic overview interconnecting his views in ethics, epistemology, and philosophy of action. The volume concludes (...) with his comprehensive response essay that yields an illuminating dialog with all his critics and often extends his previous work. (shrink)
Drawing inspiration from the ethical pluralism of G. E. Moore's Principia Ethica, I contend that one empty world can be morally better than another. By ?empty? I mean that it is devoid of concrete entities (things that have a position in space or time). These worlds have no thickets or thimbles, no thinkers, no thoughts. Infinitely many of these worlds have laws of nature, abstract entities, and perhaps, space and time. These non-concrete differences are enough to make some of them (...) better than others. 1I thank Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, John Carroll, and Gideon Rosen for their comments and suggestions. (shrink)
In “ A Light Theory of Color”, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and David Sparrow argue that color is neither a primary quality of objects, nor a disposition that objects have, nor a property of our visual fields. Rather, according to the view they present, color is a property of light. The present paper aims to show, first, that the light theory is vulnerable to many of the very same objections that Sinnott-Armstrong and Sparrow raise against rival views. Second, the paper argues (...) that the strategies that Sinnott-Armstrong and Sparrow use to avoid certain objections are also available to proponents of rival accounts. This might only seem to show that the light theory is in the same shaky boat as other theories: suffering from the same problems but having the same tools for solving them. The paper concludes with a suggestion as to why this is not the case, but why the existence of the light theory is nevertheless likely to bring increased clarity to the debate about color realism. (shrink)
Given that mitigating climate change is a large-scale global issue, what obligations do individuals have to lower their personal carbon emissions? I survey recent suggestions by Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Dale Jamieson and offer models for thinking about their respective approaches. I then present a third model based on the notion of structural violence. While the three models are not mutually incompatible, each one suggests a different focus for mitigating climate change. In the end, I agree with Sinnott-Armstrong that people (...) have limited moral obligations to directly lower personal emissions, but I offer different reasons for this conclusion, namely that the structural arrangements of our lives place a limit on how much individuals can restrict their own emissions. Thus, individuals should focus their efforts on changing the systems instead (e.g., the design of cities, laws and regulation, etc.), which will lead to lower emissions on a larger scale. (shrink)
The dramatic declaration by U.S. President George W. Bush that, in light of the attacks on 9/11, the United States would henceforth be engaging in "preemption" against such enemies as terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction forced a wide-open debate about justifiable uses of military force. Opponents saw the declaration as a direct challenge to the consensus, which has formed since the ratification of the Charter of the United Nations, that armed force may be used only in defense. Supporters (...) responded that in an age of terrorism defense could only mean "preemption." This volume of all-new chapters provides the historical, legal, political, and philosophical perspective necessary to intelligent participation in the on-going debate, which is likely to last long beyond the war in Iraq. Thorough defenses and critiques of the Bush doctrine are provided by the most authoritative writers on the subject from both sides of the Atlantic. Is a nation ever justified in attacking before it has been attacked? If so, under precisely what conditions? Does the possibility of terrorists with weapons of mass destruction force us to change our traditional views about what counts as defense? This book provides the most comprehensive assessment to date of the justifiability of preemptive or preventive military action. Its engaging debate, accompanied by an analytic Introduction, focuses probing criticism against the most persuasive proponents of preemptive attack or preventive war, who then respond to these challenges and modify or extend their justifications. Authors of recent pivotal analyses, including historian Marc Trachtenberg, international relations professor Neta Crawford, law professor David Luban, and political philosopher Allen Buchanan, are confronted by other authoritative writers on the nature and justification of war more broadly, including historian Hew Strachan, international normative theorist Henry Shue, and philosophers David Rodin, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and Suzanne Uniacke. The resulting lively and many-sided exchanges shed historical, legal, political, and philosophical light on a key policy question of our time. Going beyond the simple dichotomies of popular discussion the authors reflect on the nature of all warfare, the arguments for and against it, and the possibilities for the moral to constrain the military and the political in the face of grave threat. -/- This book is a project of the Oxford Leverhulme Programme on the Changing Character of War. (shrink)
In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge in Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these bank cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make in his critique of Stanley. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our intuitions about such cases are. To account for these (...) results, one must develop a better conception of the connection between a subject's interests and her body of knowledge than those offered by Stanley and Schaffer. (shrink)
My topic is the old debate between moral realists and moral expressivists. Although I will eventually adopt a Pyrrhonian position, as usual, my main goal is neither to argue for this position nor to resolve this debate but only to explore some new options that mix together realism and expressivism in various ways. Nothing that I say will be conclusive, but I hope that some of it will be suggestive.
An extensive body of research suggests that the distinction between doing and allowing plays a critical role in shaping moral appraisals. Here, we report evidence from a pair of experiments suggesting that the converse is also true: moral appraisals affect doing/allowing judgments. Specifically, morally bad behavior is more likely to be construed as actively ‘doing’ than as passively ‘allowing’. This finding adds to a growing list of folk concepts influenced by moral appraisal, including causation and intentional action. We therefore suggest (...) that the present finding favors the view that moral appraisal plays a pervasive role in shaping diverse cognitive representations across multiple domains. (shrink)
Much recent research has sought to uncover the neural basis of moral judgment. However, it has remained unclear whether "moral judgments" are sufficiently homogenous to be studied scientifically as a unified category. We tested this assumption by using fMRI to examine the neural correlates of moral judgments within three moral areas: (physical) harm, dishonesty, and (sexual) disgust. We found that the judgment ofmoral wrongness was subserved by distinct neural systems for each of the different moral areas and that these differences (...) were much more robust than differences in wrongness judgments within a moral area. Dishonest, disgusting, and harmful moral transgression recruited networks of brain regions associated with mentalizing, affective processing, and action understanding, respectively. Dorsal medial pFC was the only region activated by all scenarios judged to be morally wrong in comparison with neutral scenarios. However, this region was also activated by dishonest and harmful scenarios judged not to be morally wrong, suggestive of a domain-general role that is neither peculiar to nor predictive of moral decisions. These results suggest that moral judgment is not a wholly unified faculty in the human brain, but rather, instantiated in dissociable neural systems that are engaged differentially depending on the type of transgression being judged. (shrink)
In this short paper, I argue that the phenomenology of moral judgment is not unified across different areas of morality (involving harm, hierarchy, reciprocity, and impurity) or even across different relations to harm. Common responses, such as that moral obligations are experienced as felt demands based on a sense of what is fitting, are either too narrow to cover all moral obligations or too broad to capture anything important and peculiar to morality. The disunity of moral phenomenology is, nonetheless, compatible (...) with some uses of moral phenomenology for moral epistemology and with the objectivity and justifiability of parts of morality. (shrink)
No topic in informal logic is more important than begging the question. Also, none is more subtle or complex. We cannot even begin to understand the fallacy of begging the question without getting clear about arguments, their purposes, and circularity. So I will discuss these preliminary topics first. This will clear the path to my own account of begging the question. Then I will anticipate some objections. Finally, I will apply my account to a well-known and popular response to scepticism (...) by G. E. Moore. (shrink)
This précis summarizes my book Moral Skepticisms, with emphasis on my contrastivist analysis of justified moral belief and my Pyrrhonian moral scepticism based on meta-scepticism about relevance. This complex moral epistemology escapes a common paradox facing moral philosophers.
General contrastivism holds that all claims of reasons are relative to contrast classes. This approach applies to explanation (reasons why things happen), moral philosophy (reasons for action), and epistemology (reasons for belief), and it illuminates moral dilemmas, free will, and the grue paradox. In epistemology, contrast classes point toward an account of justified belief that is compatible with reliabilism and other externalisms. Contrast classes also provide a model for Pyrrhonian scepticism based on suspending belief about which contrast class is relevant. (...) This view contrasts with contextualism, invariantism, and Schaffer's contrastivism. (shrink)
Throughout the history of philosophy, skepticism has posed one of the central challenges of epistemology. Opponents of skepticism--including externalists, contextualists, foundationalists, and coherentists--have focussed largely on one particular variety of skepticism, often called Cartesian or Academic skepticism, which makes the radical claim that nobody can know anything. However, this version of skepticism is something of a straw man, since virtually no philosopher endorses this radical skeptical claim. The only skeptical view that has been truly held--by Sextus, Montaigne, Hume, Wittgenstein, and, (...) most recently, Robert Fogelin--has been Pyrrohnian skepticism. Pyrrhonian skeptics do not assert Cartesian skepticism, but neither do they deny it. The Pyrrhonian skeptics' doubts run so deep that they suspend belief even about Cartesian skepticism and its denial. Nonetheless, some Pyrrhonians argue that they can still hold "common beliefs of everyday life" and can even claim to know some truths in an everyday way. This edited volume presents previously unpublished articles on this subject by a strikingly impressive group of philosophers, who engage with both historical and contemporary versions of Pyrrhonian skepticism. Among them are Gisela Striker, Janet Broughton, Don Garrett, Ken Winkler, Hans Sluga, Ernest Sosa, Michael Williams, Barry Stroud, Robert Fogelin, and Roy Sorensen. This volume is thematically unified and will interest a broad spectrum of scholars in epistemology and the history of philosophy. (shrink)
The distinction between perfect and imperfect obligations has a long history in moral philosophy and is important to many central issues in moral theory and in everyday morality. Unfortunately, this distinction is often overlooked and rarely defined precisely or univocally. This paper tries to clarify the distinction in light of recent empirical research on guilt and shame. I begin with the general notion of an obligation before distinguishing its sub-classes.
Modality, morality and belief are among the most controversial topics in philosophy today, and few philosophers have shaped these debates as deeply as Ruth Barcan Marcus. Inspired by her work, a distinguished group of philosophers explore these issues, refine and sharpen arguments and develop new positions on such topics as possible worlds, moral dilemmas, essentialism, and the explanation of actions by beliefs. This 'state of the art' collection honours one of the most rigorous and iconoclastic of philosophical pioneers.
In this paper, our goal is to (a) survey some of the legal contexts within which violence risk assessment already plays a prominent role, (b) explore whether developments in neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict violence, and (c) discuss whether neuropredictive models of violence create any unique legal or moral problems above and beyond the well worn problems already associated with prediction more generally. In Violence Risk Assessment and the Law , we briefly examine the (...) role currently played by predictions of violence in three high stakes legal contexts: capital sentencing ( Violence Risk Assessment and Capital Sentencing ), civil commitment hearings ( Violence Risk Assessment and Civil Commitment ), and sexual predator statutes ( Violence Risk Assessment and Sexual Predator Statutes ). In Clinical vs. Actuarial Violence Risk Assessment , we briefly examine the distinction between traditional clinical methods of predicting violence and more recently developed actuarial methods, exemplified by the Classification of Violence Risk (COVR) software created by John Monahan and colleagues as part of the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence . In The Neural Correlates of Psychopathy , we explore what neuroscience currently tells us about the neural correlates of violence, using the recent neuroscientific research on psychopathy as our focus. We also discuss some recent advances in both data collection ( Cutting-Edge Data Collection: Genetically Informed Neuroimaging ) and data analysis ( Cutting-Edge Data Analysis: Pattern Classification ) that we believe will play an important role when it comes to future neuroscientific research on violence. In The Potential Promise of Neuroprediction , we discuss whether neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict future violence. Finally, in The Potential Perils of Neuroprediction , we explore some potential evidentiary ( Evidentiary Issues ), constitutional ( Constitutional Issues ), and moral ( Moral Issues ) issues that may arise in the context of the neuroprediction of violence. (shrink)
Many philosophers claim that no formally valid argument can have purely non-normative premises and a normative or moral conclusion that occurs essentially. Mark Nelson recently proposed a new counterexample to this Humean doctrine.
Expressivism faces four distinct problems when evaluative sentences are embedded in unassertive contexts like: (1) If lying is wrong, getting someone to lie is wrong, (2) Lying is wrong, so (3) Getting someone to lie is wrong. The initial problem is to show that expressivism is compatible with (1)-(3) being valid. The basic problem is for expressivists to explain why evaluative instances of modus ponens are valid. The deeper problem is to explain why a particular argument like (1)-(3) is valid. (...) The deepest problem is to explain the meanings of evaluative conditionals like (1). Expressivists can solve the initial and basic problems simply by acknowledging that evaluative sentences have minimal truth aptness, but the deeper and deepest problems require more. The deepest problem cannot be solved even with the semantics of Gibbard and Blackburn, as is shown by an extension of Dreier's hiyo argument. (shrink)
What is moral reasoning? For that matter, what is any sort of reasoning? Let me begin by making a few distinctions. First, there is a distinction between reasoning as something that that people do and the abstract structures of proof or “argument” that are the subject matter of formal logic. I will be mainly concerned with reasoning in the first sense, reasoning that people do. Second, there is a distinction between moral reasoning with other people and moral reasoning by and (...) for yourself . Moral reasoning with others may involve discussion with them, bargaining with them, and possibly arguing with them. (shrink)
My book, Moral Skepticisms, is intended to serve as an introduction to moral epistemology as well as a development of my own moral epistemology. Hence, my opening chapter surveys the field of moral epistemology and the varieties of moral scepticism. The main lesson is that we should stop arguing about moral scepticism in general, because there are too many kinds that differ in too many important details.
The traditional philosophical doctrine of double effect claims that agents’ intentions affect whether acts are morally wrong. Our behavioral study reveals that agents’ intentions do affect whether acts are judged morally wrong, whereas the temporal order of good and bad effects affects whether acts are classified as killings. This finding suggests that the moral judgments are not based on the classifications. Our results also undermine recent claims that prior moral judgments determine whether agents are seen as causing effects intentionally rather (...) than as side effects. (shrink)
People with personality disorders should be treated fairly. Potential crime victims should be protected. That much is uncontroversial. The hard questions ask what is fair, when is protection adequate, and how should we achieve fairness and protection together. Peay outlines five main hurdles that the law must jump to reach these goals. All five raise serious challenges. To begin to address these challenges, we must first clarify what a personality disorder is. The notion of a personality disorder is defined very (...) broadly in DSM-IV-TR as any inflexible, pervasive, enduring, stable, and early-onset pattern of experience and behavior that deviates markedly from cultural expectations, leads to clinically .. (shrink)
Neuroscience has been proposed for use in the legal system for purposes of mind reading, assessment of responsibility, and prediction of misconduct. Each of these uses has both promises and perils, and each raises issues regarding the admissibility of neuroscientific evidence.
The traditional philosophical doctrine of double effect claims that agents’ intentions affect whether acts are morally wrong. Our behavioral study reveals that agents’ intentions affect whether acts are judged morally wrong but not whether acts are classified as killings, whereas the temporal order of good and bad effects affects whether acts are classified as killings but not whether acts are judged morally wrong. These findings suggest that the moral judgments are not based on the classifications. Our results also undermine recent (...) claims that prior moral judgments determine whether agents are seen as causing effects intentionally rather than as side effects. (shrink)
I very much appreciate the time and care that Jamie Dreier and David McNaughton put into my book, Moral Skepticisms. Their comments raise profound and challenging issues that I cannot treat adequately here. All I can hope to do is point to some directions in which further discussion should proceed.
Traditional theories locate color in primary qualities of objects, in dispositional properties of objects, in visual fields, or nowhere. In contrast, we argue that color is located in properties of light. More specifically, light is red iff there is a property P of the light that typically interacts with normal human perceivers to give the sensation of red. This is an error theory, because objects and visual fields that appear red are not really red, since they lack the properties that (...) make light red. We show how this light theory solves or avoids problems that afflict its competitors. (shrink)