Timothy Chappell’s new translation of the Theaetetus is presented here in short sections of text, each preceded by a summary of the argument and followed by his philosophical commentary on it. Introductory remarks discuss Plato and his works, his use of dialogue, the structure of the Theaetetus, and alternative interpretations of the work as a whole. A glossary and bibliography are provided.
Oxford Readings in Philosophy -/- The aim of this series is to bring together important recent writings in major areas of philosophical inquiry, selected from a variety of sources, mostly periodicals, which may not be conveniently available to the university student or the general reader. The editors of each volume contribute an introductory essay on the items chosen and on the questions with which they deal. A selective bibliography is appended as a guide to further reading. -/- This new volume (...) in the successful Oxford Readings in Philosophy series presents fifteen recently published articles on the main topics in Locke's Essay Concerning Human Understanding. The increased interest in Locke's philosophy over the past twenty years has resulted in more rigorous, better informed, and more philosophically sophisticated studies than ever before. The essays included here represent the best of this recent work. Each article covers one or more major issues in Locke's Essay. Together they cover all the key themes, including: innate ideas, ideas and perception, primary and secondary qulaities, free will, substance, personal identity, language, essence, knowledge, and belief. The authors include some of the world's leading Locke scholars: Michael R. Ayers, Margaret Atherton, J.L. Mackie, John Campbell, Vere Chappell, Martha Brandt Bolton, Jonathan Bennett and Kenneth P. Winkler. Their essays exemplify the best - and most accessible - recent scholarship on Locke, making it essential for students and specialists. (shrink)
Utilitarianism is often rejected on the grounds that it fails to respect the separateness of persons, instead treating people as mere “receptacles of value”. I develop several different versions of this objection, and argue that, despite their prima facie plausibility, they are all mistaken. Although there are crude forms of utilitarianism that run afoul of these objections, I advance a new form of the view—‘token-pluralistic utilitarianism’—that does not.
I discuss Bernard Williams’ ‘integrity objection’ – his version of the demandingness objection to unreasonably demanding ‘extremist’ moral theories such as consequentialism – and argue that it is best understood as presupposing the internal reasons thesis. However, since the internal reasons thesis is questionable, so is Williams’ integrity objection. I propose an alternative way of bringing out the unreasonableness of extremism, based on the notion of the agent’s autonomy, and show how an objection to this proposal can be outflanked by (...) a strategy that also outflanks the ‘paradox of deontology.’. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to assess the relationship between anti-physicalist arguments in the philosophy of mind and anti-naturalist arguments in metaethics, and to show how the literature on the mind-body problem can inform metaethics. Among the questions we will consider are: (1) whether a moral parallel of the knowledge argument can be constructed to create trouble for naturalists, (2) the relationship between such a "Moral Knowledge Argument" and the familiar Open Question Argument, and (3) how naturalists can respond (...) to the Moral Twin Earth argument. We will give particular attention to recent arguments in the philosophy of mind that aim to show that anti-physicalist arguments can be defused by acknowledging a distinctive kind of conceptual dualism between the phenomenal and the physical. This tactic for evading anti-physicalist arguments has come to be known as the Phenomenal Concept Strategy. We will propose a metaethical version of this strategy, which we shall call the `Moral Concept Strategy'. We suggest that the Moral Concept Strategy offers the most promising way out of these anti-naturalist arguments,though signi cant challenges remain. (shrink)
Parfit's On What Matters offers a rousing defence of non-naturalist normative realism against pressing metaphysical and epistemological objections. He addresses skeptical arguments based on (i) the causal origins of our normative beliefs, and (ii) the appearance of pervasive moral disagreement. In both cases, he concedes the first step to the skeptic, but draws a subsequent distinction with which he hopes to stem the skeptic's advance. I argue, however, that these distinctions cannot bear the weight that Parfit places on them. A (...) successful moral epistemology must take a harder line with the skeptic, insisting that moral knowledge can be had by those with the right kind of psychology -- no matter the evolutionary origin of the psychology, nor whether we can demonstrate its reliability over the alternatives. (shrink)
This paper draws on the ‘Fitting Attitudes’ analysis of value to argue that we should take the concept of fittingness (rather than value) as our normative primitive. I will argue that the fittingness framework enhances the clarity and expressive power of our normative theorising. Along the way, we will see how the fittingness framework illuminates our understanding of various moral theories, and why it casts doubt on the Global Consequentialist idea that acts and (say) eye colours are normatively on a (...) par. We will see why even consequentialists, in taking rightness to be in some sense determined by goodness, should not think that rightness is conceptually reducible to goodness. Finally, I will use the fittingness framework to explicate the distinction between consequentialist and deontological theories, with particular attention to the contentious case of Rule Consequentialism. (shrink)
Compatibilism is the doctrine that the doctrine of determinism is logically consistent with the doctrine of libertarianism. Determinism is the doctrine that every being and event is brought about by causes other than itself. Libertarianism is the doctrine that some human actions are free. Was Descartes a compatibilist? There is no doubt that he was a libertarian: his works are full of professions of freedom, human as well as divine. And though he held that God has no cause other than (...) himself, Descartes thought that everything apart from God is externally caused: he was a determinist with respect to the created universe. So it appears, assuming him consistent with himself, that Descartes must have been a compatibilist. And indeed, there are passages in his writings in which he appears explicitly to affirm that he is. Since both Descartes’s libertarianism and his determinism are complex doctrines, however, his view of the relation between them is complex as well. (shrink)
The paper outlines and explores a possible strategy for defending both the action/omission distinction (AOD) and the principle of double effect (PDE). The strategy is to argue that there are degrees of actionhood, and that we are in general less responsible for what has a lower degree of actionhood, because of that lower degree. Moreover, what we omit generally has a lower degree of actionhood than what we actively do, and what we do under known-but-not-intended descriptions generally has a lower (...) degree of actionhood than what we do under known-and-intended descriptions. Therefore, we are in general less responsible for what we omit than for what we do—which is just what AOD says. And we are in general less responsible for what we do under known-but-not-intended descriptions than for what we do under known-and-intended descriptions—which is just what PDE says. (shrink)
Locke was a libertarian: he believed in human freedom. To be sure, his conception of freedom was different from that of many philosophers who call themselves libertarians. Some such philosophers maintain that an agent is free only if her action is uncaused; whereas Locke thought that all actions have causes, including the free ones. Some libertarians hold that no action is free unless it proceeds from a volition that is itself free; whereas Locke argued that free volition, as opposed to (...) free action, is an impossibility. On the other hand, Locke agrees with the typical professed libertarian that free actions depend on volitions - or, as he often puts it, that an agent is free only with respect to the actions she wills, to those that are voluntary. And he also refuses to make voluntariness sufficient for freedom, whereby a free action is merely one that is willed. The free agent, Locke insists, must also be able or have been able to do something other than she does or did. Thus both Locke and the libertarian professor require indifference as well as spontaneity for freedom. But Locke’s freedom is not contra-causal; and he denies that it extends to volition. In this paper I want to focus on just this last component of Locke’s view of freedom: that freedom in willing, far from being required for free agency, is not even possible. I call this ‘the thesis of volitional determinism’. Locke presents an argument for this thesis in the Essay, but scholars have never paid much attention to it: I want to examine it. (shrink)
I examine the familiar criterial view of personhood, according to which the possession of personal properties such as self-consciousness, emotionality, sentience, and so forth is necessary and sufficient for the status of a person. I argue that this view confuses criteria for personhood with parts of an ideal of personhood. In normal cases, we have already identified a creature as a person before we start looking for it to manifest the personal properties, indeed this pre-identification is part of what makes (...) it possible for us to see and interpret the creature as a person in the first place. This pre-identification is typically based on biological features. Except in some interesting special or science-fiction cases, some of which I discuss, it is human animals that we identify as persons. (shrink)
Ideas play a large role in Locke’s philosophy. In Locke’s view, everything existing or occurring in a mind either is or includes an idea; and all human knowledge both starts from and is founded on ideas. The very word “idea” appears more frequently in the Essay concerning Human Understanding than any other noun; its occurrences outnumber even those of such common words as “he,” “have,” and “for.”.
I develop an anti-theory view of ethics. Moral theory (Kantian, utilitarian, virtue ethical, etc.) is the dominant approach to ethics among academic philosophers. But moral theory's hunt for a single Master Factor (utility, universalisability, virtue . . .) is implausibly systematising and reductionist. Perhaps scientism drives the approach? But good science always insists on respect for the data, even messy data: I criticise Singer's remarks on infanticide as a clear instance of moral theory failing to respect the data of moral (...) perceptions and moral intuitions. Moral theory also fails to provide a coherent basis for real-world motivation, justification, explanation, and prediction of good and bad, right and wrong. Consider for instance the marginal place of love in moral theory, compared with its central place in people's actual ethical outlooks and decision making. Hence, moral theory typically fails to ground any adequate ethical outlook. I propose that it is the notion of an ethical outlook that philosophical ethicists should pursue, not the unfruitful and distorting notion of a moral theory. (shrink)
Of course there is a long history of such sayings in all the world’s main spiritual traditions. Socrates’ remark reminds us at once of Solon’s doleful doctrine that we should call no man happy until he is dead (Herodotus Histories Book 1; Aristotle Nicomachean Ethics 1100a11). And Bonhoeffer’s famous saying, while it echoes the typical teaching of many Christian spiritual masters, for instance St Thomas à Kempis and Bianco da Siena (the author of that beautiful hymn “Come down O Love (...) Divine”), is ultimately just a paraphrase of Jesus’ even more famous saying that anyone who wants to follow him must “deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me” (Matthew 16.24). (shrink)
In the first edition of the Essay concerning Human Understanding, Locke claims that human beings have freedom of action - that is, that some of their actions are free - but that they do not have freedom of will - that is, that none of their volitions are free. Volitions themselves are actions for Locke; they are operations of the will and hence acts of willing. And volitions give rise to other actions: an action that follows and is caused by (...) a volition is thereby a voluntary action. But volitions are not subject to the will; they cannot be caused by acts of willing and so cannot themselves be voluntary actions. This doctrine, that acts of willing cannot be voluntary, is one of Locke’s reasons for thinking that they are not free. (He also has a reason for holding this doctrine, and a second reason for thinking that acts of willing cannot be free, both of which I’ll be considering later on.) Locke follows not only the scholastics but also Descartes and Hobbes in holding that being voluntary is a prerequisite for being free. But unlike Descartes and Hobbes, though not unlike the scholastics, Locke does not make voluntariness sufficient for freedom. In addition to being voluntary, a free action must be one its agent can avoid - avoid, that is, merely by willing, whether by willing not to do it or by willing to do something else that is incompatible with doing it. (shrink)
There is a gap between what we think and what we think we think about ethics. This gap appears when elements of our ethical reflection and our moral theories contradict each other. It also appears when something that is important in our ethical reflection is sidelined in our moral theories. The gap appears in both ways with the ethical idea glory. The present exploration of this idea is a case study of how far actual ethical reflection diverges from moral theory. (...) This divergence tells against moral theory, and in favour of less constricted and more flexible modes of ethical reflection. (shrink)
This paper's ?I examines Derek Parfit's main, metaphysical, argument for reductionism about personal identity. ?II considers three possible ethical arguments for reductionism, and suggests a new approach to the question of what matters about personal identity which has to do with the notion of an ethical narrative.
I develop an account of moral perception which is able to deal well with familiar naturalistic non-realist complaints about ontological extravagance and ‘queerness’. I show how this account can also ground a cogent response to familiar objections presented by Simon Blackburn (about supervenience) and J.L. Mackie (about motivation). The familiar realist's problem about relativism, however, remains.
This paper considers the relation between the value of a whole (person, society) and its parts (timeslices, individuals), arguing that the contributory value of a part cannot be determined in isolation. For example, the value of an additional life may depend on what other lives there are. This has important implications for population ethics, and especially Parfit's 'repugnant conclusion'.
Though Socrates can easily look like a cosmopolitan in moral and political theory, a closer reading of the relevant texts shows that, in the most important sense of the term as we now use it, he turns out – disappointingly, perhaps – not to be. The reasons why not are instructive and important, both for readers of Plato and for political theorists; they have to do with the phenomenon that I shall call ethical blind-spots.
Two readings of the much-discussed περιτρoπη argument of Theaetetus 170c-171c have dominated the literature. One I call "the relativity reading". On this reading, the argument fails by ignoratio elenchi because it "carelessly" omits "the qualifications 'true for so-and-so' which [Protagoras'] theory insists on" (Bostock 1988: 90). The other reading I call "the many-worlds interpretation". On this view, Plato's argument succeeds in showing that "Protagoras' position becomes utterly self-contradictory" because "he claims that everyone lives in his own relativistic world, yet at (...) the same time he is forced by that very claim to admit that no one does" (Burnyeat 1976b: 48). I discuss and criticise both readings, and present a third, according to which the point of the argument is, very roughly, that Protagoras is committed to equating truth and truth-for, and so, further, to their intersubstitutability. This further commitment proves fatal to his argument. (shrink)
1. For many thinkers in the seventeenth century, self-determination is the mark of free agency: a free agent is one who determines himself, and conversely. To determine oneself, in this context, is to be the cause of one’s own actions, and that in two ways. A self-determiner brings it about, first, that he does something, as opposed to not acting at all. And second, he brings it about that the action he performs is of some specific kind, as opposed to (...) being an action of some other kind.1 Not to be self-determined, then, with respect to a particular action, is for that action to be caused (if caused at all) by something other than the agent himself. This other thing may be altogether distinct from the agent: another person or some external impersonal factor. Or it may be something that is within the agent in some way but is distinguishable from himself - that is, from his real or true self. An action whose cause is a thing or person other than the agent who performs it is said to be determined by that thing or person, and the latter is said to determine it. Correspondingly, when an agent himself is the cause of an action, he is said to determine that action, and the action is said to be determined by him. Thus the term “determine” is used in such wise that free agents can be said to determine their own actions as well as their own selves. Indeed, when an agent is said to determine himself, what is usually meant is that he determines himself to act or to act in such and such way. 2. The terms “determine” and “determination” had other uses in seventeenth-century philosophical writing. Sometimes to determine something was to decide or settle it; to ascertain or establish it; to direct or regulate it; or to fix, delimit, or define it. But the causal use that I have just characterized is the one that most pertains to the concept of self-determination and thence to that of free agency. (shrink)
In Principles I. 53, Descartes states what appears to be an important metaphysical principle: P1: Each substance has one principal property, which constitutes its nature and essence, and to which all its other properties are referred (AT VIIIA 25; CSM I 210).1 Marleen Rozemond calls this Descartes's "Attributes Premise", and it leads directly, as she points out, to Cartesian Dualism, the doctrine that a human mind and a human body, even when they belong to the same human being, are distinct (...) substances (Rozemond forthcoming). (shrink)
The Essay concerning Human Understanding was published at the end of 1689.1 It sold well, and within three years Locke was planning revisions for a second edition. Among those whose “advice and assistance” he sought was the Irish scientist William Molyneux. Locke had begun a correspondence with Molyneux a few months before, after the latter had lavishly praised the Essay and its author in the Epistle Dedicatory of his own Dioptrica Nova, published early in 1692. Here was a man, Locke (...) concluded, whose judgment one could trust. He returned Molyneux’s compliment in the Essay’s new edition, calling him “that very Ingenious and Studious promoter of real Knowledge, ... whom I am proud to call my friend” (2-5 II.ix.8: 145-46). (shrink)
Ethics and Experience presents a wide-ranging and thought-provoking introduction to the question famously posed by Socrates: “How is life to be lived?” An excellent primer for any student taking a course on moral philosophy, the book introduces ethics as a single and broadly unified field of inquiry in which we apply reason to try and solve Socrates’ question. Ethics and Experience examines the major forms of ethical subjectivism and objectivism - including expressivism, “error theory”, naturalism, and intuitionism. The book lays (...) out the detail of the most significant contemporary moral theories - including utilitarianism, virtue ethics, Kantianism, and contractarianism – and reconsiders these theories in the light of two questions that should perhaps be asked more often: Is moral theory, with its tendency to regiment ethical thought and experience, really the best way for us to apply reason to deciding how to live? And, might it not be more truly reasonable to look for less system and more insight? (shrink)
I argue that if a normative theory of practical rationality is to represent an adequate and coherent response to a plurality of incommensurable goods, it cannot be a maximising theory. It will have to be a theory that recognises two responses to goods as morally licit – promotion and respect – and one as morally illicit – violation. This result has a number of interesting corollaries, some of which I indicate. Perhaps the most interesting is that it makes the existence (...) of a plurality of incommensurable goods incompatible with consequentialism. (shrink)
The Essay concerning Human Understanding was published at the end of 1689.1 It sold well, and within three years Locke was planning revisions for a second edition. Among those whose “advice and assistance” he sought was the Irish scientist William Molyneux. Locke had begun a correspondence with Molyneux a few months before, after the latter had lavishly praised the Essay and its author in the Epistle Dedicatory of his own Dioptrica Nova, published early in 1692. Here was a man, Locke (...) concluded, whose judgment one could trust. He returned Molyneux’s compliment in the Essay’s new edition, calling him “that very Ingenious and Studious promoter of real Knowledge, ... whom I am proud to call my friend”. (shrink)
I begin by contrasting Aristotle’s ‘world-centred’ general epistemology, and his ‘mind-centred’ (more exactly, ‘agathos-centred’) moral epistemology. I argue that Aristotle takes this approach, not because he doubts the objectivity of ethics, nor because he is an ‘ethical particularist’ (whatever one of those is), but because of the reflexive nature of ethics as a study. I further argue that, by taking the notion that ‘the good man is the measure of all things’ as central to Aristotle’s ethics, we can see how (...) to unify coherently the rather embarrassingly diverse ethical resources that Aristotle offers us. (shrink)
An option range is a set of alternative actions available to an agent at a given time. I ask how a moral theory’s account of option ranges relates to its recommendations about deliberative procedure (DP) and criterion of rightness (CR). I apply this question to Act Consequentialism (AC), which tells us, at any time, to perform the action with the best consequences in our option range then. If anyone can employ this command as a DP, or assess (direct or indirect) (...) compliance with it as a CR, someone must be able to tell which actions fit this description. Since the denseness of possibilia entails that any option range is indefinitely large, no one can do this. So no one can know that any option has ever emerged from any range as the best option in that range. However we come to know that a given option is right, we never come to know it in AC’s way. It is often observed that AC cannot give us a DP. AC cannot give us a CR either, unless we are omniscient. So Act Consequentialism is useless. (shrink)
Meditation. A man is a compositus ex mente et corpore (VII 82; II 57), a composite being consisting of a mind and a body. [Note: In parenthetical citations of Descartes's text, the first pair of numerals refers to volume and page of the Adam and Tannery edition; the second pair to volume and page of the English translation by Cottingham, Stoothoff, Murdoch, and Kenny.] These two components of a man are themselves different things. Not only are they disparate in nature, (...) having nothing in common; but they are also distinct from one another, in the sense that each can exist without the other. (shrink)
We shall find that the metaphysical views offered on behalf of moral conclusions about abortion do nothing in defence of those conclusions. Other disputable assumptions separate each moral conclusion from the invoked metaphysical view. It is the defensibility of the other assumptions that is crucial. No metaphysical view cited on behalf of a moral conclusion substantially advances the argument in favour of the conclusion.
Mahāyāna ethics has a threefold emphasis: avoiding all evil, cultivating good, and saving all beings. Most Western studies of Buddhist ethics have used Pali and Sanskrit sources to examine the first two components, which are based on monastic codes for avoiding wrong doing and attain- ing virtue. Among the few studies of the third category, which includes Buddhist social ethics, East Asian Mahāyāna materials have been sadly lacking despite the Mahāyāna rhetoric about saving all beings. To correct this deficiency, this (...) paper analyzes an early lay Mahayana text, the Updsaka Precept Sūtra. The Upāsaka differs from earlier Buddhism and from many other Mahāyāna texts in two ways: it gives supremacy to com- passionate action in society rather than monastic spiritual attainment, and it asserts that helping others out of compassion is the highest practice and best way to attain enlightenment. (shrink)
After 25 centuries, Aristotle's influence on our society's moral thinking remains profound and he continues to be a very important contributor to contemporary debates in philosophical ethics. This collection showcases some of the best new writing on the Aristotelian notion of virtue of character, which remains central to much of the most interesting work in ethical theory.
Agents have aims. Any aim can be either simple or complex. If an aim is complex, then its different components make irreducibly different demands on the agent. The agent cannot rationally respond to all these demands by promoting all her different component aims at once. She must recognise a distinction between the rational response to any component aim of promoting it, and the rational response of respecting it. If the goods are incommensurable, then rational agents have complex aims. So if (...) the goods are incommensurable, rational agents do not only promote whatever aims they recognise. But consequentialism tells agents only to promote whatever aims they recognise. So if the goods are incommensurable, consequentialism is wrong. I note applications of this argument to the writings of Robert Nozick, Philip Pettit, and John Harris. (shrink)
[About the book] Natural law theory says that humans can only live well if they recognise the goods that are natural for humans, and understand how those goods generate the system of practical guidance that we call morality. Natural law is a long-established and flourishing ethical tradition, with roots in Aristotle and Aquinas, which is increasingly recognised as a worthy competitor to Kantianism, utilitarianism and virtue ethics. The new essays in this collection represent the latest thinking - both constructive and (...) critical - of some of the most important thinkers in the field. And they reflect the growing influence, sophistication, and importance of natural law theory within contemporary ethical debate. (shrink)