According to the “Textbook View,” there is an extensional dispute between consequentialists and deontologists, in virtue of the fact that only the latter defend “agent-relative” principles—principles that require an agent to have a special concern with making sure that she does not perform certain types of action. I argue that, contra the Textbook View, there are agent-neutral versions of deontology. I also argue that there need be no extensional disagreement between the deontologist and consequentialist, as characterized by the Textbook (...) View. (shrink)
In this paper, I criticize David McNaughton and Piers Rawling's formalization of the agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction. I argue that their formalization is unable to accommodate an important ethical distinction between two types of conditional obligations. I then suggest a way of revising their formalization so as to fix the problem.
An idea that has attracted a lot of attention lately is the thought that consequentialism is a theory characterized basically by its agent neutrality.1 The idea, however, has also met with skepticism. In particular, it has been argued that agent neutrality cannot be what separates consequentialism from other types of theories of reasons for action, since there can be agent-neutral non-consequentialist theories as well as agent-relative consequentialist theories. I will argue in this paper that this last claim is false. (...) The paper is divided into four sections. Section one specifies two senses in which consequentialism is agent-neutral. Section two and three examine and reject, respectively, the claim that there are agent-relative consequentialist views as well as agent-neutral non-consequentialist views. I end the paper with some remarks on the plausibility, or better, the implausibility of characterizing consequentialism in terms other than agent neutrality. (shrink)
In his recent book Slaves of the Passions , Mark Schroeder defends a Humean account of practical reasons ( hypotheticalism ). He argues that it is compatible with 'genuinely agent-neutral reasons'. These are reasons that any agent whatsoever has. According to Schroeder, they may well include moral reasons. Furthermore, he proposes a novel account of a reason's weight, which is supposed to vindicate the claim that agent-neutral reasons ( if they exist), would be weighty irrespective of anyone's desires. (...) If the argument is successful, it could help avoid an error-theory of moral language. I argue that it isn't, and that we should reject a Humean approach to reasons. (shrink)
Is there a justification of concern for one's own integrity that agent-neutral consequentialism cannot explain? In addressing this question, it is important to be clear about what is meant by 'agent-neutral', 'consequentialism', and 'integrity'. Let 'consequentialism' be constituted by the following two theses.
The agent-relative/agent-neutral distintion is widely and rightly regarded as a philosophically important one. Unfortunately, the distinction is often drawn in different and mutually incompatible ways. The agent-relative/agent-neutral distinction has historically been drawn three main ways: the ‘principle-based distinction’, the ‘reason-statement-based distinction’ and the ‘perspective-based distinction’. Each of these approaches has its own distinctive vices (Sections 1-3). However, a slightly modified version of the historically influential principle-based approach seems to avoid most if not all of these vices (Section 4). (...) The distinction so understood differs from numerous other distinctions with which it might easily be confused (Section 5). Finally, the distinction so drawn is important to normative theorizing for a variety of reasons (Section 6). (shrink)
The dispute between Kantians and Humeans over whether practical reason can justify moral reasons for all agents is often characterized as a debate over whether reasons are hypothetical or categorical. Instead, this debate must be understood in terms of the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons. This paper considers Alan Gewirth’s Reason and Morality as a case study of a Kantian justification of morality focused on deriving categorical reasons from hypothetical reasons. The case study demonstrates first, the possibility of (...) categorical agent-relative reasons, and second, that inattention to this possibility has caused considerable confusion in the debate between Kantians and Humeans. (shrink)
The distinction between the agent-relative and the agent-neutral plays a prominent role in recent attempts to taxonomize normative theories. Its importance extends to most areas in practical philosophy, though. Despite its popularity, the distinction remains difficult to get a good grip on. In part this has to do with the fact that there is no consensus concerning the sort of objects to which we should apply the distinction. Thomas Nagel distinguishes between agent-neutral and agent-relative values, reasons, and principles; (...) Derek Parfit focuses on normative theories (and the aims they provide to agents), David McNaughton and Piers Rawling focus on rules and reasons, Skorupski on predicates, and there are other suggestions too. Some writers suspect that we fundamentally talk about one and the same distinction. This work is about practical reasons for action rather than theoretical reasons for belief. Moreover, focus is on whether reasons do or do not essentially refer to particular agents. A challenge that undermines the dichotomy in this sense is posed. After having rejected different attempts to defend the distinction, it is argued that there is a possible defence that sets out from Jonathan Dancy’s recent distinction between enablers and favourers. (shrink)
I argue that evolutionary strategies of kin selection and game-theoretic reciprocity are apt to generate agent-centered and agent- neutral moral intuitions, respectively. Such intuitions are the building blocks of moral theories, resulting in a fundamental schism between agent-centered theories on the one hand and agent-neutral theories on the other. An agent-neutral moral theory is one according to which everyone has the same duties and moral aims, no matter what their personal interests or interpersonal relationships. Agent-centered moral theories deny (...) this and include at least some prescriptions that include ineliminable indexicals. I argue that there are no rational means of bridging the gap between the two types of theories; nevertheless this does not necessitate skepticism about the moral—we might instead opt for an ethical relativism in which the truth of moral statements is relativized to the perspective of moral theories on either side of the schism. Such a relativism does not mean that any ethical theory is as good as any other; some cannot be held in reflective equilibrium, and even among those that can, there may well be pragmatic reasons that motivate the selection of one theory over another. But if no sort of relativism is deemed acceptable, then it is hard to avoid moral skepticism. (shrink)
Reasons are facts, i.e., they are constituted by facts. Given a popular view that conceives of facts as thin abstract rather than thick concrete entities, the dichotomy between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons is not particularly problematic. It is argued that it would be preferable if we could understand the dichotomy even if we had a thick noton of fact in mind. It would be preferable because it is better if our notion of a reason is consistent with a wider (...) rather than narrower set of plausible metaphysical views. But, more importantly, it would also be preferable because the thin approach trivializes an interesting issue among practical philosophers. Moreover, as an additional drawback, the thin account is in one respect less appealing than its thick cousin. The latter is not flawless, though. Some major objections to the thick notion is discussed. (shrink)
One way to approach the question of whether there are non-derivative partial reasons of any kind is to give an account of what partial reasons are, and then to consider whether there are such reasons. If there are, then it is at least possible that there are partial reasons of friendship. It is this approach that will be taken here, and it produces several interesting results. The first is a point about the structure of partial reasons. It is at least (...) a necessary condition of a reason’s being partial that it has an explicit relational component. This component, technically, is a rela- tum in the reason relation that itself is a relation between the person to whom the reason applies and the person whom the action for which there is a reason concerns. The second conclusion of the paper is that this relational component is also required for a number of types of putatively impartial reasons. In order to avoid trivialising the distinction between partial and impartial rea- sons, some further sufficient condition must be applied. Finally, there is some prospect for a way of distinguishing between impartial reasons that contain a relational component and partial rea- sons, but that this approach suggests that the question of whether ethics is partial or impartial will be settled at the level of normative ethical discourse, or at least not at the level of discourse about the nature of reasons for action. (shrink)
This paper is a rejoinder to Professor Jim Humber on the issue of fathers' rights. I reaffirm my position that if a woman's right to an abortion is a morally permissible way of avoiding future duties with respect to parenting, then fathers must have a similar moral right and ought to have a way to exercise this right. I consider and rebut Professor Humber's objections to this view.
Mark Schroeder’s Hypotheticalism: agent-neutrality, moral epistemology, and methodology Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9657-2 Authors Tristram McPherson, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota Duluth, 361 A. B. Anderson Hall, 1121 University Drive, Duluth, MN 55812, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
: What kinds of comparisons can legitimately be made between Mahāyāna Buddhism and Western ethical theories? Mahāyānists aspire to alleviate the suffering, promote the happiness, and advance the moral perfection of all sentient beings. This aspiration is best understood as expressing a form of universalist consequentialism. Many Indian Mahāyāna texts seem committed to claims about agent-neutrality that imply consequentialism and are not compatible with virtue ethics. Within the Mahāyāna tradition, there is some diversity of views: Asaṅga seems to hold a (...) complex and interesting version of rule consequentialism, whereas Śāntideva is closer to act consequentialism. (shrink)
A theory is agent neutral if it gives every agent the same set of aims and agent relative otherwise. Most philosophers take act-consequentialism to be agent-neutral, but I argue that at the heart of consequentialism is the idea that all acts are morally permissible in virtue of their propensity to promote value and that, given this, it is possible to have a theory that is both agent-relative and act-consequentialist. Furthermore, I demonstrate that agent-relative act-consequentialism can avoid the counterintuitive implications (...) associated with utilitarianism while maintaining the compelling idea that it is never wrong to bring about the best outcome. (shrink)
Many claim that a plausible moral theory would have to include a principle of beneficence, a principle telling us to produce goods that are both welfarist and agent-neutral. But when we think carefully about the necessary connection between moral obligations and reasons for action, we see that agents have two reasons for action, and two moral obligations: they must not interfere with any agent's exercise of his rational capacities and they must do what they can to make sure that (...) agents have rational capacities to exercise. According to this distinctively deontological view of morality, though we are obliged to produce goods, the goods in question are non-welfarist and agent-relative. The value of welfare thus turns out to be, at best, instrumental. (shrink)
Why do agent-relative reasons have authority over us, reflective creatures? Reductive accounts base the normativity of agent-relative reasons on agent-neutral considerations like having parents caring especially for their own children serves best the interests of all children. Such accounts, however, beg the question about the source of normativity of agent-relative ways of reason-giving. In this paper, I argue for a non-reductive account of the reflective necessity of agent-relative concerns. Such an account will reveal an important structural complexity of practical (...) reasoning in general. Christine Korsgaard relates the rational binding force of practical reasons to the various identities or self-conceptions under which we value ourselves. The problem is that it is not clear why such self-conceptions would necessitate us rationally, given the fact that most of our identities are simply given. Perhaps, Harry Frankfurt is right in arguing that we are not only necessitated by reason, but also, and predominantly by what we love. I argue, however, that the necessities of love (in Frankfurts phrase) are not to be separated from, but should be seen as belonging to the necessities of reason. Our loves, concerns and related identities provide for a specific and important structure to practical reflection. They function on the background of reasoning, having a specific default role: they would lose their character as concerns, if there was a need for them to be cited on the foreground of deliberation or if there was a need to justify them. This does not mean that our deep concerns cannot be scrutinised. They can only be scrutinised in an indirect way, however, which explains their role in grounding the normativity of agent-relative reasons. It appears that this account can provide for a viable interpretation of Korsgaards argument about the foundational role of practical identities. (shrink)
Long claimed to be the dominant conception of practical reason, the Humean theory that reasons for action are instrumental, or explained by desires, is the basis for a range of worries about the objective prescriptivity of morality. As a result, it has come under intense attack in recent decades. A wide variety of arguments have been advanced which purport to show that it is false, or surprisingly, even that it is incoherent. Slaves of the Passions aims to set the record (...) straight, by advancing a version of the Humean theory of reasons which withstands this sophisticated array of objections. Schroeder defends a radical new view which, if correct, means that the commitments of the Humean theory have been widely misunderstood. Along the way, he raises and addresses questions about the fundamental structure of reasons, the nature of normative explanations, the aims of and challenges facing reductive views in metaethics, the weight of reasons, the nature of desire, moral epistemology, and most importantly, the relationship between agent-relational and agent-neutral reasons for action. (shrink)
This paper considers the connection between the three-place relation, R is a reason for X to do A and the two-place relation, R is a reason to do A. I consider three views on which the former is to be analyzed in terms of the latter. I argue that these views are widely held, and explain the role that they play in motivating interesting substantive ethical theories. But I reject them in favor of a more obvious analysis, which goes the (...) other way around. (shrink)
The scientific worldview is based on laws, which are supposed to be certain, objective, and independent of time and context. The narrative worldview found in literature, myth and religion, is based on stories, which relate the events experienced by a subject in a particular context with an uncertain outcome. This paper argues that the concept of “agent”, supported by the theories of evolution, cybernetics and complex adaptive systems, allows us to reconcile scientific and narrative perspectives. An agent follows a course (...) of action through its environment with the aim of maximizing its fitness. Navigation along that course combines the strategies of regulation, exploitation and exploration, but needs to cope with often-unforeseen diversions. These can be positive (affordances, opportunities), negative (disturbances, dangers) or neutral (surprises). The resulting sequence of encounters and actions can be conceptualized as an adventure. Thus, the agent appears to play the role of the hero in a tale of challenge and mystery that is very similar to the "monomyth", the basic storyline that underlies all myths and fairy tales according to Campbell . This narrative dynamics is driven forward in particular by the alternation between prospect (the ability to foresee diversions) and mystery (the possibility of achieving an as yet absent prospect), two aspects of the environment that are particularly attractive to agents. This dynamics generalizes the scientific notion of a deterministic trajectory by introducing a variable “horizon of knowability”: the agent is never fully certain of its further course, but can anticipate depending on its degree of prospect. (shrink)
Neutral monism is a position in metaphysics defended by Mach, James, and Russell in the early twentieth century. It holds that minds and physical objects are essentially two different orderings of the same underlying neutral elements of nature. This paper sets out some of the central concepts, theses and the historical background of ideas that inform this doctrine of elements. The discussion begins with the classic neutral monism of Mach, James, and Russell in the first part of the paper, then (...) considers recent neo-Russellian versions in the second half. The chances for a revival of neutral monism are probably slight; its key ideas and starting points lie far from those in contemporary philosophy of mind. A better route might be through the philosophy of science and a deeper understanding of causation. (shrink)
Key elements of Randolph Clarke's libertarian account of freedom that requires both agent-causation and non-deterministic event-causation in the production of free action is assessed with an eye toward determining whether agent-causal accounts can accommodate the truth of judgments of moral obligation.
The problem of freedom and determinism has vexed philosophers for several millennia, and continues to be a topic of lively debate today. One of the proposed solutions to the problem that has received a great deal of attention is the Theory of Agent Causation. While the theory has enjoyed its share of advocates, and perhaps more than its share of critics, the theory’s advocates and critics have always agreed on one thing: the Theory of Agent Causation is an incompatibilist theory. (...) That is, both believers and nonbelievers in the theory have taken it for granted that the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is one according to which freedom and determinism are incompatible. In fact, so entrenched is this assumption that no one on either side of the debate has ever questioned it. Yet it turns out that this assumption is wrong – the most plausible version of the Theory of Agent Causation is a compatibilist one. (shrink)
The increasingly common use of inclusive language (e.g., "he or she") in representing past philosophers' views is often inappropriate. Using Immanuel Kant's work as an example, I compare his use of terms such as "human race" and "human being" with his views on women to show that his use of generic terms does not prove that he includes women. I then discuss three different approaches to this issue, found in recent Kant-literature, and show why each of them is insufficient. I (...) conclude that the tension between gender-neutral and gender-specific views in Kant's work should be made explicit, and I offer several strategies for doing so. (shrink)
This article provides an answer to the question: What is the function of cognition? By answering this question it becomes possible to investigate what are the simplest cognitive systems. It addresses the question by treating cognition as a solution to a design problem. It defines a nested sequence of design problems: (1) How can a system persist? (2) How can a system affect its environment to improve its persistence? (3) How can a system utilize better information from the environment to (...) select better actions? And, (4) How can a system reduce its inherent informational limitations to achieve more successful behavior? This provides a corresponding nested sequence of system classes: (1) autonomous systems, (2) (re)active autonomous systems, (3) informationally controlled autonomous systems (autonomous agents), and (4) cognitive systems. -/- This article provides the following characterization of cognition: The cognitive system is the set of mechanisms of an autonomous agent that (1) allow increase of the correlation and integration between the environment and the information system of the agent, so that (2) the agent can improve the selection of actions and thereby produce more successful behavior. -/- Finally, it shows that common cognitive capacities satisfy the characterization: learning, memory, representation, decision making, reasoning, attention, and communication. (shrink)
In this paper we consider the concept of a self-aware agent. In cognitive science agents are seen as embodied and interactively situated in worlds. We analyse the meanings attached to these terms in cognitive science and robotics, proposing a set of conditions for situatedness and embodiment, and examine the claim that internal representational schemas are largely unnecessary for intelligent behaviour in animats. We maintain that current situated and embodied animats cannot be ascribed even minimal self-awareness, and offer a six point (...) definition of embeddedness, constituting minimal conditions for the evolution of a sense of self. This leads to further analysis of the nature of embodiment and situatedness, and a consideration of whether virtual animats in virtual worlds could count as situated and embodied. We propose that self-aware agents must possess complex structures of self-directed goals; multi-modal sensory systems and a rich repertoire of interactions with their worlds. Finally, we argue that embedded agents will possess or evolve local co-ordinate systems, or points of view, relative to their current positions in space and time, and have a capacity to develop an egocentric space. None of these capabilities are possible without powerful internal representational capacities. (shrink)
In this paper, we first propose a simple formal language to specify types of agents in terms of necessary conditions for their announcements. Based on this language, types of agents are treated as ‘first-class citizens’ and studied extensively in various dynamic epistemic frameworks which are suitable for reasoning about knowledge and agent types via announcements and questions. To demonstrate our approach, we discuss various versions of Smullyan’s Knights and Knaves puzzles, including the Hardest Logic Puzzle Ever (HLPE) proposed by Boolos (...) (in Harv Rev Philos 6:62–65, 1996). In particular, we formalize HLPE and verify a classic solution to it. Moreover, we propose a spectrum of new puzzles based on HLPE by considering subjective (knowledge-based) agent types and relaxing the implicit epistemic assumptions in the original puzzle. The new puzzles are harder than the previously proposed ones in the literature, in the sense that they require deeper epistemic reasoning. Surprisingly, we also show that a version of HLPE in which the agents do not know the others’ types does not have a solution at all. Our formalism paves the way for studying these new puzzles using automatic model checking techniques. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to discuss the “Framework for M&S with Agents” (FMSA) proposed by Zeigler et al. [2000, 2009] in regard to the diverse epistemological aims of agent simulations in social sciences. We first show that there surely are great similitudes, hence that the aim to emulate a universal “automated modeler agent” opens new ways of interactions between these two domains of M&S with agents. E.g., it can be shown that the multi-level conception at the core of (...) the FMSA is similar in both contexts: notions of “levels of system specifi cation”, “behavior of models”, “simulator”and “endomorphic agents” can be partially translated in the terms linked to the “denotational hierarchy” (DH) and recently introduced in a multi-level centered epistemology of M&S. Second, we suggest considering the question of “credibility” of agent M&S in social sciences when we do not try to emulate but only to simulate target systems. Whereas a stringent and standardized treatment of the heterogeneous internal relations (in the DH) between systems of formalisms is the key problem and the essential challenge in the scope of Agent M&S driven engineering, it is urgent too to address the problem of the external relations (and of the external validity, hence of the epistemic power and credibility) of such levels of formalisms in the specific domains of agent M&S in social sciences, especially when we intend to introduce the concepts of activity tracking. (shrink)
Now that complex Agent-Based Models and computer simulations spread over economics and social sciences - as in most sciences of complex systems -, epistemological puzzles (re)emerge. We introduce new epistemological concepts so as to show to what extent authors are right when they focus on some empirical, instrumental or conceptual significance of their model or simulation. By distinguishing between models and simulations, between types of models, between types of computer simulations and between types of empiricity obtained through a simulation, section (...) 2 gives the possibility to understand more precisely - and then to justify - the diversity of the epistemological positions presented in section 1. Our final claim is that careful attention to the multiplicity of the denotational powers of symbols at stake in complex models and computer simulations is necessary to determine, in each case, their proper epistemic status and credibility. (shrink)
A formal model for updates—the result of learning that the world has changed—in a multi-agent setting is presented and completely axiomatized. The model allows that several agents simultaneously are informed of an event in the world in such a way that it becomes common knowledge among the agents that the event has occurred. The model shares many features with the model for common announcements—an announcement about the state of the world in which it becomes common knowledge among the audience that (...) the announcement has been made—presented in Cantwell (2005), but exploits the difference between learning that a state of the world obtains and learning that the state of the world has changed. (shrink)
A socio-cognitive approach to trust can help us envisage a notion of networked trust for multi-agent systems (MAS) based on different interacting agents. In this framework, the issue is to evaluate whether or not a socio-cognitive analysis of trust can apply to the interactions between human and autonomous agents. Two main arguments support two alternative hypothesis; one suggests that only reliance applies to artificial agents, because predictability of agents’ digital interaction is viewed as an absolute value and human relation is (...) judged to be a necessary requirement for trust. The other suggests that trust may apply to autonomous agents because predictability of agents’ interaction is viewed only as a relative value since the digital normativity that grows out of the communication process between interacting agents in MAS has always deal with some unpredictable outcomes (reduction of uncertainty). Furthermore, human touch is not judged to be a necessary requirement for trust. In this perspective, a diverse notion of trust is elaborated, as trust is no longer conceived only as a relation between interacting agents but, rather, as a relation between cognitive states of control and lack of control (double bind). (shrink)
I propose an Aristotelian approach to agent causation that is consistent with the hypothesis of strong emergence. This approach motivates a wider ontology than materialism by maintaining (1) that the agent is generated by the brain without being reducible to it on grounds of the unity of experience and (2) that the agent possesses (formal) causal power to affect (i.e., mold, sculpt, or organize) the brain on grounds of agent-directed neuroplasticity. After providing recent empirical evidence for the strong emergence of (...) the agent, I then articulate and analyze a dominant objection to agent causation discussed in neuroscience, which is based upon the observation of the readiness potential (or RP) in the brain. In this context, the RP refers to unconscious neuronal events (in the supplementary motor area) that precede the formation of a (proximal) conscious intention to act. So it appears as if the train of neuronal events has left the depot before the agent can act. In response to this objection, I argue (a) that even if one were to grant that the RP precedes the formation of a conscious intention, it would not follow (on both logical and empirical grounds) that there is no conscious agent causation; and (b) that the objection disappears when one takes into account distal versus proximal intentions. (shrink)
The objective of this work is to demonstrate how cooperative sharers and uncooperative free riders can be placed in different groups of an electronic society in a decentralised manner. We have simulated an agent-based open and decentralised P2P system which self-organises itself into different groups to avoid cooperative sharers being exploited by uncooperative free riders. This approach encourages sharers to move to better groups and restricts free riders into those groups of sharers without needing centralised control. Our approach is suitable (...) for current P2P systems that are open and distributed. Gossip is used as a social mechanism for information sharing which facilitates the formation of groups. Using multi-agent based simulations we demonstrate how the adaptive behaviour of agents lead to self-organisation. We have tested with varying the gossip level and checked its impact in the system’s behaviour. We have also investigated the impact of false gossip in this system where gossip is the medium for information sharing which leads to self-organisation. (shrink)
Until recently it has been conventional to assume that ethical egoism is "ethical" is name, alone, and that no account that considers one's own interests as the standard of moral obligation could count as seriously "ethical." In recent years, however, philosophers have shown increasing respect for more sophisticated forms of ethical egoism which attempt to define self-interest in enriched terms characterizing self-interest as human flourishing in both material and psychological dimensions. But philosophers are still skeptical that any conception of self-interest (...) could underpin ethical theory. This paper considers recent arguments by Richard Joyce, who is willing to concede enriched conceptions of self-interest, but who claims that egoism cannot support appropriate counterfactual conditionals about morality, or inferential uses of ordinary moral thinking. I argue that ethical egoism can satisfy each of Joyce's desiderata for morality, provided that it is taken to involve the very notion of enriched self-interest that Joyce is elsewhere willing to consider. In showing that egoism can count as a moral theory, I show, in effect, that Joyce's arguments for error theory about morality are really arguments for error theory about agent-neutral, non-egoistic morality. (shrink)
Recently, it has been a part of the so-called consequentializing project to attempt to construct versions of consequentialism that can support agent-relative moral constraints. Mark Schroeder has argued that such views are bound to fail because they cannot make sense of the agent relative value on which they need to rely. In this paper, I provide a fitting-attitude account of both agent-relative and agent-neutral values that can together be used to consequentialize agent-relative constraints.
The maintenance of economic equality can easily seem to depend on participants caring more for impartial values such as distributive justice than they are morally required to do. A liberal morality in which partial concerns for the interests of oneself or one's loved ones are given some scope might seem to permit people to refrain from doing what is impartially best unless they are compensated, even though compensation would produce inequality. This tension between liberal morality and egalitarianism is often exaggerated (...) by a failure to consider the limits of permissible partiality even in a liberal, or partiality-friendly, morality. The option of partiality has limits; it cannot be exercised no matter what. I argue that partial concerns will often be overruled morally if some burdensome work would be good enough from an impartial standpoint. This idea of leveraged enhancement - intentionally enhancing the agent-neutral value of work that would otherwise be optional - has important normative consequences both for personal morality and for the design of social institutions with an eye to distributive justice. (shrink)
This book addresses two related topics: self-control and individual autonomy. In approaching these issues, Mele develops a conception of an ideally self-controlled person, and argues that even such a person can fall short of personal autonomy. He then examines what needs to be added to such a person to yield an autonomous agent and develops two overlapping answers: one for compatibilist believers in human autonomy and one for incompatibilists. While remaining neutral between those who hold that autonomy is compatible with (...) determinism and those who deny this, Mele shows that belief that there are autonomous agents is better grounded than belief that there are not. (shrink)
This essay outlines an account of virtue ethics applied to the profession of journalism. Virtue ethics emphasizes character before consequences, requires the "good" prior to the "right," and allows for agent-relative as well as agent-neutral values. This essay offers an exploration of the internal characteristics of a good journalist by focusing on moral virtues crucial to journalism. First, the essay outlines the general tenets of Aristotelian virtue ethics. Second, it offers arguments touting virtue ethics in comparison with other popular (...) normative theories such as Mill's utilitarianism and Kant's deontology. Finally, an original account of journalistic virtue ethics is offered, with an emphasis on the virtues of justice and integrity. (shrink)
Sidgwick’s dualism of the practical reason is the idea that since egoism and utilitarianism<br>aim both to have rational supremacy in our practical decisions, whenever they conflict<br>there is no stronger reason to follow the dictates of either view. The dualism leaves us<br>with a practical problem: in conflict cases, we cannot be guided by practical reason to<br>decide what all things considered we ought to do. There is an epistemic problem as well:<br>the conflict of egoism and utilitarianism shows that they cannot be both (...) self-evident<br>principles. Only the existence of a just God could, for Sidgwick, prevent the conflict and<br>thus solve the dualism. The paper first explores in detail and rejects some reconstructions<br>of the dualism: a purely logical account, and accounts whereby egoism and utilitarianism<br>are principles of pro tanto reasons or of sufficient reasons. Then it proposes a better account,<br>in which egoism and utilitarianism are logically compatible and yet conflicting<br>principles of all things considered reason. The account is shown to fit with Sidgwick’s<br>view of the dualism and of its practical and epistemic pitfalls. Finally, some views are<br>discussed as to the wider positive significance of the dualism, regarded as a challenge to<br>the rational authority of morality, or as indicating the structural opposition of agentrelative<br>and agent-neutral reasons, or again as the imperfect yet amendable attempt at a<br>comprehensive pluralist theory of practical reasons. (shrink)
Christine Korsgaard has argued recently that the thesis that reasons are "essentially public" undermines the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons, thus refuting egoism by rejecting its commitment to the universal availability of agent-relative reasons. I conclude that Korsgaard's invocation of the essential publicity of reasons trades on ambiguities concerning the "sharing" of reasons and so does not refute egoism and does not ground moral normativity. Her account of the publicity of reasons shows that solipsism is incoherent, but the (...) egoist need not be a solipsist, nor is she an incompetent user of moral language or the language of reasons. (shrink)
Consequentialism is an agent-neutral teleological theory, and deontology is an agent-relative non-teleological theory. I argue that a certain hybrid of the two—namely, non-egoistic agent-relative teleological ethics (NATE)—is quite promising. This hybrid takes what is best from both consequentialism and deontology while leaving behind the problems associated with each. Like consequentialism and unlike deontology, NATE can accommodate the compelling idea that it is always permissible to bring about the best available state of affairs. Yet unlike consequentialism and like deontology, NATE (...) accords well with our commonsense moral intuitions. (shrink)
In The Sources of Normativity, Christine Korsgaard presents and defends a neo-Kantian theory of normativity. Her initial account of reasons seems to make them dependent upon the practical identity of the agent, and upon the value the agent must place on her own humanity. This seems to make all reasons agent-relative. But Korsgaard claims that arguments similar to Wittgenstein's private-language argument can show that reasons are in fact essentially agent-neutral. This paper explains both of Korsgaard's Wittgensteinian arguments, and shows (...) why neither of them work. The paper also provides a brief sketch of a different Wittgensteinian account of reasons that distinguishes the normative role of justification from that of requirement. On this account, the real agent-neutrality of reasons applies to their justificatory role, but not to their requiring role. (shrink)
This article has three main parts, Section 2 considers the nature and extent to which individuals who are well-off have a moral obligation to aid the worlds needy. Drawing on a pluralistic approach to morality, which includes consequentialist, virtue-based, and deontological elements, it is contended that most who are well-off should do much more than they do to aid the needy, and that they are open to serious moral criticism if they simply ignore the needy. Part one also focuses on (...) the United States, and illustrates both how incredibly wealthy the U.S. is and some of the spending habits of its citizens; however, its considerations apply to the well-off generally. Section 3 considers whether justice provides reasons for helping the needy. Noting that justice in an extremely complex notion, it discusses numerous considerations relevant to justices scope and implications, including an extended Rawlsian conception of justice, an absolute conception, a comparative conception, the distinction between natural and social justice, and various elements of common-sense morality. Section 2 also distinguishes between agent-relative justice-based reasons, which are relevant to whether we act justly, and agent-neutral justice-based reasons, which are relevant to whether we have reasons of justicefor acting. Correspondingly, it argues that even if one can ignore the needy without acting unjustly, as philosophers like Robert Nozick and Jan Narveson contend, there may be powerful reasons of justicefor addressing their plight. Section 4 briefly address the responsibilities of international organizations like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and World Trade Organization (WTO). Drawing on Section 2, it is suggested that in addition to standard reasons to act justlytowards needy members of the worlds community, there will be reasons of justicefor such organizations to aid the needy in both present, and future, generations. The article concludes by contending that the well-off in countries like the U.S. have reason to view international organizations like the World Bank, IMF, and WTO as their agents, and to seek to insure that they alleviate misfortunes amongst the worlds needy. (shrink)
Utilitarianism is the strand of moral philosophy that holds that judgment of whether an act is morally right or wrong, hence whether it ought to be done or not, is primarily based upon the foreseen consequences of the act in question. It has a bad reputation in military ethics because it would supposedly make military expedience override all other concerns. Given that the utilitarian credo of the greatest happiness for the greatest number is in fact agent-neutral, meaning that the (...) consequences to everyone should weigh equally, this critique of utilitarianism is not entirely fair. By focusing on some anomalies in both the principle of double effect and in our tendency to give priority to the interests of those who are near and dear to us, this article argues that there is something to be said for a military ethic that attaches less weight to intentions, and more to the consequences. (shrink)
Many believe that, if true, reason-statements of the form ‘that X is F is a reason to φ’ describe a ‘favouring-relation’ between the fact that X is F and the act of φing. This favouring-relation has been assumed to share many features of other, more concrete relations. This combination of views leads to immediate problems. Firstly, unlike statements about many other relations, reason-statements can be true even when the relata do not exist, i.e., when the relevant facts do not obtain (...) and the relevant acts are not done. Secondly, the previous combination of views also makes it very difficult to draw the distinction between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons. I argue that we should think that the predicate ‘is a reason to’ creates non-extensional contexts in the statements in which it is used. This would both solve the previous problems and avoid the awkward consequences of the so-called slingshot argument. (shrink)
Nagel' s pessimistic conclusion that current welfare state arrangements approximate to the most pragmatically effective way of reconciling the demands of morality and of an egalitarian liberalism, while not removing a deep seated incoherence between these view, can be resisted. The objective/subjective dichotomy, in this case applied via the agent-neutral/agent-relative distinction, is identified as his problematic assumption: understood in Hegelian terms as the "placing" of different categories of reason, even a minimal realism makes it difficult to understand how embedding (...) agent-relativity alongside the agent-neutral can be understood as adding to the relevant values, just by moving from a more particular to a less particular conception of the world. This transition also cannot be seen as giving us insight into the intrinsicality of certain values, as that would be to renege on the idea that the subjective point of view is still a point of view on value and one that is expanded, not renounced. It is argued that the standard objection that contractualism is fatally circular is even more plausible in the case of its use as a theory of political legitimacy and Nagel's use of it is quite open about this circularity. Criticising Nagel's philosophical anthropology allows one to develop his positive arguments for egalitarianism; the development of civic virtue, from a perspective in which "the personal" acknowledges the demands of others in one's political community, leads to a political egalitarianism located in a distinct political morality independent of a moralised politics. (shrink)
Many believe that agent-centred considerations, unlike agent-neutral reasons, cannot show that victims have the right to kill their attackers in self-defence, let alone establish that rescuers have the right to come to their help. In this paper, I argue that the right to kill in self- or other-defence is best supported by a hybrid set of reasons. In particular, agent-centred considerations account for the plausible intuition that victims have a special stake, which other parties lack, in being to thwart (...) the attackers. That special stake plays an important part justifying victims' right to obtain help, and rescuers' right to give it. (shrink)
According to Thomas Nagel, morality's authority is determined by the extent to which its way of balancing agent-neutral and agent-relative values resembles reason's. He himself would like to think that the resemblance is close enough to ensure that it will always be reasonable to act as morality demands. But his attempts to establish this never really get off the ground, in large part because he never makes it very clear how these two perspectives on value are to be characterized. (...) My goal in this paper is to show how we might flesh out Nagel's conception of these matters by construing reason as a kind of self-governance and morality as involving a certain kind of cooperation. The challenge will therefore be to determine what self-governance and cooperation require of people given the assumption that there are objective values and that they take both the agentneutral and the agent-relative forms. What we shall find is that their requirements differ rather more than Nagel allows, but perhaps not enough to prevent morality from being in some significant sense inescapable. (shrink)
Without needing to commit to any specific claims about what states of affairs have most agent-neutral value, we can nevertheless predict that states of affairs which are relatively valuable are also relatively likely to occur—on the grounds that, all else equal, at least some other agents are likely to recognize the value of those states of affairs, pursue them because they are valuable, and successfully bring them about as a consequence of that pursuit. This gives us a way to (...) promote value as such, rather than promoting it under some more tendentious description. We can predict that actions which help other people—or our own future selves—to recognize valuable states of affairs, actions which motivate them to pursue whatever states of affairs they believe to be valuable, or actions which help them succeed at their pursuits will, all else equal, have positive consequences. So we have a pro tanto reason to take such actions, and the subjective justification of that reason is independent of other moral claims. (shrink)
When may a physician enroll a patient in clinical research? An adequate answer to this question requires clarification of trust-based obligations of the state and the physician-researcher respectively to the patient-subject. The state relies on the voluntarism of patient-subjects to advance the public interest in science. Accordingly, it is obligated to protect the agent-neutral interests of patient-subjects through promulgating standards that secure these interests. Component analysis is the only comprehensive and systematic specification of regulatory standards for benefit-harm evaluation by (...) research ethics committees (RECs). Clinical equipoise, a standard in component analysis, ensures the treatment arms of a randomised control trial are consistent with competent medical care. It thus serves to protect agent-neutral welfare interests of the patient-subject. But REC review occurs prior to enrolment, highlighting the independent responsibility of the physician-researcher to protect the agent-relative welfare interests of the patient-subject. In a novel interpretation of the duty of care, we argue for a “clinical judgment principle” which requires the physician-researcher to exercise judgment in the interests of the patient-subject taking into account evidence on treatments and the patient-subject‘s circumstances. (shrink)
Robert Myers presents an original moral theory which charts a course between the extremes of consequentialism and contractualism. He puts forward a radically new case for the existence of both agent-neutral and agent-relative values, and gives an innovative answer to the question how such disparate values can be weighed against each other. The result is a theory of morality which combines a balanced account of its content with a ringing affirmation of its authority.
Most of professional ethics is grounded on the assumption that we can speak meaningfully about particular, insulated professions with aims and goals, that conceptually there exists a clear "inside and outside" to any given profession. Professional ethics has also inherited the two-part assumption from mainstream moral philosophy that we can speak meaningfully about agent-relative versus agent-neutral moral perspectives, and further, that it is only from the agent-neutral perspective that we can truly evaluate our professional moral aims, rules, and (...) practices. Several important changes that have occurred, or are currently taking place, in the structure of the health care professions, challenge those assumptions and signal the need for teachers of professional ethics to rethink the content of what we teach as well as our teaching methods. The changes include: influences and critique from other professions and from those who are served by the health professions, and influences and critique from professionals themselves, including increased activism and dissent from within the professions. The discussion focuses on changes that have occurred in the health-related fields, but insofar as similar changes are occurring in other professions such as law and business, these arguments will have broader conceptual implications for the way we ought to think about professional ethics more generally. (shrink)
Is there a rational and ethical basis for efforts to rescue individuals in dire straits? When does rescue have ethical support, and when does it reflect an irrational impulse? This paper defines a Rule of Rescue and shows its intuitive appeal. It then proceeds to argue that this rule lacks support from standard principles of justice and from ethical principles more broadly, and should be rejected in many situations. I distinguish between agent-relative and agent-neutral reasons, and argue that the (...) Rule of Rescue qualifies only in a narrow range of cases where agent-relative considerations apply. I conclude that it would be wise to set aside the Rule of Rescue in many cases, especially those involving public policies, where it has only weak normative justification. The broader implications of this analysis are noted. (shrink)
People in our liberal pluralistic society have conflicting intuitions about the legitimacy of coercive hard paternalism, though respect for agency provides a common source of objection to it. The hard paternalist must give adequate reasons for her coercion which are acceptable to a free and equal agent. Coercion that fails to meet with an agent’s reasonable evaluative commitments is at least problematic and risks being authoritarian. Even if the coercer claims no normative authority over the coercee, the former still uses (...) coercion to replace the latter’s reasons or will with his own reasons or will. But does every hard paternalistic view have to invite such objection? Throughout I will assume that defenders of what I will call “Neutral Paternalism” (NP) and “Commonsense Paternalism” (CP) aim to offer reasons for coercion all can reasonably endorse despite evaluative diversity, in opposition to more objectionable forms of coercive paternalism, such as those which defend it on religious or perfectionist grounds. I will argue, nonetheless, that Gerald Dworkin’s defense of NP and Danny Scoccia’s defense of CP succumb to the same problems of objectionable imposition that saddle other forms of coercive paternalism. The shortcomings in their views suggest that even modest hard paternalism is nonetheless problematic for liberals. (shrink)
In what follows, I will contend that the commonsense view of ourselves as fundamental causal agents - for which some have used the term “unmoved movers" but which I think might more accurately be expressed as “not wholly moved movers” - is theoretically understandable, internally consistent, and consistent with what we have thus far come to know about the nature and workings of the natural world. In the section that follows, I try to show how the concept of ‘agent’ causation (...) can be understood as a distinct species (from ‘event’ causation) of the primitive idea, which I’ll term “causal production”, underlying realist or non-Humean conceptions of event causation. In section III, I respond to a number of contemporary objections to the theory of agent causation. Sections IV-V are devoted to showing that the theory is compatible with ordinary reasons explanations of action, which then places me in a position to respond, in the final section, to the contention that we could never know, in principle, whether the agency theory actually describes a significant portion of human activity. (shrink)
Does the real difference between non-consequentialist and consequentialist theories lie in their approach to value? Non-consequentialist theories are thought either to allow a different kind of value (namely, agent-relative value) or to advocate a different response to value ('honouring' rather than 'promoting'). One objection to this idea implies that all normative theories are describable as consequentialist. But then the distinction between honouring and promoting collapses into the distinction between relative and neutral value. A proper description of non-consequentialist theories can only (...) be achieved by including a distinction between temporal relativity and neutrality in addition to the distinction between agent-relativity and agent-neutrality. (shrink)
For some contemporary liberal philosophers, a huge concern is liberal neutrality, which is the idea that the state should be neutral among competing conceptions of the moral good pursued by the people. In The Morality of Freedom, Joseph Raz argues that we can neither achieve nor even approximate such neutrality. He shows that neutrality and fairness are different ideas. His notion of neutrality is stricter than John Rawls's and Ronald Dworkin's. Raz shows that both helping and not helping can be (...) neutral or non-neutral, thus neutrality is chimerical. Wojciech Sadurski's appeal to rational expectations does not necessarily tell us which action is neutral. Distinguishing between comprehensive and narrow neutrality, Raz also claims that only the former is a proper response to conflicts. Sadurski criticizes it, claiming that conflicts are comprehensive in a sense which does not deny the adequacy of the narrow neutrality. In reality, however, it is almost impossible to achieve even the narrow neutrality. A theory is presented to explain why political neutrality is almost impossible to achieve. Philosophically, there is no neutral ground for neutral politics. (shrink)
As some see it, an impasse has been reached on the mind- body problem between mainstream physicalism and mainstream dualism. So lately another view has been gaining popularity, a view that might be called the 'Russellian theory of mind' (RTM) since it is inspired by some ideas once put forth by Bertrand Russell. Most versions of RTM are panpsychist, but there is at least one version that rejects panpsychism and styles itself as physicalism, and neutral monism is also a possibility. (...) In this paper I will attempt to sort out these different versions with a view to determining which, if any, have a chance of breaking the perceived impasse. The unsurprising conclusion will be that there are a lot of challenges ahead for the RTM theorist. The surprising conclusion will be that it's not clear that pan- psychist RTM holds an advantage over the other versions in this regard. (shrink)
In a recent paper I argued that agent causation theorists should be compatibilists. In this paper, I argue that compatibilists should be agent causation theorists. I consider six of the main problems facing compatibilism: (i) the powerful intuition that one can’t be responsible for actions that were somehow determined before one was born; (ii) Peter van Inwagen’s modal argument, involving the inference rule (β); (iii) the objection to compatibilism that is based on claiming that the ability to do otherwise is (...) a necessary condition for freedom; (iv) “manipulation arguments,” involving cases in which an agent is manipulated by some powerful being into doing something that he or she would not normally do, but in such a way that the compatibilist’s favorite conditions for a free action are satisfied; (v) the problem of constitutive luck; and (vi) the claim that it is not fair to blame someone for an action if that person was determined by forces outside of his or her control to perform that action. And in the case of each of these problems, I argue that the compatibilist has a much more plausible response to that problem if she endorses the theory of agent causation than she does otherwise. (shrink)
Incompatibilists and compatibilists (mostly) agree that there is a strong intuition that a manipulated agent, i.e., an agent who is the victim of methods such as indoctrination or brainwashing, is unfree. They differ however on why exactly this intuition arises. Incompatibilists claim our intuitions in these cases are sensitive to the manipulated agent’s lack of ultimate control over her actions, while many compatibilists argue that our intuitions respond to damage inflicted by manipulation on the agent’s psychological and volitional capacities. Much (...) hangs on this issue because manipulation-based arguments are among the most important for defending incompatibilist views of free will. In this paper, I investigate this issue from a experimental perspective, using a set of statistical methods well suited for identifying the features of hypothetical cases people’s intuitions are responding to. Results strongly support the compatibilist view—subjects’ tendency to judge that a manipulated agent is unfree was found to depend on their judgments that the agent suffers impairments to certain psychological/volitional capacities that compatibilists say are the basis for free will. I discuss the significance of these results for the use of manipulation cases in the philosophical debate about free will. (shrink)
According to what I call the reductive standard-causal theory of agency, the exercise of an agent's power to act can be reduced to the causal efficacy of agent-involving mental states and events. According to a non-reductive agent-causal theory, an agent's power to act is irreducible and primitive. Agent-causal theories have been dismissed on the ground that they presuppose a very contentious notion of causation, namely substance-causation. In this paper I will assume, with the proponents of the agent-causal approach, that substance-causation (...) is possible, as I will argue against that theory on the ground that it fails as a theory of agency. I will argue that the non-reductive agent-causal theory fails to account for agency, because it fails to account for agential control: it cannot explain why the stipulated irreducible relation between the agent and an action constitutes the agent's exercise of control over the action. This objection, I will argue, applies to the agent-causal theory in particular, and to the non-reductive approach in general. (shrink)
Research on the nature of dispositionality or causal power has flourished in recent years in metaphysics. This trend has slowly begun to influence debates in the philosophy of agency, especially in the literature on free will. Both sophisticated versions of agent-‐causalism and the new varieties of dispositionalist compatibilism exploit recently developed accounts of dispositionality in their defense. In this paper, I examine recent work on agent-‐causal power, focusing primarily on the account of agent-‐causalism developed and defended by Timothy O’Connor’s in (...) his work on free will. Assuming the existence of irreducible causal powers, I offer an. (shrink)
This paper reviews two skeptical arguments and argues that a reliabilist framework is necessary to avoid them. The paper also argues that agent reliabilism, which makes the knower the seat of reliability, is the most plausible version of reliabilism.
Julia Annas argues that Aristotle's understanding of the phenomenological experience of the virtuous agent corresponds to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi's concept of the ?flow,? which is a form of intrinsic motivation. In this paper, I explore whether or not Annas? understanding of virtuous agency is a plausible one. After a thorough analysis of psychological accounts of intrinsic and extrinsic states of motivation, I argue that despite the attractiveness of Annas? understanding of virtuous agency, it is subject to a serious problem: all (...) virtuous activities are not ones that we take pleasure in independently of their connection to ?virtue.? Moreover, somewhat sadly, we have no compelling reason to think that they can become so. Our psychology is not constituted to find the exercise of virtue, in all of its extensions, interesting and enjoyable, apart from its connection to virtue. (shrink)
Manipulation cases are usually seen as a problem for compatibilists, and a strength for incompatibilist theories. I present a new case of indirect manipulation, which I claim does not interfere with the manipulated agent's freedom under libertarian criteria. I argue that the only promising libertarian response to my case would undermine Widerker's response to Frankfurt cases, which I take to be the best libertarian strategy for dealing with Frankfurt-type manipulation. I outline a satisfactory compatibilist explanation of my case.
It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come to (...) the rescue on all sides. While consequentialism says that every agent ought always to do that action that will bring about the most good, according to Agent- Relative Teleology. (shrink)
In Morals From Motives, Michael Slote defends an agent-based theory of right action according to which right acts are those that express virtuous motives like benevolence or care. Critics have claimed that Slote’s view— and agent-based views more generally— cannot account for several basic tenets of commonsense morality. In particular, the critics maintain that agent-based theories: (i) violate the deontic axiom that ought implies can , (ii) cannot allow for a person’s doing the right thing for the wrong reason, and (...) (iii) do not yield clear verdicts in a number of cases involving conflicting motives and motivational over-determination . In this paper I develop a new agent-based theory of right action designed to avoid the problems presented for Slote’s view. This view makes morally right action a matter of expressing an optimal balance of virtue over vice and commands agents in each situation to improve their degree of excellence to the greatest extent possible. (shrink)
Positions taken in the current debate over free will can be seen as responses to the following conditional: If every action is caused solely by another event and a cause necessitates its effect, then there is no action to which there is an alternative. The Libertarian, who believes that alternatives are a requirement of free will, responds by denying the right conjunct of C’s antecedent, maintaining that some actions are caused, either mediately or immediately, by events whose effects could be (...) different, even if they were to recur under identical circumstances. We have here a denial of Laplacian Determinism (LD), according to which the condition of the world at any instant makes only one state possible at any other instant.<sup>1</sup> One prominent defender of this view, Robert Kane, holds that unless an agent’s neural mechanisms operated indeterministicly in forming her character she is not responsible for its manifestations.<sup>2</sup> This requirement is entailed by the principle of “ultimate responsibility” (UR) according to which an act is freely willed only if (a) its agent is personally responsible for its performance in the sense of having caused it to occur by voluntarily doing something that was avoidable and (b). (shrink)
In this paper I am concerned with an analysis of negative existential sentences that contain proper names only by using negative or neutral free logic. I will compare different versions of neutral free logic with the standard system of negative free logic (Burge, Sainsbury) and aim to defend my version of neutral free logic that I have labeled non-standard neutral free logic.
I Introduction This essay will canvass recent philosophical accounts of human agency that deploy a notion of 'self' (or 'agent') causation. Some of these accounts try to explicate this notion, whereas others only hint at its nature by way of contrast with the causality exhibited by impersonal physical systems. In these latter theories, the authors' main argumentative burden is that the apparent fundamental differences between personal and impersonal causal activity strongly suggest mind-body dualism. I begin by noting two distinct, yet (...) not commonly distinguished, philosophical motivations for pursuing an agent-causal account of human agency. In the course of discussing the accounts that some philosophers have developed in response to these considerations, I reconsider both the linkage of agent causation with mind-body dualism and its sharp cleavage from impersonal (or 'event') causation. (shrink)
I argue, contra Dreier, Blackburn, and others, that there are no morally neutral metaethical positions. Every metaethical position commits you to the denial of some moral statement. So, for example, the metaethical position that there are no moral properties commits you to the denial of the (quite plausible) moral conjunction of 1) it is right to interfere violently when someone is wrongly causing massive suffering and 2) it is wrong to interfere violently when only non-moral properties are at stake. The (...) argument generalizes to all metaethical positions. (shrink)
In this article I am concerned with whether it could be morally significant to distinguish between doing something 'in order to bring about an effect' as opposed to 'doing something because we will bring about an effect'. For example, the Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) tells us that we should not act in order to bring about evil, but even if this is true is it perhaps permissible to act only because an evil will thus occur? I discuss these questions (...) in connection with a version of the so-called Trolley Problem known as the Loop Case. I also consider how these questions may bear on whether a rational agent must aim at an event which he believes is causally necessary to achieve an end he pursues. (shrink)
Galen Strawson has claimed that “the impossibility of free will and ultimate moral responsibility can be proved with complete certainty.” Strawson, I take it, thinks that this conclusion can be established by one argument which he has developed. In this argument, he claims that rational free actions would require an infinite regress of rational choices, which is, of course, impossible for human beings. In my paper, I argue that agent causation theorists need not be worried by Strawson’s argument. For agent (...) causation theorists are able to deny a key principle which drives the regress. Oversimplifying things a bit, the principle states that if one is responsible for her rational actions, then she was antecedently responsible for the reasons on which she acted. (shrink)