It is commonly assumed that human beings are free because they have minds and, since they are the only creatures we have encountered that have minds, itis further assumed that they are the only creatures that are free. Elizabeth Anscombe, on the other hand, maintains that freedom, in the sense in which it is identified with the ability to do otherwise, is required for intentional action and, since even thoughtless beasts perform intentional actions, these beasts are also free. (...) She does not deny that humans exercise this freedom in a unique way. But by situating human freedom in a broader context and detaching it from any robust concept of mind she makes the claim that human beings are free that much easier to defend. (shrink)
In his classic paper, The Principle of Alternate Possibilities, Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the compatibilists and the incompatibilists (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both (...) parties had attributed to it -- since moral responsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moral responsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to Frankfurt-style counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this. (shrink)
Frankfurt-style examples (FSEs) cast doubt on the initially plausible claim that an ability to do otherwise is necessary for moral responsibility. Following the lead of Peter van Inwagen and others, I argue that if we are careful in distinguishing events by causal origins, then we see that FSEs fail to show that one may be morally responsible for x, yet have no alternatives to x. I provide reasons for a fine-grained causal origins approach to events apart from the (...) context of moral responsibility, and respond to the objection that moral responsibility depends on abstract entities other than events. In response to John Martin Fischer and others, I argue that the alternatives available in recent FSEs are robust enough for moral responsibility. If one thinks that the ability to do otherwise is a necessary condition for moral responsibility, the FSEs give no reason to relinquish this belief. (shrink)
When philosophers want an example of a person who lacks the ability to do otherwise, they turn to psychopathology. Addicts, agoraphobics, kleptomaniacs, neurotics, obsessives, and even psychopathic serial murderers, are all purportedly subject to irresistible desires that compel the person to act: no alternative possibility is supposed to exist. I argue that this conception of psychopathology is false and offer an empirically and clinically informed understanding of disorders of agency which preserves the ability to do otherwise. (...) First, I appeal to standard clinical treatment for disorders of agency and argue that it undermines this conception of psychopathology. Second, I offer a detailed discussion of addiction, where our knowledge of the neurobiological mechanisms underpinning the disorder is relatively advanced. I argue that neurobiology notwithstanding, addiction is not a form of compulsion and I explain how addiction can impair behavioural control without extinguishing it. Third, I step back from addiction, and briefly sketch what the philosophical landscape more generally looks like without psychopathological compulsion: we lose our standard purported real-world example of psychologically determined action. I conclude by reflecting on the centrality of choice and free will to our concept of action, and their potency within clinical treatment for disorders of agency. (shrink)
In his classic paper, "The Principle of Alternate Possibilities," Harry Frankfurt presented counterexamples to the principle named in his title: A person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have done otherwise. He went on to argue that the falsity of the Principle of Alternate Possibilities (PAP) implied that the debate between the "compatibilists" and the "incompatibilists" (as regards determinism and the ability to do otherwise) did not have the significance that both (...) parties had attributed to it - since moral responsibility could exist even if no one was able to do otherwise. I have argued that even if PAP is false, there are other principles that imply that moral responsibility entails the ability to do otherwise, and that these principles are immune to "Frankfurt-style" counterexamples. Frankfurt has attempted to show that my arguments for this conclusion fail. This paper is a rejoinder to that reply; I argue that he has failed to show this. (shrink)
What does Descartes regard as necessary for human freedom? I approach this topic from a distinctive angle by focusing on the role of the passions in Descartes’s account of free will. My goal is to show that (1) Descartes takes us to have the ability to do otherwise when we judge or choose under the influence of the passions, and that (2) while such ability does not constitute freedom in the fullest Cartesian sense, it does ensure that (...) the judgments and choices we make in response to passions are neither compelled nor unfree, but under our control. (shrink)
I argue that free will and determinism are compatible, even when we take free will to require the ability to do otherwise and even when we interpret that ability modally, as the possibility of doing otherwise, and not just conditionally or dispositionally. My argument draws on a distinction between physical and agential possibility. Although in a deterministic world only one future sequence of events is physically possible for each state of the world, the more coarsely defined (...) state of an agent and his or her environment can be consistent with more than one such sequence, and thus different actions can be “agentially possible”. The agential perspective is supported by our best theories of human behaviour, and so we should take it at face value when we refer to what an agent can and cannot do. On the picture I defend, free will is not a physical phenomenon, but a higher-level one on a par with other higher-level phenomena such as agency and intentionality. (shrink)
Whether responsibility for actions and omissions requires the ability to do otherwise is an important issue in contemporary philosophy. However, a closely related but distinct issue, namely whether doxastic responsibility requires the ability to believe otherwise, has been largely neglected. This paper fills this remarkable lacuna by providing a defence of the thesis that doxastic responsibility entails the ability to believe otherwise. On the one hand, it is argued that the fact that unavoidability is (...) normally an excuse counts in favour of this thesis. On the other hand, three objections against this thesis are discussed and criticized. First, one might think that what suffices for doxastic responsibility is control over or influence on certain desirable or undesirable properties of beliefs. It is argued that this objection misrepresents the issue under consideration. Second, it may be objected that the thesis is contradicted by our intuitions in doxastic analogues of Frankfurt-style scenarios. It is argued that distinguishing between belief-universals and belief-particulars helps to see why this argument fails. Third and finally, one might draw an analogy with the asymmetry thesis in ethics by arguing that even if blameworthy belief requires the ability to believe otherwise, praiseworthy belief does not. It is argued that the main arguments in favour of this presumed asymmetry are wanting, partly because they fail to distinguish between two different kinds of praiseworthiness. Finally, the author sketches three implications of the thesis that doxastic responsibility entails the ability to believe otherwise: counterfactual construals of responsible belief might be tenable, the deontological conception of epistemic justification needs revision on an important point, and there might be an important asymmetry between beliefs on the one hand and actions and many non-doxastic consequences on the other. (shrink)
Here it is argued that in order for something someone “does” to count as a genuine action, the person needn’t have been able to refrain from doing it. If this is right, then two recent defenses of the principle of alternative possibilities, a version of which says that a person is morally responsible for what he has done only if he could have refrained from doing it, are unsuccessful.
There is a familiar argument based on the principle that the past is fixed that, if God foreknows what I will do, I do not have the power to act otherwise. So, there is a problem about reconciling divine omniscience with the power to do otherwise. However the problem posed by the argument does not provide a good reason for adopting the view that God is outside time. In particular, arguments for the fixity of the past, if successful, (...) either establish His timelessness independently of the problem, or mean that the problem could not be solved by adopting the view that He is timeless. (Published Online April 7 2006). (shrink)
Are there moral rights to do moral wrong? A right to do wrong is a right that others not interfere with the right-holder’s wrongdoing. It is a right against enforcement of duty, that is a right that others not interfere with one’s violation of one’s own obligations. The strongest reason for moral rights to do moral wrong is grounded in the value of personal autonomy. Having a measure of protected choice (that is a right) to do wrong is a condition (...) for an autonomous life and for autonomous moral self-constitution. This view has its critics. Responding to these objections reveals that none refute the coherence of the concept of a ‘moral right to do moral wrong’. At most, some objections successfully challenge the weight and frequency of the personal autonomy reasons for such rights. Autonomy-based moral rights to do moral wrong are therefore conceptually possible as well as, at least on occasion, actual. (shrink)
It has been argued that voluntary euthanasia (VE) and physician-assisted suicide (PAS) are morally wrong. Yet, a gravely suffering patient might insist that he has a moral right to the procedures even if they were morally wrong. There are also philosophers who maintain that an agent can have a moral right to do something that is morally wrong. In this article, I assess the view that a suffering patient can have a moral right to VE and PAS despite the moral (...) wrongness of the procedures in light of the main argument for a moral right to do wrong found in recent philosophical literature. I maintain that the argument does not provide adequate support for such a right to VE and PAS. (shrink)
Philip McShane explores the implications of Bernard Lonergan’s compacted account of ‘what questions’ and ‘what-to-do questions’ for understanding deliberation. The essay provides a fascinating and instructive glimpse into McShane’s own long-continued struggle and dialogue with Lonergan’s achievement.
Peter van Inwagen notes: "... almost all philosophers agree that a necessary condition for holding an agent responsible for an act is believing that the agent could have refrained from performing that act." Perhaps van Inwagen is right; perhaps most philosophers agree on this. If so, this shared assumption, which I will call CDO (for "could have done otherwise"), is a good candidate for denial, especially since there turns out to be so little to be said in support of (...) it, once it is called in question. I will argue that, just like those people who are famous only for being famous, this assumption owes its traditional high regard to nothing more than its traditional high regard. It is almost never questioned. And the tradition itself, I will claim, is initially motivated by little more than inattentive extrapolation from familiar cases. To engage the issue, I assert that it simply does not matter at all to moral responsibility whether the agent in question could have done otherwise in the circumstances. (shrink)
Recently, society and the accounting profession have become increasingly concerned with ethics. Accounting researchers have responded by attempting to investigate and analyze the ethical behavior of accountants. While the current state of ethical behavior among practitioners is important, the ability of accountants to detect ethical problems that may not be obvious should also be studied and understood. This study addresses three questions: (1) are auditors alert to ethical issues; (2) if so, how important do they perceive them to be; (...) and (3) what factors affect their sensitivity threshold and their perceptions of the importance of the issues?Most of the prior research in accounting ethics presents subjects with scenarios that contain an obvious ethical issue, and subjects realize that they are participating in an ethics study. In the present study, the ethical problems are integrated into general accounting situations in order to discover the sensitivity of accounting professionals to them. This study defines ethical sensitivity as the ability to interpret a given situation and to realize that a moral problem exists. (shrink)
This paper presents the results of a study of the effect of a business ethics course in enhancing the ability of students to recognize ethical issues. The findings show that compared to students who do not complete such a course, students enrolled in a business ethics course experience substantial improvement in that ability.
From over 2000 years ago the ideal expressed in the Hippocratic Oath has encouraged doctors never knowingly to do harm: primum non nocere. Over 25 years ago the management writer Peter Drucker proposed it as the basis of a management ethic, ‘the right rule for the ethics managers need, the ethics of responsibility’. He argued then that the rule had wide scope encompassing for instance executive compensation, management rhetoric and the management of business impacts. In 2000 the United Nations Global (...) Compact embodied a Principle 7 enjoining ‘a precautionary approach to environmental challenges’ as defined in Principle 15 of the 1992 Rio Declaration. But what can such precautionary injunctions mean in practice? And what of conflicts with other values? Robin Attfield lays out the key questions he argues need to be asked about the Precautionary Principle if it is to be taken seriously and acted upon soundly. His focus is on the management of vulnerable resources - specifically planetary ecosystems - with whose management knowingly or otherwise we are all concerned. (shrink)
This paper presents the results of a study of the effect of a business ethics course in enhancing the ability of students to recognize ethical issues. The findings show that compared to students who do not complete such a course, students enrolled in a business ethics course experience substantial improvement in that ability.
One important version of the problem of divine freedom is that, if God is essentially good, and if freedom logically requires being able to do otherwise, then God is not free with respect to willing the good, and thus He is not morally praiseworthy for His goodness. I develop and defend a broadly Molinist solution to this problem, which, I argue, provides the best way out of the difficulty for orthodox theists who are unwilling to relinquish the Principle of (...) Alternate Possibilities. The solution is that the divine essence includes the property of transworld goodness: i.e., for any possible morally significant choice that God could have faced, if God had actually faced it, God would have chosen to will the good. This view makes coherent the otherwise paradoxical theological intuition that it is within God’s power to do something evil, but He would not ever do such a thing. (shrink)
This paper looks at the attribution of the ability to lie and not at lying or lies. It also departs from more familiar approaches by focussing on the appraisal of an ability and not on the ability in itself. We believe that this attribution perspective is required to bring out the cognitive and intentional basis of the ability to lie.
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 (...) class='Hi'>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)
Richard Swinburne argues that belief is a necessary but not sufficient condition for faith, and he also argues that, while faith is voluntary, belief is involuntary. This essay is concerned with the tension arising from the involuntary aspect of faith, the Christian doctrine that human beings have an obligation to exercise faith, and the moral claim that people are only responsible for actions where they have the ability to do otherwise. Put more concisely, the problem concerns the coherence (...) of the following claims: (1) one cannot have faith, (2) one has an obligation to have faith, and (3) ought implies can. To solve this dilemma, I offer three solutions that I believe have the philosophical resources to demonstrate the consistency of these claims. Thus, I defend the claim that it is logically possible for a person to be culpable for an involuntary failure to have faith in God. (shrink)
The concept of agency, defined counterfactually as the freedom to 'act otherwise', occupies a central place in much of contemporary social and political theory. In criticizing this concept of agency I deploy what I call an 'immanent critique', focusing upon Bhaskar's 'transcendental realism' and Rorty's anti-realist theory of linguistic contingency. Invoking Wittgenstein's argumentation from On Certainty, I go on to contend that agency and freedom cannot be 'known' in the way that social and political theorists assert. I proceed to (...) criticize Bhaskar's pro vision of transcendental realist foundations for Marxism, and Rorty's use of Wittgenstein. I argue that Bhaskar's conception of social critique and Rorty's defence of 'bourgeois liberal society' are both predicated on a similar notion of individuals' 'private' possession of agency and free choice. (shrink)
The debate over whether Frankfurt-style cases are counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities (PAP) has taken an interesting turn in recent years. Frankfurt originally envisaged his attack as an attempting to show that PAP is false—that the ability to do otherwise is not necessary for moral responsibility. To many this attack has failed. But Frankfurtians have not conceded defeat. Neo-Frankfurtians, as I will call them, argue that the upshot of Frankfurt-style cases is not that PAP is false, (...) but that it is explanatorily irrelevant. Derk Pereboom and David Hunt’s buffer cases are tailor made to establish this conclusion. In this paper I come to the aid of PAP, showing that buffer cases provide no reason for doubting either its truth or relevance with respect to explaining an agent’s moral responsibility. (shrink)
According to Fondane, rationalist philosophy implies arguments that aim at a separation of the intelligible and the sensible which, in the Platonic tradition represents a degradation of the de-signified individual. Supporting itself on Lévinas’ thematization of the ethical as a prime philosophy, the interpretation regards the nucleus of the strong relation between morality and religion. Following the Christic example, the moment man is emptied of himself, he may free himself from his fake central placing. A radical passivity of a de-moralized (...) conscience that, having nothing to do, gives itself to the Good from before its possibility of choosing it. A humiliated ethics, invisible to transcendence, in the light of which it is not primordial to do something good, but to let oneself be made by the immemorial Good. (shrink)
A familiar complaint against the principle that “ought” implies “can” is that it seems that agents can intentionally make it the case that they cannot perform acts that they nonetheless ought to perform. I propose a related principle that I call the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can.” I argue that the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can” is implied by important but underappreciated truths about practical reason, and that it is not vulnerable to the familiar (...) complaint against “ought” implies “can.” Moreover, I suggest that “the thing to do” implies “can” has interesting implications for “ought” implies “can” - implications that depend on the relation between claims about what we ought to do and claims about the thing to do. (shrink)
Peter Homans offers a new understanding of the origins of psychoanalysis and relates the psychoanalytic project as a whole to the sweep of Western culture, past and present. He argues that Freud's fundamental goal was the interpretation of culture and that, therefore, psychoanalysis is fundamentally a humanistic social science. To establish this claim, Homans looks back at Freud's self-analysis in light of the crucial years from 1906 to 1914 when the psychoanalytic movement was formed and shows how these experiences culminated (...) in Freud's cultural texts. By exploring the "culture of psychoanalysis," Homans seeks a better understanding of what a "psychoanalysis of culture" might be. Psychoanalysis, Homans shows, originated as a creative response to the withering away of traditional communities and their symbols in the aftermath of the industrial revolution. The loss of these attachments played a crucial role in the lives of the founders of psychoanalysis, especially Sigmund Freud but also Karl Abraham, Carl Jung, Otto Rank, and Ernest Jones. The personal, political, and religious losses that these figures experienced, the introspection that followed, and the psychological discovery that resulted are what Homans calls "the ability to mourn." Homans expands this historical analysis to construct a general model of psychological discovery: the loss of shared ideals and symbols can produce a deeper sense of self (psychological structure-building, or individuation) and can then lead to the creation of new forms of meaning and self-understanding. He shows how Freud, Jung, and other psychoanalysts began to extend their introspection outward, reinterpreting the meanings of Western art, history, and religion. In conclusion, Homans evaluates Freud's theory of culture and discusses the role that psychoanalysis might play in social and cultural criticism. Throughout the book, Homans makes use of the many histories, biographies, and psychobiographies that have been written about the origins of psychoanalysis, drawing them into a comprehensive sociocultural model. Rich in insights and highly original in approach, this work will interest psychoanalysts and students of Freud, sociologists concerned with modernity and psychoanalysis, and cultural critics in the fields of religion, anthropology, political science, and social history. (shrink)
In this study we aimed to investigate how awareness of bodily responses, referred to as interoceptive awareness, influences decision-making in a social interactive context. Interoceptive awareness is thought to be crucial for adequate regulation of one’s emotions. However, there is a dearth of studies that examine the association between interoceptive awareness and the ability to regulate emotions during interpersonal decision-making. Here, we quantified interoceptive awareness with a heartbeat detection task in which we measured the difference between subjective self-reports and (...) an objective psychophysiological measurement of participant heart rates. Social decision-making was quantified using a two-round Ultimatum Game. Participants were asked to first reject or accept an unfair division of money proposed by a partner. In turn, participants could then make an offer on how to divide an amount of money with the same partner. Participants performed 20 rounds of the two-round Ultimatum Game twice, once during baseline condition and once while asked to reappraise emotional reactions when confronted with unfair offers from partners. Results showed that after reappraisal participants 1) accepted more unfair offers and 2) offered higher return divisions, as compared to baseline. With respect to interoceptive awareness, participants with better heartbeat detection scores tended to report less emotional involvement when they applied reappraisal while playing the Ultimatum Game. However, there was no reliably significant relationship between heartbeat detection and the acceptance of unfair offers. Similarly, heartbeat detection accuracy was not related to return offers made in the second round of the Ultimatum Game or the habitual use of emotion regulation. These preliminary findings suggest that the relationship between interoceptive awareness and behavioral changes due to emotion regulation in a social decision-making context appears to be complex. (shrink)
What grounds the moral significance of the intend/foresee distinction? To put the question another way, what reason do we have for believing that moral absolutes apply with respect to intended effects, but not foreseeable but unintended (bad) effects? Joseph Boyle has provided an answer that relies on the idea that persons can find themselves in situations of “moral impossibility”—situations in which every available option foreseeably will give rise to bad effects. However, Robert Anderson has put Boyle’s answer into question by (...) arguing, in essence, as follows: the choice to do nothing gives rise to no effects at all; one can always simply choose to do nothing; therefore, it is not the case that situations of moral impossibility obtain. In response, Boyle has argued that Anderson’s conception of the effects of the choice to do nothing is implausible and, further, that the choice to do nothing gives rise to effects just as do other choices. In this essay, I address and extend this debate. (shrink)
Differentiating individuals by their voice is an important social skill for infants to acquire. In a previous study, we demonstrated that the ability to discriminate individuals by voice follows a pattern of perceptual narrowing (Friendly, et al., in press). Specifically, we found that the ability to discriminate between two foreign-species (rhesus monkey) voices decreased significantly between 6 and 12 months of age. Also during this period, there was a trend for the ability to discriminate human voices to (...) increase. Here we investigate the extent to which plasticity remains at 12 months, after perceptual narrowing has occurred. We found that 12-month-olds who received two weeks of monkey-voice training were significantly better at discriminating between rhesus monkey voices than untrained 12-month-olds. Furthermore, discrimination was reinstated to a level slightly better that of untrained 6-month-olds, suggesting that voice-processing abilities remain considerably plastic at the end of the first year. (shrink)
In an interview with Cogito (Greece), philosopher John Haugeland proposes that the defining feature of human intelligence is responsibility. On the ethical level, this means being able to decide between what one is told to do and what one ought to do; on the cognitive level, it involves abandoning a certain theory if it fails to comply with observation.
I was ecstatic when i read Donna Gabaccia's discussion of "keywords." There is a name for this? People really write books about it? I was thrilled to learn that people do systematically what I, in a bumbling sort of way, dabble with. For the past few years, I have kept a "phrase file," entering what Gabaccia calls "central and evocative terms," along with instances of their use that I happen upon while doing other things (Gabaccia, "Nations of Immigrants" 6). Every (...) once in a while, I check in with JSTOR, Reader's Guide Retrospective, and Google Books. I am grateful to Gabaccia for showing us the power of this kind of analysis.The point of the Coss dialogues is for philosophers to engage with people from other .. (shrink)
Adina Roskies has argued that worries that recent developments in the neurosciences challenge our ideas of free will and responsibility are misguided. Her argument focuses on the idea that we are able to act differently than we do. However, according to a dominant view in contemporary philosophy, the ability to do otherwise is irrelevant to our judgments of responsibility and free will. It rather is our ability to act for reasons that is crucial. We argue that this (...) view is most significantly challenged by the recent discoveries. Those discoveries show that it is not as obvious and uncontroversial that we act for reasons as it seems. Hence, we have to rethink our concept of reasons-responsiveness. (shrink)
Many philosophers ignore developments in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences that purport to challenge our ideas of free will and responsibility. The reason for this is that the challenge is often framed as a denial of the idea that we are able to act differently than we do. However, most philosophers think that the ability to do otherwise is irrelevant to responsibility and free will. Rather it is our ability to act for reasons that is crucial. We (...) argue that the scientific findings indicate that it is not so obvious that our views of free will and responsibility can be grounded in the ability to act for reasons without introducing metaphysical obscurities. This poses a challenge to philosophers. We draw the conclusion that philosophers are wrong not to address the recent scientific developments and that scientists are mistaken in formulating their challenge in terms of the freedom to do otherwise. (shrink)
Role morality can be defined as “claim(ing) a moral permission to harm others in ways that, if not for the role, would be wrong” (A. Applbaum: 1999, Ethics for Adversaries: The Morality of Roles in Public and Professional Life (Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ) p. 3). Adversarial situations resulting in role morality occur most frequently in the fields of law, business, and government. Within the realm of accounting, professional obligations may place the accountant in a situation where he/she is susceptible (...) to the pressures of role morality. If the accountant engages in acts consistent with role morality, significant harm to others may result. The current study represents an initial investigation into role morality in accounting and includes survey data from three samples of professionals: accountants, physicians, and attorneys. Results suggest that accountants generally do not agree that role morality is acceptable. Additionally, when compared to the groups of physicians and attorneys, physicians agree the least with role morality, while attorneys agree the most. Implications for practicing accountants and suggestions for future research into the theory of role morality are offered. (shrink)
In The Netherlands, it is openly acknowledged that the parents' ability to take care of their child plays a role in the decision-making process over administration of life-prolonging treatment to severely defective newborn babies. Unlike other aspects of such decision-making process up until the present time, the ‘ability to take care’ has not received specific attention in regulation or in empirical research. The present study is based on interviews with neonatologists in two Dutch NICUs concerning their definition of (...) the ability to take care and its relevance in non-treatment decisions. All of the respondents think that the ability to take care consists of more than one factor. Most doctors mention the parents' emotional state, social network and cognitive abilities. Some doctors mention the presence of psychological conditions in the parents, their financial situation and physical condition. A few refer to the parents' experience and age, their chances to have another baby and their cultural background. Most doctors think the ability to take care has a secondary relevance in the decision-making process, while the primary concern is assessing the condition of the child. A substantial minority thinks the ability to take care does not play any role, while one doctor thinks it is a factor of primary importance. The study constitutes an important stepping-stone for future research in The Netherlands and elsewhere. (shrink)
Martha Nussbaum has expanded the capabilities approach to defend positive duties of justice to individuals who fall below Rawls’ standard for fully cooperating members of society, including sentient nonhuman animals. Building on this, David Schlosberg has defended the extension of capabilities justice not only to individual animals but also to entire species and ecosystems. This is an attractive vision: a happy marriage of social, environmental and ecological justice, which also respects the claims of individual animals. This paper asks whether it (...) is one that the capabilities approach can really deliver. Serious obstacles are highlighted. The potential for conflict between the capability-based entitlements of humans and those of nonhuman animals or ‘nature’ is noted, but it is argued that this does not constitute a decisive objection to the expanded capabilities approach. However, intra-nature conflicts are so widespread as to do so: the situation is outside the circumstances of justice as they are standardly understood. Schlosberg attempts to reconcile such conflicts by re-examining what it means to flourish as a sentient nonhuman animal. This fails, because of the distinction between flourishing as a species, which often requires predation, and flourishing as an individual, which is as frequently incompatible with it. Finally, the paper considers how a capabilities theorist might move beyond such conflicts, identifying two possible strategies (which are not themselves unproblematic) for reconciling the demands of humans, animals and ecosystems. (shrink)
This article aims to disrupt received views about the significance of J. L. Austin's contribution to philosophy of language. Its focus is Austin's 1955 lectures How To Do Things With Words . Commentators on the lectures in both philosophical and literary-theoretical circles, despite conspicuous differences, tend to agree in attributing to Austin an assumption about the relation between literal meaning and truth, which is in fact his central critical target. The goal of the article is to correct this misunderstanding and (...) to show that Austin is deeply critical of a picture of correspondence between language and the world which nearly half a century after he delivered his lectures continues to structure philosophical discussions of language. (shrink)
The paper explores the question of the relationship between the practice of original philosophical inquiry and the study of the history of philosophy. It is written from my point of view as someone starting a research project in the history of philosophy that calls this issue into question, in order to review my starting positions. I argue: first, that any philosopher is sufficiently embedded in culture that her practice is necessarily historical; second, that original work is in fact in part (...) a reconstruction by reinterpretation of the past and that therefore it bears some relation to historiographic techniques for the restoration of damaged objects and texts; and third that the special oddities of the relations of present and past do not fail to ensnare the philosopher, who must restore the past but freely break from it. I describe this relationship as proleptic. Finally, I argue that this is a moral imperative in writing philosophy, derived from the imperative to be honest. (shrink)