Please note that the PhilPapers forums will be closed in March 2017 and replaced by a newer, more modern feature shortly thereafter. To minimize disruption, we have now disabled the creation of new threads. We encourage forum participants to wrap up discussions before March.

Philosophy of Action

 1 - 20 / 23 
It seems to me that this work is very much unavailable to students and professionals. Have not found it online in any form, save for a few hardcover editions for more than $500. Crazy.
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions about this paper, let me know!

If you have any thoughts, comments or questions about this paper, let me know!
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

What kind of academic inquiry can best help humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible?  Why are philosophers apparently so uninterested in this question?  Is it because most believe the kind of academic inquiry we have today, devoted primarily to the pursuit of knoweldge and technological know-how, is the best that we can have, judged from the perspective of helping humanity make progress towards a better world?  Why are philosophers apparently so uninterested in arguments which seem to show decisively that inquiry restricted to the pursuit of knowledge is both profoundly irrational, and a menace?  The successful pursuit of knowledge and technological know-how, dissociated from a more fundamental concern to help humanity resolve conflicts and problems of living in increasingly cooperatively rational ways, is almost bound to lead to trouble.  Scientific knowledge and technological know-how enormously increase our power to act - for some of us at ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

If you come across this paper while researching philosophy of love, you should watch this:
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

John Searle is one of my favorite philosophers, but I fear remarks he makes in Rationality in Action about the role of rules in logic qualify as veritable "howlers".  He writes:

The correct thing is to say that the rules of logic play no role whatever in the validity of valid inferences.  The arguments, if valid, have to be valid as they stand.  (20).

But how is it that we determine when arguments are "valid as they stand"?  That is, how do we tell whether they have that all-important truth-preserving character?  I know I use rules of logic, rules like modus ponens, viz. "protasis, conditional, apodosis" (conveniently representable symbolically as "(p&(p->q))->q").

Is there some other useful way of determining validity in an argument?  Surely there is no way of identifying validity apart from identifying truth-preservingness, and how do you identify truth-preservingness without alluding to some kind of rule?  In particular, how would you show that a mathematical proof is valid withou ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

If you have any questions or comments on "The Zygote Argument is Invalid", I would enjoy discussing them on this thread!


In the effort to understand the Williams-Parfit dispute regarding internal and external reasons, I have found it useful to distinguish between pre-choice and post-choice normativity.  The literature being voluminous, it is not clear to me whether this or a similar distinction has already been drawn somewhere.  I'd much appreciate any feedback in that and indeed any other regard.

Deliberation is a process culminating (in normal circumstances) in choice, e.g. to do A rather than not.  For simplicity, assume cases in which an individual is practically able, i.e. there is no slip betwixt cup and lip, in which the individual does what he/she chooses, viz. A (what Parfit calls being "fully practically rational").  So the sequence is:  deliberation, choice, action.

A "reason", it seems plausible to suppose, is something that plays some significant role in deliberation.  Insofar as we are concerned with understanding happenings in the world, we are interested in persons’ actions.  ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

I have recently been discussing various interpretations of the Knobe effect with a friend of mine and we have been struck by the fact that all of the vignettes used in the empirical studies we have seen present subjects with conversations (or at least someone saying something to an audience, which may be the speaker herself, as in Knobe's terrorist case: ).

We are trying to find empirical studies that have used vignettes that *don't* do this, but which instead simply describe the mental states and decision of an agent. Does anyone know if such studies have been carried out? I would be grateful for pointers, thanks.

Hi Jack,

Nice paper!. However, if I may, I wasn't convinced by your response to objection five. The objection, I take it, is that the intuitions you are marshaling about incoherence derive from a non-moral standpoint, that is, they are intuitions that arise when one is doing metaethics and not when one is actually moralizing.  And it seems undeniable that Moore paradoxical sentences are straightforwardly bizarre when uttered by persons in the context of actual moralizing (just imagine actually having the relevant conversation). At the outset of your paper, you correctly note that expressivism is a theory about actual moralizing, so it seems like this is one objection to which you should be very sensitive.  You respond:

This is not really a rejection of C3, but a rejection of C1, since it admits that it is not always the case that affective or conative attitudes are expressed by moral assertions. If non-cognitive mental states are only sometimes expressed by moral assertions, then the clai ... (read more)

Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

All comments are welcome!
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

Here's the place to be critical!  Anything that can help me develop this argument is much appreciated.  This is something I develop a bit in my dissertation and the hope is to develop it more here and eventually have something worthy of publication.
Latest replies:
  • Jim Stone, 2013-06-23 : Here are some comments. Thanks for t 1. It will help your reader to say early on what nonreductive physicalism is, and w... (read more)
  • John Altmann, 2013-06-24 : I just wanted to say first and foremost before I go any further that I am not a Professor of Philosophy nor have I ever... (read more)
  • Andrew Russo, 2013-06-24 : First of all, thanks for taking the time to read my paper and provide me with comments.  This is what I hoped would... (read more)
  • Andrew Russo, 2013-06-24 : Thank you for reading my paper and commenting on it.  Whatever comments you give, whether or not they are from some... (read more)
  • Jim Stone, 2013-06-24 : Thanks for answering. The dialectic between us is for me now a little complicated. I follow this protocol in commenting... (read more)
Permanent link: Reply

Hi Matt,

This is a very interesting paper.  I am in agreement with the basic premise, namely, that we should be suspicious of moral intuitions which are highly contingent or "flippable".  However, I have one or two questions about the argument.

In one section, you're dealing with the problem of "typing" mechanisms.  The point, as I understand it, is to show that your argument defeats demandingness intuitions but does not defeat other moral intuitions (such as those concerning the wrongness of slavery).  You say:

Given these considerations, how generally should we type the testimonial process behind my moral belief that slavery is wrong? The reliability of (say) my mother’s anti-racist moral testimony in the actual world should not necessarily be impugned by the unreliability of her moral testimony were she a racist bigot, for her epistemic situation (i.e., her foundational moral beliefs) in the latter case would be radically mistaken. The two types of testimonial processes, then, are plausibl ... (read more)

Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

Hi Professor Demetriou,

I've just read the draft of your paper, and I really enjoyed it, especially the bits where you complicate the somewhat simplistic just-so cultural-evolutionary story provided by Ross and Nisbett.  One rarely sees such deep engagement with actual anthropological data in moral-philosophical papers about disagreement, and I think your reflections here are a valuable contribution to this literature.

However, I have a question about the "pluralism" that is on offer, which is "a view urging the moral correctness of  multiple and mutually irreducible comprehensive ethical  outlooks , each suited to  its own dimension  of social life ."  A familiar worry emerges here, which is that you are covertly drawing on a kind of monism which serves to make each of the competing moral systems appear attractive.  The trouble begins with the word "suited": what does it mean to say that a moral outlook is "suited" t ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

This was a solid paper guys I really must commend you for the excellent work. With that said, I do agree with you about Raz's arguments. They seemed to possess little to no substance whatsoever and his argument of self-interest towards the end seemed to be more of a forfeiture of his premise than anything else. I will at least credit him for attempting to untangle the knots in this complex field we call moral philosophy but I had some major objections while reading. Please do correct me if I speak ignorantly or from a misinformed position.

1. Raz says to be moral is to see value in others and one's self. This value is derived from the virtue of being a person. Are we to take it that the recognition of this value disregards how we cultivate that value through action which subsequently has consequences? If I see value in someone, but still decide to take away their life because I perceive myself to be more valuable, am I moral or not.

2. A refutation of point 1 would be that to see value ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

I am delighted that someone of Kitcher's ability has tackled the meta-ethical implications of understanding morality as an evolutionary adaptation. Further, Christine Clavien has advanced that good cause by providing an inspiringly insightful and clear review of important implications of his work. 

However, the science of the matter actually supports a much stronger hypothesis than Kitcher's "morality evolved to overcome altruism failures".That stronger hypothesis may have different meta-ethical implications.

Relevant criteria for scientific truth regarding morality as an evolutionary adaptation Include explanatory power for descriptive facts and puzzles, no contradiction with known facts, simplicity, and integration with the rest of science. By these criteria, a superior hypothesis can be stated as "morality overcomes a universal cooperation-exploitation dilemma by motivating or advocating altruistic cooperation strategies". That is, morality is composed of assemblies of biolog ... (read more)

Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

I'd appreciate some feedback on a speculation concerning the relation of action theory and the physiology of memory in the brain. There has long been an intuition in historiography that a consciousness of the past is a keystone of liberty and in biology that an organism''s novel action depends on memory or hysteresis. In the last two decades, there has been rapid progress in understanding the brain, and I'm trying to reconcile it with action theory.

I get the impression that today memory refers to an emergent system effect---that is, a result of complex interactions between different brain areas. Memory apparently falls into two broad classes: semantic memory and an implicit memory. The latter appears to be is a set of rules (habitus) for stimulus-response relations. Further, I get the impression that both classes of memory are constructed as emergent effects of sensation and learning and are essentially static in that changes in them are extrinsic in origin (the possibility of long-ter ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply


Jonathan Way writes: "Some irrational states can be avoided in more than one way. For example, if you believe that you ought to A you can avoid akrasia by intending to A or by dropping the belief that you ought to A".

Rather than avoiding akrasia by dropping the belief that one ought A; Jonathan Way has very clearly given a definition of the condition. Clearly the writer has in mind a prior sense of duty in the mind of a person described. This person's path is either to perform his duty, or to discover that his proposed action is not obligatory.


This is, for the most part, a lovely paper – very clear, very helpful. At the moment I have just one quibble. It has to do with the following sentence:

“(Most of my fellow libertarians think that that the error in the Mind argument  - they agree with my conviction that that’s where the error is to be found – can be exposed by reflection of the concept of “agent causation. “ “  [p.23]

It's a monster - right?

The following seems plausible to me:

D) I can't deliberate about whether or not X shall happen unless X's happening is causally connected to my deliberation in a way that gives me some degree of causal power over X's happening.

By "deliberate" here I mean "deciding whether or not to undertake actions designed to bring about X" for some X. Given that understanding of "deliberation," D) seems to fall out almost by definition. It's clear, for example, that on this understanding of "deliberation," I can't deliberate about whether or not the star Betelgeuse will go Nova tomorrow--Betelgeuse tomorrow isn't even in my light cone! Similarly, I can't deliberate about whether or not the third flight into Indianapolis will land as scheduled tomorrow. That matter simply isn't within my causal power, much less causally connected to any act of deliberation I may try to undertake concerning the matter.

But I can deliberate about whether my son will be picked up on time from school today. I'm the one ... (read more)
Latest replies: Permanent link: Reply

 1 - 20 / 23