This book provides a comprehensive, systematic theory of moral responsibility. The authors explore the conditions under which individuals are morally responsible for actions, omissions, consequences, and emotions. The leading idea in the book is that moral responsibility is based on 'guidance control'. This control has two components: the mechanism that issues in the relevant behavior must be the agent's own mechanism, and it must be appropriately responsive to reasons. The book develops an account of both components. The authors go on (...) to offer a sustained defense of the thesis that moral responsibility is compatible with causal determinism. (shrink)
The Metaphysics of Free Will provides a through statement of the major grounds for skepticism about the reality of free will and moral responsibility. The author identifies and explains the sort of control that is associated with personhood and accountability, and shows how it is consistent with causal determinism. In so doing, out view of ourselves as morally responsible agents is protected against the disturbing changes posed by science and religion.
Focusing on the concepts and interactions of free will, moral responsibility, and determinism, this text represents the most up-to-date account of the four major positions in the free will debate. Four serious and well-known philosophers explore the opposing viewpoints of libertarianism, compatibilism, hard incompatibilism, and revisionism The first half of the book contains each philosopher’s explanation of his particular view; the second half allows them to directly respond to each other’s arguments, in a lively and engaging conversation Offers the reader (...) a one of a kind, interactive discussion Forms part of the acclaimed Great Debates in Philosophy series. (shrink)
This is a selection of essays on moral responsibility that represent the major components of John Martin Fischer's overall approach to freedom of the will and moral responsibility. The collection exhibits the overall structure of Fischer's view and shows how the various elements fit together to form a comprehensive framework for analyzing free will and moral responsibility. The topics include deliberation and practical reasoning, freedom of the will, freedom of action, various notions of control, and moral accountability. The essays seek (...) to provide a foundation for our practices of holding each other (and ourselves) morally and legally accountable for our behavior. A crucial move is the distinction between two kinds of control. According to Fischer, "regulative control" involves freedom to choose and do otherwise ("alternative possibilities"), whereas "guidance control" does not. Fischer contends that guidance control is all the freedom we need to be morally responsible agents. Further, he contends that such control is fully compatible with causal determinism. Additionally, Fischer argues that we do not need genuine access to alternative possibilities in order for there to be a legitimate point to practical reasoning. Fischer's overall framework contains an argument for the contention that guidance control, and not regulative control, is associated with moral responsibility, a sketch of a comprehensive theory of moral responsibility (that ties together responsibility for actions, omissions, consequences, and character), and an account of the value of moral responsibility. On this account, the value of exhibiting freedom (of the relevant sort) and thus being morally responsible for one's behavior is a species of the value of artistic self-expression. (shrink)
We know that animals are harmed in plant production. Unfortunately, though, we know very little about the scale of the problem. This matters for two reasons. First, we can’t decide how many resources to devote to the problem without a better sense of its scope. Second, this information shortage throws a wrench in arguments for veganism, since it’s always possible that a diet that contains animal products is complicit in fewer deaths than a diet that avoids them. In this paper, (...) then, we have two aims: first, we want to collect and analyze all the available information about animal death associated with plant agriculture; second, we try to show just how difficult it’s to come up with a plausible estimate of how many animals are killed by plant agriculture, and not just because of a lack of empirical information. Additionally, we show that there are significant philosophical questions associated with interpreting the available data—questions such that different answers generate dramatically different estimates of the scope of the problem. Finally, we document current trends in plant agriculture that cause little or no collateral harm to animals, trends which suggest that field animal deaths are a historically contingent problem that in future may be reduced or eliminated altogether. (shrink)
Fischer here defends the contention that moral responsibility is associated with "deep control", which is "in-between" two untenable extreme positions: "superficial control" and "total control". He defends this "middle way" against the proponents of more--and less--robust notions of the freedom required for moral responsibility. Fischer offers a new solution to the Luck Problem, as well as providing a defense of the compatibility of causal determinism and moral responsibility.
In philosophical thought experiments, as in ordinary discourse, our understanding of verbal case descriptions is enriched by automatic comprehension inferences. Such inferences have us routinely infer what else is also true of the cases described. We consider how such routine inferences from polysemous words can generate zombie intuitions: intuitions that are ‘killed’ (defeated) by contextual information but kept cognitively alive by the psycholinguistic phenomenon of linguistic salience bias. Extending ‘evidentiary’ experimental philosophy, this paper examines whether the ‘zombie argument’ against materialism (...) is built on zombie intuitions. We examine the hypothesis that contextually defeated stereotypical inferences from the noun ‘zombie’ influence intuitions about ‘philosophical zombies’. We document framing effects (‘zombie’ vs ‘duplicate’) predicted by the hypothesis. Findings undermine intuitions about the conceivability of ‘philosophical zombies’ and address the philosophical ‘hard problem of consciousness’. Findings support a deflationary response: The impression that principled obstacles prevent scientific explanation of how physical processes give rise to conscious experience is generated by philosophical arguments that rely on epistemically deficient intuitions. (shrink)
This paper empirically raises and examines the question of ‘conceptual control’: To what extent are competent thinkers able to reason properly with new senses of words? This question is crucial for conceptual engineering. This prominently discussed philosophical project seeks to improve our representational devices to help us reason better. It frequently involves giving new senses to familiar words, through normative explanations. Such efforts enhance, rather than reduce, our ability to reason properly, only if competent language users are able to abide (...) by the relevant explanations, in language comprehension and verbal reasoning. This paper examines to what extent we have such ‘conceptual control’ in reasoning with new senses. The paper draws on psycholinguistic findings about polysemy processing to render this question empirically tractable and builds on recent findings from experimental philosophy to address it. The paper identifies a philosophically important gap in thinkers’ control over the key process of stereotypical enrichment and discusses how conceptual engineers can use empirical methods to work around this gap in conceptual control. The paper thus empirically demonstrates the urgency of the question of conceptual control and explains how experimental philosophy can empirically address the question, to render conceptual engineering feasible as an ameliorative enterprise. (shrink)
Control-based models of moral responsibility typically employ a notion of "tracing," according to which moral responsibility requires an exercise of control either immediately prior to the behavior in question or at some suitable point prior to the behavior. Responsibility, on this view, requires tracing back to control. But various philosophers, including Manuel Vargas and Angela Smith, have presented cases in which the plausibility of tracing is challenged. In this paper we discuss the examples and we argue that they do not (...) in fact impugn an attractive and natural tracing component. Our discussion can function in part as a defense of a control-based account of moral responsibility, but also as simply a defense of tracing. (shrink)
"There are seven chapters, addressing philosophical issues pertaining to death, the badness of death, time and death, ideas on immortality, near death experiences, and extending life through medical technology. The book is shorter, and less elaborate, than Kagan's Death. And it goes into more depth about a selection of central issues related to death and immortality than May's book. It gives an original take on various basic puzzles pertaining to death, and integrates a discussion of these philosophical issues with an (...) analysis of near-death experiences, as well as an exploration of contemporary efforts to extend life by heroic medical means"--. (shrink)
Intuitive judgments elicited by verbal case-descriptions play key roles in philosophical problem-setting and argument. Experimental philosophy's ‘sources project’ seeks to develop psychological explanations of philosophically relevant intuitions which help us assess our warrant for accepting them. This article develops a psycholinguistic explanation of intuitions prompted by philosophical case-descriptions. For proof of concept, we target intuitions underlying a classic paradox about perception, trace them to stereotype-driven inferences automatically executed in verb comprehension, and employ a forced-choice plausibility-ranking task to elicit the relevant (...) stereotypical associations of perception- and appearance-verbs. We obtain a debunking explanation that resolves the philosophical paradox. (shrink)
This unique text focuses on ethical puzzles and hypothetical problems to help students at all levels understand and refine their moral principles and see how they apply to various situations. An extensive, thoughtfully written introduction provides the theoretical background and lays out numerous moral puzzle cases that are analyzed and discussed throughout the text. Challenging follow-up articles argue a variety of stances on the ethical puzzles set forth in the introduction.
Our aim in this paper is to put the concept of moral responsibility under a microscope. At the lowest level of magnification, it appears unified. But Gary Watson has taught us that if we zoom in, we will find that moral responsibility has two faces: attributability and accountability. Or, to describe the two faces in different terms, there is a difference between being responsible and holding responsible. It is one thing to talk about the connection the agent has with her (...) action; it is quite another to talk about the potential interaction the agent might have with her moral community. It turns out, though, that the faces of moral responsibility can themselves be viewed under an even higher level of magnification. If moral responsibility has two faces, then our aim in this paper is to examine their features. To do so reveals subtle distinctions in our concept of moral responsibility and its interaction with surrounding issues that, we argue, can help illuminate various debates in the literature. (shrink)
The Frankfurt cases have been thought by some philosophers to show that moral responsibility does not require genuine metaphysical access to alternative possibilities. But various philosophers have rejected this putative "lesson" of the cases, and they have put forward a powerful "Dilemma Defense." In the last decade or so, many philosophers have been persuaded by the Dilemma Defense that the Frankfurt cases do not show what Frankfurt (and others) thought they show. This essay presents a template for a general strategy (...) of response to the Dilemma Defense. It thus seeks to provide further support for the author's view that the Frankfurt cases help to establish that moral responsibility does not require alternative possibilities. (shrink)
Stereotypes shape inferences in philosophical thought, political discourse, and everyday life. These inferences are routinely made when thinkers engage in language comprehension or production: We make them whenever we hear, read, or formulate stories, reports, philosophical case-descriptions, or premises of arguments – on virtually any topic. These inferences are largely automatic: largely unconscious, non-intentional, and effortless. Accordingly, they shape our thought in ways we can properly understand only by complementing traditional forms of philosophical analysis with experimental methods from psycholinguistics. This (...) paper seeks, first, to bring out the wider philosophical relevance of stereotypical inference, well beyond familiar topics like gender and race. Second, we wish to provide philosophers with a toolkit to experimentally study these ubiquitous inferences and what intuitions they may generate. This paper explains what stereotypes are, and why they matter to current and traditional concerns in philosophy – experimental, analytic, and applied. It then assembles a psycholinguistic toolkit and demonstrates through two studies how potentially questionnaire-based measures can be combined with process measures to garner evidence for specific stereotypical inferences and study when they ‘go through’ and influence our thinking. (shrink)
We offer a functional perspective on hate, showing that hate has a unique pattern of appraisals and action tendencies. Hate is based on perceptions of a stable, negative disposition of persons or groups. We hate persons and groups more because of who they are, than because of what they do. Hate has the goal to eliminate its target. Hate is especially significant at the intergroup level, where it turns already devalued groups into victims of hate. When shared among group members, (...) hate can spread fast in conflict zones where people are exposed to hate-based violence, which further feeds their hate. Hate can be reassuring and self-protective, because its message is simple and helps confirming people’s belief in a just world. (shrink)
This Introduction has three sections, on "logical fatalism," "theological fatalism," and the problem of future contingents, respectively. In the first two sections, we focus on the crucial idea of "dependence" and the role it plays it fatalistic arguments. Arguably, the primary response to the problems of logical and theological fatalism invokes the claim that the relevant past truths or divine beliefs depend on what we do, and therefore needn't be held fixed when evaluating what we can do. We call the (...) sort of dependence needed for this response to be successful "dependence with a capital 'd'": Dependence. We consider different accounts of Dependence, especially the account implicit in the so-called "Ockhamist" response to the fatalistic arguments. Finally, we present the problem of future contingents: what could "ground" truths about the undetermined future? On the other hand, how could all such propositions fail to be true? (shrink)
We discuss the interplay between the axiomatic and the semantic approach to truth. Often, semantic constructions have guided the development of axiomatic theories and certain axiomatic theories have been claimed to capture a semantic construction. We ask under which conditions an axiomatic theory captures a semantic construction. After discussing some potential criteria, we focus on the criterion of ℕ-categoricity and discuss its usefulness and limits.
What can be said in favor of consuming animal products? This chapter surveys the options, with special focus on it attempts to exploit pro-vegan principles for anti-vegan ends. Utilitarian, rights-based, contractualist, and agrarian proposals are explored, as well as some recent arguments that attempt to revive a form of speciesism. Ultimately, the chapter considers how such arguments might inform a broad case for consuming animal products—that is, one that might earn respect from those in a variety of moral camps—and it (...) suggests that there may be good reasons to eat roadkill, bugs, bivalves, in vitro meat, animal products that will be wasted, and the bodies and byproducts of animals that live full, pleasant lives. (shrink)
Entomophagy—eating insects—is getting a lot of attention these days. However, strict vegans are often uncomfortable with entomophagy based on some version of the precautionary principle: if you aren’t sure that a being isn’t sentient, then you should treat it as though it is. But not only do precautionary principle-based arguments against entomophagy fail, they seem to support the opposite conclusion: strict vegans ought to eat bugs.
Many philosophical thought experiments and arguments involve unusual cases. We present empirical reasons to doubt the reliability of intuitive judgments and conclusions about such cases. Inferences and intuitions prompted by verbal case descriptions are influenced by routine comprehension processes which invoke stereotypes. We build on psycholinguistic findings to determine conditions under which the stereotype associated with the most salient sense of a word predictably supports inappropriate inferences from descriptions of unusual (stereotype-divergent) cases. We conduct an experiment that combines plausibility ratings (...) with pupillometry to document this “salience bias.” We find that under certain conditions, competent speakers automatically make stereotypical inferences they know to be inappropriate. (shrink)
It seems that, whereas a person's death needn't be a bad thing for him, it can be. In some circumstances, death isn't a "bad thing" or an "evil" for a person. For instance, if a person has a terminal and very painful disease, he might rationally regard his own death as a good thing for him, or at least, he may regard it as something whose prospective occurrence shouldn't be regretted. But the attitude of a "normal" and healthy human being (...) - adult or child - toward the prospect of his death is different; it is not unreasonable in certain cases to regard one's own death as a bad thing for oneself. If this is so, then the question arises as to why death is bad, in those cases in which it is bad. (shrink)
This collection highlights the new trend away from rationalism and toward empiricism in the epistemology of modality. Accordingly, the book represents a wide range of positions on the empirical sources of modal knowledge. Readers will find an introduction that surveys the field and provides a brief overview of the work, which progresses from empirically-sensitive rationalist accounts to fully empiricist accounts of modal knowledge. Early chapters focus on challenges to rationalist theories, essence-based approaches to modal knowledge, and the prospects for naturalizing (...) modal epistemology. The middle chapters present positive accounts that reject rationalism, but which stop short of advocating exclusive appeal to empirical sources of modal knowledge. The final chapters mark a transition toward exclusive reliance on empirical sources of modal knowledge. They explore ways of making similarity-based, analogical, inductive, and abductive arguments for modal claims based on empirical information. Modal epistemology is coming into its own as a field, and this book has the potential to anchor a new research agenda. (shrink)
_Philosophical Delusion and its Therapy_ provides new foundations and methods for the revolutionary project of philosophical therapy pioneered by Ludwig Wittgenstein. The book vindicates this currently much-discussed project by reconstructing the genesis of important philosophical problems: With the help of concepts adapted from cognitive linguistics and cognitive psychology, the book analyses how philosophical reflection is shaped by pictures and metaphors we are not aware of employing and are prone to misapply. Through innovative case-studies on the genesis of classical problems about (...) the mind and perception, and on thinkers including Locke, Berkeley and Ayer, the book demonstrates how such autonomous habits of thought systematically generate unsound intuitions and philosophical delusions, whose clash with reality, or among each other, gives rise to ill-motivated but maddening problems. The book re-examines models of therapeutic philosophy, due to Wittgenstein and J. L. Austin, and develops an approach that may let us overcome philosophical delusions and the problems they engender. In this way, the book explains where and why therapy in called for in philosophy, and develops techniques to carry it out. (shrink)
John and Mary have fully consensual sex, but they do not want to have a child, so they use contraception with the intention of avoiding pregnancy. Unfortunately, although they used the contraception in the way in which it is supposed to be used, Mary has become pregnant. The couple decides to have the baby, whom they name ‘Ernie’. Now we fill in the story a bit. The universe is causally deterministic, and 30 years later Ernie performs some action A and (...) thereby brings about event E. We also stipulate that Ernie meets plausible compatibilist conditions for acting freely . That is, we suppose that there are no uncontroversially freedom- and responsibility-undermining conditions present in the context in which Ernie performs A, and, further, that Ernie meets plausible compatibilist conditions for acting freely. Let us say, for example, that one adopts the theory according to which the freedom-relevant condition on moral responsibility is that the agent exhibits ‘guidance control’ of his action and . On this approach, one acts freely in so far as one acts from one's own, suitably reasons-responsive mechanism. We can then simply stipulate that, in the relevant context, Ernie acts from his own, suitably reasons-responsive mechanism . If one prefers a different set of compatiblist-friendly conditions for acting freely, one can simply stipulate that Ernie meets them; indeed, the plausible compatibilist-friendly conditions seem to be compatible with each other, and thus Ernie could presumably meet all of them in the relevant context. In such a case, and given that the epistemic condition on acting freely and moral responsibility is met, I am inclined to say that Ernie …. (shrink)
Introduction: "meaning in life and death : our stories" -- John Martin Fischer and Anthony B rueckner, "Why is death bad?", Philosophical studies, vol. 50, no. 2 (September 1986) -- "Death, badness, and the impossibility of experience," Journal of ethics -- John Martin Fischer and Daniel Speak, "Death and the psychological conception of personal identity," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 24 -- "Earlier birth and later death : symmetry through thick and thin," Richard Feldman, Kris McDaniel, Jason R. Raibley, eds., (...) The good, the right, life and death (Aldershot : Ashgate Publishing, 2006) -- "Why immortality is not so bad," International journal of philosophical studies, vol. 2, no. 2 (September 1994) -- John Martin Fischer and Ruth Curl, "Philosophical models of immortality in science fiction," in George Slusser et. al., eds., Immortal engines : life extension and immortality in science fiction and fantasy (Athens, Ga. : University of Georgia Press, 1996) -- "Epicureanism about death and immortality," Journal of ethics, vol. 10, no. 4 -- "Stories," Midwest studies in philosophy, vol. 20 -- "Free will, death, and immortality : the role of narrative," Philosophical papers (Special issue : meaning in life) volume 34, number 3, November 2005 -- "Stories and the meaning of life," revised and expanded version of "A reply to Pereboom, Zimmerman, and Smith," part of a book symposium on John Martin Fischer, my way : essays on moral responsibility, philosophical books, vol. 47, no. 3. (shrink)
In this essay I shall begin by sketching a "Frankfurt-type example." I shall then lay out a disturbing challenge to the claim I have made above that these examples help us to make significant progress in the debates about the relationship between moral responsibility and causal determinism. I then will provide a reply to this challenge, and the reply will point toward a more refined formulation of the important contribution I believe Frankfurt has made to defending a certain sort of (...) compatibilism. (shrink)
This monograph articulates and defends a theory-based epistemology of modality (TEM). According to TEM, someone justifiably believe an interesting modal claim if and only if (a) she justifiably believes a theory according to which that claim is true, (b) she believes that claim on the basis of that theory, and (c) she has no defeaters for her belief in that claim. The book has two parts. In the first, the author motivates TEM, sets out the view in detail, and defends (...) it against a number of objections. In the second, the author considers whether TEM is worth accepting. To argue that it is, the author sets out criteria for choosing between modal epistemologies, concluding that TEM has a number of important virtues. However, the author also concedes that TEM is cautious: it probably implies that we are not justified in believing some interesting modal claims that we might take ourselves to be justified in believing. This raises a question about TEM's relationship to Peter van Inwagen's modal skepticism, which the author explores in detail. As it turns out, TEM offers a better route to modal skepticism than the one that van Inwagen provides. But rather than being a liability, the author argues that this is a further advantage of the view. Moreover, he argues that other popular modal epistemologies do not fare better: they cannot easily secure more extensive modal justification than TEM. The book concludes by clarifying TEM’s relationship to the other modal epistemologies on offer, contending that TEM need not be a rival to those views, but can instead be a supplement to them. (shrink)
Introduction : death, metaphysics, and morality / John Martin Fischer Death knocks / Woody Allen Rationality and the fear of death / Jeffrie G. Murphy Death / Thomas Nagel The Makropulos case : reflections on the tedium of immortality / Bernard Williams The evil of death / Harry S. Silverstein How to be dead and not care : a defense of Epicurus / Stephen E. Rosenbaum The dead / Palle Yourgrau The misfortunes of the dead / George Pitcher Harm to (...) others / Joel Feinberg Reasons and persons / Derek Parfit Why is death bad? / Anthony L. Brueckner and John Martin Fischer Death and the value of life / Jeff McMahan Annihilation / Steven Luper-Foy Epicurus and annihilation / Stephen E. Rosenbaum Some puzzles about the evil of death / Fred Feldman Well-being and time / J. David Velleman. (shrink)