This fresh and original book argues that the central questions in Hegel's practical philosophy are the central questions in modern accounts of freedom: What is freedom, or what would it be to act freely? Is it possible so to act? And how important is leading a free life? Robert Pippin argues that the core of Hegel's answers is a social theory of agency, the view that agency is not exclusively a matter of the self-relation and self-determination of an individual but (...) requires the right sort of engagement with and recognition by others. Using a detailed analysis of key Hegelian texts, he develops this interpretation to reveal the bearing of Hegel's claims on many contemporary issues, including much-discussed core problems in the liberal democratic tradition. His important study will be valuable for all readers who are interested in Hegel's philosophy and in the modern problems of agency and freedom. (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)
Are companies, churches, and states genuine agents? Or are they just collections of individuals that give a misleading impression of unity? This question is important, since the answer dictates how we should explain the behaviour of these entities and whether we should treat them as responsible and accountable on the model of individual agents. Group Agency offers a new approach to that question and is relevant, therefore, to a range of fields from philosophy to law, politics, and the social sciences. (...) Christian List and Philip Pettit argue that there really are group or corporate agents, over and above the individual agents who compose them, and that a proper approach to the social sciences, law, morality, and politics must take account of this fact. Unlike some earlier defences of group agency, their account is entirely unmysterious in character and, despite not being technically difficult, is grounded in cutting-edge work in social choice theory, economics, and philosophy. (shrink)
Part I: The representation of life -- Can life be given a real definition? -- The representation of the living individual -- The representation of the life-form itself -- Part II: Naive action theory -- Types of practical explanation -- Naive explanation of action -- Action and time -- Part III: Practical generality -- Two tendencies in practical philosophy -- Practices and dispositions as sources of the goodness of individual actions -- Practice and disposition as sources of individual action.
Our self-understanding as human agents includes a commitment to three crucial claims about human agency: that agents must be active, that actions are part of the natural order of the universe, and that intentional actions can be explained by the agent's reasons for acting. While all of these claims are indispensable elements of our view of ourselves as human agents, they are in continuous conflict and tension with one another, especially once one adopts the currently predominant view of what (...) the natural order must be like. One of the central tasks of philosophy of action consists in showing how, despite appearances, these conflicts can be resolved and our self-understanding as agents be vindicated. The mainstream of contemporary philosophy of action holds that this task can only be fulfilled by an event-causal reductive view of human agency, paradigmatically embodied in the so-called 'standard model' developed by Donald Davidson. Erasmus Mayr, in contrast, develops a new agent-causal solution to these conflicts and shows why this solution is superior both to event-causalist accounts and to Von Wright's intentionalism about agency. He offers a comprehensive theory of substance-causation on the basis of a realist conception of powers, which allows one to see how the widespread rejection of agent-causation rests on an unfounded 'Humean' view of nature and of causal processes. At the same time, Mayr addresses the question of the nature of reasons for acting and complements its substance-causal account of activity with a non-causal account of acting for reasons in terms of following a standard of success. (shrink)
An essay in descriptive metaphysics, this book offers a sketch of the concept of action embodied in pretheoretical, folk ways of speaking. It focuses on the points of view of the agent and spectator in the kind of action in which the question of what to do can arise for the agent. It explores the relations among such action, inanimate action, and the inanimate action of parts of the body on external objects, finding in them analogous roles for (...) the notion of attributability of effects. It contrasts the roles of theoretical and practical necessity in the accounts of action and causation found in Hume and Collingwood, in the course of suggesting that, over the whole range of the category of human doings for which there can be reasons, the existence of reasons is systematically expressed by use of the modal concepts. It has an analytical table of contents. The book was still caught up in the post-Wittgensteinian denial that the explanation of action in terms of the reasons for action was causal explanation. But that error consists in mistaking for a metaphysical claim a sound epistemological one, the claim that such causal explanations do not rest on inductive evidence of empirical regularities. Rather we are analogue computers of the motivation of others. At that time one thought of Collingwood’s re-enactment version of Verstehen in the philosophy of history; nowadays the idea becomes some version of simulation theory. (shrink)
Many theorists have addressed a central concern of current political theory by contending that the dithering intellectualism of left politics prevents genuine political action. Arguments and Fists confronts this concern by refuting these arguments, and reconciling philosophical debates with the realities of current activism. By looking at theorists such as Montesquieu, Kant, Rousseau, the book contradicts current academic debates and also goes against contemporary theory's image of the liberal political agent as a narrowly rational abstraction. Mika LaVaque-Manty also argues (...) that progressive political philosophy and political action go hand in hand. He then ventures past Kant and Rousseau to talk about specific environmental activism, finding middle ground between the two while asserting that the liberal urge for political reform stems from sound philosophical considerations about the nature of politics and isn't the "cowardly" afterthoughts some theorists have called it. Arguments and Fists then puts these theoretical insights to use, examining environmental justice movements and varieties of environmental radicalism, showing how liberal theory illuminates concrete contemporary political practices. (shrink)
What happens to our conception of mind and rational agency when we take seriously future-directed intentions and plans and their roles as inputs into further practical reasoning? The author's initial efforts in responding to this question resulted in a series of papers that he wrote during the early 1980s. In this book, Bratman develops further some of the main themes of these essays and also explores a variety of related ideas and issues. He develops a planning theory of intention. Intentions (...) are treated as elements of partial plans of action. These plans play basic roles in practical reasoning, roles that support the organization of our activities over time and socially. Bratman explores the impact of this approach on a wide range of issues, including the relation between intention and intentional action, and the distinction between intended and expected effects of what one intends. (shrink)
Agency and identity -- Necessitation -- Acts and actions -- Aristotle and Kant -- Agency and practical identity -- The metaphysics of normativity -- Constitutive standards -- The constitution of life -- In defense of teleology -- The paradox of self-constitution -- Formal and substantive principles of reason -- Formal versus substantive -- Testing versus weighing -- Maximizing and prudence -- Practical reason and the unity of the will -- The empiricist account of normativity -- The rationalist account of normativity (...) -- Kant on the hypothetical imperative -- Against particularistic willing -- Deciding and predicting -- Autonomy and efficacy -- The function of action -- The possibility of agency -- Non-rational action -- Action -- Attribution -- The psychology of action -- Expulsion from the garden : the transition to humanity -- Instinct, emotion, intelligence, and reason -- The parts of the soul -- Inside or outside -- Pull yourself together -- The constitutional model -- Models of the soul -- The city and the soul -- Platonic virtues -- Justice : substantive, procedural, and platonic -- Kant and the constitutional model -- Defective action -- The problem of bad action -- Being governed by the wrong law -- Or five bad constitutions -- Conceptions of evil -- Degrees of action -- Integrity and interaction -- Deciding to be bad -- The ordinary cases -- Dealing with the disunified -- Kant's theory of interaction -- My reasons -- Deciding to treat someone as an end in himself -- Interacting with yourself -- How to be a person -- What's left of me? (shrink)
This collection of original essays explores the social and relational dimensions of individual autonomy. Rejecting the feminist charge that autonomy is inherently masculinist, the contributors draw on feminist critiques of autonomy to challenge and enrich contemporary philosophical debates about agency, identity, and moral responsibility. The essays analyze the complex ways in which oppression can impair an agent's capacity for autonomy, and investigate connections, neglected by standard accounts, between autonomy and other aspects of the agent, including self-conception, self-worth, memory, (...) and the imagination. (shrink)
What place does motivation have in the lives of intelligent agents? Mele's answer is sensitive to the concerns of philosophers of mind and moral philosophers and informed by empirical work. He offers a distinctive, comprehensive, attractive view of human agency. This book stands boldly at the intersection of philosophy of mind, moral philosophy, and metaphysics.
Humanity and the very notion of the human subject are under threat from postmodernist thinking which has declared not only the 'Death of God' but also the 'Death of Man'. This book is a revindication of the concept of humanity, rejecting contemporary social theory that seeks to diminish human properties and powers. Archer argues that being human depends on an interaction with the real world in which practice takes primacy over language in the emergence of human self-consciousness, thought, emotionality and (...) personal identity - all of which are prior to, and more basic than, our acquisition of a social identity. This original and provocative new book from leading social theorist Margaret S. Archer builds on the themes explored in her previous books Culture and Agency (CUP 1988) and Realist Social Theory (CUP 1995). It will be required reading for academics and students of social theory, cultural theory, political theory, philosophy and theology. (shrink)
Helen Steward argues that determinism is incompatible with agency itself--not only the special human variety of agency, but also powers which can be accorded to animal agents. She offers a distinctive, non-dualistic version of libertarianism, rooted in a conception of what biological forms of organisation might make possible in the way of freedom.
One way to understand philosophy as a form of therapy is this: it involves a philosopher who is trying to cure himself. He has been drawn into a certain philosophical frame of mind—the ‘disease’—and has thus infected himself with this illness. Now he is sick and trying to employ philosophy to cure himself. So philosophy is both: the ailment and the cure. And the philosopher is all three: pathogenic agent, patient, and therapist.
I argue here that sophisticated AI systems, with the exception of those aimed at the psychological modeling of human cognition, must be based on general philosophical theories of rationality and, conversely, philosophical theories of rationality should be tested by implementing them in AI systems. So the philosophy and the AI go hand in hand. I compare human and generic rationality within a broad philosophy of AI and conclude by suggesting that ultimately, virtually all familiar philosophical problems will turn out to (...) be at least indirectly relevant to the task of building an autonomous rational agent, and conversely, the AI enterprise has the potential to throw light at least indirectly on most philosophical problems. (shrink)
The Strawson’s Basic Argument is the stronger against moral responsibility in Philosophy of action. One should be responsible of his identity to be moral responsible of his actions, but then nobody could be never responsible. In this article I criticize orthodox solutions to Strawson’s sceptical challenge and show how they share with the Argument the same theological notion of monadical agent. A new solution needs a new conception of agent.
Charles Taylor has been one of the most original and influential figures in contemporary philosophy: his 'philosophical anthropology' spans an unusually wide range of theoretical interests and draws creatively on both Anglo-American and Continental traditions in philosophy. A selection of his published papers is presented here in two volumes, structured to indicate the direction and essential unity of the work. He starts from a polemical concern with behaviourism and other reductionist theories (particularly in psychology and the philosophy of language) which (...) aim to model the study of man on the natural sciences. This leads to a general critique of naturalism, its historical development and its importance for modern culture and consciousness; and that in turn points, forward to a positive account of human agency and the self, the constitutive role of language and value, and the scope of practical reason. The volumes jointly present some two decades of work on these fundamental themes, and convey strongly the tenacity, verve and versatility of the author in grappling with them. They will interest a very wide range of philosophers and students of the human sciences. (shrink)
Lucy O'Brien argues that a satisfactory account of first-person reference and self-knowledge needs to concentrate on our nature as agents. Clearly written, with rigorous discussion of rival views, this book will be of interest to anyone working in the philosophy of mind and action.
This is a collection of published and unpublished essays by distinguished philosopher Michael E. Bratman of Stanford University. They revolve around his influential theory, know as the "planning theory of intention and agency." Bratman's primary concern is with what he calls "strong" forms of human agency--including forms of human agency that are the target of our talk about self-determination, self-government, and autonomy. These essays are unified and cohesive in theme, and will be of interest to philosophers in ethics and metaphysics.
The essays collected in this volume address a range of issues that arise when the focus of philosophical reflection on identity is shifted from metaphysical to practical and evaluative concerns. They also explore the usefulness of the notion of narrative for articulating and responding to these issues. The chapters, written by an outstanding roster of international scholars, address a range of complex philosophical issues concerning the relationship between practical and metaphysical identity, the embodied dimensions of the first-personal perspective, the kind (...) of reflexive agency involved in the self-constitution of one’s practical identity, the relationship between practical identity and normativity, and the temporal dimensions of identity and selfhood. In addressing these issues, contributors engage with debates in the literatures on personal identity, phenomenology, moral psychology, action theory, normative ethical theory, and feminist philosophy. (shrink)
Since the 1970s Gary Watson has published a series of brilliant and highly influential essays on human action, examining such questions as: in what ways are we free and not free, rational and irrational, responsible or not for what we do? Moral philosophers and philosophers of action will welcome this collection, representing one of the most important bodies of work in the field.
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)
Agricultural technologies are non-neutral and ethical challenges are posed by these technologies themselves. The technologies we use or endorse are embedded with values and norms and reflect the shape of our moral character. They can literally make us better or worse consumers and/or people. Looking back, when the world’s developed nations welcomed and steadily embraced industrialization as the dominant paradigm for agriculture a half century or so ago, they inadvertently championed a philosophy of technology that promotes an insular human-centricism, despite (...) its laudable intent to ensure food security and advance human flourishing. The dominant philosophy of technology has also seeded particular ethical consequences that plague the well-being of human beings, the planet, and farmed animals. After revisiting some fundamental questions regarding the complex ways in which technology as agent shapes our lives and choices and relegates food and farmed constituents into technological artifacts or commodities, I argue that we should accord an environmental virtue ethic of care—understood as caretaking—a central place in developing a more conscientious philosophy of technology that aims at sustainability, fairness, and humaneness in animal agriculture. While technology shapes society, it also is socially shaped and an environmental virtue ethic of care (EVEC) as an alternative design philosophy has the tools to help us take a much overdue inventory of ourselves and our relationships with the nonhuman world. It can help us to expose the ways in which technology hinders critical reflection of its capacity to alter communities and values, to come to terms with why we may be, in general, disengaged from critical ethical analysis of contemporary agriculture and to consider the moral shape and trajectory and the sustainability of our food production systems going into the future. I end by outlining particular virtues associated with the ethic of care discussed here and consider some likely implications for consumers and industry technocrats as they relate to farming animals. (shrink)
An oft-rehearsed objection to the claim that an intention can give one reasons is that if an intention could give us reasons that would allow an agent to bootstrap herself into having a reason where she previously lacked one. Such bootstrapping is utterly implausible. So, intentions to φ cannot be reasons to φ. Call this the bootstrapping objection against intentions being reasons. This essay considers four separate interpretations of this argument and finds they all fail to establish that non-akratic, (...) nonevil, and deliberatively sound intentions cannot be reasons. The first argument is the argument from evil intentions, the second is the argument from akratic intentions, the third is the argument from errors in deliberation, and the last is what I call the ‘wizardry’ argument. This ‘argument’, put forward most clearly by John Broome, claims that intentions are so insubstantial that were they on their own reasons for action, that would amount to creating something out of nothing and that is impossible. The essay argues that the claim that intentions are insubstantial is too strong a premise to put forward without argument. For there are other attitudes that are on their own sufficient to generate reasons, such as loving attitudes. The essay then argues that the bootstrapping objection’s status as dogma in the philosophy of action has led to insufficient attention being paid to the entirely reasonable question of whether intentions are sufficiently like other reason-giving attitudes, such as loving and valuing. It may turn out that, just as loving someone can give the loving person a reason to act in a certain, so too can intending to do something give someone a reason to act in a certain way, but we cannot effectively engage this question without first giving up our commitment to the bootstrapping objection as a central “insight” in philosophy of action. The essay concludes by proposing two research questions that are opened up by the abandonment of the bootstrapping objection as dogma, and proposes that we turn our philosophical attentions to those questions. (shrink)
John Horty effectively develops deontic logic (the logic of ethical concepts like obligation and permission) against the background of a formal theory of agency. He incorporates certain elements of decision theory to set out a new deontic account of what agents ought to do under various conditions over extended periods of time. Offering a conceptual rather than technical emphasis, Horty's framework allows a number of recent issues from moral theory to be set out clearly and discussed from a uniform point (...) of view. (shrink)
This essay argues for three theses. The first is that the notion of agent-neutral value, or more accurately, the promotion of agent-neutral values, is what truly defines consequentialism as a type of moral theory. A state of affairs is of agent-neutral value if it is capable of generating reasons for action for everybody. The second is that the existence of agent-neutral value has never been proven, and no known account of this notion has made clear what (...) kind of things these are. In particular, I argue that both the non-moral approach and the moral approach to make good the claim about the existence of agent-neutral values are unable to deliver the desired results. The third thesis is that moral philosophy should exorcise the notion of agent-neutral value, not only because we do not know what type of things these are, but also because we do not need this notion in order to have good moral philosophy. I offer, basically, two arguments here. One is that when the justificatory issue is properly formulated, the so-called 'agent-relative rules' appear to be justifiable. The other is that the duty of beneficence can be accounted for on grounds other than that of agent-neutral value. (shrink)
Is human freedom and choice exaggerated in recent social theory? Should agency be the central in sociology? In this, penetrating and assured book, one of the leading commentators in the field asks where social theory is going. Barnes argues that social theory has taken the wrong turn in over-stating individual freedom. The result is that social contexts in which all individual actions are situated, is dangerously under-theorized. Barnes calls for a form of social theory that recognizes that sociability is the (...) essential characteristic of human life. It is our capacity to communicate with each other, and plan for each other’s welfare, that makes us truly human. Once this is allowed, notions of “agency”, “freedom”, and “choice” lose their connotation with free-floating individualism. Instead the embedded character of agency is starkly revealed. This is a model of well-informed and balanced analysis. It will be of interest to students of sociology, philosophy and social theory. (shrink)
The hypothesis of the mental state-causation of behavior asserts that the behaviors we classify as actions are caused by certain mental states. A principal reason often given for trying to secure the truth of the MSC hypothesis is that doing so is allegedly required to vindicate our belief in our own agency. I argue that the project of vindicating agency needs to be seriously reconceived, as does the relation between this project and the MSC hypothesis. Vindication requires addressing what I (...) call the agent-exclusion problem: the prima facie incompatibility between the intentional content of agentive experience and certain metaphysical hypotheses often espoused in philosophy. (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)
The agent-structure problem is a much discussed issue in the field of international relations. In his comprehensive analysis of this problem, Colin Wight deconstructs the accounts of structure and agency embedded within differing IR theories and, on the basis of this analysis, explores the implications of ontology - the metaphysical study of existence and reality. Wight argues that there are many gaps in IR theory that can only be understood by focusing on the ontological differences that construct the theoretical (...) landscape. By integrating the treatment of the agent-structure problem in IR theory with that in social theory, Wight makes a positive contribution to the problem as an issue of concern to the wider human sciences. At the most fundamental level politics is concerned with competing visions of how the world is and how it should be, thus politics is ontology. (shrink)
Bernard Bolzano's philosophy of mind is closely related to his metaphysical conceptions of substance, adherence and force. Questions as to how the mind is working are treated in terms of efficient faculties producing simple and complex representations, conclusive and non-conclusive judgments, and meta-representational attitudes such as believing and knowing. My paper outlines the proximity of Bolzano's account of "mental forces" to contemporary accounts of faculty psychology such as Modularity Theory and Simple Heuristics. While the modularist notions of domain specificity and (...) encapsulated mental faculties align with Bolzano's allotment of domain specific tasks to correspondingly specified psychological forces, the emphasis of Simple Heuristics on accurate "fast and frugal" processes aligns with Bolzano's views regarding cognitive resources and the importance of epistemic economy. The paper attempts to show how Bolzano's metaphysics of mind supposes a conception of bound rationality that determines his epistemology. Combining the rationalist concern for epistemic agent responsibility in the pursuit of knowledge with a strong confidence in the reliability of causal processes to generate the right beliefs, his epistemology shows close affinities with contemporary Virtue Epistemology. According to Virtue Epistemology, knowledge requires that true beliefs be generated by reliable processes typical of a virtuous character. The thesis that Bolzano anticipates virtue epistemological considerations is corroborated by his discussion of heuristic principles that set the norms for the acquisition of knowledge. The paper explores possible relations between such principles and the presumed low-level heuristics of cognitive processes. (shrink)
Alphonso Lingis’s singular works of philosophy are not so much written as performed, and in The First Person Singular the performance is characteristically brilliant, a consummate act of philosophical reckoning. Lingis’s subject here, aptly enough, is the subject itself, understood not as consciousness but as embodied, impassioned, active being. His book is, at the same time, an elegant cultural analysis of how subjectivity is differently and collectively understood, invested, and situated. The subject Lingis elaborates in detail is the passionate subject (...) of fantasy, of obsessive commitment, of noble actions, the subject enacting itself through an engagement with others, including animals and natural forces. This is not the linguistic or literary subject posited by structuralism and post-structuralism, nor the rational consciousness posited by post-Enlightenment philosophy. It is rather a being embodied in both a passionate, intensifying activity and a cultural collective made up of embodied others as well as the social rituals and practices that comprise this first person singular. (shrink)
Marcia Cavell draws on philosophy, psychoanalysis, and the sciences of the mind in a fascinating and original investigation of human subjectivity. A "subject" is a creature, we may say, who recognizes herself as an "I," taking in the world from a subjective perspective; an agent, doing things for reasons, sometimes self-reflective, and able to assume responsibility for herself and some of her actions. If this is an ideal, how does a person become a subject, and what might stand in (...) the way? One of Marcia Cavell's guiding premises is that philosophical investigation into the specifically human way of being in the world cannot separate itself from investigations of a more empirical sort. Cavell brings together for the first time reflections in philosophy, findings in neuroscience, studies in infant development, psychoanalytic theory, and clinical vignettes from her own psychoanalytic practice. (shrink)
Herder, the German humanist from the end of the 18th century, a representative of Weimar classicism and of the Sturm und Drang movement, man of letters, philosopher of history, defender of popular cultures, advocate of the uniqueness and importance of every civilization. The ways in which one may summarize his legacy extend even further. The present paper will focus on the philosophy of history. We will prove that his writings reveal a complex and solid theory of barbarianism, topical for 21st (...) century Europe. First of all, we aim to clarify the multiple meanings of this concept, identifying both the historical data and the theoretical principles behind it. In this way, the grounds on which Herder executed a radical overthrow of the Enlightenment conception upon the barbarian will be revealed. Subsequently should derive the relativity of the “civilization–barbarism” opposition, as well as the anticipation of Hegel’s idea that history necessarily continues through the barbarian. Finally, we aim to provide reasonably founded answers to the questions generated by this thesis: 1. What are the qualities that confer on the barbarian the possibility of creating history? – in other words, what turns him from supporting actor into a collective agent able to change the course of history? 2. Is there a law of history that decides whether some barbarians are doomed to perish, while others build empires? (shrink)
This paper aims to show that the notion of moral progress makes sense in Hume’s philosophy. And even though Hume suggests that this question is not central, in showing why it is not the case, I will conclude that, in concentrating on the question of the progress of civilisation, Hume was expressing a view on moral progress. To support this claim, I will begin by defending the claim that the notion of moral progress itself is consistent within Hume’s philosophical principles. (...) In brief, I will suggest that according to Hume, there are at least four ways in which an agent's morality can be modified: by a change of belief, by a will to change his own moral characteristics, by the government setting up rewards and punishment and by the progress of civilisation. The key to the problem will be to distinguish between the natural principles which direct human nature and the social nature of human beings, the first one being immutable, and the second being malleable. Drawing this distinction will allow us to reconcile the highly problematic notions of uniformity and diversity within human nature. Then, in correlation with the distinction between moral maxims and moral behaviour, I will suggest that both are subjects to improvement, even though the room left for the latter is greater. After having argued that the notion of moral progress makes sense, I will try to understand the role it plays in the Humean conception of the progress of civilisation. This will lead me to conclude that its conditions and its different states of development are for Hume intrinsically related to the progress of the civilisation in general. Furthermore, moral progress is secondary and relative to the general improvement of society. The morals of the people has no active role in its progress, contrary to politics, economics, sciences and arts which are the main causes of the gradual progress of improvement. Therefore, against Montesquieu, Hume considers the progress of “manners” and “customs” (i.e. moral behaviour or the moral worth of behaviour) as a consequence of the progress of civilisation, and not as its cause. Hume’s principal aim is to underline the process of civilisation, and to show the means by which it spreads though all the spheres of society. (shrink)
An important question in recent work in political philosophy concerns whether facts about individuals’ motivational deficiencies are facts to which principles of justice are sensitive. In this context, David Estlund has recently argued that the difficulties individuals’ face in motivating themselves to act do not affect the content of normative principles that apply to them. Against Estlund, the paper argues that in principle the motivational difficulties individuals face can affect the content of normative principles that apply to them. This argument (...) is made with reference to so-called Agent-Centred Prerogatives. The paper argues that because the limits on human motivational capacities can affect the extent to which it is burdensome to do something, those limits also impact on the nature of justified Agent-Centred Prerogatives. If Agent-Centred Prerogatives to depart from a putative normative principle depend on the burdensomeness of complying with that requirement, human motivational capacities can affect which normative principles apply. (shrink)