abstract Debate about physician‐assisted suicide has typically focused on the values of autonomy and patient wellbeing. This is understandable, even reasonable, given the import‐ance of these values in bioethics. However, these are not the only moral values there are. The purpose of this paper is to examine physician‐assisted suicide on the basis of the values of equality and justice. In particular, I will evaluate two arguments that invoke equality, one in favour of physician‐assisted suicide, one against it, and I will (...) eventually argue that a convincing equality‐based argument in support of physician‐assisted suicide is available. I will conclude by showing how an equality‐based perspective transforms some secondary features of debate about this issue. (shrink)
We are familiar with the idea of symbolic value in everyday contexts, and philosophers sometimes help themselves to it when discussing other topics. However, symbolic value itself has not been sufficiently studied. What is it for something to have symbolic value? How important is symbolic value? The present purpose is to shed some light on the nature and significance of symbolic value. Two kinds of symbolic value are distinguished, called the ‘symbolic mode of valuing’ and ‘symbolism as a ground of (...) value’. Their potential significance lies in making a thoroughly relational contribution to thought about values, compared to the individualistic nature of more familiar values. This relational contribution consists in the role of symbols in shared ways of living. (shrink)
Concerns about advertising take one of two forms. Some people are worried that advertising threatens autonomous choice. Others are worried not about autonomy but about the values spread by advertising as a powerful institution. I suggest that this bifurcation stems from misunderstanding autonomy. When one turns from autonomous choice to autonomy of persons, or what is often glossed as self-rule, then one has reason to think that advertising poses a moral problem of a sort so far unrecognized. I diagnose this (...) problem using Charles Taylor''s work on "strong evaluation". This problem turns out to have political ramifications that have been only dimly recognized in business ethics circles. (shrink)
Internalists argue that there is a necessary connection between motivation and moral judgment. The examination of cases plays an important role in philosophical debate about internalism. This debate has focused on cases concerning the failure to act in accordance with a moral judgment, for one reason or another. I call these failure cases . I argue that a different sort of case is also relevant to this debate. This sort of case is characterized by (1) moral judgment and (2) behavior (...) that accords with the content of the moral judgment but that has been performed not because of the moral judgment. Instead it is due to some other source of motivation. I call these alternative motivation cases . I distinguish two sorts of alternative motivation cases, and I argue that externalists have natural explanations of these cases. By contrast, extant internalist accounts of failure cases are inadequate when applied to alternative motivation cases. (shrink)
The debate has continued in these terms to the present day. In Like-Minded, Andrew Sneddon argues that "reason" and "passion" do not satisfactorily capture all the important options for explaining the psychological foundations of morality.
P.F. Strawson’s work on moral responsibility is well-known. However, an important implication of the landmark “Freedom and Resentment” has gone unnoticed. Specifically, a natural development of Strawson’s position is that we should understand being morally responsible as having externalistically construed pragmatic criteria, not individualistically construed psychological ones. This runs counter to the contemporary ways of studying moral responsibility. I show the deficiencies of such contemporary work in relation to Strawson by critically examining the positions of John Martin Fischer and Mark (...) Ravizza, R. Jay Wallace, and Philip Pettit for problems due to individualistic assumptions. (shrink)
Such thinkers as John Stuart Mill, Gerald Dworkin, and Richard Doerflinger have appealed to the value of freedom to explain both what is wrong with slavery and what is wrong with selling oneself into slavery. Practical ethicists, including Dworkin and Doerflinger, sometimes use selling oneself into slavery in analogies intended to illustrate justifiable forms of paternalism. I argue that these thinkers have misunderstood the moral problem with slavery. Instead of being a central value in itself, I argue that freedom is (...) a means of serving the real value of autonomy. Moreover, I argue that autonomy is ambiguous. In cases of conflict, autonomous choice, here called "shallow autonomy", can justifiably be limited to serve "deep autonomy", or self-rule. I use these notions to give a better understanding of the problem with selling oneself into slavery, and argue that the work of Dworkin has to be seriously revised, and Doerflinger's position has to be given up altogether.\\\ John Stuart Mill, Gerald Dworkin y Richard Doerflinger han recurrido al valor de la libertad para explicar tanto porque está mal moralmente la esclavitud como venderse uno mismo como esclavo. Los teóricos de la ética práctica, incluidos Dworkin y Doerflinger, a veces utilizan el caso de venderse uno mismo como esclavo en analogias que pretenden ilustrar formas justificables de paternalismo. Sostengo que estos pensadores han malinterpretado el problema moral con la esclavitud. Argumento que en lugar de ser un valor fundamental en si mismo, la libertad es un medio para el valor real de la autonomia. Arguyo, por otra parte, que la autónomia es ambigua. En casos de conflicto, la elección autonóma, denominada aqui "autonomia superficial", puede justificadamente estar limitada a servir a la "autonomia profunda", o autogobierno. Utilizo estas nociones para ofrecer una mejor interpretatión del problema moral con venderse uno mismo como esclavo, y sostengo que la obra de Dworkin se debe revisar con seriedad, y que se debe abandonar por completo la postura de Doerflinger. (shrink)
The familiar argument from disagreement has been an important focal point of discussion in contemporary meta-ethics. Over the past decade, there has been an explosion of interdisciplinary work between philosophers and psychologists about moral psychology. Working within this trend, John Doris and Alexandra Plakias have made a tentative version of the argument from disagreement on empirical grounds. Doris and Plakias present empirical evidence in support of premise 4, that ethics is beset by fundamental disagreement. They examine Richard Brandt on Hopi (...) ethics and, especially, Richard E. Nisbett & Dov Cohen on cultures of honor to make a prima facie version of this case. This raises important questions. Are Doris and Plakias correct that there is even a prima facie empirical basis for moral anti-realism? What sort of empirical contribution can be made to such debates in meta-ethics? I argue that we should have reservations about the prospects of empirical contributions to the argument from disagreement. Specifically, before empirical results from psychology can be used to offer conclusions about meta-ethical issues, more careful attention must be paid to normative ethics, and especially to normative theory. There are two parts to this position. First, there is good reason to think that the evidence we currently have about moral disagreement is irrelevant to the meta-ethical debate. Second, the relevant evidence is useless for meta-ethical purposes on its own. Instead, it must be combined with normative theorizing about value pluralism. (shrink)
Moral psychologists have recently turned their attention to a phenomenon they call 'moral dumbfounding'. Moral dumbfounding occurs when someone confidently pronounces a moral judgment, then finds that he or she has little or nothing to say in defense of it. This paper addresses recent attempts by Jonathan Haidt and Marc Hauser to make sense of moral dumbfounding in terms of their respective theories of moral judgment; Haidt in terms of a 'social intuitionist' model of moral judgment, and Hauser in terms (...) of his 'Rawlsian creature' model of moral judgment. I show that Haidt and Hauser assume that moral dumbfounding is to be explained in terms of features of a.) moral judgment that are b.) construed in terms of the intrinsic features of individuals. By contrast, I hypothesize that moral dumbfounding is to be explained in terms of moral reasoning, more specifically in terms of the social dynamics of such reasoning. Finally, I argue that this hypothesis points towards an externalistic account of both moral reasoning and moral judgment. (shrink)
Philosophers of action tend to take for granted the concept of basic actions – actions that are done at will, or directly – as opposed to others that are performed in other ways. This concept does foundational work in action theory; many theorists, especially causalists, take part of their task to be showing that normal, complex actions necessarily stem from basic ones somehow. The case for the concept of basic actions is driven by a family of observations and a cluster (...) of closely related anti-infinite regress arguments. I review this case in the work of Arthur Danto, Donald Davidson, and Jennifer Hornsby – three of the most important developers of the concept – and find it lacking. I conclude by sketching the possibility of non-foundationalist action theory. (shrink)
The "width" of the mind is an important topic in contemporary philosophical psychology. Support for active externalism derives from theoretical, engineering, and observational perspectives. Given the history of psychology, psychopathology is notable in its absence from the list of avenues of support for the idea that some cognitive processes extend beyond the physical bounds of the organism in question. The current project is to defend the possibility, plausibility, and desirability of externalist psychopathology. Doing so both adds to the case for (...) externalism and suggests ways of improving our study of cognitive dysfunction. I establish the possibility of externalist psychopathology through the development of models of wide cognitive processing, and, by implication, failure of such processing, from the work of S.L. Hurley and Robert Wilson. The plausibility of wide conceptualization and explanation of cognitive disorders is shown through an examination of apraxia, disorders of learned, skilled movements. The desirability of externalist psychopathology is suggested through a look at theoretical and therapeutic virtues, again drawing on Wilson's work. (shrink)
What makes an event count as an action? Typical answers appeal to the way in which the event was produced: e.g., perhaps an arm movement is an action when caused by mental states (in particular ways), but not when caused in other ways. I argue that this type of answer, which I call "productionism", is methodologically and substantially mistaken. In particular, productionist answers to this question tend to be either individualistic or foundationalist, or both, without explicit defence. Instead, I offer (...) an externalist, anti-foundationalist account of what makes an event count as an action, which he calls neo-ascriptivism, after the work of H.L.A. Hart. Specifically, I argue that our practices of attributing moral responsibility to each other are at least partly constitutive of events as actions. (shrink)
The two most commonly discussed and implemented rationales for acquiring organs for transplantation give consent a central role. I argue that such centrality is a mistake. The reason is that practices of consent serve only to respect patients as autonomous beings. The primary issue in acquiring organs for transplantation, however, is how it is appropriate to treat a newly non-autonomous being. Once autonomy and consent are dislodged from their central position, considerations of utility and fairness take a more prominent position. (...) On the basis of these values, a strongly suggestive moral case is presented for routinely harvesting organs for transplantation. (shrink)
Why are we still studying well-being? After more than two thousand years of Western philosophy, why do we lack a settled account of the good life for humans? Philosophical problems in general are perennial, and the nature of human well-being is one such problem. However, we seem to stand in an epistemic relationship to this topic that is not shared by other ones. We have a vested interest in understanding the good life, and the relevant data seem to be accessible (...) to us all. The challenge is to explain why well-being is one lasting philosophical topic among others in spite of our special epistemic relationship to it. I argue that human nature renders us well-being blind. On one side this is due to the heterogeneous nature of our interests. Some are directly mediated by conscious thought, others are not. Some are individualistically realized, others relationally. On the other side we suffer from cognitive biases that lead us to under-value, indeed to miss entirely, the important aspects of human life that do not depend on conscious attention. Consequently, there is reason to think that we will never be satisfied with a theory of well-being. (shrink)
There has long been a suspicion that Kant's test for the universalizability of maxims can be easily subverted: instead of risking failing the test, design your maxim for any action whatsoever in a manner guaranteed to pass. This is the problem of maxim-fiddling. The present discussion of this problem has two theses: 1] That extant approaches to maxim-fiddling are not satisfactory;2] That a satisfactory response to maxim-fiddling can be articulated using Kantian resources, especially the first two formulations of the categorical (...) imperative. This approach to maxim-fiddling draws our attention to a Kantian notion of an offence against morality itself that has largely been overlooked. (shrink)
Depuis 1963, le causalisme a été l'approche dominante en théorie de l'action. Il est possible, cependant, de distinguer diverses sortes de causalisme. La version dominante, que j'appelle CTA, essaie de trouver une analyse causale de l'action. Une version plus restreinte — le causalismeR — se montre récalcitrante à ce genre d'entreprise et se contente d'essayer d'expliquer en quel sens on peut traiter comme causales les explications par les raisons. J'examine ici les motivations sous-jacentes à CTA, ainsi que plusieurs de ses (...) formulations les plus influentes, et je soutiens que cette approche n'a pas été très heureuse et que le projet, du reste, n'est pas au départ terriblement convaincant. Il y a beaucoup à attendre, en revanche, du causalismeR. (shrink)
Identity arguments for the existence of god offer an intriguing blend of conceptual and existential claims. As it happens, this sort of blend has been probed for more than a century in metaethics, ever since G.E. Moore formulated the Open Question Argument against metaethical naturalism. Moore envisaged naturalism as offering identity claims between good and natural properties. His central worry was that such identity claims should render certain questions closed and hence meaningless. However, he contended that speakers competent with the (...) respective concepts would find these questions meaningful, thereby indicating the failure of the identity claim in question, and of all such identity claims. The history of this issue in metaethics provides an important perspective on the prospects of devising cogent, rhetorically successful versions of identity arguments for the existence of god. Both the conceptual and existential premises of such arguments involve conceptual nuances that metaethicists have studied. Overall, the history of the Open Question Argument provides reason to think that rationally compelling versions of identity arguments for the existence of god are very unlikely to be constructed. (shrink)
Michael Stocker and Bernard Williams are recent proponents of the influential objection against utilitarianism that it leads to important forms of alienation. The famous response is that such objections are mistaken. The objections picture agents being motivated by the principle of utility, but, e.g., Peter Railton argues we should see this principle as purely normative – agents can be motivated any way they like and still be ‘objective’ consequentialists. I argue that this type of position is inadequate as a full (...) answer to Stocker and Williams. I trace this failure to his inattention to moral psychology, then show how other remarks made by Mill provide the roots of a better answer to Stocker and Williams. (shrink)
This paper examines extant ways of classifying varieties of psychological externalism and argues that they imply a hitherto unrecognized distinction between shallow and deep externalism. The difference is between starting points: shallowly externalist hypotheses begin with the attribution of psychological states to individuals, just as individualistic hypotheses do, whereas deeply externalistic hypotheses begin with agent-environment interaction as the basis of cognitive processes and attribute psychological states to individuals as necessary for such interaction. The over-arching aim is to show how deep (...) externalism works and what its implications are for psychological and philosophical theorizing. (shrink)
Thick moral concepts are a topic of particular disagreement in discussions of reasons holism. These concepts, such as justice, are called “thick” because they have both evaluative and descriptive aspects. Thin moral concepts, such as good, are purely evaluative. The disagreement concerns whether the fact that an action is, for example, just always a reason in favor of performing that action. The present argument follows Jonathan Dancy’s strategy of connecting moral reasons and concepts to those in other domains. If Dancy (...) is correct then we should expect holism about thick moral concepts to the same extent to which we find holism for other sorts of thick concepts. Using this strategy two claims are defended: that reasons holism is characteristic of non-moral thick concepts—specifically, of aesthetic, epistemic and prudential thick concepts—and that such non-moral concepts exemplify useful and heretofore unnoticed models for thick moral concepts. (shrink)
The “dirty hands paradox” is found where it seems that we must do something wrong in order to act rightly. This paradox is generated by particular descriptions of states of affairs, particularly ones involving political power, in which hard choices have to be made. Other descriptions of these situations are available, and these do not generate the paradox. I argue that the descriptions that generate the dirty hands paradox are indefensible, and hence the paradox should be seen as a sign (...) of a mistake rather than a deep insight into values. The deep problem is that the paradox is produced due to an implausible moral valuing of the relatively direct exercise of agency. (shrink)
One stream in contemporary philosophical and psychological study of the emotions argues that they are perceptual capacities. The present project is to compare and contrast two possible models of emotional perception. The central difference between these models is the notion of modularity, and the corresponding overall view of the nature of the mind, that they use. One model uses classic, Fodorian modules, which S.L. Hurley characterizes as “vertical”. The other model uses “horizontal” modules. I suggest some empirical tests that might (...) adjudicate between these different kinds of emotional modularity, and hence between these two models of emotional perception. I conclude with some remarks about the extent of the relevance of this issue. (shrink)
This paper evaluates Sara Goering’s recent attempt to use the Rawlsian notion of the veil of ignorance as a tool for distinguishing permissible from impermissible forms of genetic engineering. I argue that her article fails due to a failure to include vital contextual information in the right way.
Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, and Peter Railton formulate two objections to moral sensibility theories in their overview of twentieth-century moral theory, “Toward Fin de siècle Ethics: Some Trends.” Instead of using the work of sensibility theorists John McDowell and David Wiggins to address these objections, I turn to H. A. Prichard and P. F. Strawson. The reason for doing so is that the objections misunderstand the importance of the idea of the autonomy of the moral domain. Prichard and Strawson have (...) provided important defenses of this idea that are independent of moral sensibility theories. Hence their work provides independent grounds for answering the two objections. Particularly important is the loosely a posteriori way they make their arguments. oral. (shrink)
Philosophers have long studied the nature of happiness and, as a consequence, have made recommendations about how to achieve it. The present paper argues that perhaps this has been a mistake. Empirical studies of happiness have been yielding important results in recent years, the implication of which is that happiness is more complex than philosophers have suspected. The crucial point is this: although very abstract and very individual-specific things can be said about happiness, there is nothing substantial that can be (...) said about happiness in general. For practical yet general recommendations about how to achievehappiness, such an intermediate level of generality is necessary. Since it is not available, no general recommendations about happiness are possible. (shrink)
Philosophers and psychologists have been vigorously examining the psychological capacities that realize our moral agency. Our purpose is to take some of this work and present its implications for moral education. To connect recent work with more long-standing debates in moral education, we frame this discussion with Helen Haste’s 1996 examination of liberal and communitarian positions on moral agency and education. We argue that contemporary research does not confirm the descriptive theory of moral agency offered by either liberal theorists or (...) communitarians, but nonetheless the prescriptive theory of liberal moral education can be vindicated. (shrink)
Two models of modularity are presented in analysis of perceptual theories of emotion. Empirical tests for assessing whether either model is apt for emotion are suggested. The paper concludes by standing back and assessing the stakes of the issue.
This is a response to Andrei Buckareff and Jing Zhu, who in "Causalisms Reconsidered" criticize my argument in, primarily, "Considering Causalisms" and, secondarily, in "Does Philosophy of Action Rest on a Mistake?".
As Andrei Buckareff and Jing Zhu say in “Causalisms Reconsidered,” I, in my “Considering Causalisms”, considered two sorts of causalism, and I argued that we should only hold one of these varieties. I argued that Donald Davidson’s arguments in “Actions, Reasons, and Causes” provided reason for us to accept what I called causalismR, i.e., a causal understanding of reasons explanations. Insofar as we think reasons can be causes, we are causalists of this restricted sort. I argued, however, that Davidson’s 1963 (...) arguments did not support a more expanded sort of causalism, which I called, following John Bishop, causal theory of action. (shrink)
In "What Minds Can Do" (1997), Pierre Jacob argues for the cognitive turn in the philosophy of mind. He formulates this in contrast with the linguistic turn, which privileges linguistic semanticity over mental semanticity. Jacob argues that the order of privilege should be the other way around. I argue for a third option, which I call the ecological turn, which dissolves the bifurcation explored by Jacob.
American Philosophy of Technology: The Empirical Turn is an introduction to the thought about technology by Albert Borgmann, Hubert Dreyfuss, Andrew Feenberg, Donna Haraway, Don Ihde, and Langdon Winner. Each position is presented in a medium-length essay, along with a little biographical information and some criticism. Each essay is written by a different Dutch philosopher. The book is largely a translation of a 1997 Dutch publication. However, the essays on Borgmann, Feenberg, and Ihde have been updated to include material written (...) after 1997. The philosophical stance of the book is broadly Continental, most notably post-Heideggerian, given that the topic is technology. It is, however, easily accessible to readers better versed in other traditions. Given the age and accessibility of the material, this is a very useful introduction to contemporary thought about technology. Graduate students and advanced undergraduates should be able to make good use of this book. (shrink)
Stephen Darwall, Allan Gibbard, and Peter Railton formulate two objections to moral sensibility theories in their overview of twentieth-century moral theory, “Toward Fin de siècle Ethics: Some Trends.” Instead of using the work of sensibility theorists John McDowell and David Wiggins to address these objections, I turn to H. A. Prichard and P. F. Strawson. The reason for doing so is that the objections misunderstand the importance of the idea of the autonomy of the moral domain. Prichard and Strawson have (...) provided important defenses of this idea that are independent of moral sensibility theories. Hence their work provides independent grounds for answering the two objections. Particularly important is the loosely a posteriori way they make their arguments. (shrink)
Philosophers have various reasons to be interested in individual autonomy. Individual self-rule is widely recognized to be important. But what, exactly, is autonomy? In what ways is it important? And just how important is it? This book introduces contemporary philosophical thought about the nature and significance of individual self-rule. -/- Andrew Sneddon divides self-rule into autonomy of choice and autonomy of persons. Unlike most philosophical treatments of autonomy, Sneddon addresses empirical study of the psychology of action. The significance of autonomy (...) is displayed in connection with such issues as paternalism, political liberalism, advertising and physician-assisted suicide. Sneddon both introduces the themes of contemporary autonomy studies and defends a novel account of its nature and significance. Autonomy is an ideal introduction for advanced-level undergraduate and postgraduate students to the issues and debates surrounding individual self-rule. (shrink)
Saul Smilansky notes that, despite the famous role of paradoxes in philosophy, very few moral paradoxes have been developed and assessed. The present paper offers recipes for generating moral paradoxes as a tool to aid in filling this gap. The concluding section presents reflections on how to assess the depth of the paradoxes generated with these recipes. Special attention is paid to links between putative moral paradoxes and debate about ethical particularism and generalism.