In disputes about conceptual analysis, each side typically appeals to pre-theoretical 'intuitions' about particular cases. Recently, many naturalistically oriented philosophers have suggested that these appeals should be understood as empirical hypotheses about what people would say when presented with descriptions of situations, and have consequently conducted surveys on non-specialists. I argue that this philosophical research programme, a key branch of what is known as 'experimental philosophy', rests on mistaken assumptions about the relation between people's concepts and their linguistic behaviour. The (...) conceptual claims that philosophers make imply predictions about the folk's responses only under certain demanding, counterfactual conditions. Because of the nature of these conditions, the claims cannot be tested with methods of positivist social science. We are, however, entitled to appeal to intuitions about folk concepts in virtue of possessing implicit normative knowledge acquired through reflective participation in everyday linguistic practices. (shrink)
Everyone agrees that not all norms that govern belief and assertion are epistemic. But not enough attention has been paid to distinguishing epistemic norms from others. Norms in general differ from merely evaluative standards in virtue of the fact that it is fitting to hold subjects accountable for violating them, provided they lack an excuse. Different kinds of norm are most readily distinguished by their distinctive mode of accountability. My thesis is roughly that a norm is epistemic if and only (...) if its violation makes it fitting to reduce epistemic trust in the subject, even if there is no doubt about their sincerity, honesty, or other moral virtues. That is, violations of epistemic norms don’t merit resentment or other forms of blame, but rather deduction of credibility points in internal scorekeeping and related attitudinal and behavioral changes. As Fricker’s work on epistemic injustice shows, such distrust is undesirable from the point of view of an epistemic agent. Consequently, when one manifests epistemic distrust towards a subject in suitable circumstances, it amounts a way of holding her accountable. Since this form of accountability involves no opprobrium, there is good reason to think it is not linked to voluntary control in the same way as moral accountability. Finally, I make use of this account of what makes epistemic norms distinctive to point out some faulty diagnostics in debates about norms of assertion. My aim is not to defend any substantive view, however, but only to offer tools for identifying the right kind of evidence for epistemic norms. (shrink)
(Pdf updated to final, slightly revised version of November 2010) -/- Almost everyone would prefer to lead a meaningful life. But what is meaning in life and what makes a life meaningful? I argue, first, for a new analysis of the concept of meaningfulness in terms of the appropriateness of feelings of fulfilment and admiration. Second, I argue that while the best current conceptions of meaningfulness, such as Susan Wolf’s view that in a meaningful life ‘subjective attraction meets objective attractiveness’, (...) do a fairly good job capturing meaningfulness at a time, we need an account that makes sense of the intimate connection between meaningfulness and having a direction in one’s life. According to the Teleological View I propose, what makes a single chapter of a life most meaningful is success in reaching central, objectively valuable goals as a result of exercising essential human capacities. Life as a whole is most meaningful when past efforts increase the success of future goal-setting, goal-seeking, and goal-reaching, so that the life forms a coherent whole without being dedicated to a single aim. Since coherence in this sense is a holistic property of a life, global prudential value is not a function of local prudential values. I suggest that just as pleasure is the final good of human beings as subjects of experience, meaningfulness is the final good of human beings as active agents. (shrink)
The demands of rationality are linked both to our subjective normative perspective (given that rationality is a person-level concept) and to objective reasons or favoring relations (given that rationality is non-contingently authoritative for us). In this paper, I propose a new way of reconciling the tension between these two aspects: roughly, what rationality requires of us is having the attitudes that correspond to our take on reasons in the light of our evidence, but only if it is competent. I show (...) how this view can account for structural rationality on the assumption that intentions and beliefs as such involve competent perceptions of downstream reasons, and explore various implications of the account. (shrink)
According to the quasi-perceptualist account of philosophical intuitions, they are intellectual appearances that are psychologically and epistemically analogous to perceptual appearances. Moral intuitions share the key characteristics of other intuitions, but can also have a distinctive phenomenology and motivational role. This paper develops the Humean claim that the shared and distinctive features of substantive moral intuitions are best explained by their being constituted by moral emotions. This is supported by an independently plausible non-Humean, quasi-perceptualist theory of emotion, according to which (...) the phenomenal feel of emotions is crucial for their intentional content. (shrink)
What is the relationship between meaning in life and happiness? In psychological research, subjective meaning and happiness are often contrasted with each other. I argue that while the objective meaningfulness of a life is distinct from happiness, subjective or felt meaning is a key constituent of happiness, which is best understood as a multidimensional affective condition. Measures of felt meaning should consequently be included in empirical studies of the causes and correlates of happiness.
On the face of it, suffering from the loss of a loved one and suffering from intense pain are very different things. What makes them both experiences of suffering? I argue it’s neither their unpleasantness nor the fact that we desire not to have such experiences. Rather, what we suffer from negatively transforms the way our situation as a whole appears to us. To cash this out, I introduce the notion of negative affective construal, which involves practically perceiving our situation (...) as calling for change, registering this perception with a felt desire for change, and believing that the change is not within our power. We (attitudinally) suffer when negative affective construal is pervasive, either because it colours a large swath of possibilities, as in the case of anxiety, or because it narrows our attention to what hurts, as in the case of grief. On this view, sensory or bodily suffering is a special case of attitudinal suffering: the unpleasantness of pain causes pervasive negative affective construal. Pain that doesn’t negatively transform our world doesn’t make for suffering. (shrink)
Most of us are hedonically future-biased: other things being equal, we prefer pains to be in the past and pleasures to be in the future. Recently, various authors have argued that future bias is irrational, and that we should be temporally neutral instead. I argue that instead of temporal neutrality, the putative counterexamples and the rationales offered for them only motivate a more narrow principle I call Only Action Fixes Utility: it is only when you act on the basis of (...) assigning a utility to an outcome that rationality requires you to give it the same value retrospectively and prospectively, other things being equal. When hedonic experiences are untethered from action, hedonic future bias is rationally permissible. I support this principle by appeal to additional scenarios and more general asymmetries between agential and experiential goods. (shrink)
Recently, psychologists have started to distinguish between three kinds of experience of meaning. Drawing on philosophical as well as empirical literature, I argue that the experience of one’s own life making sense involves a sense of narrative justification, so that not just any kind of intelligibility suffices; the experience of purpose includes enthusiastic future-directed motivation against the background of a global sort of hopefulness, or the resonance of what one does right now with one’s values; and finally, the experience of (...) significance consists primarily of feelings of pride and fulfilment, which construe our actions as making a positive difference to the world or as mattering to someone who matters to us. Mutually exclusive philosophical views of what makes our lives meaningful could all be simultaneously correct about the fittingness of these different kinds of experience. (shrink)
Affective experiences motivate and rationalize behavior in virtue of feeling good or bad, or their valence. It has become popular to explain such phenomenal character with intentional content. Rejecting evaluativism and extending earlier imperativist accounts of pain, I argue that when experiences feel bad, they both represent things as being in a certain way and tell us to see to it that they will no longer be that way. Such commands have subjective authority by virtue of linking up with a (...) relevant background concern. The imperative content explains but doesn’t constitute world-directed motivation. It also rationalizes action indirectly, by giving rise to an affective seeming that represents the situation as calling for the authoritatively commanded behavior. One experience feels worse than another if its content tells us to bear a higher opportunity cost to comply with the command. Finally, experience-directed motivation is contingent on our being attitudinally (dis)pleased with the character of our experience. (shrink)
When we admire a person, we don’t just have a wow-response towards them, as we might towards a painting or a sunset. Rather, we construe them as realizing an ideal of the person in their lives to a conspicuous degree. To merit admiration, it is not enough simply to do something valuable or to possess desirable character traits. Rather, one’s achievements must manifest commitments and character traits that define a worthwhile ideal. Agential admiration, I argue, is a person-focused attitude like (...) shame, contempt, and hubristic pride, not an act-focused one like gratitude or guilt, not to mention mere evaluation as excellent. Given its holistic focus, its motivational effects permeate our interactions with its target, who is construed as an exemplar. Consequently, even if someone is admirable in some way, admiring them may be all-things-considered inappropriate, if they fall short of other ideals that we ought to care about. (shrink)
It is widely acknowledged that susceptibility to suitable emotional responses is part of what it is to value something. Indeed, the value of at least some things calls for such emotional responses – if we lack them, we don’t respond appropriately to their value. In this paper, I argue that susceptibility to anger is an essential component of valuing other people, ourselves, and our relationships. The main reason is that various modes of valuing, such as respect, self-respect, and love, ground (...) normative expectations towards others and ourselves. And holding someone accountable for violating legitimate normative expectations involves emotions from the anger family, such as resentment and indignation. I hold that such forms of anger, which aim at getting the target to conform to expectations or lower their unduly elevated status, are neither inherently problematic or dispensable parts of the package of attitudes involved in valuing. Finally, thinking about anger’s role in valuing also helps see when it is out of place or immature – roughly, it is often excessive, because we easily exaggerate the magnitude of the value involved, the harm or threat to it, or the degree of the target’s moral responsibility. (shrink)
Very plausibly, there is something important missing in our lives if we are thoroughly ignorant or misled about reality – even if, as in a kind of Truman Show scenario, intervention or fantastic luck prevents unhappiness and practical failure. But why? I argue that perfectionism about well-being offers the most promising explanation. My version says, roughly, that we flourish when we exercise our self-defining capacities successfully according to their constitutive standards. One of these self-defining capacities, or capacities whose exercise reveals (...) who we are, is Reason, our capacity for normative self-governance. I argue that in its practical use, Reason formally aims at competently realizing self-chosen valuable ends that are in harmony with each other, or valuable achievements. In its theoretical use, it formally aims at competently grasping fundamental enough subject matters, or a kind of understanding. Because success by reason’s own standards requires many things to go right, there are many different ways in which we can fall short. Some of them amount to partial success. But some, like incompetent inquiry that fails to yield understanding of its target, or taking inefficient means to a worthless end, are robust failures that amount to epistemic or agential unflourishing, and thus to a form of ill-being. (shrink)
Suppose that our life choices result in unpredictable experiences, as L.A. Paul has recently argued. What does this mean for the possibility of rational prudential choice? Not as much as Paul thinks. First, what’s valuable about experience is its broadly hedonic quality, and empirical studies suggest we tend to significantly overestimate the impact of our choices in this respect. Second, contrary to what Paul suggests, the value of finding out what an outcome is like for us does not suffice to (...) rationalize life choices, because much more important values are at stake. Third, because these other prudential goods, such as achievement, personal relationships, and meaningfulness, are typically more important than the quality of our experience (which is in any case unlikely to be bad when we achieve non- experiential goods), life choices should be made on what I call a story- regarding rather than experience-regarding basis. (shrink)
On a widely accepted view, what gives meaning to our lives is success in valuable ground projects. However, philosophers like Kieran Setiya have recently challenged the value of such orientation towards the future, and argued that meaningful living is instead a matter of engaging in atelic activities that are complete in themselves at each moment. This chapter argues that insofar as what is at issue is meaningfulness in its primary existential sense, strongly atelic activities do not suffice for meaning. Instead, (...) finding one’s life meaningful is warranted both by sustainable success in valuable prospective (future-oriented) projects, and by success in reflexive projects that aim to promote or realize a practice-dependent value that can be realized at each moment, but never for good. The latter kind of activities are only weakly atelic, since their aim remains distinct from the activity, and individual actions gain significance from serving a long-term commitment. Thus, whether our ground projects are prospective or reflexive, what we do at each moment contributes to leading a meaningful life only when it’s connected in the right way to what we do at other moments. (shrink)
The moral importance of liability to harm has so far been ignored in the lively debate about what self-driving vehicles should be programmed to do when an accident is inevitable. But liability matters a great deal to just distribution of risk of harm. While morality sometimes requires simply minimizing relevant harms, this is not so when one party is liable to harm in virtue of voluntarily engaging in activity that foreseeably creates a risky situation, while having reasonable alternatives. On plausible (...) assumptions, merely choosing to use a self-driving vehicle typically gives rise to a degree of liability, so that such vehicles should be programmed to shift the risk from bystanders to users, other things being equal. Insofar vehicles cannot be programmed to take all the factors affecting liability into account, there is a pro tanto moral reason not to introduce them, or restrict their use. (shrink)
In this paper, my aim is to bring together contemporary psychological literature on emotion regulation and the classical sentimentalism of David Hume and Adam Smith to arrive at a plausible account of empathy's role in explaining patterns of moral judgment. Along the way, I criticize related arguments by Michael Slote, Jesse Prinz, and others.
What should we believe if epistemic and practical reasons for belief point in different directions? I argue that there’s no single answer, but rather a Dualism of Theoretical and Practical Reason is true: what we epistemically ought to believe and what we practically ought to believe may come apart, and both are independently authoritative. I argue in particular against recently popular views that subordinate the epistemic to the practical: it’s not the case that epistemic reasons bear on what we ‘just (...) plain ought’ to believe just to the extent we have practical reason to believe epistemically correctly. Why? Because epistemic reasons give rise to authoritative demands independently of the practical pay-off of believing accordingly. This is shown in particular by the fact that it can be fitting to epistemically ‘blame’ us just because we fail to believe as we epistemically ought, even if we don’t have sufficient practical reason to believe so. I also argue that we don’t need to come up with what we ‘just plain ought’ to believe, because contrary epistemic and practical responsibility responses can be simultaneously fitting in conflict cases, and because epistemic and practical ought judgments give rise to different enkrasia requirements, among other things. (shrink)
This paper examines systematically which features of a life story (or history) make it good for the subject herself - not aesthetically or morally good, but prudentially good. The tentative narrative calculus presented claims that the prudential narrative value of an event is a function of the extent to which it contributes to her concurrent and non-concurrent goals, the value of those goals, and the degree to which success in reaching the goals is deserved in virtue of exercising agency. The (...) narrative value of a life is a simple sum of the values of individual events that comprise it. I claim that this view best explains and support common intuitions about the significance of the shape of a life. (shrink)
This note explores how ideal subjectivism in metanormative theory can help solve two important problems for Fitting Attitude analyses of value. The wrong-kind-of-reason problem is that there may be sufficient reason for attitude Y even if the object is not Y-able. The many-kinds-of-fittingness problem is that the same attitude can be fitting in many ways. Ideal subjectivism addresses both by maintaining that an attitude is W-ly fitting if and only if endorsed by any W-ly ideal subject. A subject is W-ly (...) ideal when the most robust way of avoiding W-type practical problems is deferring to her endorsement. (shrink)
Empathic feelings seem to causally influence our moral judgments at least sometimes. But is empathy necessary for our ability to make moral judgments? And is it a good thing if our judgments are based on empathy? This chapter examines the contemporary debate on these issues.
Pride in our own actions tells a story: we faced a challenge, overcame it, and achieved something praiseworthy. In this paper, I draw on recent psychological literature to distinguish to between two varieties of pride, 'authentic' pride that focuses on particular efforts (like guilt) and 'hubristic' pride that focuses on the whole self (like shame). Achievement pride is fitting when either efforts or traits explain our success in meeting contextually relevant, authoritative, and challenging standards without excessive opportunity cost. When it (...) is fitting, our lives are at least somewhat meaningful. (shrink)
Many find it reasonable to take our past actions into account when making choices for the future. In this paper, I address two important issues regarding taking past investments into account in prudential deliberation. The first is the charge that doing so commits the fallacy of honoring sunk costs. I argue that while it is indeed irrational to care about sunk costs, past investments are not sunk costs when we can change their teleological significance, roughly their contribution to our excellence (...) as temporally extended, reasons-responsive, and goal-directed agents. I suggest some general principles for evaluating such significance. Second, it’s a live issue whether we should care about the fate of our past projects, even if we can now affect it. I reject Dale Dorsey’s recent answer, and argue that the puzzle he addresses turns out to be merely apparent, if we take seriously the fact that we are temporally extended. (shrink)
Normative political philosophy always refers to a standard against which a society's institutions are judged. In the first, analytical part of the article, the different possible forms of normative criticism are examined according to whether the standards it appeals to are external or internal to the society in question. In the tradition of Socrates and Hegel, it is argued that reconstructing the kind of norms that are implicit in practices enables a critique that does not force the critic's particular views (...) on the addressee and can also be motivationally effective. In the second part of the article, Axel Honneth's theory of recognition is examined as a form of such reconstructive internal critique . It is argued that while the implicit norms of recognition made explicit in Honneth's philosophical anthropology help explain progressive social struggles as moral ones, his theory faces two challenges in justifying internal critique. The Priority Challenge asks for the reasons why the implicit norms of recognition should be taken as the standard against which other implicit and explicit norms are to be judged. The Application Challenge asks why a social group should, by its own lights, extend equal recognition to all its members and even non-members. The kind of functional, prudential, conceptual, and moral considerations that could serve to answer these challenges are sketched. (shrink)
For ambitious metaphysical neo-sentimentalists, all normative facts are grounded in fitting attitudes, where fittingness is understood in naturalistic terms. In this paper, I offer a neo-sentimentalist account of blameworthiness in terms of the reactive attitudes of a morally authoritative subject I label a Nagelian Imp. I also argue that moral impermissibility is indirectly linked to blameworthiness: roughly, an act is morally impermissible if and only if and because it is not *possible* in the circumstances to adopt a plan of performing (...) it without meriting blame, assuming the agent is rational, informed, and meets the conditions of accountability. (shrink)
In Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind, Joshua May argues successfully that many claims about the causal influence of affect on moral judgment are overblown. But the findings he cites are compatible with many of the key arguments of philosophical sentimentalists. His account of rationalism, in turn, relies on an overly broad notion of inference, and leaves open crucial questions about how we reason to moral conclusions.
It has become common to take reasons to form a basic normative category that is not amenable to non-circular analysis. This paper offers a novel characterization of reasons in terms of how we ought or it would be good for us to think in response to our awareness of facts, and thus rejects such Reason Primitivism. Briefly, for r to be a normative reason for A to φ is for it to be the case that A ought to conduct her (...) φ-relevant thinking in a φ-friendly manner, given her awareness of r. In mechanistic terms, this is to say that the psychological mechanisms responsible for A’s potentially φ-ing ought to be causally influenced in the direction of φ-ing by her awareness of r. For r to be an evaluative reason for A to φ is for it to be the case that it is desirable for A to conduct her φ-relevant thinking in a more or less φ-friendly manner, given her awareness of r. What someone ought to do or what it is desirable for someone to do is in turn to be understood in terms of fittingness of different positive or negative reactions. Linking the favoring relation between a fact and an action or belief explicitly with fittingness of attitudes towards the subject reveals the sense in which reasons are normative or evaluative. The paper also responds to six potential challenges to the view and argues it has certain advantages over competing reductionist proposals. (shrink)
It seems to many that moral opinions must make a difference to what we’re motivated to do, at least in suitable conditions. For others, it seems that it is possible to have genuine moral opinions that make no motivational difference. Both sides – internalists and externalists about moral motivation – can tell persuasive stories of actual and hypothetical cases. My proposal for a kind of reconciliation is to distinguish between two kinds of psychological states with moral content. There are both (...) moral thoughts or opinions that intrinsically motivate, and moral thoughts or opinions that don’t. The thoughts that intrinsically motivate are moral intuitions – spontaneous and compelling non-doxastic appearances of right or wrong that both attract assent and incline us to act or react. I argue that there is good reason to think that these intuitions, but not moral judgments, are constituted by manifestations of moral sentiments. The moral thoughts that do not intrinsically motivate are moral beliefs, which are in themselves as inert as any ordinary beliefs. Thus, roughly, internalism is true about intuitions and externalism is true about beliefs or judgments. (shrink)
Sentimentalism comes in many varieties: explanatory sentimentalism, judgment sentimentalism, metaphysical sentimentalism, and epistemic sentimentalism. This encyclopedia entry gives an overview of the positions and main arguments pro and con.
Why is unpleasant pain bad for us? Evidently because of how it feels. This bit of commonsense is a challenge for well-being perfectionism, since pain doesn’t look anything like failure to fulfill human nature. Here, I sketch a new version of perfectionism that avoids this problem. To explain what is basically good for us, it appeals to the capacities whose functioning defines who we are, or our subjective nature, instead of human nature. I argue that these capacities have a telic (...) structure, so that practical reason, for example, constitutively aims at competently realizing valuable ends that are in harmony. According to telic perfectionism, we do well when such formal aims are realized and badly when they’re frustrated. Crucially, our subjective nature is defined not only by how we reason but also by how we feel. And valenced experience, too, has built-in directionality, according to the most plausible views about the nature of pleasure and pain. The phenomenal character of unpleasant pain is inseparable from its setting for us the end of eliminating itself. As long as we are in pain, then, the formal aim of our self-defining capacity for valenced experience is frustrated. For telic perfectionism, unpleasant pain is thus robustly bad for us, and the explanation of its badness makes essential reference to how it feels. (shrink)
While suicide is typically associated with personal despair, people do sometimes kill themselves in the hope or expectation that their death will advance a political cause by way of its impact on the conscience of others, or in extreme cases simply as an expression of protest against a status quo felt to be unjust. Paradigm cases of such protest suicide may be public acts of self-immolation. This chapter distinguishes between instrumental and expressive protest suicide, examines the possible motivations behind them, (...) their possible moral justification, and their potential contribution to the meaning of the suicide’s life. It argues that when the value of the aim pursued by way of instrumental suicide is proportionate, killing oneself promotes it sufficiently, and other morally acceptable options are exhausted, instrumental protest suicide can be morally permissible and consistent with human dignity. It can even be an admirable act of self-sacrifice, provided that the agent’s motivations are suitable. Some of the standard moral objections to suicide don’t apply to such cases. But protest suicide remains morally risky, because one might be mistaken about the worth of one’s cause or the availability of alternatives, and because even these extreme acts typically have limited effect. (shrink)
Some people willingly risk or give up their lives for something they deeply believe in, for instance standing up to a dictator. A good example of this are members of the White Rose student resistance group, who rebelled against the Nazi regime and paid for it with their lives. I argue that when the cause is good, such risky activities (and even deaths themselves) can contribute to meaning in life in its different forms – meaning-as-mattering, meaning-as-purpose, and meaning-as-intelligibility. Such cases (...) highlight the importance of integrity, or living up to one’s commitments, in meaningful living, or dying, as it may be, as well as the risk involved in commitment, since if you die for a bad cause, you have only harmed yourself. However, if leading a more rather than less meaningful life benefits rather than harms you, there are possible scenarios in which you yourself are better off dying for a good cause than living a longer moderately happy life. This presents a version of a well-known puzzle: what, then, makes dying for a cause a self-sacrifice, as it usually seems to be? I sketch some possible answers, and try to make sense of relevant work in empirical psychology. (shrink)
This chapter presents two contemporary pictures of practical reasoning. According to the Rule-Guidance Conception, roughly, practical reasoning is a rule-guided operation of acquiring (or retaining or giving up) intentions so as to meet synchronic requirements of rationality. According to the Reasons-Responsiveness Conception, practical reasoning is a process of responding to reasons we take ourselves to have, and its standards of correctness derive from what we objectively have reason to do, if things are as we suppose them to be. I argue (...) that a version of the latter has some significant advantages. This has some surprising consequences for how we should conceive of the structure of instrumental reasoning in particular. (shrink)
Common sense has it that some of the greatest achievements that are to our credit are creative, whether artistic or otherwise. But standard theories of achievement and merit struggle to explain them, since the praiseworthiness of creative achievements isn’t grounded in effort, quality of will, disclosing the agent’s values, or even reasons-responsiveness. I argue that it’s distinctive of artistic or quasi-artistic creative activity that it is guided by what I call aspirational aims, which are formulated in terms of evaluative predicates (...) (like painting something “moving” or engineering something “nifty”) whose descriptive realizers are not known in advance. Aesthetic creativity itself fundamentally consists in perceiving or conceiving of some modification of raw material or a medium as promoting or constituting a novel way of realizing the aspirational aim. Creative achievements like poems and paintings are then to our credit in virtue of being exercises of spontaneity that disclose a deep layer of our selves that is manifest in active perception of affordances, showing that there is something beautiful about the way we experience the world, as a Sally Rooney character puts it. As with other creditworthy achievements, what makes them difficult is that simply trying won’t suffice to make success likely – but unlike in many other cases, neither will trying hard, since we have no direct volitional or rational control over perceptual spontaneity. (shrink)
According to legal expressivism, neither crime nor punishment consists merely in intentionally imposing some kind of harm on another. Crime and punishment also have an expressive aspect. They are what they are in part because they enact attitudes toward others—in the case of crime, some kind of disrespect, at least, and in the case of punishment, society’s condemnation or reprobation. Punishment is justified, at least in part, because (and when) it uniquely expresses fitting condemnation or other retributive attitude. What makes (...) retributive attitudes fitting is that they protect the victim’s status as inviolable. Hate or bias crimes dramatize the expressive aspect of crime, as they are often designed to send a message to the victim’s group and society at large. Treating the enactment of contempt and denigration toward a historically underprivileged group as an aggravating factor in sentencing may be an appropriate way to counter this message, as it reaffirms and indeed realizes the fundamental equality and inviolability of all members of a democratic community. (shrink)
Recent empirical studies of philosophers by Eric Schwitzgebel and others have seriously called into question whether professional ethicists have any useful expertise with thought experiments, given that their intuitions appear to be no more reliable than those of lay subjects. Drawing on such results, sceptics like Edouard Machery argue that normative ethics as it is currently practiced is deeply problematic. In this paper, I present two main arguments in defense of the standard methodology of normative ethics. First, there is strong (...) reason to believe that expertise with thought experiments requires considering scenarios in their proper theoretical context and in parallel with other pertinent situations, so that we should not expect philosophers to be better than lay folk at responding to decontextualized cases. Second, skeptical views underestimate the epistemic benefits of the actual practices of post-processing initial verdicts both at individual and social levels. Contrary to a mythical conception of ‘the method of cases’, philosophers are frequently sensitive to the quality of intuitive evidence, reject and revise their verdicts on the basis of independently supported principles or interpersonal criticism, and defer to recognized specialists. (shrink)
It would be terrible for us if humanity ceased to exist after we all die. But of course, eventually humanity will go out of existence. Does this result in a vicious regress if our flourishing hangs on what happens after us? Mark Johnston thinks so. In this note, I explain how Johnston's objection can be avoided. Briefly, our activities have a meaning horizon that extends for some generations after us. What matters is that we make a positive difference to the (...) lives of those generations, not that they themselves necessarily flourish. (shrink)
In this article, the author discusses the methodology of the internalism debate and the role that neuroscience and related experimental methods can play in it. The author argues that findings in either actual or fictional experimental psychology or neuroscience have little relevance to the debate. He claims that the findings do not provide any independent support pro or con internalism. He also observes that the traditional view of the methodological autonomy of philosophical moral psychology remains well-grounded.
Psychologists and philosophers use the term 'intuition' for a variety of different phenomena. In this paper, I try to provide a kind of a roadmap of the debates, point to some confusions and problems, and give a brief sketch of an empirically respectable philosophical approach.
Dan Haybron has argued by counterexample that perfectionism fails as a theory of well-being. I respond by articulating two different versions of diachronic perfectionism, which takes into account the level of development and exercise of essential human capacities over the course of an entire lifetime.
Antti Kauppinen Les philosophes se sont efforcés de montrer que nous devons être vertueux pour être heureux. Mais tant que nous nous en tenons à la compréhension moderne du bonheur comme quelque chose de vécu par un sujet – et je soutiens contre les eudaimonistes contemporains que nous devrions effectivement le faire – il peut au mieux exister un lien de causalité contingent entre la vertu et le bonheur. Néanmoins, nous avons de bonnes raisons de penser qu’être vertueux est non (...) accidentellement propice au bonheur. Pourquoi? Premièrement, le bonheur est, sommairement, la condition expérientielle de jouir d’états phénoménaux affectifs principalement positifs concernant des choses qui sont subjectivement importantes pour nous. Je soutiens que ce sentimentalisme à propos du bonheur a plusieurs avantages par rapport à la conception de Daniel Haybron comme état émotionnel. Deuxièmement, dans la mesure où nous sommes vertueux, nous pouvons identifier correctement ce qui vaut la peine d’être fait dans notre situation particulière et nous la poursuivrons habilement. En même temps, nous ne sommes pas dérangés par des choses qui ne valent pas la peine d’être prises en charge ou de s’inquiéter. Par conséquent, les personnes vertueuses sont susceptibles de profiter d’émotions positives centrales liées au succès et à l’approbation des autres, et d’éviter les émotions négatives communes liées à la comparaison sociale ou à l’avarice. Bien que leur bonheur soit encore en partie une question de chance, il l’est dans une moindre mesure que pour le reste d’entre nous. (shrink)
In the context of a global pandemic, there is good health-based reason for governments to impose various social distancing measures. However, such measures also cause economic and other harms to people at low risk from the virus. In this paper, I examine how to make such trade-offs in a way that is respectfully justifiable to their losers. I argue that existing proposals like using standard QALY (quality-adjusted life-year) valuations or WELLBYs (wellbeing-adjusted life-years) as the currency for trade-offs do not allow (...) such justification, because they give weight to utilities that are irrelevant in a life-and-death context. Drawing on work on restricted aggregation in ethics, I articulate an alternative framework for balancing claims arising from prospects of different kinds of harm and benefit, and show how it can be applied to reasoning about trade-offs in a pandemic context. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine six arguments concerning or making use of empirical psychological evidence in metaethics and normative ethics. Generally speaking, I find that the ambitious ones fail and the more modest ones ought to moderate their conclusions further.
This chapter offers an overview of four key debates about the roles of emotion in morality. First, many believe that emotions are an important psychological mechanism for explaining altruistic behavior and moral conscience in humans. Second, there is considerable debate about the causal role of affective reactions in moral judgment. Third, some philosophers have argued that emotions have a constitutive role in moral thought and even moral facts. Finally, philosophers disagree about whether affective influence undermines the justification of moral beliefs (...) or, in suitable circumstances, guides us toward moral truth. (shrink)