Richard Holton provides a unified account of intention, choice, weakness of will, strength of will, temptation, addiction, and freedom of the will. Drawing on recent psychological research, he argues that, rather than being the pinnacle of rationality, the central components of the will are there to compensate for our inability to make or maintain sound judgments. Choice is understood as the capacity to form intentions even in the absence of judgments of what action is best. Weakness of will is (...) understood as the failure to maintain an intention, or more specifically, a resolution, in the face of temptation--where temptation typically involves a shift in judgment as to what is best, or in the case of addiction, a disconnection between what is judged best and what is desired. Strength of will is the corresponding ability to maintain a resolution, an ability that requires the employment of a particular faculty or skill. Finally, the experience of freedom of the will is traced to the experiences of forming intentions, and of maintaining resolutions, both of which require effortful activity from the agent. (shrink)
At least since the middle of the twentieth century, philosophers have tended to identify weakness of will with akrasia—i.e. acting, or having a disposition to act, contrary to one‘s judgments about what is best for one to do. However, there has been some recent debate about whether this captures the ordinary notion of weakness of will. Richard Holton (1999, 2009) claims that it doesn’t, while Alfred Mele (2010) argues that, to a certain extent, it does. As Mele recognizes, the (...) question about an ordinary concept here is one apt for empirical investigation. We evaluate Mele’s studies and report some experiments of our own in order to investigate what in the world the ordinary concept of weakness of will is. We conclude that neither Mele nor Holton (previously) was quite right and offer a tentative proposal of our own: the ordinary notion is more like a prototype or cluster concept whose application is affected by a variety of factors. (shrink)
In this book Professor Holton continues his analysis of how modem science works and what its influences are on our world, with particular emphasis on the role of the thematic elements - those often unconscious presuppositions that guide scientific work to success or failure. The foundation of the book is provided by the author's research on the work of Albert Einstein, which is then contrasted with other styles of research in the advancement of science. The author deals directly with (...) the often unforeseen consequences of the progress of contemporary science, detailing its fruits as well as its burdens. The many questions examined in this work range over a broad spectrum of areas that command the attention of all readers with an interest in understanding the development of modem science. (shrink)
[Garrett Cullity] Weak particularism about reasons is the view that the normative valency of some descriptive considerations varies, while others have an invariant normative valency. A defence of this view needs to respond to arguments that a consideration cannot count in favour of any action unless it counts in favour of every action. But it cannot resort to a global holism about reasons, if it claims that there are some examples of invariant valency. This paper argues for weak particularism, and (...) presents a framework for understanding the relationships between practical reasons. A central part of this framework is the idea that there is an important kind of reason-a 'presumptive reason'-which need not be conclusive, but which is neither pro tanto nor prima facie. /// [ Richard Holton] Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed 'principled particularism'. The main argument that particularists present for their position-the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superseded by further considerations-is quite compatible with principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
[Garrett Cullity] Weak particularism about reasons is the view that the normative valency of some descriptive considerations varies, while others have an invariant normative valency. A defence of this view needs to respond to arguments that a consideration cannot count in favour of any action unless it counts in favour of every action. But it cannot resort to a global holism about reasons, if it claims that there are some examples of invariant valency. This paper argues for weak particularism, and (...) presents a framework for understanding the relationships between practical reasons. A central part of this framework is the idea that there is an important kind of reason-a 'presumptive reason'-which need not be conclusive, but which is neither pro tanto nor prima facie. /// [Richard Holton] Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed 'principled particularism'. The main argument that particularists present for their position-the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superseded by further considerations-is quite compatible with principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
In (Holton 1996) I argued that the account of value that Michael Smith has offered was vulnerable to a counter-example in the person of the Muggletonians. Smith argued, roughly, that what one values is what one would desire if one were fully rational. I objected that the Muggletonians held the path of Reason to be the path to evil. According to them, a fully rational person would have their desires so corrupted that they would become, quite literally, Satan. Thus (...) they believed that their fully rational selves would have blasphemed against God; but blaspheming against God was not what they valued. Smith and Bigelow have responded to my alleged counter-example (Bigelow and Smith 1997). They object that my understanding of Smith’s position is itself over rationalistic. We shouldn’t think of the fully rational person as someone who follows the path of Reason wherever it might lead. Rather we should think that the fully rational person is someone who does what they have reason to do. The Muggletonians thought that following the path of Reason would lead them to do things that they have no reason to do; so they believed it would not be rational, in the sense relevant to Smith’s analysis, to follow that path. Hence they provide no counterexample to the analysis. This is an unpublished reply to their paper. (shrink)
Introduction, by G. Holton.--Three eighteenth-century social philosophers: scientific influences on their thought, by H. Guerlac.--Science and the human comedy: Voltaire, by H. Brown.--The seventeenth-century legacy: our mirror of being, by G. de Santillana.--Contemporary science and the contemporary world view, by P. Frank.--The growth of science and the structure of culture, by R. Oppenheimer.--The Freudian conception of man and the continuity of nature, by J. S. Bruner.--Quo vadis, by P. W. Bridgman.--Prospects for a new synthesis: science and the humanities as (...) complementary activities, by C. Morris.--A humanist looks at science, by H. M. Jones. (shrink)
Global network research is an exciting new area of social analysis. This book is the first to provide a thorough investigation of global network links across time and space. Robert Holton demonstrates the way in which technological and interpersonal networks organise global society, providing vivid examples from the present and the past. This text gives practical advice on how to research global networks, and brings together leading theory and new evidence on the subject for all students learning about globalisation (...) and contemporary social change. (shrink)
Can we decide to trust? Sometimes, yes. And when we do, we need not believe that our trust will be vindicated. This paper is motivated by the need to incorporate these facts into an account of trust. Trust involves reliance; and in addition it requires the taking of a reactive attitude to that reliance. I explain how the states involved here differ from belief. And I explore the limits of our ability to trust. I then turn to the idea of (...) trusting what others say. I suggest that we sometimes decide to trust people to be sincere and knowledgeable; and that having taken this attitude towards them, we come to believe what they say. I spell out some consequences that this has for an account of testimony, and for van Fraassen's decision theoretic principle of Reflection. (shrink)
Is a belief that one will succeed necessary for an intention? It is argued that the question has traditionally been badly posed, framed as it is in terms of all-out belief. We need instead to ask about the relation between intention and partial belief. An account of partial belief that is more psychologically realistic than the standard credence account is developed. A notion of partial intention is then developed, standing to all-out intention much as partial belief stands to all-out belief. (...) Various coherence constraints on the notion are explored. It is concluded that the primary relations between intention and belief should be understood as normative and not essential. (shrink)
Most recent accounts of will-power have tried to explain it as reducible to the operation of beliefs and desires. In opposition to such accounts, this paper argues for a distinct faculty of will-power. Considerations from philosophy and from social psychology are used in support.
When faced with a rule that they take to be true, and a recalcitrant example, people are apt to say: “The exception proves the rule”. When pressed on what they mean by this though, things are often less than clear. A common response is to dredge up some once-heard etymology: ‘proves’ here, it is often said, means ‘tests’. But this response—its frequent appearance even in some reference works notwithstanding1—makes no sense of the way in which the expression is used. To (...) insist that the exception proves the rule is to insist that whilst this is an exception, the rule still stands; and furthermore, that, rather than undermining the rule, the exception serves to confirm it. This second claim may seem paradoxical, but it should not, once it is realized that what does the confirming is not the exception itself, but rather the fact that we judge it to be an exception; and that what is confirmed is not the rule itself, but rather the fact that we judge it to be a rule. To treat something as an exception is not to treat it as a counterexample that refutes the existence of the rule. Rather it is to treat it as special, and so to concede the rule from which it is excepted. The point comes clearly in the original (probably 17th Century) Latin form: Exceptio probat (figit2) regulam in casibus non exceptis. Exception (i.e. the act of excepting) proves (establishes) the rule in the cases not excepted. Clearly this form of reasoning cannot apply when the rule that we are considering has the form of a simple universal generalization. Here there can be no exceptions, only counterexamples. So what we need, and what will be developed.. (shrink)
Empirical findings suggest that temptation causes agents not only to change their desires, but also to revise their beliefs, in ways that are not necessarily irrational. But if this is so, how can it be rational to maintain a resolution to resist? For in maintaining a resolution it appears that one will be acting against what one now believes to be best. This paper proposes a two-tier account according to which it can be rational neither to reconsider the question of (...) what one is going to do nor the question of what it is best to do; hence in the resolute agent the change in belief is not actual but merely potential. Various reasons are given for thinking that the resulting account is preferable to an alternative given by Bratman. (shrink)
Choice is one of the central elements in the experience of free will, but it has not received a good account from either compatibilists or libertarians. This paper develops an account of choice based around three features: (i) choice is an action; (ii) choice is not determined by one's prior beliefs and desires; (iii) once the question of what to do has arisen, choice is typically both necessary and sufficient for moving to action. These features might appear to support a (...) libertarian account, but they do not. Instead it is argued that all three features can be accommodated within a compatibilist account, where choice is needed because of agents' inabilities to arrive at judgements about what is best. Choice differs though from random picking: in choosing, agents frequently (though not always) deploy abilities that enable them to make good choices. In such cases, judgements about what is best will frequently follow the choice. Finally choice is distinguished from agency, and, on the basis of the distinction, the claim that choice is an action is made good. (shrink)
Should particularists about ethics claim that moral principles are never true? Or should they rather claim that any finite set of principles will not be sufficient to capture ethics? This paper explores and defends the possibility of embracing the second of these claims whilst rejecting the first, a position termed principled particularism. The main argument that particularists present for their position - the argument that holds that any moral conclusion can be superceded by further considerations - is quite compatible with (...) principled particularism; indeed, it is compatible with the idea that every true moral conclusion can be shown to follow deductively from a finite set of premises. Whilst it is true that these premises must contain implicit ceteris paribus clauses, this does not render the arguments trivial. On the contrary, they can do important work in justifying moral conclusions. Finally the approach is briefly applied to the related field of jurisprudence. (shrink)
In a recent paper Savas Tsohatzidis has provided a number of putative counterexamples to the well-attested Kartunnen-Vendler (K-V) thesis that the use of 'tell' with a wh-complement requires that the speaker spoke truthfully. His counterexamples are sentences like: (1) Old John told us who he saw in the fog, but it turned out that he was mistaken. I argue that such examples do not serve to refute the K-V thesis. Rather, they are examples of a more general phenomenon that I (...) label participant projection, which is manifested in sentences like: (2) He gave her a ring studded with diamonds, but they turned out to be glass. Just as the acceptability of (2) does not show that some diamonds are glass, so the acceptability of (1) does not disprove the K-V thesis. (shrink)
The orthodox answer to my question is this: in a case of self-deception, the self acts to deceive itself. That is, the self is the author of its own deception. I want to explore an opposing idea here: that the self is rather the subject matter of the deception. That is, I want to explore the idea that self-deception is more concerned with the self’s deception about the self, than with the self’s deception by the self. The expression would thus (...) be semantically comparable to expressions like ‘self-knowledge’ (which involves knowledge about the self) rather than to expressions like ‘self-control’ (which involves control by the self).1 On this approach, what goes wrong, when we are self-deceived, is that we lack self-knowledge; or, more accurately, since one can lack knowledge without falling into error, what goes wrong is that we have false beliefs about ourselves. Not any kind of false belief about oneself; I am not self-deceived when I mistake my shoe size. Rather, self-deception requires false beliefs about the kind of subject matter that, were one to get it right, would constitute self-knowledge. It is an interesting fact about current English that, though we talk freely of self-knowledge, we have no common term to designate its absence. Seventeenth century writers talked of self-ignorance; but the term has fallen from use. I suggest that ‘self-deception’ is the nearest we have. (shrink)
Most recent discussion of the provocation defence has focused on the objective test, and little attention has been paid to the subjective test. However, the subjective test provides a substantial constraint: the killing must result from a provocation that undermines the defendant's self-control. The idea of loss of self-control has been developed in both the philosophical and psychological literatures. Understanding the subjective test in the light of the conception developed there makes for a far more coherent interpretation of the provocation (...) defence. It also makes clear just how radical various proposals for reform of the defence would be. (shrink)
Some recent studies have suggested that belief in determinism tends to undermine moral motivation: subjects who are given determinist texts to read become more likely to cheat or engage in vindictive behaviour. One possible explanation is that people are natural incompatibilists, so that convincing them of determinism undermines their belief that they are morally responsible. I suggest a different explanation, and in doing so try to shed some light on the phenomenology of free will. I contend that one aspect of (...) the phenomenology is our impression that maintaining a resolution requires effort—an impression well supported by a range of psychological data. Determinism can easily be interpreted as showing that such effort will be futile: in effect determinism is conflated with fatalism, in a way that is reminiscent of the Lazy argument used against the Stoics. If this interpretation is right, it explains how belief in determinism undermines moral motivation without needing to attribute sophisticated incompatibilist beliefs to subjects; it works by undermining subjects' self-efficacy. It also provides indirect support for the contention that this is one of the sources of the phenomenology of free will. (shrink)
The standard account of weakness of will identifies it with akrasia, that is, with action against one's best judgment. Elsewhere I have argued that weakness of will is better understood as over-readily giving up on one's resolutions. Many cases of weak willed action will not be akratic: in over-readily abandoning a resolution an agent may well do something that they judge at the time to be best. Indeed, in so far as temptation typically gives rise to judgment shift -- to (...) a tendency to change one's judgment so that one values the tempting option as the best -- weak willed action will typically be akratic. But conversely, strong willed action now looks as though it will be akratic. I argue though that it need not be, once we distinguish between actual judgment, and dispositions to judge. Within this framework, the issue of inverse akrasia looks rather different. I argue that whilst Huckleberry Finn plausibly does show weakness of will in abandoning his resolve to turn Jim in, it is far from clear that he is akratic: a point brought out well in Twain's later additions to the text. Whilst cases of inverse akrasia are clearly theoretically possible, I suggest that, given cognitive dissonance mechanisms, they are unlikely to be very common. (shrink)
In responding to the challenge that we cannot know that animals feel pain, Peter Singer says: We can never directly experience the pain of another being, whether that being is human or not. When I see my daughter fall and scrape her knee, I know that she feels pain because of the way she behaves—she cries, she tells me her knee hurts, she rubs the sore spot, and so on. I know that I myself behave in a somewhat similar—if more (...) inhibited—way when I feel pain, and so I accept that my daughter feels something like what I feel when I scrape my knee. The basis of my belief that animals can feel pain is similar...1 . Singer here suggests that the epistemological problem facing animal ethics is really the more general problem of other minds: the Cartesian problem of how to escape solipsism, how to cross the bridge from my own thoughts and feelings to the thoughts and feelings of any other being. The suggestion is that no-one can seriously be in the thrall of this sceptical problem. The method for building the bridge to other minds is familiar to us all: we use it every day in our ascriptions of thoughts and feelings to people near and dear, and to those far away. And we use it every day in our ascriptions of thoughts and feelings to animals. (shrink)
In 'General Propositions and Causality' Ramsey rejects his earlier view that universal generalizations are infinite conjunctions, arguing that they are not genuine propositions at all. We argue that his new position is unstable. The issues about infinity that lead Ramsey to the new view are essentially those underlying Wittgenstein's rule-following considerations. If they show that generalizations are not genuine propositions, they show that there are no genuine propositions. The connection raises interesting historical questions about the direction of influence between Ramsey (...) and Wittgenstein, the origin of the rule-following argument, and the influence of writers such as Brouwer. (shrink)
Lewis never saw philosophy of language as foundational in the way that many have. One of the most distinctive features of his work is the robust confidence that questions in metaphysics or mind can be addressed head on, and not through the lens of language.
It is argued that there are at least three things bundled up in the idea of free will: the capacity manifested by agents whenever they act freely; the property possessed by those actions for which an agent in morally responsible; and the ability to do otherwise. This paper attempts some disentangling.
Conceptualizing cosmopolitanism : a reappraisal -- A historical sociology of cosmopolitanism -- Cosmopolitanism and social theory -- Cosmopolitanism : social and cultural research -- Cosmopolitanism : legal and political research -- Cosmopolitanism in Ireland.
My main task here is first to distinguish, and then to map out possibilities. I won’t be concerned to argue for a certain position as much as to argue that various combinations of positions are consistent. In particular, I want to argue that a commitment to minimalism about truth does not bring an automatic commitment to what has been called a minimalist theory of truth-aptitude: the claim that every assertoric sentence which is used in a systematic way will be either (...) true or false. Nor does minimalism about truth bring a commitment to what has been called minimalism about reference: the claim that every word used in a systematic way will refer. (shrink)
Michael Smith has argued that to value an action is to believe that if one were fully rational one would desire that one perform it. I offer the Muggletonians as a counter-example. The Muggletonians, a 17th century English sect, believed that reason was the path of the Devil. They believed that their fully rational selves - rational in just Smith's sense - would have blasphemed against God; and that their rational selves would have wanted their actual selves to do likewise. (...) But blaspheming against God was not what they valued. (shrink)
Quantification into a belief ascription has often been taken to indicate that the believer knows who (or what) their belief is about. Here it is shown, by means of some iterated ascriptions, that this cannot be the correct interpretation of such quantification. In conclusion it is suggested that it should rather be interpreted as indicating that the belief has its source in the object denoted by the quantifier.
If moral and political philosophy is to be of any use, it had better be concerned with real people. The focus need not be exclusively on people as they are; but it should surely not extend beyond how they would be under laws as they might be. It is one of the strengths of Philip Pettit’s work that it is concerned with real people and the ways that they think: with the commonplace mind. In this paper I examine Pettit’s recent (...) work on free will.2 Much of my concern will be to see how his contentions fit with empirical findings about human psychology. Pettit is a compatibilist about free will: he holds that it is compatible with determinism. But he finds fault with existing compatibilist accounts, and then proposes his own amendment. My aim is to challenge his grounds for finding fault; and then to raise some questions about his own positive account. (shrink)
Can one consistently (i) be a positivist, and (ii) think that the internal attitude to the law is a moral attitude? Two objections are raised in the literature. The first is that the combination is straight-out contradictory. The second is that if the internal attitude is a moral attitude, those who take it cannot be positivists. Arguments from Shiner, Goldsworthy and Raz are examined. It is concluded that neither objection works. The arguments are based on scope errors, conflations of what (...) is said with what is implicated, and a false view of the distinction between detached and committed statements. (shrink)
You are, I suspect, exceedingly good at knowing what you intend to do. In saying this I pay you no special compliment. Knowing what one intends is the normal state to be in. And this cries out for some explanation. How is it that we are so authoritative about our own intentions? There are two different approaches that one can take in answering this question. The first credits us with special perceptual powers which we use when we examine our own (...) minds. On this view we detect our own mental states in much the same way that we detect the state of the world around us; but the powers we direct inward are much less prone t o error than those we direct outwards. The alternative approach denies that there is such a thing as inward perception. On this view the whole idea the we detect our own mental states using some kind of internal perceptual apparatus is misguided; a wholly different account is needed. (shrink)
Crispin Wright has argued that our concept of intention is extension-determining, and that this explains why we are so good at knowing our intentions: it does so by subverting the idea that we detect them. This paper has two aims. The first is to make sense of Wright's claim that intention is extension-determining; this is achieved by comparing his position to that of analytic functionalism. The second is to show that it doesn't follow from this that we do not detect (...) our intentions. Wright has conflated two questions. Firstly, do we detect our intentions? Secondly do we detect the concept of intention itself? The extension-determining account returns a negative answer only to the second. (shrink)
The psychologist-philosopher B.F. Skinner and the physicist-philosopher P.W. Bridgman, both dedicated empiricists, initially entered into an intellectual relationship that seemed destined to be warm and fruitful. Yet, it ended up unfulfilled. Since I am now perhaps one of the few who knew both men as colleagues for many years, I might be able to throw some unique light on their interaction, and on what I consider to be one of the missed opportunities in the history of ideas.
In a characteristic passage John McDowell says: [T]his is one of those set-ups that are familiar in philosophy, in which a supposedly exhaustive choice confers a spurious plausibility on a philosophical position. The apparent plausibility is not intrinsic to the position, but reflects an assumed framework; when one looks at the position on its own, the plausibility crumbles away ... In such a situation, the thing to do is to query the assumption that seems to force the choice.