This book offers a ground-up defense of objective morality, drawing inspiration from a wide range of philosophers, including John Locke, Arthur Schopenhauer, Iris Murdoch, Nel Noddings, and David Lewis. The core claim is compassion is our capacity to perceive other creatures' pains, pleasures, and desires. Non-compassionate people are therefore perceptually lacking, regardless of how much factual knowledge they might have. Marshall argues that people who do have this form of compassion thereby fit a familiar paradigm of moral goodness. His argument (...) involves the identification of an epistemic good which Marshall dubs "being in touch". To be in touch with some property of a thing requires experiencing it in a way that reveals that property - that is, experiencing it as it is in itself. Only compassion, Marshall argues, lets us be in touch with others' motivational mental properties. -/- This conclusion about compassion has two important metaethical consequences. First, it generates an answer to the question ";Why be moral?", which has been a central philosophical concern since Plato. Second, it provides the keystone for a novel form of moral realism. This form of moral realism has a distinctive set of virtues: it is anti-relativist, naturalist, and able to identify a necessary connection between moral representation and motivation. The view also implies that there is an epistemic asymmetry between virtuous and vicious agents, according to which only morally good people can fully face reality. (shrink)
Kant's philosophy promises to explain various synthetic a priori claims. Yet, as several of his commentators have noted, it is hard to see how these explanations could work unless they themselves rested on unexplained synthetic a priori claims. Since Kant appears to demand explanations for all synthetic a priori claims, it would seem that his project fails on its own terms. I argue, however, that Kant holds that explanations are required only for synthetic a priori claims about (purportedly) experience-independent entities, (...) and that his project rests on a rationalist method of reflection that justifies certain basic synthetic a priori claims. (shrink)
Spinoza claims we can control any passion by forming a more clear and distinct idea of it. The interpretive consensus is that Spinoza is either wrong or over-stating his view. I argue that Spinoza’s view is plausible and insightful. After breaking down Spinoza’s characterization of the relevant act, I consider four existing interpretations and conclude that each is unsatisfactory. I then consider a further problem for Spinoza: how his definitions of ‘action’ and ‘passion’ make room for passions becoming action. I (...) propose two solutions to this problem, both of which yield a hint regarding what act Spinoza has in mind. Using that hint, I propose that we can appreciate Spinoza’s insight by considering how philosophizing about a feeling can 'kill the mood.' The act of grasping how a passion exemplifies certain general truths, I hold, is a distinctly rational activity that has all the features Spinoza describes. I conclude by showing how this interpretation fits with Spinoza’s larger views on rational knowledge, rational joy, the comprehensibility of passions, and the relation between second- and first-order ideas. (shrink)
On the traditional reading, Schopenhauer claims that compassion is the recognition of deep metaphysical unity. In this paper, I defend and develop the traditional reading. I begin by addressing three recent criticisms of the reading from Sandra Shapshay: that it fails to accommodate Schopenhauer's restriction to sentient beings, that it cannot explain his moral ranking of egoism over malice, and that Schopenhauer requires some level of distinction to remain in compassion. Against Shapshay, I argue that Schopenhauer does not restrict compassion (...) to sentient beings and that a more metaphysically refined version of the traditional reading can accommodate both Schopenhauer's moral ranking of characters and allow for some level of distinction in compassion. I then turn to four further questions for the traditional reading: what the relation is between the feeling of compassionate pain and the recognition of metaphysical unity, how cognitions mediate compassion, whether compassion is limited to the present, and how the feeling of compassion relates to Schopenhauer's fundamental moral principle. I conclude by explaining how, in a reductive vein, the traditional reading can also allow for compassion to have normative content. (shrink)
The one-world interpretation of Kant's idealism holds that appearances and things in themselves are, in some sense, the same things. Yet this reading faces a number of problems, all arising from the different features Kant seems to assign to appearances and things in themselves. I propose a new way of understanding the appearance/thing in itself distinction via an Aristotelian notion that I call, following Kit Fine, a ‘qua-object.’ Understanding appearances and things in themselves as qua-objects provides a clear sense in (...) which they can be the same things while differing in many of their features. (shrink)
According to strong metaphysical readings of Kant, Kant believes there are noumenal substances and causes. Proponents of these readings have shown that these readings can be reconciled with Kant’s claims about the limitations of human cognition. An important new challenge to such readings, however, has been proposed by Markus Kohl, focusing on Kant’s occasional statements about the divine or intuitive intellect. According to Kohl, how an intuitive intellect represents is a decisive measure for how noumena are for Kant, but an (...) intuitive intellect would not represent using metaphysical categories like those of substance and causation. I argue that Kohl’s argument does not succeed, since it overlooks the possibility that the intuitive intellect only indirectly represents certain noumenal facts. In addition, in response to a secondary argument Kohl suggests, I argue that Kant’s apparently anti-metaphysical statements about the content of the categories can be read as merely describing the constitution of the categories, instead of what they represent. Thus, while Kohl advances the debate by raising an under-appreciated question, his argument against the strong metaphysical reading is unsound. (shrink)
I argue that, contrary to how he is often read, Spinoza did not believe that the mind and the body were numerically identical. This means that we must find some alternative reading for his claims that they are 'one and the same thing'.
I argue that Schopenhauer’s views on the foundations of morality challenge the widely-held belief that moral realism requires cognitivism about moral judgments. Schopenhauer’s core metaethical view consists of two claims: that moral worth is attributed to actions based in compassion, and that compassion, in contrast to egoism, arises from deep metaphysical insight into the non-distinctness of beings. These claims, I argue, are sufficient for moral realism, but are compatible with either cognitivism or non-cognitivism. While Schopenhauer’s views of moral judgment are (...) not obviously consistent, I show how various passages suggest a form of non-cognitivism. This non-cognitivism, I claim, is compatible with moral realism. (shrink)
In the first Enquiry, Hume takes the experience of exerting force against a solid body to be a key ingredient of the vulgar idea of power, so that the vulgar take that experience to provide us with an impression of power. Hume provides two arguments against the vulgar on this point: the first concerning our other applications of the idea of power and the second concerning whether that experience yields certainty about distinct events. I argue that, even if we accept (...) Hume’s conception of the vulgar’s approach, neither of Hume’s arguments succeeds. The first argument can be resisted either by using the very arguments Hume provides concerning other causal representations or by simply rejecting Hume’s strict empiricism. The second argument can be resisted on epistemological grounds: there is no reason to think that an experience of a maximally-strong metaphysical connection would provide a maximally-strong epistemological connection. Unlike some recent neo-Anscombean responses to the second argument, my response does not require challenging Hume’s view that causal relations are strictly necessary. Though I do not attempt to translate the resilience of the vulgar view into contemporary terms, the failure of Hume’s arguments challenges one of the long-standing motivations for Humean approaches to causation. (shrink)
This chapter analyzes several key themes in Kant’s views about modality. We begin with the pre-critical Only Possible Argument in Support of a Demonstration of the Existence of God, in which Kant distinguishes between formal and material elements of possibility, claims that all possibility requires an actual ground, and argues for the existence of a single necessary being. We then briefly consider how Kant’s views change in his mature period, especially concerning the role of form and thought in defining modality. (...) Kant’s mature views, however, present two difficult interpretive puzzles. The first puzzle concerns whether Kant has a generally reductive view of modality. While Kant’s views on logical modality, the role of actuality in grounding possibility, and the relation of modality to cognition all suggest reduction, we argue that the categorial status of modal concepts and the difficulty in even identifying amodal grounds for modal facts all suggest a non-reductive view. The second puzzle concerns whether Kant accepts modal facts or properties at the noumenal level. While Kant’s appeal to noumenal necessary connections, the contingency of noumenal willing, and the idea of a necessary noumenal being suggest that he endorses noumenal modality, his claims that modal concepts express only relations to the faculty of cognition and his claim that modal concepts arise from our distinctive psychological structures, we argue, suggest that he rejects noumenal modality. We conclude by considering potential solutions to these puzzles. (shrink)
Kant’s transcendental idealism hinges on a distinction between appearances and things in themselves. The debate about how to understand this distinction has largely ignored the way that Kant applies this distinction to the self. I argue that this is a mistake, and that Kant’s acceptance of a single, unified self in both his theoretical and practical philosophy causes serious problems for the ‘two-world’ interpretation of his idealism.
Most Anglophone commentators ignore Schopenhauer's normative ethics, and those who do consider it often dismiss it as simplistic. In this chapter, we argue that Schopenhauer in fact offers a rich normative ethics. Taking a cue from Scanlon, we offer a reading of Schopenhauer on which actions are subject to five distinct dimensions of ethical assessment. The resulting view is nuanced and, in many respects. We conclude, however, by arguing that none of the evaluative dimensions equip Schopenhauer to condemn actions that (...) are motivated by misplaced compassion, as when a member of an oppressive class self-sacrifices in order to maintain the status quo. (shrink)
I argue that Kant's Critique of Pure Reason offers a positive metaphysical account of the thinking self. Previous interpreters have overlooked this account, I believe, because they have held that any metaphysical view of the self would be incompatible with both Kant's insistence on the limitations of cognition and with his project in the Paralogisms. Closer examination, however, shows that neither of those aspects of the Critique precludes a metaphysical account of the self, and that other aspects (namely, the structure (...) of Kant's overall project and the commitments of his claims in the Transcendental Deduction) require such an account. Drawing on a principle of 'effect-relative composition,' I argue that Kant's self is neither an activity, a form, nor a representation, but instead an individual constituted by the thing or things that bring about the unity of a course of experience. (shrink)
This collection of new essays focuses on metaethical views from outside the mainstream European tradition. The guiding motivation is that important discussions about the ultimate nature of morality can be found far beyond ancient Greece and modern Europe. The volume’s aim is to show how rich the possibilities are for comparative metaethics, and how much these comparisons can add to contemporary discussions of the foundations of morality. Representing five continents, the thinkers discussed range from ancient Egyptian, ancient Chinese, and the (...) Mexica (Aztec) cultures to more recent thinkers like Augusto Salazar Bondy, Bimal Krishna Matilal, Nishida Kitarō, and Susan Sontag. The philosophical topics discussed include religious language, moral discovery, moral disagreement, essences’ relation to evaluative facts, metaphysical harmony, naturalism, moral perception, and the nature of moral realism. This volume will be of interest to anyone interested in metaethics or comparative philosophy. (shrink)
I argue that Spinoza is more of a moral realist than an anti-realist. More specifically, I argue that Spinoza is more of a realist than Kant, and that his view has deep similarities with Plato's metaethics. Along the way, I identify three approaches to the moral realism/anti-realism distinction. Classifying Spinoza as a moral realist brings out a number of important complexities that have been overlooked by many of Spinoza's readers and by many contemporary metaethicists.
In one of his arguments for taking compassion to be the basis of morality, Schopenhauer offers a thought experiment involving two characters: Titus and Caius. The 'Titus Argument,' as I call it, has been misunderstood by many of Schopenhauer's readers, but is, I argue, worthy of attention by contemporary ethicists and metaethicists. In this chapter, I clarify the argument's structure, methodology, and its key philosophical move, drawing comparisons with Newton's experimental methodology in optics and Raimond Gaita's moral parodies.
This paper offers an epistemic defense of empathy, drawing on John Locke's theory of ideas. Locke held that ideas of shape, unlike ideas of color, had a distinctive value: resembling qualities in their objects. I argue that the same is true of empathy, as when someone is pained by someone's pain. This means that empathy has the same epistemic value or objectivity that Locke and other early modern philosophers assigned to veridical perceptions of shape. For this to hold, pain and (...) pleasure must be a primary quality of the mind, just as shape is a primary quality of bodies. Though Locke did not make that claim, I argue that pain and pleasure satisfy his criteria for primary qualities. I consider several objections to the analogy between empathy and shape-perception and show how Locke's theory has resources for answering them. In addition, the claim that empathetic ideas are object-matching sidesteps Berkeley's influential objection to Locke's theory of resemblance. I conclude by briefly considering the prospects for a similar defense of empathy in contemporary terms. (shrink)
In the first Critique, Kant claims to refute Moses Mendelssohn’s argument for the immortality of the soul. But some commentators, following Bennett (1974), have identified an apparent problem in the exchange: Mendelssohn appears to have overlooked the possibility that the “leap” between existence and non-existence might be a boundary or limit point in a continuous series, and Kant appears not to have exploited the lacuna, but to have instead offered an irrelevant criticism. Here, we argue that even if these commentators (...) are correct, an argument against the leap-as-limit possibility is implicit in claims that Mendelssohn accepts. Moreover, Kant’s criticism of Mendelssohn adapts naturally into a response to this argument, though Mendelssohn endorses further claims which enable him to address this Kantian response. To illustrate the philosophical issues in play, we conclude by noting the affinity between the Mendelssohnian argument we develop and several prominent arguments in contemporary metaphysics: David Lewis’s argument from vagueness for unrestricted composition, Ted Sider’s argument from vagueness for perdurantism, and Peter Unger’s argument from the problem of the many for substance dualism. In short, we argue that the philosophical issues involved in the Mendelssohn-Kant exchange are much richer than previous commentators have believed, and that there is a Mendelssohnian argument for the immortality of the soul (or anyway, the permanence of simples) that does not suffer from any obvious flaw. (shrink)
In this chapter, I explore the connections between Spinoza’s philosophy and Immanuel Kant's. I begin by considering whether Kant engaged with Spinoza's actual views, and conclude that he did not. Despite that, I argue that there some philosophically-striking points of near-convergence between them. In addition to both privileging substance monism over other traditional metaphysical views, both Spinoza and Kant advance arguments for (a) epistemic humility based on the passivity of our senses and for (a) the timelessness of the mind based (...) on the content of our intellectual representations. (shrink)
Spinoza’s account of reason in the Short Treatise has been largely neglected. That account, I argue, has at least four features which distinguish it from that of the Ethics: in the Short Treatise, (1) reason is more sharply distinguished from the faculty of intuitive knowledge, (2) reason deals with things as though they were ‘outside’ us, (3) reason lacks clarity and distinctness, and (4) reason has no power over many types of passions. I argue that these differences have a unified (...) explanation, consisting of a principle that Spinoza accepts in both works and a central change in his views. The principle is that whatever we find in ourselves has more power over us than anything which comes from outside, and the change is in making the objects of reason common things or common notions. Understanding this, I claim, sheds important light on the psychological and epistemological motivations behind Spinoza's mature doctrines. (shrink)
It is well known that Kant claims that causal judgments, including judgments about forces, must have an a priori basis. It is less well known that Kant claims that we can perceive the repulsive force of bodies through the sense of touch. Together, these claims present an interpretive puzzle, since they appear to commit Kant to both affirming and denying that we can have perceptions of force. My first aim is to show that both sides of the puzzle have deep (...) roots in Kant's philosophy. My second aim is to present three potential solutions to the puzzle and show that each faces problems. (shrink)
Interpreters of Kant’s Refutation of Idealism face a dilemma: it seems to either beg the question against the Cartesian sceptic or else offer a disappointingly Berkeleyan conclusion. In this article I offer an interpretation of the Refutation on which it does not beg the question against the Cartesian sceptic. After defending a principle about question-begging, I identify four premises concerning our representations that there are textual reasons to think Kant might be implicitly assuming. Using those assumptions, I offer a reconstruction (...) of Kant’s Refutation that avoids the interpretative dilemma, though difficult questions about the argument remain. (shrink)
The self for Kant is something real, and yet is neither appearance nor thing in itself, but rather has some third status. Appearances for Kant arise in space and time where these are respectively forms of outer and inner attending (intuition). Melnick explains the "third status" by identifying the self with intellectual action that does not arise in the progression of attending (and so is not appearance), but accompanies and unifies inner attending. As so accompanying, it progresses with that attending (...) and is therefore temporal--not a thing in itself. According to Melnick, the distinction between the self or the subject and its thoughts is a distinction wholly within intellectual action; only such a non-entitative view of the self is consistent with Kant's transcendental idealism. As Melnick demonstrates in this volume, this conception of the self clarifies all of Kant's main discussions of this issue in the Transcendental Deduction and the Paralogisms of Pure Reason. (shrink)
Kant's theoretical philosophy is often read as a response to skeptical challenges raised by his predecessors. Yet Kant himself explicitly discusses skepticism in relatively few places in his published work, so Michael Forster's focused examination of Kant's relation to skepticism is a useful addition to the literature. Forster sets out to distinguish different types of skepticism to which Kant might be responding, determine what responses Kant offers, and evaluate the strength of those responses.Perhaps the most valuable part of the book (...) is the opening chapters, where Forster distinguishes three kinds of skepticism about metaphysics , and argues that it is a mistake to see Cartesian, veil of perception skepticism as a central target of Kant's. Though this point has been made before , insufficient attention to it has continued to result in misplaced criticisms of Kant's project, and Forster's forceful reminder is certainly welcome.The other two types of skepticism, Forster argues, did play crucial roles in the development of Kant's metaphysical views, with each at some point rousing Kant from a self-described "dogmatic slumber." Forster claims that the 1766. (shrink)
Kant's theoretical philosophy is often read as a response to skeptical challenges raised by his predecessors. Yet Kant himself explicitly discusses skepticism in relatively few places in his published work, so Michael Forster's focused examination of Kant's relation to skepticism is a useful addition to the literature. Forster sets out to distinguish different types of skepticism to which Kant might be responding, determine what responses Kant offers, and evaluate the strength of those responses.Perhaps the most valuable part of the book (...) is the opening chapters, where Forster distinguishes three kinds of skepticism about metaphysics, and argues that it is a mistake to see Cartesian, veil of perception skepticism as a central target of Kant's. Though this point has been made before, insufficient attention to it has continued to result in misplaced criticisms of Kant's project, and Forster's forceful reminder is certainly welcome.The other two types of skepticism, Forster argues, did play crucial roles in the development of Kant's metaphysical views, with each at some point rousing Kant from a self-described "dogmatic slumber." Forster claims that the 1766. (shrink)