Contractualist moral theories are often criticized on the grounds that they have counterintuitive implications for moral status. In this paper I attempt to provide a comprehensive answer to the question: What forms of contractualism face this problem, and how serious is the problem? To do this I develop a classification of different kinds of contractualist theory, based on philosophical motivation.
DavidPhillips’s Sidgwickian Ethics is a penetrating contribution to the scholarly and philosophical understanding of Henry Sidgwick’s The Methods of Ethics. This note focuses on Phillips’s understanding of (aspects of) Sidgwick’s argument for utilitarianism and the moral epistemology to which he subscribes. In § I, I briefly outline the basic features of the argument that Sidgwick provides for utilitarianism, noting some disagreements with Phillips along the way. In § II, I raise some objections to Phillips’s (...) account of the epistemology underlying the argument. In § III, I reply to the claim that there is a puzzle at the heart of Sidgwick’s epistemology. In § IV, I respond to Phillips’s claim that Sidgwick is unfair in his argument against the (deontological) morality of common sense. (shrink)
Thinking about morality -- Story of contemporary intuitionism -- Moral knowledge -- New challenges to intuitionism -- Grounds of morality -- Right and the good reconsidered -- Intuitionism's rivals -- Being moral: how and why.
The aim of this paper is to provide an account of how hunger motivates us to seek food and eat. It seems that the way that it feels to be hungry must play some role in it fulfilling this function. We propose that hunger is best viewed as a complex state involving both affective and somatic constituents, as well as, crucially, changes in the way in which the hungry agent’s attention is deployed. We argue that in order to capture the (...) distinctive way in which hunger motivates we need to articulate the relations amongst such components. The resulting account explains how hunger as an aversive affective reaction to a state of need motivates us specifically to eat and not to just to rid ourselves of the unpleasant sensations associated to it. We suggest, however, that there is more than this to the overall affective experience of the hungry agent, because hunger ordinarily facilitates the elicitation of other, positive affective reactions such as interest and appetite, and recruits them to further its function. (shrink)
Niche construction refers to the activities of organisms that bring about changes in their environments, many of which are evolutionarily and ecologically consequential. Advocates of niche construction theory (NCT) believe that standard evolutionary theory fails to recognize the full importance of niche construction, and consequently propose a novel view of evolution, in which niche construction and its legacy over time (ecological inheritance) are described as evolutionary processes, equivalent in importance to natural selection. Here, we subject NCT to critical evaluation, in (...) the form of a collaboration between one prominent advocate of NCT, and a team of skeptics. We discuss whether niche construction is an evolutionary process, whether NCT obscures or clarifies how natural selection leads to organismal adaptation, and whether niche construction and natural selection are of equivalent explanatory importance. We also consider whether the literature that promotes NCT overstates the significance of niche construction, whether it is internally coherent, and whether it accurately portrays standard evolutionary theory. Our disagreements reflect a wider dispute within evolutionary theory over whether the neo-Darwinian synthesis is in need of reformulation, as well as different usages of some key terms (e.g., evolutionary process). (shrink)
This paper argues that morality depends on prudence, or more specifically, that one cannot be a moral person without being prudent. Ethicists are unaware of this, ignore it, or imply it is wrong. Although this thesis is not obvious from the current perspective of ethics, I believe that its several implications for ethics make it worth examining. In this paper I argue for the prudence dependency thesis by isolating moral practice from all reliance on prudence. The result is that in (...) the actual world in which we live one cannot be moral unless one is prudent. In order to show that morality depends on prudence for the entire range of moral situations, we put prudence to the test against the most extraordinary of moral situations: moral dilemmas. Doing so shows that for all practical purposes moral dilemmas are prudential problems for agents, giving further support to the prudence dependency thesis. (shrink)
When agents violate norms, they are typically judged to be more of a cause of resulting outcomes. In this paper, we suggest that norm violations also affect the causality attributed to other agents, a phenomenon we refer to as "causal superseding." We propose and test a counterfactual reasoning model of this phenomenon in four experiments. Experiments 1 and 2 provide an initial demonstration of the causal superseding effect and distinguish it from previously studied effects. Experiment 3 shows that this causal (...) superseding effect is dependent on a particular event structure, following a prediction of our counterfactual model. Experiment 4 demonstrates that causal superseding can occur with violations of non-moral norms. We propose a model of the superseding effect based on the idea of counterfactual sufficiency. (shrink)
This book has two principle aims. The first is to criticize moral relativism by criticizing the claim that there are deep and rationally intractable moral disagreements. The second is to develop an account of morality and moral inquiry that allows for moral objectivity of a sort that relativists would deny, without modeling moral inquiry on scientific inquiry.
David Lewis's book 'On the Plurality of Worlds' mounts an extended defense of the thesis of modal realism, that the world we inhabit the entire cosmos of which we are a part is but one of a vast plurality of worlds, or cosmoi, all causally and spatiotemporally isolated from one another. The purpose of this article is to provide an accessible summary of the main positions and arguments in Lewis's book.
Derek Parfit claims that “Williams and Mackie…do not use the normative concepts that I and other Non-Naturalists use.” Whatever we think of Parfit’s interpretation of Williams, his interpretation of Mackie should be rejected. For understandable historical reasons, Mackie’s texts are ambiguous. But if we apply to the interpretation of Mackie the same principle of charity Parfit employs in interpreting Williams, we find decisive reason to interpret Mackie as using the same normative concepts as Non-Naturalists.
Similarity and difference, patterns of variation, consistency and coherence: these are the reference points of the philosopher. Understanding experience, exploring ideas through particular instantiations, novel and innovative thinking: these are the reference points of the artist. However, at certain points in the proceedings of our Symposium titled, Next to Nothing: Art as Performance, this characterisation of philosopher and artist respectively might have been construed the other way around. The commentator/philosophers referenced their philosophical interests through the particular examples/instantiations created by the (...) artist and in virtue of which they were then able to engage with novel and innovative thinking. From the artists’ presentations, on the other hand, emerged a series of contrasts within which philosophical and artistic ideas resonated. This interface of philosopher-artist bore witness to the fact that just as art approaches philosophy in providing its own analysis, philosophy approaches art in being a co-creator of art’s meaning. In what follows, we discuss the conception of philosophy-art that emerged from the Symposium, and the methodological minimalism which we employed in order to achieve it. We conclude by drawing out an implication of the Symposium’s achievement which is that a counterpoint to Institutional theories of art may well be the point from which future directions will take hold, if philosophy-art gains traction. (shrink)
Intuitionism and nihilism, according to nihilists, have key features in common: the same semantics and the same phenomenology. Intuitionism is the object of nihilism’s attack. The central charge nihilism lodges against intuitionism is that its nonnatural moral properties are queer. Here I’ll examine what ‘queer’ might mean in relation to the doctrines nihilism uses to support this charge. My investigation reveals that nihilism’s queerness charge lacks substance and resembles a tautology served with a frown. There’s really nothing to it. After (...) I show that, I’ll offer an explanation for why nihilism has gotten intuitionism wrong. It makes a central mistaken methodological assumption and doesn’t target any identifiable intuitionism in the last hundred or so years. (shrink)
THE STRONG SUPPORT OF EVANGELICAL CHRISTIANS FOR PRESIDENT George W. Bush contributed significantly to his reelection in November 2004. This was cause for celebration in some quarters and despair in others. It has led to an avalanche of attention to the perennial issue of the relationship between faith and politics, the role of "moral values" in determining evangelical voting patterns, and the growing political visibility and power of evangelical Christians in the United States. This essay is written by evangelical Christians (...) who currently reside in the western part of the "red state" of Tennessee. Its purpose is to shed light on several dimensions of evangelical engagement in contemporary American public life. First, we assess what is actually known about the voting patterns and motivations of evangelical Christians in the 2004 presidential election. Second, we consider the moral vision that animates the most visible conservative evangelical activists and organizations. Third, we consider alternative evangelical political/ethical stances that are being pursued today. Fourth and finally, we move to the normative ethical level, suggesting the contours of an evangelical political ethic in the U.S. context. (shrink)
In his book Intuitionism, DavidKaspar is after the truth. That is to say, on his view, “philosophy is the search for the whole truth” (p. 7). Intuitionism, then, “reflects that standpoint” (p. 7). My comments are meant to reflect the same standpoint. More explicitly, my aim in these comments is to evaluate the arguments for intuitionism, as I understand them from reading Kaspar’s book. In what follows, I focus on three arguments in particular, which can be (...) found in Chapters 1, 2, and 3 of Intuitionism: an inference to the best explanation, an argument from the analogy between mathematical knowledge and moral knowledge, and an argument from the epistemic preferability of the intuitive principles. I will discuss them in this order. (shrink)
I argue that Mackie's approach to practical reasons is attractive and unjustly neglected. In particular I argue that it is much more plausible than the kind of instrumentalist approach famously articulated by Bernard Williams. This matters for Mackie's arguments for moral skepticism. Contra Richard Joyce, I argue that it is a serious mistake to invoke instrumentalism in arguing for moral skepticism.
I provide a novel kind of argument for moral relativism which combines a general quasi-indexical semantics for the most important thin moral terms with an indeterminacy thesis. I then argue that the version of moral relativism supported by this strategy of argument allows for good rejoinders to the three most important and familiar objections to moral relativism.
Programmatic concepts have elements that point in a valued direction or name a desired goal. We provide a detailed analysis of the nature of programmatic concepts and cite examples of the programmatic elements found in conceptions of scientific literacy. Next we describe what values underlie these elements and what theories of value might be brought to bear in assessing them. We present an analysis of approximately 70 conceptions of scientific literacy found in the literature since the year 2000. We identify (...) the goals that each of these conceptions of scientific literacy implies and uncover the programmatic elements that are used to justify these goals. Our purpose is to present a sufficiently wide range of views to have a good representation of goals and programmatic elements. Third, we point to a number of pitfalls in any attempt to make preferential selections among the programmatic elements of conceptions of scientific literacy. (shrink)
Butler’s famous arguments in Sermon XI, designed to refute psychological egoism and to mitigate conflict between self-interest and benevolence, turn out to depend crucially on his own distinctive conception of self-interest. Butler does not notice the availability of several alternative conceptions of self-interest. Some such alternatives are available within the framework of Butler’s moral psychology; others can be developed outside that framework. There are a number of interesting reasons to prefer one or other such account of the ordinary concept of (...) self-interest; but, ultimately, no such reasons prove decisive, and we should reject the idea that there is a uniquely correct account of self-interest. Since Butler’s arguments require the unique adequacy of his own distinctive conception of self-interest, they must be rejected. (shrink)
According to David Lewis, a realist about possible worlds must hold that actuality is relative: the worlds are ontologically all on a par; the actual and the merely possible differ, not absolutely, but in how they relate to us. Call this 'Lewisian realism'. The alternative, 'Leibnizian realism', holds that actuality is an absolute property that marks a distinction in ontological status. Lewis presents two arguments against Leibnizian realism. First, he argues that the Leibnizian realist cannot account for the contingency (...) of actuality. Second, he argues that the Leibnizian realist cannot explain why skepticism about one's own actuality is absurd. In this paper, I mount a defense of Leibnizian realism. (shrink)
ABSTRACTWith the recent revival of moral intuitionism, the work of W. D. Ross has grown in stature. But if we look at some recent well-regarded histories, anthologies and companions of analytic philosophy, Ross is noticeably absent. This discrepancy of assessments raises the question of Ross’s place in the history of analytic philosophy. Hans-Johann Glock has recently claimed that Ross is not an analytic philosopher at all, but is instead a ‘traditional philosopher’. In this article, I will identify several undeniable features (...) of analytic philosophy that Ross’s work bears: a focus on linguistic analysis, great respect for pre-theoretical thoughts, the conviction that philosophy is a collaborative, piecemeal enterprise and so on. Such an investigation, I claim, reveals two historically significant results: Ross was the first ethicist to fully draw from commonsense beliefs about morality in light of characteristic analytic considerations to secure his theory. Two, concerning the matter of whether the notion... (shrink)
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