This paper articulates and defends a noncognitive, care-based view of identification, of what privileged psychic subset provides the source of self-determination in actions and attitudes. The author provides an extended analysis of "caring," and then applies it to debates between Frankfurtians, on the one hand, and Watsonians, on the other, about the nature of identification, then defends the view against objections.
Many philosophers have taken there to be an important relation between personal identity and several of our practical concerns (among them moral responsibility, compensation, and self-concern). I articulate four natural methodological assumptions made by those wanting to construct a theory of the relation between identity and practical concerns, and I point out powerful objections to each assumption, objections constituting serious methodological obstacles to the overall project. I then attempt to offer replies to each general objection in a way that leaves (...) the project intact, albeit significantly changed. Perhaps the most important change stems from the recognition that the practical concerns motivating investigation into personal identity turn out to be not univocal, as is typically thought, such that each of the different practical concerns may actually be related to personal identity in very different ways. (shrink)
In this paper, I attempt to show that the moral/conventional distinction simply cannot bear the sort of weight many theorists have placed on it for determining the moral and criminal responsibility of psychopaths. After revealing the fractured nature of the distinction, I go on to suggest how one aspect of it may remain relevant—in a way that has previously been unappreciated—to discussions of the responsibility of psychopaths. In particular, after offering an alternative explanation of the available data on psychopaths and (...) their judgments of various sorts of norm transgressions, I put forward a hybrid theory of their responsibility, suggesting how they might be criminally responsible, while nevertheless failing to meet the conditions for an important arena of moral responsibility. (shrink)
Derek Parfit claims that, at certain times and places, the metaphysical units he labels *'selves" may be thought of as the morally significant units (I.e., the objects of moral concern) for such things as resource distribution, moral responsibility, commitments, etc. But his concept of the self is problematic in important respects, and it remains unclear just why and how this entity should count as a moral unit in the first place. In developing a view I call *'Moderate Reductionism," I attempt (...) to resolve these worries, first by offering a clearer, more consistent account of what the concept of *'self ' should involve, and second by arguing for why selves should indeed be viewed as moral (and prudential) units. I then defend this view in detail from both *'conservative" and *'extreme" objections. (shrink)
Unabridged dictionaries are dangerous books. In their pages man’s evilest thoughts find means of expression. Terms denoting all that is foul or blasphemous or obscene are printed there for men, women and children to read and ponder. Such books should have their covers padlocked and be chained to reading desks, in the custody of responsible librarians, preferably church members in good standing. Permission to open such books should be granted only after careful inquiry as to which word a reader plans (...) to look up, and how he plans to use it. (shrink)
Before being able to answer key practical questions dependent on a criterion of personal identity (e.g., am I justified in anticipating surviving the death of my body?), we must first determine which general approach to the issue of personal identity is more plausible, reductionism or non-reductionism. While reductionism has become the more dominant. approach amongst philosophical theorists over the past thirty years, non-reductionism remains an approach that, for all these theorists have shown, could very well still be true. My aim (...) in this paper is to show that non-reductionism is actually either irrelevant---with respect to the practical questions we want answered---or logically impossible. In arguing for this conclusion, I draw from a case Derek Parfit has employed---the CombinedSpectrum---and I provide a number of variations to it which ultimately reveal that we have no possible rational recourse other than to become reductionists. (shrink)
Ethical theories must include an account of the concept of a person. They also need a criterion of personal identity over time. This requirement is most needed in theories involving distributions of resources or questions of moral responsibility. For instance, in using ethical theories involving compensations of burdens, we must be able to keep track of the identities of persons earlier burdened in order to ensure that they are the same people who now are to receive the compensatory benefits. Similarly, (...) in order to attribute moral responsibility to someone for an act, we must be able to determine that that person is the same person as the person who performed the act. Unfortunately, ethical theories generally include a concept of a person and criteria of personal identity either as notions implied or presupposed by the already worked out theory, with little or no argument given in support of them. But both approaches are unsatisfactory, for each runs the risk of ignoring certain fundamental features of the way persons actually are. What is needed first is a plausible metaphysical account of persons and personal identity to which an ethical theory might then conform and apply. Derek Parfit has attempted to provide such an account in Reasons and Persons, where he argues for what he calls the reductionist view of persons and personal identity and then attempts to show how such a conception provides a metaphysical background that lends important partial support to utilitarianism. 1 But Parfit’s metaphysical view is neutral between two possible conceptions of personhood, and utilitarianism presupposes the truth of the more radical of the two conceptions, which precludes the possibility of there being a class of goods crucial to any plausible ethical theory. Utilitarianism thus presupposes a wildly implausible conception of persons, and so is itself implausible. (shrink)
According to a popular contemporary contractualist account of moral motivation, the most plausible explanation for why those who are concerned with morality take moral reasons seriously — why these reasons strike those who are moved by them with a particular inescapability — is that they stem from, and are grounded by, a desire to be able to justify one’s actions to others on grounds they could not reasonably reject.1 My.
In this paper I consider Derek Parfit’s attempt to respond to Rawls’ charge that utilitarianism ignores the distinction between persons. I proceed by arguing that there is a moderate form of reductionism about persons, one stressing the importance of what Parfit calls psychological connectedness, which can hold in different degrees both within one person and between distinct persons. In terms of this form of reductionism, against which Parfit’s arguments are ineffective, it is possible to resuscitate the Rawlsian charge that the (...) utilitarian maximizing approach to matters of distribution ignores something that is of moral relevance, viz., the difference between the degrees of connectedness that hold between different stages of the same person, and between that person and his nearest and dearest, and the lack of connectedness between that person and distant others who may be benefitted at his cost. To Parfit’s charge that reductionism sees the differences between persons as being ‘less deep’, I reply that the sense in which they are less deep is not at odds with their retaining their original moral importance, perhaps now better understood. (shrink)
While all complete ethical theories need a plausible conception of their morally significant units , that conception is rarely explained or argued for by ethical theorists. Rather, it is usually either simply presupposed or derived from the particular ethical theory, i.e., once the theory has been outlined, a certain conception of the morally significant unit can be seen as simply following from that system. I argue in a different direction. ;Taking Derek Parfit's work in Reasons & Persons as an initial (...) model, I begin with a metaphysical exploration of persons and personal identity, and then I discuss the relationship between the metaphysics of personhood and various ethical theories. Parfit's own view is that the most plausible account of persons and personal identity renders utilitarianism more plausible than it would have been if a form of Non-Reductionism were true. While I agree with much of Parfit's metaphysical analysis of personal identity, I nonetheless show that utilitarianism is actually incompatible with a more coherent and specific Reductionist account. I arrive at this conclusion by first showing how the self, an enduring entity unified by psychological connectedness, ought to be considered as the morally significant unit, and I defend this view from two objections stemming from ethical theory. Second, I show how this analysis of the self allows for such key non-utilitarian concepts as compensation and equitable distribution of benefits to continue to play an important role in ethical theory . Third, I show that all forms of utilitarianism purporting to be able to assess utility in every significant moral context actually presuppose a highly implausible and problematic metaphysics of the person. Finally, I show how my version of Reductionism can lend plausible metaphysical support to a version of contractualism. (shrink)