Establishing trust among individual agents has defined a central issue of practical reasoning since the dawning of liberal individualism. Hobbes was convinced that foolish self-interest always threatens to defeat uncompelled cooperation when one can gain by abandoning a joint effort. Against this philosophical background, scientific studies of human beings display a surprisingly cooperative species. It would seem to follow that biologically inherited characteristics impair our reason. The response proposed here distinguishes rationality and reasonableness as two forms of good reasoning. One (...) is consistent with the model of strategic rationality, the other with a model of emotional relationship. From the Hobbesian perspective trusting agents are not rational if their makeup discourages advantageous defection even when one knows it will not be detected or punished. The point is indecisive because reasonable trust insulates cooperative action from the factors that have appeared to make it chancy or unstable without some enforcing power. A critical theme is that trust does not simply rest upon a biological disposition to conform to norms. That would explain but not justify aversion to defection. In fact, trust can survive reasoned challenges to norm-conforming dispositions, displaying the responsible social animal living along with the rational individual. (shrink)
If internalism in ethics is correct, then moral beliefs necessarily motivate. Externalism rejects this thesis, holding that the relationship between beliefs and motives is only contingent. The position I develop is that both views are false. By defining a logical relationship between moral beliefs and motives that is weaker than logical necessitation, it is possible to maintain (contrary to internalism) that beliefs may occur without motives, but (contrary to externalism) that they cannot always do so. The logical point is explicated (...) through a psychological interpretation of moral emotions that gives their constituent beliefs an inherent link to action, together with a semantic characterization of moral concepts that ties their competent use to familiarity with these emotions. (shrink)
We assume, for the sake of argument, that the sole purpose of colleges and universities is the advancement of knowledge through teaching and research, and that academic merit, as defined by each discipline, ought to be the only relevant criterion in admissions and hiring decisions. Even on this restrictive set of assumptions, we argue that hiring and admitting women and people of color is sometimes the best way for colleges and universities to advance knowledge. We then address two objections to (...) our argument, that race and sex are no more relevant than being left- or right-handed, and that the epistemic attributes we ascribe to women and people of color belong to people as individuals, not as members of certain groups. We conclude that academic merit and social justice are mutually compatible. (shrink)
This paper examines some implications of predicted demographic changes in Canadian universities that may make them unable to replace retiring faculty members in numbers permitting academic business as usual. If the predictions prove correct, it will be desirable to reinterpret received verities about the relationship between professor/student ratios and effective education, the dual roles of teaching and research, and democratic governance in communities of higher education. Possibilities for restructuring inquiry and instruction in ways consistent with the responsibilities of educators are (...) all too briefly explored. A revised division of instructional labour is suggested, along with changes in the conduct of research and academic administration that would free professors to focus on the tasks for which they have the greatest expertise. (shrink)
This essay consolidates some fragments of the contemporary theory of expressive freedoms, bringing together scattered conceptual distinctions (e.g., hurting and harming, tolerating and legitimating) and moves (e.g., the need to rectify hateful speech and to constrain harmful actions legally) into an account that is sensitive to the needs of abused groups but faithful to the libertarian tradition associated with Mill's harm principle. Accepting this principle as the fundamental condition warranting legal control of action, we explore legislative responsibilities for protecting expressive (...) freedoms through three additional presumptions. The chief of them is an expectation of epistemic rationality that limits occasions of harm requiring legal action. A presumption of enablement over punishment shows that criminal sanctions for hateful speech are almost never appropriate. A presumption of multiple responsibilities accepts that social sanctions may be appropriate where political coercion is not. (shrink)
This article identifies both prudence and antiprudence as options for rational people. Building upon Wiggins's "sensible subjectivism," the account offers an analysis of prudential emotions which are not rationally required but whose reasonableness need not be doubted. One result is that skepticism about prudence is avoidable. Another, as shown through examination of some of Parfit's worries about replication, is that prudence is autonomous from metaphysical theories of persons. It is also autonomous from morality, neither prudence nor morality being appropriately subordinated (...) to the other in a theory of rational choice. (shrink)
Using experiences at Memorial University of Newfoundland as a basis, this essay suggests that leadership should be an expectation of professional academics in all the categories of their work, namely teaching, research and service. The desirability of developing the leadership of service in particular is advanced as an appropriate expectation for faculty members career progress. Developing a general leadership ethos is both philosophically appropriate and practically advantageous in collegial organisations.
Imagining a future world in which people no longer die provides a helplul tool for understanding our present ethical views. It becomes evident that the cardinal virtues of prudence, temperance, and courage are options for reasonable people rather than rational requirements. On the assumption that the medical means to immortality are not universally available, even justice becomes detached from theories that tie the supposed virtue to the protection of human rights. Several stratagems are available for defending a categorical right to (...) life under these circumstances, but none is compelling. Justice and human rights should therefore be understood as social conventions whose stability depends upon rejecting a tyranny of the immortals in favour of cultural traditions that connect rights and liberties with the means for their enjoyment.Imaginer un monde dans lequel plus personne ne mourrait peut s’avérer utile afin de comprendre l’éthique contemporaine. Il devient alors évident que les vertus cardinales que sont la réflexion, la tempérance et le courage concernent des gens raisonnables et ne sont pas des exigences de la raison. Si on suppose que les ressources médicales de l’immortalité ne sont pas disponibles pour tous, même la justice devient indépendante des théories qui relient cette hypothétique vertu à la protection des droits de l’homme. Plusieurs stratégies s’offrent à nous afin de défendre un droit catégorique de vivre selon ces conditions, mais aucune n’est imparable. La justice et les droits de l’homme devraient en ce cas être envisagés comme des conventions sociales dont la stabilité dépend du rejet de la tyrannie des immortels en faveur des traditions culturelles qui relient droits et libertés aux moyens d’en profiter. (shrink)
Some characteristics of two species of singular reference are described and a complexity of mention vis-a-vis designation illustrated by means of special quotation devices. It is pointed out that the use/mention distinction is more complex and less absolute than sometimes realized.
Objectivity in evaluation can be understood either in terms of satisfaction of certain formal criteria or in terms of correspondence to facts of a certain kind. Morality includes metaphysical claims which distinguish arbitrary wants from rational ends, but the weakness of the interpretation of such claims within formalist liberal views results in the collapse of that distinction and in mistaking moral ignorance for moral freedom. Only by showing that respect for persons is justified by the metaphysics of human nature - (...) by the fact of human equality - can claims of moral objectivity be defended. For that defense one must look to the socialist tradition. (shrink)
This essay promotes the superiority of cognitivist expressivism over noncognitivism and normative realism. Cognitivist expressivism regards normative judgments as emotionally reasonable but non-truth-apt. It stresses a distinction between normative differences and disagreements and rejects several contrasting views: communicative rationalism, discursive nonnaturalism, and moral universalism. It also explains why moral thinking often appears to display a progressive direction but questions the proposition that previous social practices embodied moral errors demonstrable from the standpoint of the present. The result is that philosophers have (...) not earned a right to make normative knowledge claims. Rather, practical reasonableness requires a form of intellectual modesty that promotes honest discussion and moral compromise among moral and political antagonists. (shrink)
The editor's introduction to the volume explores the thesis of a convergence between analytic and hermeneutic philosophy on the absence of grounds for knowledge and practice. The nature of philosophy without foundations is discussed, along with the conservative tendencies and utopian tensions of "anti-foundationalism.".
Values clarification was too quickly scorned, for its problems are also problems for other contemporary approaches to moral education - especially cognitive-developmental accounts. These problems show the need for better understanding of behavioural characterizations - particularly of the use of words for virtues and vices. The problems can best be corrected by reexamining the role of conversation in education along lines suggested by Freire and Habermas rather than Dewey and Kohlberg. -/- .
Normative judgments are typically subject to emotional reasons that cannot be justified by reference to facts alone. As a result, practical disputes sometimes go unsettled in ways that support James Lenman's view of moral inquiry as politics. An important consequence is that reasonableness is often preferable to truth as a criterion of good practical judgment. Although the role of emotions suggests metaethical expressivism as preferable to realism for analysing practical reasoning, reasonableness transforms expressivism from a form of noncognitivism into a (...) theory that recognizes cognitively rich forms of approval and disapproval. Defensible normative intuitions have good justifying reasons even when these reasons permit faultless differences of political opinion and ethical practice. Despite implying deep normative pluralism, however, a cognitivist form of expressivism explains how deliberative agents can construct and maintain reasonable moral communities. (shrink)
Egalitarian assumptions are unsupported by standard liberal arguments, against which the libertarian critique of distributive principles seems persuasive. Liberal instincts can be defended, however, by ideas from the radical tradition. The priority of labor over capital is equivalent to adequate provision for human needs. By distinguishing needs (e.g., security) from their material conditions (e.g., medical care) it is shown that needs are not voracious but rational ends to which everyone has a valid claim.
Competing political theories variously identify communities, individuals, institutions, and classes as the basic subjects of justice. Liberal theories fail to map an important part of the domain of right action by ignoring class conflict and thereby neglect the possibility that justice may require social direction of economic systems. A conceptually more adequate account strongly suggests the virtues of a market socialism.
John Rawls observes that "a theory of justice is . . . a theory of the moral sentiments." His analysis of moral attitudes as defined by rationally chosen principles is controversial, however, and distinguishes his liberal conception of justice from one which understands such attitudes as constituted by verifiable beliefs about social realities. The socialist conception suggested by the latter analysis is at least as plausible as individualist alternatives.
Critiques of realism, rationalism, foundationalism and structuralism deriving from Derrida, Foucault and Lyotard lead to a characterization of the postmodern university as one in which metaphysical, epistemological and political theories are not canonical. Identifying some of the excesses in these interrelated critiques promotes disengagement from theories of rational scholarly agreement typical of the modern university without giving up on the notion of universal knowledge as an educational ideal. Since intellectual progress occurs without resolution of these distracting theories, the postmodern critique (...) can facilitate useful reflection on the epistemic and ethical terms of higher education. (shrink)
In this paper we argue that individuals in modern societies can share a general appreciation of the contingency of moral and political engagement without endangering these purposeful attachments. Depending upon the acceptance of various cognitive conventions, social practices and institutions cannot be sustained by appeals to advantage alone, but these conventions do not demand ontological commitment. Transparent fictions rather than ideological illusions can suffice to sustain valued forms of life. In contrast to Rorty's ironic society in which "only the intellectuals (...) would be ironists", we suggest the benign disillusionment can characterize the public generally. (shrink)
Moral philosophers continue to divide on the conundrum of Marx and morality— how a ferocious moral critic of nineteenth-century capitalism could also denounce morality as an ideological snare and delusion. In Marxism and the Moral Point of View, Kai Nielsen brings together many years of thought on both terms of the question, rightly seeking a balance between Marx's moralism and Marx's anti-moralism.
The practice of rights thinking is desirable in modern societies but its scope is restricted by concern for utility and the demands of personal relationships. The result is a hybrid practice no part of which is a foundation for the others. Differences between pure rights thinking, theories of rights and rights talk support a moral pragmatism for which the objects of moral thinking are not decided a priori. The argument draws upon the historical context provided by Bentham, Burke, Locke and (...) Marx. Contemporary views discussed include contributions by Richard Flathman and Beth Singer and Charles Taylor. (shrink)
This discussion explores skepticism about moral principles, the diminishing authority of principles in much recent moral philosophy, transformations of rationalism that result, and the possibility of morality within the bounds of custom alone.
For any group there is a point beyond which the accumulation of acts of violence, cruelty, or even rudeness, implies disintegration. By a series of small and plausible transitions this putative empirical generalization may be transformed into a statement about the normative attitudes of persons in stable groups. The generalization may in the first place be more strongly construed as a statement of law governing any society. The weakening of bonds between persons implied by the prevalence of behavior of the (...) kinds in question means that societies not only do not but cannot survive a certain excess of it. Such a natural law may in turn be reflected internally by certain regulations--civil laws and customs--prohibiting such behavior, or by internalized rules with which most persons not only act in accordance but also accept as stipulating what one ought to do or avoid. The observable frailty of social constitutions is thus reflected from within as a family of obligations to refrain from violence, cruelty, rudeness, and similar acts. To pass from regulations to internalized rules in this way is to suggest that the essentially prudential considerations upon which reasonable regulations are based are reinforced by conceptual ones which make it impossible rationally to value violation of such regulations. That such reinforcement occurs is undeniable, but it is not well understood why, or universally believed that, resistance to it is irrational. (shrink)
In the twenty-five years since philosophers began to bemoan ‘the dreariness of aesthetics’, students in Wittgenstein's wake have done a great deal to eliminate the grounds of the complaint. Unfruitful essentialist theories have been largely displaced by the vigorous, if somewhat uncontrolled, growth of an enterprise which attempts to characterize and explicate aesthetic phenomena outside the desert of definition. The resulting view portrays typically aesthetic concepts as being indivisibly characterizing and evaluative, relativistic in application, necessarily linked to human attitudes, irreducible (...) to non-aesthetic concepts, and yet as having social conditions which make them capable of intersubjective comparison and test. These characteristics are usefully summarized in saying that aesthetic concepts are concepts of appraisal. The theory of aesthetic appraisal discussed here is clearly incompatible with views which postulate dichotomies between objectivity and subjectivity, fact and value, and it is quite analogous to ‘descriptivist’ theories in ethics which reject these absolute distinctions. Moral examples are thus often useful for explicating the notion of aesthetic appraisal and the theory embodying that notion likewise has an important bearing on contemporary controversies in ethics. (shrink)
Basic Human Actions are event-like, and it should be possible to refer to them without mention of specific intentions. Such reference need not require an act ontology, since actions may be regarded as indivisible complexes -- of agent, object, and tool -- which are referred to by statements rather than named.
Liberal and communitarian democrats describe different ways in which liberty, democracy, and community might exist together in political associations. The modern differentiation of political associations from traditional communities favours liberal accounts, in which a democratic society's collective acts do not extend beyond the official decisions of elected governments. While participatory self-rule does not seem possible at the level of the nation-state, however, there remain analogues to communal practices in various styles of political reasoning. Communitarians should therefore advocate customs of argument (...) in which inferences considered acceptable by liberal-democrats no longer count as politically adequate. A fuller morality of public choice should result. (shrink)
Dignity is an expansive ideal, figuring in international covenants, codes of research involving human participants, and debates about decision making at the end of life. One result of this expansiveness is that human dignity can be appropriated by proponents on both sides of many issues, thereby appearing more as a rhetorical flourish than as a serious element in argumentation. However, an appreciation of narrative inquiry shows that opposing representations of dignity constitute alternative assessments of responsible action, both of which can (...) be morally reasonable. One implication is that normative disagreements, as between deathbed decisions about palliative care or euthanasia, can be expected to occur, so that the ideal of dignity should be legally expressed in a practice of supportive laissez-faire in preference to any undue regulation of dying. (shrink)