There is a growing body of evidence on the influences of automatic and unconscious processes on our actions. Here I introduce some representative examples of this growing body of evidence, chosen so as to form a diverse group of related mindless phenomena: habits, skills, priming and nudges (Section 1). I then argue that this evidence challenges traditional belief-desire-based approaches in the philosophy of action (Sections 2 and 3). I further discuss a recently proposed solution to this challenge, Gendler’s Alief, finding (...) it wanting (Section 4). I conclude by sketching my own alternative solution, based on the old story of Buridan’s ass (Section 5). (shrink)
Judith Jarvis Thomson has recently proposed a new argument for the thesis that killing the one in the Trolley Problem is not permissible. Her argument relies on the introduction of a new scenario, in which the bystander may also sacrifice herself to save the five. Thomson argues that those not willing to sacrifice themselves if they could may not kill the one to save the five. Bryce Huebner and Marc Hauser have recently put Thomson's argument to empirical test by asking (...) people what they should do in the new trilemma case, in which they may also sacrifice themselves. They found that the majority judge that they should either kill the one or sacrifice themselves; Huebner and Hauser argue that those numbers speak against Thomson's argument. But Thomson's argument was about the dialectical effect of the new trilemma on the traditional dilemma, rather than about the trilemma itself. Here I present the results of a study in which I asked subjects first what they should do in the trilemma and then what they should do in the traditional Trolley Problem. I found that, if asked first about the trilemma, subjects then have the intuition that killing the one in the traditional Bystander at the Switch is not permissible?exactly what Thomson's argument had predicted. (shrink)
I defend the argument that if embryo loss in stem cell research is morally problematic, then embryo loss in in vivo conception is similarly morally problematic. According to a recent challenge to this argument, we can distinguish between in vivo embryo loss and the in vitro embryo loss of stem cell research by appealing to the doctrine of double effect. I argue that this challenge fails to show that in vivo embryo loss is a mere unintended side effect while in (...) vitro embryo loss is an intended means and that, even if we refine the challenge by appealing to Michael Bratman's three roles of intention, the distinction is still unwarranted. (shrink)
I argue against Appel's recent proposal – in this JOURNAL – that there is a fundamental human right to sexual pleasure, and that therefore the sexual pleasure of severely disabled people should be publicly funded – by thereby partially legalizing prostitution. I propose an alternative that does not need to pose a new positive human right; does not need public funding; does not need the legalization of prostitution; and that would offer a better experience to the severely disabled: charitable non-profit (...) organizations whose members would voluntarily and freely provide sexual pleasure to the severely disabled. (shrink)
I distinguish between 'hard nudges' and 'soft nudges', arguing that it is possible to show that the latter can be compatible with informed consent - as Cohen has recently suggested; but that the real challenge is the compatibility of the former. Hard nudges are the more effective nudges because they work on less than conscious mechanisms such as those underlying our habits: whether those influences - which are often beyond the subject's awareness - can be reconciled with informed consent in (...) health care is the more challenging question. I suggest two directions for possible answers: on the one hand, looking at the growing empirical literature on mindless judgement and behaviour; and on the other hand considering a more diversified conception of consent, which I sketch. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that there is an important anomaly to the causalist/compatibilist paradigm in the philosophy of action and free will. This anomaly, which to my knowledge has gone unnoticed so far, can be found in the philosophy of Harry Frankfurt. Two of his most important contributions to the field – his influential counterexample to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities and his ‘guidance’ view of action – are incompatible. The importance of this inconsistency goes far beyond the issue (...) of coherence within Frankfurt’s philosophy. I shall argue that this inconsistency represents an important anomaly within the causalist/compatibilist framework; so that we should start to seriously consider having to move on from the established paradigm. (shrink)
I show that Pickard’s argument against the irresistibility of addiction fails because her proposed dilemma, according to which either drug-seeking does not count as action or addiction is resistible, is flawed; and that is the case whether or not one endorses Pickard’s controversial definition of action. Briefly, we can easily imagine cases in which drug-seeking meets Pickard’s conditions for agency without thereby implying that the addiction was not irresistible, as when the drug addict may take more than one route to (...) go meet her dealer. (shrink)
Thinking is overrated: golfers perform best when distracted and under pressure; firefighters make the right calls without a clue as to why; and you are yourself ill advised to look at your steps as you go down the stairs, or to try and remember your pin number before typing it in. Just do it, mindlessly. Both empirical psychologists and the common man have long worked out that thinking is often a bad idea, but philosophers still hang on to an intellectualist (...) picture of human action. This book challenges that picture and calls on philosophers to wake up to the power of mindlessness: it is our habits, skills and conventions that help us cope with a world way too diverse for us to hope to always reinterpret it. The book presents the empirical evidence that has been accumulating over the last few decades and offers a philosophical analysis of mindless phenomena such as habits, skilled activity, automatic actions, emotional and spontaneous reactions and social conventions, arguing that traditional philosophical theories of action should be revised to do justice to this forgotten but important part of our lives: when we act mindlessly, we are free and fully rational even though we neither deliberate nor are aware of what we are doing. (shrink)
I argue that so-called automatic actions – routine performances that we successfully and effortlessly complete without thinking such as turning a door handle, downshifting to 4th gear, or lighting up a cigarette – pose a challenge to causalism, because they do not appear to be preceded by the psychological states which, according to the causal theory of action, are necessary for intentional action. I argue that causalism cannot prove that agents are simply unaware of the relevant psychological states when they (...) act automatically, because these content-specific psychological states aren’t always necessary to make coherent rational sense of the agent’s behaviour. I then dispute other possible grounds for the attribution of these psychological states, such as agents’ own self-attributions. In the final section I introduce an alternative to causalism, building on Frankfurt’s concept of guidance. (shrink)
There are some interesting similarities between Aristotle’s ‘mixed actions’ in Book III of the Nicomachean Ethics and the actions often thought to be justifiable with the Doctrine of Double Effect. Here I analyse these similarities by comparing Aristotle’s examples of mixed actions with standard cases from the literature on double effect such as, amongst others, strategic bombing, the trolley problem, and craniotomy. I find that, despite some common features such as the dilemmatic structure and the inevitability of a bad effect, (...) Aristotle’s mixed actions do not count as cases justifiable through application of the Doctrine of Double Effect because they fail to meet the crucial necessary condition of the Doctrine according to which the bad effect can only be a merely foreseen side-effect and not an intended means. (shrink)
I argue against the Doctrine of Double Effect’s explanation of the moral difference between terror bombing and strategic bombing. I show that the standard thought-experiment of Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber which dominates this debate is underdetermined in three crucial respects: (1) the non-psychological worlds of Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber; (2) the psychologies of Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber; and (3) the structure of the thought-experiment, especially in relation to its similarity with the Trolley Problem. (1) If the two (...) worlds are not identical, then it may be these differences between the two worlds and not the Doctrine of Double Effect to explain the moral difference; (2a) if Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber have the same causal beliefs, then why does Terror Bomber set out to kill the children? It may then be this unwarranted and immoral choice and not the Doctrine of Double Effect that explains the moral difference; (2b) if the two have different causal beliefs, then we can’t rule out the counterfactual that, had Strategic Bomber had the same beliefs as Terror Bomber, she would have also acted as Terror Bomber did. Finally, (3) the Strategic Bomber scenario could also be constructed so as to be structurally equivalent to the Fat Man scenario in the Trolley Problem: but then the Doctrine of Double Effect would give different answers to two symmetrical cases. (shrink)
I analyse the relationship between the Doctrine of Double Effect and the Trolley Problem: the former offers a solution for the latter only on the premise that killing the one in Bystander at the Switch is permissible. Here I offer both empirical and theoretical arguments against the permissibility of killing the one: firstly, I present data from my own empirical studies according to which the intuition that killing the one is permissible is neither widespread nor stable; secondly, I defend a (...) normative principle according to which killing the one in Bystander at the Switch is not permissible. In conclusion, there just is no trolley problem. (shrink)
I argue that the right to sexual satisfaction of severely physically and mentally disabled people and elderly people who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases can be fulfilled by deploying sex robots; this would enable us to satisfy the sexual needs of many who cannot provide for their own sexual satisfaction; without at the same time violating anybody’s right to sexual self-determination. I don’t offer a full-blown moral justification of deploying sex robots in such cases, as not all morally relevant concerns can (...) be addressed here; rather, I put forward a plausible way of fulfilling acute sexual needs without thereby violating anybody’s sexual rights. (shrink)
I argue that it is possible for prospective mothers to wrong prospective fathers by bearing their child; and that lifting paternal liability for child support does not correct the wrong inflicted to fathers. It is therefore sometimes wrong for prospective mothers to bear a child, or so I argue here. I show that my argument for considering the legitimate interests of prospective fathers is not a unique exception to an obvious right to procreate. It is, rather, part of a growing (...) consensus that procreation can be morally problematic and that generally talking of rights in this context might not be warranted. Finally, I argue that giving up a right to procreate does not imply nor suggest giving up on women’s absolute right to abort, which I defend. (shrink)
Abstract I argue that the empirical literature on priming effects does not warrant nor suggest the conclusion, drawn by prominent psychologists such as J. A. Bargh, that we have no free will or less free will than we might think. I focus on a particular experiment by Bargh ? the ?elderly? stereotype case in which subjects that have been primed with words that remind them of the stereotype of the elderly walk on average slower out of the experiment?s room than (...) control subjects ? and I show that we cannot say that subjects cannot help walking slower or that they are not free in doing do. I then illustrate how these cases can be reconciled and normalized within a Davidsonian theory of action to show that, in walking slower, subjects are acting intentionally. My argument applies across various experiments, including those of goal priming. In the final section I argue that the only cases in which priming effects are efficacious are so-called Buridan cases. (shrink)
The argument for the moral permissibility of killing newborns is a challenge to liberal positions on abortion because it can be considered a reductio of their defence of abortion. Here I defend the liberal stance on abortion by arguing that the argument for the moral permissibility of killing newborns on ground of the social, psychological and economic burden on the parents recently put forward by Giubilini and Minerva is not valid; this is because they fail to show that newborns cannot (...) be harmed and because there are morally relevant differences between fetuses and newborns. (shrink)
I argue that we should give up the fight to rescue causal theories of action from fundamental challenges such as the problem of deviant causal chains; and that we should rather pursue an account of action based on the basic intuition that control identifies agency. In Section 1 I introduce causalism about action explanation. In Section 2 I present an alternative, Frankfurt’s idea of guidance. In Section 3 I argue that the problem of deviant causal chains challenges causalism in two (...) important respects: first, it emphasizes that causalism fails to do justice to our basic intuition that control is necessary for agency. Second, it provides countless counterexamples to causalism, which many recent firemen have failed to extinguish – as I argue in some detail. Finally, in Section 4 I argue, contra Al Mele, that control does not require the attribution of psychological states as causes. (shrink)
We think less than we think. My thesis moves from this suspicion to show that standard accounts of intentional action can't explain the whole of agency. Causalist accounts such as Davidson's and Bratman's, according to which an action can be intentional only if it is caused by a particular mental state of the agent, don't work for every kind of action. So-called automatic actions, effortless performances over which the agent doesn't deliberate, and to which she doesn't need to pay attention, (...) constitute exceptions to the causalist framework, or so I argue in this thesis. Not all actions are the result of a mental struggle, painful hesitation, or the weighting of evidence. Through practice, many performances become second nature. Think of familiar cases such as one's morning routines and habits: turning on the radio, brushing your teeth. Think of the highly skilled performances involved in sport and music: Jarrett's improvised piano playing, the footballer's touch. Think of agents' spontaneous reactions to their environment: ducking a blow, smiling. Psychological research has long acknowledged the distinctiveness and importance of automatic actions, while philosophy has so far explained them together with the rest of agency. Intuition tells us that automatic actions are intentional actions of ours all the same (I have run a survey which shows that this intuition is widely shared): not only our own autonomous deeds for which we are held responsible, but also necessary components in the execution and satisfaction of our general plans and goals. But do standard causal accounts deliver on the intentionality of automatic actions? I think not. Because, in automatic cases, standard appeals to intentions, beliefs, desires, and psychological states in general ring hollow. We just act: we don't think, either consciously or unconsciously. On the reductive side, Davidson's view can't but appeal to, at best, unconscious psychological states, the presence and causal role of which is, I argue, inferred from the needs of a theory, rather than from evidence in the world. On the non-reductive side, Bratman agrees, with his refutation of the Simple View, that we can't just attach an intention to every action that we want to explain. But Bratman’s own Single Phenomenon View, appealing to the mysterious notion of 'motivational potential', merely acknowledges the need for refinement without actually providing one. So I propose my own account of intentional action, the 'guidance view', according to which automatic actions are intentional: differently from Davidson and Bratman, who only offer necessary conditions in order to avoid the problem of causal deviance, I offer a full-blown account: E's phi-ing is intentional if and only If phi-ing is under E's guidance. This account resembles one developed by Frankfurt, with the crucial difference that Frankfurt – taking 'acting with an intention' and 'acting intentionally' to be synonymous – thinks that guidance is sufficient only for some movement being an action, but not for some movement being an intentional action. I argue that, on the other hand, Frankfurt's concept of guidance can be developed so that it is sufficient for intentional action too. In Chapter One I present and defend my definition of ‘automatic action’. In Chapter Two I show that such understanding of automatic actions finds confirmation in empirical psychology. In Chapter Three I show that Davidson's reductive account of intentional action does not work for automatic actions. In Chapter Four I show that the two most influential non-reductive accounts of intentional action, the Simple View and Bratman's Single Phenomenon View, don't work either. And in Chapter Five I put forward and defend my positive thesis, the 'guidance view'. Also, in the Appendix I present the findings of my survey on the intentionality of automatic actions. (shrink)
Ought parents, in general, to value being biologically tied to their children? Is it important, in particular, that both parents be biologically tied to their children? I will address these fundamental questions by looking at a fairly new practice within IVF treatments, so-called IVF-with-ROPA ( Reception of Oocytes from Partner ), which allows lesbian couples to „share motherhood‟ with one partner providing the eggs while the other becomes pregnant. I believe that IVF-with-ROPA is, just like other IVF treatments, morally permissible; (...) but here I argue that the increased biological ties which IVF-with-ROPA allows for do not have any particular value beside the satisfaction of a legitimate wish, because there is no intrinsic value in a biological tie between parents and children; further, I argue that equality within parental projects cannot be achieved by redistributing biological ties. (shrink)
I offer eight arguments against the Doctrine of Double Effect, a normative principle according to which in pursuing the good it is sometimes morally permissible to bring about some evil as a side-effect or merely foreseen consequence: the same evil would not be morally justified as an intended means or end.
I argue that, if drones make waging war easier, the reason why they do so may not be the one commonly assumed within the philosophical debate – namely the promised reduction in casualties on either side – but a more complicated one which has little to do with concern for one’s own soldiers or, for that matter, the enemy; and a lot more to do with the political intricacies of international relations and domestic politics; I use the example of the (...) Obama Administration’s drone policies to illustrate this argument. My point is meant to have wider methodological significance: philosophy can make an important contribution to this and related applied debates; but it is not by artificially – and optimistically – simplifying realities on the ground that philosophers can be of help. (shrink)
In a previous paper, I had argued that Strong’s counterexamples to Marquis’s argument against abortion—according to which terminating fetuses is wrong because it deprives them of a valuable future—fail either because they have no bearing on Marquis’s argument or because they make unacceptable claims about what constitutes a valuable future. In this paper I respond to Strong’s criticism of my argument according to which I fail to acknowledge that Marquis uses "future like ours" and "valuable future" interchangeably. I show that (...) my argument does not rely on not acknowledging that "future like ours" and "valuable future" are interchangeable; and that, rather, it is exactly by replacing "future like ours" with "valuable future" that I construct my argument against Strong. I conclude with some remarks on how Marquis’s concept of "future like ours" should be interpreted. (shrink)
I argue that the arguments brought by Counsel for M to the English Court of Protection are morally problematic in prioritising subjective interests that are the result of ‘consistent autonomous thought’ over subjective interests that are the result of a more limited cognitive perspective.
We argue that lack of direct and conscious control is not, in principle, a reason to be afraid of machines in general and robots in particular: in order to articulate the ethical and political risks of increasing automation one must, therefore, tackle the difficult task of precisely delineating the theoretical and practical limits of sustainable delegation to robots.
I argue against the Doctrine of Double Effect’s explanation of the moral difference between terror bombing and strategic bombing. I show that the standard thought-experiment of terror bombing and strategic bombing which dominates this debate is underdetermined with regards to the agents’ psychologies: (a) if Terror Bomber and Strategic Bomber have the same causal beliefs, then why does Terror Bomber set out to kill the children? It may then be this unwarranted and immoral choice and not the Doctrine of Double (...) Effect that explains the moral difference; (b) if the two have different causal beliefs, then we can’t rule out the counterfactual that, had Strategic Bomber had the same beliefs as Terror Bomber, she would have also acted as Terror Bomber did. (shrink)
Greg Janzen has recently criticised my defence of Frankfurt’s counterexample to the Principle of Alternate Possibilities by arguing that Jones avoids killing Smith in the counterfactual scenario. Janzen’s argument consists in introducing a new thought-experiment which is supposed to be analogous to Frankfurt’s and where the agent is supposed to avoid A-ing. Here I argue that Janzen’s argument fails on two counts, because his new scenario is not analogous to Frankfurt’s and because the agent in his new scenario does not (...) avoid A-ing. (shrink)
This paper shows that the counterexamples proposed by Strong in 2008 in the Journal of Medical Ethics to Marquis’s argument against abortion fail. Strong’s basic idea is that there are cases — for example, terminally ill patients — where killing an adult human being is prima facie seriously morally wrong even though that human being is not being deprived of a "valuable future". So Marquis would be wrong in thinking that what is essential about the wrongness of killing an adult (...) human being is that they are being deprived of a valuable future. This paper shows that whichever way the concept of "valuable future" is interpreted, the proposed counterexamples fail: if it is interpreted as "future like ours", the proposed counterexamples have no bearing on Marquis’s argument. If the concept is interpreted as referring to the patient’s preferences, it must be either conceded that the patients in Strong’s scenarios have some valuable future or admitted that killing them is not seriously morally wrong. Finally, if "valuable future" is interpreted as referring to objective standards, one ends up with implausible and unpalatable moral claims. (shrink)
I argue against various versions of the ‘attitude’ view of consent and of the ‘action’ view of consent: I show that neither an attitude nor an action is either necessary or sufficient for consent. I then put forward a different view of consent based on the idea that, given a legitimate epistemic context, absence of dissent is sufficient for consent: what is crucial is having access to dissent. In the latter part of the paper I illustrate my view of consent (...) by applying it to the case of consenting to being an organ donor. (shrink)
Ethics Without Intention tackles the questions raised by difficult moral dilemmas by providing a critical analysis of double effect and its most common ethical and political applications. The book discusses the philosophical distinction between intended harm and foreseen but unintended harm. This distinction, which, according to the doctrine of double effect, makes a difference to the moral justification of actions, is widely applied to some of the most controversial ethical and political questions of our time: collateral damages in wars and (...) acts of terrorism; palliative care, euthanasia, abortion, and embryo research; self-defence, suicide, and self-sacrifice. It is also crucial to the now notorious theoretical cases of the trolley problem and the knobe effect. -/- Di Nucci approaches the doctrine of double effect from four key directions: its historical origins, which can be traced further back than the classic attribution to Aquinas; its theoretical coherence, which is the subject of a lively contemporary debate in philosophy; its moral intuitiveness, which has always been taken for granted but has recently begun to be questioned; and finally its relevance to the difficult moral and political decisions of our time. An engaging and comprehensive introduction to the doctrine of double effect. (shrink)
This paper argues that we know the future by applying a recent solution of the problem of future contingents to knowledge attributions about the future. MacFarlane has put forward a version of assessment-context relativism that enables us to assign a truth value 'true' (or 'false') to future contingents such as There Will Be A Sea Battle Tomorrow. Here I argue that the same solution can be applied to knowledge attributions about the future by dismissing three disanalogies between the case of (...) future contingents and the case of knowledge attributions about the future. Therefore none of the traditional conditions for knowledge can be utilized to deny that we know the future, as I argue in the last section. (shrink)
On Don Marquis’s future of value account of the wrongness of killing, ‘what makes it wrong to kill those individuals we all believe it is wrong to kill, is that killing them deprives them of their future of value’. Marquis has recently argued for a narrow interpretation of his future of value account of the wrongness of killing and against the broad interpretation that I had put forward in response to Carson Strong. In this article I argue that the narrow (...) view is problematic because it violates some basic principles of equality and because it allows for some of the very killing that Marquis sets out to condemn; further, I argue that the chief reason why Marquis chooses the narrow view over the broad view – namely that the broad view would take the killing of some nonhuman animals to be also wrong – should rather be considered a welcome upshot of the broad view. (shrink)
Enhancement ist eine tolle Sache: dieser Begriff ist notwendigerweise positiv (ein bisschen wie der traditionelle Gottbegriff), so dass wenn eine Änderung keine richtige Verbesserung hervorbringt, es auch kein richtiges Enhancement gewesen ist: sehr praktisch. Wie könnte man unter diesen Umständen überhaupt gegen Enhancement sein? Beim Enhancement geht es nicht mal um das plausible aber nicht unumstrittene „mehr ist besser“; vielmehr geht es um das tautologische „besser ist besser“.
This paper argues against Appel's recent proposal—in this journal—that there is a fundamental human right to sexual pleasure, and that therefore the sexual pleasure of severely disabled people should be publicly funded—by thereby partially legalising prostitution. An alternative is proposed that does not need to pose a new positive human right; does not need public funding; does not need the legalisation of prostitution; and that would offer a better experience to the severely disabled: charitable non-profit organisations whose members would voluntarily (...) and freely provide sexual pleasure to the severely disabled. (shrink)
David Shoemaker has claimed that a binary approach to moral responsibility leaves out something important, namely instances of marginal agency, cases where agents seem to be eligible for some responsibility responses but not others. In this paper we endorse and extend Shoemaker’s approach by presenting and discussing one more case of marginal agency not yet covered by Shoemaker or in the other literature on moral responsibility. Our case is that of Kenneth Parks, a Canadian man who drove a long way (...) to his mother-in-law’s and killed her in a state of somnambulism. We support our claim about Parks’ marginal responsibility in three steps: we first deny that Parks acts involuntarily as traditionally claimed in the legal literature; we then propose to extend Shoemaker’s analysis of marginal responsibility based on quality of will so as to include two other dimensions: the moral status of the agent and the actual causal effects of their actions; finally, we distinguish Parks’ marginal responsibility from four other existing concepts: “tracing”, diminished responsibility, causal responsibility, and moral disapproval without responsibility. (shrink)
What sort of thing is the mind? And how can such a thing at the same time - belong to the natural world, - represent the world, - give rise to our subjective experience, - and ground human knowledge? Content, Consciousness and Perception is an edited collection, comprising eleven new contributions to the philosophy of mind, written by some of the most promising young philosophers in the UK and Ireland. The book is arranged into three parts. Part I, Concepts and (...) Mental Content, which begins with an attack by Hans-Johann Glock on the representational theory of mind, addresses the nature of mental representation. Part II, Consciousness and the Metaphysics of Mind, concerns the prospects for a naturalistic metaphysics of the conscious mind. Finally, Part III, entitled Perception, pursues the project of giving a satisfactory philosophical account of perceptual experience. The book begins with an introductory essay by the editors, which provides an overview of the state of contemporary philosophy of mind, locating the articles to follow within that context. The individual chapters of Content, Consciousness and Perception are professional contributions to their respective areas, of interest to any philosopher of mind. The volume as a whole is ideal for non-specialists and students interested in getting to grips with the state of the art in contemporary philosophy of mind. -/- Praise for the book: 'If you want to know what the next but one generation of philosophers of mind are thinking about now, *Content, Consciousness and Perception * is a terrific place to look. This wide-ranging international collection is relevant to psychologists and cognitive scientists as well as philosophers.' Tim Williamson Wykeham Professor of Logic at Oxford University. (shrink)
Increasingly, students and professionals within healthcare are faced with difficult questions and decisions: this book meet those ethical needs by providing an accessible guide to ethical theories and practices, which does not presuppose any background or training in philosophy.