Since the 1970s Gary Watson has published a series of brilliant and highly influential essays on human action, examining such questions as: in what ways are we free and not free, rational and irrational, responsible or not for what we do? Moral philosophers and philosophers of action will welcome this collection, representing one of the most important bodies of work in the field.
In the subsequent pages, I want to develop a distinction between wanting and valuing which will enable the familiar view of freedom to make sense of the notion of an unfree action. The contention will be that, in the case of actions that are unfree, the agent is unable to get what he most wants, or values, and this inability is due to his own "motivational system." In this case the obstruction to the action that he most wants to do (...) is his own will. It is in this respect that the action is unfree: the agent is obstructed in and by the very performance of the action. (shrink)
The new edition of this highly successful text will once again provide the ideal introduction to free will. This volume brings together some of the most influential contributions to the topic of free will during the past 50 years, as well as some notable recent work.
My concern in this paper will be to explore and develop a version of nonsocratic skepticism about weakness of will. In my view, socratism is incorrect, but like Socrates, I think that the common understanding of weakness of will raises serious problems. Contrary to socratism, it is possible for a person knowingly to act contrary to his or her better judgment. But this description does not exhaust the common view of weakness. Also implicit in this view is the belief that (...) actions which are contrary to one's better judgment are free in the sense that the agent could have done otherwise. To take seriously the possibility of acting contrary to one's better judgment is at the same time to raise problems about the distinction between weakness and compulsion. I argue that the common view, according to which the differentiating feature is that the weak are able to conform their behavior to their practical judgments, is unjustified. Instead, I have proposed that weakness of will involves the failure to develop certain normal capacities of self-control, whereas compulsion involves desires which even the possession of such capacities would not enable one to resist. (shrink)
This essay is about the difficulties of doing criminal justice in the context of severe social injustice. Having been marginalized as citizens of the larger community, those who are victims of severe social injustice are understandably alienated from the dominant political institutions, and, not unreasonably, disrespect their authority, including that of the criminal law. The failure of equal treatment and protection and the absence of anything like fair and decent life prospects for the members of the marginalized populations erode the (...) basis for its allegiance to demands of the political community. The criminal law thus occupies a problematic normative position with respect to lawbreakers in this population; in many cases, it finds itself in the position of convicting them for crimes for which the political community itself bears some significant responsibility. The attempt to administer criminal justice therefore faces a serious moral predicament; on the one hand, criminal law has a right and an.. (shrink)
Standard treatments of responsibility have been preoccupied with issues of blame and punishment, and concerns about free will. In contrast, Raz is concerned with problems about responsibility that arise from the “puzzle of moral luck,” puzzles that lead to misguided skepticism about negligence. We are responsible not only for conduct that is successfully guided by what we take to be our reasons for action, but also for misexercises of our rational capacities that escape our rational control. To deny this is (...) to lose sight of the ways “moral luck” is an inescapable feature of our agential engagement in the world. The present essay attempts to set out Raz’s argument as sympathetically as possible. Raz’s shift of focus is a powerful counter to current tendencies and points us in new and promising directions. Nonetheless, as it stands, it may just relocate skepticism about negligence to a different place. (shrink)
Philosophical discussions of psychopathy have been framed primarily in terms of psychopaths' conspicuous moral shortcomings. But despite their vaunted ‘egocentricity’, another prominent trait in the standard psychopathic profile is a characteristic failure to look after themselves; in an important way, psychopaths appear to be as careless of themselves as they are of others. Assuming that the standard profile is largely correct, the question is how these moral and prudential deficits are related. Are they linked in some non‐accidental way? This paper (...) is a sympathetic exploration and articulation of the hypothesis that psychopathy involves an incapacity for critical distance from from one's own impulses and inclinations, an incapacity that would explain the lack of both prudential and moral regard. (shrink)
The first part of the essay explores the relations between the will and practical reason or judgement. The second part takes up decision in the realm of belief, i.e. deciding that such and such is so. This phenomenon raises two questions. Since we decide that as well as to, should we speak of a doxastic will? Secondly, should we regard ourselves as active in the formation of our judgements as in the formation of our intentions? The author's answer to these (...) two further questions is ‘no’ and ‘yes’, respectively: the boundaries between the active and the passive are not marked by the will. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss two kinds of attempts to qualify incompatibilist and compatibilist conceptions of freedom to avoid what have been thought to be incredible commitments of these rival accounts. One attempt -- which I call soft libertarianism -- is represented by Robert Kane''s work. It hopes to defend an incompatibilist conception of freedom without the apparently difficult metaphysical costs traditionally incurred by these views. On the other hand, in response to what I call the robot objection (that if (...) compatibilism is true, human beings could be the products of design), some compatibilists are tempted to soften their position by placing restrictions on the origins of agency. I argue that both of these attempts are misguided. Hard libertarianism and hard compatibilism are the only theoretical options. (shrink)
We re-examine the construct of Moral Hypocrisy from the perspective of normative self-interest. Arguing that some degree of self-interest is culturally acceptable and indeed expected, we postulate that a pattern of behavior is more indicative of moral hypocrisy than a single action. Contrary to previous findings, our results indicate that a significant majority of subjects (N = 136) exhibited fair behavior, and that ideals of caring and fairness, when measured in context of the scenario, were predictive of those behaviors. Moreover, (...) measures of Individualism/Collectivism appear more predictive of self-interested behavior than out-of-context responses to moral ideals. Implications for research and practice are discussed. (shrink)
We test conformity-related values applying the value-pragmatics hypothesis by evaluating how personal values related to compliance moderate the relationships between situational factors and unethical decisions. We examine the direct and indirect effects of the values of traditionalism, conformity, and stimulation, as they combine with the situational factors of rewards and punishments in the person–situation interaction model. We find strong support for the value-pragmatics view of ethical decision making and further build support for the person–situation interaction model.
We review both the aspects of values-related research that complicate ideations of what we ought to do, as well as the psychological impediments to forming beliefs about the way things are. We find that more traditional moral theories are without solid empirical footing in the psychology of human values. Consequently, we revise the notion of values to align with their socially symbolic utility in self-affirmation and reformulate our understandings of moral agency to allow for the practicalities of context, circumstance, and (...) connectedness. We close by discussing the research and practical implications for these revisions. (shrink)
In this paper our aim is to augment the value-congruency literature by demonstrating the dynamics of business value structures. The relationship between cognitive discomforts and value restructuring is examined by applying self-affirmation theory. Subjects (N = 115) were randomly assigned either to the treatment group (n = 69) or control group (n = 46). Those subjects in the treatment group were tasked with deciding between two different organizational re-structuring options that involved downsizing. The values of job-entitlement, and obligations to the (...) disadvantaged shifted in emphasis in a direction that legitimated and justified the lay-off decision. The value of economic nationalism remained unchanged. Implications for research and practice are discussed. (shrink)
Living organisms are the ultimate survivalists, having evolved phenotypes with unprecedented adaptability, ingenuity, resourcefulness, and versatility compared to human technology. To harness these properties, functional descriptions and design principles from all sources of biodiversity information must be collated − including the hundreds of thousands of possible survival features manifest in natural history museum collections, which represent 12% of total global biodiversity. This requires a consortium of expert biologists from a range of disciplines to convert the observations, data, and hypotheses into (...) the language of engineering. We hope to unite multidisciplinary biologists and natural history museum scientists to maximize the coverage of observations, descriptions, and hypotheses relating to adaptation and function across biodiversity, to make it technologically useful. This is to be achieved by developments in meta‐ taxonomic classification, phylogenetics, systematics, biological materials research, structure and morphological characterizations, and ecological data gathering from the collections − the aim being to identify and catalogue features essential for good biomimetic design. (shrink)
We re-examine the construct of Moral Hypocrisy from the perspective of normative self-interest. Arguing that some degree of self-interest is culturally acceptable and indeed expected, we postulate that a pattern of behavior is more indicative of moral hypocrisy than a single action. Contrary to previous findings, our results indicate that a significant majority of subjects exhibited fair behavior, and that ideals of caring and fairness, when measured in context of the scenario, were predictive of those behaviors. Moreover, measures of Individualism/Collectivism (...) appear more predictive of self-interested behavior than out-of-context responses to moral ideals. Implications for research and practice are discussed. (shrink)
There is no general agreement among scholars that Aristotle had a unified concept of phantasia. That is evident from the most cursory glance through the literature. Freudenthal speaks of the contradictions into which Aristotle seems to fall in his remarks about phantasia, and explains the contradictions as due to the border position which phantasia occupies between Wahrnehmung and thinking. Ross, in Aristotle , p. 143, talks of passages on phantasia in De Anima 3. 3 which constitute ‘a reversal of his (...) doctrine of sensation’ and perhaps do not ‘represent his deliberate view’. This is a serious state of affairs, since De Anima 3. 3 is Aristotle’s main discussion of phantasia. Of passages on phantasia, appearances and images in De Anima 3. 3, Hamlyn says: ‘There is clearly little consistency here’. Even Schofield, who is more optimistic about saving the unity of Aristotle’s concept than the last two scholars, grants that ‘some of the inconsistencies of Aristotle’s account seem more than merely apparent’.1 He thinks of Aristotle’s phantasia as a ‘loose-knit, family concept’ . My purpose here is to suggest that Aristotle is more consistent in his use of phantasia than his critics will allow him to be. The translation of the term as imagination frequently adds unnecessarily to the confusion, so I shall avoid it and use transliteration instead. (shrink)
This paper is a study of the role of happiness in Kant’s theory. I begin by noting two recurrent characterizations of happiness by Kant, and discuss their relationship. Then I take up the general issue of the relation of happiness to moral virtue. I show that, for Kant, the antagonists are not morality and happiness, but the moral point of view and “self-conceit”, the inveterate tendency to elevate the concern for contentment or satisfaction of inclination to the status of a (...) supreme principle. Indeed, I try to show that there are deep positive connections between happiness and moral virtue because of the distinctive content of the moral life and of the indeterminacy of happiness. The capacity to unite one’s ends into a “system” in accordance with reason requires the moral point of view. Not only is morality not imprudent, but by itself prudence alone gives no definite principle of organization.The second issue I investigate is Kant’s theory of the non-moral or cond itional good. Since the Highest (complete) Good for Kant consists of perfect virtue and happiness, it follows that all non-moral goods have value only because they are components or conditions of happiness. This is a strong and dubious position. Given Kant’s account(s) of happiness, it entails that nothing that fails to affect contentment or the satisfaction of inclination has non-moral value. This denies the possibility of non-moral ideas of excel ence that could compete with both morality and happiness for human allegiance. Consequently, although Kant is often thought to give too little importance to happiness in human life, arguably he accords it too much value. (shrink)
This rich and wide-ranging book defends a “tripartite theory” of responsibility. The general thesis is that responsibility-responses fall into three overlapping categories, each of which presumes distinct agential capacities. On the basis of a close examination of various sorts of marginal agency, these capacities are said to be independent and ground what deserves to be called distinct types or “faces” of responsibility. The first face, attributability, depends on a capacity for character, answerability on a capacity for judgment, and accountability on (...) a capacity for “regard”. This commentary questions the theory’s account of the relations among the types of responsibility, and its attempt to ground responsibility-responses in qualities of “will”. (shrink)