Ordinary moral thought often commits what social psychologists call 'the fundamental attribution error '. This is the error of ignoring situational factors and overconfidently assuming that distinctive behaviour or patterns of behaviour are due to an agent's distinctive character traits. In fact, there is no evidence that people have character traits in the relevant sense. Since attribution of character traits leads to much evil, we should try to educate ourselves and others to stop doing it.
Change in View offers an entirely original approach to the philosophical study of reasoning by identifying principles of reasoning with principles for revising one's beliefs and intentions and not with principles of logic. This crucial observation leads to a number of important and interesting consequences that impinge on psychology and artificial intelligence as well as on various branches of philosophy, from epistemology to ethics and action theory. Gilbert Harman is Professor of Philosophy at Princeton University. A Bradford Book.
CRS says that the meanings of expressions of a language or other symbol system or the contents of mental states are determined and explained by the way symbols are used in thinking. According to CRS one.
Explaining Value is a selection of the best of Gilbert Harman's shorter writings in moral philosophy. The thirteen essays are divided into four sections, which focus in turn on moral relativism, values and valuing, character traits and virtue ethics, and ways of explaining aspects of morality. Harman's distinctive approach to moral philosophy has provoked much interest; this volume offers a fascinating conspectus of his most important work in the area.
The non-identity problem concerns actions that affect who exists in the future. If such an action is performed, certain people will exist in the future who would not otherwise have existed: they are not identical to any of the people who would have existed if the action had not been performed. Some of these actions seem to be wrong, and they seem to be wrong in virtue of harming the very future individuals whose existence is dependent on their having been (...) performed. The problem arises when it is argued that the actions do not harm these people—because the actions do not make them worse off than they would otherwise be.1 Consider: Radioactive Waste Policy: We are trying to decide whether to adopt a permissive radioactive waste policy. This policy would be less inconvenient to us than our existing practices. If we enact the newly-proposed policy, then we will cause there to be radioactive pollution that will cause illness and suffering. However, the policy will have such significant effects on public policy and industry functioning, that different people will exist in the future depending on whether we enact the policy. Two things should be emphasized. First, the illness and suffering caused will be very serious: deformed babies, children with burns from acid rain, and adults dying young from cancer. Second, the policy will affect who will exist in the future because our present practices invade people’s everyday lives, for example by affecting recycling practices in the home; these practices will change if the policy is adopted. Furthermore, whether we adopt the policy will determine which plants are built where, what jobs are available, and what trucks are on the road. These effects will create small differences in everyone’s lives which ultimately affect who meets whom and who conceives with whom, or at least when people conceive. This affects who exists in the future. (shrink)
In this important new collection, Gilbert Harman presents a selection of fifteen interconnected essays on fundamental issues at the center of analytic philosophy. The book opens with a group of four essays discussing basic principles of reasoning and rationality. The next three essays argue against the once popular idea that certain claims are true and knowable by virtue of meaning. In the third group of essays Harman presents his own view of meaning and the possibility of thinking in language The (...) final three essays investigate the nature of mind, developing further the themes already set out. Reasoning, Meaning, and Mind offers an integrated presentation of this rich and influential body of work. which Harman has developed over thirty years. (shrink)
Solomon argues that, although recent research in social psychology has important implications for business ethics, it doesnot undermine an approach that stresses virtue ethics. However, he underestimates the empirical threat to virtue ethics, and his a prioriclaim that empirical research cannot overturn our ordinary moral psychology is overstated. His appeal to seemingly obvious differencesin character traits between people simply illustrates the fundamental attribution error. His suggestion that the Milgram and Darley andBatson experiments have to do with such character traits as (...) obedience and punctuality cannot help to explain the relevant differencesin the way people behave in different situations. His appeal to personality theory fails, because, as an intellectual academic discipline,personality theory is in shambles, mainly because it has been concerned with conceptions of personality rather than with what is trueabout personality. Solomon’s rejection of Doris’s claims about the fragmentation of character is at odds with the received view in socialpsychology. Finally, he is mistaken to think that rejecting virtue ethics implies rejecting free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
Non-moral ignorance can exculpate: if Anne spoons cyanide into Bill's coffee, but thinks she is spooning sugar, then Anne may be blameless for poisoning Bill. Gideon Rosen argues that moral ignorance can also exculpate: if one does not believe that one's action is wrong, and one has not mismanaged one's beliefs, then one is blameless for acting wrongly. On his view, many apparently blameworthy actions are blameless. I discuss several objections to Rosen. I then propose an alternative view on which (...) many agents who act wrongly are blameworthy despite believing they are acting morally permissibly, and despite not having mismanaged their moral beliefs.1. (shrink)
This volume is a direct result of a conference held at Princeton University to honor George A. Miller, an extraordinary psychologist. A distinguished panel of speakers from various disciplines -- psychology, philosophy, neuroscience and artificial intelligence -- were challenged to respond to Dr. Miller's query: "What has happened to cognition? In other words, what has the past 30 years contributed to our understanding of the mind? Do we really know anything that wasn't already clear to William James?" Each participant tried (...) to stand back a little from his or her most recent work, but to address the general question from his or her particular standpoint. The chapters in the present volume derive from that occasion. (shrink)
In _Reliable Reasoning_, Gilbert Harman and Sanjeev Kulkarni -- a philosopher and an engineer -- argue that philosophy and cognitive science can benefit from statistical learning theory, the theory that lies behind recent advances in machine learning. The philosophical problem of induction, for example, is in part about the reliability of inductive reasoning, where the reliability of a method is measured by its statistically expected percentage of errors -- a central topic in SLT. After discussing philosophical attempts to evade the (...) problem of induction, Harman and Kulkarni provide an admirably clear account of the basic framework of SLT and its implications for inductive reasoning. They explain the Vapnik-Chervonenkis dimension of a set of hypotheses and distinguish two kinds of inductive reasoning. The authors discuss various topics in machine learning, including nearest-neighbor methods, neural networks, and support vector machines. Finally, they describe transductive reasoning and suggest possible new models of human reasoning suggested by developments in SLT. (shrink)
Gilbert harman has recently proposed a version of moral relativism which is markedly clearer than any earlier statement of that position. Besides consistency and clarity, Harman claims for his thesis a number of positive virtues. The thesis, He argues, "helps explain otherwise puzzling aspects of our moral views"; it accounts for "a previously unnoticed distinction between inner and non-Inner judgments"' and it allows us to meet traditional objections to related theories. In this paper, I argue that none of these alleged (...) virtues is adequately documented by harman's arguments. (shrink)
Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) influenced the work of such diverse thinkers as Sartre and Derrida. In Tool-Being, Graham Harman departs from the prevailing linguistic approach to analytic and continental philosophy in favor of Heideggerian object-oriented research into the secret contours of objects. Written in a colorful style, it will be of interest to anyone open to new trends in present-day philosophy.
The current fashions in both analytic and continental philosophy are staunchly anti-metaphysical. There is supposedly no way to talk about the world itself — the philosopher is confined to antiseptic discussions of language, or of other modes of human access to the world. In this provocative work, Graham Harman expands the discussion from his previous book, Tool-Being, arguing for a theory of "the carpentry of things" — a more accessible way of viewing the world that incorporates ideas from Husserl, Levinas, (...) Lingis, and other philosophers. (shrink)
Prince of Networks is the first treatment of Bruno Latour specifically as a philosopher. It has been eagerly awaited by readers of both Latour and Harman since their public discussion at the London School of Economics in February 2008. Part One covers four key works that display Latour’s underrated contributions to metaphysics: Irreductions, Science in Action, We Have Never Been Modern, and Pandora’s Hope. Harman contends that Latour is one of the central figures of contemporary philosophy, with a highly original (...) ontology centered in four key concepts: actants, irreduction, translation, and alliance. In Part Two, Harman summarizes Latour’s most important philosophical insights, including his status as the first ‘secular occasionalist.’ The problem of translation between entities is no longer solved by the fiat of God (Malebranche) or habit (Hume), but by local mediators. Working from his own ‘object-oriented’ perspective, Harman also criticizes the Latourian focus on the relational character of actors at the expense of their cryptic autonomous reality. This book forms a remarkable interface between Latour’s Actor-Network Theory and the Speculative Realism of Harman and his confederates. It will be of interest to anyone concerned with the emergence of new trends in the humanities following the long postmodernist interval. (shrink)
The first part of this article discusses recent skepticism about character traits. The second describes various forms of virtue ethics as reactions to such skepticism. The philosopher J.-P. Sartre argued in the 1940s that character traits are pretenses, a view that the sociologist E. Goffman elaborated in the 1950s. Since then social psychologists have shown that attributions of character traits tend to be inaccurate through the ignoring of situational factors. (Personality psychology has tended to concentrate on people's conceptions of personality (...) and character rather than on the accuracy of these conceptions). Similarly, the political theorist R. Hardin has argued for situational explanations of bloody social disputes in the former Yugoslavia and in Africa, rather than explanations in terms of ethnic hatred for example. A version of virtue ethics might identify virtues as characteristics of acts rather than character traits, as traits consisting in actual regularities in behavior, or as robust dispositions that would manifest themselves also in counterfactual situations. (shrink)
Continental philosophy has entered a new period of ferment. The long deconstructionist era was followed with a period dominated by Deleuze, which has in turn evolved into a new situation still difficult to define. However, one common thread running through the new brand of continental positions is a renewed attention to materialist and realist options in philosophy. Among the leaders of the established generation, this new focus takes numerous forms. It might be hard to find many shared positions in the (...) writings of Badiou, DeLanda, Laruelle, Latour, Stengers, and Žižek, but what is missing from their positions is an obsession with the critique of written texts. All of them elaborate a positive ontology, despite the incompatibility of their results. Meanwhile, the new generation of continental thinkers is pushing these trends still further, as seen in currents ranging from transcendental materialism to the London-based speculative realism movement to new revivals of Derrida. As indicated by the title The Speculative Turn, the new currents of continental philosophy depart from the text-centered hermeneutic models of the past and engage in daring speculations about the nature of reality itself. This anthology assembles authors, of several generations and numerous nationalities, who will be at the centre of debate in continental philosophy for decades to come. (shrink)
John Hawthorne’s marvelous book contains a wealth of arguments and insights based on an impressive knowledge and understanding of contemporary discussion. We can address only a small aspect of the topic. In particular, we will offer our own answers to two questions about knowledge that he discusses.
These writings chart Harman's rise from Chicago sportswriter to co-founder of one of Europe's most promising philosophical movements: Speculative Realism. In 1997, Graham Harman was an obscure graduate student covering Chicago sporting events for a California website. Unpublished in philosophy at the time, he was already a popular conference speaker on Heidegger and related themes. Little more than a decade later, as the author of stimulating and highly visible books on continental philosophy, he was Associate Vice Provost for Research at (...) the American University in Cairo, and a key member of the Speculative Realist movement along with Ray Brassier, Iain Hamilton Grant, and Quentin Meillassoux. This fascinating collection of eleven essays and lectures from 1997-2009, anchored by Harman's rebellious transformation of Heideggerian philosophy, show the evolution of his object-oriented metaphysics from its early days into an increasingly developed philosophical position. Each chapter is preceded by Harman's delightful and witty scene-setting commentary. (shrink)
Quentin Meillassoux has been described as the most rapidly prominent French philosopher in the Anglophone world since Jacques Derrida in the 1960s. With the publication of After Finitude (2006), this daring protege of Alain Badiou became one of the world's most visible younger thinkers. In this book, his fellow Speculative Realist, Graham Harman, assesses Meillassoux's publications in English so far. Also included are an insightful interview with Meillassoux and first-time translations of excerpts from L'Inexistence divine (The Divine Inexistence), his famous (...) but still unpublished major book. (shrink)
In this book the metaphysical system of Graham Harman is presented in lucid form, aided by helpful diagrams. In Chapter 1, Harman gives his most forceful critique to date of philosophies that reject objects as a primary reality. All such rejections are tainted by either an undermining or overmining approach to objects. In Chapters 2 and 3, he reviews his concepts of sensual and real objects. In the process, he attacks the prestige normally granted to philosophies of human access, which (...) Harman links for the first time to the already discredited Menos Paradox. In Chapters 4 through 7, Harman brings the reader up to speed on his interpretation of Heidegger, which culminates in a fourfold structure of objects linked by indirect causation. In Chapter 8, he speculates on the implications of this theory for the debate over panpsychism, which Harman both embraces and rejects. In Chapters 9 and 10, he introduces the term ontography as the study of the different possible permutations of objects and qualities, which he simplifies with easily remembered terminology drawn from standard playing cards. (shrink)
Many people face a problem about potentiality: their moral beliefs appear to dictate inconsistent views about the signiﬁcance of the potentiality to become a healthy adult. Brieﬂy, the problem arises as follows. Consider the following two claims. First, both human babies and cats have moral status, but harms to babies matter more, morally, than similar harms to cats. Second, early human embryos lack moral status. It appears that the ﬁrst claim can only be true if human babies have more moral (...) status than cats. Among the properties that determine moral status, human babies have no properties other than their potentiality that could explain their having more moral status than cats. So human babies’ potentiality to become adult persons must explain their having more moral status than cats. But then potentiality must raise moral status generally. So early human embryos must have some moral status. It appears that the view that must underlie the ﬁrst claim implies that the second claim is false. (shrink)
Statistical Learning Theory (e.g., Hastie et al., 2001; Vapnik, 1998, 2000, 2006) is the basic theory behind contemporary machine learning and data-mining. We suggest that the theory provides an excellent framework for philosophical thinking about inductive inference.
According to moral relativism, there is not a single true morality. There are a variety of possible moralities or moral frames of reference, and whether something is morally right or wrong, good or bad, just or unjust, etc. is a relative matter—relative to one or another morality or moral frame of reference. Something can be morally right relative to one moral frame of reference and morally wrong relative to another. It is useful to compare moral relativism to other relativisms. One (...) possible comparison is with motion relativism. There is no such thing as absolute motion or absolute rest. Whether something is moving or at rest is relative to a spatio-temporal frame of reference. Something may be at rest in one frame of reference and moving in another. There is no such thing as absolute motion and absolute rest, but we can make do with relative motion and rest. Similarly, moral relativism is the view that, although there is no such thing as absolute right and wrong, we can make do with relative right and wrong. (shrink)
The problem of induction is sometimes motivated via a comparison between rules of induction and rules of deduction. Valid deductive rules are necessarily truth preserving, while inductive rules are not.
Part One addresses the question whether the fact that some persons love something, worship it, or deeply care about it, can endow moral status on that thing. I argue that the answer is “no.” While some cases lend great plausibility to the view that love or worship can endow moral status, there are other cases in which love or worship clearly fails to endow moral status. Furthermore, there is no principled way to distinguish these two types of cases, so we (...) must conclude that love or worship never endow moral status. Part Two takes up the hard question of why we have to be careful of things that others love or worship, given that the things do not thereby have moral status. I argue that it is sometimes bad for those who love or worship the things if we mistreat them. I develop an account of when love and worship, and person projects more generally, succeed in expanding the scope of what counts as good or bad for the person engaged in the project. (shrink)
Does it ever happen that there are things we shouldn’t do and the reasons we shouldn’t do them are moral reasons, yet doing them is not morally wrong? Surprisingly, yes. I argue for a category that has not been recognized by moral theorists: morally permissible moral mistakes. Sometimes a supererogatory action is the thing a person should do; in failing to act, one makes a morally permissible moral mistake. Recognizing the category of morally permissible moral mistakes solves a puzzle about (...) supererogation, expands the universe of possible moral views, and shows some apparently inconsistent moral views to be consistent. (shrink)
I begin by summarizing the first two chapters of (Harman 1986). The first chapter stresses the importance of not confusing inference with implication and of not confusing reasoning with the sort of argument studied in deductive logic. Inference and reasoning are psychological events or processes that can be done more or less well. The sort of implication and argument studied in deductive logic have to do with relations among propositions and with structures of propositions distinguished into premises, intermediate steps, and (...) conclusion. Deductive logic is not a particular psychological subject and is not a particularly normative subject, although one might attempt to develop a logic of belief or a deontic logic, for example. (shrink)