Affirmative action programs remain controversial, I suspect, partly because the familiar arguments for and against them start from significantly different moral perspectives. Thus I want to step back for a while from the details of debate about particular programs and give attention to the moral viewpoints presupposed in different types of argument. My aim, more specifically, is to compare the “messages” expressed when affirmative action is defended from different moral perspectives. Exclusively forward-looking arguments, I suggest, tend to express the wrong (...) message, but this is also true of exclusively backward-looking arguments. However, a moral outlook that focuses on cross-temporal narrative values suggests a more appropriate account of what affirmative action should try to express. Assessment of the message, admittedly, is only one aspect of a complex issue, but it is a relatively neglected one. My discussion takes for granted some common-sense ideas about the communicative function of action, and so I begin with these. Actions, as the saying goes, often speak louder than words. There are times, too, when only actions can effectively communicate the message we want to convey and times when giving a message is a central part of the purpose of action. What our actions say to others depends largely, though not entirely, upon our avowed reasons for acting; and this is a matter for reflective decision, not something we discover later by looking back at what we did and its effects. The decision is important because “the same act” can have very different consequences, depending upon how we choose to justify it. (shrink)
This essay first distinguishes different questions regarding moral objectivity and relativism and then sketches a broadly Kantian position on two of these questions. First, how, if at all, can we derive, justify, or support specific moral principles and judgments from more basic moral standards and values? Second, how, if at all, can the basic standards such as my broadly Kantian perspective, be defended? Regarding the first question, the broadly Kantian position is that from ideas in Kant's later formulations of the (...) Categorical Imperative, especially human dignity and rational autonomous law-making, we can develop an appropriate moral perspective for identifying and supporting more specific principles. Both the deliberative perspective and the derivative principles can be viewed as “constructed,” but in different senses. In response to the second question, the essay examines two of Kant's strategies for defending his basic perspective and the important background of his arguments against previous moral theories. (shrink)
Epistemology, as I understand it, is a branch of philosophy especially concerned with general questions about how we can know various things or at least justify our beliefs about them. It questions what counts as evidence and what are reasonable sources of doubt. Traditionally, episte-mology focuses on pervasive and apparently basic assumptions covering a wide range of claims to knowledge or justified belief rather than very specific, practical puzzles. For example, traditional epistemologists ask “How do we know there are material (...) objects?” and not “How do you know which are the female beetles?” Similarly, moral epistemology, as I understand it, is concerned with general questions about how we can know or justify our beliefs about moral matters. Its focus, again, is on quite general, pervasive, and apparently basic assumptions about what counts as evidence, what are reasonable sources of doubt, and what are the appropriate procedures for justifying particular moral claims. (shrink)
Ancient moral philosophers, especially Aristotle and his followers, typically shared the assumption that ethics is primarily concerned with how to achieve the final end for human beings, a life of “happiness” or “human flourishing.” This final end was not a subjective condition, such as contentment or the satisfaction of our preferences, but a life that could be objectively determined to be appropriate to our nature as human beings. Character traits were treated as moral virtues because they contributed well toward this (...) ideal life, either as means to it or as constitutive aspects of it. Traits that tended to prevent a “happy” life were considered vices, even if they contributed to a life that was pleasant and what a person most wanted. The idea of “happiness” was central, then, in philosophical efforts to specify what we ought to do, what sort of persons we should try to become, and what sort of life a wise person would hope for. (shrink)
Philosophers have debated for millennia about whether moral requirements are always rational to follow. The background for these debates is often what I shall call “the self-interest model.” The guiding assumption here is that the basic demand of reason, to each person, is that one must, above all, advance one's self-interest. Alternatively, debate may be framed by a related, but significantly different, assumption: the idea that the basic rational requirement is to develop and pursue a set of personal ends in (...) an informed, efficient, and coherent way, whether one's choice of ends is based on self-interested desires or not. For brevity I refer to this as “the coherence-and-efficiency model.” Advocates of both models tend to think that, while it is sufficiently clear in principle what the rational thing to do is, what remains in doubt is whether it is always rational to be moral. They typically assume that morality is concerned, entirely or primarily, with our relations to others, especially with obligations that appear to require some sacrifice or compromise with the pursuit of self-interest. (shrink)
In this timely study, Dawes defends the methodological naturalism of the sciences. Though religions offer what appear to be explanations of various facts about the world, the scientist, as scientist, will not take such proposed explanations seriously. Even if no natural explanation were available, she will assume that one exists. Is this merely a sign of atheistic prejudice, as some critics suggest? Or are there good reasons to exclude from science explanations that invoke a supernatural agent? On the one hand, (...) Dawes concedes the bare possibility that talk of divine action could constitute a potential explanation of some state of affairs, while noting that the conditions under which this would be true are unlikely ever to be fulfilled. On the other hand, he argues that a proposed explanation of this kind would rate poorly, when measured against our usual standards of explanatory virtue. (shrink)
What, if anything, are we morally required to do on behalf of others besides respecting their rights? And why is such regard for others a reasonable moral requirement? These two questions have long been major concerns of ethical theory, but the answers that philosophers give tend to vary with their beliefs about human nature. More specifically, their answers typically depend on the position they take on a third-question: To what extent, if any, is it possible for us to act altruistically?
Defences of inference to the best explanation (IBE) frequently associate IBE with scientific realism, the idea that it is reasonable to believe our best scientific theories. I argue that this linkage is unfortunate. IBE does not warrant belief, since the fact that a theory is the best available explanation does not show it to be (even probably) true. What IBE does warrant is acceptance: taking a proposition as a premise in theoretical and/or practical reasoning. We ought to accept our best (...) scientific theories since they are the theories that are most likely to lead to the goal of science, which is that of knowledge. In support of this claim I invoke Bill Lycan's Panglossian reflections regarding Mother Nature.1. (shrink)
This book presents a comprehensive theory of consciousness. The initial chapter distinguishes six main forms of consciousness and sketches an account of each one. Later chapters focus on phenomenal consciousness, consciousness of, and introspective consciousness. In discussing phenomenal consciousness, Hill develops the representational theory of mind in new directions, arguing that all awareness involves representations, even awareness of qualitative states like pain. He then uses this view to undercut dualistic accounts of qualitative states. Other topics include visual awareness, visual (...) appearances, emotional qualia, and meta-cognitive processing. This important work will interest a wide readership of students and scholars in philosophy of mind and cognitive science. (shrink)
History and the modern sciences are characterized by what is sometimes called a methodological naturalism that disregards talk of divine agency. Some religious thinkers argue that this reflects a dogmatic materialism: a non-negotiable and a priori commitment to a materialist metaphysics. In response to this charge, I make a sharp distinction between procedural requirements and metaphysical commitments. The procedural requirement of history and the sciences—that proposed explanations appeal to publicly-accessible bodies of evidence—is non-negotiable, but has no metaphysical implications. The metaphysical (...) commitment is naturalistic, but is both a posteriori and provisional, arising from the fact that for more than 400 years no proposed theistic explanation has been shown capable of meeting the procedural requirement. I argue that there is nothing to prevent religious thinkers from seeking to overturn this metaphysically naturalistic stance. But in order to do so they would need to show that their proposed theistic explanations are the best available explanations of a range of phenomena. Until this has been done, the metaphysical naturalism of history and the sciences remains defensible. (shrink)
This is a book about sensory states and their apparent characteristics. It confronts a whole series of metaphysical and epistemological questions and presents an argument for type materialism: the view that sensory states are identical with the neural states with which they are correlated. According to type materialism, sensations are only possessed by human beings and members of related biological species; silicon-based androids cannot have sensations. The author rebuts several other rival theories, and explores a number of important issues: the (...) forms and limits of introspective awareness of sensations, the semantic properties of sensory concepts, knowledge of other minds, and unity of consciousness. The book is a significant contribution to the philosophy of mind, and has much to say to psychologists and cognitive scientists. (shrink)
This stimulating collection of essays in ethics eschews the simple exposition and refinement of abstract theories. Rather, the author focuses on everyday moral issues, often neglected by philosophers, and explores the deeper theoretical questions which they raise. Such issues are: Is it wrong to tell a lie to protect someone from a painful truth? Should one commit a lesser evil to prevent another from doing something worse? Can one be both autonomous and compassionate? Other topics discussed are servility, weakness of (...) will, suicide, obligations to oneself, snobbery, and environmental concerns. A feature of the collection is the contrast of Kantian and utilitarian answers to these problems. The essays are crisply and lucidly written and will appeal to both teachers and students of philosophy. (shrink)
Eight prominent historians and social scientists give their perspectives on the fate of Marxist approaches to history and the direction of the discipline in coming decades. The volume offers rigorous and approachable analysis from several political and intellectual positions and will be an important contribution to current historical debates.
Thomas Hill, a leading figure in the recent development of Kantian moral philosophy, presents a set of essays exploring the implications of basic Kantian ideas for practical issues. The first part of the book provides background in central themes in Kant's ethics; the second part discusses questions regarding human welfare; the third focuses on moral worth-the nature and grounds of moral assessment of persons as deserving esteem or blame. Hill shows moral, political, and social philosophers just how valuable (...) moral theory can be in addressing practical matters. (shrink)
Respect, Pluralism, and Justice is a series of essays which sketches a broadly Kantian framework for moral deliberation, and then uses it to address important social and political issues. Hill shows how Kantian theory can be developed to deal with questions about cultural diversity, punishment, political violence, responsibility for the consequences of wrongdoing, and state coercion in a pluralistic society.
Many philosophers, psychologists, and medical practitioners believe that killing is no worse than letting die on the basis of James Rachels's Bare-Difference Argument. I show that his argument is unsound. In particular, a premise of the argument is that his examples are as similar as is consistent with one being a case of killing and the other being a case of letting die. However, the subject who lets die has both the ability to kill and the ability to let die (...) while the subject who kills lacks the ability to let die. Modifying the latter example so that the killer has both abilities yields a pair of cases with morally different acts. The hypothesis that killing is worse than letting die is the best explanation of this difference. (shrink)
The most popular uniting theme in feminist peace literature grounds women's peace work in mothering. I argue if maternal arguments do not address the variety of relationships different races and classes of mothers have to institutional violence and/or the military, then the resulting peace politics can only draw incomplete conclusions about the relationships between maternal work/thinking and peace. To illustrate this I compare two models of mothering: Sara Ruddick's decription of "maternal practice" and Patricia Hill Collins's account of racial-ethnic (...) women's "motherwork.". (shrink)
The unit of metaphor isn’t always a complete sentence; often it is a single word or phrase. In such a case, the word or phrase in question makes a nonstandard, metaphorically determined contribution to the propositional content of the sentence in which it appears, a content whose other ingredients are determined in routine ways by routine recursive procedures of truth-conditional semantics. In this respect, metaphor belongs to semantics. In other respects, it doesn’t belong to semantics at all. To identify what (...) Yeats contributed to the content of his own sentence when he wrote. (shrink)
Consider normative properties and facts, such as facts consisting in something's being what you ought to do, or the property of being morally wrong. Normative naturalism is the view that normative properties and facts such as these exist, and that they are natural properties and facts. Some suspect, however, that normativity is incompatible with a wholly naturalistic worldview: that the normative couldn't be natural because it's somehow “just too different” from the natural. I critically examine recent forms of this “just (...) too different” objection to normative naturalism, with a view to making the debate accessible to a general philosophical audience. (shrink)
Why does God allow evil? One hypothesis is that God desires the existence and activity of free creatures but He was unable to create a world with such creatures and such activity without also allowing evil. If Molinism is true, what probability should be assigned to this hypothesis? Some philosophers claim that a low probability should be assigned because there are an infinite number of possible people and because we have no reason to suppose that such creatures will choose one (...) way rather than another. Arguments like this depend on the principle of indifference. But that principle is rejected by most philosophers of probability. Some philosophers claim that a low probability should be assigned because doing otherwise violates intuitions about freewill. But such arguments can be addressed through strategies commonly employed to defend theories with counterintuitive results across ethics and metaphysics. (shrink)
A review of the literature indicates that linear models are frequently used in situations in which decisions are made on the basis of multiple codable inputs. These models are sometimes used normatively to aid the decision maker, as a contrast with the decision maker in the clinical vs statistical controversy, to represent the decision maker "paramorphically" and to "bootstrap" the decision maker by replacing him with his representation. Examination of the contexts in which linear models have been successfully employed indicates (...) that the contexts have the following structural characteristics in common: each input variable has a conditionally monotone relationship with the output; there is error of measurement; and deviations from optimal weighting do not make much practical difference. These characteristics ensure the success of linear models, which are so appropriate in such contexts that random linear models may perform quite well. 4 examples involving the prediction of such codable output variables as GPA and psychiatric diagnosis are analyzed in detail. In all 4 examples, random linear models yield predictions that are superior to those of human judges. (shrink)
I defend the relatively orthodox view that reasons for action are premises in good practical reasoning, against recent counterexamples that suggest that, like “government house” moral justifications, some reasons are to be ignored in deliberation. I also explain, positively, what is right about the orthodoxy. Unless reasons are premises in good practical reasoning, reasons cannot be normative in the way they are usually taken to be, and relatedly, are unfit to play certain familiar theoretical and related everyday roles that give (...) many appeals to reasons their distinctive point. (shrink)
The mesostriatal dopamine system is prominently implicated in model-free reinforcement learning, with fMRI BOLD signals in ventral striatum notably covarying with model-free prediction errors. However, latent learning and devaluation studies show that behavior also shows hallmarks of model-based planning, and the interaction between model-based and model-free values, prediction errors, and preferences is underexplored. We designed a multistep decision task in which model-based and model-free influences on human choice behavior could be distinguished. By showing that choices reflected both influences we could (...) then test the purity of the ventral striatal BOLD signal as a model-free report. Contrary to expectations, the signal reflected both model-free and model-based predictions in proportions matching those that best explained choice behavior. These results challenge the notion of a separate model-free learner and suggest a more integrated computational architecture for high-level human decision-making. (shrink)
Proper linear models are those in which predictor variables are given weights such that the resulting linear composite optimally predicts some criterion of interest; examples of proper linear models are standard regression analysis, discriminant function analysis, and ridge regression analysis. Research summarized in P. Meehl's book on clinical vs statistical prediction and research stimulated in part by that book indicate that when a numerical criterion variable is to be predicted from numerical predictor variables, proper linear models outperform clinical intuition. Improper (...) linear models are those in which the weights of the predictor variables are obtained by some nonoptimal method. The present article presents evidence that even such improper linear models are superior to clinical intuition when predicting a numerical criterion from numerical predictors. In fact, unit weighting is quite robust for making such predictions. The application of unit weights to decide what bullet the Denver Police Department should use is described; some technical, psychological, and ethical resistances to using linear models in making social decisions are considered; and arguments that could weaken these resistances are presented. (shrink)
The present paper has two aims. First, we reconstruct the core of molecular genetics (MOLGEN) i.e. the array of theoretical assumptions which underly all or most applications of molecular genetics. Second, we define a reduction relation p reducing character-factor genetics (CFG) to MOLGEN. That p is a reduction relation is proved by establishing that p satisfies the two major conditions which are discussed in the literature as necessary or ‘essential’ for reduction. This substantiates the claim that molecular genetics is ‘better (...) than’ or ‘more progressive-than’ character-factor genetics-which is commonly held true today. The paper continues, and relies heavily on the definitions given in part 1 (Balzer and Dawe ). The enumeration of the definitions and sections in the present paper continues that of part 1. References to definitions with numbers smaller than 8 and to sections number I-4 always refer to part 1. (shrink)
There is an important family of semantic notions that we apply to thoughts and to the conceptual constituents of thoughts - as when we say that the thought that the Universe is expanding is true. Thought and World presents a theory of the content of such notions. The theory is largely deflationary in spirit, in the sense that it represents a broad range of semantic notions - including the concept of truth - as being entirely free from substantive metaphysical and (...) empirical presuppositions. At the same time, however, it takes seriously and seeks to explain the intuition that there is a metaphysically or empirically 'deep' relation linking thoughts to reality. Thus, the theory represents a kind of compromise between deflationism and versions of the correspondence theory of truth. This book will appeal to students and professionals interested in the philosophy of logic and language. (shrink)
Kevin Hill presents a highly original study of Nietzsche's thought, the first book to examine in detail his debt to the work of Kant. Hill argues that Nietzsche is a systematic philosopher who knew Kant far better than is commonly thought, and that he can only be properly understood in relation to him. Nietzsche's Critiques will be of great value to scholars and students with interests in either of these philosophical giants, or in the history of ideas generally.
Constitutivists attempt to ground reasons for action in the constitutive features of agency. Central to Enoch's famous “shmagency” objection to constitutivism is the idea that constitutivists should worry about the question whether there is reason to be an agent rather than a “shmagent”-where a shmagent is a non-agent being who lacks the constitutive features of agency, but is otherwise as similar to agents as can be. I explain why constitutivism isn’t in trouble even if there’s no reason to be an (...) agent. The nature of agency can in principle ground authoritative reasons for agents to act, even if there isn’t, in addition, a reason to be an agent. Relatedly, I explain why a prominent strand in previous responses to Enoch is misleading in focusing on whether the request for reasons to be an agent, as posed by the shmagent, is even possible or intelligible. Even if the shmagent’s request for reasons is possible and intelligible-as I argue it is-this doesn’t matter for constitutivists, for the request is misguided: constitutivists need no reasons to be an agent. (shrink)