Metaethics, understood as a distinct branch of ethics, is often traced to G. E. Moore's 1903 classic, Principia Ethica. Whereas normative ethics is concerned to answer first order moral questions about what is good and bad, right and wrong, metaethics is concerned to answer second order non-moral questions about the semantics, metaphysics, and epistemology of moral thought and discourse. Moore has continued to exert a powerful influence, and the sixteen essays here represent the most up-to-date work in metaethics after, and (...) in some cases directly inspired by, the work of Moore. (shrink)
It has often been thought that our knowledge of ourselves is _different_ from, perhaps in some sense _better_ than, our knowledge of things other than ourselves. Indeed, there is a thriving research area in epistemology dedicated to seeking an account of self-knowledge that would articulate and explain its difference from, and superiority over, other knowledge. Such an account would thus illuminate the descriptive and normative difference between self-knowledge and other knowledge.<sup>1</sup> At the same time, self- knowledge has also encountered its (...) share of skeptics – philosophers who refuse to accord it any descriptive, let alone normative, distinction. In this paper, we argue that there is at least one _species_ of self-knowledge that is different from, and better than, other knowledge. It is a specific kind of knowledge of one’s concurrent phenomenal experiences. Call knowledge of one’s own phenomenal experiences _phenomenal knowledge_. Our claim is that some (though not all) phenomenal knowledge is different from, and better than, non-phenomenal knowledge. In other. (shrink)
There have been times in the history of ethical theory, especially in this century, when moral realism was down, but it was never out. The appeal of this doctrine for many moral philosophers is apparently so strong that there are always supporters in its corner who seek to resuscitate the view. The attraction is obvious: moral realism purports to provide a precious philosophical good, viz., objectivity and all that this involves, including right answers to moral questions, and the possibility of (...) knowing those answers. In the last decade, moral realism has re-entered the philosophical ring in powerful-looking naturalistic form. ln this paper we provide a dialectical overview: we situate the new wave position itself, and also our objections to it, in the context of the evolving program of philosophical naturalism in 20th century analytic philosophy. We seek to show that although this new contender might initially look like championship material, it succumbs to punches surprisingly similar to those that knocked out the old-fashioned versions of naturalist moral realism. (shrink)
We argue that the letter of the Extended Mind hypothesis can be accommodated by a strongly internalist, broadly Cartesian conception of mind. The argument turns centrally on an unusual but highly plausible view on the mark of the mental.
J. L. Mackie argued that if there were objective moral properties or facts, then the supervenience relation linking the nonmoral to the moral would be metaphysically queer. Moral realists reply that objective supervenience relations are ubiquitous according to contemporary versions of metaphysical naturalism and, hence, that there is nothing especially queer about moral supervenience. In this paper we revive Mackie's challenge to moral realism. We argue: (i) that objective supervenience relations of any kind, moral or otherwise, should be explainable rather (...) than sui generis; (ii) that this explanatory burden can be successfully met vis-à-vis the supervenience of the mental upon the physical, and in other related cases; and (iii) that the burden cannot be met for (putative) objective moral supervenience relations. (shrink)
Henderson and Horgan set out a broad new approach to epistemology. They defend the roles of the a priori and conceptual analysis, but with an essential empirical dimension. 'Transglobal reliability' is the key to epistemic justification. The question of which cognitive processes are reliable depends on contingent facts about human capacities.
In the first post World War II identity theories (e.g., Place 1956, Smart 1962), mind brain identities were held to be contingent. However, in work beginning in the late 1960's, Saul Kripke (1971, 1980) convinced the philosophical community that true identity statements involving names and natural kind terms are necessarily true and furthermore, that many such necessary identities can only be known a posteriori. Kripke also offered an explanation of the a posteriori nature of ordinary theoretical identities such as that (...) water = H2O. We identify the kinds and substances involved in theoretical identities by certain of their contingent properties. What we discover when we discover a theoretical identity is the underlying nature of the kind that we identify by those contingent properties. Now, of course, it was being a posteriori, not being contingent, that mattered to the identity theorists anyway, so the necessity of identity is not, in itself, damaging to mind brain identity theories. However, Kripke also argued persuasively that the alleged mind brain identities could not be treated in the same way as ordinary theoretical identities. We "identify" pain by feeling it, and surely how it feels is an essential property of pain, not a contingent property. Thus, a mind body identity theory must provide a different explanation of why its identities are a posteriori. A new wave of materialists has appeared on the scene with a new strategy for explaining  the a posteriori nature of its alleged identities. The strategy is to locate the explanation for the a posteriori nature of mind body identities, not on the side of the world, but on the side of the mind -in different ways of thinking about or imagining, or in different concepts. Thus, on this new view, there is only one property—this brain process type, which is identical with this pain.. (shrink)
According to rationalism regarding the psychology of moral judgment, people’s moral judgments are generally the result of a process of reasoning that relies on moral principles or rules. By contrast, intuitionist models of moral judgment hold that people generally come to have moral judgments about particular cases on the basis of gut-level, emotion-driven intuition, and do so without reliance on reasoning and hence without reliance on moral principles. In recent years the intuitionist model has been forcefully defended by Jonathan Haidt. (...) One important implication of Haidt’s model is that in giving reasons for their moral judgments people tend to confabulate – the reasons they give in attempting to explain their moral judgments are not really operative in producing those judgments. Moral reason-giving on Haidt’s view is generally a matter of post hoc confabulation. Against Haidt, we argue for a version of rationalism that we call ‘morphological rationalism.’ We label our version ‘morphological’ because according to it, the information contained in moral principles is embodied in the standing structure of a typical individual’s cognitive system, and this morphologically embodied information plays a causal role in the generation of particular moral judgments. The manner in which the principles play this role is via ‘proceduralization’ – such principles operate automatically. In contrast to Haidt’s intuitionism, then, our view does not imply that people’s moral reason-giving practices are matters of confabulation. In defense of our view, we appeal to what we call the ‘nonjarring’ character of the phenomenology of making moral judgments and of giving reasons for those judgments. (shrink)
In “Generalized Conditionalization and the Sleeping Beauty Problem,” Anna Mahtani and I offer a new argument for thirdism that relies on what we call “generalized conditionalization.” Generalized conditionalization goes beyond conventional conditionalization in two respects: first, by sometimes deploying a space of synchronic, essentially temporal, candidate-possibilities that are not “prior” possibilities; and second, by allowing for the use of preliminary probabilities that arise by first bracketing, and then conditionalizing upon, “old evidence.” In “Beauty and Conditionalization: Reply to Horgan and Mahtani,” (...) Joel Pust replies to the Horgan/Mahtani argument, raising several objections. In my view his objections do not undermine the argument, but they do reveal a need to provide several further elaborations of it—elaborations that I think are independently plausible. In this paper I will address his objections, by providing the elaborations that I think they prompt. (shrink)
In his 1958 seminal paper “Saints and Heroes”, J. O. Urmson argued that the then dominant tripartite deontic scheme of classifying actions as being exclusively either obligatory, or optional in the sense of being morally indifferent, or wrong, ought to be expanded to include the category of the supererogatory. Colloquially, this category includes actions that are “beyond the call of duty” (beyond what is obligatory) and hence actions that one has no duty or obligation to perform. But it is a (...) controversial category. Some have argued that the concept of supererogation is paradoxical because on one hand, supererogatory actions are (by definition) supposed to be morally good, indeed morally best, actions. But then if they are morally best, why aren't they morally required, contrary to the assumption that they are morally optional? In short: how can an action that is morally best to perform fail to be what one is morally required to do? The source of this alleged paradox has been dubbed the ‘good-ought tie-up’. In our article, we address this alleged paradox by first making a phenomenological case for the reality of instances of genuine supererogatory actions, and then, by reflecting on the relevant phenomenology, explaining why there is no genuine paradox. Our explanation appeals to the idea that moral reasons can play what we call a merit conferring role. The basic idea is that moral reasons that favor supererogatory actions function to confer merit on the actions they favor—they play a merit conferring role—and can do without also requiring the actions in question. Hence, supererogatory actions can be both good and morally meritorious to perform yet still be morally optional. Recognition of a merit conferring role unties the good-ought tie up, and (as we further argue) there are good reasons, independent of helping to resolve the alleged paradox, for recognizing this sort of role that moral reasons may play. (shrink)
The authors of Austere Realism describe and defend a provocative ontological-cum-semantic position, asserting that the right ontology is minimal or austere, in that it excludes numerous common-sense posits, and that statements employing such posits are nonetheless true, when truth is understood to be semantic correctness under contextually operative semantic standards. Terence Horgan and Matjaz [hacek over z] Potrc [hacek over c] argue that austere realism emerges naturally from consideration of the deep problems within the naive common-sense approach to truth and (...) ontology. They offer an account of truth that confronts these deep internal problems and is independently plausible: contextual semantics, which asserts that truth is semantically correct affirmability. Under contextual semantics, much ordinary and scientific thought and discourse is true because its truth is indirect correspondence to the world. After offering further arguments for austere realism and addressing objections to it, Horgan and Potrc [hacek over c] consider various alternative austere ontologies. They advance a specific version they call "blobjectivism"--the view that the right ontology includes only one concrete particular, the entire cosmos, which, although it has enormous local spatiotemporal variability, does not have any proper parts. The arguments in Austere Realism are powerfully made and concisely and lucidly set out. The authors' contentions and their methodological approach--products of a decade-long collaboration--will generate lively debate among scholars in metaphysics, ontology, and philosophy. Terence E. Horgan is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Arizona. Matjaz [hacek over z] Potrc [hacek over c] is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Ljubljana. (shrink)
I distinguish two broad approaches to vagueness that I call "robust" and "wimpy". Wimpy construals explain vagueness as robust (i.e., does not manifest arbitrary precision); that standard approaches to vagueness, like supervaluationism or appeals to degrees of truth, wrongly treat vagueness as wimpy; that vagueness harbors an underlying logical incoherence; that vagueness in the world is therefore impossible; and that the kind of logical incoherence nascent in vague terms and concepts is benign rather than malignant. I describe some implications for (...) logic, semantics, and metaphysics. (shrink)
Moral phenomenology is concerned with the elements of one's moral experiences that are generally available to introspection. Some philosophers argue that one's moral experiences, such as experiencing oneself as being morally obligated to perform some action on some occasion, contain elements that (1) are available to introspection and (2) carry ontological objectivist purportargument from phenomenological introspection.neutrality thesisthe phenomenological data regarding one's moral experiences that is available to introspection is neutral with respect to the issue of whether such experiences carry ontological (...) objectivist purport. (shrink)
Terry Horgan University of Memphis In this paper I address the problem of causal exclusion, specifically as it arises for mental properties (although the scope of the discussion is more general, being applicable to other kinds of putatively causal properties that are not identical to narrowly physical causal properties, i.e., causal properties posited by physics). I summarize my own current position on the matter, and I offer a defense of this position. I draw upon and synthesize relevant discussions in various (...) <blockquote>  </blockquote> other papers of mine (some collaborative) that bear on this topic. (shrink)
In "Milk, Honey, and the Good Life on Moral Twin Earth", David Copp explores some ways in which a defender of synthetic moral naturalism might attempt to get around our Moral Twin Earth argument. Copp nicely brings out the force of our argument, not only through his exposition of it, but through his attempt to defeat it, since his efforts, we think, only help to make manifest the deep difficulties the Moral Twin Earth argument poses for the synthetic moral naturalist.
Is conceptual relativity a genuine phenomenon? If so, how is it properly understood? And if it does occur, does it undermine metaphysical realism? These are the questions we propose to address. We will argue that conceptual relativity is indeed a genuine phenomenon, albeit an extremely puzzling one. We will offer an account of it. And we will argue that it is entirely compatible with metaphysical realism. Metaphysical realism is the view that there is a world of objects and properties that (...) is independent of our thought and discourse (including our schemes of concepts) about such a world. Hilary Putnam, a former proponent of metaphysical realism, later gave it up largely because of the alleged phenomenon that he himself has given the label ‘conceptual relativity’. One of the key ideas of conceptual relativity is that certain concepts—including such fundamental concepts as object, entity, and existence—have a multiplicity of different and incompatible uses (Putnam 1987, p. 19; 1988, pp. 110 14). According to Putnam, once we recognize the phenomenon of conceptual relativity we must reject metaphysical realism: The suggestion . . . is that what is (by commonsense standards) the same situation can be described in many different ways, depending on how we use the words. The situation does not itself legislate how words like “object,” “entity,” and “exist” must be used. What is wrong with the notion of objects existing “independently” of conceptual schemes is that there are no standards for the use of even the logical notions apart from conceptual choices.” (Putnam 1988, p. 114) Putnam’s intriguing reasoning in this passage is difficult to evaluate directly, because conceptual  relativity is philosophically perplexing and in general is not well understood. In this paper we propose a construal of conceptual relativity that clarifies it considerably and explains how it is possible despite its initial air of paradox. We then draw upon this construal to explain why, contrary to Putnam and others, conceptual relativity does not conflict with metaphysical realism, but in fact comports well with it.. (shrink)
Abstract We propose a metaethical view that combines the cognitivist idea that moral judgments are genuine beliefs and moral utterances express genuine assertions with the idea that such beliefs and utterances are nondescriptive in their overall content. This sort of view has not been recognized among the standard metaethical options because it is generally assumed that all genuine beliefs and assertions must have descriptive content. We challenge this assumption and thereby open up conceptual space for a new kind of metaethical (...) view. In developing our brand of nondescriptivist cognitivism we do the following: (1) articulate a conception of belief (and assertion) that does not require the overall declarative content of beliefs (and assertions) to be descriptive content; (2) make a case for the independent plausibility of this conception of belief and assertion; and (3) argue that our view, formulated in a way that draws upon the proposed conception of belief, has significant comparative advantages over descriptivist forms of cognitivism. (shrink)
Within cognitive science, mental processing is often construed as computation over mental representations—i.e., as the manipulation and transformation of mental representations in accordance with rules of the kind expressible in the form of a computer program. This foundational approach has encountered a long-standing, persistently recalcitrant, problem often called the frame problem; it is sometimes called the relevance problem. In this paper we describe the frame problem and certain of its apparent morals concerning human cognition, and we argue that these morals (...) have significant import regarding both the nature of moral normativity and the human capacity for mastering moral normativity. The morals of the frame problem bode well, we argue, for the claim that moral normativity is not fully systematizable by exceptionless general principles, and for the correlative claim that such systematizability is not required in order for humans to master moral normativity. (shrink)
I advocate a two part view concerning vagueness. On one hand I claim that vagueness is logically incoherent; but on the other hand I claim that vagueness is also a benign, beneficial, and indeed essential feature of human language and thought. I will call this view transvaluationism, a name which seems to me appropriate for several reasons. First, the term suggests that we should move beyond the idea that the successive statements in a sorites sequence can be assigned differing truth (...) values in some logically coherent way that fully respects the nature of vagueness -a way that  fully eschews any arbitrarily precise semantic transitions. We should transcend this impossible goal by accepting that vagueness harbors logical incoherence. Second, just as Nietzsche held that one can overcome nihilism by embracing what he called the transvaluation of all values, my position affirms vagueness, rather than despairing in the face of the logical absurdity residing at its very core. This affirmation amounts to a transvaluation of truth values, as far as sorites sequences are concerned. Third, the term 'transvaluationism' has a nice ring to it, especially since one of the principal philosophical approaches to vagueness is called supervaluationism. I will call the first claim of transvaluationism, that vagueness is logically incoherent, the incoherence thesis . I will call the second claim, that vagueness is benign, beneficial, and essential, the legitimacy thesis . The legitimacy thesis, taken by itself, seems overwhelmingly plausible; anyone who denies it assumes a heavy burden of proof. But prima facie, it seems dubious that the legitimacy thesis can be maintained in conjunction with the incoherence thesis. For, there is reason to doubt whether there is any cogent way to embrace the incoherence thesis without thereby becoming mired in what Williamson (1994) calls global nihilism about vagueness -the view that vague terms are empty (i.e., they do not, and cannot, apply to anything). Global nihilism, Williamson argues, has such destructively negative consequences that it does not deserve to be taken seriously -for instance, the consequence that vastly many of our common sense beliefs are false, and the consequence that these beliefs are not even useful (since the constituent terms in 'Common sense beliefs are useful' are vague and hence this statement turns out, given the  incoherence thesis, to be false itself). In short, the idea that one can adopt the incoherence thesis and then somehow transcend nihilism might initially seem hopelessly optimistic; transvaluationism would then be an unattainable, chimerical, goal rather than an intelligible and conceptually stable position concerning vagueness. Given certain widely held philosophical views about how language and thought must map onto the world in order for statements and the beliefs they express to be true -views that fall appropriately under the label 'referential semantics' -transvaluationism probably is a chimerical goal.. (shrink)
Alvin Goldman’s contributions to contemporary epistemology are impressive—few epistemologists have provided others so many occasions for reflecting on the fundamental character of their discipline and its concepts. His work has informed the way epistemological questions have changed (and remained consistent) over the last two decades. We (the authors of this paper) can perhaps best suggest our indebtedness by noting that there is probably no paper on epistemology that either of us individually or jointly have produced that does not in its (...) notes and references bear clear testimony to the influence of Professor Goldman’s arguments. The present paper is no exception (and this would be a particularly inapt place to break with our tradition of indebtedness). Professor Goldman has produced a series of discussions that we find particularly important for coming to terms with the venerable idea that there may be truths that can be known a priori (Goldman 1992a, 1992b, 1999). We do not altogether follow his lead, while he draws on the idea that a priori justification has something to do with innateness or processess, we prefer to accentuate the idea that a priori justification turns on a conceptually grounded truths and access via acquired conceptual competence (at least in many significant philosophical cases). Still, in developing our understanding we have been aided by much that Professor Goldman says regarding concepts, conceptual competence, and related psychological processes. The influences should become progressively clear, particularly in the later sections of this paper. What would it take for there to be a priori knowledge or justification? We can begin by reflecting on a widely agreed on answer to this question—one that purports to identify something that would at least be adequate for a priori justification. The answer will then serve as one anchor for the present investigation, a bit of shared ground on which empiricists and rationalists can, and typically do, agree.. (shrink)
I propose a metaphysical position I call 'limited metaphysical realism', and I link it to a position in the philosophy of language I call 'psychologistic semantics'. Limited metaphysical realism asserts that there is a mind-independent, discourse-independent world, but posits a sparse ontology. Psychologistic semantics construes truth not as direct word/world correspondence, and not as warranted assertibility (or Putnam's "ideal" warranted assertibility), but rather as 'correct assertibility'. I argue that virtues of this package deal over each of the two broad positions (...) that have recently dominated metaphysics and philosophy of language--positions I call package deal metaphysical realism, and package deal anti-realism. (shrink)