1. Brian Hedden, in this impressively learned and ingenious, if somewhat maddening book,1 1 defends a view he calls Time-slice Rationality, a view comprising two central claims. They are: Synchronicity : All requirements of rationality are synchronic. Impartiality : In determining how you rationally ought to be at a time, your beliefs about what attitudes you have at other times play the same role as your beliefs about what attitudes other people have.
Moral Expressivists typically concede that, in some minimal sense, moral sentences are truth-apt but claim that in some more robust sense they are not. The Immodest Disciplined Syntacticist, a species of minimalist about truth, raises a doubt as to whether this contrast can be made out. I here address this challenge by motivating and describing a distinction between reducibly and irreducibly truth-apt sentences. In the light of this distinction the Disciplined Syntacticist must either adopt a more modest version of his (...) theory, friendlier to Expressivism, or substantially modify it, abandoning one of its central conditions on truth-aptness. One natural and promising such modification, the Pure Discipline View, is described and its implications for an understanding of Expressivism briefly discussed. (shrink)
Parfit argues that naturalistic theories that seek to understand normative concepts either as simply descriptive of certain natural facts about our desires or as expressive of our desires commit us to a bleak normative nihilism whereby nothing matters. I here defend such naturalism, in particular its expressivist variety, against this charge. It is true that such views commit us to there being no reasons as Parfit understands them. But for Parfit to suppose that equivalent to there being no reasons leaves (...) him begging the question where the relative credibility of these rival understandings is just what is at issue. 1. (shrink)
The article investigates the resources of contractualist moral theory to make sense of the ethics of risk imposition. In some ways, contractualism seems well placed to explain how it can be reasonable to accept exposure to risk of harms whose direct imposition would not be acceptable. However, there are difficulties getting clear about what directness comes to here, especially given the difficulty of adequately motivating traditional views that assign ethical significance to what the agent intends as opposed to merely foreseeing. (...) The article considers two principles which might help the contractualist: the Redistribution Principle, which, while attractive, is perhaps somewhat too restrictive, and the Aim Consistency Principle, which grants ethical significance to the aims with which our actions are in principle consistent whatever our actual intentions may be. The article also considers the relative significance of ex ante and ex post perspectives from which to evaluate actions and principles. Key Words: contractualism • Doctrine of Double Effect • ethics • intention • justice • risk • T.M. Scanlon • utilitarianism. (shrink)
Let me say something, to begin with, about wanting weird stuff. Stuff like saucers of mud. The example, famously, is from Anscombe’s Intention (Anscombe Anscombe 957)) where she is, in effect, defending a version of the old scholastic maxim, Omne appetitum appetitur sub specie boni. If your Latin is rusty like mine, what that says is just that every appetite – for better congruence with modern discussions, let’s say every desire – desires under the aspect of the good, or in (...) the wording made current by Velleman, under the guise of the good (Velleman 992). To desire something is to regard it as good in some way, as having some desirability characteristic. And not just any old thing can be regarded as good in some way, as having some desirability characteristic. Obviously if this is correct, it rules against our giving desires any sort of ground-floor role in our understand-. (shrink)
While "moral naturalism" is sometimes used to refer to any approach to metaethics intended to cohere with naturalism in metaphysics more generally, the label is more usually reserved for naturalistic forms of moral realism according to which there are objective moral facts and properties and these moral facts and properties are natural facts and properties. Views of this kind appeal to many as combining the advantages of naturalism and realism but have seemed to many others to do inadequate justice to (...) central dimensions of our practice with our moral concepts. This entry examines some of these concerns and some ways in which moral naturalists have responded to them. It also profiles central aspects of the more particular views of some leading contemporary advocates of moral naturalism. (shrink)
Those whose Way is not the same cannot take counsel together.Confucius, Analects XV, 40Quasi-Realism and Fundamental Disagreement: Egan’s ProblemI believe that it is wrong to open your boiled egg at the big end. You believe that it is not wrong to open your egg at the big end. We are at an impasse. The impasse might not be deep. One of us might just be wrong on some matter of prosaic nonnormative fact. But perhaps that is not the case. Even (...) if we both came to be fully informed about all relevant facts, our disagreement might persist. Perhaps other rational means are available to resolve our disagreement. Perhaps if I became more sensitive, more imaginative, more considerate of others’ needs, I would change my mind. And perhaps, by my own present lights, one’s moral sensibility is improved by being changed in these ways, so that this would be, again by my own present lights, a change for the better. Perhaps your contrary view would not prove robust in circumstances where you had to endu. (shrink)
My concern here is with the Humean claim that no purely cognitive state could, in combination with appropriate other beliefs, but with nothing else, originate a process of rational motivation. The starting point of such motivation must always include some other element: a desire. Let's call this claim, following David McNaughton the belief-desire theory, or BDT for short. The theory is widely believed but intensely controversial. I argue here that it is true.
I argue against the claim that we should adopt a moral error theory. The intelligibility of our moral practice need offer no questionable metaphysical hostages to fortune. The two most credible policy recommendations that might follow from moral error theory, abolitionism and prescriptive fictionalism, are not very credible.
Smith has defended the rationalist's conceptual claim that moral requirements are categorical requirements of reason, arguing that no status short of this would make sense of our taking these requirements as seriously as we do. Against this I argue that Smith has failed to show either that our moral commitments would be undermined by possessing only an internal, contextual justification or that they need presuppose any expectation that rational agents must converge on their acceptance. His claim that this rationalistic understanding (...) of metaethics is required for the intelligibility of moral disagreement is also found to be inadequately supported. It is further proposed that the rationalist's substantive claims - that there are such categorical requirements of reason and that our actual moral commitments are a case in point - are liable to disappointment; and that the conceptual claim is fatally undermined by reflection on how we might best respond to such disappointment. (shrink)
It has recently been argued by Cian Dorr that if noncognitivism is true, inferences to factual conclusions from premises at least one of which is moral must be condemned as irrational. For, given a noncognitivist understanding of what it is to accept such premises, such reasoning would be wishful thinking: irrationally revising our views about the world to make them cohere with our desires and feelings. This he takes to be a reductio of noncognitivism. I argue that no compelling case (...) to this effect has been made out. I show how, in many cases, non-cognitivists can make excellent sense of the rational legitimacy of such arguments. In cases where they plausibly cannot do so, moreover, this legitimacy is highly doubtful for independently plausible reasons and should be doubted even by cognitivists. (shrink)
Do our lives have meaning? Should we create more people? Is death bad? Should we commit suicide? Would it be better if we were immortal? Should we be optimistic or pessimistic? Life, Death, and Meaning brings together key readings, primarily by English-speaking philosophers, on such 'big questions.'.
Modern philosophical literature distinguishes between explanatory reasons and justifying reasons. The former are reasons we appeal to in attempting to explain actions and attitudes. The latter are reasons we appeal to in attempting to justify them.
This article seeks to diagnose a serious defect in a highly influential supposed counterexample to utilitarianism: Bernard Williams's case of Jim and the Indians. Discussing this, Williams argues that, according to utilitarianism, it is obviously right to say that Jim should kill an Indian. But as this is not obviously right, Williams takes the example to furnish a forceful counterexample to utilitarianism. I note here that the force of the supposed counterexample is in fact very doubtful as the utilitarian can (...) readily enough explain the non-obviousness of the claim that Jim should kill with reference to the non-obviousness of utilitarianism itself. Correspondence:c1 J.Lenman@sheffield.ac.uk. (shrink)
The millionaire’s idle, talentless and self-centered daughter inherits a large sum of money that she does not really deserve. The victim of kidnapping rots in a cell in 1980s Beirut in a captivity that springs not from any wrong he has done but from his ill-fortune in being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The hard-working, brilliant and self-denying Nobel Prize-winning scientist receives a large cheque for his extraordinarily productive labours. The murderer spends decades in jail for the (...) terrible crimes he has freely committed. The first two cases are cases where justice seems ill-served, where someone’s good or ill-fortune reflects not what they deserve but mere luck. The second two are cases where justice seems to be honoured: what befalls Scientist and Murderer reflects not their good or bad luck but their merits and deserts. (shrink)
In this book Alfred Mele [Motivation and Agency, 2003 OUP] seeks to elaborate and defend a neo-Davidsonian understanding of human agency which is fundamentally causalist: intentional actions are, he thinks, caused and caused in such a way that a causal explanation of them is available in terms of the desires and intentions of the agent.
This paper examines the idea that ethics might be understood as a domain of straightforwardly empirical inquiry with reference to two of its defenders. Sam Harris has recently urged that ethics is simply the scientific study of welfare and how best to maximize it. That is of course to presuppose the truth of utilitarianism, something Harris considers too obvious to be sensibly contested. Richard Boyd's more nuanced and thoughtful position takes the truth of the ethical theory he favours to be (...) determined by what best explains the success of moral practice over its history. But what is to count here as success is too theory dependent for this to be helpful. From consideration of both Harris and Boyd, the conclusion emerges that once we have satisfied ourselves by ethical reflection about what we ought to do, it may then be a straightforwardly empirical question how to do it, but that arriving at that point, the core concern of the moral philosopher, is far less clearly a straightforwardly empirical affair. (shrink)