Psychopaths have long been of interest to moral philosophers, since a careful examination of their peculiar deficiencies may reveal what features are normally critical to the development of moral agency. What underlies the psychopath's amoralism? A common and plausible answer to this question is that the psychopath lacks empathy. Lack of empathy is also claimed to be a critical impairment in autism, yet it is not at all clear that autistic individuals share the psychopath's amoralism. How is empathy characterized in (...) the literature, and how crucial is empathy, so described, to moral understanding and agency? I argue that an examination of moral thinking in high-functioning autistic people supports a Kantian rather than a Humean account of moral agency. (shrink)
The recent, influential Social Intuitionist Model of moral judgment (Haidt, Psychological Review 108, 814–834, 2001) proposes a primary role for fast, automatic and affectively charged moral intuitions in the formation of moral judgments. Haidt’s research challenges our normative conception of ourselves as agents capable of grasping and responding to reasons. We argue that there can be no ‘real’ moral judgments in the absence of a capacity for reflective shaping and endorsement of moral judgments. However, we suggest that the empirical literature (...) indicates a complex interplay between automatic and deliberative mental processes in moral judgment formation, with the latter constraining the expression and influence of moral intuitions. We therefore conclude that the psychological literature supports a normative conception of agency. (shrink)
Metaethics has recently been confronted by evidence from cognitive neuroscience that tacit emotional processes play an essential causal role in moral judgement. Most neuroscientists, and some metaethicists, take this evidence to vindicate a version of metaethical sentimentalism. In this paper we argue that the ‘dual process’ model of cognition that frames the discussion within and without philosophy does not do justice to an important constraint on any theory of deliberation and judgement. Namely, decision-making is the exercise of a capacity for (...) agency. Agency, in turn, requires a capacity to conceive of oneself as temporally extended: to inhabit, in both memory and imagination, an autobiographical past and future. To plan, to commit to plans, and to act in accordance with previous plans requires a diachronic self, able to transcend the present moment. While this fact about agency is central to much of moral philosophy (e.g. in discussions of autonomy and moral responsibility) it is opaque to the dual process framework and those meta-ethical accounts which situate themselves within this model of cognition. We show how this is the case and argue for an empirically adequate account of moral judgement which gives sufficient role to memory and imagination as cognitive prerequisites of agency. We reconsider the empirical evidence, provide an alternative, agentive, interpretation of key findings, and evaluate the consequences for metaethics. (shrink)
We argue that companion friendship is not importantly marked by self-disclosure as understood in either of these two ways. One's close friends need not be markedly similar to oneself, as is claimed by the mirror account, nor is the role of private information in establishing and maintaining intimacy important in the way claimed by the secrets view. Our claim will be that the mirror and secrets views not only fail to identify features that are in part constitutive of close or (...) companion friendship, but that they miss the mark quite broadly and fail to capture anything significant and distinctive about the ways in which friendship has an impact on the self. The article will proceed as follows. In the first section we outline our account of the self in friendship. In the next two sections we examine the mirror and secrets views and develop our own view in counterpoint to these. In the final section we defend our own account by showing how it provides the governing conditions which do distinguish friendship from other kinds of relations between persons. (shrink)
Is it ever possible for people to act freely and intentionally against their better judgement? Is it ever possible to act in opposition to one's strongest desire? If either of these questions are answered in the negative, the common-sense distinctions between recklessness, weakness of will and compulsion collapse. This would threaten our ordinary notion of self-control and undermine our practice of holding each other responsible for moral failure. So a clear and plausible account of how weakness of will and self-control (...) are possible is of great practical significance.Taking the problem of weakness of will as her starting point, Jeanette Kennett builds an admirably comprehensive and integrated account of moral agency which gives a central place to the capacity for self-control. Her account of the exercise and limits of self-control vindicates the common-sense distinction between weakness of will and compulsion and so underwrites our ordinary allocations of moral responsibility. She addresses with clarity and insight a range of important topics in moral psychology, such as the nature of valuing and desiring, conceptions of virtue, moral conflict, and the varieties of recklessness - and does so in terms which make their relations to each other and to the challenges of real life obvious. Agency and Responsibility concludes by testing the accounts developed of self-control, moral failure, and moral responsibility against the hard cases provided by acts of extreme evil. (shrink)
We have argued here that to attribute criminal responsibility to psychopathic individuals is to ignore substantial and growing evidence that psychopathic individuals are significantly impaired in moral understanding. They do not appear to know why moral transgressions are wrong in the full sense required by the law. As morally blameless offenders, punishment as a basis for detention cannot be justified. Moreover, as there are currently no successful treatment programs for psychopathy, nor can detention be justified on grounds of treatment. Instead, (...) we argue detention on the grounds of self- defence, due to the severe and continuing threat posed by the psychopathic criminal. (shrink)
We focus here on some familiar kinds of cases of conflict between friendship and morality, and, on the basis of our account of the nature of friendship, argue for the following two claims: first, that in some cases where we are led morally astray by virtue of a relationship that makes its own demands on us, the relationship in question is properly called a friendship; second, that relationships of this kind are valuable in their own right.
It is often claimed that the existence of psychopaths undermines moral rationalism. I examine a recent empirically based argument for this claim and conclude that rationalist accounts of moral judgement and moral reasoning are perfectly compatible with the evidence cited.
Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) (formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder) is a condition in which a person appears to possess more than one personality, and sometimes very many. Some recent criminal cases involving defendants with DID have resulted in "not guilty" verdicts, though the defense is not always successful in this regard. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Stephen Behnke have argued that we should excuse DID sufferers from responsibility, only if at the time of the act the person was insane (typically delusional); (...) otherwise the presumption should be that persons with DID are indeed responsible for their actions. We find their interpretation of DID and of the way in which the requirements for criminal insanity relate to this condition worrying and likely to result in injustice to DID sufferers. Our thesis is that persons with DID cannot be responsible for their actions if the usual features of the condition are present. A person with DID is a single person in the grip of a very serious mental disorder. By focusing on the features of DID which have, as we argue, the effect of deluding the patient, we try to show that such a person is unable to fulfill the ordinary conditions of responsible agency (namely, autonomy and self-control). (shrink)
It seems to be a truism that whenever we do something - and so, given the omnipresence of trying (Hornsby 1980), whenever we try to do something - we want to do that thing more than we want to do anything else we can do (Davidson 1970). However, according to Frog, when we have will power we are able to try not to do something that we ‘really want to do’. In context the idea is clearly meant to be that (...) what we really want to do and what we most want to do are one and the same. But how is this meant to be so much as possible? It seems to require that our desire not to do what we most want to do is both our strongest desire and not our strongest desire. And that is a blatant contradiction. This is the so-called ‘paradox of self-control’ (Mele 1987). The aim of our paper is to explain how to make sense of the story of Frog and Toad. (shrink)
We have argued elsewhere that moral responsibility over time depends in part upon the having of psychological connections which facilitate forms of self-control. In this chapter we explore the importance of mental time travel - our ordinary ability to mentally travel to temporal locations outside the present, involving both memory of our personal past and the ability to imagine ourselves in the future - to our agential capacities for planning and control. We suggest that in many individuals with dissociative disorders, (...) forms of amnesia, or other frontal lobe damage, our capacity for mental time travel is impaired, resulting in commensurate losses to agency autonomy, and a forensic condition essential for holding persons responsible: in legal terms, the capacity for mens rea. (shrink)
Mental time travel is the ability to simulate alternative pasts and futures. It is often described as the ability to project a sense of self in the service of diachronic agency. It requires not only semantic representation but affective sampling of alternative futures. If people lose this ability for affective sampling their sense of self is diminished. They have less of a self to project hence are compromised as agents. If they cannot “feel the future” they cannot imaginatively inhabit it (...) and hence their agency is compromised. The extent of such losses and consequent impairments to moral agency can be matters of degree. (shrink)
The condition known as Multiple Personality Disorder (MPD) or Dissociative Identity Disorder (DID) is metaphysically strange. Can there really be several distinct persons operating in a single body? Our view is that DID sufferers are single persons with a severe mental disorder. In this paper we compare the phenomenology of dissociation between personality states in DID with certain delusional disorders. We argue both that the burden of proof must lie with those who defend the metaphysically extravagant Multiple Persons view and (...) that there is little theoretical motivation to yield to that view in light of the fact that the core symptoms of DID bear remarkable similarity to the symptoms of these other disorders where no such extravagance is ever seriously entertained. (shrink)
'Jeanette Kennett has written a nicely balanced, informative and well-argued book on contemporary thought about agency and responsibility... There are several pearls in this slim volume, such as Kennetts discussion of moral luck... It is also worth mentioning that Kennett provides real life examples, rather than bizarre thought experiments or abstract logic to illuminate her points. Her approach is as democratic as are her claims about moral reasoning. There are several points where the authors warmth and commitment to a moral (...) life come through while she manages the rigours of analytic philosophy. It is this final point that I find most appealing in this book. If one reads between the lines, you get the feeling that Kennett believes that moral health, mental health and the proper use of agency are, if not the same, intimately entwined. This book can be seen as both a primer on the subject as well as an explication of Kennetts theory.' -Metapsychology 'Illuminating investigation of the techniques of self-control... Agency and Responsibility is a penetrating treatment of its topic. The argument is painstakingly developed and richly supported by realistic examples... But since a review can't do justice to a complex and subtle work of this kind, I urge readers to see for themselves. The book is well worth reading.' -Gary Watson, University of California, MindTaking the problem of weakness of will as her starting point, Jeanette Kennett builds an admirably comprehensive and integrated account of moral agency which gives a central place to the capacity for self-control. Her account of the exercise and limits of self-control vindicates the common-sense distinction between weakness of will and complusion and so underwrites our ordinary allocations of moral responsibility. (shrink)
Social persons routinely tell themselves and others richly elaborated autobiographical stories filled with details about deeds, plans, roles, motivations, values, and character. Saul, let us imagine, is someone who once sailed the world as a young adventurer, going from port to port and living a gypsy existence. In telling his new acquaintance, Jess, of his former exotic life, he shines a light on his present character and this may guide to some extent their interaction here and now. Perhaps Jess also (...) spent time at one of these port locations; perhaps their paths might even have crossed. They might be drawn into recounting some common events that indeed do establish a common link. Did they visit a certain famous landmark? Did they meet up at the same bars? And so on. When we open up to friends, acquaintances, colleagues, and close others through the stories we tell them, we do so by revealing bits of ourselves. (shrink)
In this article, I explore the implications of Karsten Stueber's account of imaginative resistance, particularly as it relates to the phenomenon of moral dumbfounding described by Jonathan Haidt and colleagues. I suggest that Stueber's account allows us to redescribe the phenomenon as a failure of the folk psychological project of interpretation and so to challenge Haidt's metaethical conclusions. I close by considering some implications for moral deliberation and judgment in those, such as autistic people, whose interpretive capacities are impaired.
A person suffering a mental illness or disorder may differ dramatically from his or her previous well self. Family and close friends who knew the person before the onset of illness tend to regard the illness as obscuring their loved one's true self and see the goal of treatment as the restoration of that self. ‘He is not really like this,’ they will say with increasing desperation. Treatment teams and others, who have no acquaintance with the person when well, respond (...) to what they see in front of them and do sometimes make harmful judgments of character based on the person's presentation when ill. (shrink)
Kant claimed both that "moral feeling is the capacity to be affected by a moral judgment" and that moral motivation is motivation by principle. What are the psychological mechanism that could enable principles to motivate? This chapter develops in more detail a suggestion made elsewhere by the author that posits a connection between susceptibility to the discomfort of cognitive dissonance and moral motivation of a broadly Kantian kind. The chapter argues that the possession of principles is constitutively connected to one’s (...) status as a diachronic self and to one’s rational agentive capacities. If psychopaths are insensitive to cognitive dissonance, they cannot have or be motivated by principles. This provides an explanation of the failure of moral motivation in psychopaths that differs from the usual focus on lack of empathy. (shrink)
Recent studies reveal some of the neurophysiological mechanisms involved in drug addiction. This prompts some theorists to claim that drug addiction diminishes responsibility. Stephen Morse however rejects this claim. Morse argues that these studies show that drug addiction involves neither compulsion, coercion, nor irrationality. He also adds that addicted people are responsible for becoming addicted and for failing to take measures to manage their addiction. After summarizing relevant neuroscience of addiction literature, this chapter engages critically with Morse to argue that (...) a subgroup of addicted people does meet plausible criteria for compulsion, coercion, or irrationality; that few addicted people are fully responsible for becoming addicted; and that some addicted people can be at least partly excused for failing to manage their addiction. Pickard and Lacey’s “responsibility without blame” approach is also suggested as a fruitful basis for future work in this field. (shrink)
In this chapter I argue that there is a normative aspect to self-control that is not captured by the purely procedural account to be drawn from dual process theories of cognition – which we only uncover when we consider what self-control is for and why it is valuable. For at least a significant sub-group of addicts their loss of control over their drug use may not be due to a lack or depletion of cognitive resources. Rather it may be that (...) they have little confidence in their ability to exert control over their circumstances and shape the life they would value having and the person they would value being. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Choice theorists such as George Ainslie and Gene Heyman argue that the drug-seeking behaviour of addicts is best understood in the same terms that explain everyday choices. Everyday choices, they claim, aim to maximise the reward from available incentives. Continuing drug-use is, therefore, what addicts most want given the incentives they are aware of but they will change their behaviour if and when better incentives become available. This model might explain many typical cases of addiction, but there are hard (...) cases that pose a problem. In these hard cases the addicted individual does not cease using drugs in the face of consequences that are so adverse it is implausible that they are unaware of more rewarding paths of action. These cases force the choice theorist into a dilemma: either these addicts? drug use does not count as action and so is best described by a neurobiological model, or reference to ?reward? in these cases means merely ?motivated? and so provides no explanatory power. We propose a different model of motivation that takes self-conception into account. We show how that can better explain the hard cases of addiction and also inform our understanding of recovery and self-control. (shrink)
Effective agency, according to contemporary Kantians, requires a unity of purpose both at a time, in order that we may eliminate conflict among our motives, and over time, because many of the things we do form part of longer-term projects and make sense only in the light of these projects and life plans. Call this the unity of agency thesis. This thesis can be regarded as a normative constraint on accounts of personal identity and indeed on accounts of what it (...) is to have the life of a person in the broad, rather than narrowly biological sense. It is also a fundamental condition of social life that persons within society fulfill a range of longitudinal roles: parenthood is one such obvious example, as are teachers, health professionals, engineers, artists, and many others. The fulfillment of these and other valuable social roles requires that agents have the capacity to rationally conceive of themselves as engaged in these roles and subject to the demands of them. To be unable to fulfill any such longitudinal social roles is to have a life deficient in value. The unity of agency is thus, we argue, something we rationally strive for, and something to be morally promoted. Psychiatric states that undermine the unity of agency are morally and rationally disvaluable. Using the example of dissociation, we explain how one such state may have this undermining or disruptive effect on the unity of agency. The therapeutic ends for psychiatry in conditions involving such states are thus seen more globally as the restoration of effective agency, that is, unified agency. (shrink)
Substance use and misuse occurs at a very high rate among people with mental health problems and the relationship between the two conditions is complex. In this paper we argue that treatment of substance use in dual diagnosis clients must begin from an understanding of the losses suffered by those with mental illness. We outline the fundamental condition of effective agency, unified agency, which is disrupted in mental illness and show how this is needed to secure access to central social (...) and moral goods such as continuing employment and satisfying relationships. We argue that drug use will be disvaluable primarily in so far as it too prevents access to this set of agential goods and focuses the agent on synchronic well-being to the exclusion of diachronic well-being. The goals and methods of treatment for dual diagnosis patients should thus reflect the primary impairment to unified agency. (shrink)
Undercover marketing targets potential customers by concealing the commercial nature of an apparently social transaction. In a typical case an individual approaches a marketing target apparently to provide some information or advice about a product in a way that makes it seem like they are a fellow consumer. In another kind of case, a friend displays a product to you, and encourages its purchase, but fails to disclose their association with the marketing firm. We focus on this second type of (...) case and argue that the constitutive dispositions of friendship that provide for the development and maintenance of intimacy also render friends especially vulnerable to undercover marketing techniques and so to the exploitation of friendship for commercial ends. We show how this is corrupting both of the friendship and the commercial agent. (shrink)
My aim in this paper is, by process of elimination, to elucidate and defend an account of how ordinary people act on their values. I will be making both a descriptive claim about our psychology and a further claim about its effectiveness and rational status. I want to suggest that the way in which most of us in fact put our values into practice is, over time, preferable to the ways which initially seem required or at least desirable.
What is required of the interpreter of disordered minds and what can we learn from the process? Jonathan Glover's book focuses on human interpretation and its role in psychiatry. His hope is that a more careful and sensitive exploration of minds that are very different from our own, will assist us to answer a range of important questions about human agency, identity and responsibility. In this commentary I will focus on the process and purpose of interpretation and expand on some (...) of the moral issues that arise out of the interpretive challenges posed by mental disorders. (shrink)
What is the role and value of pleasure in addiction? Foddy and Savulescu have claimed that substance use is just pleasure-oriented behavior. They describe addiction as "strong appetites toward pleasure" and argue that addicts suffer in significant part because of strong social and moral disapproval of lives dominated by pleasure seeking. But such lives, they claim, can be autonomous and rational. The view they offer is largely in line with the choice model and opposed to a disease model of addiction. (...) Foddy and Savulescu are sceptical of self-reports that emphasize the ill effects of addiction such as loss of family and possessions, or that claim an absence of pleasure after tolerance sets in. Such reports they think are shaped by social stigma which makes available a limited set of socially approved addiction narratives. We will not question the claim that a life devoted to pleasure can be autonomously chosen. Nor do we question the claim that the social stigma attached to the use of certain drugs increases the harm suffered by the user. However our interviews with addicts reveal a genuinely ambivalent and complex relationship between addiction, value, and pleasure. Our subjects did not shy away from discussing pleasure and its role in use. But though they usually valued the pleasurable properties of substances, and this played that did not mean that they valued an addictive life. Our interviews distinguished changing attitudes towards drug related pleasures across the course of substance use, including diminishing pleasure from use over time and increasing resentment at the effects of substance use on other valued activities. In this paper we consider the implications of what drug users say about pleasure and value over the course of addiction for models of addiction. Well don't get me wrong, I love using mate. If I could use successfully I would. I'd still be using. I love using. I just don't like the shit that comes with it. (shrink)
Pickard (2012) claims that the neurobiological or disease model of addiction hinders the recovery of people because it undermines their feeling of self-efficacy and agency. Sub- stance users are “not aided by being treated as victims of a neurobiological disease, as opposed to agents of their own recovery” (40).Although Pickard acknowledges that claims of powerlessness or loss of agency can have a functional role in the self-narratives of substance users in excusing them from blame, she primarily focuses on the negative (...) effects of the diseasemodel on the recovery of substance users. Preliminary evidence from in-depth interviews with heroin-dependent participants in our current cohort study on addiction and moral identity supports Pickard’s claims in part: Substance users describe grades of control, psychological distress, and loss of options, and an ambivalent attitude toward their belief in self-efficacy. However the interviews also provide points of critique. While Pickard is right to dismiss the more extreme claims of proponents of the disease model—namely, that drug use in addicts is literally compelled—user responses suggest that an understanding of the neurobiology of addiction might in some respects support rather than undermine a sense of agency. Moreover, there is reason to suppose that the relation be- tween substance use and psychological distress is not as straightforward as Pickard claims. In this respect we believe the debate must become more nuanced and move beyond a simple opposition between the disease model and the rational choice model endorsed by Pickard. (shrink)
If you just can't decide what to wear, this enlightening guide will lead you through the diverse and sometimes contradictory aspects of fashion in a series of lively, entertaining and thoughtful essays from prominent philosophers and writers. A unique and enlightening insight into the underlying philosophy behind the power of fashion Contributions address issues in fashion from a variety of viewpoints, including aesthetics, the nature of fashion and fashionability, ethics, gender and identity politics, and design Includes a foreword by Jennifer (...) Baumgardner, feminist author, activist and cultural critic, editor of Ms magazine and regular contributor to major women's magazines including Glamour and Marie-Claire. (shrink)
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