I argue that Rachlin's notion of self-control is imprecise and not well suited to the discussion of altruism. Rachlin's broader agenda, to improve collective welfare by identifying behavioral mechanisms that increase altruism, neglects the fact that altruism is neither necessary nor sufficient for desirable social outcomes.
David Sobel defends subjectivism about well-being and reasons for action: the idea that normativity flows from what an agent cares about, that something is valuable because it is valued. In these essays Sobel explores the tensions between subjective views of reasons and morality, and concludes that they do not undermine subjectivism.
J. Howard Sobel has long been recognized as an important figure in philosophical discussions of rational decision. He has done much to help formulate the concept of causal decision theory. In this volume of essays Sobel explores the Bayesian idea that rational actions maximize expected values, where an action's expected value is a weighted average of its agent's values for its possible total outcomes. Newcomb's Problem and The Prisoner's Dilemma are discussed, and Allais-type puzzles are viewed from the (...) perspective of causal world Bayesianism. The author establishes principles for distinguishing options in decision problems, and studies ways in which perfectly rational causal maximizers can be capable of resolute choices. Sobel also views critically Gauthier's revisionist ideas about maximizing rationality. This collection will be a desideratum for anyone working in the field of rational choice theory, whether in philosophy, economics, political science, psychology or statistics. Howard Sobel's work in decision theory is certainly among the most important, interesting and challenging that is being done by philosophers. (shrink)
The work is a charitable study on what the internationally renowned presenter and author, Howard Sobel, views to be largely the truth about moral thought and talk. Discussions and observations from David Humes own writings oftentimes reinforce and elaborate the authors notions and there is an assertive attempt to weave logical thinking into the book. Applications to such mathematical concepts as game theory, decision-making, and conditionals are dispersed throughout so as to enlighten the theory behind the ideas.
When causal decision theory was created in the 1970s, access to Howard Sobel’s contribution was available only in a narrowly circulated mimeographed manuscript. After some time, he allowed his ideas to appear in the form of articles. Here we finally have a book length exposition on Sobel’s causal Bayesian point of view consisting of collected, revised, and amplified papers spanning a period of twenty years.
This essay focuses on three recent books on morality and virtue, Michael Slote's 'Morals from Motives', Rosalind Hursthouse's 'On Virtue Ethics', and Philippa Foot's 'Natural Goodness'. Slote proposes an "agent-based" ethical theory according to which the ethical status of acts is derivative from assessments of virtue. Following Foot's lead, Hursthouse aims to vindicate an ethical naturalism that explains human goodness on the basis of views about human nature. Both Hursthouse and Slote take virtue to be morally basic in a way (...) that Foot, to her credit, does not. We argue that all three views face a range of serious difficulties. (shrink)
Consequentialism, many philosophers have claimed, asks too much of us to be a plausible ethical theory. Indeed, the theory's severe demandingness is often claimed to be its chief flaw. My thesis is that as we come to better understand this objection, we see that, even if it signals or tracks the existence of a real problem for Consequentialism, it cannot itself be a fundamental problem with the view. The objection cannot itself provide good reason to break with Consequentialism, because it (...) must presuppose prior and independent breaks with the view. The way the objection measures the demandingness of an ethical theory reflects rather than justifies being in the grip of key anti-Consequentialist conclusions. We should reject Consequentialism independently of the Objection or not at all. Thus, we can reduce by one the list of worrisome fundamental complaints against Consequentialism. (shrink)
Can we adequately account for our reasons of mere taste without holding that our desires ground such reasons? Recently, Scanlon and Parfit have argued that we can, pointing to pleasure and pain as the grounds of such reasons. In this paper I take issue with each of their accounts. I conclude that we do not yet have a plausible rival to a desire-based understanding of the grounds of such reasons.
The proposal I offer attempts to remedy the inadequacies of exclusive focus on well-being for moral purposes. The proposal is this: We should allow the agent to decide for herself where she wants to throw the weight that is her due in moral reflection, with the proviso that she understands the way that her weight will be aggregated with others in reaching a moral outcome. I will call this the "autonomy principle." The autonomy principle, I claim, provides the consequentialist's best (...) prospect for taking people into account morally in a way that they endorse. (shrink)
These days, just about every philosophical debate seems to generate a position labeled internalism. The debate I will be joining in this essay concerns reasons for action and their connection, or lack of connection, to motivation. The internalist position in this debate posits a certain essential connection between reasons and motivation, while the externalist position denies such a connection. This debate about internalism overlaps an older debate between Humeans and Kantians about the exclusive reason-giving power of desires. As we will (...) see, however, while these debates overlap, the new debate is importantly different from the old debate. (shrink)
My favorite thing about this paper is that I think I usefully explicate and then mess with Bernard Williams's attempt to explain how his internalism is compatible with our ordinary practices of blame. There are a surprising number of things wrong with Williams's position. Of course that leaves my own favored subjectivism in a pickle, but still...
We outline a cognitive and computational account of causal learning in children. We propose that children employ specialized cognitive systems that allow them to recover an accurate “causal map” of the world: an abstract, coherent representation of the causal relations among events. This kind of knowledge can be perspicuously represented by the formalism of directed graphical causal models, or “Bayes nets”. Human causal learning and inference may involve computations similar to those for learnig causal Bayes nets and for predicting with (...) them. Preliminary experimental results suggest that 2- to 4-year-old children spontaneously construct new causal maps and that their learning is consistent with the Bayes-Net formalism. (shrink)
Shelly Kagan and Leonard Katz have offered versions of hedonism that aspire to occupy a middle position between the view that pleasure is a unitary sensation and the view that pleasure is, as Sidgwick put it, desirable consciousness. Thus they hope to offer a hedonistic account of well-being that does not mistakenly suppose that pleasure is a special kind of tingle, yet to offer a sharp alternative to desire-based accounts. I argue that they have not identified a coherent middle position.
A BAYESIAN ARTICULATION OF HUME’S VIEWS IS OFFERED BASED ON A FORM OF THE BAYES-LAPLACE THEOREM THAT IS SUPERFICIALLY LIKE A FORMULA OF CONDORCET’S. INFINITESIMAL PROBABILITIES ARE EMPLOYED FOR MIRACLES AGAINST WHICH THERE ARE ’PROOFS’ THAT ARE NOT OPPOSED BY ’PROOFS’. OBJECTIONS MADE BY RICHARD PRICE ARE DEALT WITH, AND RECENT EXPERIMENTS CONDUCTED BY AMOS TVERSKY AND DANIEL KAHNEMAN ARE CONSIDERED IN WHICH PERSONS TEND TO DISCOUNT PRIOR IMPROBABILITIES WHEN ASSESSING REPORTS OF WITNESSES.
Two partition-theorems are proved for a particular causal decision theory. One is restricted to a certain kind of partition of circumstances, and analyzes the utility of an option in terms of its utilities in conjunction with circumstances in this partition. The other analyzes an option's utility in terms of its utilities conditional on circumstances and is quite unrestricted. While the first form seems more useful for applications, the second form may be of theoretical importance in foundational exercises. Comparisons are made (...) with theorems of Richard Jeffrey, Brad Armendt, and Peter Fishburn. (shrink)
According to a familiar argument, iterated prisoner's dilemmas of known finite lengths resolve for ideally rational and well-informed players: They would defect in the last round, anticipate this in the next to last round and so defect in it, and so on. But would they anticipate defections even if they had been cooperating? Not necessarily, say recent critics. These critics "lose" the backward-induction paradox by imposing indicative interpretations on rationality and information conditions. To regain it I propose subjunctive interpretations. To (...) solve it I stress that implications for ordinary imperfect players are limited. (shrink)
If we overlook no consequences when we assess the act, and no relevant features when we generalize, can it matter whether we ask 'What would happen if everyone did the same?' instead of 'What would happen if this act were performed?'? David Lyons has argued that it cannot. Two examples are here articulated to show that it can. The first turns on the way consequences are identified and assessed and in particular on the treatment accorded 'threshold consequences'. The second example (...) turns on the way in which the 'social context' of the act (what others would be doing) is taken into account in the generalization. Also included is a formal theory of conditionals from which implications are drawn for utilitarianism and with which I attempt to dispel certain doubts concerning cases employed in my arguments. (shrink)
Moral properties would supervene upon non-moral properties and be conceptually autonomous. That, according to Simon Blackburn, would make them if not impossible at least mysterious, and evidence for them best explained by theorists who say they are not real. In fact moral properties would not challenge in ways Blackburn has contended. There is, however, something new that can be gathered from his arguments. What would the supervenience of moral properties and their conceptual autonomy from at least total non-moral properties entail (...) not only for Intuitionists, who ‘knew this all along,’ but for all moral realists, that there are synthetic necessary moral principles? There is for all moral realists the problem of explaining ‘what in the world’ makes possible these necessities. (shrink)
A person who does not have good intellectual reasons for believing in God can, depending on his probabilities and values for consequences of believing, have good practical reasons. Pascalian wagers founded on a variety of possible probability/value profiles are examined from a Bayesian perspective central to which is the idea that states and options are pragmatically reasonable only if they maximize subjective expected value. Attention is paid to problems posed by representations of values by Cantorian infinities. An appendix attends to (...) Robinsonian hyperreals. Another appendix presents for comparison Newcomb's Problem and a problem in some ways like it suggested, I think, by ideas of John Calvin. (shrink)
Richard Kraut's neo-Aristotelian account of well-being, Developmentalism, aspires to explain not only which things are good for us but why those things are good for us. The key move in attempting to make good on this second aspiration involves his claim that our ordinary intuitions about what is good for a person can be successfully explained and systematized by the idea that what benefi ts a living thing develops properly that living thing's potentialities, capacities, and faculties. I argue that Kraut's (...) understanding of such proper development plays no serious constraining role in shaping the details of the account. If this is correct, Developmentalism lacks the potential to explain or vindicate the intuitions about what is good for us that it champions. In effect, Kraut offers us a list of things that he claims benefits a person, but he lacks a theory of what those things have in common such that they benefit him. (shrink)
Rational actions reflect beliefs and preferences in certain orderly ways. The problem of theory is to explain which beliefs and preferences are relevant to the rationality of particular actions, and exactly how they are relevant. One distinction of interest here is between an agent's beliefs and preferences just before an action's time, and his beliefs and preferences at its time. Theorists do not agree about the times of beliefs and desires that are relevant to the rationality of action. Another distinction (...) is between actions that would, in one sense or another, maximize expected utilities given relevant beliefs and desires, and actions, decisions for which would, in one sense or another, be stable. There is disagreement about the relevance of these things to the rationality of actions. Here, in the first part below, several possible positions on these issues are explained and compared. In the second part, I contrast perspectives on these issues, and comment on arguments that might be brought against the position I favor. In the third part, I restate and elaborate on this position. (shrink)
: HIPAA is often described as a privacy rule. It is not. In fact, HIPAA is a disclosure regulation, and it has effectively dismantled the longstanding moral and legal tradition of patient confidentiality. By permitting broad and easy dissemination of patients’ medical information, with no audit trails for most disclosures, it has undermined both medical ethics and the effectiveness of medical care.
“To this day, partiality approaches to the paradox have been dogged by the so-called ‘Strengthened Liar’. .... The Strengthened Liar observes that if we follow a partiality theorist and declare the Liar sentence* neither true nor false (or failing to express a proposition,. or suffering from some sort of grave semantic defect), then the paradox is only pushed back. For we can go on to conclude that whatever this status may be, it implies that the Liar sentence is not true. (...) This claim is true, but it is just the Liar sentence again.* We are back in paradox.” (Glanzberg 2002, p. 468, bold emphasis added.) Cf.: “We are back in our contradiction,”(Glanzberg 2001, p. 222). *The Liar sentence intended is evidently the sentence ‘the Liar sentence is not true’, and, the Liar sentence = ‘the Liar sentence is not true’. Cf.: “Consider a Liar sentence: ...let us take a sentence l which says l is not true. We can, informally, reason as.. (shrink)
Abstract: A Liar would express a proposition that is true and not true. A Liar Paradox would, per impossibile, demonstrate the reality of a Liar. To resolve a Liar Paradox it is sufficient to make out of its demonstration a reductio of the existence of the proposition that would be true and not true, and to "explain away" the charm of the paradoxical contrary demonstration. Persuasive demonstrations of the Liar Paradox in this paper trade on allusive scope-ambiguities of English definite (...) descriptions, and can seem confirmed by symbolizations in a Fregean theory in which scopes of definite descriptions are determinate. Symbolizing instead in a Russellian description theory in which alternative scopes are possible reveals that however the scope-ambiguities of the demonstration are settled the result is unsound. (shrink)
This paper is about David Gauthier’s concept of constrained maximization. Attending to his most detailed and careful account, I try to say how constrained maximization works, and how it might be changed to work better. In section I, that detailed account is quoted along with amplifying passages. Difficulties of interpretation are explained in section II. An articulation, a spelling out, of Gauthier's account is offered in section III to deal with these difficulties. Next, in section IV, constrained maximization thus articulated (...) is tested on several choice problems and shown to be seriously wanting. It appears that there are prisoners’ dilemmas in which constrained maximizers would not cooperate to mutual advantage, but would interact sub-optimally just as straight-maximizers would. ‘Coordination problems’ are described with which constrained maximizers might, especially if transparent to one another, not be able to cope–problems in which they might not be able to make up their minds to do anything at all. And I prove that there are prisoners’ dilemmas that, though possible for real agents and for straight maximizers, are not possible for constrained maximizers, so that agents’ internalising dispositions of constrained maximization could not be of help in connection with such possibly impending dilemmas. Taking constrained maximization as it stands, there are many problems for which it does not afford the ‘moral solutions’ with which Gauthier would have it replace Hobbesian political ones. After displaying these shortcomings of constrained maximization as presently designed, I sketch, in section V, possible revisions that would reduce them, stressing that these revisions would not be cost-free. Whether finishing the job of fixing up and making precise constrained maximization would be worth the considerable trouble it would involve lies beyond the issues taken up in this paper. So, of course, do substantive comparisons of constrained maximization, perfected and made precise, and straight maximization. (shrink)
Key words: liar paradoxes, propositions, definite descriptions A Liar would be a sentence or sentence-token that expresses a proposition that is both true and not true. A Liar Paradox is reasoning that would do the impossible and demonstrate the reality of a Liar. It is sufficient, fully to resolve a Liar Paradox, to turn its purported demonstration that some sentence or sentence-token expresses a proposition that is both true and not true into a reductio of the existence of the proposition (...) that would be expressed, while ‘explaining away’ the particular tricks and charm of the purported demonstration of paradox. The interest of these exercises lies in the seductiveness of the would be demonstration of a Liar Paradox, and in the depth and subtlety of logical/grammatical resources that can be tapped and fashioned to dispel it. The Liar taken on in this paper occasions especially seductive reasoning that exploits ‘scope-ambiguities’ of definite descriptions that, not incidentally, survive unscathed when its argument is symbolized in a Fregean description theory in which scopes of definite descriptions are not discriminated. Symbolizing this argument in a Russellian description theory in which scopes are discriminated makes unavoidable that its scope-ambiguities be settled one way or another, and reveals that however the scope ambiguity of a certain premise is settled the resultant unambiguous argument is unsound, either because it is invalid, though this premise comes out true, or because, though it is valid, this premise comes out not true. These results of Russellian analysis pave the way to a formal demonstration, from premises to which a monger of the paradox would be committed, that contrary to his case the Liar of this paper does not express a proposition. This conclusion is confirmed in the Appendix to this paper by a demonstration from a single empirical premise that no one can deny, in a Russellian calculus enhanced for truth of propositions expressed by tokens of sentences.. (shrink)