Moral particularism is commonly presented as an alternative to ‘principle- or rule-based’ approaches to ethics, such as consequentialism or Kantianism. This paper argues that particularists' aversions to consequentialism stem not from a structural feature of consequentialism per se, but from substantial and structural axiological views traditionally associated with consequentialism. Given a particular approach to value, there need be no conflict between moral particularism and consequentialism. We consider and reject a number of challenges holding that there is after all such a (...) conflict. We end by suggesting that our proposed position appears quite appealing since it preserves attractive elements from particularism as well as consequentialism. (shrink)
Is the procreation asymmetry intuitively supported? According to a recent article in this journal, an experimental study suggests the opposite. Dean Spears (2020) claims that nearly three-quarters of participants report that there is a reason to create a person just because that person’s life would be happy. In reply, I argue that various confounding factors render the study internally invalid. More generally, I show how one might come to adopt the procreation asymmetry for the wrong reasons by misinterpreting one’s intuitions.
Jonas Olson writes that "a plausible moral error theory must be an error theory about all irreducible normativity". I agree. But unlike Olson, I think we cannot believe this error theory. I first argue that Olson should say that reasons for belief are irreducibly normative. I then argue that if reasons for belief are irreducibly normative, we cannot believe an error theory about all irreducible normativity. I then explain why I think Olson's objections to this argument fail. I end (...) by showing that Olson cannot defend his view as a partly revisionary alternative to an error theory about all irreducible normativity. (shrink)
Jonas Olson presents a critical survey of moral error theory, the view that there are no moral facts and so all moral claims are false. Part I explores the historical context of the debate; Part II assesses J. L. Mackie's famous arguments; Part III defends error theory against challenges and considers its implications for our moral thinking.
It may be objected that musical analysts claim to be working with objective methodologies which leave no place for aesthetic criteria, for the consideration of value. If that were the case, the reluctance of so many writers to subsume analysis under criticism might be understandable. But are these claims true? Are they, indeed, even seriously entered?Certainly the original masters of analysis left no doubt that for them analysis was an essential adjunct to a fully articulated aesthetic value system. Heinrich Schenker (...) always insisted on the superiority of the towering products of the German musical genius. Sir Donald Tovey pontificated about "the main stream of music" and on occasion developed this metaphor in considerable detail. It is only in more recent times that analysts have avoided value judgments and adapted their work to a format of strictly corrigible propositions, mathematical equations, set-theory formulations, and the like—all this, apparently, in an effort to achieve the objective status and hence the authority of scientific inquiry. Articles on music composed after 1950, in particular, appear sometimes to mimic scientific papers in the way that South American bugs and flies will mimic the dreaded carpenter wasp. In a somewhat different adaptation, the distinguished analyst Allen Forte wrote an entire small book, The Compositional Matrix, from which all affective or valuational terms are meticulously excluded. The same tendency is evident in much recent periodical literature.Joseph Kerman, professor of music at the University of California at Berkeley, has been the editor of Nineteenth-Century Music. His books include Opera as Drama, The Elizabethan Madrigal, The Beethoven Quartets, Listen , and The Masses and Motets of William Byrd. (shrink)
Is there a pro tanto moral reason to create a life merely because it would be good for the person living it? Proponents of the procreation asymmetry claim there is not. Defending this controversial no reason claim, some have suggested that it is well in line with other phenomena in the moral realm: there is no reason to give a promise merely because one would keep it, and there is no reason to procreate merely to increase the extent of justice (...) in the world. Allegedly, some analogs extend so far as to support a unified theory of the no reason claim and the nonidentity thesis, that is, the view that of two persons leading lives of positive wellbeing, there is a reason to create the person with higher wellbeing. I dismantle the proposed analogs and show that they fail to meet various desiderata. Moreover, I refute Johann Frick's argument that the no reason claim follows from the assumption that reasons of beneficence are reasons to act for the sake of people. By criticizing attractive defenses for the no reason claim, I weaken its plausibility. (shrink)
Since the idea of a canon seems so closely bound up with the idea of history, there should be something to be learned from the persistent efforts that have been going on for nearly two hundred years to extend the musical repertory back in time. What is involved here is nothing less than a continuous effort to endow music with a history. From the workings of this process in the nineteenth century, we learn that where the ideology is right the (...) past can indeed yield up a canon of works and even a canon of performance. Bach, to take the most weighty example, would appear to have entered the canon—Hoffman’s canon—before entering the repertory. The history of the nineteenth-century Bach revival begins as a triumph of ideology over practice. Only after J. N. Forkel, in his famous biography, canonized Bach as the archetypal German master was The Well-tempered Clavier published for the first time—and if any one work of music deserved to be called canonic, it would have to be The Well-tempered Clavier.14 Gradually other Bach works, works which fitted better into nineteenth-century concert life, did enter various nineteenth-century repertories; Mendelssohn’s revival of the St. Matthew Passion is a famous landmark, and various piano transcriptions and orchestral arrangements, not to speak of Gounod’s “Ave Maria,” followed in due course. Bach was made to sound like a premature Romantic. There was as yet no call for historical “authenticity.” But I do not think it was Bach that Hood was thinking of when he complained of musical traditions of the past whose “real identities are gone.” The skeleton may not have been bodied out with authentic flesh and blood, but it was made into a handsome waxwork which was quite real enough for the nineteenth century. 14. This point is made by Crocker, “Is There Really a ‘Written Tradition’?” Joseph Kerman, professor of music at the University of California, Berkeley, is the author of Opera as Drama, The Beethoven Quartets, The Masses and Motets of William Byrd, and The New Grove Beethoven. He is also coeditor of Beethoven Studies and Nineteenth-Century Music and is presently working on a concise study of modern musical scholarship. “How We Got into Analysis, and How to Get Out,” his previous contribution to Critical Inquiry, appeared in the Winter 1980 issue. (shrink)
Error theories have been proposed and defended in several different areas of philosophy. In addition to ethics, there are error theories about numbers, color, free will, and personal identity. Moral error theories differ in scope. Theories at one end of the spectrum take normative judgments in general—of which moral judgments are a subclass—to be uniformly false, whereas theories at the other end of the spectrum take only a subclass of moral judgments—example those concerning duty and obligation, but not those concerning (...) virtue and vice—to be uniformly false. Moral error theorists typically join forces with non-naturalist realists, against naturalism and non-cognitivism. Facts that are normative in the reason-implying sense are irreducibly normative, and they are very different. Many non-naturalist realists and error theorists maintain that it is impossible to give a plausible naturalistic account of moral facts, precisely because they are irreducibly normative; moral naturalism therefore falls prey to the "normativity objection". (shrink)
Recognizing yourself in literature cannot only help you to get a clearer grasp of what you already think and feel. It can also deeply unsettle your vision of yourself. This article examines a hitherto neglected mechanism to this effect: learning by way of seeing yourself in others’ blindness. I show that In Search of Lost Time epitomizes this phenomenon. Confronting characters oblivious to their old age makes the protagonist realize that he, too, has aged without noticing it, and invites readers (...) to analogous insights. The paper contributes to the discussion on how you can learn from literature and adds a twist to Proust’s claim that the purpose of literature is that readers recognize themselves in it. (shrink)
Jonas Olson defends a moral error theory in (2014). I will first argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral nonnaturalism in his own opinion. I will then argue that Olson is not justified in believing the error theory as opposed to moral contextualism either (although the latter is not a matter of his own opinion).
This paper offers a unified explanation for the procreation asymmetry and the non-identity thesis – two of the most intractable puzzles in population ethics. According to the procreation asymmetry, there are moral reasons not to create lives that are not worth living but no moral reasons to create lives that are worth living. I explain the procreation asymmetry by arguing that there are moral reasons to prevent the bad, but no moral reasons to promote the good. Various explanations for the (...) procreation asymmetry have failed to explain the non-identity thesis: if one could create a person with a good life or a different person with a better life, one has a moral reason to create the better life. I argue that reflections on the misfortune of unfulfilled potential allow us to circumvent the non-identity problem. (shrink)
As soon as we try to philosophize about morality, a tension arises. We are confronted with radically different conceptions of the best human life. Philosophers as dissimilar as Aristotle, Kant, and Bentham have tried to find a principle or a set of principles that could serve as the ground of morality. With such a foundation, it would be possible to adjudicate among these different conceptions and explain why one is better than another, by making reference to the "seamless whole" of (...) human morality. Hampshire argues, persuasively, that this search is doomed to failure, at least if the basic principles are meant to have any substantive content. In particular, the virtues associated with innocence, and the virtues associated with experience, are incompatible: a person can't have both kinds at once, and most people achieve only some of only one set at any time in their lives. But if there are no foundational principles, then what is the alternative to complete relativism? A total moral skepticism? Hampshire suggests what he calls "minimum procedural justice" as a way of balancing competing conceptions of the good life as much as possible, without suggesting that the procedure can resolve all moral disagreements. Across the radical differences, there is one recognition that we all share: "[h]umanity is united in the recognition of the great evils which render life scarcely bearable...". Minimum procedural justice, a minimal fairness in negotiation, is required if these great evils are to be avoided. Furthermore, minimum procedural justice is the only concept that can play the role the substantive principles were to play. (shrink)
Discussing Plato's views on knowledge, recollection, dialogue, and epiphany, this ambitious volume offers a systematic analysis of the ways that Platonic approaches to education can help students navigate today's increasingly complex moral environment. Though interest in Platonic education may have waned due to a perceived view of Platonic scholarship as wholly impractical, this volume addresses common misunderstandings of Plato's work and highlights the contemporary relevance of Plato's ideas to contemporary moral education. Building on philosophical interpretations, the book argues persuasively that (...) educators might employ Platonic themes and dialogue in the classroom. Split into two parts, the book looks first to contextualise Plato's theory of moral education within political, ethical, and educational frameworks. Equipped with this knowledge, part two then offers contemporary educators the strategies needed for implementing Plato's educational theory within the pluralistic, democratic classroom setting. A Platonic Theory of Moral Education will be of interest to academics, researchers, and post-graduate students in the fields of: ethics; Plato scholarship; moral psychology; educational foundations; and the philosophy of education. This book would also benefit graduate students and scholars in teacher education. Mark E. Jonas is Professor of Education and Professor of Philosophy at Wheaton College, US. Yoshiaki Nakazawa is Assistant Professor of Education at University of Dallas, US. (shrink)
Experiences—visual, emotional, or otherwise—play a role in providing us with justification to believe claims about the world. Some accounts of how experiences provide justification emphasize the role of the experiences’ distinctive phenomenology, i.e. ‘what it is like’ to have the experience. Other accounts emphasize the justificatory role to the experiences’ etiology. A number of authors have used cases of cognitively penetrated visual experience to raise an epistemic challenge for theories of perceptual justification that emphasize the justificatory role of phenomenology rather (...) than etiology. Proponents of the challenge argue that cognitively penetrated visual experiences can fail to provide the usual justification because they have improper etiologies. However, extant arguments for the challenge’s key claims are subject to formidable objections. In this paper, I present the challenge’s key claims, raise objections to previous attempts to establish them, and then offer a novel argument in support of the challenge. My argument relies on an analogy between cognitively penetrated visual and emotional experiences. I argue that some emotional experiences fail to provide the relevant justification because of their improper etiologies and conclude that analogous cognitively penetrated visual experiences fail to provide the relevant justification because of their etiologies, as well. (shrink)
The book develops the metaphysics of meaning along the lines set up by Paul Grice, defining the three central notions of what is meant, said and implicated. The Gricean notion of what is said is threatened by semantic underdetermination: If the sentence underdetermines the thought it is used to express, what is said cannot be the proposition expressed by the sentence and meant by the speaker. This leads to a number of questions: How far does semantic underdetermination reach? Do we (...) have to extend or restrict the Gricean notion? Is what is said semantic or pragmatic? Keeping these metaphysical questions separate from the epistemological question of how the hearer understands what is meant, which is best explained by generalizing the Gricean theory of implicature derivation and combining it with a game-theoretic model, the book provides an original defense of a Gricean view in the ongoing debate about semantics and pragmatics. (shrink)
Throughout his career, Hans Jonas has reflected on the notion of the human soul and on the concept of man being created in God’s image. A careful analysis of his writings reveals that (approximately) from 1968 he changed his perspective on these topics. Before this year, Jonas used some Gnostic myths to speak about the image of man in relation to God and was concerned that referring to the immortality of the human soul or to the notion of (...) imago Dei could lead to dualistic or pseudo-Gnostic interpretations of the natural world. From 1968 (when Jonas published an article for an American Jewish journal) he started to underline the importance of the Judeo-Christian notion of imago Dei (from the book of Genesis) for his ethical project. Subsequently, he used this concept (derived from the Bible rather than from Gnostic texts) in support of his ethical approach to show the special role that God assigned to humanity to act as a steward of His creation. This article presents the development of Jonas’s contributions on these issues over time, their importance in relation to his ethical project and how he was influenced in the development of his perspective on this subject. (shrink)
This paper concerns how extant theorists of predictive coding conceptualize and explain possible instances of cognitive penetration. §I offers brief clarification of the predictive coding framework and relevant mechanisms, and a brief characterization of cognitive penetration and some challenges that come with defining it. §II develops more precise ways that the predictive coding framework can explain, and of course thereby allow for, genuine top-down causal effects on perceptual experience, of the kind discussed in the context of cognitive penetration. §III develops (...) these insights further with an eye towards tracking one extant criterion for cognitive penetration, namely, that the relevant cognitive effects on perception must be sufficiently direct. Throughout these discussions, we extend the analyses of the predictive coding models, as we know them. So one open question that surfaces is how much of the extended analyses are genuinely just part of the predictive coding models, or something that must be added to them in order to generate these additional explanatory benefits. In §IV, we analyze and criticize a claim made by some theorists of predictive coding, namely, that (interesting) instances of cognitive penetration tend to occur in perceptual circumstances involving substantial noise or uncertainty. It is here that our analysis is most critical. We argue that, when applied, the claim fails to explain (or perhaps even be consistent with) a large range of important and uncontroversially interesting possible cases of cognitive penetration. We conclude with a general speculation about how the recent work on the predictive mind may influence the current dialectic concerning top-down effects on perception. (shrink)
This paper questions the adequacy of the explicit cancellability test for conversational implicature as it is commonly understood. The standard way of understanding this test relies on two assumptions: first, that that one can test whether a certain content is conversationally implicated, by checking whether that content is cancellable, and second, that a cancellation is successful only if it results in a felicitous utterance. While I accept the first of these assumptions, I reject the second one. I argue that a (...) cancellation can succeed even if it results in an infelicitous utterance, and that unless we take this possibility into account we run the risk of misdiagnosing philosophically significant cases. (shrink)
‘Gnosticism and Modern Nihilism’ (published in Social Research , 1952) is indeed one of Hans Jonas’ most famous essays, to which its author reserved very deep attention during his philosophical career. As a former pupil of Martin Heidegger and Rudolf Bultmann, Jonas started to deal with religious topics, and specifically with Gnosticism, from the very outset of his philosophical career in the 1920s. After gaining recognition thanks to his remarkable philosophical-existential interpretation of Gnosticism, he returned to the modern (...) age and its philosophical characters. Principally, Jonas discovered that modern philosophy up to Heidegger and Sartre suffered from a peculiar spiritual disease – namely, nihilism – that he had already traced in ancient Gnosticism and that he intended to reject. Therefore, Jonas’ acquaintance with ancient religion and thinking gave him a deep insight into the modern age and provided him with a first glimpse of what was later to become his biological philosophy. However, whoever could imagine that the idea of tracing similarities between Gnosticism and modern thinking came to Jonas at the beginning of 1950 from the famous philosopher and biologist Ludwig von Bertalanffy? In this article, I shall endeavour to demonstrate this thesis by quoting from unpublished documents. However, I shall also try to prove that Jonas did not follow von Bertalanffy’s advice completely. The overall aim is, therefore, both to highlight the origins of an essential turning point in the thinking of Hans Jonas, and, on such a basis, to outline the innovation and originality of his philosophical contribution. (shrink)
Este trabajo ofrece una presentación y un examen crítico de una de las ideas filosófico-teológicas más controversiales y sugerentes de Hans Jonas: la de un Dios “sufriente” y “no omnipotente”. Asimismo, se introducen algunas reacciones críticas a dicha noción. Posteriormente, se busca relacionarla, destacando semejanzas y diferencias, con reflexiones recientes en torno a un “pensamiento posmetafísico”. Algunos comentarios sobre la actualidad o pertinencia de la propuesta jonasiana se plantean al final del trabajo.
Die Demut wird gegenwärtig entweder als ein verstaubtes Erbe des Christentums wahrgenommen oder vermehrt als ein säkulares „Modewort“ verstanden, das als mahnender Aufruf für die Rückgewinnung eines verlorenen Maßes zum Einsatz kommt. Jonas Puchta unternimmt den Versuch, unter Berücksichtigung der christlichen Tradition und ihrer Kritiker die Demut auf Grundlage einschlägiger Erfahrungen des Menschseins auf den Begriff zu bringen.
Dieses essential widmet sich dem Werk des Philosophen Hans Jonas und zwar aus dem Blickwinkel der Entwicklung seines Denkens. Die frühen Studien über die spätantike Gnosis bilden den Ausgangspunkt. Hier stößt Jonas auf ein Thema, das er in seinem gesamten späteren Werk kritisch diskutiert, nämlich das des weltfeindlichen Dualismus. In den ab den 1940er-Jahren entworfenen Studien zu einer philosophischen Biologie wird der Versuch unternommen, den Menschen in seiner leib-geistigen Verfasstheit bis hin zu seinen höchsten symbolischen Ausdrucksformen aus dem (...) Prozess der gesamten Evolution heraus zu deuten und damit implizit die Weltfeindlichkeit der Gnosis zu widerlegen. In seiner Ethik der Verantwortung, die er in dem 1979 veröffentlichten berühmten Prinzip Verantwortung systematisch vorträgt, findet sich gleichsam die ethische Seite der Überwindung der Gnosis, nämlich, dass der Mensch Verantwortung für eine Welt zu übernehmen habe, in der auch zukünftige Generationen menschenwürdig leben können. In seinen letzten metaphysisch-theologischen Vermutungen dann wird die Problematik der Verantwortung mit Blick auf einen in der Schöpfung selber werdenden Gott hin thematisiert. (shrink)
ABSTRACT The exclusion problem is meant to show that non-reductive physicalism leads to epiphenomenalism: if mental properties are not identical with physical properties, then they are not causally efficacious. Defenders of a difference-making account of causation suggest that the exclusion problem can be solved because mental properties can be difference-making causes of physical effects. Here, we focus on what we dub an incompatibilist implementation of this general strategy and argue against it from a non-reductive physicalist perspective. Specifically, we argue that (...) incompatibilism undermines either the non-reductionist or the physicalist aspirations of non-reductive physicalism. (shrink)
Let intentionalism be the view that what proposition is expressed in context by a sentence containing indexicals depends on the speaker’s intentions. It has recently been argued that intentionalism makes communicative success mysterious and that there are counterexamples to the intentionalist view in the form of cases of mismatch between the intended interpretation and the intuitively correct interpretation. In this paper, I argue that these objections can be met, once we acknowledge that we may distinguish what determines the correct interpretation (...) from the evidence that is available to the audience, as well as from the standards by which we judge whether or not a given interpretation is reasonable. With these distinctions in place, we see that intentionalism does not render communicative success mysterious, and that cases of mismatch between the intended interpretation and the intuitively correct one can easily be accommodated. The distinction is also useful in treating the Humpty Dumpty problem for intentionalism, since it turns out that this can be treated as an extreme special case of mismatch. (shrink)
According to the communication desideratum (CD), a notion of semantic content must be adequately related to communication. In the recent debate on indexical reference, (CD) has been invoked in arguments against the view that intentions determine the semantic content of indexicals and demonstratives (intentionalism). In this paper, I argue that the interpretations of (CD) that these arguments rely on are questionable, and suggest an alternative interpretation, which is compatible with (strong) intentionalism. Moreover, I suggest an approach that combines elements of (...) intentionalism with other subjectivist approaches, and discuss the role of intuitions in developing and evaluating theories of indexical reference. (shrink)
Should we understand the biological philosophy of Hans Jonas as a phenomenology for unveiling the phenomenon of life or as a kind of Hegelian metaphysics that presents life as a substantial principle? To answer that question, we need to deal first with the question of our access to other living beings and then with the problem of the spiritualization of the concept of evolution. This article will use an essay called “Organism and Freedom: An Essay in Philosophical Biology.”.
Perception purports to help you gain knowledge of the world even if the world is not the way you expected it to be. Perception also purports to be an independent tribunal against which you can test your beliefs. It is natural to think that in order to serve these and other central functions, perceptual representations must not causally depend on your prior beliefs and expectations. In this paper, I clarify and then argue against the natural thought above. All perceptual systems (...) must solve an under-determination problem: the sensory data they receive could be caused by indefinitely many arrangements of distal objects and properties. Using a Bayesian approach to perceptual processing, I argue that in order to solve the under-determination problem, perceptual capacities must rely on prior beliefs or expectations of some kind. I then argue that perceptual states or processes can help ground knowledge of the world whether the ‘beliefs’ necessary for perceptual processing are encoded as sub-personal states within a perceptual system or cognitive states, such as person-level beliefs. My argument has two main parts. First, I give a preliminary argument that cognitive influence on perception can be appropriate, and I respond to three lines of objection. Second, I argue that cognitively influenced perceptual states can be instances of seeing that p, which makes the relevant states well suited to help ground knowledge that p. I conclude that a cognitively penetrated perceptual state or process can help ground knowledge under some circumstances. (shrink)
The article endeavours to compare the reflections on the Shoah of two of the most celebrated intellectuals of Jewish origin of the 20th century, namely the German philosopher Hans Jonas and the Soviet writer Vasily Grossman. Both Jonas’ essay on The Concept of God after Auschwitz and Grossman’s novels and reports, such as The Hell of Treblinka, Life and Fate, and The Sistine Madonna, are characterised by a thorough enquiry into the ambivalence of the human condition, that tries (...) to shed some light on the disturbing abyss of Auschwitz and the Shoah. Although neither Jonas nor Grossman considered themselves as religious believers, thanks to the Shoah they recollected their Jewish roots and developed peculiar and innovative thoughts on the meaning and vulnerability of life, human freedom, immortality, and God. The article endeavours to highlight the main similarities and differences between these two authors, who tackled the issue of thinking after Auschwitz. (shrink)
During the last couple of decades, several attempts have been made to come up with a theory that can handle the various semantic, logical and philosophical problems raised by the vagueness of natural languages. One of the most influential ideas that have come into fashion in recent years is the idea that vagueness should be analysed as a form of context sensitivity. Such contextualist theories of vagueness have gained some popularity, but many philosophers have remained sceptical of the prospects of (...) finding a tenable contextualist solution to the problems of vagueness. This paper provides an introduction to the most popular contextualist accounts, and a discussion of some of the most important arguments for and against them. (shrink)
I propose a pragmatic approach to the kind of reference-shifting occurring in indexicals as used in e.g. written notes and answering machine messages. I proceed in two steps. First, I prepare the ground by showing that the arguments against such a pragmatic approach raised in the recent literature fail. Second, I take a first few steps towards implementing this approach, by sketching a pragmatic theory of reference-shifting, and showing how it can handle cases of the relevant kind. While the immediate (...) scope of the paper is restricted to indexicals and reference-shifting, and the discussion is confined to a specific range of theories and cases, the approach proposed is compatible with a fairly broad range of more or less semantically conservative theories, and many of the conclusions drawn are significant for the evaluation of pragmatic explanations in philosophy more generally. The overall goal is to offer a new perspective on the issues under discussion, and to prompt philosophers to reconsider some of the established methods by which pragmatic explanations are evaluated. (shrink)
Any complete theory of “what we owe to each other” must be able to adequately accommodate directed or bipolar obligations, that is, those obligations that are owed to a particular individual and in virtue of which another individual stands to be wronged. Bipolar obligations receive their moral importance from their intimate connection to a particular form of recognition respect that we owe to each other: respect of another as a source of valid claims to whom in particular we owe certain (...) treatment and, at the very least, an apology if we fail to accord that treatment. While some of the most prominent accounts of interpersonal morality fail to adequately accommodate bipolar obligations, I here investigate a recent proposal that explicitly seeks to improve on these accounts—Stephen Darwall’s second-personal theory of morality. Ultimately, I object to Darwall’s theory on the grounds that his second-personal theory normatively ties bipolar obligations too closely to non-directed moral obligations or those that we are under, period. The problem for Darwall’s account is that any obligations that at first appear to be bipolar and owed to someone in particular turn out to be instances of non-directed moral obligations period that have their normative source in the representative authority of the moral community. Adequately accommodating bipolar obligations requires taking seriously a novel second-personal approach, according to which we locate the normative sources of our interpersonal obligations in the claims and demands particular persons and deliberate from what I call the pairwise or bipolar standpoint. (shrink)
In the debate over what determines the reference of an indexical expression on a given occasion of use, we can distinguish between two generic positions. According to the first, the reference is determined by internal factors, such as the speaker’s intentions. According to the second, the reference is determined by external factors, like conventions or what a competent and attentive audience would take the reference to be. It has recently been argued that the first position is untenable, since there are (...) cases of mismatch where the intuitively correct reference differs from the one that would be determined by the relevant internal factors. The aim of this paper is to show that, contrary to this line of argument, it is the proponent of the second position that should be worried, since this position yields counterintuitive consequences regarding communicative success in cases of mismatch. (shrink)
My aim in this essay is largely defensive. I aim to discuss some problems for moral error theory and to offer plausible solutions. A full positive defense of moral error theory would require substantial investigations of rival metaethical views, but that is beyond the scope of this essay. I will, however, try to motivate moral error theory and to clarify its commitments. Moral error theorists typically accept two claims – one conceptual and one ontological – about moral facts. The conceptual (...) claim is that moral facts are or entail facts about categorical reasons (and correspondingly that moral claims are or entail claims about categorical reasons); the ontological claim is that there are no categorical reasons – and consequently no moral facts – in reality. I accept this version of moral error theory and I try to unpack what it amounts to in Section 2.1 In the course of doing so I consider two preliminary objections: that moral error theory is (probably) false because its implications are intuitively unacceptable (what I call the Moorean objection) and that the general motivation for moral error theory is self-undermining in that it rests on a hidden appeal to norms. The above characterization seems to entail the standard formulation of moral error theory, according to which first-order moral claims are uniformly false. Critics have argued that the standard formulation is incoherent since – by the law of excluded middle – the negation of a false claim is true. Hence if ‘Torture is wrong’ is false, ‘Torture is not wrong’ is true. Contrary to what moral error theorists contend, then, moral error theory seems to carry first-order moral implications that by the theory’s own lights are uniformly false. In Section 3 I suggest a formulation that is consistent with the standard formulation of moral error theory, free of first-order moral implications, and subject to no logical difficulties. In Section 4 I consider and rebut Stephen Finlay’s recent attack on moral error theory. According to Finlay the conceptual claim is false because all moral claims – and indeed all normative claims – are, or should be understood as, relativized to some moral standard or system of ends. Moral error theorists thus attribute to ordinary speakers an error that simply isn’t there. I argue that Finlay’s view has some very implausible implications and that it does not avoid commitment to various forms of error theory. This becomes especially clear when we focus on fundamental moral claims. In Section 5 I consider the worry that error theorists’ rejection of categorical reasons proves too much; in particular, the worry that error theorists’ qualms about categorical reasons apply equally to claims about hypothetical reasons, that is, claims to the effect that there is reason to take the means to one’s ends. In my view error theorists such as Mackie and Joyce have failed to pay due consideration to this problem. What the challenge establishes, I submit, is that error theorists cannot just take for granted that hypothetical reasons are metaphysically unproblematic; they must offer an account of hypothetical reasons that shows that they are. I argue that the only plausible account available to error theorists is one according to which claims about hypothetical reasons reduce to non-normative claims about relations between means and ends. (shrink)