I explore two accounts of properties within a dispositional essentialist (or causal powers) framework, the pure powers view and the powerful qualities view. I ﬁrst attempt to clarify precisely what the pure powers view is, and then raise objections to it. I then present the powerful qualities view and, in order to avoid a common misconception, oﬀer a restatement of it that I shall call the truthmaker view. I end by brieﬂy defending the truthmaker view against objections.
Possible worlds, concrete or abstract as you like, are irrelevant to the truthmakers for modality—or so I shall argue in this paper. First, I present the neo-Humean picture of modality, and explain why those who accept it deny a common sense view of modality. Second, I present what I take to be the most pressing objection to the neo-Humean account, one that, I argue, applies equally well to any theory that grounds modality in possible worlds. Third, I present an alternative, (...) properties-based theory of modality and explore several specific ways to flesh the general proposal out, including my favored version, the powers theory. And, fourth, I offer a powers semantics for counterfactuals that each version of the properties-based theory of modality can accept, mutatis mutandis. Together with a definition of possibility and necessity in terms of counterfactuals, the powers semantics of counterfactuals generates a semantics for modality that appeals to causal powers and not possible worlds. (shrink)
We explain the thesis that human mental states are ontologically emergent aspects of a fundamentally biological organism. We then explore the consequences of this thesis for the identity of a human person over time. As these consequences are not obviously independent of one's general ontology of objects and their properties, we consider four such accounts: transcendent universals, kind-Aristotelianism, immanent universals, and tropes. We suggest there are reasons for emergentists to favor the latter two accounts. We then argue that within such (...) ontologies, emergentism about properties pushes one to the stronger claim that there are emergent individuals, though not individuals which are dual to person's bodies—substance emergentism, but not substance dualism. (shrink)
Freedom and moral responsibility have one foot in the practical realm of human affairs and the other in the esoteric realm of fundamental metaphysics—or so we believe. This has been denied, especially in the metaphysics-bashing era occupying the first two-thirds or so of the twentieth century, traces of which linger in the present day. But the reasons for this denial seem to us quite implausible. Certainly, the argument for the general bankruptcy of metaphysics has been soundly discredited. Arguments from Strawson (...) and others that our moral practices are too deeply embedded in human life to rest on anything as tenuous as a metaphysical doctrine far from the thoughts of ordinary people would seem to prove too much: we can easily imagine fantastic scenarios far from the thoughts of ordinary people—involving, say, alien manipulation or massive deception—that, if true, would clearly undermine claims to freedom and responsibility. For still other philosophers, the separation of the moral life from (some) metaphysical issues is prescriptive, not descriptive: it is a recommendation that we revise ordinary moral thought by severing its allegedly problematic links to metaphysics. (Some philosophers appear to hover undecided between such a prescriptive project and a Strawsonian descriptive claim.) We suspect that the prospects of retaining the binding force of ordinary moral thought, were such a reconceived moral practice widely embraced, are bleak. A transition to something closer to moral nihilism seems at least as likely. In any case, our interest here is in descriptive metaphysics, not revisionary. -/- To say as we do that freedom and moral responsibility have a partly metaphysical character is not to suggest that they can be had only if some highly specific version of a particular metaphysical framework is correct. Instead, we suggest in what follows, it is a broadly neo-Humean metaphysics that is not hospitable to freedom (for reasons distinctive to the metaphysics), while a broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is. But we also think (and it is the main aim of our paper to show) that different versions of the neo- Aristotelian metaphysics lead to rather different metaphysical accounts of free and responsible action. Specifically, we will argue that (1) the most satisfactory account of human freedom within the broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is agent-causal, but that (2) two different versions of the general metaphysics will lead to important differences in the agent-causal account of freedom. Adjust the details of your general metaphysics, and the details of your account of freedom are transformed in significant ways. Action theory cannot properly be pursued in isolation from general metaphysics. (shrink)
We use concepts of causal powers and their relatives-dispositions, capacities, and abilities-to describe the world around us, both in everyday life and in scientific practice. This volume presents new work on the nature of causal powers, and their connections with other phenomena within metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind.
We present an original emergent individuals view of human persons, on which persons are substantial biological unities that exemplify metaphysically emergent mental states. We argue that this view allows for a coherent model of identity-preserving resurrection from the dead consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, one that improves upon alternatives accounts recently proposed by a number of authors. Our model is a variant of the “falling elevator” model advanced by Dean Zimmerman that, unlike Zimmerman’s, does not require a closest continuer account (...) of personal identity. We end by raising some remaining theological concerns. (shrink)
Causal powers, say, an electron’s power to repel other electrons, are had in virtue of having properties. Electrons repel other electrons because they are negatively charged. One’s views about causal powers are shaped by—and shape—one’s views concerning properties, causation, laws of nature and modality. It is no surprise, then, that views about the nature of causal powers are generally embedded into larger, more systematic, metaphysical pictures of the world. This dissertation is an exploration of three systematic metaphysics, Neo-Humeanism, Nomicism and (...) Neo-Aristotelianism. I raise problems for the first two and defend the third. A defense of a systematic metaphysics, I take it, involves appealing to pre-theoretical commitments or intuitions, and theoretical issues such as simplicity or explanatory power. While I think that Neo-Aristotelianism is the most intuitive of the available general metaphysical pictures of the world, these kinds of intuitions do not settle the matter. The most widely held of the alternative pictures, Neo-Humeanism, is accepted in great part because of its theoretical power. In contrast, a systematic Neo-Aristotelian metaphysic is, at best, nascent. The way forward for the Neo-Aristotelian, therefore, is a contribution to an ongoing research program, generating Neo-Aristotelian views of modality, causation and laws of nature from the Neo-Aristotelian understanding of causal powers. The central argument of this dissertation is that such views are defensible, and so the Neo-Aristotelian metaphysic ought to be accepted. (shrink)
This article identifies a common intellectual project of the disciplines that constitute the Humanities. It does not define the humanities but characterizes some of the main features of the distinctive and essential kind of learning uniquely attainable by their study. The humanities enable us to attain an understanding of normativity in the broadest sense; humanistic study leads to a textured, penetrating comprehension of diverse valuative matters and concerns. Moreover, study in the humanities enables us to recognize and appreciate valuative realism (...) . This is the view that valuative matters are appropriate objects of comprehension and that values are not simply projected in an expressivist or subjectivist manner. Valuative realism does not depend upon, and should not be assimilated into, knowledge that emulates the methods of the sciences. Humane studies develop a genuine understanding of diverse kinds of significance and educate people in the concepts and discourse to articulate it. (shrink)
Though foreign—and perhaps shocking—to many in the west, the doctrine of theosis is central in the theology and practice of Eastern Orthodoxy. Theosis is “the ultimate goal of human existence”1 and indeed is “a way of summing up the purpose of creation”:2 That God will unite himself to all of creation with humanity at the focal point. What are human persons, that they might be united to God? That is the question I explore in this paper. In particular, I explore (...) an account of human nature inspired by an Eastern Orthodox conception of theosis. In section 1, I present a theological vision of theosis in the Eastern Church. In section 2, I oﬀer an interpretation of what it might mean for human nature to become deformed by the fall and transformed by the Incarnation. Then, in section 3, I present an (admittedly speculative) account of human nature, based on a robustly metaphysical reading of an Orthodox conception of theosis. On that account—to overly simplify things, and postponing important qualiﬁcations—we might say that a human being is the union of soul and body with God. Finally, given that account of human nature, I oﬀer in section 3 some brief reﬂections on the prospects of a scientiﬁc anthropology. (shrink)
A detailed study of the moral philosophy of medieval Jewish thinkers Saadia Gaon, Bahya ibn Pakuda, and Moses Maimonides. Jon Jacobs emphasizes their distinctive contributions, emphasises the shared rational emphasis of their approach to Torah, and draws out resonances with contemporary moral philosophy.
Maimonides uses Aristotelian philosophical idiom to articulate his moral philosophy, but there are fundamental differences between his and Aristotle’s conceptions of moral psychology and the nature of the moral agent. The Maimonidean conception of volition and its role in repentance and ethical self-correction are quite un-Aristotelian. The relation between this capacity to alter one’s character and the accessibility of ethical requirements given in the Law is explored. This relation helps explain why for Maimonides practical wisdom is not recognized as a (...) virtue, and why ethical perfection is achievable even by those long-established in ethically unsound dispositions. The power of will to “restore the soul” when character is disordered is a significant departure from Aristotelian philosophical anthropology. (shrink)
The main claim in this paper is that because organisms have teleological constitutions, the reduction of biology to physical science is not possible. It is argued that the teleology of organisms is intrinsic and not merely projected onto them. Many organic phenomena are end-oriented and reference to ends is necessary for explaining them. Accounts in terms of functions or goals are appropriate to organic parts and processes. siis is because ends as systemic requirements for survival and health have explanatory significance (...) with respect to the processes that contribute to and constitute them. Reductionism cannot accommodate this sort of higher-level to lower-level explanation and so cannot account for why lower-level phenomena are as they are. Reductionism, it is claimed, is ultimately descriptive and not explanatory because it cannot regard teleological requirements as themselves basic. In seeking to explain them away it forfeits explanatory power. (shrink)
A study of fundamental issues in metaethics and in moral psychology, surveying important approaches with an emphasis on the disputed status of moral value and the roles of cognition and sensibility. Coverage of the issues includes discussion of significant thinkers from antiquity to the present.
The notions of autonomy and self-governance each capture something crucial about the moral dimensions of agents and actions. These notions are central to the ways in which we conceptualize ourselves and others. The concept of autonomy is especially crucial to understanding the distinct status of moral agents. For its part, self-governance has a significant relation to the evaluation of agents as individuals with particular characters, leading particular sorts of lives, and performing particular actions. Neither notion—autonomy nor self-governance—fully assimilates or dominates (...) the other. Moreover, there are some important strains between them. There are certain forms of regard that the autonomy of an agent demands that are at odds with what an agent's exercise of self-governance merits. In this essay I plan to show this, and offer a diagnosis of why this is the case. (shrink)
Many of the basic elements of Maimonides' moral psychology are Aristotelian, but there are some important respects in which Maimonides departs from Aristotle. One of those respect concerns the possibility of changing one's character. There is, according to Maimonides, redemptive possibility that Aristotle does not recognize. There is, according to Maimonides, a redemptive possibility that Aristotle does not recognize. This is based on the fact of revealed law. That is, if there is revealed law, then there is guidance for the (...) ordering of one's dispositions to what is good, even though the individual lacks practical wisdom. There is, in the Maimonidean account, both allowance for more plasticity of character, and at the same time a heightened responsibility for acknowledging what is ethically required. (shrink)
D. M. Armstrong famously claims that deterministic laws of nature are contingent relations between universals and that his account can also be straightforwardly extended to irreducibly probabilistic laws of nature. For the most part, philosophers have neglected to scrutinize Armstrong’s account of probabilistic laws. This is surprising precisely because his own claims about probabilistic laws make it unclear just what he takes them to be. We offer three interpretations of what Armstrong-style probabilistic laws are, and argue that all three interpretations (...) are incompatible either with some feature of Armstrong’s broader metaphysics or with essential features of his account of laws (or both). (shrink)
Jonathan Jacobs reviews The Contested Legacy of Ayn Rand, in which David Kelley responds to Objectivists who refuse to dialogue with libertarians, and examines the debate among Objectivists over the interpretation of Rand's thinking. Kelley argues that Rand presents crucial insights and claims and that these need to be developed and elaborated and not viewed as a fixed doctrine. Jacobs focuses on where Kelley situates himself among Objectivists, and raises critical concerns about the effectiveness with which Rand's philosophy is articulated (...) and defended. He questions how effectively Objectivism enters into philosophical debates to which it claims to contribute. (shrink)
This response questions whether human relationships are morally basic in the manner the author suggests, and also whether reference to human relationships is necessary for explaining moral principles, obligations, and judgments. I argue that, often, those can be explicated without essential reference to human relationships, except perhaps in the respect that the moral issues concern human beings. Also, Kellenberger maintains that immorality is to be understood in terms of “violations” of human relationships. However, features other than facts about human relationships (...) often do the main explanatory work in accounting for the wrongness of immoral actions. Indeed, it is often the case that facts about human beings are the basis for ascertaining the moral significance of human relationshipsand actions. Translation of moral principles into an idiom of human relationships would not be illuminating in a significant, novel manner. We already possess conceptual resources for explicating the moral phenomena with which Kellenberger is concerned. Those resources include concepts of elements other than, and more basic than, human relationships. (shrink)
In this paper, my central aim is to defend the Powers Theory of causation, according to which causation is the exercise of a power (or manifestation of a disposition). I will do so by, first, presenting a recent version of the Powers Theory, that of Mumford (Forthcoming). Second, I will raise an objection to Mumford’s account. Third, I will offer a revised version that avoids the objection. And, fourth, I will end by briefly comparing the proposed Powers Theory with the (...) Neo-Humean, counterfactual theory. (shrink)
There are several reasonable conceptions of liberalism. A liberal polity can survive a measure of disagreement over just what constitutes liberalism. In part, this is because of the way a liberal order makes possible a dynamic, heterogeneous civil society and how that, in turn, can supply participants with reasons to support a liberal political order. Despite the different conceptions of justice associated with different conceptions of liberalism, there are reasons to distinguish the normative focus of criminal justice from other aspects (...) of justice in a liberal polity. Given the fundamental commitments of liberalism?of whatever variant?there are reasons for criminal justice not to be assimilated to wider conceptions of justice overall. Such assimilation risks undermining some of liberalism's distinctive commitments concerning the standing of individuals as voluntary, responsible agents. Criminal justice is not independent of other aspects of justice but has a distinct focus in a liberal polity. (shrink)
It is only for persons that the question, “How shall I live?” arises, and it arises inevitably, even if in an inarticulate and unreflective manner. Persons must deliberate, decide, plan, and schedule their actions. Openness with respect to ends confronts them, and they must structure and direct their lives by determining what sort of career to trace out, even if it proves to be a career of routine or unambitious undertakings. Circumstances can constrain and compel, and the openness persons confront (...) can be closed off by external factors. But it is intrinsic to the nature of persons that the exercise of capacities for thought and action may be directed this way or that. There are perhaps nonpersons whose activity is to be explained with reference to beliefs and desires. But even if they act in an end-directed way, they do not experience openness with respect to ends and do not order and orient their life histories by deliberative considerations. (shrink)
A study of the ways Maimonides and Aquinas both borrow from Aristotle and depart from him, in regard to the issue of forgiveness. The paper explicates moral-psychological issues and normative issues, connecting them to the perfectionism of the philosophical anthropology shared by the three thinkers. The theistic commitments of Maimonides and Aquinas ground important departures from Aristotle regarding the possibility of moral change and regarding moral relations between persons.