In this essay, I focus on two questions. First, what is Kant's understanding of the sense in which our faculties form a unified system? And, second, what are the implications of this for the metaphysical relationships between the faculties within this system? To consider these questions, I begin with a brief discussion of Longuenesse's groundbreaking work on the teleological unity of the understanding as the faculty for judgment. In doing so, I argue for a generalization of Longuenesse's account along two (...) dimensions. The result is a picture of our faculties as forming a teleological system—unified under the overarching aims of reason as the highest rational faculty. Then I discuss the recent debate between “additive” and “transformative” interpretations of the relationship between sensibility and the understand- ing, before proposing that we should interpret Kant as endorsing a moderate form of the “transformative” reading, which captures important elements of both the “additive” and the “transformative” account. (shrink)
In this essay, I develop and defend a virtue-theoretic conception of rationality as a capacity whose function is understanding, as opposed to mere truth or correctness. I focus on two main potential advantages of this view. First, its ability to explain the rationality of forms of explanatory reasoning, and second, its ability to offer a more unified account of theoretical and practical rationality.
[A]ny theory of practical rationality must explain— or explain away—the following: Rational: In many cases, what it is rational (in some sense) for one to do or intend to do depends on what one desires. [...] I argue that in order to capture the rational significance of desire, we need to consider both its content and its force, on analogy to the rational significance of both the force and content of beliefs and perceptual experiences. This will open up a new (...) and more elegant way of explaining Rational, while also allowing us to understand how our desires provide us with a basic form of normative experience. Thus, in the end, this will provide the basis for a novel defense of the ancient thesis that desire, in some sense, presents its object under the “guise of the good.”. (shrink)
Over the last two decades, Kant’s name has become closely associated with the “constitutivist” program within metaethics. But is Kant best read as pursuing a constitutivist approach to meta- normative questions? And if so, in what sense? In this essay, I’ll argue that we can best answer these questions by considering them in the context of a broader issue – namely, how Kant understands the proper methodology for philosophy in general. The result of this investigation will be that, while Kant (...) can indeed be read as a sort of constitutivist, his constitutivism is ultimately just one instance of a much more general approach to philosophy – which treats as fundamental our basic, self-conscious rational capacities. Thus, to truly understand why and how Kant is a constitutivist, we need to consider this question within the context of his more fundamental commitment to “capacities-first philosophy”. (shrink)
It is increasingly common to suggest that the combination of evolutionary theory and normative realism leads inevitably to a general scepticism about our ability to reliably form normative beliefs. In what follows, I argue that this is not the case. In particular, I consider several possible arguments from evolutionary theory and normative realism to normative scepticism and explain where they go wrong. I then offer a more general diagnosis of the tendency to accept such arguments and why this tendency should (...) be resisted. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that certain areas of discourse, such as discourse about matters of taste, involve a phenomenon of ‘‘ faultless disagreement ’’ that rules out giving a standard realist or contextualist semantics for them. Thus, it is argued, we are left with no choice but to consider more adventurous semantic alternatives for these areas, such as a semantic account that involves relativizing truth to perspectives or contexts of assessment. I argue that the sort of faultless disagreement present (...) in these cases is in fact compatible with a realist treatment of their semantics. Then I briefly consider other considerations that might be thought to speak against realism about these areas of discourse. I conclude with the tentative suggestion that realism about matters of taste is far more plausible than most philosophers believe today. (shrink)
In this essay, I propose a novel way of thinking about Kant’s philosophical methodology during the critical period. According to this interpretation, the critical Kant can generally be understood as operating within a “capacities‐first” philosophical framework – that is, within a framework in which our basic rational or cognitive capacities play both an explanatorily and epistemically fundamental role in philosophy – or, at least, in the sort of philosophy that limited creatures like us are capable of. In discussing this idea, (...) I consider the complicated relationship between the explanatory and epistemic roles that such capacities play in Kant. I also sketch how this way of thinking about Kant’s methodology can illuminate the foundations of both his theoretical and his practical philosophy, before discussing some of Kant’s reasons for finding this approach to philosophy attractive. I close with a brief discussion of the contemporary relevance of this approach. (shrink)
Contemporary forms of Kantian constitutivism generally begin with a conception of agency on which the constitutive aim of agency is some form of autonomy or self-unification. This chapter argues for a re-orientation of the Kantian constitutivist project towards views that begin with a conception of rationality on which both theoretical and practical rationality aim at forms of understanding. In a slogan, then, understanding-first as opposed to autonomy-first constitutivism. Such a view gives the constitutivist new resources for explaining many classes of (...) reasons, while also offering a new way of understanding the unity of theoretical and practical reason. The chapter concludes by arguing that the resulting view is best understood, not so much as an alternative to autonomy-first constitutivism, but as a complement to it. (shrink)
In the following I discuss the debate between epistemological internalists and externalists from an unfamiliar meta-epistemological perspective. In doing so, I focus on the question of whether rationality is best captured in externalist or internalist terms. Using a conception of epistemic judgments as “doxastic plans,” I characterize one important subspecies of judgments about epistemic rationality—focusing on the distinctive rational/functional role these judgments play in regulating how we form beliefs. Then I show why any judgment that plays this role should be (...) expected to behave the manner internalists predict. In this way, I argue, we can explain why our basic toolbox for epistemic evaluation includes an internalist conception of rationality. (shrink)
Metaethical constructivism is one of the main movements within contemporary metaethics – especially among those with Kantian inclinations. But both the philosophical coherence and the Kantian pedigree of constructivism are hotly contested. In the first half of this article, I first explore the sense in which Kant's own views might be described as constructivist and then use the resulting understanding as a guide to how we might think about Kantian constructivism today. Along the way, I hope to suggest that a (...) fairly diverse range of views within contemporary metaethics – including some without any explicit allegiance to Kant – may be thought of as pursuing a version of the resulting strategy. (shrink)
In this article I offer an opinionated overview of the central elements of Kant’s philosophical methodology during the critical period. I begin with a brief characterization of how Kant conceives of the aims of human inquiry – focusing on the idea that inquiry ideally aims at not just cognition (Erkenntnis), but also the more demanding cognitive achievements that Kant labels insight (Einsehen) and comprehension (Begreifen). Then I explore the implications of this picture for philosophy — emphasizing Kant’s distinction between critical (...) and doctrinal phases of philosophical inquiry, with the first of these playing both a negative and a positive role with respect to the second. Then, I will argue that this positive role is possible, according to Kant, only insofar as philosophy follows what I call a “capacities-first” methodology – that is, one that treats basic cognitive capacities (such as reason) and their self-conscious activities as fundamental (in both a cognitive sense and in an explanatory sense) for the sort of philosophy human beings are capable of. It is this methodology, I will argue, that allows Kant to introduce the first principles that philosophy in its doctrinal phase requires in a manner that is neither arbitrary nor (at least obviously) incompatible with Kant’s own critical restrictions on cognition. I conclude by discussing some of the implications of this methodological picture – including the methodological significance of self-consciousness and regressive or “transcendental” arguments, Kant’s distinction between analytic and synthetic methods in philosophy, and Kant’s conception of reason as autonomous. (shrink)
Discusses how to develop the idea that the normative truth is perspective-dependent with a broadly constructivist approach to metaethics - arguing in favor of developing this idea in terms of the idea that the normative truth is dependent upon the perspective of the assessor.
In this paper, I’ll sketch an approach to epistemology that draws its inspiration from two aspects of Kant’s philosophical project. In particular, I want to explore how we might develop a Kantian conception of rationality that combines a virtue-theoretical perspective on the nature of rationality with a role for transcendental arguments in defining the demands this conception of rationality places upon us as thinkers. In discussing these connections, I’ll proceed as follows. First, I’ll describe the sorts of epistemological questions I’ll (...) be focusing on, and the framework within which I’ll try to address them. Then I’ll say a bit about the connections between this framework on Kant’s own views. Next, I’ll explain in more detail how the two main elements of this framework relate to one another by explaining how a certain sort of “transcendental argument” allows us to derive conclusions about the requirements of rationality from facts about the nature of rational capacities. Then, I’ll briefly illustrate these connections with two examples: the rationality of explanatory inference like inference to the best explanation and the rationality of perceptual belief. Finally, I’ll conclude by saying a bit about the relevance of this ideas for debates about the rationality of basic beliefs or prior probabilities. (shrink)
In this paper, I present a brief (and more than a little potted) history of the concepts of reason, rationality, reasonableness, and reasons in modern European philosophy and consider whether this history might support the "Anscombean" conclusion that, "The concepts of rationality and reasons ought to jettisoned if this is psychologically possible; because they are survivals, or derivatives from survivals, from an earlier conception of psychology and philosophy which no longer generally survives, and are only harmful without it.".
In recent years, several philosophers - including Joshua Gert, Douglas Portmore, and Elizabeth Harman - have argued that there is a sense in which morality itself does not treat moral reasons as consistently overriding.2 My aim in the present essay is to develop and extend this idea from a somewhat different perspective. In doing so, I offer an alternative way of formalizing the idea that morality is modest about the weight of moral reasons in this way, thereby making more explicit (...) the connections between this thesis and similar issues in the epistemic sphere. In addition, I discuss how these ideas can transform our thinking about familiar questions in ethics such as the nature of self-effacement, the significance of reflective endorsement, the weight that moral reasons ought to be given in all things consideration, and the plausibility of “indirect” moral theories. Finally, I show that these ideas are compatible even with pictures of morality – such as Kant’s – on which morality might seem to anything but modest about its own importance. In doing so, I stress that it is possible to see morality as modest about the weight of specifically moral reasons, while also seeing all practical reasons as grounded in morality more indirectly – namely, by seeing morality as determining the weight that both moral and non-moral considerations deserve to have in all things considered deliberation. (shrink)
This essay develops an interpretation of Kant’s conception of the faculty of reason as the capacity for what he calls "comprehension" (Begreifen). In doing so, it first discusses Kant's characterizations of reason in relation to what he describes as the two highest grades of cognition—insight and comprehension. Then it discusses how the resulting conception of reason relates to more familiar characterizations as the faculty for inference and the faculty of principles. In doing so, it focuses on how the idea of (...) reason as aiming at comprehension expresses the modesty about reason that is essential to Kant’s critical philosophy. It concludes by showing how this grounds an elegant account of the unity of theoretical and practical reason—one that does justice both to the "primacy" that Kant assigns to practical reason and the fact that this "primacy" is grounded in a more basic unity. (shrink)
In the second half of this essay, I discuss the robust conception of rationality that lies at the heart of the Kantian version of Rationalist Constructivism – offering some reasons to prefer this conception to the more minimal accounts of rationality associated with Humean views. I then go on to discuss some of the potential metaethical advantages of the resulting form of constructivism.
In this paper I offer an argument for a view about the epistemology of peer disagreement, which I call the “Rational Symmetry View”. I argue that this view follows from a natural conception of the epistemology of testimony, together with a basic entitlement to trust our own faculties for belief formation. I then discuss some objections to this view, focusing on its relationship to other well-known views in the literature. The upshot of this discussion is that, if the Rational Symmetry (...) View is correct, much of the action in the epistemology of disagreement relates—not to how one should treat those one regards as an “epistemic peer” in the sense popular in that literature—but rather to who one should treat as such. (shrink)
Handout for a Conference in Honor of Don Garrett at NYU. Hume is famous for his critique of attempts to make robust use of terms like “power” or “faculty” in a philosophical or scientific context. But Hume’s philosophy is itself structured around the attribution to human beings of a variety of basic faculties or mental powers – such as reason or the understanding, the imagination, and the various powers involved in Hume’s account of impressions of sensation and reflection. Indeed, this (...) is so true that, Hume “never hesitates to infer from the fact that the mind regularly does something of a particular recognizable kind that it has a power to do it and a faculty by which it does.” (Garrett 2015, 81) In this way, Hume continues to treat mental faculties as forming something very close to the explanatory bedrock of his new “science of man”. In this talk, I consider whether Hume is entitled to this – or whether it points to a fundamental instability in his philosophy. (shrink)
In this essay, I will outline a novel strategy for using constitutivist ideas from Kantian metaethics to critique social practices and institutions. In doing so, I do not mean to defend this model of critique as the only viable form of social and political critique, even within a Kantian framework – nor, indeed, as always the most appropriate. But I hope to show that it provides us with a form of critique that allows us to (i) develop a robust critique (...) of many social practices (ii) on both epistemic and practical grounds, while nonetheless (iii) beginning from a perspective that is, in some sense, internal – or better, immanent – to the practice in question. Thus, if we are looking for a form of social critique that is neither purely epistemic nor merely external – which, in other words, allows us to critique social practices on something like their own terms as practically irrational – this method should be attractive for philosophers with Kantian (or post-Kantian) sympathies. At the heart of this conception of critique lies in the idea that social practices may be thought of as attempts at (some form of) collective practical understanding. As I will explain more below, this way of thinking about the rationality of social practices may be seen as the product of applying a general (post-Kantian) model of rationality, which I have developed elsewhere, to the rationality of social collectives or practices. (shrink)
In this essay, I discuss two familiar objections to Hume's account of cognition, focusing on his ability to give a satisfactory account of the more normative dimensions of thought and language use. In doing so, I argue that Hume’s implicit account of these issues is far richer than is normally assumed. In particular, I show that Hume’s account of convention-driven artificial virtues like justice also applies to the proper use of conventional public languages. I then use this connection between Hume’s (...) conception of language and his moral theory to show how he can respond to a number of basic objections to his views. In doing so, I explore the sense in which human cognition is essentially linguistic, and so social, for Hume, as well as many other issues concerning the relationship between Hume’s philosophy of mind and language, his epistemology, and his ethics. (shrink)
Discusses Hume's considered view of what "good" belief-formation consists in. In doing so, attributes to Hume a sentimentalist picture of epistemic virtue in which the passion of curiosity plays a foundational role.
A brief exploration of the nature of, and motivations for, contemporary forms of metaethical quietism. Also outlines some of the prominent objections to such positions and discusses some of the limitations of these objections from the quietist's perspective.
I consider sophisticated forms of relativism and their effectiveness at responding to the skeptical argument from moral disagreement. In order to do so, I argue that the relativist must do justice to our intuitions about the depth of moral disagreement, while also explaining why it can be rational to be relatively insensitive to such disagreements. I argue that the relativist can provide an account with these features, at least in some form, but that there remain serious questions about the viability (...) of the resulting account. (shrink)
Errol Lord’s The Importance of Being Rational is a beautiful presentation of how one might defend a reasons-first approach to rationality. I’m going to focus these comments on some of the larger systematic ambitions of the book. In doing so, my hope is to draw Lord out concerning the larger project of which the book is a part and to raise some more general questions about the project of defining rationality in terms of reasons. In doing so, my focus with (...) be on the relationship between the reasons-first program and a more traditional view, which we might call the reason-first program. (shrink)
Famously, in the second Critique, Kant claims that our consciousness of the moral law provides us with sufficient grounds for the attribution of freedom to ourselves as noumena or things-in-themselves. In this way, while Kant insists that we have no rational basis to make substantive assertions about things-in-themselves from a theoretical point of view, it is rational for us to assert that we are noumenally free from a practical one. This much is uncontroversial. What is controversial is the cognitive relation (...) to things-in-themselves that is possible from a practical point of view. Interpreters have tended to regard such “practical cognition” of things-in-themselves as a poor step-cousin of its theoretical counterpart — as a sort of mere “rational faith” unworthy of comparison with genuine theoretical knowledge or cognition. Recent work on these issues has begun to shift this picture. But this reassessment is in its early stages and remains highly controversial. My aim here is to take this tendency and push it farther than most have generally been willing to go - at least with respect to our practical self-understanding as noumenally free agents. Indeed, I believe that, far from representing an impoverished cousin of theoretical cognition and knowledge, our practical awareness of ourselves as free possesses the central marks of cognition and knowledge in Kant’s sense of these terms, albeit on practical grounds. Thus, it is no surprise that Kant is willing to speak of our consciousness of the moral law as enabling genuine cognition of noumenal freedom. (shrink)
On its face, Hume's account of mental representation involves at least two elements. On the one hand, Hume often seems to write as though the representational properties of an idea are fixed solely by what it is a copy or image of. But, on the other, Hume's treatment of abstract ideas makes it clear that the representational properties of a Humean idea sometimes depend, not just on what it is copied from, but also on the manner in which the mind (...) associates it with other ideas. Past interpretations of Hume have tended to focus on one of these elements of his account to the neglect of the other. But no interpretation of this sort is likely to capture the role that both copying and association play within Hume's discussion. In what follows, I argue that the most plausible way of understanding Hume's discussion involves attributing to him a unified account of mental representation in which both of these elements play a central role. I close by discussing the manner in which reading Hume in this way would alter our understanding of the relationship between Hume's thought and contemporary philosophy of mind. (shrink)
In these comments I briefly discuss three aspects of the empiricist account of the epistemic role of experience that Anil Gupta develops in his Empiricism and Experience. First, I discuss the motivations Gupta offers for the claim that the given in experience should be regarded as reliable. Second, I discuss two different ways of conceiving of the epistemic significance of the phenomenology of experience. And third, I discuss whether Gupta's account is able to deliver the anti-skeptical results he intends it (...) to. I close by suggesting that, once fully fleshed out, Gupta's account is best understood in terms of the fusion of certain core ideas within both the empiricist and the rationalist traditions. (shrink)
In in this paper, I make use of an “doxastic planning model” of epistemic evaluation to argue for a form of epistemic internalism. In doing so, I begin by responding to a recent argument of Schoenfield’s against my previous attempt to develop such an argument. In doing so, I distinguish a variety of ways that argument might be understood, and discuss how both internalists and externalists might make use of the ideas within it. Then I argue that, despite these complexities, (...) the doxastic planning model continues to support a modest form of epistemic internalism. I conclude by showing that, far from conflicting with “anti-luminosity” arguments in epistemology, this form of internalism is best understood as a natural reaction to these arguments. (shrink)
Manifest reality is easily one of the best books in a long time on Kant’s transcendental idealism. So there is a great deal in Allais’s discussion to celebrate. But I want to focus here on two aspects of her views that I am not yet sure about: First, Allais’s understanding of the relationship between concepts and intuitions. And second, her characterization of the manner in which intuitions are object-dependent. I’ll close by making some general remarks about the significance of this (...) for Allais’s understanding of the metaphysics of transcendental idealism. (shrink)
In broad outlines, the first of these claims that beliefs and other cognitive states, on their own, can never motivate a new desire, intention, or action. Rather, on this view, what motivates us to desire, intend, or act is always the cooperation of some desire (or other conative state) with such cognitive states. Thus, on HTM, practical motivation is always the product of two fundamentally distinct categories of mental states operating in conjunction with one another.
Can desires and actions be evaluated as responsive or unresponsive to reasons, in ways that extend beyond the instrumental implications of one's (other) desires? And does there exist any form of inference or reasoning that is practical in nature? Hume is generally supposed to have given an unambiguously negative reply to both of these questions. In particular, he is often taken to have held that no desire, passion, or action may ever be said to be opposed to reasons, except (perhaps) (...) in so far as it is based on a false belief or confused piece of means-ends reasoning. And he is generally taken to have held that the existence of some sort of peculiarly practical form of inference or reasoning is fundamentally .. (shrink)
The focus of this chapter will be Kant’s understanding of Hume, and its impact on Kant’s critical philosophy. Contrary to the traditional reading of this relationship, which focuses on Kant’s (admittedly real) dissatisfaction with Hume’s account of causation, my discussion will focus on broader issues of philosophical methodology. Following a number of recent interpreters, I will argue that Kant sees Hume as raising, in a particularly forceful fashion, a ‘demarcation challenge’ concerning how to distinguish the legitimate use of reason in (...) (say) natural scientific contexts from the illegitimate use of it in (say) dogmatic metaphysics. I will then go on to argue that Kant sees Hume’s tendency to slide into more radical forms of skepticism as a symptom of his failure to provide a systematic or principled account of this distinction. This failure, I argue, can be traced (according to Kant) to Hume’s impoverished, non-hylomorphic account of our faculties – which both robs Hume of the materials necessary to construct a genuinely systematic philosophy as Kant understands this, and makes it impossible for Hume to clearly conceive of what Kant calls ‘Formal Idealism.’ In this way, the failings of Hume’s account of causation are (for Kant) symptoms of more fundamental limitations within Hume’s philosophy. I close by briefly discussing the similarities between Hume and Kant’s understanding of the relationship between, first, philosophical methodology and, second, the nature of our faculties. (shrink)
In this essay, I distinguish two different epistemological strategies an anti-realist might pursue in developing an "evolutionary debunking" of moral realism. Then I argue that a moral realist can resist both of these strategies by calling into question the epistemological presuppositions on which they rest. Nonetheless, I conclude that these arguments point to a legitimate source of dissatisfaction about many forms of moral realism. I conclude by discussing the way forward that these conclusions indicate.
Kant's Reason develops a novel interpretation of Kant’s conception of reason and its philosophical significance, focusing on two claims. First, it argues that Kant presents a powerful model for understanding the unity of theoretical and practical reason as two manifestations of a unified capacity for theoretical and practical understanding (or “comprehension”). This model allows us to do justice to the deep commonalities between theoretical and practical rationality, without reducing either to the other. In particular, through it, we see why the (...) activities of both theoretical and practical reason are governed by a version of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, while also seeing why reason is essentially autonomous. At the same time, Kant's Reason also reads Kant as presenting us with a compelling picture of the role that reason (as a capacity or power) should play in a systematic approach to foundational philosophical questions. In doing so, it argues for an account of the fundamental norms that apply to rational beings that treats as fundamental neither substantive reasons or values nor merely structural rationality, but instead a robust conception of reason as a power or capacity — namely, the capacity for theoretical and practical understanding. The result is a form of “rational constitutivism” – one which contrasts both with the forms of “reasons fundamentalism” that are currently fashionable and the forms of “agency-first constitutivism” that have dominated much of Kantian metaethics. In this sense, the aim of the book is to vindicate Kant’s insistence that his philosophy represents nothing more or less than reason’s implicit self-understanding coming to explicit and systematic self-consciousness. (shrink)
The new editorial team, Ann Levey, Karl Schafer and Amy Schmitter, are very pleased to present this special double-issue of Hume Studies. It contains a wide variety of articles on subjects old and new, as well as an assortment of book reviews, commissioned by the new book review editor, David Landy of San Francisco State University. We are grateful to the many people who have helped us get this volume and our tenure as editors underway, including the preceding editors-in-chief, Angela (...) Coventry and Peter Kail, and preceding book review editor, Annemarie Butler, as well as the previous editors-in-chief Corliss Swain and Saul Traiger, who offered invaluable advice about procedures, practices, and technological issues.... (shrink)
Reflecting Subjects is an important and timely book, both as a piece of Hume interpretation and as a work of philosophy more generally. Let me begin with the first. It has increasingly become a commonplace in Hume interpretation that the passionate and social dimensions of human life play an unusually fundamental role in Hume's philosophy. But we are only beginning to appreciate the significance of this side of Hume in a systematic way. It is precisely here that Taylor focuses her (...) attention, providing us with a... (shrink)
This volume of Hume Studies is a special double-issue devoted to discussions of four recent books on Hume: Hume: an Intellectual Biography, by James Harris; Imagined Causes: Hume's Conception of Objects, by Stefanie Rocknak; Hume's True Scepticism, by Donald Ainslie; and Reflecting Subjects: Passion, Sympathy, and Society in Hume's Philosophy, by Jacqueline Taylor. The latter three discussions began as Author-Meets-Critics sessions at the 43rd International Hume Conference in Sydney, Australia, and the present volume keeps the AMC format: each discussion starts (...) with a short précis of the book from the author, followed by comments from three respondents, and concludes with the author's reply. The selection of books... (shrink)