When facing a choice between saving one person and saving many, some people have argued that fairness requires us to decide without aggregating numbers; rather we should decide by coin toss or some form of lottery, or alternatively we should straightforwardly save the greater number but justify this in a non-aggregating contractualist way. This paper expands the debate beyond well-known number cases to previously under-considered probability cases, in which not (only) the numbers of people, but (also) the probabilities of success (...) for saving people vary. It is shown that, in these latter cases, both the coin toss and the lottery lead to what is called an awkward conclusion, which makes probabilities count in a problematic way. Attempts to avoid this conclusion are shown to lead into difficulties as well. Finally, it is shown that while the greater number method cannot be justified on contractualist grounds for probability cases, it may be replaced by another decision method which is so justified. This decision method is extensionally equivalent to maximising expected value and seems to be the least problematic way of dealing with probability cases in a non-aggregating manner. (shrink)
This essay asks whether what is good for someone is distinct from her self-perfection, and whether it makes sense to understand either her good or her self-perfection in terms of the other. The essay adopts a traditional naturalistic understanding of perfection. It argues, however, that the conception of human nature that underlies the perfectionist view must be more individualistic than it is often taken to be. It goes on to distinguish individuative from generic features of human nature; because the account (...) includes both types of characteristics, the concluding vision of human nature, and hence human perfection, is deeply individualized. What is good for an individual is linked to the exercise of her nature rather than to desires individuals simply happen to have. (shrink)
If “perfectionism” in ethics refers to those normative theories that treat the fulfillment or realization of human nature as central to an account of both goodness and moral obligation, in what sense is “human flourishing” a perfectionist notion? How much of what we take “human flourishing” to signify is the result of our understanding of human nature? Is the content of this concept simply read off an examination of our nature? Is there no place for diversity and individuality? Is the (...) belief that the content of such a normative concept can be determined by an appeal to human nature merely the result of epistemological naiveté? What is the exact character of the connection between human flourishing and human nature? These questions are the ultimate concern of this essay, but to appreciate the answers that will be offered it is necessary to understand what is meant by “human flourishing.” “Human flourishing” is a relatively recent term in ethics. It seems to have developed in the last two decades because the traditional translation of the Greek term eudaimonia as “happiness” failed to communicate clearly that eudaimonia was an objective good, not merely a subjective good. (shrink)
In this essay, I consider whether the alleged demise of metaphysical realism does actually provide a better way for defending the cognitive status of ethical judgments. I argue that the rejection of a realist ontology and epistemology does not help to establish the claim that ethical knowledge is possible. More specifically, I argue that Hilary Putnam's argument does not succeed in making a case for ethical knowledge. In fact, his account of the procedures by which our valuations are warranted—the criteria (...) of idealized inquiry—ultimately begs the question in a number of crucial ways. Moreover, it prejudices the moral and political discussion in certain ideological respects. Finally, though Putnam has apparently modified to some extent his approach to the issue of realism in recent years, I will point out that these modifications are not fundamental and do not help to advance the case for ethical knowledge. I note also that Martha C. Nussbaum's appeal to Putnam’s argument actually works against her attempt to make a case for an Aristotelian conception of human flourishing. Ultimately, I conclude that metaphysical realism is vital for ethical knowledge. (shrink)
In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith's sympathy with Rousseau's concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend ...
The correspondence theory of truth is a precise and innovative account of how the truth of a proposition depends upon that proposition's connection to a piece of reality. Joshua Rasmussen refines and defends the correspondence theory of truth, proposing new accounts of facts, propositions, and the correspondence between them. With these theories in hand, he then offers original solutions to the toughest objections facing correspondence theorists. Addressing the Problem of Funny Facts, Liar Paradoxes, and traditional epistemological questions concerning how (...) our minds can access reality, he challenges recent objections, and defends what has traditionally been the most popular theory of truth. Written with clarity, precision, and sensitivity to a range of philosophical backgrounds, his book will appeal to advanced students and scholars seeking a deeper understanding of the relationship between truth and reality. (shrink)
How can we establish a political/legal order that in principle does not require the human flourishing of any person or group to be given structured preference over that of any other? Addressing this question as the central problem of political philosophy,_ Norms of Liberty_ offers a new conceptual foundation for political liberalism that takes protecting liberty, understood in terms of individual negative rights, as the primary aim of the political/legal order. Rasmussen and Den Uyl argue for construing individual rights (...) as metanormative principles, directly tied to politics, that are used to establish the political/ legal conditions under which full moral conduct can take place. These they distinguish from normative principles, used to provide guidance for moral conduct within the ambit of normative ethics. This crucial distinction allows them to develop liberalism as a metanormative theory, not a guide for moral conduct. The moral universe need not be minimized or morality grounded in sentiment or contracts to support liberalism, they show. Rather, liberalism can be supported, and many of its internal tensions avoided, with an ethical framework of Aristotelian inspiration—one that understands human flourishing to be an objective, inclusive, individualized, agent-relative, social, and self-directed activity. (shrink)
Larry L. Rasmussen offers a dramatic new way of thinking about human society, ethics, and the health of our planet. Rejecting the modern ethical assumption that morality applies to human society alone, Earth-honoring Faith argues that we must derive a system of ethics and morality that accounts for the wellbeing of all creation on Earth.
In the past decade the work of Jurgen Habermas has sparked off a series of lively debates over modernity and post-modernity, the nature of language, the interplay of law and politics and the dilemmas of morality. Significantly, these debates unfold in the context of his particular reading of the modern philosophical tradition from the German enlightment to the present period. In this original interpretation, David Rasmussen provides both guide and critique to the later Habermas encountered in the context of (...) the best of the critical literature that has emerged in recent years. Reading Habermas argues that Habermas' concept of modernity provides the context for the theory of language as well as his approaches to law and ethics. This book, as its title implies, offers a reading. It explores philosophical options chosen in the light of other, rejected readings. It is a distinctive, readable contribution to the current controversy surrounding the most recent developments in critical theory. (shrink)
Universalism vs. Communitarianism focuses on the question, raised by recent work in normative philosophy, of whether ethical norms are best derived and justified on the basis of universal or communitarian standards. It is unique in representing both Continental and American points of view and both the older and a younger generation of scholars. The essays introduce the key issues involved in universalism vs. communitarianism and take up ethics in historical perspective, practical reason and ethical responsibility, justification, application and history, and (...) communitarian alternatives. Based on a special issue of the Journal Philosophy and Social Criticism, the book includes two additional essays by Chantal Mouffe and by Hubert and Stuart Dreyfus. David Rasmussen is Professor of Philosophy at Boston College and editor of Philosophy and Social Criticism. Contents: introduction, David, Rasmussen. Universalisms: Procedural, Contextualist, and Prudential, Alessandro Ferrara. Beyond Liberalism and Communitarianism: Toward a Critical Theory of Social Justice, Gerald Doppelt. The Liberal/Communitarian Controversy and Communicative Ethics, Kenneth Baynes. Discourse Ethics and Civil Society, Jean Cohen. Equality, Political Order and Ethics: Hobbes and the Systematics of Democratic Rationality, Rolf Zimmermann. Atomism and Ethical Life: On Hegel's Critique of the French Revolution, Axel Honneth. The Gadamer-Habermas Debate Revisited: The Question of Ethics, Michael Kelly. What Is and What Is Not Practical Reason? Agnes Heller. Adorno, Heidegger, and Postmodernity, Hauke Brunkhorst. Impartial Application of Moral and Legal Norms: A Contribution to Discourse Ethics, Klaus Günther. An Ethics, Politics, and History, Jürgen Habermas in an interview conducted by Jean-Marc Ferry. Rawls: Political Philosophy without Politics, Chantal Mouffe. What Is Morality: A Phenomenological Account of the Development of Ethical Expertise, Hubert L Dreyfus, Stuart E. Dreyfus. Universalism and Communitarianism: A Bibliography, Michael Zilles. (shrink)
I develop a new theory of times. I show how to analyze times as tenselessly describable “abstract” entities. Some philosophers make use of ersatz times, which are abstract entities such as maximal states of affairs that bear earlier than and later than relations to one another. Although these times are normally thought to exemplify A-properties that cannot be expressed in a purely tenseless language, I explain how a tenseless theory can accommodate abstract times. I do this by defending Rasmussen’s (...) tenseless presentism against a recent objection, and getting on the table a new theory of time that combines eternalism with a B-series of genuine, abstract times. The result is a new way to think about a familiar category: time. (shrink)
Autonomy is a vital concept in much of modern theory, defining the Subject as capable of self-governance. Democratic theory relies on the concept of autonomy to provide justification for participatory government and the normative goal of democratic governance, which is to protect the ability of the individual to self-govern. Offering the first examination of the concept of autonomy from a postfoundationalist perspective, _The Autonomous Animal _analyzes how the ideal of self-governance has shaped everyday life. Claire E. Rasmussen begins by (...) considering the academic terrain of autonomy, then focusing on specific examples of political behavior that allow her to interrogate these theories. She demonstrates how the adolescent—a not-yet-autonomous subject—highlights how the ideal of self-governance generates practices intended to cultivate autonomy by forming the individual’s relationship to his or her body. She points up how the war on drugs rests on the perception that drug addicts are the antithesis of autonomy and thus must be regulated for their own good. Showing that the animal rights movement may challenge the distinction between human and animal, Rasmussen also examines the place of the endurance athlete in fitness culture, where self-management of the body is the exemplar of autonomous subjectivity. (shrink)
Fifteen distinguished contributors free present up-to-date arguments for the libertarian alternative. Part One introduces libertarianism and outlines some approaches by which it might be justified. Part Two addresses how a society that embraces libertarian principles might deal with various social problems, especially those that seem to require government intervention. Part Three responds to criticisms of libertarianism from other political perspectives and presents a libertarian critique of those viewpoints. Contributors: N. Scott Arnold; James E. Chesher; Mike Gemmell; John Hospers; Gregory R. (...) Johnson; Loren E. Lomasky; Tibor R. Machan; Eric Mack; Jan Narveson; Douglas B. Rasmussen; Daniel Shapiro; Aeon Skoble; Mark Thornton; Douglas J. Den Uyl; Steven Yates. (shrink)
Douglas B. Rasmussen examines, in this revised and extended version of his 1990 address to the Ayn Rand Society, whether Rand's ethics are best interpreted as dependent on a "pre-moral" choice. He argues that such an interpretation undercuts Rand's claim to provide a rational foundation for ethics. He suggests an alternative, neo-Aristotelian interpretation of Rand's ethics, which treats "man's survival qua man" as the telos of human choice and takes the obligation to achieve this ultimate end as the result (...) of its being the good for human beings. (shrink)
Gregory R. Johnson and David Rasmussen defend their critique of Ayn Rand's views on abortion, arguing that their critics miss its main points. Tibor Machan and Alexander Tabarrok actually depart from Rand's own position under the guise of defending it; they introduce a non-Randian distinction between being a human organism and being a moral person.
In response to Robert Hartford's criticisms of his Spring 2006 Journal of Ayn Rand Studies essay, "Regarding Choice and the Foundations of Morality," Rasmussen argues against "the official" interpretation of Rand's ethics as resting on a basic "choice to live." Drawing from his work with Douglas Den Uyl, Rasmussen argues that Rand's metaethics is best understood in "biocentric," neo-Aristotelian terms: that human choice does not set the context in which it operates and that "man's life qua man" is (...) the natural end of human life. (shrink)
GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN defend their critique of Ayn Rand's views on abortion, arguing that their critics miss its main points. Tibor Machan and Alexander Tabarrok actually depart from Rand's own position under the guise of defending it; they introduce a non-Randian distinction between being a human organism and being a moral person.
Book notice Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-2 DOI 10.1007/s11016-011-9588-3 Authors Nicolas Rasmussen, School of History and Philosophy, University of NSW, Sydney, 2052 Australia Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
GREGORY R. JOHNSON and DAVID RASMUSSEN argue that Rand's defense of abortion on demand is inconsistent with her own fundamental metaphysical, epistemological, and moral principles, namely that everything that exists has a determinate identity, that the concept of man refers to all of man's characteristics, not just his essential characteristics, and that there is no gap between what an organism truly is and what it ought to be.
Adam Smith is popularly regarded as the ideological forefather of laissez-faire capitalism, while Rousseau is seen as the passionate advocate of the life of virtue in small, harmonious communities and as a sharp critic of the ills of commercial society. But, in fact, Smith had many of the same worries about commercial society that Rousseau did and was strongly influenced by his critique. In this first book-length comparative study of these leading eighteenth-century thinkers, Dennis Rasmussen highlights Smith’s sympathy with (...) Rousseau’s concerns and analyzes in depth the ways in which Smith crafted his arguments to defend commercial society against these charges. These arguments, Rasmussen emphasizes, were pragmatic in nature, not ideological: it was Smith’s view that, all things considered, commercial society offered more benefits than the alternatives. Just because of this pragmatic orientation, Smith’s approach can be useful to us in assessing the pros and cons of commercial society today and thus contributes to a debate that is too much dominated by both dogmatic critics and doctrinaire champions of our modern commercial society. (shrink)
This is a study of the political theory of the Enlightenment, focusing on four leading eighteenth-century thinkers: David Hume, Adam Smith, Montesquieu and Voltaire. Dennis C. Rasmussen calls attention to the particular strand of the Enlightenment these thinkers represent, which he terms the 'pragmatic Enlightenment'. He defends this strand of Enlightenment thought against both the Enlightenment's critics and some of the more idealistic Enlightenment figures who tend to have more followers today, such as John Locke, Immanuel Kant and Jeremy (...) Bentham. Professor Rasmussen argues that Hume, Smith, Montesquieu and Voltaire exemplify an especially attractive type of liberalism, one that is more realistic, moderate, flexible, and contextually sensitive than most other branches of this tradition. (shrink)
This long-awaited book sets out the implications of Habermas's theory of communicative action for moral theory. "Discourse ethics" attempts to reconstruct a moral point of view from which normative claims can be impartially judged. The theory of justice it develops replaces Kant's categorical imperative with a procedure of justification based on reasoned agreement among participants in practical discourse.Habermas connects communicative ethics to the theory of social action via an examination of research in the social psychology of moral and interpersonal development. (...) He aims to show that our basic moral intuitions spring from something deeper and more universal than contingent features of our tradition, namely from normative presuppositions of social interaction that belong to the repertoire of competent agents in any society. JÃ¼rgen Habermas is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Frankfurt. (shrink)
Arguments for substance dualism—the theory that we are at least partly non-material beings—abound. Many such arguments begin with our capacity to engage in conscious thought and end with dualism. Such are familiar. But there is another route to dualism. It begins with our moral value and ends with dualism. In this article, we develop and assess the prospects for this new style of argument. We show that, though one extant version of the argument does not succeed, there may yet be (...) a deep problem for standard physical accounts of our nature. (shrink)
The question of whether clinical ethics consultants may engage in patient advocacy in the course of consultation has not been addressed, but it highlights for the field that consultants? allegiances, and the boundaries of appropriate professional practice, must be better understood. I consider arguments for and against patient advocacy in clinical ethics consultation, which demonstrate that patient advocacy is permissible, but not central to the practice of consultation. I then offer four recommendations for consultants who engage in patient advocacy, and (...) consider the implications of this issue for the field.1. (shrink)
Involuntary autobiographical memories are spontaneously arising memories of personal events, whereas voluntary memories are retrieved strategically. Voluntary remembering has been studied in numerous experiments while involuntary remembering has been largely ignored. It is generally assumed that voluntary recall is the standard way of remembering, whereas involuntary recall is the exception. However, little is known about the actual frequency of these two types of remembering in daily life. Here, 48 Danish undergraduates recorded their involuntary versus voluntary autobiographical memories during a day (...) using a mechanical counter. Involuntary memories were reported three times as frequently as voluntary memories. Compared to voluntary memories, they were associated less with problem solving and social sharing and more with day dreaming, periods of boredom, no reasons for remembering and predominantly came to mind during unfocused attention. The findings suggest that involuntary recall is a typical way of accessing the personal past. (shrink)
There was a time, in the late 1970s and 1980s, when great feats were expected of recombinant DNA biotechnology, some verging on the miraculous. According to both business enthusiasts and sober analysts like the U.S. Congressional Office of Technology Assessment, the new techniques of gene splicing would not only lift the drug industry out of its deep scientific and economic rut (characterized by long-declining introduction rates of genuinely novel medicines), but rejuvenate the American manufacturing sector (Chase 1979; Chemical Week 1987; (...) OTA 1984). Once freed by policy interventions to promote academic-industry collaboration, such as the 1980 Bayh-Dole Act, lifesaving drugs locked up in ivory towers would .. (shrink)
Philosophers of time say that if presentism is true (i.e. if reality is comprised solely of presently existing things), then a complete description of reality must contain tensed terms, such as ‘was’, ‘presently is’ and ‘will be’. I counter this viewpoint by explaining how the presentist may de-tense our talk about times. I argue, furthermore, that, since the A-theory of time denies the success of any such de-tensing strategy, presentism is not a version of the A-theory – contrary to the (...) popular opinion. (shrink)
Inductive reasoning is a fundamental and complex aspect of human intelligence. In particular, how do subjects, given a set of particular examples, generate general descriptions of the rules governing that set? We present a biologically plausible method for accomplishing this task and implement it in a spiking neuron model. We demonstrate the success of this model by applying it to the problem domain of Raven's Progressive Matrices, a widely used tool in the field of intelligence testing. The model is able (...) to generate the rules necessary to correctly solve Raven's items, as well as recreate many of the experimental effects observed in human subjects. (shrink)
Many have thought that there is a problem with causal commerce between immaterial souls and material bodies. In Physicalism or Something Near Enough, Jaegwon Kim attempts to spell out that problem. Rather than merely posing a question or raising a mystery for defenders of substance dualism to answer or address, he offers a compelling argument for the conclusion that immaterial souls cannot causally interact with material bodies. We offer a reconstruction of that argument that hinges on two premises: Kim’s Dictum (...) and the Nowhere Man principle. Kim’s Dictum says that causation requires a spatial relation. Nowhere Man says that souls can’t be in space. By our lights, both premises can be called into question. We’ll begin our evaluation of the argument by pointing out some consequences of Kim’s Dictum. For some, these will be costs. We will then present two defeaters for Kim’s Dictum and a critical analysis of Kim’s case for Nowhere Man. The upshot is that Kim’s argument against substance dualism fails. (shrink)
Dennis Whitcomb argues that there is no God on the grounds that God is supposed to be omniscient, yet nothing could be omniscient due to the nature of grounding. We give a formally identical argument that concludes that one of the present co-authors does not exist. Since he does exist, Whitcomb’s argument is unsound. But why is it unsound? That is a difficult question. We venture two answers. First, one of the grounding principles that the argument relies on is false. (...) Second, the argument equivocates between two kinds of grounding: instance-grounding and quasi-mereological grounding. Happily, the equivocation can be avoided; unhappily, avoidance comes at the price of a false premise. (shrink)
I develop new paths to the existence of a concrete necessary being. These paths assume a metaphysical framework in which there are abstract states of affairs that can obtain or fail to obtain. One path begins with the following causal principle: necessarily, any contingent concrete object possibly has a cause. I mark out steps from that principle to a more complex causal principle and from there to the existence of a concrete necessary being. I offer a couple alternative causal principles (...) and paths, too. The paths marked out rely on relatively modest causal principles and avoid many obstacles that traditional cosmological arguments face. (shrink)
Not a lot of work on theistic arguments has been devoted to drawing connections between a necessary being and theistic properties. In this paper, I identify novel paths from a necessary being to certain theistic properties: volition, infinite power, infinite knowledge, and infinite goodness. The steps in those paths are an outline for future work on what William Rowe (The Cosmological Argument, 1975, p. 6) has called “stage II” of the cosmological argument.
The Office of Research Integrity found in 2011 that Vipul Bhrigu, a postdoctoral researcher who sabotaged a colleague’s research materials, was guilty of misconduct. However, I argue that this judgment is ill-considered and sets a problematic precedent for future cases. I first discuss the current federal definition of research misconduct and representative cases of research misconduct. Then, because this case recalls a debate from the 1990s over what the definition of “research misconduct” ought to be, I briefly recapitulate that history (...) and reconsider the Bhrigu case in light of that history and in comparison to other cases involving tampering. Finally, I consider what the aim of a definition of research misconduct ought to be, and argue that the precedent set by the reasoning in this case is problematic. (shrink)
Abstract Energy typically is discussed in terms of science, technology, economics, and politics. Little attention has been given to fundamental religious and ethical questions surrounding the upcoming transition to renewable energy. The essays in this thematic section seek to redress that deficiency. This introductory essay raises some key questions and summarizes various presentations on energy and religion, as these were held at the 2010 conference of the Institute on Religion in an Age of Science (IRAS). Some presentations described the energy (...) landscape and provided data and perspectives needed for sound policy. Others raised ethical and religious considerations for energy decisions as the transition from nonrenewable to renewable sources is faced. Some posed the challenges of the energy transition to religion itself. Yet others offered examples of sustainable energy use and/or promising sources for meeting future needs sustainably. At the conclusion of the conference, presenters crafted a common “Statement on Energy and Climate Change” that includes a “Call to Action.” The “Energy Statement” follows as an appendix. (shrink)
In this essay I consider the normative implications of the notion of reasonability for the construction of an idea of public reason that is cosmopolitan in scope. First, I consider the argument for the distinction between reason and reasonability in the work of Sibley and Rawls. Second, I evaluate the normative implications of reasonability through a consideration of Korsgaard's recent work. Third, I argue for a notion of reasonability that moves us beyond a Kantian concept of autonomy through a consideration (...) of the relationship between reasonability and judgment vis-à-vis Arendt's work on Kant's Third Critique. Finally, I argue for a cosmopolitan appropriation of the notion of reasonability based on Kant's notion of the aesthetic idea. The latter argument relaxes the bonds of public reason, moving us beyond the domain of ethnocentricism. (shrink)