Drawing on examples from the history of warfare from the crusades to the present day, "The ethics of war" explores the limits and possibilities of the moral regulation of war. While resisting the commonly held view that 'war is hell', A.J. Coates focuses on the tensions which exist between war and morality. The argument is conducted from a just war standpoint, though the moral ambiguity and mixed record of that tradition is acknowledge and the dangers which an exaggerated view (...) of the justice or moral worth of war poses are underlined. In the first part, the broad image of the just war is compared with the competing images of realism, militarism and pacifism. In the second part, the moral issues associated both with the decision to go to war and with the manner in which war is conducted are explored. Was the allied decision to go to war in the Gulf premature? were economic sanctions a more effective and morally preferable option? was Britain justified in going to war over the Falklands? did the allied bombing of Germany in the Second World War constitute a war crime? should the IRA's claim to belligerent status be recognised? these questions and more are raised in this important book. (shrink)
The Claims of Common Sense investigates the importance of ideas developed by Cambridge philosophers between the World Wars for the social sciences concerning common sense, vague concepts and ordinary language. John Coates examines the thought of Moore, Ramsey, Wittgenstein and Keynes, and traces their common drift away from early beliefs about the need for precise concepts and a canonical notation in analysis. He argues that Keynes borrowed from Wittgenstein and Ramsey their reappraisal of vague concepts, and developed the novel (...) argument that when analysing something as complex as social reality, theory might be simplified by using concepts which lack sharp boundaries. Coates then contrasts this conclusion with the view shared by two contemporary philosophical paradigms - formal semantics and Continental post-structuralism - that the vagueness of ordinary language inevitably leads to interpretive indeterminacy. Developing a link between Cambridge philosophy and work on complexity, vague predicates and fuzzy logic, he argues that Wittgenstein's and Keynes's ideas on the economy of ordinary language present a mediating route for the social sciences between these philosophical paradigms. (shrink)
In an advertisement for water filter cartridges, we see a tumbling waterfall. The caption reads, "Like nature, Brita is beautifully simple." What kind of thinking is this? Is nature an objective reality that, in its beautiful simplicity, is unaffected by time, culture, and place? The word _nature _itself: what do we actually mean by it? These are some of the riveting questions examined by Peter Coates as he demonstrates that nature, like us, has a history of its own. Beginning (...) with Roman times, Coates investigates the ideological and material factors that have influenced human perceptions of, attitudes toward, and uses of nature—notably religion and ethics, science, technology, economics, gender, and ethnicity. Nature is seen among its rich panoply of meanings as a physical place, as the collective phenomena of the world, as an essence or principle that informs the workings of the world, as an inspiration and guide for people and a source of authority governing human affairs, and as the conceptual opposite of culture. By examining these aspects of nature, Coates leads us on a spectacular tour of the central intellectual forces of Western civilization. The book is essential reading for those who seek an understanding of the history of ideas and the role of nature in that history. (shrink)
Moore, Wittgenstein, Keynes and the Social Sciences John Coates. Darwin's theory of natural selection offers a causal connection between subjective simplicity and objective truth in the following way. Innate subjective standards of simplicity ...
In this paper we discuss studies that show that most people do not find determinism to be incompatible with free will and moral responsibility if determinism is described in a way that does not suggest mechanistic reductionism. However, if determinism is described in a way that suggests reductionism, that leads people to interpret it as threatening to free will and responsibility. We discuss the implications of these results for the philosophical debates about free will, moral responsibility, and determinism.
Epistemic akrasia arises when one holds a belief even though one judges it to be irrational or unjustified. While there is some debate about whether epistemic akrasia is possible, this paper will assume for the sake of argument that it is in order to consider whether it can be rational. The paper will show that it can. More precisely, cases can arise in which both the belief one judges to be irrational and one’s judgment of it are epistemically rational in (...) the sense that both are supported by sufficient evidence. (shrink)
Ordinarily, we take moral responsibility to come in degrees. Despite this commonplace, theories of moral responsibility have focused on the minimum threshold conditions under which agents are morally responsible. But this cannot account for our practices of holding agents to be more or less responsible. In this paper we remedy this omission. More specifically, we extend an account of reasons-responsiveness due to John Martin Fischer and Mark Ravizza according to which an agent is morally responsible only if she is appropriately (...) receptive to and reactive to reasons for action. Building on this, we claim that the degree to which an agent is responsible will depend on the degree to which she is able to recognize and react to reasons. To analyze this, we appeal to relations of comparative similarity between possible worlds, arguing that the degree to which an agent is reasons-reactive depends on the nearest possible world in which given sufficient reason to do otherwise, she does so. Similarly, we argue that the degree to which an agent is reasons-receptive will depend on the intelligibility of her patterned recognition of reasons. By extending an account of reasons-responsiveness in these ways, we are able to rationalize our practice of judging people to be more or less responsible. (shrink)
Blame is usually discussed in the context of the free will problem, but recently moral philosophers have begun to examine it on its own terms. If, as many suppose, free will is to be understood as the control relevant to moral responsibility, and moral responsibility is to be understood in terms of whether blame is appropriate, then an independent inquiry into the nature and ethics of blame will be essential to solving (and, perhaps, even fully understanding) the free will problem. (...) In this article we first survey and categorize recent accounts of the nature of blame – is it action, belief, emotion, desire, or something else? – and then we look at several proposed requirements on appropriate blame that look beyond the transgressor himself, considerations that will form part of a full account of the ethics of blame. (shrink)
This book is an important study in the philosophy of the mind; drawing on the work of philosopher Wilfrid Sellars and the theory of critical realism to develop a novel argument for understanding perception and metaphysics.
Truth is a value in that sense that a belief is good (or successful, or correct) just in case it is true. But it does not follow that truth is a good-making property, nor does it follow that the nature of truth explains its value. Instead, this paper argues that the nature of belief explains its value.
: Agents are enkratic when they intend to do what they believe they should. That rationality requires you to be enkratic is uncontroversial, yet you may be enkratic in a way that does not exhibit any rationality on your part. Thus, what I call the enkratic requirement demands that you be enkratic in the right way. In particular, I will argue that it demands that you base your belief about what you should do and your intention to do it on (...) the same considerations. The idea is that, if you base your belief and your intention on different considerations, then you are inconsistent in your treatment of those considerations as reasons. The enkratic requirement demands that you be enkratic by treating considerations consistently as reasons. (shrink)
If philosophical moral reflection tends to promote moral behavior, one might think that professional ethicists would behave morally better than do socially comparable non-ethicists. We examined three types of courteous and discourteous behavior at American Philosophical Association conferences: talking audibly while the speaker is talking (versus remaining silent), allowing the door to slam shut while entering or exiting mid-session (versus attempting to close the door quietly), and leaving behind clutter at the end of a session (versus leaving one's seat tidy). (...) By these three measures, audiences in ethics sessions did not appear to behave any more courteously than did audiences in non-ethics sessions. However, audiences in environmental ethics sessions did appear to leave behind less trash. (shrink)
The Ockhamist claims that our ability to do otherwise is not endangered by God’s foreknowledge because facts about God’s past beliefs regarding future contingents are soft facts about the past—i.e., temporally relational facts that depend in some sense on what happens in the future. But if our freedom, given God’s foreknowledge, requires altering some fact about the past that is clearly a hard fact, then Ockhamism fails even if facts about God’s past beliefs are soft. Recent opponents of Ockhamism, including (...) David Widerker and Peter van Inwagen, have argued along precisely these lines. Their arguments, if successful, would undermine Ockhamism while avoiding the controversy over the alleged softness of facts about God’s past beliefs. But these arguments do not succeed. The past facts they rely on must be clear and uncontroversial examples of hard facts about the past, and these facts must be such that an ability to refrain from the relevant future action implies an ability to alter the relevant hard fact. We demonstrate the flaw in these arguments by showing how they rely on past facts that do not satisfy these criteria. The Ockhamist may have troubles, but this type of argument is not one of them. (shrink)
The subjective character of a given experience leaves open the question of its precise status. If it looks to a subject K as if there is an object of a kind F in front of him, the experience he is having could be veridical, or hallucinatory. Advocates of the Causal Theory of perception (whom I shall call.
Libertarians like Robert Kane believe that indeterminism is necessary for free will. They think this in part because they hold both that my being the ultimate cause of at least part of myself is necessary for free will and that indeterminism is necessary for this "ultimate self-causation". But seductive and intuitive as this "USC Libertarianism" may sound, it is untenable. In the end, no metaphysically coherent conception of ultimate self-causation is available. So the basic intuition motivating the USC Libertarian is (...) ultimately impossible to fulfill. (shrink)
Robert Brandom makes several mistakes in his discussion of Sellars's "Two-Ply" account of observation. Brandom does not recognize the difference in "level" between observation reports concerning physical objects and 'looks'-statements. He also denies that 'looks'-statements are reports or even make claims. They then demonstrate a more correct reading of Sellars on 'looks'-statements.
The issue of what distinguishes systems which have original intentionalityfrom those which do not has been brought into sharp focus by Saul Kripke inhis discussion of the sceptical paradox he attributes to Wittgenstein.In this paper I defend a sophisticated version of the dispositionalistaccount of meaning against the principal objection raised by Kripke in hisattack on dispositional views. I argue that the objection put by the sceptic,to the effect that the dispositionalist cannot give a satisfactory account ofnormativity and mistake, in fact (...) comprises a number of distinct lines ofargument, all of which can be satisfactorily answered by the dispositionalist. (shrink)
In recent defenses of moral responsibility skepticism, which is the view that no human agents are morally responsible for their actions or character, a number of theorists have argued against Peter Strawson’s (and others’) claim that “the sort of love which two adults can sometimes be said to feel reciprocally, for each other” would be undermined if we were not morally responsible agents. Among them, Derk Pereboom (2001, 2009) and Tamler Sommers (2007, 2012) most forcefully argue against this conception of (...) love. However, in this paper, I plan to defend the claim that there is an essential connection between love and moral responsibility, a thesis I will call love internalism. To begin, I will specify the content and scope of love internalism, and consider ways in which other theorists have attempted to motivate it. I will then consider the various arguments that Pereboom and Sommers advance against love internalism. These arguments, it seems to me, offer us powerful reasons to reject several of the ways in which philosophers have tried to connect moral responsibility to love. Consequently, in light of these criticisms, I will further precisify the content of love internalism. And as we will see, love internalism (as I argue for it) is immune to Pereboom’s and Sommers’ criticisms. Moreover, when its content is sufficiently clarified, love internalism can serve as a plausible premise in an anti-skeptical argument. I thus conclude by arguing that this suitably reformulated statement of love internalism offers a significant challenge to moral responsibility skepticism of the sort Pereboom and Sommers endorse. (shrink)
This paper examines the contents of perceptual experience, and focuses in particular on the relation between the representational aspects of an experience and its phenomenal character. It is argued that the Critical Realist two-component analysis of experience, advocated by Wilfrid Sellars, is preferable to the Intentionalist view. Experiences have different kinds of representational contents: both informational and intentional. An understanding of the essential navigational role of perception provides a principled way of explaining the nature of such representational contents. Experiences also (...) have a distinct phenomenal content, or character, which is not determined by representational content. (shrink)
A strictly Millian approach to proper names is defended, i.e. one in which expressions when used properly ('onymically') refer directly, i.e. without the semantic intermediaryship of the words that appear to comprise them. The approach may appear self-evident for names which appear to have no component parts (in current English) but less so for others. Two modes of reference are distinguished for potentially ambiguous expressions such as The Long Island . A consequence of this distinction is to allow a speculative (...) neurolinguistics of proper ('onymic') and semantic ('non-onymic') reference. A further consequence is that translation of onymically referring expressions is impossible (since they have no semantic content), and some apparently self-evident objections to this view are met by insisting on a distinction between a proper name as a referring expression and its etymology. The nature of the linguistic mechanism(s) by which an expression becomes proper (i.e. loses sense) shows that etymological opacity is a precondition for the survival of words in certain proper names, furnishing evidence for reference without sense. The process of becoming proper amounts to abrogation of sense for the purpose of reference, which is precisely the requirement for a systematic defence of Mill. (shrink)
Experiences of all kinds have a distinctive character, which marks them out as intrinsically different from states of consciousness such as thinking. A plausible view is that the difference should be accounted for by the fact that, in having an experience, the subject is somehow immediately aware of a range of phenomenal qualities. For example, in seeing, grasping and tasting an apple, the subject may be aware of a red and green spherical shape, a certain feeling of smoothness to touch, (...) and a sweet sensation. Such phenomenal qualities are also immediately present in hallucinations. According to the sense-data theory, phenomenal qualities belong to items called “sense-data.” In having a perceptual experience the subject is directly aware of, or acquainted with, a sense-datum, even if the experience is illusory or hallucinatory. The sense-datum is an object immediately present in experience. It has the qualities it appears to have. (shrink)
The problem of the richness of visual experience is that of finding principled grounds for claims about how much of the world a person actually sees at any given moment. It is argued that there are suggestive parallels between the two-component analysis of experience defended by Wilfrid Sellars, and certain recently advanced information processing accounts of visual perception. Sellars' later account of experience is examined in detail, and it is argued that there are good reasons in support of the claim (...) that the sensory nonconceptual content of experience can vary independently of conceptual awareness. It is argued that the Sellarsian analysis is not undermined by recent work on change blindness and related phenomena; a model of visual experience developed by Ronald Rensink is shown to be in essential harmony with the framework provided by Sellars, and provides a satisfactory answer to the problem of the richness of visual experience. (shrink)
Much recent discussion about the nature of perception has focused on the dispute between the Causal Theory of Perception and the rival Disjunctive View. There are different versions of the Causal Theory (the abbreviation I shall use), but the point upon which they agree is that perception involves a conscious experience which is logically distinct from the particular physical object perceived. 1 On the opposed Disjunctive View, the perceptual experience is held to be inseparable from the object perceived; what is (...) directly present to conscious experience is, literally, part of the physical environment. 2 One prima facie difficulty the Causal Theory appears to face is the problem of deviant causal chains, of providing sufficient conditions for perception; I shall not address this difficulty directly, though some of my concluding remarks will bear on it. My main aim in this paper is to show that, despite the deviant causal chains problem, the Causal Theory is to be preferred to the rival Disjunctive View. (shrink)
This paper defends a dynamic model of the way in which perception is integrated with action, a model I refer to as ‘the navigational account’. According to this account, employing vision and other forms of distance perception, a creature acquires information about its surroundings via the senses, information that enables it to select and navigate routes through its environment, so as to attain objects that satisfy its needs. This form of perceptually guided activity should be distinguished from other kinds of (...) semi-automatic responses to visual stimuli that do not necessarily involve conscious experiences. It essentially involves inner states, which involve both the awareness of phenomenal qualities, and also a representational component. The navigational account is compared here with the enactive approach to perception, which opposes the view that perceptual experiences are inner states. This paper argues that a full account of perception raises a number of different questions. One central explanatory project concerns questions about the kinds of processes that currently enable a creature to identify and respond appropriately to distant objects: the answer, it is argued, lies in acknowledging the role of conscious inner representations in guiding navigational behaviour through complex environments. The fact that perception and action are interdependent does not conflict with the claim that inner representational states comprise an essential stage in visual processing. (shrink)
A technological revolution with first order implications is undeniable and underway. That is the permeation of society by computers and telecommunications technology. For western society, committed to a social, economic, and value structure premised upon an industrial society, the move to an information society is more than disruptive; it is transformational. Current changes are so rapidly paced in relation to business planning that it creates major challenges and opportunities to reach out, influence, and guide the change.The telematics revolution will affect (...) every aspect of our society since it will affect every aspect of our world which involves the generation, production, storage, or handling of information. Many ethical issues are touched upon. To sum them up, the new immorality is to choose to act in ignorance of future consequences. (shrink)
Chess is sometimes referred to as a ‘mind-sport’. Yet, in obvious ways, chess is very unlike physical sports such as tennis and soccer; it doesn't require the levels of fitness and athleticism necessary for such sports. Nor does it involve the sensory-governed, skilled behaviour required in activities such as juggling or snooker. Nevertheless, I suggest, chess is closer than it may at first seem to some of these sporting activities. In particular, there are interesting connections between the way that we (...) use our perceptual imagination in sports, and also in chess. The same distinction between calculation and natural instinct applies in chess as it does in many physical sports. (shrink)
Current issues concerning the nature of ancestry and homology are discussed with reference to the evolutionary origin of the tetrapod limb. Homologies are argued to be complex conjectural inferences dependant upon a pre-existing phylogenetic analysisand a theoretical model of the evolutionary development of ontogenetic information. Ancestral conditions are inferred primarily from character (synapomorphy/homology) distributions within phylogeny, because of the deficiencies of palaeontological data. Recent analyses of tetrapod limb ontogeny, and the diverse, earliest morphologies known from the fossil record, are inconsistent (...) with typological concepts such as fixed ancestral patterns or bauplans, emphasising the incompatibility of these with evolutionary continuity. The evolutionary origin of the tetrapod limb is also examined in the light of its recent discussion in developmental genetics. While this field promises to reveal more of the fundamental ontogenetic content of homology (identity), at present it is concerned mostly with the abstraction of a new set of types, rather than investigating diversity and change. (shrink)