Shame is a Jekyll-and-Hyde emotion--it can be morally valuable, but it also has a dark side. Thomason presents a philosophically rigorous and nuanced account of shame that accommodates its harmful and helpful aspects. Thomason argues that despite its obvious drawbacks and moral ambiguity, shame's place in our lives is essential.
Spite is typically considered a vicious emotion that causes us to engage in petty, vindictive, and sometimes self-destructive behavior. Even though it has this bad reputation, I will argue that spite is a reactive attitude. Spite is emotional defiance of another’s command: to spite you, I will do something exactly because you told me not to. Our liability to feelings of spite presupposes that we recognize others as having practical authority, which is why it qualifies as a reactive attitude. I (...) conclude by offering conditions under which spite can be justified and unjustified. (shrink)
Shame is most frequently defined as the emotion we feel when we fail to live up to standards, norms, or ideals. I argue that this definition is flawed because it cannot explain some of the most paradigmatic features of shame. Agents often respond to shame with violence, but if shame is the painful feeling of failing to live up to an ideal, this response is unintelligible. I offer a new account of shame that can explain the link between shame and (...) violence. On my view, shame arises out of a tension between our identity and our self-conception: those things about which we feel shame are part of our identities, but they are not part of our self-conception. I conclude by arguing that this account of shame is a valuable moral emotion. (shrink)
It is common to think that we would be morally better people if we never felt envy. Recently, some philosophers have rejected this conclusion by arguing that envy can often be directed toward unfairness or inequality. As such, they conclude that we should not suppress our feelings of envy. I argue, however, that these defenses only show that envy is sometimes morally permissible. In order to show that we would not be better off without envy, we must show how envy (...) is not merely morally permissible, but morally valuable. Here I provide a defense of envy's moral value. I argue that feelings of envy are integral to the value that moral agents place on the goods and talents that they judge to be central to a worthwhile life. (shrink)
Attitudes like shame and contempt seem to be at odds with basic tenets of Kantian moral theory. I argue on the contrary that both attitudes play a central role in Kantian morality. Shame and contempt are attitudes that protect our love of honour, or the esteem we have for ourselves as moral persons. The question arises: how are these attitudes compatible with Kant's claim that all persons deserve respect? I argue that the proper object of shame and contempt is not (...) the humanity within a person, but rather her self-conceit, or the false esteem that competes with love of honour. (shrink)
Kant’s non-voluntarist conception of political obligation has led some philosophers to argue that he would reject self-government rights for indigenous peoples. Some recent scholarship suggests, however, that Kant’s critique of colonialism provides an argument in favor of granting self-government rights. Here I argue for a stronger conclusion: Kantian political theory not only can but must include sovereignty for indigenous peoples. Normally these rights are considered redress for historic injustice. On a Kantian view, however, I argue that they are not remedial. (...) Sovereignty rights are a necessary part of establishing perpetual peace. By failing to acknowledge the sovereignty of native groups, states once guilty of imperialism leave open the in principle possibility for future violence, even though no current conflict exists. Only in recognizing self-government rights can states truly commit to the cosmopolitan ideal. (shrink)
This new essay collection edited by Eric Watkins features distinguished and established scholars, and it will be an attractive volume for those who work in the field. The essays are divided under three headings: Part I contains essays on agency, Part II features essays on freedom, and Part III is dedicated to essays on persons. An essay by Karl Ameriks on Kant’s work “The End of All Things” concludes the collection. Most of the essays in the collection were originally presented (...) in early form at the conference “Agency, Persons, and Kant” in 2016, which was held in honor of Karl Ameriks. Although there are mentions of Ameriks’s work in the essays, the contributions largely do not discuss his work in detail. Rather... (shrink)
The use of child soldiers in armed conflict is an increasing global concern. Although philosophers have examined whether child soldiers can be considered combatants in war, much less attention has been paid to their moral responsibility. While it is tempting to think of them as having diminished or limited responsibility, child soldiers often report feeling guilt for the wrongs they commit. Here I argue that their feelings of guilt are both intelligible and morally appropriate. The feelings of guilt that child (...) soldiers experience are not self-censure; rather their guilt arises from their attempts to come to terms with what they see as their own morally ambiguous motives. Their guilt is appropriate because it reaffirms their commitment to morality and facilitates their self-forgiveness. (shrink)
Several philosophers who argue that forgiveness is an important virtue also wish to maintain the moral value of retributive emotions that forgiveness is meant to overcome. As such, these accounts explicate forgiveness as an Aristotelian mean between too much resentment and too little resentment. I argue that such an account ends up making forgiveness superfluous: it turns out that the forgiving person is not praised for a greater willingness to let go of her resentment, but rather for her fairness or (...) good judgment. I conclude by arguing that the virtue of fair-mindedness is more compatible with maintaining the value of the retributive emotions than the virtue of forgiveness. (shrink)
Meira Levinson argues for a robust civics education that models the practices of good citizenship. One of the elements of that civics education is teaching students how to take up the perspectives of others. The question arises: how do we teach students and citizens alike to take up the perspectives of others? Here I argue that we can make sense of perspective-taking by appealing to Rawls’s notion of public reason as an ideal. I conclude by arguing that a commitment to (...) the ideal of public reason can help identify and resist oppression and marginalization. (shrink)
In Naked, Krista K. Thomason offers a multi-faceted account of shame, covering its nature as an emotion, its positive and negative roles in moral life, its association with violence, and its provocation through invitations to shame, public shaming, and stigmatization. Along the way, she reflects on a range of examples drawn from literature, memoirs, journalism, and her own imagination. She also considers alternative views at length, draws a wealth of important distinctions, and articulates many of the most intuitive (...) objections to her own view in order to defend it more thoroughly. As such, the book’s subtitle, The Dark Side of Shame and Moral Life, undersells its scope and ambition. This is an exploration not just of shame’s dark side but a kaleidoscopic appreciation of both the nature and the (dis)value of shame and shaming. Somewhat undercutting this breadth, Thomason relies heavily on Kantian intuitions about equal respect and recognition for persons and their dignity; in several key arguments, she tells us to disregard predictable and systematic consequences of emotions, practices, and institutions so that we can better focus on their constitutive or internal aspects. Of course, every philosopher inevitably brings theoretical commitments to bear when writing about moral psychology, but non-Kantian readers should be forewarned that — despite the fact that Thomason says that she does “not assume any particular moral theory” — her ethical conclusions about shaming and stigmatizing are likely to be plausible only to those who are already snugly tied into a web of “Kantian commitments” (p. 9). (shrink)
"Naked" is a worthwhile read for anyone interested in shame and its role in morality. The book is particularly timely given how common public shaming has become in online settings. Krista K. Thomason argues that, even though shame is a negative emotion with potentially damaging consequences, its dark side is outweighed by its moral benefits insofar as shame is constitutive of desirable moral commitments. According to the author, being liable to shame is constitutive of respecting other people’s points (...) of view, acknowledging others’ moral standing, and accepting that our identities are not only set by what we think of ourselves, but also by factors outside of our control that include our personal histories and other people’s opinions of us. (shrink)
This book examines Aristotle's method in ethics from the vantage point of his broader conception of philosophy. Joseph Karbowski challenges longstanding dialectical orthodoxy and argues instead that, in his ethical treatises, Aristotle is seeking the first principles of a demonstrative ethical science, a science of human goodness, using an ethically adapted version of the method described in the second book of his Posterior Analytics. Part I of this volume develops a novel interpretation of Aristotle's conception of philosophy, which highlights (...) its ambition to scientific knowledge and its flexible approach to philosophical inquiry. Part II then demonstrates Aristotle's scientific and flexible approach to philosophy at work in his ethical treatises. The book shows how the aspiration to scientific knowledge is compatible with Aristotle's remarks about ethical precision, the practical aim of ethics, and the particular orientedness of phronēsis. (shrink)
One of the clear targets of Thomason’s paper is the Feyerabendian portrait of Galileo as epistemic opportunist, hastening to substitute rhetoric for reason. Thomason reveals that Feyerabend has fallen into that awkward trap all critics must fear: when we claim to detect blemishes of logic, the defect may well be in our own grasp of the argument. Yet in making this very point, Thomason is already defending one of Feyerabend’s favourite claims — the reasoning processes used by (...) great scientists are remarkably untidy and do not readily compress themselves into neat philosophic formulation. (shrink)
My chief aim has been to convey the thought that the application of model theoretic techniques to natural languages needn't force a distortion of intentional phenomena. I hope that at least I have succeeded in accomplishing this.
We identify a class of paradoxes that is neither set-theoretical nor semantical, but that seems to depend on intensionality. In particular, these paradoxes arise out of plausible properties of propositional attitudes and their objects. We try to explain why logicians have neglected these paradoxes, and to show that, like the Russell Paradox and the direct discourse Liar Paradox, these intensional paradoxes are recalcitrant and challenge logical analysis. Indeed, when we take these paradoxes seriously, we may need to rethink the commonly (...) accepted methods for dealing with the logical paradoxes. (shrink)
Early attempts at combining multiple inheritance with nonmonotonic reasoning were based on straightforward extensions of tree-structured inheritance systems, and were theoretically unsound. In The Mathcmat~'cs of Inheritance Systcrns, or TMOIS, Touretzky described two problems these systems cannot handle: reasoning in the presence of true but redundant assertions, and coping with ambiguity. TMOIS provided a definition and analysis of a theoretically sound multiple inheritance system, accom-.
We relate the theory of presupposition accommodation to a computational framework for reasoning in conversation. We understand presuppositions as private commitments the speaker makes in using an utterance but expects the listener to recognize based on mutual information. On this understanding, the conversation can move forward not just through the positive effects of interlocutors’ utterances but also from the retrospective insight interlocutors gain about one anothers’ mental states from observing what they do. Our title, ENLIGHTENED UPDATE, highlights such cases. Our (...) approach fleshes out two key principles: that interpretation is a form of intention recognition; and that intentions are complex informational structures, which specify commitments to conditions and to outcomes as well as to actions. We present a formalization and implementation of these principles for a simple conversational agent, and draw on this case study to argue that pragmatic reasoning is holistic in character, continuous with common-sense reasoning about collaborative activities, and most effectively characterized by associating specific, reliable interpretive constraints directly with grammatical forms. In showing how to make such claims precise and to develop theories that respect them, we illustrate the general place of computation in the cognitive science of language. (shrink)
Since it was presented in 1963, Chisholm’s paradox has attracted constant attention in the deontic logic literature, but without the emergence of any definitive solution. We claim this is due to its having no single solution. The paradox actually presents many challenges to the formalization of deontic statements, including (1) context sensitivity of unconditional oughts, (2) formalizing conditional oughts, and (3) distinguishing generic from nongeneric oughts. Using the practical interpretation of ‘ought’ as a guideline, we propose a linguistically motivated logical (...) solution to each of these problems, and explain the relation of the solution to the problem of contrary-to-duty obligations. (shrink)
This paper proposes a formalization of ability that is motivated in part by linguistic considerations and by the philosophical literature in action theory and the logic of ability, but that is also meant to match well with planning formalisms, and so to provide an account of the role of ability in practical reasoning. Some of the philosophical literature concerning ability, and in particular [Austin, 1956], suggests that some ways of talking about ability are context-dependent. I propose a way of formalizing (...) this dependency. (shrink)
This paper develops a general approach to contextual reasoning in natural language processing. Drawing on the view of natural language interpretation as abduction (Hobbs et al., 1993), we propose that interpretation provides an explanation of how an utterance creates a new discourse context in which its interpreted content is both true and promi- nent. Our framework uses dynamic theories of semantics and pragmatics, formal theories of context, and models of attentional state. We describe and illustrate a Prolog implementation.
In applying Bayes’s theorem to the history of science, Bayesians sometimes assume – often without argument – that they can safely ignore very implausible theories. This assumption is false, both in that it can seriously distort the history of science as well as the mathematics and the applicability of Bayes’s theorem. There are intuitively very plausible counter-examples. In fact, one can ignore very implausible or unknown theories only if at least one of two conditions is satisfied: one is certain that (...) there are no unknown theories which explain the phenomenon in question, or the likelihood of at least one of the known theories used in the calculation of the posterior is reasonably large. Often in the history of science, a very surprising phenomenon is observed, and neither of these criteria is satisfied. (shrink)
This chapter presents an overview of the issues that arise when logic is used in helping to understand problems in intelligent reasoning and to guide the design of mechanized reasoning systems. It provides some historical and technical details concerning nonmonotonic logic and reasoning about action and change, a topic that is not only central in artificial intelligence but that is normally of considerable interest to philosophers. The remaining sections provide brief sketches of selected topics, with references to the primary literature.