John Mackie's stimulating book is a complete and clear treatise on moral theory. His writings on normative ethics-the moral principles he recommends-offer a fresh approach on a much neglected subject, and the work as a whole is undoubtedly a major contribution to modern philosophy.The author deals first with the status of ethics, arguing that there are not objective values, that morality cannot be discovered but must be made. He examines next the content of ethics, seeing morality as a functional device, (...) basically the same at all times but changing significantly in response to changes in the human condition. He sketches a practical moral system, criticizing but also borrowing from both utilitarian and absolutist views. Thirdly, the frontiers of ethics, areas of contact with psychology, metaphysics, theology, law and politcs, are explored.Throughout, his aim is to discuss a wide range of questions that are both philosophical and practical, working within a distinctive version of subjectivism-an "error" theory of the apparent objectivity of values. John Mackie has drawn on the contributions of such classic thinkers as Plato, Aristotle, Hobbes, Hume, Kant and Sidgwick, and on more recent discussions, to produce a thought-provoking account that will inspire both the general reader and the student of philosophy. (shrink)
Penelope Mackie's book is a novel treatment of an issue central to much current work in metaphysics: the distinction between the essential and accidental properties of individuals. Mackie challenges widely held views, and arrives at what she calls "minimalist essentialism," an unorthodox theory according to which ordinary individuals have relatively few interesting essential properties. Mackie's clear and accessible discussions of issues surrounding necessity and essentialism mean that the book will appeal as much to graduate students as it will to seasoned (...) metaphysicians. (shrink)
It seems plausible to say that what changes an entity can or cannot survive depends on its persistence conditions, and that these depend, in turn, on its sortal kind. It might seem to follow that an entity cannot belong to two sortal kinds with potentially conflicting persistence conditions. Notoriously, though, this conclusion is denied by ‘contingent identity’ theorists, who hold, for example, that a permanently coincident statue and piece of clay are identical, although the persistence conditions associated with the kinds (...) statue and piece of clay are potentially conflicting. A clash with Leibniz’s Law is avoided by treating modal predicates as what Harold Noonan has called ‘Abelardian predicates’, as in the version of ‘inconstant’ counterpart theory developed by David Lewis. In addition to other difficulties, however, there is a question whether this ‘Abelardian’ theory does justice to the intuitions expressed in such statements as that the piece of clay could, while the statue could not, have survived a radical reshaping of its matter. I present an argument, which I call ‘the vacuous satisfaction argument’, for the conclusion that the theory does indeed fail to capture the significance of such de re modal statements. (shrink)
Cass Sunstein details intrinsic flaws in group discussion, even in ideal deliberation, and draws attention to prediction markets and information-aggregation devices on the internet as supplements to discussion. I respond that the supposed flaws do not affect ideal deliberation, and that the evaluation of group discussion is too pessimistic: there are alternative hypotheses to account for his findings, and there are doubts about their external validity. Also, I contend that his evaluation of prediction markets and internet devices is too optimistic. (...) The markets have failed miserably, and the internet is vulnerable to astroturfing by the powerful and wealthy. (shrink)
Studies causation both as a concept and as it is 'in the objects.' Offers new accounts of the logic of singular causal statements, the form of causal regularities, the detection of causal relationships, the asymmetry of cause and effect, and necessary connection, and it relates causation to functional and statistical laws and to teleology.
Many contemporary compatibilists about free will and determinism are agnostic about whether determinism is true, yet do not doubt that we have free will. They are thus committed to the thesis that free will is compatible with both determinism and indeterminism. This paper explores the prospects for this version of compatibilism, including its response to the argument that indeterminism would introduce an element of randomness or chance or luck that is inimical to free will and moral responsibility.
Schumpeter's redefinition of representative democracy as merely leadership competition was canonical in postwar political science. Schumpeter denies that individual will, common will, or common good are essential to democracy, but he, and anyone, I contend, is forced to assume these conditions in the course of denying them. Democracy is only a method, of no intrinsic value, its sole function to select leaders, according to Schumpeter. Leaders impose their views, and are not controlled by voters, and this is as it should (...) be, he says. I respond that his leadership democracy is implausible, both descriptively and prescriptively. Competitive election is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition of democracy, not sufficient even for the limited empirical purpose of regime classification. Any adequate definition of democracy must make reference to the common will, the common good, and other values, I submit. (shrink)
I attempt to rebut Dean Zimmerman's novel argument (2010), which he presents in support of substance dualism, for the conclusion that, in spite of its popularity, the combination of property dualism with substance materialism represents a precarious position in the philosophy of mind. I take issue with Zimmerman's contention that the vagueness of ‘garden variety’ material objects such as brains or bodies makes them unsuitable candidates for the possession of phenomenal properties. I also argue that the ‘speculative materialism’ that is (...) available to a substance materialist property dualist who abandons the identification of persons with such garden variety objects is significantly more attractive than Zimmerman allows. Although I do not attempt to refute its substance dualist rival, I conclude that the combination of property dualism with substance materialism can withstand Zimmerman's objections. (shrink)
In ‘Animalism versus Lockeanism: a Current Controversy’, The Philosophical Quarterly, 48 (1998), pp. 302–18, Harold Noonan examined the relation between animalist and neo‐Lockean theories of personal identity. As well as presenting arguments intended to support a modest compatibilism of animalism and neo‐Lockeanism, he advanced a new proposal about the relation between persons and human beings which was intended to evade the principal animalist objections to neo‐Lockean theories. I argue both that the arguments for compatibilism are without force, and that Noonan’s (...) new neo‐Lockean proposal is inadequate. (shrink)
Discussion is frequently observed in democratic politics, but change in view is rarely observed. Call this the unchanging minds hypothesis. I assume that a given belief or desire is not isolated, but, rather, is located in a network structure of attitudes, such that persuasion sufficient to change an attitude in isolation is not sufficient to change the attitude as supported by its network. The network structure of attitudes explains why the unchanging minds hypothesis seems to be true, and why it (...) is false: due to the network, the effects of deliberative persuasion are typically latent, indirect, delayed, or disguised. Finally, I connect up the coherence account of attitudes to several topics in recent political and democratic theory. Key Words: deliberation democracy persuasion change in view coherence. (shrink)
This paper is about a puzzle concerning the metaphysics of material objects: a puzzle generated by cases where material objects appear to coincide, sharing all their matter. As is well known, it can be illustrated by the example of a statue. In front of me now, sitting on my desk, is a statue – a statue of a lion. The statue is made of clay. So in front of me now is a piece of clay. But what is the relation (...) between the statue and the piece of clay? Are they identical, or are they distinct? (shrink)
I attempt to rebut Dean Zimmerman's novel argument (2010), which he presents in support of substance dualism, for the conclusion that, in spite of its popularity, the combination of property dualism with substance materialism represents a precarious position in the philosophy of mind. I take issue with Zimmerman's contention that the vagueness of 'garden variety' material objects such as brains or bodies makes them unsuitable candidates for the possession of phenomenal properties. I also argue that the 'speculative materialism' that is (...) available to a substance materialist property dualist who abandons the identification of persons with such garden variety objects is significantly more attractive than Zimmerman allows. Although I do not attempt to refute its substance dualist rival, I conclude that the combination of property dualism with substance materialism can withstand Zimmerman's objections. (shrink)
I argue that David Lewis’s attempt, in his ‘Counterfactual Dependence and Time’s Arrow’, to explain the fixity of the past in terms of counterfactual independence is unsuccessful. I point out that there is an ambiguity in the claim that the past is counterfactually independent of the present (or, more generally, that the earlier is counterfactually independent of the later), corresponding to two distinct theses about the relation between time and counterfactuals, both officially endorsed by Lewis. I argue that Lewis’s attempt (...) is flawed for a variety of reasons, including the fact that his own theory about the evaluation of counterfactuals requires too many exceptions to the general rule that the past is counterfactually independent of the present. At the end of the paper, I consider a variant of Lewis’s strategy that attempts to explain the fixity of the past in terms of causal, rather than counterfactual, independence. I conclude that, although this variant avoids some of the objections that afflict Lewis’s account, it nevertheless seems to be incapable of giving a satisfactory explanation of the notion of the fixity of the past. (shrink)
This collection of John Mackie's papers on personal identity and topics in moral and political philosophy, some of which have not previously been published, deal with such issues as: multiple personality; the transcendental "I"; responsibility and language; aesthetic judgements; Sidgwick's pessimism; act-utiliarianism; right-based moral theories; cooperation, competition, and moral philosophy; universalization; rights, utility, and external costs; norms and dilemmas; Parfit's population paradox; and the combination of partially-ordered preferences.