This paper critically examines coincidence arguments and evolutionary debunking arguments against non-naturalist realism in metaethics. It advances a version of these arguments that goes roughly like this: Given a non-naturalist, realist metaethic, it would be cosmically coincidental if our first order normative beliefs were true. This coincidence undermines any prima facie justification enjoyed by those beliefs.
Having no recourse to ways of knowing about the natural world, ethical non-naturalists are in need of an epistemology that might apply to a normative breed of facts or properties, and intuitionism seems well suited to fill that bill. Here I argue that the metaphysical inspiration for ethical intuitionism undermines that very epistemology, for this pair of views generates what I call the defeater from cosmic coincidence. Unfortunately, we face not a happy union, but a difficult choice: either ethical intuitionism (...) or ethical non-naturalism, but not both. (shrink)
Here I discuss the conceptual structure and core semantic commitments of reason-involving thought and discourse needed to underwrite the claim that ethical normativity is not uniquely queer. This deflates a primary source of ethical scepticism and it vindicates so-called partner in crime arguments. When it comes to queerness objections, all reason-implicating normative claims—including those concerning Humean reasons to pursue one's ends, and epistemic reasons to form true beliefs—stand or fall together.
This paper considers normative naturalism, understood as the view that (i) normative sentences are descriptive of the way things are, and (ii) their truth/falsity does not require ontology beyond the ontology of the natural world. Assuming (i) for the sake of argument, I here show that (ii) is false not only as applied to ethics, but more generally as applied to practical and epistemic normativity across the board. The argument is a descendant of Moore's Open Question Argument and Hume's Is-Ought (...) Gap. It goes roughly as follows: to ensure that natural ontology suffices for normative truth, there must be semantically grounded entailments from the natural truths to the normative truths. There are none. So natural ontology does not suffice for normative truth. (shrink)
Incompatibilists often claim that we experience our agency as incompatible with determinism, while compatibilists challenge this claim. We report a series of experiments that focus on whether the experience of having an ability to do otherwise is taken to be at odds with determinism. We found that participants in our studies described their experience as incompatibilist whether the decision was (i) present-focused or retrospective, (ii) imagined or actual, (iii) morally salient or morally neutral. The only case in which participants did (...) not give incompatibilist judgments was when the question was explicitly about whether one’s ignorance of the future was compatible with determinism. This lends empirical support to claims made by incompatibilists about the experience of agency, while also showing that compatibilist accounts of ability are inadequate to the reported phenomenology. Our results also inform recent debates about the presuppositions of deliberation. (shrink)
It often seems that what one ought to do depends on what contingent ends one has adopted and the means to pursuing them. Imagine, for example, that you are applying for jobs, and a particularly attractive one comes your way. It offers excellent colleagues in a desirable location, the pay is good, and acquiring a job like this is one of your ends. If practicing your job talk is a means to getting the job, the following seems true: (1) If (...) you want1 to get the job, then you ought to practice your job talk. Let us call conditional ought sentences that purport to express an end in the antecedent and a means to the end in the consequent end-given oughts. Some end-given oughts run into the problem of detachment; i.e., some end-given oughts seem true, and yet we do not think the consequent by itself, detached from the conditional, is true even if the antecedent is true. Consider a case where you want revenge on Bill for some slight offense. You happen to have the opportunity to poison Bill’s drink while he is away, which is the only thing that would lead to his demise. What of: (2) If you want to kill Bill, then you ought to poison his drink. (2) runs up against the problem of detachment because of the following modus ponens argument: • If you want to kill Bill, then you ought to poison his drink. • You want to kill Bill. • Therefore, you ought to poison his drink. In fact, you ought not poison Bill’s drink. You ought to avoid him and seek counseling. (shrink)
There are ways that ethical intuitions might be, and the various possibilities have epistemic ramifications. This paper criticizes some extant accounts of what ethical intuitions are and how they justify, and it offers an alternative account. Roughly, an ethical intuition that p is a kind of seeming state constituted by a consideration whether p, attended by positive phenomenological qualities that count as evidence for p, and so a reason to believe that p. They are distinguished from other kinds of seemings, (...) such as those which are content driven (e.g., the sensory experience that a stick in water seems bent) and those which are competence driven (e.g., the intellectual seeming that XYZ is not water, or that one of DeMorgan’s laws is true). One important conclusion is this: when crafting a positive theory of justification ethical intuitionists have fewer resources than intuitionists in other domains, not because of the subject matter of ethical intuitions, but because of the their structure. A second conclusion is that the seemings featured in substantive ethical intuitions deliver relatively weak justification as compared to other seeming states. (shrink)
Non-naturalists face a dilemma. They either leave their normative views hostage to a non-natural realm, which is immoral, or they do not, which is irrational. David Enoch has argued that the problem rests on cases of junk knowledge — conditionals that cannot be used to expand knowledge via modus ponens. Camil Golub has suggested that the dilemma rests on questionable assumptions about how we might come to know about the non-natural. Here I reply to these worries, sharpen the dilemma, and (...) situate it in the literature on doxastic wrongs. (shrink)
Here I examine the major theories of ethical intuitions, focusing on the epistemic status of this class of intuitions. We cover self-evidence theory, seeming-state theory, and some of the recent contributions from experimental philosophy.
This is a review of Eklund's book. It discusses his suggestion that "ardent realists" use the practical profiles of normative concepts to A) explain what it is for a concept to be normative, B) fix reference, and C) provide an extensional theory of normative properties. I argue that those sympathetic to ardent realism will be happier to focus on the way in which normativity presents itself to cognition, particularly that presentation of inherent, authoritative guidance, and whether that 1) explains what (...) it is for a concept to be normative, 2) fixes reference, 3) aptly characterizes the nature of normativity in the world, and perhaps 4) explains why normative thoughts have the Eklund-style normative roles—the practical profiles of things like motivation, preference, and intention—that they have. (shrink)
Normative cognition seems rather important, even ineliminable. Communities that lack normative concepts like SHOULD, IS A REASON TO, JUSTIFIES, etc. seem cognitively handicapped and communicatively muzzled. And yet a popular metaethic, normative naturalism, has a hard time accommodating this felt ineliminability. Here, I press the argument against normative naturalism, consider some replies on behalf of normative naturalists, and suggest that a version of sophisticated subjectivism does the best job preserving the importance and ineliminability of the special, normative way of thinking.
Historically, the most persuasive argument against external reasons proceeds through a rationalist restriction: For all agents A, and all actions Φ, there is a reason for A to Φ only if Φing is rationally accessible from A's actual motivational states. Here I distinguish conceptions of rationality, show which one the internalist must rely on to argue against external reasons, and argue that a rationalist restriction that features that conception of rationality is extremely implausible. Other conceptions of rationality can render the (...) restriction true, but then the restriction simply fails to rule out external reasons. (shrink)
There are a number of proposals as to exactly how reasons, ends and rationality are related. It is often thought that practical reasons can be analyzed in terms of practical rationality, which, in turn, has something to do with the pursuit of ends. I want to argue against the conceptual priority of rationality and the pursuit of ends, and in favor of the conceptual priority of reasons. This case comes in two parts. I first argue for a new conception of (...) ends by which all ends are had under the guise of reasons. I then articulate a sense of rationality, procedural rationality, that is connected with the pursuit of ends so conceived, where one is rational to the extent that one is motivated to act in accordance with reasons as they appear to be. Unfortunately, these conceptions of ends and procedural rationality are inadequate for building an account of practical reasons, though I try to explain why it is that the rational pursuit of ends generates intuitive but misleading accounts of genuine normative reasons. The crux of the problem is an insensitivity to an is-seems distinction, where procedural rationality concerns reasons as they appear, and what we are after is a substantive sense of rationality that concerns reasons as they are. Based on these distinct senses of rationality, and some disambiguation of what it is to have a reason, I offer a critique of internalist analyses of one’s reasons in terms of the motivational states of one’s ideal, procedurally rational self, and I offer an alternative analysis of one’s practical reasons in terms of practical wisdom that overcomes objections to related reasons externalist views. The resulting theory is roughly Humean about procedural rationality and roughly Aristotelian about reasons, capturing the core truths of both camps. (shrink)
Either 1. the non-naturalist is in a state of mind that would treat as relevant information about the existence and patterns of non-natural properties and facts as they make up their mind about normative matters, or 2. the non-naturalist is in a state of mind that would treat as irrelevant information about the existence and patterns of non-natural properties and facts as they make up their mind about normative matters. The first state of mind is morally objectionable, for one should (...) not change one’s normative beliefs to pander to the patterns of some non-natural realm. The second state of mind is irrational, for if you think you are aiming to represent non-natural properties correctly, you should be interested to know which actions share a non-natural property and which do not, and you should be prepared to change your mind accordingly. (shrink)
Here I present and defend an etiological theory of objective, doxastic justification, and related theories of defeat and evidence. The theory is intended to solve a problem for reliabilist epistemologies— the problem of identifying relevant environments for assessing a process's reliability. It is also intended to go some way to accommodating, neutralizing, or explaining away many internalist-friendly elements in our epistemic thinking.
When it comes to the meanings of normative expressions, descriptivist theories and expressivist theories have distinct explanatory virtues. Noting this, and with the hope of not compromising on explanatory resources, hybrid semantic theories refuse to choose. Here, I examine how well the strategy works for Moorean open questions and associated is‐ought gaps. Though hybrid theorists typically rely on their expressivist resources for this explanandum, there is a type of open question that unadulterated expressivist theories can handle but hybrid theories cannot (...) – reverse open questions associated with an ought‐is gap. Because of this, hybrid theories do not enjoy the best of both worlds, and Moorean considerations favour unadulterated expressivism over any partly descriptivist theory. (shrink)
Non-descriptivists in metaethics should say more about intuitions. For one popular theory has it that case-based intuitions are in the business of correctly categorizing or classifying merely by bringing to bear a semantic or conceptual competence. If so, then the fact that all normative predicates have case-based intuitions involving them shows that they too are in the business of categorizing or classifying things. This favors a descriptivist position in metaethics—normative predicates have descriptive content—and disfavors a purely non-descriptivist position, like pure (...) expressivism. However, we can say more. We can distinguish two different sorts of intuitional state, A-grade intuitions and B-grade intuitions, based on a cluster of properties that are distinctive of each. While a hypothesis about categorization best explains the cluster of properties enjoyed by A-grade intuitions, it does not best explain the cluster of properties enjoyed by B-grade intuitions. Indeed, a non-categorizational, attitude-expressive hypothesis about the relevant meanings best explains B-grade intuitions. And intuitions involving thin normative predicates are B-grade. So intuition theory supports non-descriptivism, not descriptivism, about thin normative predicates. (shrink)
Bayesians take “definite” or “single-case” probabilities to be basic. Definite probabilities attach to closed formulas or propositions. We write them here using small caps: PROB(P) and PROB(P/Q). Most objective probability theories begin instead with “indefinite” or “general” probabilities (sometimes called “statistical probabilities”). Indefinite probabilities attach to open formulas or propositions. We write indefinite probabilities using lower case “prob” and free variables: prob(Bx/Ax). The indefinite probability of an A being a B is not about any particular A, but rather about the (...) property of being an A. In this respect, its logical form is the same as that of relative frequencies. For instance, we might talk about the probability of a human baby being female. That probability is about human babies in general — not about individuals. If we examine a baby and determine conclusively that she is female, then the definite probability of her being female is 1, but that does not alter the indefinite probability of human babies in general being female. Most objective approaches to probability tie probabilities to relative frequencies in some way, and the resulting probabilities have the same logical form as the relative frequencies. That is, they are indefinite probabilities. The simplest theories identify indefinite probabilities with relative frequencies.3 It is often objected that such “finite frequency theories” are inadequate because our probability judgments often diverge from relative frequencies. For example, we can talk about a coin being fair (and so the indefinite probability of a flip landing heads is 0.5) even when it is flipped only once and then destroyed (in which case the relative frequency is either 1 or 0). For understanding such indefinite probabilities, it has been suggested that we need a notion of probability that talks about possible instances of properties as well as actual instances.. (shrink)
In some cases, harming another gives rise to a duty to compensate for harm done. This paper argues that the influential explanations of such duties of compensation—that they are somehow derived from rights intrusions, or breaches of duties not to harm—fail. I offer and defend an alternative explanation for why certain harms and not others give rise to compensatory duties, an explanation that seeks to derive them from wide-scope duties not to harm or to compensate for harm done.