Recently, psychologists have explored moral concepts including obligation, blame, and ability. While little empirical work has studied the relationships among these concepts, philosophers have widely assumed such a relationship in the principle that “ought” implies “can,” which states that if someone ought to do something, then they must be able to do it. The cognitive underpinnings of these concepts are tested in the three experiments reported here. In Experiment 1, most participants judge that an agent ought to keep a promise (...) that he is unable to keep, but only when he is to blame for the inability. Experiment 2 shows that such “ought” judgments correlate with judgments of blame, rather than with judgments of the agent’s ability. Experiment 3 replicates these findings for moral “ought” judgments and finds that they do not hold for nonmoral “ought” judgments, such as what someone ought to do to fulfill their desires. These results together show that folk moral judgments do not conform to a widely assumed philosophical principle that “ought” implies “can.” Instead, judgments of blame play a modulatory role in some judgments of obligation. (shrink)
I develop and defend the view that subjects are necessarily psychologically able to revise their beliefs in response to relevant counter-evidence. Specifically, subjects can revise their beliefs in response to relevant counter-evidence, given their current psychological mechanisms and skills. If a subject lacks this ability, then the mental state in question is not a belief, though it may be some other kind of cognitive attitude, such as a supposi-tion, an entertained thought, or a pretense. The result is a moderately revisionary (...) view of belief: while most mental states we thought were beliefs are beliefs, some mental states which we thought were beliefs are not beliefs. The argument for this view draws on two key claims: First, subjects are rationally obligated to revise their beliefs in response to relevant counter-evidence. Second, if some subject is rationally obligated to revise one of her mental states, then that subject can revise that mental state, given her current psychological mechanisms and skills. Along the way to defending these claims, I argue that rational obligations can govern activities which reflect on one’s rational character, whether or not those activities are under one’s voluntary control. I also show how the relevant version of epistemic ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ survives an objection which plagues other variants of the principle. (shrink)
In this paper, I present the results of an experimental study on intuitions about moral obligation (ought) and ability (can). Many philosophers accept as an axiom the principle known as “Ought Implies Can” (OIC). If the truth of OIC is intuitive, such that it is accepted by many philosophers as an axiom, then we would expect people to judge that agents who are unable to perform an action are not morally obligated to perform that action. The results of my experimental (...) study show that participants were more inclined to judge that an agent ought to perform an action than that the agent can perform the action. Overall, participants said that an agent ought to perform an action even when they said that the agent cannot do it. I discuss the implications of these results for the debate over OIC. (shrink)
According to the Ought-Implies-Can principle (OIC), an agent ought to perform a certain action only if the agent can perform that action. Proponents of OIC interpret this supposed implication in several ways. Some argue that the implication in question is a logical one, namely, entailment. Some think that the relation between ‘ought’ and ‘can’ is a relation of presupposition. Still others argue that ‘ought’ conversationally implicates ‘can’. Opponents of OIC offer a variety of counterexamples in an attempt to show that (...) there are cases in which an agent ought to perform a certain action even though she cannot perform that action. Such counterexamples often involve either culpable or nonculpable inability. In cases of culpable inability, the agent renders herself unable to fulfill an obligation. For example, a student is unable to submit a paper on the due date because she procrastinated until it became too late to write a paper by the assigned deadline. In cases of non-culpable inability, the agent somehow becomes unable to fulfill an obligation, through no fault of her own. For example, an agent becomes unable to pay back a loan to a bank because she was robbed on her way to the bank. This paper attempts to offer counterexamples to OIC of a sort different from the one discussed by opponents of OIC so far. If these counterexamples are correct, then they seem to suggest that there are cases in which an agent has an obligation to perform an action even though she may not be able to perform that action, and thus OIC is false. In other words, ‘ought’ does not imply ‘can’. (shrink)
A familiar complaint against the principle that “ought” implies “can” is that it seems that agents can intentionally make it the case that they cannot perform acts that they nonetheless ought to perform. I propose a related principle that I call the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can.” I argue that the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can” is implied by important but underappreciated truths about practical reason, and that it is not vulnerable to the familiar (...) complaint against “ought” implies “can.” Moreover, I suggest that “the thing to do” implies “can” has interesting implications for “ought” implies “can” - implications that depend on the relation between claims about what we ought to do and claims about the thing to do. (shrink)
This paper argues that objective consequentialism is incompatible with the rationales of ‘ “ought” implies “can” ’ – with the considerations, that is, that explain or justify this principle. Objective consequentialism is the moral doctrine that an act is right if and only if there is no alternative with a better outcome, and wrong otherwise. An act is obligatory if and only if it is wrong not to perform it. According to ‘ “ought” implies “can” ’, a person is morally (...) obligated to φ only if the person can φ. The rationales of ‘ “ought” implies “can” ’ include considerations related to intuitive plausibility, action-guidance, blameworthiness and fairness, and the nature of practical reasons. (shrink)
Deontological evidentialism is the claim that S ought to form or maintain S’s beliefs in accordance with S’s evidence. A promising argument for this view turns on the premise that consideration c is a normative reason for S to form or maintain a belief that p only if c is evidence that p is true. In this paper, I discuss the surprising relation between a recently influential argument for this key premise and the principle that ought implies can. I argue (...) that anyone who antecedently accepts or rejects this principle already has a reason to resist either this argument’s premises or its role in support of deontological evidentialism. (shrink)
This paper aims to contribute to the current debate about the status of the “Ought Implies Can” principle and the growing body of empirical evidence that undermines it. We report the results of an experimental study which show that people judge that agents ought to perform an action even when they also judge that those agents cannot do it and that such “ought” judgments exhibit an actor-observer effect. Because of this actor-observer effect on “ought” judgments and the Duhem-Quine thesis, talk (...) of an “empirical refutation” of OIC is empirically and methodologically unwarranted. What the empirical fact that people attribute moral obligations to unable agents shows is that OIC is not intuitive, not that OIC has been refuted. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that the “Ought Implies Can” (OIC) principle, as it is employed in epistemology, particularly in the literature on epistemic norms, is open to counterexamples. I present a counterexample to OIC and discuss several objections to it. If this counterexample works, then it shows that it is possible that S ought to believe that p, even though S cannot believe that p. If this is correct, then OIC, considered from an epistemic point of view, is false, (...) since it is supposed to hold for any S and any p. (shrink)
Those who want to deny the ‘ought implies can’ principle often turn to weakened views to explain ‘ought implies can’ phenomena. The two most common versions of such views are that ‘ought’ presupposes ‘can’, and that ‘ought’ conversationally implicates ‘can’. This paper will reject both views, and in doing so, present a case against any pragmatic view of ‘ought implies can’. Unlike much of the literature, I won't rely on counterexamples, but instead will argue that each of these views fails (...) on its own terms. ‘Ought’ and ‘can’ do not obey the negation test for presupposition, and they do not obey the calculability or the cancelability tests for conversational implicature. I diagnose these failures as partly a result of the importance of the contrapositive of ‘ought implies can’. I end with a final argument emphasizing the role the principle plays in moral thinking, and the fact that no pragmatic account can do it justice. (shrink)
Recent experimental studies dispute the position that commonsense morality accepts ‘Ought’ Implies ‘Can’, the view that, necessarily, if an agent ought to perform some action, then she can perform that action. This paper considers and supports explanations for the results of these studies on the hypothesis that OIC is intuitive and true.
While philosophers generally accept some version of the principle ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, recent work in experimental philosophy and cognitive science provides evidence against a presupposition or a conceptual entailment from ‘ought’ to ‘can’. Here, we review some of this evidence, its effect on particular formulations of the principle, and future directions for cognitive scientists and philosophers.
I report the results of a follow-up study, designed to address concerns raised by Kurthy and Lawford-Smith in response to my original study on intuitions about moral obligation (ought) and ability (can). Like the results of the original study, the results of the follow-up study do not support the hypothesis that OIC is intuitive. The results of both studies suggest that OIC is probably not a principle of ordinary moral cognition. As I have argued in my paper, I take this (...) to mean that OIC can no longer be taken as axiomatic. It must be argued for without appealing to intuitions. (shrink)
l. There is an antinomy in Hare's thought between Ought-Implies-Can and No-Indicatives-from-Imperatives. It cannot be resolved by drawing a distinction between implication and entailment. 2. Luther resolved this antinomy in the l6th century, but to understand his solution, we need to understand his problem. He thought the necessity of Divine foreknowledge removed contingency from human acts, thus making it impossible for sinners to do otherwise than sin. 3. Erasmus objected (on behalf of Free Will) that this violates Ought-Implies-Can which he (...) supported with Hare-style ordinary language arguments. 4. Luther a) pointed out the antinomy and b) resolved it by undermining the prescriptivist arguments for Ought-Implies-Can. 5. We can reinforce Luther's argument with an example due to David Lewis. 6. Whatever its merits as a moral principle, Ought-Implies-Can is not a logical truth and should not be included in deontic logics. Most deontic logics, and maybe the discipline itself, should therefore be abandoned. 7. Could it be that Ought-Conversationally-Implies-Can? Yes - in some contexts. But a) even if these contexts are central to the evolution of Ought, the implication is not built into the semantics of the word; b) nor is the parallel implication built into the semantics of orders; and c) in some cases Ought conversationally implies Can, only because Ought-Implies-Can is a background moral belief. d) Points a) and b) suggest a criticism of prescriptivism - that Oughts do not entail imperatives but that the relation is one of conversational implicature. 8. If Ought-Implies-Can is treated as a moral principle, Erasmus' argument for Free Will can be revived (given his Christian assumptions). But it does not 'prove' Pelagianism as Luther supposed. A semi-Pelagian alternative is available. (shrink)
This paper tests a theory about the relationship between two important topics in moral philosophy and psychology. One topic is the function of normative language, specifically claims that one “ought” to do something. Do these claims function to describe moral responsibilities, encourage specific behavior, or both? The other topic is the relationship between saying that one “ought” to do something and one’s ability to do it. In what respect, if any, does what one “ought” to do exceed what one “can” (...) do? The theory tested here has two parts: (1) “ought” claims function to both describe responsibilities and encourage people to fulfill them (the dual-function hypothesis); (2) the two functions relate differently to ability, because the encouragement function is limited by the person’s ability, but the descriptive function is not (the interaction hypothesis). If this theory is correct, then in one respect “ought implies can” is false because people have responsibilities that exceed their abilities. But in another respect “ought implies can” is legitimate because it is not worthwhile to encourage people to do things that exceed their ability. Results from two behavioral experiments support the theory that “ought” exceeds but implies “can.” Results from a third experiment provide further evidence regarding an “ought” claim’s primary function and how contextual features can affect the interpretation of its functions. (shrink)
Although Kant is often considered the founding father of the controversial principle ‘Ought Implies Can’ (OIC), it is not at all clear how Kant himself understands and defends this principle. This essay provides a substained interpretation of Kant's views on OIC. I argue that Kant endorses two versions of OIC: a version that is concerned with our physical capacities, and a version that posits a link between moral obligation and a volitional power of choice. I show that although there are (...) important senses in which Kant's conception of OIC differs from the way in which OIC is discussed in recent philosophy, his account raises important issues for contemporary theory: for instance, it highlights the extent to which acceptance or rejection of OIC reflects convictions about the sources of normativity. (shrink)
It seems that the debate between objective and subjective consequentialists might be resolved by appealing to the ought implies can principle. Howard-Snyder has suggested that if one does not know how to do something, cannot do it, and thus one cannot have an obligation to do it. I argue that this depends on an overly rich conception of ability, and that we need to look beyond the ought implies can principle to answer the question. Once we do so, it appears (...) that Prichard might have been at least partly right when he claimed that obligations are tryings. I go some way to defending a diluted version of Prichard's view. (shrink)
Opponents of ‘ought implies can’ (OIC) often proceed via cases or counterexamples; hypothetical situations are described in which one is unable to do what one intuitively ought to do. I proceed differently. I offer six arguments against OIC via general principles; no cases. Though each argument would suffice to refute OIC if sound, redundancy is always a failsafe.
Moti Mizrahi provides experimental evidence according to which subjects judge that a person ought to ? even when she cannot ?. He takes his results to constitute a falsification of the alleged intuitiveness of the ‘Ought Implies Can’ principle. We point out that in the light of the fact that (a) ‘ought’ is multiply ambiguous, that (b) only a restricted set of readings of ‘ought’ will be relevant to the principle, and that (c) he did not instruct his subjects appropriately (...) – or otherwise ensure that in their ‘ought’ judgements they applied the relevant concept(s) – Mizrahi’s conclusions appear premature. We suggest two ways in which the experimental design could be adjusted or supplemented. First, Mizrahi could instruct (or prime) subjects to read the ‘ought’ question in a particular way. Second, he could complement his experiment by asking follow-up questions aimed at uncovering the implications for blame of subjects’ judgements. Once these adjustments are applied, an experiment with a similar outcome would be more significant. (shrink)
To argue that “ought” implies “can,” one can appeal to general principles or to intuitions about specific cases. One general truism that seems to show that “ought” implies “can” is that obligations must be able to guide action, and putative obligations that are unfulfillable are unable to do so. This paper argues that obligations that are unfulfillable can still guide action, and that moral theories which reject the principle that “ought” implies “can” are actually better able to account for how (...) obligations guide than theories which endorse “ought” implies “can.” The paper also argues that any intuitions about specific cases that seem to provide evidence that “ought” implies “can” do not actually give us this evidence. Rather, these intuitions pose similar problems for theories which accept “ought” implies “can” as they pose for theories which reject the principle. Some theories which reject “ought” implies “can” will fit our intuitions at least as well, if not better, than theories which accept it. So, intuitions do not favor accepting that “ought” implies “can,” and appeal to general principles favors its denial. (shrink)
Some philosophers hold that objective consequentialism is false because it is incompatible with the principle that “ought” implies “can”. Roughly speaking, objective consequentialism is the doctrine that you always ought to do what will in fact have the best consequences. According to the principle that “ought” implies “can”, you have a moral obligation to do something only if you can do that thing. Frances Howard-Snyder has used an innovative thought experiment to argue that sometimes you cannot do what will in (...) fact have the best consequences because you do not know what will in fact have the best consequences. Erik Carlson has raised two objections against Howard-Snyder’s argument. This paper examines Howard-Snyder’s argument as well as Carlson’s objections, arguing that Carlson’s objections do not go through but Howard-Snyder’s argument fails nonetheless. Moreover, this paper attempts to show that objective consequentialism and other objectivist moral theories are compatible with the principle that “ought” implies “can”. Finally, this paper analyses a special kind of inability: ignorance-induced inability. (shrink)
According to epistemic deontologism, attributions of epistemic justification are deontic claims about what we ought to believe. One of the most prominent objections to this conception, due mainly to William P. Alston, is that the principle that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’ rules out deontologism because our beliefs are not under our voluntary control. In this paper, I offer a partial defense of Alston’s critique of deontologism. While Alston is right that OIC rules out epistemic deontologism, appealing to doxastic involuntarism is not (...) necessary for generating that tension. Deontologists would still have a problem with OIC if doxastic voluntarism turned out to be true or if deontologism did not require voluntarism. This is because, in short, epistemic justification does not imply ‘can’. If, as deontologists maintain, epistemic justification implies ‘oughts’, then epistemic justification must also imply ‘can’ given OIC. But since epistemic justification does not imply ‘can’, OIC dictates that we reject deontologism. I end by exploring the possible consequences of this incompatibility between OIC and deontologism. My conclusion is that at least one of the following claims must be true. Either ‘ought’ does not imply ‘can’, attributions of epistemic justification are not deontic claims, or epistemic claims lack necessary or categorical normative authority. (shrink)
One natural way to argue for the existence of some subjective constraint on agents’ obligations is to maintain that without that particular constraint, agents will sometimes be obligated to do that which they lack the ability to do. In this paper, I maintain that while such a strategy appears promising, it is fraught with pitfalls. Specifically, I argue that because the truth of an ability ascription depends on an (almost always implicit) characterization of the relevant possibility space, different metaethical accounts (...) take obligation to be constrained by different senses of ability. As a result, what initially looks to be a point of consensus—that ability constrains obligation—turns out to be a point of contention, and arguments with this at the foundation are much more likely to obscure, rather than resolve, metaethical disputes. Despite this, appeals to ability in metaethics aren’t doomed to be fruitless. On the contrary, if we can independently establish a particular sense of ability as the normatively relevant one, then we have good grounds for ruling out metaethical accounts that are inconsistent with it. In the final section, I make just such an argument. What seems right about the thought that ability constrains obligation is that an agent cannot be obligated to do that which her circumstances prevent her from doing. I argue that only a sense of ability that is both epistemically and motivationally restricted adequately respects the limits of agential control. (shrink)
My paper has two aims: to underscore the importance of differently time-indexed ‘ought implies can’ principles; and to apply this to the culpable inability problem. Sometimes we make ourselves unable to do what we ought, but in those cases, we may still fail to do what we ought. This is taken to be a serious problem for synchronic ‘ought implies can’ principles, with a simultaneous ‘ought’ and ‘can’. Some take it to support diachronic ‘ought implies can’, with a potentially temporally (...) distinct ‘ought’ and ‘can’. I will argue that this problem is not avoided by diachronic ‘ought implies can’. (shrink)
I investigate collective intentionality (CI) through the “Ought” implies “Can” (OIC) principle. My leading question is does OIC impose any further requirement on CI? In answering the challenge inside a Searlean framework, I realize that we need to clarify what CI's structure is and what kind of role the agents joining a CI-act have. In the last part of the paper, I put forward an (inverted) Hartian framework to allow the Searlean CI theory to be agent sensitive and cope with (...) the problems that emerged. (shrink)
We fine tune the distinction between the possible and what can be, mention some of the consequences and argue that the difference between material and logical implication is that of between what can be and what could have been.
Most compatibilists have sought to defend their view by means of an analysis of the concept of ‘can’ in terms of subjunctive conditionals. Keith Lehrer opposes this analysis; he nevertheless embraces compatibilism. In a recent paper he has proposed a novel analysis of the concept of ‘can’ within the framework of possible-world semantics. The paper has provoked considerable discussion. In it Lehrer claims that he demonstrates the truth of compatibilism. Others have claimed that this is not so, but at least (...) one commentator has asserted that Lehrer's analysis strongly supports compatibilism. In this section I shall give a brief exposition of relevant portions of Lehrer's account of ‘can’ and then in the next section I shall seek to show that it fails to render compatibilism any more plausible than incompatibilism. Indeed, I shall seek to show that, if one of Lehrer's primitive concepts is understood as it seems it should be understood, then there would seem to be good reason to believe that his analysis supports not compatibilism but incompatibilism. (shrink)
Undergraduate students of philosophy are often told that Kant is famous for teaching us that “ought implies can,” and furthermore that this principle implies that it makes no sense to tell someone that they ought to do something if they do not have the ability to execute the action in question. It is thus surprising to find that the words “ought implies can” do not appear conspicuously in popular English translations of Kant’s main moral philosophical texts (such as the Groundwork, (...) and Critique of Practical Reason). I argue that Kant’s writings do not clearly support it, and at points stand opposed to it. One may still attribute the formula “ought implies can” to Kant, but only at the cost of understanding this formula in a nonstandard manner. (shrink)
This book examines three issues: the principle of ought implies can ; the principle of alternate possibilities ; and Kant’s views on the duty to promote one’s own happiness. It argues that although Kant was wrong to deny such a duty, the part of his denial that rests on a conception of duty incorporating both OIC and PAP is sound.
Are we able to do everything we ought to do? According to the important but controversial Ought Implies Can principle, the answer is yes. -/- In this book Alex King sheds some much-needed light on this principle. She argues that it is flawed because we are obligated to perform some actions that we cannot perform, and goes on to present a suggested theory for anyone who would deny the principle. She examines the traditional motivations for Ought Implies Can, and finds (...) that they to a large degree do not support it. Using examples like gay rights, addiction, and disability, she argues that we can preserve many of the motivations that led us to the principle by thinking more about what we, as individuals or institutions, can fairly demand of ourselves and each other. (shrink)
This volume responds to the growing interest in finding explanations for why moral claims may lose their validity based on what they ask of their addressees. Two main ideas relate to that question: the moral demandingness objection and the principle "ought implies can." Though both of these ideas can be understood to provide an answer to the same question, they have usually been discussed separately in the philosophical literature. The aim of this collection is to provide a focused and comprehensive (...) discussion of these two ideas and the ways in which they relate to one another, and to take a closer look at the consequences for the limits of moral normativity in general. Chapters engage with contemporary discussions surrounding "ought implies can" as well as current debates on moral demandingness, and argue that applying the moral demandingness objection to the entire range of normative ethical theories also calls for an analysis of its presuppositions. The contributions to this volume are at the leading edge of ethical theory, and have implications for moral theorists, philosophers of action, and those working in metaethics, theoretical ethics and applied ethics. (shrink)
An important shift is taking place in social cognition research, away from a focus on the individual mind and toward embodied and participatory aspects of social understanding. Empirical results already imply that social cognition is not reducible to the workings of individual cognitive mechanisms. To galvanize this interactive turn, we provide an operational definition of social interaction and distinguish the different explanatory roles – contextual, enabling and constitutive – it can play in social cognition. We show that interactive processes are (...) more than a context for social cognition: they can complement and even replace individual mechanisms. This new explanatory power of social interaction can push the field forward by expanding the possibilities of scientific explanation beyond the individual. (shrink)
Appears to give the first model-theoretic account of both "must" and "ought" (without conflating them with one another). Some key pre-theoretic semantic and pragmatic phenomena that support a negative answer to the main title question are identified and a conclusion of some significance is drawn: a pervasive bipartisan presupposition of twentieth century ethical theory and deontic logic is false. Next, an intuitive model-theoretic framework for "must" and "ought" is hypothesized. It is then shown how this hypothesis helps to explain and (...) predict all the pre-theoretic phenomena previously observed. Next, I show that the framework hypothesized possesses additional expressive and explanatory power (e.g. derivatively predicting the existence of supererogatory and permissibly suboptimal alternatives), thus adding further confirmation that it is on the right track. (shrink)
This paper provides an account of what it is to have faith in a proposition p, in both religious and mundane contexts. It is argued that faith in p doesn’t require adopting a degree of belief that isn’t supported by one’s evidence but rather it requires terminating one’s search for further evidence and acting on the supposition that p. It is then shown, by responding to a formal result due to I.J. Good, that doing so can be rational in a (...) number of circumstances. If expected utility theory is the correct account of practical rationality, then having faith can be both epistemically and practically rational if the costs associated with gathering further evidence or postponing the decision are high. If a more permissive framework is adopted, then having faith can be rational even when there are no costs associated with gathering further evidence. (shrink)
Compatibilism is the view that moral responsibility is compatible with determinism. Natural compatibilism is the view that in ordinary social cognition, people are compatibilists. Researchers have recently debated whether natural compatibilism is true. This paper presents six experiments (N = 909) that advance this debate. The results provide the best evidence to date for natural compatibilism, avoiding the main methodological problems faced by previous work supporting the view. In response to simple scenarios about familiar activities, people judged that agents had (...) moral responsibilities to perform actions that they were unable to perform (Experiment 1), were morally responsible for unavoidable outcomes (Experiment 2), were to blame for unavoidable outcomes (Experiments 3-4), deserved blame for unavoidable outcomes (Experiment 5), and should suffer consequences for unavoidable outcomes (Experiment 6). These findings advance our understanding of moral psychology and philosophical debates that depend partly on patterns in commonsense morality. (shrink)
Time travel, it has been argued, leads to paradoxes, and in particular to a problem known as the grandfather paradox. Lewis has famously argued for the now standard view that the grandfather paradox is merely apparent. But underlying Lewis's solution is a faulty account of ability statements – one, according to which ability statements express possibility statements. I argue, contrary to Vihvelin and others, that an ameliorated view of ability statements allows for the same treatment of the seeming paradox. Hence, (...) Lewis's take on the grandfather paradox stands despite the failure of the particular view of ability statements it is built upon. (shrink)
We describe here a series of experimental analogies between fluid mechanics and quantum mechanics recently discovered by a team of physicists. These analogies arise in droplet systems guided by a surface (or pilot) wave. We argue that these experimental facts put ancient theoretical work by Madelung on the analogy between fluid and quantum mechanics into new light. After re-deriving Madelung’s result starting from two basic fluid-mechanical equations (the Navier-Stokes equation and the continuity equation), we discuss the relation with the de (...) Broglie-Bohm theory. This allows to make a direct link with the droplet experiments. It is argued that the fluid-mechanical interpretation of quantum mechanics, if it can be extended to the general N-particle case, would have an advantage over the Bohm interpretation: it could rid Bohm’s theory of its strongly non-local character. (shrink)
The human cognitive architecture consists of a set of largely independent modules associated with different brain regions. This book discusses in detail how these various modules can combine to produce behaviours as varied as driving a car and solving an algebraic equation.
Scientific models invariably involve some degree of idealization, abstraction, or nationalization of their target system. Nonetheless, I argue that there are circumstances under which such false models can offer genuine scientific explanations. After reviewing three different proposals in the literature for how models can explain, I shall introduce a more general account of what I call model explanations, which specify the conditions under which models can be counted as explanatory. I shall illustrate this new framework by applying it to the (...) case of Bohr's model of the atom, and conclude by drawing some distinctions between phenomenological models, explanatory models, and fictional models. (shrink)
In part one I present a positive argument for the claim that philosophical argument can rationally overturn common sense. It is widely agreed that science can overturn common sense. But every scientific argument, I argue, relies on philosophical assumptions. If the scientific argument succeeds, then its philosophical assumptions must be more worthy of belief than the common sense proposition under attack. But this means there could be a philosophical argument against common sense, each of whose premises is just as worthy (...) of belief as the scientist’s philosophical assumptions. If so, then the purely philosophical argument will also succeed. In part two I consider three motivations, each of which comprises a distinct philosophical methodology, for the opposing view: (1) the Moorean idea that common sense enjoys greater plausibility than philosophy; (2) case judgments should trump general principles; (3) reflective equilibrium and conservatism. I argue that all three motivations fail. (shrink)
In this paper I offer an account of the meaning of must and can within the framework of possible worlds semantics. The paper consists of two parts: the first argues for a relative concept of modality underlying modal words like must and can in natural language. I give preliminary definitions of the meaning of these words which are formulated in terms of logical consequence and compatibility, respectively. The second part discusses one kind of insufficiency in the meaning definitions given in (...) the first part, which arise from the ex falso quodlibet paradox of logical consequence. In stepwise fashion, I make an attempt to avoid most of the consequences of this paradox for the meaning definitions of must and can. (shrink)
It is hypothesised and argued that “the four principles of medical ethics” can explain and justify, alone or in combination, all the substantive and universalisable claims of medical ethics and probably of ethics more generally. A request is renewed for falsification of this hypothesis showing reason to reject any one of the principles or to require any additional principle(s) that can’t be explained by one or some combination of the four principles. This approach is argued to be compatible with a (...) wide variety of moral theories that are often themselves mutually incompatible. It affords a way forward in the context of intercultural ethics, that treads the delicate path between moral relativism and moral imperialism. Reasons are given for regarding the principle of respect for autonomy as “first among equals”, not least because it is a necessary component of aspects of the other three. A plea is made for bioethicists to celebrate the approach as a basis for global moral ecumenism rather than mistakenly perceiving and denigrating it as an attempt at global moral imperialism. (shrink)
Classical (Bayesian) probability (CP) theory has led to an influential research tradition for modeling cognitive processes. Cognitive scientists have been trained to work with CP principles for so long that it is hard even to imagine alternative ways to formalize probabilities. However, in physics, quantum probability (QP) theory has been the dominant probabilistic approach for nearly 100 years. Could QP theory provide us with any advantages in cognitive modeling as well? Note first that both CP and QP theory share the (...) fundamental assumption that it is possible to model cognition on the basis of formal, probabilistic principles. But why consider a QP approach? The answers are that (1) there are many well-established empirical findings (e.g., from the influential Tversky, Kahneman research tradition) that are hard to reconcile with CP principles; and (2) these same findings have natural and straightforward explanations with quantum principles. In QP theory, probabilistic assessment is often strongly context- and order-dependent, individual states can be superposition states (that are impossible to associate with specific values), and composite systems can be entangled (they cannot be decomposed into their subsystems). All these characteristics appear perplexing from a classical perspective. However, our thesis is that they provide a more accurate and powerful account of certain cognitive processes. We first introduce QP theory and illustrate its application with psychological examples. We then review empirical findings that motivate the use of quantum theory in cognitive theory, but also discuss ways in which QP and CP theories converge. Finally, we consider the implications of a QP theory approach to cognition for human rationality. (shrink)