In a recent letter, Dillion et. al (2023) make various suggestions regarding the idea of artificially intelligent systems, such as large language models, replacing human subjects in empirical moral psychology. We argue that human subjects are in various ways indispensable.
Are words like ‘woman’ or ‘man’ sex terms that we use to talk about biological features of individuals? Are they gender terms that we use to talk about non-biological features e.g. social roles? Contextualists answer both questions affirmatively, arguing that these terms concern biological or non-biological features depending on context. I argue that a recent version of contextualism from Jennifer Saul that Esa Diaz-Leon develops doesn't exhibit the right kind of flexibility to capture our theoretical intuitions or moral and political (...) practices concerning our uses of these words. I then float the view that terms like 'woman' or 'man' are polysemous, arguing that it makes better sense of the significance of some forms of criticisms of mainstream gender ideology. (shrink)
What is sexual orientation? The contemporary consensus among philosophers is that it is a disposition. Unsurprisingly, recent debates about the metaphysics of sexual orientation are almost entirely intramural. Behavioral dispositionalists argue that sexual orientation is a disposition to behave sexually. Desire dispositionalists argue that it is a disposition to desire sexually. We argue that sexual orientation is not best understood in terms of dispositions to behave or dispositions to desire before arguing that dispositions tout court fail to illuminate sexual orientation. (...) We then introduce and defend the idea that sexual orientation is best understood in terms of categorical phenomenal properties of sexual arousal. (shrink)
Throughout his career, Derek Parfit made the bold suggestion, at various times under the heading of the "Normativity Objection," that anyone in possession of normative concepts is in a position to know, on the basis of their competence with such concepts alone, that reductive realism in ethics is not even possible. Despite the prominent role that the Normativity Objection plays in Parfit's non-reductive account of the nature of normativity, when the objection hasn't been ignored, it's been criticized and even derided. (...) We argue that the exclusively negative attention that the objection has received has been a mistake. On our reading, Parfit's Normativity Objection poses a serious threat to reductivism, as it exposes the uneasy relationship between our a priori knowledge of a range of distinctly normative truths and the typical package of semantic commitments that reductivists have embraced since the Kripkean revolution. (shrink)
Ethicists struggle to take reductive views seriously. They also have trouble conceiving of some supervenience failures. Understanding why provides further evidence for a kind of hybrid view of normative concept use.
A critical survey of various positions on the nature, use, possession, and analysis of normative concepts. We frame our treatment around G.E. Moore’s Open Question Argument, and the ways metaethicists have responded by departing from a Classical Theory of concepts. In addition to the Classical Theory, we discuss synthetic naturalism, noncognitivism (expressivist and inferentialist), prototype theory, network theory, and empirical linguistic approaches. Although written for a general philosophical audience, we attempt to provide a new perspective and highlight some underappreciated problems (...) about normative concepts. (shrink)
Some rules seem more important than others. The moral rule to keep promises seems more important than the aesthetic rule not to wear brown with black or the pool rule not to scratch on the eight ball. A worrying number of metaethicists are increasingly tempted to explain this difference by appealing to something they call “authoritative normativity” – it’s because moral rules are “authoritatively normatively” that they are especially important. The authors of this chapter argue for three claims concerning “authoritative (...) normativity”: (1) that motivation for it originates in a parochial conception of “normative flavours”; (2) that arguments against alternative ways of explaining e.g., morality’s importance are overblown; and (3) that there are strong reasons against theorizing in terms of “authoritative normativity”. The overarching aim is not to show that “authoritative normativity” is incoherent or entirely unmotivated. Rather, it is to discuss some of “authoritative normativity’s” deeper commitments to correct the impression that is it largely benign or that it is entailed by familiar and popular “metanormative” positions. Authoritative normativity, it seems to us, is a solution in search of a problem. (shrink)
On one way of talking about a traditional metaethical topic, realists accept that some items appear on the list of what exists in the moral or more broadly normative domain of inquiry. They then divide over whether those items are like what science and experience suggest that all other items on the list of what exists across all domains are like – naturalistic and secular. Reductive naturalists answer this further question affirmatively. Why don’t nonnaturalists? I explore the answer that it’s (...) because normative entities are “just too different” in the sense that they are countably different things. However, I argue that this answer rests on the subtle presupposition that the normative domain doesn’t also contain uncountable entities of the sort that analytic metaphysicians call “stuff”. Taking intuitions of difference seriously points the way to a novel form of metaethical reductive naturalism. The key is to identify the stuff that matters. (shrink)
Upon doing something generous for someone with whom you are close, some kind of reciprocity may be appropriate. But it often seems wrong to actually request reciprocity. This chapter explores the wrongness in making these requests, and why they can nevertheless appear appropriate. After considering several explanations for the wrongness at issue (involving, e.g. distinguishing oughts from obligation, the suberogatory, imperfect duties, and gift-giving norms), a novel proposal is advanced. The requests are disrespectful; they express that their agent insufficiently trusts (...) the hearer to recognize their own reasons to reciprocate, and the close relationship between them morally requires this kind of trust. This proposal is articulated and situated in the recent discussion of the normativity of requests. The chapter concludes by explaining how these requests may appear appropriate. Agents in these relationships often have standing to make requests, though the standing is lacking in these particular cases. (shrink)
When asked which of our concepts are normative concepts, metaethicists would be quick to list such concepts as GOOD, OUGHT, and REASON. When asked why such concepts belong on the list, metaethicists would be much slower to respond. Matti Eklund is a notable exception. In his recent book, Choosing Normative Concepts, Eklund argues by elimination for “the Normative Role view” that normative concepts are normative in virtue of having a “normative role” or being “used normatively”. One view that Eklund aims (...) to eliminate is “the Metaphysical view” that normative concepts are normative in virtue of referring to normative properties. In addition to arguing that Eklund’s objection looks doubtful by its own lights, we argue that there are several plausible versions of the Metaphysical view that Eklund doesn’t eliminate, defending various claims about normative concepts and their relationships to deliberation, competence, reference, and possession along the way. (shrink)
There’s a long but relatively neglected tradition of attempting to explain why many researchers working on the nature of phenomenal consciousness think that it’s hard to explain.1 David Chalmers argues that this “meta-problem of consciousness” merits more attention than it has received. He also argues against several existing explanations of why we find consciousness hard to explain. Like Chalmers, we agree that the meta-problem is worthy of more attention. Contra Chalmers, however, we argue that there’s an existing explanation that is (...) more promising than his objections suggest. We argue that researchers find phenomenal consciousness hard to explain because phenomenal concepts are complex demonstratives that encode the impossibility of explaining consciousness as one of their application conditions. (shrink)
In Unbelievable Errors, Bart Streumer argues via elimination for a global error theory, according to which all normative judgments ascribe properties that do not exist. Streumer also argues that it is not possible to believe his view, which is a claim he uses in defending his view against several objections. I argue that reductivists and nonreductivists have compelling responses to Streumer's elimination argument – responses constituting strong reason to reject Streumer’s diagnosis of any alleged incredulity about his error theory.