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Intuition—spontaneous, nondeliberative assessment—has long been indispensable in theoretical and practical philosophy alike. Recent research by psychologists and experimental philosophers has challenged our understanding of the nature and authority of moral intuitions by tracing them to “fast,” “automatic,” “button-pushing” responses of the affective system. This view of the affective system contrasts with a growing body of research in affective neuroscience which suggests that it is instead a flexible learning system that generates and updates a multidimensional evaluative landscape to guide decision and (...) action. With this latter view in mind, I revisit some of the classic hypothetical scenarios used in experimental moral psychology. (shrink)
It has been the dominant view that probabilistic explanations of particular facts must be inductive in character. I argue here that this view is mistaken, and that the aim of probabilistic explanation is not to demonstrate that the explanandum fact was nomically expectable, but to give an account of the chance mechanism(s) responsible for it. To this end, a deductive-nomological model of probabilistic explanation is developed and defended. Such a model has application only when the probabilities occurring in covering laws (...) can be interpreted as measures of objective chance, expressing the strength of physical propensities. Unlike inductive models of probabilistic explanation, this deductive model stands in no need of troublesome requirements of maximal specificity or epistemic relativization. (shrink)
Statements about a person's good slip into and out of our ordinary discourse about the world with nary a ripple. Such statements are objects of belief and assertion, they obey the rules of logic, and they are often defended by evidence and argument. They even participate in common-sense explanations, as when we say of some person that he has been less subject to wild swings of enthusiasm and disappointment now that, with experience, he has gained a clearer idea of what (...) is good for him. Statements about a person's good present themselves as being about something with respect to which our beliefs can be true or false, warranted or unwarranted. Let us speak of these features as the descriptive side of discourse about a person's good. (shrink)
In our everyday lives we struggle with the notions of why we do what we do and the need to assign values to our actions. Somehow, it seems possible through experience and life to gain knowledge and understanding of such matters. Yet once we start delving deeper into the concepts that underwrite these domains of thought and actions, we face a philosophical disappointment. In contrast to the world of facts, values and morality seem insecure, uncomfortably situated, easily influenced by illusion (...) or ideology. How can we apply this same objectivity and accuracy to the spheres of value and morality? In the essays included in this collection, Peter Railton shows how a fairly sober, naturalistically informed view of the world might nonetheless incorporate objective values and moral knowledge. This book will be of interest to professionals and students working in philosophy and ethics. (shrink)
Recent decades have witnessed a sea change in thinking about emotion, which has gone from being seen as a disruptive force in human thought and action to being seen as an important source of situation- and goal-relevant information and evaluation, continuous with perception and cognition. Here I argue on philosophical and empirical grounds that the role of emotion in contributing to our ability to respond to reasons for action runs deeper still: The affective system is at the core of the (...) process of evaluatively modeling situations, actions, and outcomes, which is the foundation upon which rational deliberation and action can be built. Taking up this perspective affords new approaches to long-standing problems in the theory of reason-based action. (shrink)
An adequate theory of the nature of belief should help us explain the most obvious features of belief as we find it. Among these features are: guiding action and reasoning non-inferentially; varying in strength in ways that are spontaneously experience-sensitive; ‘aiming at truth’ in some sense and being evaluable in terms of correctness and warrant; possessing inertia across time and constancy across contexts; sustaining expectations in a manner mediated by propositional content; shaping the formation and execution of plans; generalizing spontaneously (...) projectively; and being independent of the will and resisting instrumentalization. Using the method of ‘creature construction’, I attempt to show how we can build an attitude with these features step-by-step from simpler components, thereby avoiding the problems of regress or circularity affecting a number of influential accounts of belief. (shrink)
I’ve been told that there are two principal approaches to drawing ﬁgures from life. One begins by tracing an outline of the ﬁgure to be drawn, locating its edges and key features on an imagined grid, and then using perspective to ﬁll in depth. The other approach proceeds from the ‘center of mass’ of the subject, seeking to build up the image by supplying contour lines, the intersections of which convey depth—as if the representation were being created in relief. The (...) second approach need not adopt a uniﬁed perspective, and is more concerned with evoking the volume and ‘presence’ of the subject than with accurate placement of edges and features. Call this second approach drawing ‘from the inside out’, meant to capture the living force of the subject rather than freeze it in a coordinate frame. (shrink)
What are ethical judgments about? And what is their relation to practice? How can ethical judgment aspire to objectivity? The past two decades have witnessed a resurgence of interest in metaethics, placing questions such as these about the nature and status of ethical judgment at the very center of contemporary moral philosophy. Moral Discourse and Practice: Some Philosophical Approaches is a unique anthology which collects important recent work, much of which is not easily available elsewhere, on core metaethical issues. Naturalist (...) moral realism, once devastated by the charge of "naturalistic fallacy," has been reinvigorated, as have versions of moral realism that insist on the discontinuity between ethics and science. Irrealist, expressivist programs have also developed with great subtlety, encouraging the thought that a noncognivist account may actually be able to explain ethical judgments' aspirations to objectivity. Neo-Kantian constructivist theories have flourished as well, offering hope that morality can be grounded in a plausible conception of reasonable conduct. Together, the positions advanced in the essays collected here address these recent developments, constituting a rich array of approaches to contemporary moral philosophy's most fundamental debates. An extensive introduction by Darwall, Gibbard, and Railton is also included, making this volume the most comprehensive and up-to-date work of its kind. Moral Discourse is ideally suited for use in courses in contemporary ethics, ethical theory, and metaethics. (shrink)
Our species is misnamed. Though sapiens defines human beings as "wise" what humans do especially well is to prospect the future. We are homo prospectus. In this book, Martin E. P. Seligman, Peter Railton, Roy F. Baumeister, and Chandra Sripada argue it is anticipating and evaluating future possibilities for the guidance of thought and action that is the cornerstone of human success. Much of the history of psychology has been dominated by a framework in which people's behavior is driven by (...) past history and present circumstances. Homo Prospectus reassesses this idea, pushing focus to the future front and center and opening discussion of a new field of Psychology and Neuroscience.The authors delve into four modes in which prospection operates: the implicit mind, deliberate thought, mind-wandering, and collective imagination. They then explore prospection's role in some of life's most enduring questions: Why do people think about the future? Do we have free will? What is the nature of intuition, and how might it function in ethics? How does emotion function in human psychology? Is there a common causal process in different psychopathologies? Does our creativity change with age?In this remarkable convergence of research in philosophy, statistics, decision theory, psychology, and neuroscience, Homo Prospectus shows how human prospection fundamentally reshapes our understanding of key cognitive processes, thereby improving individual and social functioning. It aims to galvanize interest in this new science from scholars in psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy, as well as an educated public curious about what makes humanity what it is. (shrink)
What is the real issue at stake in discussions of "moral explanation"? There isn't one; there are many. The standing of purported moral properties and problems about our epistemic or semantic access to them are of concern both from within and without moral practice. An account of their potential contribution to explaining our values, beliefs, conduct, practices, etc. can help in these respects. By examining some claims made about moral explanation in Judith Thompson's and Gilbert Harman's Moral Relativism and Moral (...) Objectivity, I try to suggest a worthwhile account of this potential explanatory contribution. (shrink)
Traditional virtue-oriented approaches to ethics suppose that acquiring relatively stable character traits, such as courage and compassion, is crucial in addressing the question of how to be. However, recent psychological studies cast doubt on the idea that people develop such traits. In light of this pessimism, the paper raises the question: what is left of virtue theory? It argues that much remains once one shifts from a traditional understanding of virtues to one of cognitive/affective “if…then” dispositions that form a person’s (...) character. The central proposal is to understand such dispositions as “habitudes” – habitual ways of thinking, feeling, and acting that are acquired by example and repetition, and that enable one to competently react to varying situations one confronts. The resulting model of ethical comportment represents a psychologically realistic understanding of virtue. Furthermore, this account fits well with what we learn from the field of positive psychology about subjective well-being, thus helping to vindicate eudaimonism. (shrink)
Cushman seeks to explain rationalization in terms of fundamental mental processes, and he hypotheses a selected-for function: information exchange between “rational” and “non-rational” processes in the brain. While this is plausible, his account overlooks the importance – and information value – of rationalizing the emotions of ourselves and others. Incorporating such rationalization would help explain the effectiveness of rationalization and its connection with valuation, as well as raise a challenge to his way of bifurcating “rational” and “non-rational” processes.
Our notion of normativity appears to combine, in a way difficult to understand but seemingly familiar from experience, elements of force and freedom. On the one hand, a normative claim is thought to have a kind of compelling authority; on the other hand, if our respecting it is to be an appropriate species of respect, it must not be coerced, automatic, or trivially guaranteed by definition. Both Hume and Kant, I argue, looked to aesthetic experience as a convincing example exhibiting (...) this marriage of force and freedom, as well as showing how our judgment can come to be properly attuned to the features that constitute value. This image of attunement carries over into their respective accounts of moral judgment. The seemingly radical difference between their moral theories may be traceable not to a different conception of normativity, but to a difference in their empirical psychological theories – a difference we can readily spot in their accounts of aesthetics. (shrink)
The orthodox, empiricist covering-law account of scientific explanation, as developed by C. G. Hempel and others, has long dominated philosophical discussions of scientific explanation. In recent years it has met overwhelming critical resistance. We should give up this account of scientific ex.
Marx claims that his social theory is objective in the same sense as contemporary natural science. Yet his social theory appears to imply that the prevailing notion of scientific objectivity is ideological in character. Must Marx, then, either give up his claim of scientific objectivity or admit that he is engaged in a bit of ideology on behalf of his own theory? By suggesting an alternative way of understanding objectivity, an attempt is made to show that one can accept the (...) implications of Marx's social theory and yet still hold that scientific inquiry is objective in an epistemically appropriate sense--not in spite of, but in large measure because of, the role Marx assigns science within the capitalist division of labor. (shrink)
Value and uncertainty are the critical components of decision and action. To think of the affective system as at the core of action is to draw attention to the role of affect in representing and combining these two dimensions, and orchestrating a wide range of mental capacities—attention, perception, memory, inference, motivation, and monitoring—in light of these evaluative representations. The commentators have helpfully enriched our appreciation of the various ways in which affect can contribute to the attunement, cuing, motivation, control, and (...) ongoing assessment of decision and action. (shrink)