We take a tremendous interest in how other people think of us. We have certain expectations of others, concerning how we are to figure in their thought and judgment. And we often feel wronged if those are disappointed. But it is puzzling how others’ beliefs could wrong us. On the one hand, moral considerations don’t bear on the truth of a belief and so seem to be the wrong kind of reasons for belief. On the other hand, truth-directed considerations seem (...) to render moral considerations redundant. In this paper, we argue that to understand the possibility of doxastic wronging, we need to understand beliefs, no less than actions, as ways of relating to one another. In particular, how we take account of what others think and say will depend on whether we take up what P. F. Strawson calls the participant stance toward them. We show how this helps to make sense of an example Miranda Fricker identifies as a case of epistemic injustice. We then use the example to spell out the ethical significance of Tyler Burge’s idea that we have a default entitlement to accept at face value what we receive from a rational source. (shrink)
According to a natural view of instrumental normativity, if you ought to do X, and doing Y is a necessary means for you to do X, then you ought to do Y. In “Instrumental Normativity: In Defense of the Transmission Principle,” Benjamin Kiesewetter defends this principle against certain actualist-inspired counterexamples. In this article I argue that Kiesewetter’s defense of the transmission principle fails. His arguments rely on certain principles—Joint Satisfiability and Reason Transmission--which we should not accept in the unqualified forms (...) needed to establish his conclusion. (shrink)
Habermas's paradigm of communicative action is usually taken to be pretty much dominated by consensus, "Yes-saying." What if this were a radically one-sided perception? We take up this unorthodox position by arguing that "no-saying" in this paradigm is typically overlooked and underemphasized. To demonstrate this, we consider how negativity is figured at the most basic onto-ethical level in communicative action, as well as expressed in civil disobedience, a phenomenon to which Habermas assigns the remarkable role of "touchstone" (Prufstein) of constitutional (...) democracy. Once the importance of no-saying is drawn out, the paradigm looks distinctly less hostile to dissensus and agonism in democratic life. (shrink)
As he elaborates the idea of weak ontology and the broad criteria behind it, White shows how these are already at work in the thought of contemporary writers of seemingly very different perspectives: George Kateb, Judith Butler, Charles ...
In this paper I distinguish three alternatives to the functionalist account of qualitative states such as pain. The physicalist-functionalist holds that (1) there could be subjects functionally equivalent to us whose mental states differed in their qualitative character from ours, (2) there could be subjects functionally equivalent to us whose mental states lacked qualitative character altogether and (3) there could not be subjects like us in all objective respects whose qualitative states differed from ours. The physicalist-functionalist holds (1) and (3) (...) but denies (2). The transcendentalist holds (1) and (2) and denies (3). I argue that both versions of physicalist-functionalism inherit the problem of property dualism which originally helped to motivate functionalist theories of mind. I also argue that neither version of physicalist-functionalism can distinguish in a principled way between those neurophysiological properties of a subject which are relevant to the qualitative character of that subject's mental states and those which are not. I conclude that the only alternative to a functionalist account of qualitative states is a transcendentalist account and that this alternative is not likely to appeal to the critics of functionalism. (shrink)
Postmodernism has evoked great controversy and it continues to do so today, as it disseminates into general discourse. Some see its principles, such as its fundamental resistance to metanarratives, as frighteningly disruptive, while a growing number are reaping the benefits of its innovative perspective. In Political Theory and Postmodernism, Stephen K. White outlines a path through the postmodern problematic by distinguishing two distinct ways of thinking about the meaning of responsibility, one prevalent in modern and the other in postmodern perspectives. (...) Using this as a guide, White explores the work of Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Lyotard, and Habermas, as well as 'difference' feminists, with the goal of showing how postmodernism can inform contemporary ethical-political reflection. In his concluding chapter, White examines how this revisioned postmodern perspective might bear on our thinking about justice. (shrink)
This essay responds to the characterization Ted Miller offers (in his December 2008 essay in Political Theory) of the kind of nonfoundationalism I have referred to as "weak ontology," and that Gianni Vattimo frequently calls "weak thought." Miller argues that such a position embodies, first, a philosophy of history in which strong ontologies (e.g., religion) are assessed categorically as passé, and, second, are associated essentially with violence. I show that while these characterizations may be appropriate for Vattimo's thought, they are (...) not for weak ontology as I understand it. Finally, I suggest that the former might more usefully be categorized as "antifoundationalism" and the latter as "nonfoundationalism.". (shrink)
How, if at all, does one's intention to realize an end bear on the justification for taking the means to that end? Theories that allow that intending an end directly provides a reason to take the means are subject to a well-known "bootstrapping" objection. On the other hand, "anti-psychologistic" accounts—which seek to derive instrumental reasons directly from the reasons that support adopting the end itself—have unacceptable implications where an agent faces multiple rationally permissible options. An alternative, predictive, role for intention (...) in means-end reasoning is considered and rejected. A new proposal is then developed, according to which instrumental reasons are not merely reasons to perform an act necessary for a given end, but to perform the act for the sake of that end. (shrink)
The paper considers the Quinean heritage of the argument for the indeterminacy of translation. Beyond analyzing Quine’s notion of stimulus meaning, the paper discusses two Kripkean argument’s against the Quinean claim that dispositions can provide the basis for an account of meaning: the Normativity Argument and the Finiteness Argument. An analogy between Kripke’s arguments and Hume’s argument for epistemological skepticism about the external world will be drawn. The paper shows that the answer to Kripke’s rule-following skepticism is analogous to the (...) answer to Humean skepticism: our use of concepts is more basic than, and presupposed by, the statement of the skeptical problem itself. (shrink)
We commonly face circumstances in which the cumulative negative effects of repeatedly acting in a certain way over time will be significant, although the negative effects of any one such act, taken on its own, are insubstantial. Warren Quinn's puzzle of the self-torturer presents an especially clear example of this type of predicament. This paper considers three different approaches to understanding the rational response to such situations. The first focuses on the conditions under which it is rational to revise one's (...) prior intentions. The second raises the possibility of a fundamental disconnect between the rational assessment of an extended pattern of choices and the assessment of the individual choices that make up that pattern. I show that neither adequately addresses the underlying issues. I propose a third approach, according to which the rational assessment of the “self-torturer's” choices is guided, not by any plan or intention the he has actually adopted, but by the plan or plans it would have been reasonable for him to adopt from the outset. The larger significance of this conclusion is brought out through the identification of conditions under which one's past choices can non-derivatively constrain the rational response to one's present circumstances. (shrink)
Edmund Burke: Modernity, Politics, and Aesthetics examines the philosophy of Burke in view of its contribution to our understanding of modernity. Stephen K. White argues that Burke shows us how modernity engenders an implicit forgetfulness of human finitude. White illustrates this theme by showing how Burke's political thought, his judgment of the "modern system of morality and policy," and its taste for a "false sublime" are structured by his aesthetics.
The conflict between Prometheus and Zeus has long dominated critical discussion of the play and diverted attention from the only mortal to appear onstage. Prometheus is widely applauded as humanity¿s saviour and Zeus condemned as an oppressive tyrant, but the fate of the maiden Io is largely discounted. Her encounter with Prometheus, however, is the longest and most complex episode in the play, and it provides a very different perspective on events. The elaborate forecast of her journeys delivered by Prometheus (...) deploys the ¿discourse of barbarism¿ to picture a primitive world ravaged by savage violence and hostile monsters. The lands through which Io is to travel are devoid of the civil and religious institutions of the classical Greek polis and oikos. Yet the episode also foretells how this barbaric world will evolve under the aegis of Zeus. Argive Io, as ¿wife¿ of Zeus, will found a ¿new family¿ of mortals who will introduce and champion the norms of Greek civic culture in his and her name alike. Prophecy, allusion and foreshadowing thus reveal the Zeus of this play to be not the harsh and destructive despot imagined by most today, but the benevolent source and ultimate arbiter of justice for both gods and humanity. (shrink)
_ Source: _Page Count 24 Is it a good objection to a moral theory that it demands a great deal of individual agents? I argue that if we interpret the question to be about the potential welfare costs associated with our moral obligations, the answer must be “no.” However, the demands a moral theory makes can also be measured in terms of what it requires us to take responsibility for. I argue that this is distinct from what we may be (...) required to do or give up, and that it provides a conception of demandingness that makes better sense of our intuitive reactions. (shrink)
The central subject of Aristotle's ethics is happiness or living well. Most people in his day (as in ours), eager to enjoy life, impressed by worldly success, and fearful of serious loss, believed that happiness depends mainly on fortune in achieving prosperity and avoiding adversity. Aristotle, however, argues that virtuous conduct is the governing factor in living well and attaining happiness. While admitting that neither the blessings not the afflictions of fortune are unimportant, he maintains that the virtuous find life (...) more satisfying than other people do and, with only modest good fortune, they lead happy, enjoyable lives. Combining philological precision with philosophical analysis, the author reconstructs Aristotle's defense of these bold claims. By examining how Aristotle develops his position in response to the prevailing hopes and anxieties of his age, the author shows why Aristotle considers happiness important for ethics and why he thinks it necessary to revise popular and traditional views. Paying close attention throughout to the internalist dimension of Aristotle's approach - his emphasis on how the virtuous view their own lives and actions - the author advances new interpretations of Aristotle's accounts of several major virtues, including temperance, courage, liberality, and 'greatness of soul'. This work sets Aristotle in the broader cultural context of his time, tracing his attemps to accommodate and amend rival views. The author examines literary and historical sources as well as philosophical texts, showing the inherited values and traditional ideals that inform Aristotle's discussions and provide some of the basis for his conclusions. Presupposing no knowledge of Greek or specialized philosophical terminology, the book is designed to be accessible to all students of philosophy or classical antiquity. All quotations from ancient texts are translated. (shrink)