Philosophers and social scientists have focussed a great deal of attention on our human capacity to trust, but relatively little on the capacity to hope. This is a significant oversight, as hope and trust are importantly interconnected. This paper argues that, even though trust can and does feed our hopes, it is our empowering capacity to hope that significantly underwrites—and makes rational—our capacity to trust.
This paper examines the methodological claim made famous by P.F. Strawson: that we understand what features are required for responsible agency by exploring our attitudes and practices of holding responsible. What is the presumed metaphysical connection between holding responsible and being fit to be held responsible that makes this claim credible? I propose a non-standard answer to this question, arguing for a view of responsible agency that is neither anti-realist (i.e. purely 'conventionalist') nor straightforwardly realist. It is instead ‘constructivist’. On (...) the ‘Scaffolding View’ I defend, reactive attitudes play an essential role in developing, supporting, and thereby maintaining the capacities that make for responsible agency. While this view has relatively novel implications for a metaphysical understanding of capacities, its chief virtue, in contrast with more standard views, is providing a plausibly defensible account of how so-called responsible agents genuinely deserve to be treated as such. (shrink)
This paper is divided into two parts. In Section 1, I explore and defend a “regulative view” of folk-psychology as against the “standard view”. On the regulative view, folk-psychology is conceptualized in fundamentally interpersonal terms as a “mind-making” practice through which we come to form and regulate our minds in accordance with a rich array of socially shared and socially maintained sense-making norms. It is not, as the standard view maintains, simply an epistemic capacity for coming to know about the (...) mental states and dispositions already there. Importantly, the regulative view can meet and beat the standard at its own epistemic game. But it also does more. In Section 2, I show how the regulative view makes progress on two other problems that remain puzzling on the standard view: the problem of “first-person authority” – accounting for the special features of self-knowledge; and the problem of “reactive.. (shrink)
Much recent research has sought to uncover the neural basis of moral judgment. However, it has remained unclear whether "moral judgments" are sufficiently homogenous to be studied scientifically as a unified category. We tested this assumption by using fMRI to examine the neural correlates of moral judgments within three moral areas: (physical) harm, dishonesty, and (sexual) disgust. We found that the judgment ofmoral wrongness was subserved by distinct neural systems for each of the different moral areas and that these differences (...) were much more robust than differences in wrongness judgments within a moral area. Dishonest, disgusting, and harmful moral transgression recruited networks of brain regions associated with mentalizing, affective processing, and action understanding, respectively. Dorsal medial pFC was the only region activated by all scenarios judged to be morally wrong in comparison with neutral scenarios. However, this region was also activated by dishonest and harmful scenarios judged not to be morally wrong, suggestive of a domain-general role that is neither peculiar to nor predictive of moral decisions. These results suggest that moral judgment is not a wholly unified faculty in the human brain, but rather, instantiated in dissociable neural systems that are engaged differentially depending on the type of transgression being judged. (shrink)
In Building Better Beings, Vargas develops and defends a naturalistic account of responsibility, whereby responsible agents must possess a feasibly situated capacity to detect and respond to moral considerations. As a preliminary step, he also offers a substantive account of how we might justify our practices of holding responsible—viz., by appeal to their efficacy in fostering a ‘valuable form of agency’ across the community at large, a form of agency that precisely encompasses sensitivity to moral considerations. But how do these (...) accounts relate to one another? Though I find much that is appealing in Vargas’s general approach, I challenge his insistence that these accounts should be treated as ‘conceptually independent’, arguing that this generates an objectionable “justification gap”: on his analysis, someone could remain an appropriate target of our responsibility practices and yet fail to be a morally responsible agent. In closing, I offer a potential solution to this problem, though it means re-visioning how the account of moral responsibility is conceptually tied to the justification of our responsibility practices. (shrink)
What is hope? Though variously characterized as a cognitive attitude, an emotion, a disposition, and even a process or activity, hope, more deeply, a unifying and grounding force of human agency. We cannot live a human life without hope, therefore questions about the rationality of hope are properly recast as questions about what it means to hope well. This thesis is defended and elaborated as follows. First, it is argued that hope is an essential and distinctive feature of human agency, (...) both conceptually and developmentally. The author then explores a number of dimensions of agency that are critically implicated in the art of hoping well, drawing on several examples from George Eliot’s Middlemarch. The article concludes with a short section that suggests how hoping well in an individual context may be extended to hope at the collective level. (shrink)
In The Concept of Mind, Gilbert Ryle argued that a more sophisticated understanding of the dispositional nature of ‘intelligent capacities’ could bolster philosophical resistance to the tempting view that the human mind is possessed of metaphysically ‘occult’ powers and properties. This temptation is powerful in the context of accounting for the special qualities of responsible agency. Incompatibilists indulge the temptation; compatibilists resist it, using a variety of strategies. One recent strategy, reminiscent of Ryle’s, is to exploit a more sophisticated understanding (...) of dispositional properties to account for these qualities. But ‘new dispositionalists’ run up against a ‘hard problem’ that threatens the approach. This paper argues that the threat may be averted by embracing a yet more radical ‘Rylean’ view of the distinctive dispositional nature of ‘intelligent capacities’. (shrink)
In philosophy, the last thirty years or so has seen a split between 'simulation theorists' and 'theory-theorists', with a number of variations on each side. In general, simulation theorists favour the idea that our knowledge of others is based on using ourselves as a working model of what complex psychological creatures are like. Theory-theorists claim that our knowledge of complex psychological creatures, including ourselves, is theoretical in character and so more like our knowledge of the world in general. The body (...) of this paper is divided into three parts. In Part I, I introduce the 'contrastive case' of autism. Autism is a developmental disorder that has recently become the focus of sustained philosophical and psychological attention because of the selective way in which it affects individuals' social capacities. Theory-theorists argue that autistic children's unique profile of assets and deficits is most fruitfully explained by their inability to develop and deploy a theory of mind. After considering the strengths of this hypothesis, I claim theory-theorists face two unresolved difficulties: explaining why high-functioning autistics who develop some theory of mind capacities still fail to engage in normal psychological knowing; and explaining why autistics are generally as unknowable to us in the privileged sense of normal psychological knowing as we are to them. In Part II, I provide the theoretical framework for addressing these challenges by developing an account of normal psychological knowing as psycho-practical expertise. In Part III, I return to the problem of autism, showing how this psycho-practical approach to normal psychological knowing may further suggest how to encompass various aspects of the disorder that tend to be ignored under the prevailing theory-theory approach. (shrink)
The broad issue in this paper is the relationship between cognitive psychology and neuroscience. That issue arises particularly sharply for cognitive neurospsychology, some of whose practitioners claim a methodological autonomy for their discipline. They hold that behavioural data from neuropsychological impairments are sufficient to justify assumptions about the underlying modular structure of human cognitive architecture, as well as to make inferences about its various components. But this claim to methodological autonomy can be challenged on both philosophical and empirical grounds. A (...) priori considerations about (cognitive) multiple realisability challenge the thesis on philosophical grounds, and neuroscientific findings from developmental disorders substantiate that challenge empirically. The conclusion is that behavioural evidence alone is inadequate for scientific progress since appearances of modularity can be thoroughly deceptive, obscuring both the dynamic processes of neural development and the endstate network architecture of real cognitive systems. (shrink)
This paper examines developing trust in two related senses: (1) rationally overcoming distrust, and (2) developing a mature capacity for trusting/distrusting. In focussing exclusively on the first problem, traditional philosophical discussions fail to address how an evidence- based paradigm of rationality is easily co-opted by (immature) agents in support of irrational distrust (or trust) - a manifestation of the second problem. Well-regulated trust requires developing a capacity to tolerate the uncertainties that chracterise relationships among fully autonomous self-directed agents. Early relationships (...) lack this uncertainty since care-givers take primary responsibility for determining a child's interests, reducing the scope (if not the intensity) of potential conflict between self and other. Once agents recognize that adulthood demands foregoing the security embedded in such relationships of dependency, they are free to embrace a more appropriate paradigm of rationality for guiding their thought and action in interactions with others. (shrink)
‘Optimistic’ normative theories of criminal justice aim to justify criminal sanction in terms of its reprobative/rehabilitative value rather than its punitive nature as such. But do such theories accord with ordinary intuitions about what constitutes a ‘just’ response to wrongdoing? Recent empirical work on the psychology of punishers suggests that human beings have a ‘brutely retributive’ moral psychology, making them unlikely to endorse normative theories that sacrifice retribution for the sake of reprobation or rehabilitation; it would mean, for example, that (...) we cannot expect people to support such optimistic theories democratically, calling their feasibility into question. Taking the civic republican theory as an exemplar of optimistic theories, we argue that it does not fail this feasibility test. We review recent empirical research, including studies of our own, to support the claim that, far from being brute retributivists, human beings are generally satisfied only with punishment that delivers something other than mere retribution. And we show that this coheres very closely with the goals and policies that civic republicanism would support, as it may be expected to cohere also with other optimistic proposals. (shrink)
Does the Internet provide an environment in which rational individuals can initiate and maintain relationships of interpersonal trust? This paper argues that it does. It begins by examining distinctive challenges facing would-be trusters on the net, concluding that, however distinctive, such challenges are not unique to the Internet, so cannot be cited as grounds for disparaging the rationality of Internet trust. Nevertheless, these challenges point up the importance of developing mature capacities for trust, since immature trusters are particularly vulnerable to (...) the liabilities of Internet trust. This suggests that Internet trust can only be rational for those who have developed mature capacities for trust. But that suggestion ignores how trust on the Internet may also facilitate the development of such capacities. (shrink)
Although I am broadly in sympathy with Carpendale & Lewis's (C&L's) version of social constructivism, I raise two issues they might address. One bears on the question of how social understanding develops: Is their resistance to individualism inappropriately combined with a resistance to internalism? A second question concerns a more radical implication of their view for what social understanding is.
This paper argues that our folk-psychological expertise is a special case of extended and enculturated cognition where we learn to regulate both our own and others’ thought and action in accord with a wide array of culturally shaped folk-psychological norms. The view has three noteworthy features: it challenges a common assumption that the foundational capacity at work in folk-psychological expertise is one of interpreting behaviour in mentalistic terms, arguing instead that successful mindreading is largely a consequence of successful mindshaping; it (...) argues that our folk-psychological expertise is not only socially scaffolded in development, it continues to be socially supported and maintained in maturity, thereby presenting a radically different picture of what mature folk-psychological competency amounts to; it provides grounds for resisting a recent trend in theoretical explanations of quotidian social interaction that downplays the deployment of sophisticated mentalizing resources in understanding what others are doing. (shrink)