Long claimed to be the dominant conception of practical reason, the Humean theory that reasons for action are instrumental, or explained by desires, is the basis for a range of worries about the objective prescriptivity of morality. As a result, it has come under intense attack in recent decades. A wide variety of arguments have been advanced which purport to show that it is false, or surprisingly, even that it is incoherent. Slaves of the Passions aims to set the record (...) straight, by advancing a version of the Humean theory of reasons which withstands this sophisticated array of objections. Schroeder defends a radical new view which, if correct, means that the commitments of the Humean theory have been widely misunderstood. Along the way, he raises and addresses questions about the fundamental structure of reasons, the nature of normative explanations, the aims of and challenges facing reductive views in metaethics, the weight of reasons, the nature of desire, moral epistemology, and most importantly, the relationship between agent-relational and agent-neutral reasons for action. (shrink)
Like much in this book, the title and dust jacket illustration are clever. The first evokes Hume's remark in the Treatise that ‘Reason is, and ought only to be the slave of the passions.’ The second, which represents a cross between a dance-step and a clinch, links up with the title and anticipates an example used throughout the book to support its central claims: that Ronnie, unlike Bradley, has a reason to go to a party – namely, that there will (...) be dancing at the party – because Ronnie, unlike Bradley, loves dancing. So, the explanation of why Ronnie's and Bradley's reasons differ lies in their respective psychologies.Schroeder argues for a version of the Humean Theory of Reasons he calls Hypotheticalism, which says that every reason is explained by a desire in the same way as Ronnie's is. Schroeder argues that on almost every count, Hypotheticalism is as good as, or preferable to, the Humean and non-Humean alternatives; and he defends it against an array of objections. For example, he explains that while Hypotheticalism claims that ‘desires have to serve in the explanation of every reason because desires are part of the correct analysis of reasons’, it does not claim that a desire that explains a reason is part of that reason: rather it is a background condition for it. This, Schroeder argues, allows him to rebut a variety of objections that depend on conflating reasons with their background conditions. Other …. (shrink)
To desire something is a condition familiar to everyone. It is uncontroversial that desiring has something to do with motivation, something to do with pleasure, and something to do with reward. Call these "the three faces of desire." The standard philosophical theory at present holds that the motivational face of desire presents its unique essence--to desire a state of affairs is to be disposed to act so as to bring it about. A familiar but less standard account holds the hedonic (...) face of desire to reveal to true nature of desire. In this view, to desire something is to tend to pleasure if it seems that the desired state of affairs has been achieved, or displeasure if it seems otherwise, thus tying desire to feelings instead of actions. In Three Faces of Desire, Schroeder goes beyond actions and feelings to advance a novel and controversial theory of desire that puts the focus on desire's neglected face, reward. Informed by contemporary science as much as by the philosophical tradition, Three Faces of Desire discusses recent scientific discoveries that tell us much about the way that actions and feelings are produced in the brain. In particular, recent experiments reveal that a distinctive system is responsible for promoting action, on the one hand, and causing feelings of pleasure and displeasure, on the other. This system, the brain's reward system, is the causal origin of both action and feeling, and is the key to understanding the nature of desire. (shrink)
According to noncognitivists, when we say that stealing is wrong, what we are doing is more like venting our feelings about stealing or encouraging one another not to steal, than like stating facts about morality. These ideas challenge the core not only of much thinking about morality and metaethics, but also of much philosophical thought about language and meaning. _Noncognitivism in Ethics_ is an outstanding introduction to these theories, ranging from their early history through the latest contemporary developments. Beginning with (...) a general introduction to metaethics, Mark Schroeder introduces and assesses three principal kinds of noncognitivist theory: the speech-act theories of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare, the expressivist theories of Blackburn and Gibbard, and hybrid theories. He pays particular attention both to the philosophical problems about what moral facts could be about or how they could matter which noncognitivism seeks to solve, and to the deep problems that it faces, including the task of explaining both the nature of moral thought and the complexity of moral attitudes, and the ‘Frege-Geach’ problem. Schroeder makes even the most difficult material accessible by offering crucial background along the way. Also included are exercises at the end of each chapter, chapter summaries, and a glossary of technical terms - making _Noncognitivism in Ethics_ essential reading for all students of ethics and metaethics. (shrink)
Reply to Shafer-Landau, Mcpherson, and Dancy Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9659-0 Authors Mark Schroeder, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
This book offers a lucid and highly readable account of Wittgenstein's philosophy, framed against the background of his extraordinary life and character. Woven together with a biographical narrative, the chapters explain the key ideas of Wittgenstein's work, from his first book, the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, to his mature masterpiece, the Philosophical Investigations. Severin Schroeder shows that at the core of Wittgenstein's later work lies a startlingly original and subversive conception of the nature of philosophy. In accordance with this conception, Wittgenstein offers (...) no new philosophical doctrines to replace his earlier ones, but seeks to demonstrate how all philosophical theorizing is the result of conceptual misunderstanding. He first diagnoses such misunderstanding at the core of his own earlier philosophy of language and then subjects philosophical views and problems about various mental phenomena understanding, sensations, the will to a similar therapeutic analysis. Schroeder provides a clear and careful account of the main arguments offered by Wittgenstein. He concludes by considering some critical responses to Wittgenstein's work, assessing its legacy for contemporary philosophy. -/- Wittgenstein is ideal for students seeking a clear and concise introduction to the work of this seminal twentieth-century philosopher. (shrink)
Précis of Slaves of the Passions Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11098-010-9658-1 Authors Mark Schroeder, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116.
This volume presents over a decade of work by Mark Schroeder, one of the leading figures in contemporary metaethics. One new and ten previously published papers weave together treatments of reasons, reduction, supervenience, instrumental rationality, and legislation, to explore the nature and limits of moral explanation.
mark schroeder University of Southern California 1 When Samuel Clarke gave his second Boyle lectures in 1705, he alleged in favor of his nonreductive, rationalist, intuitionist view that only ‘the extremest stupidity of mind, corruption of manners, or perverseness of spirit, can possibly make any man entertain the least doubt’ concerning it.1 Michael Huemer’s Ethical Intuitionism is oﬀered in the same spirit, though he makes no assurances concerning the Truth and Certainty of the Christian Revelation.2 Not only are competing metaethical (...) views false, he alleges, those who accept them do not even do so on the basis of rational arguments (240). They are driven by bias (247), cynicism (242), and scientism (244), combined with a desire to be politically correct (albeit not in a ‘simplistic way’ (245)). Moreover, the persistence of non-intuitionist metaethical views, he suggests, has a pernicious effect on our society, encouraging vice and immorality (248). According to Huemer, what is important about intuitionism (his favored position) is that the dispute between intuitionism and ‘all other views’ is that ‘[a]nti-realist theories about value undermine our moral beliefs, our moral motivation, and even our sense of the meaning of life’ (248). He contends that ‘anti-realism really boils down to the view that nothing matters’ (249), despite explicitly acknowledging that most anti-realists would deny this, and apparently forgetting that among his targets of criticism in the book were supposed to be some realist views, as well—of the reductive variety. Although he calls his view ‘intuitionism,’ Huemer makes clear early on that what he wants to defend is not an epistemological view at all, but a metaphysical one. The main divide between metaethical views, in.. (shrink)
The relation between the Greek and Judeo-Christian traditions is "the great problem" of Western philosophy, according to Emmanuel Levinas. In this book Brian Schroeder, Silvia Benso, and an international group of philosophers address the relationship between Levinas and the world of ancient thought. In addition to philosophy, themes touching on religion, mythology, metaphysics, ontology, epistemology, ethics, and politics are also explored. The volume as a whole provides a unified and extended discussion of how an engagement between Levinas and thinkers from (...) the ancient tradition works to enrich understandings of both. This book opens new pathways in ancient and modern philosophical studies as it illuminates new interpretations of Levinas' ethics and his social and political philosophy. (shrink)
Response Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11673-010-9259-x Authors Doris Schroeder, Centre for Professional Ethics, University of Central Lancashire, Preston, PR1 2HE England Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529.
edited by Doris Schroeder, welcomes contributions on all areas outlined below. Submitted papers are peer-reviewed. To submit a paper or to discuss suitable topics, please e-mail Doris Schroeder at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the most pressing concerns for contemporary society is the issue of violence and the factors that promote it. In ____Altared Ground: Levinas, History and Violence__ Brian Schroeder stages an engagement between Emmanuel Levinas, one of the leading figures in 20th century Continental philosophy, and Plato, Hegel, Heidegger, Nietzsche, Merleau-Ponty, Derrida and others in the history of ideas. Not merely an exposition of Levinas' original and complex thinking, Brian Schroeder seeks to re-read the history of Western philosophy and religion (...) by going beyond Levinas' alternatives to traditional theories of the self in order to suggest a notion of subjectivity that is not grounded in violence. (shrink)
Expressing Our Attitudes pulls together over a decade of work by Mark Schroeder, one of the leading figures in contemporary metaethics. Two new and seven previously published papers weave treatments of propositions, truth, and the attitudes together with detailed development of competing alternative expressivist frameworks and discussion of their relative advantages. A substantial new introduction both offers new arguments of its own, and provides a map to reading these essays as a unified argument.Along with its sister volume, Explaining the Reasons (...) We Share, this volume advances the theme that metaethical inquiry is continuous with other areas of philosophy. (shrink)
This paper compares two alternative explanations of pragmatic encroachment on knowledge (i.e., the claim that whether an agent knows that p can depend on pragmatic factors). After reviewing the evidence for such pragmatic encroachment, we ask how it is best explained, assuming it obtains. Several authors have recently argued that the best explanation is provided by a particular account of belief, which we call pragmatic credal reductivism. On this view, what it is for an agent to believe a proposition is (...) for her credence in this proposition to be above a certain threshold, a threshold that varies depending on pragmatic factors. We show that while this account of belief can provide an elegant explanation of pragmatic encroachment on knowledge, it is not alone in doing so, for an alternative account of belief, which we call the reasoning disposition account, can do so as well. And the latter account, we argue, is far more plausible than pragmatic credal reductivism, since it accords far better with a number of claims about belief that are very hard to deny. (shrink)
Joining the debate over the roles of reason and appetite in the moral mind, In Praise of Desire takes the side of appetite. Acting for moral reasons, acting in a praiseworthy manner, and acting out of virtue are simply acting out of intrinsic desires for the right or the good.
Philosophers have come to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reasons for belief, intention, and other attitudes. Several theories about the nature of this distinction have been offered, by far the most prevalent of which is the idea that it is, at bottom, the distinction between what are known as ‘object-given’ and ‘state-given’ reasons. This paper argues that the object-given/state-given theory vastly overgeneralizes on a small set of data points, and in particular that any adequate account of the distinction (...) between the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reason must allow state-given reasons to be of the right kind. The paper has three main goals, corresponding to its three main parts. In part 1 I set up the problem by introducing the right-kind/wrong-kind distinction, the object-given/state-given distinction, and the object-given/state-given theory, according to which the former distinction simply amounts to the latter. Part 2 presents the main argument of the paper: I argue against the object-given/state-given theory by showing that all of the earmarks of the ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ kinds of reason apply to reasons not to intend and not to believe, but that these cases can’t be captured by the object-given/state-given theory. Finally, in part 3 I use these arguments to motivate and explore a more general hypothesis about the rightkind/wrong-kind distinction, and explore some of the consequences of rejecting the object-given/stategiven theory. (shrink)
What is it to have a reason? According to one common idea, the "Factoring Account", you have a reason to do A when there is a reason for you to do A which you have--which is somehow in your possession or grasp. In this paper, I argue that this common idea is false. But though my arguments are based on the practical case, the implications of this are likely to be greatest in epistemology: for the pitfalls we fall into when (...) trying to defend the Factoring Account reflect very well the major developments in empiricist epistemology during the 20th century. I conjecture that this is because epistemologists have been--wrongly--wedded to the Factoring Account about evidence, which I conjecture is a certain kind of reason to believe. (shrink)
Expressivism - the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare - is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has also recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy - including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers. Yet the semantic commitments of expressivism are still poorly understood and have not been (...) very far developed. As argued within, expressivists have not yet even managed to solve the "negation problem" - to explain why atomic normative sentences are inconsistent with their negations. As a result, it is far from clear that expressivism even could be true, let alone whether it is. Being For seeks to evaluate the semantic commitments of expressivism, by showing how an expressivist semantics would work, what it can do, and what kind of assumptions would be required, in order for it to do it. Building on a highly general understanding of the basic ideas of expressivism, it argues that expressivists can solve the negation problem - but only in one kind of way. It shows how this insight paves the way for an explanatorily powerful, constructive expressivist semantics, which solves many of what have been taken to be the deepest problems for expressivism. But it also argues that no account with these advantages can be generalized to deal with constructions like tense, modals, or binary quantifiers. Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false. (shrink)
Fitting Attitudes accounts of value analogize or equate being good with being desirable, on the premise that ‘desirable’ means not, ‘able to be desired’, as Mill has been accused of mistakenly assuming, but ‘ought to be desired’, or something similar. The appeal of this idea is visible in the critical reaction to Mill, which generally goes along with his equation of ‘good’ with ‘desirable’ and only balks at the second step, and it crosses broad boundaries in terms of philosophers’ other (...) commitments. For example, Fitting Attitudes accounts play a central role both in T.M. Scanlon’s  case against teleology, and in Michael Smith , [unpublished] and Doug Portmore’s  cases for it. And of course they have a long and distinguished history. (shrink)
Expressivism - the sophisticated contemporary incarnation of the noncognitivist research program of Ayer, Stevenson, and Hare - is no longer the province of metaethicists alone. Its comprehensive view about the nature of both normative language and normative thought has also recently been applied to many topics elsewhere in philosophy - including logic, probability, mental and linguistic content, knowledge, epistemic modals, belief, the a priori, and even quantifiers. [...] Expressivism, the book argues, is coherent and interesting, but false.
Intentions matter. They have some kind of normative impact on our agency. Something goes wrong when an agent intends some end and fails to carry out the means she believes to be necessary for it, and something goes right when, intending the end, she adopts the means she thinks are required. This has even been claimed to be one of the only uncontroversial truths in ethical theory. But not only is there widespread disagreement about why this is so, there is (...) widespread disagreement about in what sense it is so. In this paper I explore an underdeveloped answer to the question of in what sense it is so, and argue that resolving an apparent difficulty with this view leads to an attractive picture about why it is so. (shrink)
forthcoming in reisner and steglich-peterson, eds., Reasons for Belief If I believe, for no good reason, that P and I infer (correctly) from this that Q, I don’t think we want to say that I ‘have’ P as evidence for Q. Only things that I believe (or could believe) rationally, or perhaps, with justification, count as part of the evidence that I have. It seems to me that this is a good reason to include an epistemic acceptability constraint on evidence (...) possessed…1 It is a truism that adopting an unjustified belief does not put you in a better evidential position with respect to believing its consequences. This truism has led many philosophers to assume that there must, at a minimum, be a justification condition (and perhaps even a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence. This is the best (or only) possible explanation of the truism, these philosophers have believed. This paper explores an alternative explanation for the truism. According to the alternative explanation that I will offer, unjustified beliefs do not put you in a better evidential position with respect to believing their consequences because any evidence you have in virtue of having an unjustified belief is guaranteed to be defeated. Since the lack of justification for a belief guarantees its defeat, I will suggest, we don't need to postulate a special justification condition (much less a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence. Why is this important? It is important because the assumption that there must be a justification condition (or perhaps a knowledge condition) on what it takes to count as having evidence places a high bar on what it takes to have evidence - such a high bar that it is difficult to see how this bar could be met in the case of basic, perceptually justified beliefs. As a result, the high bar set by this condition plays a fundamental role, I will claim, in central features of a core dialectic from the epistemology of basic perceptual belief which plays a central role in the debates between internalism and externalism, foundationalism and coherentism, and rationalism and empiricism.. (shrink)
Particularists in ethics emphasize that the normative is holistic, and invite us to infer with them that it therefore defies generalization. This has been supposed to present an obstacle to traditional moral theorizing, to have striking implications for moral epistemology and moral deliberation, and to rule out reductive theories of the normative, making it a bold and important thesis across the areas of normative theory, moral epistemology, moral psychology, and normative metaphysics. Though particularists emphasize the importance of the holism of (...) the normative, however, it is not something that they have been able to explain. In this paper I’ll show how to use a small number of simple and, I’ll argue, independently compelling assumptions in order to both predict and explain the holistic features of the normative with respect to the non-normative. The basic idea of the paper is simple. It is that normative claims are holistic because they are general, rather than because they defy generalization. (shrink)
Several authors have recently endorsed the thesis that there is what has been called pragmatic encroachment on knowledge—in other words, that two people who are in the same situation with respect to truth-related factors may differ in whether they know something, due to a difference in their practical circumstances. This paper aims not to defend this thesis, but to explore how it could be true. What I aim to do, is to show how practical factors could play a role in (...) defeating knowledge by defeating epistemic rationality—the very kind of rationality that is entailed by knowledge, and in which Pascalian considerations do not play any role—even though epistemic rationality consists in having adequate evidence. (shrink)
Allow me to rehearse a familiar scenario. We all know that which ends you have has something to do with what you ought to do. If Ronnie is keen on dancing but Bradley can’t stand it, then the fact that there will be dancing at the party tonight affects what Ronnie and Bradley ought to do in different ways. In short, (HI) you ought, if you have the end, to take the means. But now trouble looms: what if you have (...) dreadful, murderous ends? Ought you to take the means to them? Seemingly not. But fortunately, an assumption made by deontic logics1 comes to the rescue. Since ‘‘ought’’, according to this assumption, is a sentential operator, HI must really be ambiguous. It could be read either as (Narrow) You have the end ! O(you take the means) or as (Wide) O(you have the end ! you take the means). Now if Narrow is true, then you really ought to take the means to your murderous ends. But this doesn’t follow from Wide. All that follows from Wide is that you ought to either take the means to these ends or else give them up. Conclusions: (1) Since HI is on some reading true, but Narrow isn’t, Wide is true. (2) Wide accounts for the relationship between your ends and what you ought to do. This elegant scenario repeats itself in many other domains in which it seems like something can have a bearing on what some particular agent ought to do. Does what you know affect what you ought to do? Do your beliefs about what you ought to do affect what you ought to do? Do your promises affect what you ought to do? Do your beliefs affect what you ought to believe? On each of these counts, the intuitive answer is ‘‘yes’’. And so each of these questions leaves something for the moral philosopher or the epistemologist to investigate. On each count, it seems that what we all know, is that (Account) you ought, if p, to do A. But on each count, the Narrow-scope reading of the ‘‘ought’’ in this claim yields unintuitive consequences. So since Account is true, it must be true on the Wide-scope reading.. (shrink)
Theoretical and practical deliberation are voluntary activities, and like all voluntary activities, they are performed for reasons. To hold that all voluntary activities are performed for reasons in virtue of their relations to past, present, or even merely possible acts of deliberation thus leads to infinite regresses and related problems. As a consequence, there must be processes that are nondeliberative and nonvoluntary but that nonetheless allow us to think and act for reasons, and these processes must be the ones that (...) generate the voluntary activities making up ordinary deliberation. These nondeliberative, nonvoluntary processes by means of which we are able to deliberate for reasons are the fundamental processes by means of which we can think or do anything for a reason: once it has been seen that they must exist, it can be recognized that they are ubiquitous. As a result, the usefulness of deliberation to rational belief and action is intermittent, contingent, and modest. Deliberation is a tremendously valuable tool for increasing human capacities to think and act for good reasons in challenging contexts, but in the end it is merely a tool, wielded by people through the same nondeliberative, nonvoluntary capacities to think and act for reasons that they are enhancing the effectiveness of by deliberating. (shrink)
This paper is a survey of recent ‘hybrid’ approaches to metaethics, according to which moral sentences, in some sense or other, express both beliefs and desires. I try to show what kinds of theoretical issues come up at the different choice points we encounter in developing such a view, to raise some problems and explain where they come from, and to begin to get a sense for what the payoff of such views can be, and what they will need to (...) do in order to earn that payoff. (shrink)
This paper examines visual representation from a distinctive, interdisciplinary perspective that draws on ethics, visual studies and critical race theory. Suggests ways to clarify complex issues of representational ethics in marketing communications and marketing representations, suggesting an analysis that makes identity creation central to societal marketing concerns. Analyzes representations of the exotic Other in disparate marketing campaigns, drawing upon tourist promotions, advertisements, and mundane objects in material culture. Moreover, music is an important force in marketing communication: visual representations in music (...) promotions are also explored as data for inquiry. Offers an alternative to phenomenologically based approaches in marketing and consumer research scholarship that use consumer responses to generate data. Contributes additional insight into societal marketing and places global marketing processes within the intersection of ethics, aesthetics and representation. (shrink)
It is now generally understood that constraints play an important role in commonsense moral thinking and generally accepted that they cannot be accommodated by ordinary, traditional consequentialism. Some have seen this as the most conclusive evidence that consequentialism is hopelessly wrong,1 while others have seen it as the most conclusive evidence that moral common sense is hopelessly paradoxical.2 Fortunately, or so it is widely thought, in the last twenty-five years a new research program, that of Agent-Relative Teleology, has come to (...) the rescue on all sides. While consequentialism says that every agent ought always to do that action that will bring about the most good, according to Agent- Relative Teleology. (shrink)
In the 1960s, Peter Geach and John Searle independently posed an important objection to the wide class of 'noncognitivist' metaethical views that had at that time been dominant and widely defended for a quarter of a century. The problems raised by that objection have come to be known in the literature as the Frege-Geach Problem, because of Geach's attribution of the objection to Frege's distinction between content and assertoric force, and the problem has since occupied a great deal of the (...) attention both of defenders of broadly noncognitivist views, and of their critics. In this article I explain Geach and Searle's historical objections, and put the subsequent discussion into dialectical context, paying some attention to the developments along the way and how they have enhanced our overall understanding of the problem. The article covers a lot of territory, so we will only be able to see the highlights, along the way. For further reading, see the Works Cited. (shrink)
Theorists of health have, to this point, focused exclusively on trying to define a state—health—that an organism might be in. I argue that they have overlooked the possibility of a comparativist theory of health, which would begin by defining a relation—healthier than—that holds between two organisms or two possible states of the same organism. I show that a comparativist approach to health has a number of attractive features, and has important implications for philosophers of medicine, bioethicists, health economists, and policy (...) makers. (shrink)
It doesn’t seem possible to be a realist about the traditional Christian God while claiming to be able to reduce God talk in naturalistically acceptable terms. Reduction, in this case, seems obviously eliminativist. Many philosophers seem to think that the same is true of the normative—that reductive “realists” about the normative are not really realists about the normative at all, or at least, only in some attenuated sense. This paper takes on the challenge of articulating what it is that makes (...) reductive theological realism look hopeless, with the aim of explaining why we should think that the normative is relevantly different. Although it follows from my diagnosis that reductivists have their work cut out for them, I find nothing which suggests that the prospects for a successful reductive realism about the normative are in any way diminished—particularly for reductive views about reasons. Even reductivists, I argue, can at least aspire to a realism that is robust. (shrink)
Expressivists have a problem with negation. The problem is that they have not, to date, been able to explain why ‘murdering is wrong’ and ‘murdering is not wrong’ are inconsistent sentences. In this paper, I explain the nature of the problem, and why the best efforts of Gibbard, Dreier, and Horgan and Timmons don’t solve it. Then I show how to diagnose where the problem comes from, and consequently how it is possible for expressivists to solve it. Expressivists should accept (...) this solution, I argue, because it is demonstrably the only way of avoiding the problem, and because it generalizes. Once we see how to solve the negation problem, I show, it becomes easy to state a constructive, compositional expressivist semantics for a purely normative language with the expressive power of propositional logic, in which we can for the first time give explanatory, formally adequate expressivist accounts of logical inconsistency, logical entailment, and logical validity. As a corollary, I give what I take to be the first real expressivist explanation of why Geach’s original moral modus ponens argument is genuinely logically valid. This proves that the problem with expressivism cannot be that it can’t account for the logical properties of complex normative sentences. But it does not show that the same solution can work for a language with both normative and descriptive predicates, let alone that expressivists are able to deal with more complex linguistic constructions like tense, modals, or even quantifiers. In the final section, I show what kind of constraints the solution offered here would place expressivists under, in answering these further questions. (shrink)
The basic idea of expressivism is that for some sentences ‘P’, believing that P is not just a matter of having an ordinary descriptive belief. This is a way of capturing the idea that the meaning of some sentences either exceeds their factual/descriptive content or doesn’t consist in any particular factual/descriptive content at all, even in context. The paradigmatic application for expressivism is within metaethics, and holds that believing that stealing is wrong involves having some kind of desire-like attitude, with (...) world-tomind direction of fit, either in place of, or in addition to, being in a representational state of mind with mind-to-world direction of fit. Because expressivists refer to the state of believing that P as the state of mind ‘expressed’ by ‘P’, this view can also be described as the view that ‘stealing is wrong’ expresses a state of mind that involves a desire-like attitude instead of, or in addition to, a representational state of mind. According to some expressivists - unrestrained expressivists, as I’ll call them - there need be no special relationship among the different kinds of state of mind that can be expressed by sentences. Pick your favorite state of mind, the unrestrained expressivist allows, and there could, at least in principle, be a sentence that expressed it. Expressivists who seem to have been unrestrained plausibly include Ayer in Language, Truth, and Logic, and Simon Blackburn in many of his writings, including his , , and.. (shrink)
This paper addresses the two extensional objections to the Humean Theory of Reasons—that it allows for too many reasons, and that it allows for too few. Although I won’t argue so here, manyof the other objections to the Humean Theoryof Reasons turn on assuming that it cannot successfully deal with these two objections.1 What I will argue, is that the force of the too many and the too few objections to the Humean Theorydepend on whether we assume that Humeans are (...) committed to a thesis about the weight of reasons—one I call Proportionalism. In particular, I’ll show how a version of the Humean Theorythat rejects Proportionalism can reasonablyhope to escape both the too many and the too few objections. This will constitute my defense of this version of the Humean Theory. But then, separately, I will argue that this defense of the Humean Theoryis not ad hoc. I’ll argue that Humeans have no reason to accept Proportionalism in the first place. Or at least, no weightyone. There are three parts to the paper. In Part 1 we introduce the Humean Theoryand the too few reasons objection. I’ll first layout the objection, and then layout the basis for a response on behalf of myfavored version of the Humean Theory. There will be an obvious objection to my defense— but it will turn out to depend on the assumption of Proportionalism. This will constitute myargument that the susceptibilityof the Humean Theoryto.. (shrink)
This paper addresses the question: ‘what makes reasons sufficient?’ and offers the answer, ‘being at least as weighty as the reasons for the alternatives’. The paper starts by introducing some of the reasons why sufficiency has seemed difficult to understand, particularly in epistemology, and some circumstantial evidence that this has contributed to more general problems in the epistemological literature. It then introduces the positive account of sufficiency, and explains how this captures sufficiency in both the practical and epistemic domains. Finally, (...) the paper shows how once we understand the nature of sufficiency, it is easy to predict the full variety of ways in which rationality – both of action and of belief – can be defeated. (shrink)
The phenomenon of disagreement has recently been brought into focus by the debate between contextualists and relativist invariantists about epistemic expressions such as ‘might’, ‘probably’, indicative conditionals, and the deontic ‘ought’. Against the orthodox contextualist view, it has been argued that an invariantist account can better explain apparent disagreements across contexts by appeal to the incompatibility of the propositions expressed in those contexts. This paper introduces an important and underappreciated phenomenon associated with epistemic expressions — a phenomenon that we call (...) reversibility. We argue that the invariantist account of disagreement is incompatible with reversibility, and we go on to show that reversible sentences cast doubt on the putative data about disagreement, even without assuming invariantism. Our argument therefore undermines much of the motivation for invariantism, and provides a new source for constraints on the proper explanation of purported data about disagreement. (shrink)
What is that makes an act subject to either praise or blame? The question has often been taken to depend entirely on the free will debate for an answer, since it is widely agreed that an agent’s act is subject to praise or blame only if it was freely willed, but moral theory, action theory, and moral psychology are at least equally relevant to it. In the last quarter-century, following the lead of Harry Frankfurt’s (1971) seminal article “Freedom of the (...) Will and the Concept of a Person,” the interdisciplinary nature of the question has been emphasized by various authors. Going beyond the boundaries of the traditional free will debate, they have attempted to describe the requirements for agent accountability by appeal to theories of personality, rational agency, and ethical choice. The approach has been a breath of fresh air in the often-stagnant free will debate, bringing new considerations to bear and provoking new lines of argument, and it is an approach that we will adopt in this paper. In the following pages, we hope to show that an under-noticed phenomenon of moral psychology, inverse akrasia, exemplified by Huckleberry Finn, has something to contribute to the understanding of agency and accountability. After presenting the phenomenon in section I, we will move in section II to a quick survey of a family of Frankfurt-inspired views and a critique of them based on the phenomenon in sections III and IV. A new theory will be offered in section V, and potential objections addressed in the final section of the paper. (shrink)
To desire is to be in a particular state of mind. It is a state of mind familiar to everyone who has ever wanted to drink water or desired to know what has happened to an old friend, but its familiarity does not make it easy to give a theory of desire. Controversy immediately breaks out when asking whether wanting water and desiring knowledge are, at bottom, the same state of mind as others that seem somewhat similar: wishing never to (...) have been born, preferring mangoes to peaches, craving gin, having world conquest as one's goal, having a purpose in sneaking out to the shed, or being inclined to provoke just for the sake of provocation. These varied states of mind have all been grouped together under the heading of ‘pro attitudes’, but whether the pro attitudes are fundamentally one mental state or many is disputed. (shrink)
The term “value theory” is used in at least three different ways in philosophy. In its broadest sense, “value theory” is a catch-all label used to encompass all branches of moral philosophy, social and political philosophy, aesthetics, and sometimes feminist philosophy and the philosophy of religion — whatever areas of philosophy are deemed to encompass some “evaluative” aspect. In its narrowest sense, “value theory” is used for a relatively narrow area of normative ethical theory of particular concern to consequentialists. In (...) this narrow sense, “value theory” is roughly synonymous with “axiology”. Axiology can be thought of as primarily concerned with classifying what things are good, and how good they are. For instance, a traditional question of axiology concerns whether the objects of value are subjective psychological states, or objective states of the world. (shrink)
Expressivism’s central idea is that normative sentences bear the same relation to non-cognitive attitudes that ordinary descriptive sentences bear to beliefs: the expression relation. Allan Gibbard teIls us that “that words express judgments will be accepted by almost everyone” - the distinctive contribution of expressivism, his claim goes, is only a view about what kind of judgments words express. But not every account of the expression relation is equally suitable for the expressivist’s purposes. In fact, what I argue in this (...) paper, considering four possible accounts of expression, is that how suitable each account is for the expressivist’s purpose varies in proportion to how controversial it is. So Gibbard is wrong - if expression is to get expressivism off the ground, then it will be enormously controversial whether words do express judgments. And thus expressivism is committed to strong claims about the semantics of non-normative language. (shrink)
Imagine you are walking down a city street. It is windy and raining. Amidst the bustle you see a young woman. She sits under a railway bridge, hardly protected from the rain and holds a woolen hat containing a small number of coins. You can see that she trembles from the cold. Or imagine seeing an old woman walking in the street at dusk, clutching her bag with one hand and a walking stick with the other. A group of male (...) youths walk behind her without overtaking, drunk and in the mood for mischief. It doesn't need an academic to say what vulnerability is. We can all see it, much more often than we care to. (shrink)
This paper defends a simple thesis: that knowledge is belief for reasons that are both objectively and subjectively sufficient. I take a dogmatic approach, devoting the bulk of the paper to an explanation of what this means, and of why it explains both what knowledge is like, and why it is important; the theory is justified by its fruits. I go on to illustrate, by appeal to my main thesis, how knowledge comes to play some of the key roles that (...) it does, including looking at Williamson’s arguments that knowledge is prime and for its distinctive explanatory role, as well as why my account explains and predicts the complicated behavior of knowledge in cases involving defeaters, defeated defeaters, and defeaters whose defeaters are defeated, as well as the different possible kinds of defeat – the primary source of complications in the Gettier literature. These facts are easily explained by the central thesis of the paper, without either giving up on the analysis of knowledge or resorting to arbitrary or ad hoc measures. Since the last five decades of literature might lead one to find it fairly audacious to propose an analysis of knowledge, a final section addresses the putative inductive grounds for general pessimism about the Gettierological project. (shrink)