All contentious moral issues--from gay marriage to abortion and affirmative action--raise difficult questions about the justification of moral beliefs. How can we be justified in holding on to our own moral beliefs while recognizing that other intelligent people feel quite differently and that many moral beliefs are distorted by self-interest and by corrupt cultures? Even when almost everyone agrees--e.g. that experimental surgery without consent is immoral--can we know that such beliefs are true? If so, how? These profound questions lead to (...) fundamental issues about the nature of morality, language, metaphysics, justification, and knowledge. They also have tremendous practical importance in handling controversial moral questions in health care ethics, politics, law, and education. Sinnott-Armstrong here provides an extensive overview of these difficult subjects, looking at a wide variety of questions, including: Are any moral beliefs true? Are any justified? What is justified belief? The second half of the book explores various moral theories that have grappled with these issues, such as naturalism, normativism, intuitionism, and coherentism, all of which are attempts to answer moral skepticism. Sinnott-Armstrong argues that all these approaches fail to rule out moral nihilism--the view that nothing is really morally wrong or right, bad or good. Then he develops his own novel theory,--"moderate Pyrrhonian moral skepticism"--which concludes that some moral beliefs can be justified out of a modest contrast class but no moral beliefs can be justified out of an extreme contrast class. While explaining this original position and criticizing alternatives, Sinnott-Armstrong provides a wide-ranging survey of the epistemology of moral beliefs. (shrink)
A strong tradition in philosophy denies the possibility of moral dilemmas. Recently, several philosophers reversed this tradition. In this dissertation, I clarify some fundamental issues in this debate, argue for the possibility of moral dilemmas, and determine some implications of this possibility. ;In chapter I, I define moral dilemmas roughly as situations where an agent morally ought to adopt each of two alternatives but cannot adopt both. Moral dilemmas are resolvable if and only if one of the moral oughts overrides (...) the other. ;In chapter II, I criticize several opponents of moral dilemmas, including utilitarians, Kant, Aquinas, and Ross. My main criticism is that no opponent of moral dilemmas can adequately justify moral residue . ;Chapters III and IV concern the two main arguments against the possibility of moral dilemmas. First, the argument for 'ought' implies 'can' runs as follows. If the agent cannot adopt both, then it is not the case that the agent ought to adopt both. But the agent ought to adopt both, since the agent ought to adopt each . Thus, the defining judgements of a moral dilemma seem to imply a contradiction. In response, I argue that the relation between 'ought' and 'can' is not a logical implication but a conversational implicature. ;Chapter IV concerns the argument from 'ought' implies 'permitted': If the agent ought to adopt one alternative, then the agent is permitted to adopt that alternative, which means that it is not the case that the agent ought not to adopt that alternative. But the agent ought not to adopt that alternative, since the agent ought to adopt the other alternative and cannot adopt both. I respond that 'ought' does not logically imply but conversationally implicates 'permitted'. ;In chapter V, I argue that, despite recent claims, both moral realism and anti-realism are compatible with the possibility of moral dilemmas. Thus, there are several reasons to accept and no reasons to deny the possibility of moral dilemmas. (shrink)
In Moral Knowledge? New Readings in Moral Epistemology, editors Walter Sinnott-Armstrong and Mark Timmons bring together eleven specially commissioned essays by distinguished moral philosophers exploring the nature and possibility of moral knowledge. Each essay represents a major position within the exciting field of moral epistemology in which a proponent of the position presents and defends his or her view and locates it vis-a-vis competing views. The authors include established philosophers such as Peter Railton, Robert Audi, Richard Brandt, and Simon (...) Blackburn, as well as newer voices in the field. Topics covered include moral skepticism, moral truth, projectivism, contractarianism, coherentism, feminist views, quasi-realism, and pragmatism. The lively and clear selections do not presuppose specialized knowledge of philosophy, and the philosophical vocabulary used throughout the anthology is uniform, in order to facilitate understanding by those not familiar with the field. The first chapter includes a sustained critical discussion of the major views represented in the following chapters, thereby furnishing beginning students with appropriate background to understand the selections. The volume is further enhanced by an index and an extensive bibliography. An excellent text for undergraduate and graduate courses, Moral Knowledge provides the most up-to-date work on moral knowledge and justification. (shrink)
Neuroscience has been proposed for use in the legal system for purposes of mind reading, assessment of responsibility, and prediction of misconduct. Each of these uses has both promises and perils, and each raises issues regarding the admissibility of neuroscientific evidence.
Throughout the history of philosophy, skepticism has posed one of the central challenges of epistemology. Opponents of skepticism--including externalists, contextualists, foundationalists, and coherentists--have focussed largely on one particular variety of skepticism, often called Cartesian or Academic skepticism, which makes the radical claim that nobody can know anything. However, this version of skepticism is something of a straw man, since virtually no philosopher endorses this radical skeptical claim. The only skeptical view that has been truly held--by Sextus, Montaigne, Hume, Wittgenstein, and, (...) most recently, Robert Fogelin--has been Pyrrohnian skepticism. Pyrrhonian skeptics do not assert Cartesian skepticism, but neither do they deny it. The Pyrrhonian skeptics' doubts run so deep that they suspend belief even about Cartesian skepticism and its denial. Nonetheless, some Pyrrhonians argue that they can still hold "common beliefs of everyday life" and can even claim to know some truths in an everyday way. This edited volume presents previously unpublished articles on this subject by a strikingly impressive group of philosophers, who engage with both historical and contemporary versions of Pyrrhonian skepticism. Among them are Gisela Striker, Janet Broughton, Don Garrett, Ken Winkler, Hans Sluga, Ernest Sosa, Michael Williams, Barry Stroud, Robert Fogelin, and Roy Sorensen. This volume is thematically unified and will interest a broad spectrum of scholars in epistemology and the history of philosophy. (shrink)
Philosophical lessons come in many different shapes and sizes. Some lessons are big, some are small. Some lessons go deep and have a big impact, some are shallow and have almost none. Some lessons are not really philosophical at all or would not really be lessons for an audience of academic philosophers. I mention these truisms not to disparage this informative book on 'moral OCD' (moral obsessive-compulsive disorder, or 'Scrupulosity') but rather to emphasize how difficult it can be to discern (...) the book's intended audience, given its interdisciplinary aims and structure. That question is never explicitly addressed (it is admittedly a slim book, slimmer than it appears), but the question has consequences for how to think about the book's ultimate value, and for whom. The book might attract two groups in particular: philosophers working on the nature of responsibility (the subject of the book's longest chapter) and psychiatric researchers or mental health professionals interested in moral philosophy and the philosophy of mental illness. I will return to what moral philosophers can learn from moral OCD, but there will be spoilers. (shrink)
For much of the twentieth century, philosophy and science went their separate ways. In moral philosophy, fear of the so-called naturalistic fallacy kept moral philosophers from incorporating developments in biology and psychology. Since the 1990s, however, many philosophers have drawn on recent advances in cognitive psychology, brain science, and evolutionary psychology to inform their work. This collaborative trend is especially strong in moral philosophy, and these three volumes bring together some of the most innovative work by both philosophers and psychologists (...) in this emerging interdisciplinary field. The neuroscience of morality is in its infancy, with the first brain imaging studies of moral development undertaken only in 2001. The contributors to volume 3 sample the best work in this very new field, discussing a variety of approaches, including functional imaging, lesion studies, abnormal psychology, and developmental neuroscience. Each chapter includes an essay, comments on the essay by other scholars, and a reply by the author of the original essay. Topics include the neural basis of moral emotions and moral judgments as well as comparisons of normal adult moral judgments with those made by children, adolescents, and people with psychopathy, brain damage, and autism. Contributors to volume 3:_ _Abigail Baird, William Casebeer, Cordelia Fine, Nathan Fox, Uta Frith, Jordan Grafman, Joshua Greene, Catherine Hynes, Fatima Azavedo Ignacio, Richard Joyce, Jerome Kagan, Leonard Katz, Kent Kiehl, Jeanette Kennett, Melanie Killen, Daniel Lapsley, Heidi Maibom, Victoria McGeer, John Mikhail, Jorge Moll, Shaun Nichols, Ricardo de Oliveira-Souza, Adina Roskies, Jana Schaich Borg, Katrina Sifferd, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Michael Smith, Mark Timmons, Frederick de Vignemont, Paul Whalen, Roland Zahn. (shrink)
Many philosophers claim that no formally valid argument can have purely non-normative premises and a normative or moral conclusion that occurs essentially. Mark Nelson recently proposed a new counterexample to this Humean doctrine:All of Dahlia's beliefs are true.Dahlia believes that Bertie morally ought to marry Madeleine.―∴ Bertie morally ought to marry Madeleine.I argue that Nelson's universal premise has no normative content, that Nelson's argument is valid formally, and that Nelson's moral conclusion occurs essentially and not vacuously. Nonetheless, I show that (...) Nelson's argument faces a more fundamental problem if it is used in moral epistemology. An argument that appeals to a moral authority, such as Dahlia, might justify some moral belief out of a contrast class that does not include extreme views like moral nihilism; but it begs the question against moral nihilism, since one cannot be adequately justified in believing the conjunction of its premises without depending on assumptions that moral nihilists would deny. Thus, arguments like Nelson's can accomplish something important in moral epistemology, but their use is strictly limited. (shrink)
The traditional philosophical doctrine of double effect claims that agents’ intentions affect whether acts are morally wrong. Our behavioral study reveals that agents’ intentions do affect whether acts are judged morally wrong, whereas the temporal order of good and bad effects affects whether acts are classified as killings. This finding suggests that the moral judgments are not based on the classifications. Our results also undermine recent claims that prior moral judgments determine whether agents are seen as causing effects intentionally rather (...) than as side effects. (shrink)
This essay invokes a technical framework of contrast classes within which Pyrrhonians can accept knowledge claims that are relativized to specific contrast classes, but avoid all unrelativized knowledge claims and all presuppositions about which contrast classes are really relevant. Pyrrhonians can then assert part of the content of everyday knowledge claims without privileging the everyday perspective or any other perspective. This framework provides a precise way to understand the central claims of neo-Pyrrhonism while avoiding most, if not all, of the (...) problems and objections raised by its critics. (shrink)
A complete moral theory should combine substantive ethics with metaethics, including moral semantics, moral epistemology, moral ontology, moral psychology, and the definition of morality. All of these topics and more are discussed with great clarity, insight, and originality in Copp’s remarkable book. Some of Copp’s positions are known from earlier articles, but his book reveals interconnections that increase the plausibility of each view separately and of the structure as a whole.
Expressivism faces four distinct problems when evaluative sentences are embedded in unassertive contexts like: If lying is wrong, getting someone to lie is wrong, Lying is wrong, so Getting someone to lie is wrong. The initial problem is to show that expressivism is compatible with - being valid. The basic problem is for expressivists to explain why evaluative instances of modus ponens are valid. The deeper problem is to explain why a particular argument like - is valid. The deepest problem (...) is to explain the meanings of evaluative conditionals like. Expressivists can solve the initial and basic problems simply by acknowledging that evaluative sentences have minimal truth aptness, but the deeper and deepest problems require more. The deepest problem cannot be solved even with the semantics of Gibbard and Blackburn, as is shown by an extension of Dreier's hiyo argument. (shrink)
We all seem to think that we do the acts we do because we consciously choose to do them. This commonsense view is thrown into dispute by Benjamin Libet's eyebrow-raising experiments, which seem to suggest that conscious will occurs not before but after the start of brain activity that produces physical action.
For much of the twentieth century, philosophy and science went their separate ways. In moral philosophy, fear of the so-called naturalistic fallacy kept moral philosophers from incorporating developments in biology and psychology. Since the 1990s, however, many philosophers have drawn on recent advances in cognitive psychology, brain science, and evolutionary psychology to inform their work. This collaborative trend is especially strong in moral philosophy, and these volumes bring together some of the most innovative work by both philosophers and psychologists in (...) this emerging interdisciplinary field. The contributors to volume 1 discuss recent work on the evolution of moral beliefs, attitudes, and emotions. Each chapter includes an essay, comments on the essay by other scholars, and a reply by the author of the original essay. Topics include a version of naturalism that avoids supposed fallacies, distinct neurocomputational systems for deontic reasoning, the evolutionary psychology of moral sentiments regarding incest, the sexual selection of moral virtues, the evolution of symbolic thought, and arguments both for and against innate morality. Taken together, the chapters demonstrate the value for both philosophy and psychology of collaborative efforts to understand the many complex aspects of morality. Contributors: William Casebeer, Leda Cosmides, Oliver Curry, Michael Dietrich, Catherine Driscoll, Susan Dwyer, Owen Flanagan, Jerry Fodor, Gilbert Harman, Richard Joyce, Debra Lieberman, Ron Mallon, John Mikhail, Geoffrey Miller, Jesse Prinz, Peter Railton, Michael Ruse, Hagop Sarkissian, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Chandra Sekhar Sripada, Valerie Tiberius, John Tooby, Peter Tse, Kathleen Wallace, Arthur Wolf, David Wong Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Professor of Philosophy and Hardy Professor of Legal Studies at Dartmouth College. (shrink)
Our thesis is that there is no moral requirement to refrain from emitting reasonable amounts of greenhouse gases solely in order to enjoy oneself. Joyriding in a gas guzzler provides our paradigm example. We first distinguish this claim that there is no moral requirement to refrain from joyguzzling from other more radical claims. We then review several different proposed objections to our view. These include: the claim that joyguzzling exemplifies a vice, causes or contributes to harm, has negative expected value, (...) exceeds our fair share of global emissions, and undermines political duties. We show why none of these objections succeeds and conclude that no good reason has yet been proposed that shows why joyguzzling violates a moral requirement. (shrink)
For much of the twentieth century, philosophy and science went their separate ways. In moral philosophy, fear of the so-called naturalistic fallacy kept moral philosophers from incorporating developments in biology and psychology. Since the 1990s, however, many philosophers have drawn on recent advances in cognitive psychology, brain science, and evolutionary psychology to inform their work. This collaborative trend is especially strong in moral philosophy, and these three volumes bring together some of the most innovative work by both philosophers and psychologists (...) in this emerging interdisciplinary field. The contributors to volume 2 discuss recent empirical research that uses the diverse methods of cognitive science to investigate moral judgments, emotions, and actions. Each chapter includes an essay, comments on the essay by other scholars, and a reply by the author of the original essay. Topics include moral intuitions as a kind of fast and frugal heuristics, framing effects in moral judgments, an analogy between Chomsky's universal grammar and moral principles, the role of emotions in moral beliefs, moral disagreements, the semantics of moral language, and moral responsibility. Walter Sinnott-Armstrong is Professor of Philosophy and Hardy Professor of Legal Studies at Dartmouth College. Contributors to volume 2: Fredrik Bjorklund, James Blair, Paul Bloomfield, Fiery Cushman, Justin D'Arms, John Deigh, John Doris, Julia Driver, Ben Fraser, Gerd Gigerenzer, Michael Gill, Jonathan Haidt, Marc Hauser, Daniel Jacobson, Joshua Knobe, Brian Leiter, Don Loeb, Ron Mallon, Darcia Narvaez, Shaun Nichols, Alexandra Plakias, Jesse Prinz, Geoffrey Sayre-McCord, Russ Shafer-Landau, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, Cass Sunstein, William Tolhurst, Liane Young. (shrink)
I conclude that Gibbard fails to solve several of the traditional problems for expressivism. He solves some of these problems, but his solutions to them in effect give up expressivism. Of course, one might respond that it does not really matter whether his theory is expressivist. In some ways, I agree. Gibbard says many fascinating things about morality which have at most indirect connections to his expressivist analysis. I am thinking especially of his later discussions of hyperscepticism, parochialism, and indirect (...) pragmatism. These views could still be developed even if he gave up expressivism. All I have tried to show here is that he does need to give up expressivism unless he can solve the problems that I have raised. (shrink)
General contrastivism holds that all claims of reasons are relative to contrast classes. This approach applies to explanation (reasons why things happen), moral philosophy (reasons for action), and epistemology (reasons for belief), and it illuminates moral dilemmas, free will, and the grue paradox. In epistemology, contrast classes point toward an account of justified belief that is compatible with reliabilism and other externalisms. Contrast classes also provide a model for Pyrrhonian scepticism based on suspending belief about which contrast class is relevant. (...) This view contrasts with contextualism, invariantism, and Schaffer's contrastivism. (shrink)
For much of the twentieth century, philosophy and science went their separate ways. In moral philosophy, fear of the so-called naturalistic fallacy kept moral philosophers from incorporating developments in biology and psychology. Since the 1990s, however, many philosophers have drawn on recent advances in cognitive psychology, brain science, and evolutionary psychology to inform their work. This collaborative trend is especially strong in moral philosophy, and these three volumes bring together some of the most innovative work by both philosophers and psychologists (...) in this emerging interdisciplinary field. (shrink)
No topic in informal logic is more important than begging the question. Also, none is more subtle or complex. We cannot even begin to understand the fallacy of begging the question without getting clear about arguments, their purposes, and circularity. So I will discuss these preliminary topics first. This will clear the path to my own account of begging the question. Then I will anticipate some objections. Finally, I will apply my account to a well-known and popular response to scepticism (...) by G. E. Moore. (shrink)
In this short paper, I argue that the phenomenology of moral judgment is not unified across different areas of morality (involving harm, hierarchy, reciprocity, and impurity) or even across different relations to harm. Common responses, such as that moral obligations are experienced as felt demands based on a sense of what is fitting, are either too narrow to cover all moral obligations or too broad to capture anything important and peculiar to morality. The disunity of moral phenomenology is, nonetheless, compatible (...) with some uses of moral phenomenology for moral epistemology and with the objectivity and justifiability of parts of morality. (shrink)
Moral intuitions are strong, stable, immediate moral beliefs. Moral philosophers ask when they are justified. This question cannot be answered separately from a psychological question: How do moral intuitions arise? Their reliability depends upon their source. This chapter develops and argues for a new theory of how moral intuitions arise—that they arise through heuristic processes best understood as unconscious attribute substitutions. That is, when asked whether something has the attribute of moral wrongness, people unconsciously substitute a different question about a (...) separate but related heuristic attribute (such as emotional impact). Evidence for this view is drawn from psychology and neuroscience, and competing views of moral heuristics are contrasted. It is argued that moral intuitions are not direct perceptions and, in many cases, are unreliable sources of evidence for moral claims. (shrink)
The author defines moral dilemmas as situations where there is a moral requirement for an agent to adopt each of two alternatives, And the agent cannot adopt both, But neither moral requirement overrides the other. The author then argues that moral dilemmas are possible because conflicting moral requirements can be either symmetrical or incomparable in a way that is limited enough to be plausible but still strong enough to yield moral dilemmas.
What makes an act of killing morally wrong is not that the act causes loss of life or consciousness but rather that the act causes loss of all remaining abilities. This account implies that it is not even pro tanto morally wrong to kill patients who are universally and irreversibly disabled, because they have no abilities to lose. Applied to vital organ transplantation, this account undermines the dead donor rule and shows how current practices are compatible with morality.
My topic is the old debate between moral realists and moral expressivists. Although I will eventually adopt a Pyrrhonian position, as usual, my main goal is neither to argue for this position nor to resolve this debate but only to explore some new options that mix together realism and expressivism in various ways. Nothing that I say will be conclusive, but I hope that some of it will be suggestive.
Expressivism faces four distinct problems when evaluative sentences are embedded in unassertive contexts like: If lying is wrong, getting someone to lie is wrong, Lying is wrong, so Getting someone to lie is wrong. The initial problem is to show that expressivism is compatible with - being valid. The basic problem is for expressivists to explain why evaluative instances of modus ponens are valid. The deeper problem is to explain why a particular argument like - is valid. The deepest problem (...) is to explain the meanings of evaluative conditionals like . Expressivists can solve the initial and basic problems simply by acknowledging that evaluative sentences have minimal truth aptness, but the deeper and deepest problems require more. The deepest problem cannot be solved even with the semantics of Gibbard and Blackburn, as is shown by an extension of Dreier’s hiyo argument. (shrink)
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