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)
In defending his interest-relative account of knowledge in Knowledge and Practical Interests (2005), Jason Stanley relies heavily on intuitions about several bank cases. We experimentally test the empirical claims that Stanley seems to make concerning our common-sense intuitions about these bank cases. Additionally, we test the empirical claims that Jonathan Schaffer seems to make in his critique of Stanley. We argue that our data impugn what both Stanley and Schaffer claim our intuitions about such cases are. To account for these (...) results, one must develop a better conception of the connection between a subject's interests and her body of knowledge than those offered by Stanley and Schaffer. (shrink)
Most philosophers assume that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’, and most of them hold that this principle is true not only universally but also analytically or conceptually. Some skeptics deny this principle, although they often admit some related one. In this article, we show how new empirical evidence bolsters the skeptics’ arguments. We then defend the skeptical view against some objections to the empirical evidence and to its effect on the traditional principle. In light of the new evidence, we conclude that philosophers (...) should stop unconditionally assuming that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. (shrink)
An extensive body of research suggests that the distinction between doing and allowing plays a critical role in shaping moral appraisals. Here, we report evidence from a pair of experiments suggesting that the converse is also true: moral appraisals affect doing/allowing judgments. Specifically, morally bad behavior is more likely to be construed as actively ‘doing’ than as passively ‘allowing’. This finding adds to a growing list of folk concepts influenced by moral appraisal, including causation and intentional action. We therefore suggest (...) that the present finding favors the view that moral appraisal plays a pervasive role in shaping diverse cognitive representations across multiple domains. (shrink)
Recently, psychologists have explored moral concepts including obligation, blame, and ability. While little empirical work has studied the relationships among these concepts, philosophers have widely assumed such a relationship in the principle that “ought” implies “can,” which states that if someone ought to do something, then they must be able to do it. The cognitive underpinnings of these concepts are tested in the three experiments reported here. In Experiment 1, most participants judge that an agent ought to keep a promise (...) that he is unable to keep, but only when he is to blame for the inability. Experiment 2 shows that such “ought” judgments correlate with judgments of blame, rather than with judgments of the agent’s ability. Experiment 3 replicates these findings for moral “ought” judgments and finds that they do not hold for nonmoral “ought” judgments, such as what someone ought to do to fulfill their desires. These results together show that folk moral judgments do not conform to a widely assumed philosophical principle that “ought” implies “can.” Instead, judgments of blame play a modulatory role in some judgments of obligation. (shrink)
In this paper, we focus on whether and to what extent we judge that people are responsible for the consequences of their forgetfulness. We ran a series of behavioral studies to measure judgments of responsibility for the consequences of forgetfulness. Our results show that we are disposed to hold others responsible for some of their forgetfulness. The level of stress that the forgetful agent is under modulates judgments of responsibility, though the level of care that the agent exhibits toward performing (...) the forgotten action does not. We argue that this result has important implications for a long-running debate about the nature of responsible agency. (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 this paper, our goal is to survey some of the legal contexts within which violence risk assessment already plays a prominent role, explore whether developments in neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict violence, and discuss whether neuropredictive models of violence create any unique legal or moral problems above and beyond the well worn problems already associated with prediction more generally. In Violence Risk Assessment and the Law, we briefly examine the role currently played by (...) predictions of violence in three high stakes legal contexts: capital sentencing, civil commitment hearings, and sexual predator statutes. In Clinical vs. Actuarial Violence Risk Assessment, we briefly examine the distinction between traditional clinical methods of predicting violence and more recently developed actuarial methods, exemplified by the Classification of Violence Risk software created by John Monahan and colleagues as part of the MacArthur Study of Mental Disorder and Violence . In The Neural Correlates of Psychopathy, we explore what neuroscience currently tells us about the neural correlates of violence, using the recent neuroscientific research on psychopathy as our focus. We also discuss some recent advances in both data collection and data analysis that we believe will play an important role when it comes to future neuroscientific research on violence. In The Potential Promise of Neuroprediction, we discuss whether neuroscience could potentially be used to improve our ability to predict future violence. Finally, in The Potential Perils of Neuroprediction, we explore some potential evidentiary, constitutional, and moral issues that may arise in the context of the neuroprediction of violence. (shrink)
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)
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)
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)
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)
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 explicate and evaluate arguments both for and against the insanity defense itself, different versions of the insanity defense (M'Naghten, Model Penal Code, and Durham (or Product)), the Irresistible Impulse rule, and various reform proposals.
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)
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)
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)
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)
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)
Instead of arguing about whether moral judgments are based on emotion or reason, moral psychologists should investigate the reliability of moral judgments by checking rates of framing effects in different kinds of moral judgments under different conditions by different people.
Analytic particularism claims that judgments of moral wrongness are about particular acts rather than general principles. Metaphysical particularism claims that what makes true moral judgments true is not general principles but nonmoral properties of particular acts. Epistemological particularism claims that studying particular acts apart from general principles can justify beliefs in moral judgments. Methodological particularism claims that we will do better morally in everyday life if we look carefully at each particular decision as it arises and give up the search (...) for a complete moral theory. This paper raises problems for each of these versions of particularism. (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.
This paper explores whether brain images may be admitted as evidence in criminal trials under Federal Rule of Evidence 403, which weighs probative value against the danger of being prejudicial, confusing, or misleading to fact finders. The paper summarizes and evaluates recent empirical research relevant to these issues. We argue that currently the probative value of neuroimages for criminal responsibility is minimal, and there is some evidence of their potential to be prejudicial or misleading. We also propose experiments that will (...) directly assess how jurors are influenced by brain images. (shrink)
The chapter focuses on the philosophical debate between moral motivational internalism and externalism. The author analyzes and thereby challenges the conceptual problems underlying this quarrel in relation to the apparent empirical findings on psychopathy. Major obstacles in making progress in this debate are conceptual and methodological problems. First, there is not a clear-cut and undisputed definition of moral internalism. Second, empirical results about a lack of moral judgment are not forthcoming, since it is not certain how to test such an (...) impairment, and also who is to count as psychopaths in the first place. In conclusion both externalists and internalists are wrong in some respect: internalists in that they see an internal connection between moral judgments and motivation, externalists in their rejection of internalism on grounds of findings about psychopathy. (shrink)
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.
Is Goodness Without God Good Enough contains a lively debate between William Lane Craig and Paul Kurtz on the relationship between God and ethics, followed by seven new essays that both comment on the debate and advance the broader discussion of this important issue. Written in an accessible style by eminent scholars, this book will appeal to students and academics alike.
The rule ‘Keep your promises’ is often presented as a challenge to consequentialism, because the ground of your moral obligation not to break a promise seems to lie in the past fact that you made the promise, which is not a consequence of the act. A different picture emerges, however, when we move beyond the question of whether you have any moral obligation at all to the related question of how strong that obligation is.If I promise to meet you and (...) some other mutual friends for a casual lunch, then my moral obligation to meet you is not as strong as when I promise to drive you to the airport to catch an important flight. Why not? The natural answer is that, if I break the lunch promise, not much bad will happen. You will still have a pleasant lunch with our other friends, and you and I can still have lunch some other time. I have some moral obligation to meet you, but not a very strong one. In contrast, if I break my driving promise, then my failure will cause much more harm, assuming that you will not find another way to get to the airport in time for your flight. These harmful consequences to you seem to be what give strength to my moral obligation to keep this promise.The relevant kind of strength is measured by how much is needed to override the obligation. I would need much stronger reasons to justify breaking my promise to drive you to the airport than to justify breaking my promise to meet you for lunch. The fact that my teenage child is sick at home might be enough to justify missing the lunch, even if the teenager would be safe at …. (shrink)
Scrupulosity raises fascinating issues about the nature of moral judgment and about moral responsibility. After defining scrupulosity, describing its common features, and discussing concrete case studies, we discuss three peculiar aspects of moral judgments made by scrupulous patients: perfectionism, intolerance of uncertainty, and moral thought-action fusion. We then consider whether mesh and reasons-responsiveness accounts of responsibility explain whether the scrupulous are morally responsible.
Many philosophers claim that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’. In light of recent empirical evidence, however, some skeptics conclude that philosophers should stop assuming the principle unconditionally. Streumer, however, does not simply assume the principle’s truth; he provides arguments for it. In this article, we argue that his arguments fail to support the claim that ‘ought’ implies ‘can’.
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)
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.
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)
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.