The main aim of this paper is to identify a type of fact-given warrant for action that is distinct from reason-based justification for action and defend the view that there are two types of practical warrant. The idea that there are two types of warrant is familiar in epistemology, but has not received much attention in debates on practical normativity. On the view that I will defend, normativefacts, qua facts, give rise to entitlement warrant for action. (...) But they do not, qua facts, give rise to reason-based warrant. Normative practical reasons, I will argue, are true propositions that represent fact-based favouring and that are made true by normativefacts. (shrink)
In his essay “Pre-Conventions: A Fragment of the Background”, Bruno Celano seems to endorse three claims about what he calls ‘pre-conventions’: that such ‘entities’ exist; that they are neither rules nor de facto regularities; and that their ‘character’ is at once factual and normative: that pre-conventions are “literally, ‘normativefacts’.” I suggest that and are not particularly striking claims, and that Celano’s case for is unpersuasive.
In “Pre-Conventions. A Fragment of the Background”, Celano argues that there are ways of acting that can be called “conventions” which are, literally, normativefacts. There are a number of interesting claims in Celano’s paper about the nature of these conventions, and showing that they amount to normativefacts is only part of his strategy for establishing their significance. But given that the question of whether there are normativefacts deserves a treatment of its (...) own, the paper inquires whether Celano’s account of normativefacts is plausible. It then makes three claims. First, it claims that Celano’s account of normativefacts is in need of clarification. Amongst other reasons, there is no proper characterisation of either the concept of fact or of the concept of norm. Second, the paper claims that, under a relatively acceptable way of understanding facts and norms, Celano’s argument in favour of normativefacts needs to be completed. But if the argument is completed by appealing to the general philosophical outlook which Celano seems inclined to employ, the argument reaches a point where it becomes unstable. This does not, of course, mean that the project should be abandoned. An argument within the same line of thought may be available. But the prospect seems uninviting. So, thirdly, the paper proposes a sketch of an alternative, Kantian-like conception of normativefacts based on an argument put forward by Christine Korsgaard. (shrink)
In this paper, I deploy an argument that I have developed in a number of recent papers in the service of three projects. First, I show that the most influential version of legal positivism – that associated with H.L.A. Hart – fails. The argument’s engine is a requirement that a constitutive account of legal facts must meet. According to this rational-relation requirement, it is not enough for a constitutive account of legal facts to specify non-legal facts that (...) modally determine the legal facts. The constitutive determinants of legal facts must provide reasons for the obtaining of the legal facts (in a sense of “reason” that I develop). I show that the Hartian account is unable to meet this requirement. That officials accept a rule of recognition does not by itself constitute a reason why the standards specified in that rule are part of the law of the community. I argue that it is false that understanding the explanatory significance of officials’ acceptance of a rule is part of our reflective understanding of the nature of law. The second project of the paper is to respond to a family of objections that challenge me to explain why normativefacts and descriptive facts together are better placed to provide reasons for legal facts than descriptive facts alone. A unifying theme of the objections is that explanations have to stop somewhere; descriptive facts, it is suggested, are no worse a stopping place than normativefacts. Third, the paper spells out a consequence of the rational-relation requirement: if an account of what, at the most basic level, determines legal facts is true in any possible legal system, it is true in all possible legal systems. For example, if a Hartian account of legal facts is true in any possible legal system, it is true in all possible legal systems. I use this all-or-nothing result in my critique of a Hartian account, but the result is of interest in its own right. (shrink)
Much moral skepticism stems from the charge that moral facts do not figure in causal explanations. However, philosophers committed to normative epistemological discourse (by which I mean our practice of evaluating beliefs as justified or unjustified, and so forth) are in no position to demand that normativefacts serve such a role, since epistemic facts are causally impotent as well. I argue instead that pragmatic reasons can justify our continued participation in practices which, like morality (...) and epistemology, do not serve the function of causal explanation. Finally, I defend this pragmatic justification of morality and epistemology against a number of objections, including the objection that it confuses practical and theoretical justification. (shrink)
Much moral skepticism stems from the charge that moral facts do not figure in causal explanations. However, philosophers committed to normative epistemological discourse are in no position to demand that normativefacts serve such a role, since epistemic facts are causally impotentas well. I argue instead that pragmatic reasons can justify our continued participation in practices which, like morality and epistemology, do not servethe function of causal explanation.
In Kelsen's formalist and reductionist theory of law, the concepts of `authority' and `competence' may be explained exclusively in terms of those norms on which the validity of other legal norms or of legal acts is dependent. Kelsen describes the nature of these norms in different ways; at least three different conceptions can be distinguished. A rational reconstruction of the most plausible of these conceptions will understand sentences expressing such `norms of competence' either to state truth conditions for normative (...) sentences of a lower level or to state criteria for an act to be a legal act. In both functions, norms of competence regulate the creation of normativefacts. (shrink)
This paper is about the relationship between two widely accepted and apparently conflicting claims about how we should understand the notion of ‘reason giving’ invoked in theorising about reasons for action. According to the first claim, reasons are given by facts about the situation of agents. According to the second claim, reasons are given by ends. I argue that the apparent conflict between these two claims is less deep than is generally recognised.
Many philosophers have been concerned with the nature of thick normative concepts. In this paper, I try to motivate a different project: understanding the nature of thick normative properties and facts. I propose a ground-theoretic approach to this project. I then argue that some of the simplest and most initially plausible ways of understanding thick facts fail, and that we are forced to accept some initially implausible views. I try to show how these views are not (...) so implausible after all. (shrink)
I present and defend (1) an account of ethical judgments as judgments about our reasons to feel specific motivationally laden attitudes, (2) an account of what an agent should do in terms of what would achieve ends that she has reason to be motivated to pursue, and (3) an account of an agent’s reasons for motivation (and thus action) in terms of the prescriptions of the most fundamental principles that guide her deliberations. Using these accounts, I explain the connection between (...) ethics and reasons for action, how ethical judgments are both descriptive and intrinsically motivating, and how ethical facts arise from facts about agents’ deliberations. (shrink)
Within this paper, I examine Godless normative realism, a naturalistic explanation of morality given by Erik Wielenberg and determine whether the theory poses a threat to abductive moral arguments for the existence of God. In particular, I argue that Wielenberg’s theory is a possible explanation for the existence of moral facts and that it offers a motivation for one to act morally, but that theism, as a whole, remains a better explanation for the moral aspects of the world. (...) To do so, I defend the legitimacy of weak forms of DCT, identify a few areas in which Godless normative realism fails to explain moral aspects of the world, and conclude with a few reasons for thinking that the explanatory scope of theism is superior to that of Wielenberg’s theory. I conclude that abductive moral arguments for the existence of God remain largely unscathed by Godless normative realism. (shrink)
Cohen’s hostility to Rawls’ justification of the Difference Principle by social facts spawned Cohen’s general thesis that ultimate principles of justice and morality are fact-insensitive, but explain how any fact-sensitive principle is grounded in facts. The problem with this thesis, however, is that when facts F ground principle P, reformulating this relation as the "fact-insensitive" conditional “If F, then P” is trivial and thus explanatorily impotent. Explanatory, hence justificatory, force derives either from subsumption under more general principles, (...) or precisely exhibiting value in light of relevant (actual or hypothetical) facts. In examples where no subsumption occurs, actual facts trivially become hypothetical facts in "fact-insensitive" conditionals, an empty formalism. Indeed, Rawls’ grounding of principles of justice in “conditions of life” can easily be reformulated as a conditional principle “sensitive” only to hypothetical such conditions, and thus formally fact-insensitive in Cohen's sense, for all Cohen’s ire against Rawls’s grounding.Moreover, any plausible “ultimate fact-insensitive principle” must be intricately qualified, which tacit ceteris paribus clauses mask. Each qualification implies prioritisation of one principle over another in conceivable circumstances, and wherever the now qualified principle is given scope, that too implies prioritisation over competing principles in typical circumstances. Any principle is thus sensitive to conceivable circumstances of application, as recognised by more sophisticated intuitionisms. Non-trivial ultimate principles – luck egalitarianism, act utilitarianism, etc. - require defense, which inevitably involves showing how they best interpret and respond to facts about human needs, goals, and capacities in predictable circumstances. Finally, the substantive debate between Rawls and Cohen about which facts are relevant to the DP is only obscured by the doctrine of fact-insensitivity. (shrink)
This paper offers a defence of the distinction between agent-neutral and agent-relative reasons for action from scepticism aired by Toni Rønnow-Rasmussen. In response it is argued that the Nagelian notion of an agent-neutral reason is not incomprehensible, and that agent-neutral reasons can indeed be understood as obtaining states of affairs that count in favour of anyone and everyone performing the action they favour. Furthermore, I argue that a distinction drawn between agent-neutral and agent-relative reason-statements that express the salient features of (...) reason-constitutive states of affairs is neither reductive in the sense of reducing normative reasons to the propositional content of an agent’s mental state, nor trivial in the sense of locating the distinction merely in an agent’s description of the world. (shrink)
n his 1785 review of Herder’s Ideen zur Geschichte der Menschheit Kant stresses the negative effects of sensibility and imagination in undermining philosophy. This essay will offer a defence of Herder against Kant in order to gesture towards a more positive account of the cognitive function of these capacities. I will argue that the eighteenth-century fascination with the experimental sciences and the demand to engage in anti-speculative philosophy in fact called for the integration of sensibility and imagination. The reason for (...) this call is that it is in virtue of these capacities that the mind is able to focus on the world of particulars and avoid the kind of metaphysical speculation that came under attack for its failure to account for the experienceable reality of human life. By analysing which cognitive role Herder attributes to our sensible and imaginative engagement with the world, it will emerge that the kind of inquiry advocated as a remedy against school metaphysics was not a reductive form of verificationism that pits the benefits of observation against reason, but a position marked by the belief that the mind’s best results can be achieved only if it commits itself to an integrated use of its rational and non-rational capacities. (shrink)
Norms explained as grounds of practical judgment, using example of queue. Some norms informal, inexact, depend on common understanding ; some articulated in context of two-tier normative order: `rules', explicit or implicit. Logical structure of rules displayed. Informal and formal normative order explained, `institutional facts ' depend on acts and events interpreted in the light of normative order. Practical force of rules differentiated; either `absolute application' or `strict application' or `discretionary application', depending on second-tier empowerment. Discretion (...) can be guided by values, principles standards. Pervasiveness of institutions and institutional facts, especially but not only in relation to institutions of state-law, including constitution and state-institutions. Searle's and Ruiter's theories of institution, institutional fact, considered: `constitutive rule' rejected in favour of `underlying principle', structure of `institutive, consequential and terminative' rules explained and defended. Ruiter's conception of `institutional `régime' considered and adopted, validity of norms and normative `régimes' considered and differentiated from truth of statements of institutional fact. (shrink)
David Enoch has recently proposed that the deliberative indispensability of irreducibly normativefacts suffices to support their inclusion in our ontology, even if they are not necessary for the explanation of any observable phenomena. He challenges dissenters to point to a relevant asymmetry between explanation and deliberation that shows why explanatory indispensability, but not deliberative indispensability, is a legitimate guide to ontology. In this paper, I aim to do just that. Given that an entity figures in the actual (...) explanation of some phenomenon, it is not an open question whether that entity exists. Thus, if you can manage to find actual explanations, you can find answers to ontological questions. In contrast, even if some entity is indispensable to deliberation, it still might not exist. For example, even if some form of libertarian free will is deliberatively indispensable, we still might not have libertarian free will. So even if you manage to discover the indispensable commitments of deliberation, there is still more work to do to get to the bottom of things. That additional work is explanatory work, and so deliberative indispensability is not an independent guide to what there is. (shrink)
I argue that Davidson's conception of motivating reasons as belief-desire pairs suggests a model of normative reasons for action that is superior to the orthodox conception according to which normative reasons are propositions, facts, or the truth-makers of such facts.
Some of our largely unchosen first-order reactions, such as disgust, can underwrite morally-laden character traits. This observation is in tension with the plausible idea that virtues and vices are based on reasons. I propose a way to resolve the tension.
This paper concerns non-causal normative explanations such as ‘This act is wrong because/in virtue of__’. The familiar intuition that normativefacts aren't brute or ungrounded but anchored in non- normativefacts seems to be in tension with the equally familiar idea that no normative fact can be fully explained in purely non- normative terms. I ask whether the tension could be resolved by treating the explanatory relation in normative explanations as the sort (...) of ‘grounding’ relation that receives extensive discussion in recent metaphysics. I argue that this would help only under controversial assumptions about the nature of normativefacts, and perhaps not even then. I won't try to resolve the tension, but draw a distinction between two different sorts of normative explanations which helps to identify constraints on a resolution. One distinctive constraint on normative explanations in particular might be that they should be able to play a role in normative justification. (shrink)
Stephen Finlay’s Confusion of Tongues is a bold and sophisticated book. The overarching goal is metaphysical: to reductively analyze normativefacts, properties, and relations in terms of non-normativefacts, properties, and relations. But the method is linguistic: to first provide a reductive analysis of the corresponding bits of normative language, with a particular focus on ‘good’, ‘ought’, and ‘reason’. The gap between language and reality is then bridged by taking linguistic analysis as a guide to (...) conceptual analysis, and conceptual analysis as a guide to metaphysical analysis. In this review, I consider three challenges to Finlay’s project that deserve more attention than they receive in the book. The first concerns Finlay’s claim to have provided a *reductive* theory of normative language, the second concerns his claim to have provided a *unified* theory of normative language, and the third concerns his claim to have provided a *correct* theory of normative language. (shrink)
David Enoch, in his paper “Why Idealize?”, argues that theories of normative reasons that hold that normativefacts are subject or response-dependent and include an idealization condition might have a problem in justifying the need for idealization. I argue that at least some response-dependence conceptions of normative reasons can justify idealization. I explore two ways of responding to Enoch’s challenge. One way involves a revisionary stance on the ontological commitments of the normative discourse about reasons. (...) To establish this point, I argue by analogy with the case of color perception. To make the analogy, it suffices to show that even if colors are response-dependent properties, it does not follow that some kind of idealization cannot be introduced to specify the truth conditions of color ascriptions. The second route involves the denial of Enoch’s contention that our normative discourse is implicitly committed to a realist ontology. I adduce reasons for thinking that our normative discourse only presupposes a possibility of misrepresentation. However, this feature of the normative discourse does not favor robustly objectivist as opposed to response-dependence accounts of normative reasons. Thus, I argue that proponents of response-dependence accounts can use this feature to answer the question of why to idealize. (shrink)
Should our factual understanding of the world influence our normative theorising about it? G.A. Cohen has argued that our ultimate normative principles should not be constrained by facts. Many others have defended or are committed to various versions or subsets of that claim. In this paper I dispute those positions by arguing that, in order to resist the conclusion that ultimate normative principles rest on facts about possibility or conceivability, one has to embrace an unsatisfactory (...) account of how principles generate normative political judgments. So political theorists have to choose between principles ostensibly unbiased by our current understanding of human motivation and political reality, or principles capable of reliably generating political judgments. I conclude with wider methodological observations in defence of the latter option, and so of a return to political philosophy’s traditional blend of normative and descriptive elements. (shrink)
We offer a new argument in favour of metanormative contextualism, the thesis that the semantic value of a normative ‘ought’ claim of the form ‘ S ought to Φ’ depends on the value of one or more parameters whose values vary in a way that is determined by the context of utterance. The debate over this contextualist thesis has centred on cases that involve ‘ought’ claims made in the face of uncertainty regarding certain descriptive facts. Contextualists, relativists, and (...) invariantists all have plausible ways of explaining these cases, and one could reasonably judge the debate between these views to be a stalemate. We argue that this stalemate can be broken by shifting focus to a case that involves normative uncertainty rather than descriptive uncertainty. While relativist and invariantist rivals of contextualism can give plausible accounts of the descriptive uncertainty cases, only contextualism can provide a plausible account of the normative uncertainty case. (shrink)
In this paper, I seek to undermine G.A. Cohen ’s polemical use of a metaethical claim he makes in his article, ‘ Facts and Principles’, by arguing that that use requires an unsustainable equivocation between epistemic and logical grounding. I begin by distinguishing three theses that Cohen has offered during the course of his critique of Rawls and contractualism more generally, the foundationalism about grounding thesis, the justice as non-regulative thesis, and the justice as all-encompassing thesis, and briefly argue (...) that they are analytically independent of each other. I then offer an outline of the foundationalism about grounding thesis, characterising it, as Cohen does, as a demand of logic. That thesis claims that whenever a normative principle is dependent on a fact, it is so dependent in virtue of some other principle. I then argue that although this is true as a matter of logic, it, as Cohen admits, cannot be true of actual justifications, since logic cannot tell us anything about the truth as opposed to the validity of arguments. Facts about a justification cannot then be decisive for whether or not a given argument violates the foundationalism about grounding thesis. As long as, independently of actual justifications, theorists can point to plausible logically grounding principles, as I argue contractualists can, Cohen ’s thesis lacks critical bite. (shrink)
Normative pluralism is the view that practical reason consists in an irreducible plurality of normative domains, that these domains sometimes issue conflicting recommendations and that, when this happens, there is never any one thing that one ought simpliciter to do. Here I argue against this view, noting that normative pluralism must be either unrestricted or restricted. Unrestricted pluralism maintains that all coherent standards are reason-generating normative domains, whereas restricted pluralism maintains that only some are. Unrestricted pluralism, (...) depending on how it is cashed out, is either nihilism about practical reason or else it is subjectivism. Neither view is consistent with normative pluralism; hence, pluralism must be restricted. Restricted pluralism, however, faces two problems. The first stems from the question: “Why is it that some standards are normative domains while others are not?” The question seems to demand an answer, but it is hard to give any answer without appealing to considerations that imply facts about what we ought simpliciter to do. Second, restricted pluralism has difficulty accounting for our intuitions about cases in which one option is optimal in all domains, but not better than each alternative in any one domain. The unique option that is optimal in every domain seems better than its competitors, though it isn’t better within any domain. This is different than the widely discussed argument from notable-nominal comparisons. So I conclude that we have good reason to reject restricted pluralism, the only form of normative pluralism really worthy of that name. (shrink)
The paper pores over the recent conceptions of normative judgement developed against the background of advances in psychology and neuroscience. It begins by analyzing what normative claim of morality and law consists of before presenting and criticizing the Social Intuitionist Model of normative judgement developed by Jonathan Haidt. The model poses serious challenges for well-established normative concepts, and the concept of normativity as objective reason for action in particular. A question is asked of what the relationship (...) between philosophical conceptions and the findings of neuroscience should be. The conclusion is that, in the face of new scientific facts, philosophers have no choice but to carefully revise their conceptual schemes. (shrink)
The paper develops a score-keeping model of illocutionary games and uses it to account for mechanisms responsible for creating institutional facts construed as rights and commitments of participants in a dialogue. After introducing the idea of Austinian games—understood as abstract entities representing different levels of the functioning of discourse—the paper defines the main categories of the proposed model: interactional negotiation, illocutionary score, appropriateness rules and kinematics rules. Finally, it discusses the phenomenon of accommodation as it occurs in illocutionary games (...) and argues that the proposed model presupposes an externalist account of illocutionary practice. (shrink)
In his article on pre-conventions, Celano presents, what the author calls, the Ontological Commitment Thesis and the Normative Bite Thesis. In this short comment, the author argues that the two theses are together both incompatible with the idea that pre-conventions are facts which have causal powers in human behaviour; also, if the ontological thesis is abandoned, normative determination could not be obtained. In other terms, the author argues that either pre-conventions are part of our causal explanation of (...) human behaviour or pre-conventions are abstract entities able to determine human behaviour normatively. In the first case, pre-conventions lack normative meaning, while in the second pre-conventions cannot integrate our causal explanation of human actions. Tertium non datur. (shrink)
I. Playing a Game II. The Precondition to Mete out a Legal Sanction III. A Non-cognitively Homogeneous Activity IV. The Reproduction of the Law as a System 1. The Claim for Normative Closedness 2. The Openness of the Communication about Facts Rule of law proclaims the ethos of legal distinctiveness through institutionalizing normative closure, while the rule of facts proclaims a legal functioning embedded in facts as rooted in common sense evidence, backed by practical openness (...) in its functioning. All in all, while rule of law argues for the law’s self-differentiation, the rule of facts ascertains why legal enterprise is (notwithstanding the same) what the heterogeneity of everyday practice and experience suggest it is. In the final analysis, I guess that these two aspects are able only in supplementation of one another to serve the common interest in making the law operate in a socially meaningful way. That is, they are to guarantee distinctively legal operation actually taking place, on the one hand, at a time when and under the conditions in which all its normative preconditions are fully met, on the other. (shrink)
What exactly is reasoning? Like many other philosophers, I shall endorse a broadly causal conception of reasoning. Reasoning is a causal process, in which one mental event (say, one’s accepting the conclusion of a certain argument) is caused by an antecedent mental event (say, one’s considering the premises of the argument). Just like causal accounts of action and causal accounts of perception, causal accounts of reasoning have to confront a version of what has come to be known as the problem (...) of deviant causal chains. In this paper, I shall propose an account of the nature of reasoning, incorporating a solution to the specific version of the deviant causal chains problem that arises for accounts of reasoning. One striking feature of my solution is that it requires that certain normativefacts are causally efficacious. It might be thought that this feature will make my account incompatible with any plausibly naturalistic approach to understanding the mind. I shall argue that this is not so: my account of the nature of reasoning is quite compatible with plausible versions of naturalism. (shrink)
I offer a new argument against the legal positivist view that non-normative social facts can themselves determine the content of the law. I argue that the nature of the determination relation in law is rational determination: the contribution of law-determining practices to the content of the law must be based on reasons. That is why it must be possible in principle to explain what makes the law have the content that it does. It follows, I argue, that non- (...) class='Hi'>normativefacts about statutes, judicial decisions, and other practices cannot themselves determine the content of the law. A full account must appeal to considerations independent of the practices that determine the relevance of the practices to the content of the law. Normativefacts are the best candidates. (shrink)
In this paper, I propose a new way of understanding the space of possibilities in the field of mental content. The resulting map assigns separate locations to theories of content that have generally been lumped together on the more traditional map. Conversely, it clusters together some theories of content that have typically been regarded as occupying opposite poles. I make my points concrete by developing a taxonomy of theories of mental content, but the main points of the paper concern not (...) merely how to classify, but how to understand, the theories. Also, though the paper takes theories of mental content as a case study, much of the discussion is applicable to theories of other phenomena. To a first approximation, the difference between the traditional and the proposed taxonomies turns on whether we classify theories of content by, on the one hand, their implications for a non-redundant supervenience base for content facts (i.e., for facts about what contents thoughts have) or, on the other, by their constitutive accounts of content. By a "constitutive account," I mean the kind of elucidation of the nature of a phenomenon that theorists have tried to give for, for example, knowledge, justice, personal identity, consciousness, convention, heat, and limit. The tendency to taxonomize by supervenience base is encouraged, I suggest, by a failure to keep clearly in view a distinction between constitutive and modal determination. Many philosophers would accept that a constitutive account cannot be captured in purely modal terms. Giving a constitutive account is not the same as specifying modally necessary and sufficient conditions. Nevertheless, philosophers often try to cash constitutive claims in modal terms. A case in point is that theories of content tend to be conceptualized in terms of the theories' implications for a supervenience base for content facts. My thesis goes beyond the by-now somewhat familiar proposition that not all modal determinants of a phenomenon are constitutive determinants. One who has taken that point on board might nevertheless conceive of a philosophical account as an attempt to specify constitutive determinants of the target phenomenon that make up a non-redundant supervenience base for the phenomenon. Shoehorning a philosophical account into this form leaves out elements that are modally redundant, but may be explanatorily or ontologically significant. For example, when a constitutive account has multiple levels, the different levels will typically be modally redundant. Formulating the account as a specification of a supervenience base of constitutive determinants will therefore flatten the account into a single level. Many of my arguments can be illustrated by considering the place of normativity in the theory of content. The new taxonomy gives a distinct niche to normative theories of content - theories that explain a thought's having a certain content at least in part in terms of the obtaining of normativefacts. By contrast, on a traditional map, normative theories are invisible as such because normativefacts supervene on non-normative ones. (shrink)
Nobody's going to object to the advice "Do the right thing", but that doesn't mean everyone's always going to follow it. Sometimes this is because of our volitional limitations; we cannot always bring ourselves to make the sacrifices that right action requires. But sometimes this is because of our cognitive limitations; we cannot always be sure of what is right. Sometimes we can't be sure of what's right because we don't know the non-normativefacts. But sometimes, even if (...) we were to know all of the non-normativefacts, we'd still not be sure about what's right, because we're uncertain about the normative reasons those facts give us. In this dissertation, I attempt to answer the question of what we're to do when we must act under fundamentally normative uncertainty. It's tempting to think that, in such circumstances, we should do what we regard as most probably right. I argue that this view is mistaken, for it is insensitive to how degrees of actions' values compare across different normative hypotheses; if an action is probably right, but, if wrong, is terribly, terribly, wrong, it may be rational not to do that action. A better answer is that we should do the action with the highest expected value. I spend the first part of the dissertation providing arguments for and rebutting arguments against this view of action under normative uncertainty. I spend the next part of the dissertation explaining what degrees of value are, and showing how they can be compared across normative hypotheses. In the remaining parts of the dissertation, I consider two questions related to our primary question -- first, what is one required, or obligated, to do under normative uncertainty; and second, what is it rational for one to do when one is not only normatively uncertain in the way we've been discussing, but also uncertain about what it is rational to do under this sort of normative uncertainty. (shrink)
Surprisingly, many ethical realists and anti-realists, naturalists and not, all accept some version of the following normative appeal to the natural (NAN): evaluative and normativefacts hold solely in virtue of natural facts, where their naturalness is part of what fits them for the job. This paper argues not that NAN is false but that NAN has no adequate non-parochial justification (a justification that relies only on premises which can be accepted by more or less everyone (...) who accepts NAN) to back up this consensus. I show that we cannot establish versions of NAN which are interesting in their own right (and not merely as instances of a general naturalistic ontology) by appealing to the nature of natural properties or the kind of in-virtue-of relation to which NAN refers, plus other plausible nonparochial assumptions. On the way, I distinguish different types of 'in virtue of claims. I conclude by arguing that the way in which assessment of meta-ethical hypotheses is theory-dependent predicts the failure of non-parochial justifications of NAN. (shrink)
In this article, I articulate and respond to an epistemological challenge to meta-normative realism. The challenge has it that, if realism about the normative is correct, and if evolutionary forces have significantly influenced our normative judgments, then it would be a remarkable coincidence if the content of the normativefacts and our normative judgments were aligned. I criticize David Enoch's recent attempt to meet this challenge, but provide an alternative response that is structurally similar. (...) I argue that if realism is correct, then it would be remarkable if the content of our normative judgments and the normativefacts were not significantly aligned. (shrink)
Joshua Gert offers an original account of normativefacts and properties, those which have implications for how we ought to behave. He argues that our ability to think and talk about normative notions such as reasons and benefits is dependent on how we respond to the world around us, including how we respond to the actions of other people.
Many non-naturalists about the normative want to endorse the view that some normativefacts hold in virtue of both non-normativefacts and normative principles. In this paper, I argue that non-naturalism is inconsistent with this thesis, due to the nature of normative principles and their grounds. I then consider two ways in which the nonnaturalist position could be modified or expanded to solve this problem. No solution, it turns out, is without its problems. (...) I end by considering how the non-naturalist can deny that normativefacts obtain partially in virtue of principles. (shrink)
ABSTRACTIt is often held that disagreement over non-normativefacts is less significant to the project of public justification than disagreement over relevant moral norms. But this dismissal of non-normative factual disagreement is unjustified—an ad hoc attempt to save the ideal of public justification from the endemic actual disagreement that threatens it. Disagreement over norms is relevant to political legitimacy; so, too, is disagreement over facts. I draw two implications from this point. First, inasmuch as accounts of (...) public justification typically involve a unanimity condition, public justification should not be thought a desideratum of political legitimacy. Second, virtuous political praxis will often involve enforcing legislation in spite of unresolved non-normative factual disagreement. That is, with respect to legitimacy, there is nothing morally amiss about such legislation. Clearly these last claims presuppose some basis for legitimacy other than agreement; I will only gesture at what this might be. Assuming that much actual legislation is indeed legitimate, though—in spite of extant normative and non-normative disagreement—I go so far as concluding that such a basis, whatever it is, must exist. (shrink)
Recent arguments for normative realism have centered on attempts to meet a demand on normativefacts articulated by harman, That they be required for explanations of uncontroversial phenomena. This paper argues that another argument for normative realism should take precedence, An argument suggested by williams's skeptical discussion of moral objectivity in "ethics and the limits of philosophy".
This paper proposes a new relational account of concepts and shows how it is particularly well suited to characterizing normative concepts. The key advantage of our ‘connectedness’ model is that it explains how subjects can share the same normative concepts despite radical divergences in the descriptive or motivational commitments they associate with them. The connectedness model builds social and historical facts into the foundations of concept identity. This aspect of the model, we suggest, reshapes normative epistemology (...) and provides new resources for a vindication of realism in ethics. (shrink)