Perfectionism has acquired a number of meanings in contemporary
moral and political philosophy. The term is used to refer to an
account of a good human life, an account of human well-being, a moral
theory, and an approach to politics. Historically, perfectionism
is associated with ethical theories that characterize the human good in
terms of the development of human nature. Writers as diverse as
Aristotle, Aquinas, Spinoza, Marx, and T.H. Green are perfectionists in
this sense. Speaking generally, perfectionist writers advance an objective
account of the good and then develop an account of ethics and/or
politics that is informed by this account of the good.
I apologise a lot. Whenever I write an email, I apologise for the tardiness of my response (“I’ve just been so overwhelmed; please forgive me!”). Whenever I pass a sarcastic comment that offends someone, I apologise for the offence. …
Superficially, dreidel appears to be a simple game of luck, and a badly designed game at that. It lacks balance, clarity, and (apparently) meaningful strategic choice. From this perspective, its prominence in the modern Hannukah tradition is puzzling. …
. In preparation for a new post that takes up some of the recent battles on reforming or replacing p-values, I reblog an older post on power, one of the most misunderstood and abused notions in statistics. …
Suppose you agreed with me that the science of well-being should strive to be value-apt, that mid-level theories is the way to provide value-aptness, and that all of this is compatible with scientific objectivity. …
Anna Alexandrova, A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being (OUP, 2017)Here’s an attitude I sometimes encounter among scientists: “It is not my job as a scientist to figure out what true well-being is and to choose my constructs accordingly. …
Like most other ancient philosophers, Plato maintains a virtue-based
eudaemonistic conception of ethics. That is to say, happiness or
well-being (eudaimonia) is the highest aim of moral thought
and conduct, and the virtues (aretê:
‘excellence’) are the requisite skills and dispositions
needed to attain it. If Plato’s conception of happiness is
elusive and his support for a morality of happiness seems somewhat
subdued, there are several reasons. First, he nowhere defines the
concept or makes it the direct target of investigation, but introduces
it in an oblique way in the pursuit of other questions.
[Thanks to the Singularity Bros podcast for inspiring me to write this post. It was a conversation I had with the hosts of this podcast that prompted me to further elaborate on the idea of ethical behaviourism.] …
I’ve been thinking about Thomson’s Violinist case. I should say about that case that it seems utterly obvious to me that in the case where the violinist is your child and you are in no long term danger from the connection, it’s a vicious failure of parental duties to disconnect. …
Anna Alexandrova, A Philosophy for the Science of Well-Being (OUP, 2017)Different people expect different things from theories of well-being. Some expect that they systematise in a maximally general way intuitions about goods that constitute well-being, others that they states most important causes of well-being, still others that they help them to lead a good life. …
Kuhn argued that scientific theory choice is, in some sense, a rational matter, but one that is not fully determined by shared objective scientific virtues like accuracy, simplicity, and scope. Okasha imports Arrow’s impossibility theorem into the context of theory choice to show that rather than not fully determining theory choice, these virtues cannot determine it at all. If Okasha is right, then there is no function (satisfying certain desirable conditions) from ‘preference’ rankings supplied by scientific virtues over competing theories (or models, or hypotheses) to a single all-things-considered ranking. This threatens the rationality of science. In this paper we show that if Kuhn’s claims about the role that subjective elements play in theory choice are taken seriously, then the threat dissolves.
I'm puzzled that in the literature on the nature of sex, gender, race, etc., there are so few philosophers who take a biological realist stance. Maybe this is a function of who is drawn to these topics. …
My interest in what is now called the science of well-being dates back to my graduate school days at UC San Diego. Sometime in the mid-aughts I came across a debate between psychologists who advanced ‘hedonic profile’ measures of happiness and those who favoured life satisfaction questionnaires. …
Via Wikimedia Commons
We’ve all heard the saying “Guns don’t kill people, people do”. It’s a classic statement of the value-neutrality thesis. This is the thesis that technology, by itself, is value-neutral. …
I present a new problem for those of us who wish to avoid the repugnant conclusion. The problem is an intrapersonal, risky analogue of the mere addition paradox. The problem is important for three reasons. First, it highlights new conditions at least one of which must be rejected in order to avoid the repugnant conclusion. Some solutions to Parfit’s original puzzle do not obviously generalize to our intrapersonal puzzle in a plausible way. Second, it raises new concerns about how to make decisions under uncertainty for the sake of people whose existence might depend on what we do. Different answers to these questions suggest different solutions to the extant puzzles in population ethics. And, third, the problem suggests new difficulties for leading views about the value of a person’s life compared to her nonexistence.
Case 1: A child is drowning in a dirty pond. You can easily pull out the child. But you’ve got cuts all over your dominant arm and the water is full of nasty bacteria and medical help is a week away. …
Philosophy of the Social Sciences 2017, Vol. 47(6) 410 –439 © The Author(s) 2017 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav DOI: 10.1177/0048393117726172 https://doi.org/10.1177/0048393117726172 journals.sagepub.com/home/pos Many existing defenses of group rights seem to rely on the notion of group freedom. To date, however, no adequate analysis of this notion has been offered. Group freedom is best understood in terms of processes of social categorization that are embedded in social mechanisms. Such processes often give rise to group-specific constraints and enablements. On the proposed social mechanism account, group rights are demands for group freedom. Even so, group rights often serve to eradicate individual unfreedom. Furthermore, generic measures sometimes provide the most appropriate solution to a problem of group unfreedom.
Most marriages begin with an agreement that the relationship be permanent: “till death do us part”, or various equivalents. It is widely recognised that such agreements are not always kept, and in societies where divorce is common, the partners may even reasonably suspect the arrangement will not last until one of the parties dies. Still, marriage until one of the partners dies is the norm.
What does it mean for a thing to be ugly, or perhaps better, for something to be judged as such? We should admit that the matter is not transparent. Maybe that seems odd, since we find things ugly all the time; should not this be plain as day, then? But usually, it is what seems plainest that, in the end, is most obscure. So what, then, is ugliness? What does it mean to find something ugly? Looking to cast some light on the matter, we might consider using Kant’s well-known account of beauty as our starting point, since Kant—apparently following ‘common sense’ (in the usual, and not Kantian sense of the term)—says that ugliness is ‘contrary to beauty’. Assuming the adequacy of Kant’s account of the beautiful, then, we should only need to work out its ‘opposite’ to clarify ugliness.
Feminism is a complex school of thought. Indeed, it’s not really a school of thought at all. It’s many different schools of thought, often uncomfortably lumped together under a single label. Within these schools of thought, there are some that are deeply opposed to mainstream, hardcore pornography. …
Experience can change you in many different ways. To name just two: it can teach you new things, thereby changing your epistemic state; and it can lead you to change what you value and the extent to which you value it, thereby changing your conative state. If an experience changes you in the first way, L. A. Paul dubs it an epistemically transformative experience (henceforth, ETE). If it changes you in the second way, it is a personally transformative experience (Paul, 2014, 2015). Paul argues that the possibility of both sorts of experience poses serious and novel problems for the orthodox theory of rational choice, namely, expected utility theory. In this paper, I will focus only on Paul’s argument that the possibility of ETEs raises a challenge for expected utility theory — I will call her objection the Utility Ignorance Objection. In a pair of earlier papers, I responded to Paul’s challenge (Pettigrew, 2015, 2016), and a number of other philosophers have responded in similar ways (Dougherty et al., 2015; Harman, 2015) — I will call the argument that we have each put forward the Fine-Graining Response.
Arguably the foremost social theorist of the twentieth century, Max
Weber is known as a principal architect of modern social science along
with Karl Marx and Emil Durkheim. Weber’s wide-ranging
contributions gave critical impetus to the birth of new academic
disciplines such as sociology as well as to the significant
reorientation in law, economics, political science, and religious
studies. His methodological writings were instrumental in establishing
the self-identity of modern social science as a distinct field of
inquiry; he is still claimed as the source of inspiration by empirical
positivists and their hermeneutic detractors alike.
The ideal of public justification holds, at a minimum, that the most fundamental political and legal institutions of a society must be publicly justified to each of its members. This essay proposes and defends a new account of this ideal. The account defended construes public justification as an ideal of rational justification, one that is grounded in the moral requirement to respect the rational agency of persons. The essay distinguishes two kinds of justifying reasons that bear on politics and shows how they inform the ideal of public justification. It also decouples public justification from contractualist political morality. The result is a novel account of public justification that departs markedly from how the ideal is commonly characterized, but shows how it retains its distinctiveness as an ideal of politics.
Complicity marks out a way that one person can be liable to sanctions for the wrongful conduct of another. After describing the concept and role of complicity in the law, I argue that much of the motivation for presenting complicity as a separate basis of criminal liability is misplaced; paradigmatic cases of complicity can be assimilated into standard causation-based accounts of criminal liability. But unlike others who make this sort of claim I argue that there is still room for genuine complicity in the law and in morality. In defending this claim, I sketch an approach to complicity which grounds our liability for what others do not in our causal relation to their actions but in our “agency-relations” with others. In such cases, one agent can be liable for the wrongs of second agent to the extent that first authorizes the second to act at her behest. This approach fills the gap where standard causation-based accounts of complicity fail – especially in where several agents cooperatively contribute to an overdetermined harm.
Suppose someone (P1) does something that is wrongful only in virtue of the risk that it will enable another person (P2) to commit a wrongdoing. Suppose further that P1’s conduct does indeed turn out to enable P2’s wrongdoing. The resulting wrong is agentially mediated: P1 is an enabling agent and P2 is an intervening agent. Whereas the literature on intervening agency focuses on whether P2’s status as an intervening agent makes P1’s conduct less bad, I turn this issue on its head by investigating whether P1’s status as an enabling agent makes P2’s conduct more bad. I argue that it does: P2 wrongs not just the victims of ϕ but P1 as well, by acting in a way that wrongfully makes P1 accountable for ϕ. This has serious implications for compensatory and defensive liability in cases of agentially mediated wrongs.
Though the duties of care owed toward innocents in war and in civil life are at the bottom univocally determined by the same ethical principles, Bazargan-Forward argues that those very principles will yield in these two contexts different “in-practice” duties. Furthermore, the duty of care we owe toward our own innocents is less stringent than the duty of care we owe toward foreign innocents in war. This is because risks associated with civil life but not war (a) often increase the expected welfare of the individuals upon whom the risk is imposed, (b) are often imposed with consent, and (c) are often imposed reciprocally. The conclusion—that we have a pro tanto reason for adopting a more stringent standard of risk imposition toward foreign innocents in war—has implications for not only what standards of risk we should adopt in war, but also how we should weigh domestic versus foreign civilian lives.
Unpossessed evidence abounds. There is much to be seen and much to be had. much of it will never have an impact on our epistemic standings, but some of it does. Some evidence is such that we are blameworthy for not having it, and there is a tricky question about how to delineate this class of evidence. in this paper, i address and propose a solution to the dilemma posed by lazy agents on the one hand and agents facing exceptional evidence on the other. One familiar suggestion is that agents are blameworthy when their conduct results from their vices, and i will make a proposal that further analyses such vices in terms of exceptionality facts.
According to a standard interpretation, Plato’s conception of our moral psychology evolved over the course of his written dialogues. In his earlier dialogues, notably the Protagoras, Meno, and Gorgias, Plato’s Socrates maintains that we always do what we believe is best. Many commentators infer from this that Socrates holds that the psyche is simple, in the sense that there is only one ultimate source of motivation: reason. By contrast, in the Republic, Phaedrus, and Timaeus, Socrates holds that the psyche is complex, or has three distinct and semi-autonomous sources of motivation, which he calls the reasoning, spirited, and appetitive parts. While the rational part determines what is best overall and motivates us to pursue it, the spirited and appetitive parts incline us toward different objectives, such as victory, honor, and esteem, or the satisfaction of our desires for food, drink, and sex.
Erich Lehmann 20 November 1917 – 12 September 2009
Erich Lehmann was born 100 years ago today! (20 November 1917 – 12 September 2009). Lehmann was Neyman’s first student at Berkeley (Ph.D 1942), and his framing of Neyman-Pearson (NP) methods has had an enormous influence on the way we typically view them. …
According to Dominic Lopes, expressiveness in pictures should be analyzed solely in terms of “expression looks” of various sorts, namely the look of a figure, a scene and/or a design. But, according to this view, it seems puzzling that expressive pictures should have any emotional effect on their audiences. Yet Lopes explicitly ties his “contour theory” of expression in pictures to empathic responses in spectators. Thus, despite his deflationary account of pictorial expression, he claims that pictures can give us practice in various “empathic skills.” I argue that Lopes’s account of empathic responses to pictures, while interesting and enlightening, nevertheless ignores the most important way in which pictures exercise and enhance our empathic skills, namely, by giving us practice in taking the emotional perspective of another person.