What if your brain could talk to you? ’That’s a silly question’, I hear you say, ‘My brain already talks to me.’
To the best of our current knowledge, the mind is the brain, and the mind is always talking. …
The idea of justice occupies centre stage both in ethics, and in
legal and political philosophy. We apply it to individual
actions, to laws, and to public policies, and we think in each case
that if they are unjust this is a strong, maybe even conclusive, reason
to reject them. Classically, justice was counted as one of the
four cardinal virtues (and sometimes as the most important of the
four); in modern times John Rawls famously described it as ‘the
first virtue of social institutions’ (Rawls 1971, p.3; Rawls,
1999, p.3). We might debate which of these realms of practical
philosophy has first claim on justice: is it first and foremost a
property of the law, for example, and only derivatively a property of
individuals and other institutions?
One of the key ideas in my new book The Philosophical Parent is that we see children as self-like because they "come from us"—in one of several senses. I can't state this as any kind of a universal truth, but it tends to be true, and I think it's with good reason that we see children this way. …
Suppose that a contraceptive has the following properties:
Fewer than 1% of users have a pregnancy annually. At least 5% of users annually experience a cycle where the contraceptive fails to prevent fertilization but does prevent implantation. …
Until fairly recently secession has been a neglected topic among
philosophers. Two factors may explain why philosophers have now begun
to turn their attention to secession. First, in the past two decades
there has been a great increase not only in the number of attempted
secessions, but also in successful secessions, and philosophers may
simply be reacting to this new reality, attempting to make normative
sense of it. The reasons for the frequency of attempts to secede are
complex, but there are two recent developments that make the prospect
of state-breaking more promising: improvement in national security and
liberalization of trade.
Although the proper definition of ‘rape’ is itself a
matter of some dispute, rape is generally understood to involve sexual
penetration of a person by force and/or without that person's consent. Rape is committed overwhelmingly by men and boys, usually against
women and girls, and sometimes against other men and boys. (For the
most part, this entry will assume male perpetrators and female
victims.) Virtually all feminists agree that rape is a grave wrong, one too
often ignored, mischaracterized, and legitimized. Feminists differ,
however, about how the crime of rape is best understood, and about how
rape should be combated both legally and socially.
The paper has a twofold aim. On the one hand, it provides what appears to be the first game-theoretic modeling of Napole´on’s last campaign, which ended dramatically on June 18, 1815, at Waterloo. It is specifically concerned with the decision Napole´on made on June 17, 1815, to detach part of his army and send it against the Prussians, whom he had defeated, though not destroyed, on June 16 at Ligny. Military strategists and historians agree that this decision was crucial but disagree about whether it was rational. Hypothesizing a zero-sum game between Napole´on and Blu¨cher, and computing its solution, we show that dividing his army could have been a cautious strategy on Napole´on’s part, a conclusion which runs counter to the charges of misjudgment commonly heard since Clausewitz. On the other hand, the paper addresses some methodological issues relative to ‘‘analytic narratives’’. Some political scientists and economists who are both formally and historically minded have proposed to explain historical events in terms of properly mathematical game-theoretic models. We liken the present study to this ‘‘analytic narrative’’ methodology, which we defend against some of objections that it has
This paper responds to a new objection, due to Ben Bramble, against attitudinal theories of sensory pleasure and pain: the objection from unconscious pleasures and pains. According to the objection, attitudinal theories are unable to accommodate the fact that sometimes we experience pleasures and pains of which we are, at the time, unaware. In response, I distinguish two kinds of unawareness and argue that the subjects in the examples that support the objection are unaware of their sensations in only a weak sense, and this weak sort of unawareness of a sensation does not preclude its being an object of one’s attitudes.
I'm working through Daniel Batson's latest book, What's Wrong with Morality? Batson distinguishes between four different types of motives for seemingly moral behavior, each with a different type of ultimate goal. …
Ugliness is a neglected topic in contemporary analytic aesthetics. This is regrettable given that this topic is not just genuinely fascinating, but could also illuminate other areas in the field, seeing as ugliness, albeit unexplored, does feature rather prominently in several debates in aesthetics. This paper articulates a ‘deformity-related’ conception of ugliness. Ultimately, I argue that deformity, understood in a certain way, and displeasure, jointly suffice for ugliness. First, I motivate my proposal, by locating a ‘deformity-related’ conception of ugliness in aesthetic tradition, offering examples in support, and rejecting related alternative suggestions. Second, I argue that the proposal boasts considerable merits. Not only does it capture much of what we ordinarily think of as ugly, but it also comprises an objective criterion for ugliness, offers unity and comprehensiveness, and is informative and explanatorily potent. Third, I discuss a number of objections, thereby demonstrating that the proposal withstands reflective scrutiny.
Results in social choice theory such as the Arrow and Gibbard- Satterthwaite theorems constrain the existence of rational collective decision making procedures in groups of agents. The Gibbard—Satterthwaite theorem says that no voting procedure is strategy-proof. That is, there will always be situations in which it is in a voter’s interest to misrepresent its true preferences i.e., vote strategically. We present some properties of strategic voting and then examine 7 via a bimodal logic utilizing epistemic and strategizing modalities 7 the knowledge-theoretic properties of voting situations and note that unless the voter knows that it should vote strategically, and how, i.e., knows what the other voters’ preferences are and which alternate preference P' it should use, the voter will not strategize. Our results suggest that opinion polls in election situations effectively serve as the first n — 1 stages in an n stage election.
The donation and transfer of human gametes (eggs and sperm) for
reproductive purposes raises many important and difficult questions. Some of these relate directly to policy and practice; others are more
conceptual. Gamete donation occupies an interesting position within
bioethics, having something in common both with other forms of
donation (blood and organs, for example) and with
reproductive technologies not involving donation (ranging
from IVF through to more controversial areas like cloning, embryo
selection, and genetic modification). It also shares some features
with adoption and surrogacy, practices which also
(arguably at least) involve the transfer or delegation of parental
duties and rights.
One way to look at the difference between the deaths of humans and brute animals is to say that the death of a human typically deprives the human of goods of rational life that the brute animal is not deprived of. …
Dicing with death
Posted on Tuesday, 13 Jun 2017
In his "Dicing
with Death" (2014), Arif Ahmed presents the following scenario as
a counterexample to causal decision theory (CDT):
You are thinking about going to Aleppo or staying in
August W. Schlegel (Sept. 5, 1767, Hanover – May 12, 1845, Bonn)
was a German essayist, critic, translator, philosopher, and poet. Although the philosophical dimension and profundity of his writings
remain underrated, he is considered to be one of the founders of the
German Romantic Movement—which he conceived of as a European
movement—as well as one of the most prominent disseminators of
its philosophical foundational ideas, not only in Germany but also
abroad and, most notably, in Britain. Schlegel had an outstanding knowledge of art, history, literature,
architecture, anthropology, and foreign languages, which made him a
decisive figure in the early development of comparative literature
This essay makes a case for the practical authority of deliberations and the intentions they yield. I argue that sound deliberations yielding an intention to act are together a (i) content-independent reason not to re-open deliberations about how to act and (ii) a content-independent reason to act as intended on the basis of those sound deliberations. Many philosophers have argued that this sort of ‘bootstrapping’ is impossible. In this essay, I neither rehearse nor challenge those arguments. Rather, my aim is to defend
Lee Bonteçou’s striking and haunting piece, Untitled 1959/1960 is a three-dimensional piece of work rendered out of steel and canvas, framed and hung as if a normal painting. Taut, seemingly grimy canvas is fashioned, using steel armature and thin wire, into two volcanic cones, the centers of which are deep, black ovals. The ovals appear as limitless abysses piercing the space occupied by the artwork. When viewed in the white box of a gallery space, it feels as if Bonteçou has rent a hole in the surface of reality to reveal a lurking, violent deep darkness. This piece, like much of Bonteçou’s work in that era, embodied a startling mix of painting and sculpture. Viewed today, it remains surprising and aesthetically remarkable.
Constitutivism about reasons begins with the idea what we have reason to believe or do is grounded in facts about our nature as acting, believing, and reasoning beings. Thus, constitutivism claims that our nature as rational agents takes explanatory priority over facts about our reasons. We have the reasons we do because we are rational agents of a certain sort.
According to Margaret Gilbert’s collective epistemology, we should take attributions of beliefs to groups seriously, rather than metaphorically or as reducible to individual belief. I argue that, similarly, attributions of belief to markets ought to be taken seriously and not merely as reports of the average beliefs of market participants. While many of Gilbert’s purported examples of group belief are better thought of as instances of acceptance, some collectives, such as courts and markets, genuinely believe. Such collectives enact truth-aimed processes that are beyond the control of any single individual. These processes produce beliefs that are distinct from any individual belief and do not merely report the "average" or "majority" view of the group. In the case of markets, beliefs are indicated by prices, though it is often difficult to infer beliefs from prices and those inferences are almost always uncertain. Market beliefs are justified when traders collectively possess sufficient evidence, there are sufficient incentives for participants to trade based upon the evidence they possess, sophisticated traders have enough power to counter common cognitive biases, and there is no manipulation of prices. Thus, in some cases markets can know.
We present a new “reason-based” approach to the formal representation of moral theories, drawing on recent decision-theoretic work. We show that any moral theory within a very large class can be represented in terms of two parameters: (i) a specification of which properties of the objects of moral choice matter in any given context, and (ii) a specification of how these properties matter. Reason-based representations provide a very general taxonomy of moral theories, as di↵erences among theories can be attributed to di↵erences in their two key parameters.
Jason Brennan says:
June 6, 2017 at 5:17 pm
Thanks for the opportunity to discuss this further. Christiano leads mostly with an empirical critique, but that’s frankly not a promising route for him to take, and I don’t find any of the purported empirical criticisms troubling. …
:: One of the newest research areas in moral philosophy is moral phenomenology: the dedicated study of the experiential dimension of moral mental life. The idea has been to bring phenomenological evidence to bear on some central issues in metaethics and moral psychology, such as cognitivism and noncognitivism about moral judgment, motivational internalism and externalism, and so on. However, moral phenomenology faces certain foundational challenges, pertaining especially to the existence, describability, and importance of its subject matter. This paper addresses these foundational challenges, arguing that moral experiences – in the phenomenal, what-is-like sense of the term – exist, are informatively describable, and are central for the concerns of moral philosophy at large.
The idea of the social contract goes back at least to Epicurus
(Thrasher 2013). In its recognizably modern form, however, the idea is
revived by Thomas Hobbes; it was developed in different ways by John
Locke, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Immanuel Kant. After Kant, the idea
largely fell into disrepute until it was resurrected by John Rawls. It
is now at the heart of the work of a number of moral and political
philosophers. The basic idea is simple: in some way, the agreement of all
individuals subject to collectively enforced social arrangements shows
that those arrangements have some normative property (they are
legitimate, just, obligating, etc.).
Normative non-naturalism is the view that some normative properties or relations are sui generis in the sense that they are not identical to any natural property or relation, nor explicable in any other terms. Here I use the term ‘normativity’ broadly to include phenomena like rationality, reasons (epistemic and practical), oughts and shoulds, and also phenomena like good and bad, right and wrong, etc. Thus, if we interpret G. E. Moore as proposing that goodness is a brute, non-natural property, he would count as a normative non-naturalist. More recently, Scanlon (2014) defended a non-naturalist view on which the relation of being a reason for is brute and non-natural. Non-naturalism has also been defended recently by Oddie (2005), Parfit (2006, 2011), Wedgwood (2007), FitzPatrick (2008, 2014), and Enoch (2011).
« Yet more errors in papers
The Social Justice Warriors are right
As you might know, I haven’t been exactly the world’s most consistent fan of the Social Justice movement, nor has it been the most consistent fan of me. …
The criminal law is broadly retributive insofar as it predicates censure and sanction on culpable or responsible wrongdoing. Wrongdoing for which the agent is not responsible and, hence not culpable (in this sense) is excused. Responsibility and excuse are scalar phenomena, because the capacities constitutive of the normative competence required for responsibility can be had in different degrees and their impairment can be a matter of degree. Ideally, the criminal law would aim to deliver just deserts in cases of partial responsibility, making censure and sanction proportional to the degree of culpable wrongdoing. However, with some qualifications, American criminal law is bivalent about responsibility and excuse. It treats responsibility as all or nothing, and it is very stingy with excuse, in effect, treating many cases of partial responsibility as if the individuals were fully responsible. It is normatively problematic to treat responsibility and excuse as bivalent when the underlying facts about them are scalar in nature. In this essay, I want to explain this concern about the bivalent character of American criminal law, take partial responsibility seriously, and explore realistic alternatives to bivalence about excuse.
There are two main loci of contemporary debate about the nature of Madhyamaka ethics. The first investigates the general issue of whether the Madhyamaka philosophy of emptiness (śūnyavāda) is consistent with a commitment to systematic ethical distinctions. The second queries whether the metaphysical analysis of no-self presented by Śāntideva in his Bodhicaryāvatāra entails the impartial benevolence of a bodhisattva. This article will critically examine these debates and demonstrate the ways in which they are shaped by competing understandings of Madhyamaka conventional truth or reality (saṃvṛtisatya) and the forms of reasoning admissible for differentiating conventional truth from falsity and good from bad.
Amartya Sen has recently levelled a series of what he alleges to be quite serious but very general objections against Rawls, Rawlsian fellow travellers, and other social contract accounts of justice. In The Idea of Justice, published in 2009, Sen specifically charges his target philosophical views with what he calls transcendentalism and procedural parochialism, and with being mistakenly narrowly focused on institutions. He also thinks that there is a basic incoherence—arising from a version of Derek Parfit’s Identity Problem—internal to the Rawlsian theoretical apparatus. Sen would have political philosophy pursue inter-societal comparisons of relative justice more directly and in the manner of social choice theory. Yet the positive argument that he develops in support of this method is quite thin. That aside, Sen’s polemical strategy of inflicting death by a thousand cuts is ineffective against the Rawlsian paradigm. For, as I show herein, none of these criticisms has the force we might be led to expect.
In the discipline of international relations there are contending
general theories or theoretical perspectives. Realism, also known as
political realism, is a view of international politics that stresses
its competitive and conflictual side. It is usually contrasted with
idealism or liberalism, which tends to emphasize cooperation. Realists
consider the principal actors in the international arena to be states,
which are concerned with their own security, act in pursuit of their
own national interests, and struggle for power. The negative side of
the realists’ emphasis on power and self-interest is often their
skepticism regarding the relevance of ethical norms to relations among
David Hartley (1705–57) is the author of Observations on
Man, his Frame, his Duty, and his Expectations (1749)—a
wide-ranging synthesis of neurology, moral psychology, and
spirituality (i.e., our “frame,” “duty,” and
“expectations”). The Observations gained
dedicated advocates in Britain, America, and Continental Europe, who
appreciated it both for its science and its spirituality. As science,
the work grounds consciousness in neuro-physiology, mind in brain. On
this basis, the central concept of “association,” much
discussed by other British philosophers and psychologists, receives
distinctive treatment: the term first names the physiological
process that generates “ideas,” and then the psychological
processes by which perceptions, thoughts, and emotions either link and
fuse or break apart.