In 'Must Consequentialists Kill?' (forthcoming in J Phil), Setiya convincingly argues against the "orthodox" view that commonsense verdicts about the ethics of killing entail agent-relativity. Instead, he observes: "In general, when you should not cause harm to one in a way that will benefit others, you should not want others to do so either." …
In this paper, I explore a conception of self-transformation that attempts to provide a holistic account covering a range of body, mind, and spirit. I draw upon Kym Maclaren’s exploration of the role of the body inspired by the work of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (body); the hermeneutics of Hans-Georg Gadamer (mind [language]); and Ralph Waldo Emerson’s transcendentalism (spirit). I present the case that each of these approaches develops important aspects of self-transformation and can be seen as complementary. I explore this in relation to philosophy as a practical activity, drawing upon Pierre Hadot’s perspective of philosophy as a way of life.
John Rawls recommends a method for evaluating which principles institutions should abide by, known as reflective equilibrium. In this paper, I identify and challenge three assumptions that he makes.
Introduced into the philosophical lexicon during the Eighteenth
Century, the term ‘aesthetic’ has come to be used to
designate, among other things, a kind of object, a kind of judgment, a
kind of attitude, a kind of experience, and a kind of value. For the
most part, aesthetic theories have divided over
questions particular to one or another of these designations:
whether artworks are necessarily aesthetic objects; how to square the
allegedly perceptual basis of aesthetic judgments with the fact that
we give reasons in support of them; how best to capture the elusive
contrast between an aesthetic attitude and a practical one; whether to
define aesthetic experience according to its phenomenological or
representational content; how best to understand the relation between
aesthetic value and aesthetic experience.
A well-known problem, noticed by Meirav, is that it is difficult to distinguish hope from despair. Both the hoper and the despairer are unsure about an outcome and they both have a positive attitude towards it. …
Loyalty is usually seen as a virtue, albeit a problematic one. It is
constituted centrally by perseverance in an association to which a
person has become intrinsically committed as a matter of his or her
identity. Its paradigmatic expression is found in close friendship, to
which loyalty is integral, but many other relationships and
associations seek to encourage it as an aspect of affiliation or
membership: families expect it, organizations often demand it, and
countries do what they can to foster it. May one also have loyalty to
principles or other abstractions? Derivatively. Two key issues in the
discussion of loyalty concern its status as a virtue and, if that
status is granted, the limits to which loyalty ought to be
There is currently a lot of attention on the UK’s “housing crisis”. One issue here is the quantity of available housing. There are commitments to address the shortage of housing in the 2017 manifestos of both the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. …
Intentions have been a central subject of research since contemporary philosophy of action emerged in the middle of the twentieth century. For almost that entire period, the approach has been to treat the study of intentions as separate from the study of morality. This essay offers a brief overview of that history and then suggests some ways forward, as exemplified by the essays collected in this volume.
Animal welfare scientists face an acute version of the problem of inductive risk, since they must choose whether or not to affirm attributions of mental states to animals in advisory contexts, knowing that their decisions hold significant consequences for animal welfare. In such contexts, the burden of proof should be sensitive to the moral consequences of error, but a framework for setting appropriate burdens of proof is lacking. Through reflection on two cases—the case of pain, and the case of cognitive enrichment—I arrive at a tentative general framework based on the principle of expected welfare maximization. I then discuss the limitations of this framework and the important questions it leaves open.
Not long ago, psychologists commonly regarded emotions as disruptions of organized and rational thought and action (Leeper 1948). A functionalist approach, fostered by an adaptationist conception of evolution by natural selection, has in the past few decades led to a very different consensus. Other things being equal, our more enduring capacities must be good for something— though not necessarily for someone: some genes, perhaps, of which organisms are but vehicles (Dawkins 1976); or perhaps for a population or a species as a whole (Gould 2002). That consensus is not, however, committed to the uniformity or universality of our emotional repertoire. The extent to which our emotional potential is malleable remains an open question.
Blame is a central part of our moral practice. As such, it has rightly captured the attention of moral philosophers. There is a large and growing literature on when someone is to blame for a moral transgression and what it is to blame them for it. Its aim has been to secure a set of necessary and sufficient conditions for blameworthiness and blame, respectively.
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One standard objection against classical act consequentialism is that it cannot justify partiality to our loved ones. Classical act consequentialism claims that agents are always required to bring about the impersonally best outcome, or, to put it in more technical terms, that an agent is required to do what she has most reason to do, and that the strength of a reason for action is a function of the value that the action would bring about. The more value an action would realize, the stronger the reason to perform that action, and the action that maximizes value is therefore always supported by the strongest reasons. And classical act consequentialism understands value as agent-neutral value: the goodness of an outcome does not depend on the point of view or the identity of the agent. Agents are therefore not permitted to attach special significance to their own personal relationships when they deliberate about what to do. Of course, relationships might be impersonally valuable, and a world with loving relationships might be better than a world without such relationships. If that is true (and it is plausible to assume that it is), then agents must take the value of relationships into account when they deliberate about what to do. But on an agent-neutral understanding of value, this just means that they are required to regard their own relationships as just as valuable as the relationships of other people. The fact that some relationship is mine bears no special significance.1
Many of us are tempted by the thought that the future is open, whereas the past is not. The future might unfold one way, or it might unfold another; but the past, having occurred, is now settled. In previous work we presented an account of what openness consists in: roughly, that the openness of the future is a matter of it being metaphysically indeterminate how things will turn out to be. We were previously concerned merely with presenting the view and exploring its consequences; we did not attempt to argue for it over rival accounts. That is what we will aim to do in this paper.
Transformative Experience is a rich, insightful, compelling book. LA Paul persuasively argues that our standard way of thinking about major life choices (and some minor ones too) is inadequate, because it fails to take into account the subjective phenomenal values of lived experiences. When deciding whether to do something, we need to assess how good the outcome will be for us. But Paul argues that in many such cases, we simply don’t have enough information to do this. And that’s because we don’t have information about the subjective phenomenal value of the experience we’re considering - that is, we don’t know what it’s like (for us) to have that experience. This means our decision is inherently under-informed. We can’t decide how to assign values to possible outcomes (undergoing the experience or failing to undergo the experience) because we don’t have a complete picture of what those values really are.
Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau all look to empirical accounts of human behavior from their own time, from history, and from travelers’ accounts of foreign lands – as opposed to natural law theory – to ground their theories of human nature. Thus, they are all naturalists of a sort; for them political philosophy must be constrained by the type of beings we are; for them there’s no use in creating a system of justice that could not be instantiated here on this earth with its inhabitants.
Excuses are commonplace. They are part and parcel of our ordinary practice of holding each other morally responsible. But excuses are also curious. They have normative force. Whether someone has an excuse for something they have done matters for how it is rational to respond to their action. For example, an excuses can make it rational to forgo blame, to revise judgments of blameworthiness, and to feel compassion and pity instead of anger and resentment.
Empirical studies of the social lives of non-human primates, cetaceans, and other social animals have prompted scientists and philosophers to debate the question of whether morality and moral cognition exists in non-human animals. Some researchers have argued that morality does exist in several animal species, others that these species may possess various evolutionary building blocks or precursors to morality, but not quite the genuine article, while some have argued that nothing remotely resembling morality can be found in any non-human species. However, these different positions on animal morality generally appear to be motivated more by different conceptions of how the term “morality” is to be defined than on empirical disagreements about animal social behaviour and psychology. After delving deeper into the goals and methodologies of various of the protagonists, I argue that, despite appearances, there are actually two importantly distinct debates over animal morality going on, corresponding to two quite different ways of thinking about what it is to define “morality”, “moral cognition”, and associated notions. Several apparent skirmishes in the literature are thus cases of researchers simply talking past each other. I then focus on what I take to be the core debate over animal morality, which is concerned with understanding the nature and phylogenetic distribution of morality conceived as a psychological natural kind. I argue that this debate is in fact largely terminological and non-substantive. Finally, I reflect on how this core debate might best be re-framed.
When reading literature, we might have an emotional connection with the author, or at least what appears to be such, even when that literature is a work of fiction. But it is unclear how a work of fictional literature could supply the resources for such an experience. It is, after all, a work of fiction, not a report of the author’s experience, as with memoir or autobiography. The task of this paper is twofold: first, to explain the nature and value of this emotional experience; second, to argue that a fictional literary work can supply the resources for such an experience.
Pure Land Buddhist
teachings have played a major role in Japanese intellectual and social
life from the sixth century CE, when emissaries from the Korean
peninsula first officially introduced Buddhist images and texts to the
Japanese court, down to the present. While the influence of the Zen
tradition on Japanese thought and culture is widely acknowledged, the
role of Pure Land Buddhist concepts and sensibilities have tended to
receive only marginal recognition in the West; nevertheless, it is
impossible to ignore their perhaps even more pervasive force. Moreover,
as D. T. Suzuki (1870–1966) has noted,
The Japanese may not have
offered very many original ideas to world thought or world culture, but
in Shin we find a major contribution the Japanese can make to the
outside world and to all other Buddhist
Anarchism is a political theory, which is skeptical of the
justification of authority and power, especially political power. Anarchism is usually grounded in moral claims about the importance of
individual liberty. Anarchists also offer a positive theory of human
flourishing, based upon an ideal of non-coercive consensus building. Anarchism has inspired practical efforts at establishing utopian
communities, radical and revolutionary political agendas, and various
forms of direct action. This entry primarily describes
“philosophical anarchism”: it focuses on anarchism as a
theoretical idea and not as a form of political activism.
Why do we think in moral and evaluative terms (i.e., have moral and evaluative beliefs)? According to some philosophers, it is just because such thinking conferred a fitness advantage on our ancestors (i.e., helped them to survive and reproduce) and we have inherited this disposition. It is not because the things that we morally or evaluatively believe are ever true and we are apprehending or otherwise responding to these truths.1
Let us say that your ends are whatever you have ultimate (underived) reason to do or to bring about. This leaves open whether your ends are stance dependent and so “given” to you by your contingent desires, your nature as a rational being, your self-identity, etc., or whether at least some of your ends are not stance dependent and so not “given” to you in any of these ways. So understood, it is uncontroversial that you have reason to take the means to your ends. More specifically, some reason to do or bring about an end is going to transmit to reason to take the means. Using this as a point of departure, this paper considers what it is to be a means to an end and how much reason transmits from an end to its means. The theory on offer is a probability-raising theory that says roughly this: an action is a means to an end just in case it raises the probability of the end relative to the worst one could do—i.e., relative to that action that would make the end least probable. And the amount of reason transmitted from an end to a given means is a function of the degree to which it raises the probability of the end relative to the worst one could do.
Nicholas Wolterstorff is concerned to find an appropriate grounding of human rights understood as inherent natural rights. Unfortunately, he thinks no adequate secular account of the grounding of such rights is available. Fortunately, however, he thinks that an adequate theistic account of the grounds of human rights is available. According to his proposed account, human rights are grounded in our standing in the relation of being loved by God.1 After saying a word about how Wolterstorff understands rights in general and human rights in particular, I explain his proposed theistic account of the grounding of human rights and argue that it fails.
I f I come to think that I ought to go to Sweden, we might think that this judgment is somewhat appetitive: if I really think this, I must be somewhat inclined to go. But in contrast, if I judge that you ought to go to Sweden, it is far less clear that this involves any kind of inclination on my part: I might really think that you ought to go, but need not be at all in favor of your doing so (indeed, perhaps I would much prefer you to shirk your duties and stay). Other-regarding normative judgments seem to be a matter of mere recognition, not inclination. This casts doubt on noncognitivist views according to which all normative judgments are desire-like. But it fits much better with theories in the vicinity of desire-as-belief, which identify only some normative judgments with desires. So I shall argue. This paper is split into seven sections. Section 1 describes a natural way of formulating noncognitivism, which I label conativism. Section 2 describes the motivation argument, and presents a version that escapes some standard criticisms of that argument. In section 3, I argue that other-regarding normative judgments present a problem for the motivation argument, and indeed present a problem for conativism itself. Sections 4 and 5 consider two possible replies. Section 6 very briefly describes how the problem relates to the Frege-Geach problem. Section 7 argues that some other theories—such as desire-as-belief—may be able to accommodate the motivational role of normative judgment without falling prey to the same problem.
Many philosophers hold that there is an important explanatory and justificatory connection between interests and wrongs.1 But interest-based accounts of wronging face a significant challenge: we believe many acts constitute wrongs whether or not they set back an individual’s interests. Consider a case described by Arthur Ripstein: Suppose that, as you are reading this in your office or in the library, I let myself into your home, using burglary keys that do no damage to your locks, and take a nap in your bed. I make sure everything is clean. I bring hypoallergenic and lint-free pajamas and a hairnet. . . . I do not weigh very much, so the wear and tear to your mattress is non-existent. By any ordinary understanding of harm, I do you no harm.2
This essay argues that normative reasons for action are premises in good practical reasoning. In particular, reasons are considerations that nonnormatively well-informed good deliberation takes into account, and if the reasons are decisive, it is part of good deliberation to be moved to act on them in the way that they support. Something like this claim is often quietly observed as a constraint on theorizing about reasons for action, and sometimes explicitly articulated. Mark Schroeder proposes the “Deliberative Constraint” that “one’s reasons are the kinds of thing that one ought to pay attention to in deliberating,” and suggests that the relative weights of two sets of reasons, R and S, for A to φ depend on which of R or S it is “correct to place more weight on . . . in deliberation about whether to [φ].”1 Kieran Setiya says that reasons for A to φ are premises for “sound reasoning to a desire or motivation to φ,” and sees this as a “harmlessly illuminating” thesis connecting “two things which surely must be connected”: reasons for action and practical thinking or deliberation.2 Jonathan Way says that it is “near platitudinous” that “a reason for you to φ must be an appropriate premise for reasoning towards φ-ing.”3 Borrowing Schroeder’s term, call the general idea that reasons for action are considerations that good deliberation takes into account and, if the reasons are decisive, issues in action on, the Deliberative Constraint. This constraint is not yet a theory of reasons—at least, not in the version I will defend—but a necessary condition compatible with many further views. While the Deliberative Constraint is relatively orthodox, it has not gone unchallenged, and we currently lack a good sense of why we should subscribe to it, if at all. My aim is to articulate what is right about the orthodoxy, and to explain why recent challenges to it misfire. I argue that if we abandon the Deliberative Constraint, we are left operating with a notion of reasons for action that cannot make sense of reasons’ peculiar normativity, and relatedly, cannot play the usual theoretical roles that give questions about the nature and extent of our reasons for action much of their import.
It is a common intuition, especially among Christians, that attempts at immoral actions—say, attempted murder or attempted adultery—are just as bad as the completion of the actions. But in practice the situation is rather more complicated. …
You are a secret opponent of the Nazi regime, and you happen to see Schmidt sneaking up on Hitler with an axe and murderous intent. You know what’s happening: Schmidt believes that Hitler has been committing adultery with Mrs. Schmidt, and is going to murder Hitler. …
I’m hereby instituting a game: the breathing game. My score in the game ranges from 0 to 10. I get 0 points if I hold my breath for a minute. Otherwise, my score equals the number of breaths I took during the minute, up to ten (if I took more than eight breaths, my score is still ten). …