Starting from the premise that expected utility (EU) is the correct criterion of rational preference both in decision cases under certainty and decision cases under risk, I argue that EU theory is a false theory of instrumental rationality. In its place, I argue for a new theory of instrumental rationality, namely expected comparative utility (ECU) theory. I show that in some commonplace decisions under risk, ECU theory delivers different verdicts from those of EU theory.
In this paper, we establish gastrospaces as a subject of philosophical inquiry and an item for policy agendas. We first explain their political value, as key sites where members of liberal democratic societies can develop the capacity for a sense of justice and the capacity to form, revise, and pursue a conception of the good. Integrating political philosophy with analytic ontology, we then unfold a theoretical framework for gastrospaces: first, we show the limits of the concept of “third place;” second, we lay out the foundations for an ontological model of gastrospaces; third, we introduce five features of gastrospaces that connect their ontology with their political value and with the realization of justice goals. We conclude by briefly illustrating three potential levels of intervention concerning the design, use, and modification of gastrospaces: institutions, keepers, and users.
Suppose that we someday create artificially intelligent systems (AIs) who are capable of genuine consciousness, real joy and real suffering. Yes, I admit, I spend a lot of time thinking about this seemingly science-fictional possibility. …
James Sterba (2019, chapter 2) has recently argued that the free will defense fails to explain the compossibility of a perfect God and the amount and degree of moral evil that we see. I think he is mistaken about this. I thus find myself in the awkward and unexpected position, as a non-theist myself, of defending the free will defense. In this paper, I will try to show that once we take care to focus on what the free will defense is trying to accomplish, and by what means it tries to do so, we will see that Sterba’s criticism of it misses the mark.
Several years ago, I was fortunate enough to come under the influence of several of the core ideas in Christina Van Dyke’s A Hidden Wisdom (2022) as they were being developed. Although I have never had much love for the work of the canonical scholastic philosophers (e.g., Anselm, Boethius, Aquinas, and others), I have had great interest for nearly a decade in the writings of medieval mystics. Initially, the interest was purely personal—I wasn’t looking for philosophical insight; I was looking for spiritual guidance. But I found the texts to which I first turned—the anonymously authored Cloud of Unknowing, and the writings of Pseudo-Dionysius and John of the Cross—generally more baffling and disturbing than spiritually helpful.
In The Mirror of Simple Souls by Marguerite Porete, a 14th century mystic, there is a straightforward path from claims about what love for God in its purest form entails to the conclusion that a kind of self-annihilation is the ultimate goal for a Christian. There is, furthermore, an implicit argument in her work for the conclusion that achieving self-annihilation through love for God is superior to and better for us as individuals than achieving conformity with God’s will through the (mere) cultivation of virtue as it is traditionally conceived. Taking inspiration from Porete’s work, this paper defends both of these counterintuitive claims.
According to second-personal approaches to moral obligation, the distinctive normative features of moral obligation can only be explained in terms of second-personal relations, i.e. the distinctive way persons relate to each other as persons. But there are important disagreements between different groups of second-personal approaches. Most notably, they disagree about the nature of second-personal relations, which has consequences for the nature of the obligations that they purport to explain. This article aims to distinguish these groups from each other, highlight their respective advantages and disadvantages, and thereby indicate avenues for future research.
Breeds are classifications of domestic animals that share, to a certain degree, a set of conventional phenotypic traits. We are going to defend that, despite classifying biological entities, animal breeds are social kinds. We will adopt Godman’s view of social kinds, classifications with predictive power based on social learning processes. We will show that, although the folk concept of animal breed refers to a biological kind, there is no way to define it. The expert definitions of breeds are instead based on socially learnt conventions and skills (artificial selection), yielding groupings in which scientific predictions are possible. We will discuss in what sense breeds are social, but not human kinds and in what sense the concept of a breed is necessary to make them real.
Should we use the same standard of proof to adjudicate guilt for murder and petty theft? Why not tailor the standard of proof to the crime? These relatively neglected questions cut to the heart of central issues in the philosophy of law. This paper scrutinises whether we ought to use the same standard for all criminal cases, in contrast with a flexible approach that uses different standards for different crimes. I reject consequentialist arguments for a radically flexible standard of proof, instead defending a modestly flexible approach on non-consequentialist grounds. The system I defend is one on which we should impose a higher standard of proof for crimes that attract more severe punishments. This proposal, although apparently revisionary, accords with a plausible theory concerning the epistemology of legal judgments and the role they play in society.
The Internet is the epistemological crisis of the 21st century: it has fundamentally altered the social epistemology of societies with relative freedom to access it. Most of what we think we know about the world is due to reliance on epistemic authorities, individuals, or institutions that tell us what we ought to believe about Newtonian mechanics, evolution by natural selection, climate change, resurrection from the dead, or the Holocaust. The most practically fruitful epistemic norm of modernity, empiricism, demands that knowledge be grounded in sensory experience, but almost no one who believes in evolution by natural selection or the reality of the Holocaust has any sensory evidence in support of those beliefs. Instead, we rely on epistemic authorities—biologists and historians, for example. Epistemic authority cannot be sustained by empiricist criteria, for obvious reasons: salient anecdotal evidence, the favorite tool of propagandists, appeals to ordinary faith in the senses, but is easily exploited given that most people understand neither the perils of induction nor the finer points of sampling and Bayesian inference. Sustaining epistemic authority depends, crucially, on social institutions that inculcate reliable second-order norms about whom to believe about what. The traditional media were crucial, in the age of mass democracy, with promulgating and sustaining such norms.
One of the central insights of Western philosophy, beginning with
Socrates, has been that few if any things are as bad for an individual
as culpably doing wrong. It is better, we are told through much of the
Western philosophical tradition, that it is better to suffer than do
Global philosophy is an ideal. It includes the affirmation of intercultural philosophy and internationalism but it goes well beyond cultural and geographic cosmopolitanism. To embrace global philosophy is to reject any approach to philosophy that cleaves to closed communities and private conversations.
A paradigmatic aesthetic experience is a perceptual experience focused
on the beauty of an object like a work of art or an aspect of nature. Some philosophers take it that this is the only kind of aesthetic
experience, though many more take it that there are other varieties as
well. You might, for instance, have an aesthetic experience by
witnessing not a beautiful but a sublime storm. You might
have an aesthetic experience not by having a perceptual but rather by
having an (imagined) emotional experience of the deep suffering of
Sethe expressed in Toni Morrison’s great novel Beloved.
Political revolutions are transformative moments marked by profound,
rapid change in the political order achieved through the use of force
rather than through consensus or legal process. Moral responses to
revolutions are often ambivalent or deeply polarized. On the one hand,
revolutions promise to be powerful engines of moral progress, allowing
a community to abolish an oppressive social order and providing the
opportunity to institute a better one. On the other hand, revolutions
risk unravelling the fabric of political community and devolving into
bloody, prolonged conflicts that only manage to reinstate a new
Global challenges such as climate change, food security, or public health have become dominant concerns in research and innovation policy. This article examines how responses to these challenges are addressed by governance actors. We argue that appeals to global challenges can give rise to a ‘solution strategy’ that presents responses of dominant actors as solutions and a ‘negotiation strategy’ that highlights the availability of heterogeneous and often conflicting responses. On the basis of interviews and document analyses, the study identifies both strategies across local, national, and European levels. While our results demonstrate the co-existence of both strategies, we find that global challenges are most commonly highlighted together with the solutions offered by dominant actors. Global challenges are ‘wicked problems’ that often become misframed as ‘tame problems’ in governance practice and thereby legitimise dominant responses.
We distinguish two types of cases that have potential to generate quasi-cyclical preferences: self-involving choices where an agent oscillates between first- and third-person perspectives that conflict regarding their life-changing implications, and self-serving choices where frame-based reasoning can be “first-personally
— This paper considers novel ethical issues pertaining to near-future artificial intelligence (AI) systems that seek to support, maintain, or enhance the capabilities of older adults as they age and experience cognitive decline. In particular, we focus on smart assistants (SAs) that would seek to provide proactive assistance and mediate social interactions between users and other members of their social or support networks. Such systems would potentially have significant utility for users and their caregivers if they could reduce the cognitive load for tasks that help older adults maintain their autonomy and independence. However, proactively supporting even simple tasks, such as providing the user with a summary of a meeting or a conversation, would require a future SA to engage with ethical aspects of human interactions which computational systems currently have difficulty identifying, tracking, and navigating. If SAs fail to perceive ethically relevant aspects of social interactions, the resulting deficit in moral discernment would threaten important aspects of user autonomy and well-being. After describing the dynamic that generates these ethical challenges, we note how simple strategies for prompting user oversight of such systems might also undermine their utility.
The standard vocabulary of modernity and post-modernity suggests that something is coming to an end. Sometimes the end is much desired. “When I fall,” says Clov in Samuel Beckett’s Endgame, “I’ll weep for happiness.” Sometimes, by contrast, the end is measured primarily by a sense of loss. “To write poetry after Auschwitz,” says Theodore Adorno, “is barbaric.” And sometimes, as in Martin Heidegger’s later work, the end of our epoch announces the possibility of a new beginning. A famous line from Hölderlin is the catchphrase here: “In the danger, the saving power grows.” But what exactly is the danger that threatens to end our age? It is something beyond the danger of climate change, nuclear annihilation, pandemics, and the other physical threats we confront, something underlying these that makes them alive to us as the totalizing terrors we feel them to be. It extends beyond the threat of our mere extinction, in other words, reaching all the way to the possibility of our ontological end.
Research suggests that many social concepts, such as FRIEND and ARTIST, have two independent sets of criteria for their application: one descriptive, and one normative. These have become known as “dual character concepts.” Recently, it has been argued that HUMAN is a dual character concept, and that this engenders a distinctively normative variety of dehumanization (Phillips, 2022). In what follows, I develop this model by examining which form of essentialism drives normative dehumanization. In particular, I focus on three candidates: Platonic essentialism; teleological essentialism; and value-based essentialism. Across four experiments, I found evidence that normative dehumanization is driven by value-based essentialism, as opposed to Platonic or teleological essentialism. I also found evidence that normative dehumanization is a unique predictor of intergroup hostility, over and above like/dislike; as well as perceptions of ideal humanness, and typical humanness. Together, these findings clarify the ordinary concept of a “true human,” and thus what it means to normatively dehumanize someone. These findings also suggest that research concerning intergroup hostility will benefit from focusing on the distinction between descriptive and normative dehumanization.
Is epistocracy epistemically superior to democracy? In this paper, I scrutinize some of the arguments for and against the epistemic superiority of epistocracy. Using empirical results from the literature on the epistemic benefits of diversity as well as the epistemic contributions of citizen science, I strengthen the case against epistocracy and for democracy. Disenfranchising, or otherwise discouraging anyone to participate in political life, on the basis of them not possessing a certain body of (social scientific) knowledge, is untenable also from an epistemic point of view. Rather than focussing on individual competence, we should pay attention to the social constellation through which we produce knowledge to make sure we decrease epistemic loss (by ensuring diversity and inclusion) and increase epistemic productivity (by fostering a multiplicity of perspectives interacting fruitfully). Achieving those epistemic benefits requires a more democratic approach that differs significantly from epistocracy.
Many philosophers characterize a particularly important sense of free will and responsibility by referring to basically deserved blame. But what is basically deserved blame? The aim of this paper is to identify the appraisal entailed by basic desert claims. It presents three desiderata for an account of desert appraisals and it argues that important recent theories fail to meet them. Then, the paper presents and defends a promising alternative. The basic idea is that claims about basically deserved blame entail that the targets have forfeited their claims that others not blame them and that there is positive reason to blame them. The paper shows how this view frames the discussion about skepticism about free will and responsibility.
On at least most accounts of what global justice requires, those living in severe poverty around the world are unjustly disadvantaged. Remedying this unjust disadvantage requires (perhaps among other things) that resources currently possessed by well off people are deployed in ways that will improve the lives of the poor. In this article, I argue that, contrary to the claims of some critics, effective altruist giving is at least among the appropriate responses to global injustice for well off people. In addition, I suggest some reasons to think that effective altruist giving will often be among the best ways for such people to satisfy obligations that they have in virtue of being beneficiaries of global injustice. The argument that I offer for this conclusion has at least two important implications. First, critics of effective altruism who claim that it is incompatible with taking global injustice sufficiently seriously are mistaken. And second, effective altruists have reason to reject the non-normative accounts of the movement’s core commitments that have been advocated by some prominent proponents.
We introduce two concepts—social certainty and social doubt—that help to articulate a variety of experiences of the social world, such as shyness, self-consciousness, culture shock, and anxiety. Following Carel’s () analysis of bodily doubt, which explores how a person’s tacit confidence in the workings of their body can be disrupted and undermined in illness, we consider how an individual’s faith in themselves as a social agent, too, can be compromised or lost, thus altering their experience of what is afforded by the social environment. We highlight how a loss of bodily or social certainty can be shaped and sustained by the environments in which one finds oneself. As such, we show how certain individuals might be more vulnerable to experiences of bodily and social doubt than others.
The theory of morality we can call full rule-consequentialism selects
rules solely in terms of the goodness of their consequences and then
claims that these rules determine which kinds of acts are morally
wrong. George Berkeley was arguably the first rule-consequentialist. He wrote, “In framing the general laws of nature, it is granted
we must be entirely guided by the public good of mankind, but not in
the ordinary moral actions of our lives. … The rule is framed
with respect to the good of mankind; but our practice must be always
shaped immediately by the rule” (Berkeley 1712: section 31).
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Movie Review: M3GAN
[WARNING: SPOILERS FOLLOW]
Tonight, on a rare date without the kids, Dana and I saw M3GAN, the new black-comedy horror movie about an orphaned 9-year-old girl named Cady who, under the care of her roboticist aunt, gets an extremely intelligent and lifelike AI doll as a companion. …
Sher on the weight of reasons
Posted on Friday, 13 Jan 2023. A few thoughts on Sher (2019), which I found advertised in Nair (2021). This (long and rich) paper presents a formal model of reasons and their weight, with the aim of clarifying how different reasons for or against an act combine. …
[Editor’s Note: The following new entry by Timothy Perrine
on this topic by the previous author.]
All of us—theist, atheist, and agnostic alike—experience
suffering and evil in the world. There’s the annoyance of a
stubbed toe, the disappointment of personal or professional setback,
the endless frustration of debilitating chronic pain, and the
soul-crushing experience of the suffering and death of those we care
the most about (to name a few). It doesn’t require extensive
education to worry if suffering and evil is evidence against the
existence of God—or, at least, God understood classically, as a
perfect being that is an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-good creator
of the universe.
Antonio Gramsci (1891–1937) has been enormously influential as a
Marxist theorist of cultural and political domination in
“developed” capitalism. However, his career was that of a
radical journalist and revolutionary organizer, not a professional
philosopher. Gramsci was a socialist activist, cultural commentator
and, later, communist party leader in Italy. Most of his writings are
concerned with assessing the immediate political situation and,
particularly, the prospects for revolution in interwar Italy. Nonetheless, Gramsci was conversant with philosophical currents of the
time—especially Italian neo-idealism, native intellectual and
political traditions dating back to Machiavelli, and the major
currents of Marxist thought.
In the face of climate change, the Covid-19 pandemic and rising anti-science populism, an unlikely alliance of scholars has emerged to “regain some of the authority of science”, as Bruno Latour puts it in an interview with Science (Vrieze 2017). Historians, philosophers, and sociologists of science, who have long operated in competing intellectual niches, find a common calling in highlighting the existential importance but also increasingly fragile position of science in society.
[This post draws on ideas developed in collaboration with psychologist Jessie Sun. ]If we want to study morality scientifically, we should want to measure it. Imagine trying to study temperature without a thermometer or weight without scales. …