We reexamine some of the classic problems connected with the use of cardinal utility functions in decision theory, and discuss Patrick Suppes’ contributions to this field in light of a reinterpretation we propose for these problems. We analytically decompose the doctrine of ordinal-ism, which only accepts ordinal utility functions, and distinguish between several doctrines of cardinalism, depending on what components of ordinalism they specifically reject. We identify Suppes’ doctrine with the major deviation from ordinalism that conceives of utility functions as representing preference differences, while being nonetheless empirically related to choices. We highlight the originality, promises and limits of this choice-based cardinalism.
At around their third birthday, children begin to enforce social norms on others impersonally, often using generic normative language, but little is known about the developmental building blocks of this abstract norm understanding. Here, we investigate whether even toddlers show signs of enforcing on others interpersonally how “we” do things. In an initial dyad, 18-month-old infants learnt a simple game-like action from an adult. In two experiments, the adult either engaged infants in a normative interactive activity (stressing that this is the way “we” do it) or, as a non-normative control, marked the same action as idiosyncratic, based on individual preference. In a test dyad, infants had the opportunity to spontaneously intervene when a puppet partner performed an alternative action. Infants intervened, corrected, and directed the puppet more in the normative than in the non-normative conditions. These findings suggest that, during the second year of life, infants develop second-personal normative expectations about their partner’s behavior (“You should do X!”) in social interactions, thus making an important step toward
I argue that our best science supports the rationalist idea that, independent of reasoning, emotions aren’t integral to moral judgment. There’s ample evidence that ordinary moral cognition often involves conscious and unconscious reasoning about an action’s outcomes and the agent’s role in bringing them about. Emotions can aid in moral reasoning by, for example, drawing one’s attention to such information. However, there is no compelling evidence for the decidedly sentimentalist claim that mere feelings are causally necessary or sufficient for making a moral judgment or for treating norms as distinctively moral. I conclude that, even if moral cognition is largely driven by automatic intuitions, these shouldn’t be mistaken for emotions or their non-cognitive components. Non-cognitive elements in our psychology may be required for normal moral development and motivation but not necessarily for mature moral judgment.
Socialism is a rich tradition of political thought and practice, the
history of which contains a vast number of views and theories, often
differing in many of their conceptual, empirical, and normative
commitments. In his 1924 Dictionary of Socialism, Angelo
Rappoport canvassed no fewer than forty definitions of socialism,
telling his readers in the book’s preface that “there are
many mansions in the House of Socialism” (Rappoport 1924: v,
34–41). To take even a relatively restricted subset of socialist
thought, Leszek Kołakowski could fill over 1,300 pages in his
magisterial survey of Main Currents of Marxism
(Kołakowski 1978 ).
I It is intuitively plausible to assume that if it is asserted that ‘a is overall better than b (all things considered)’ such a verdict is often based on multiple evaluations of the items a and b under considerations, which are sometimes also called ‘criteria’, ‘features’, or ‘attributes’. I Usually, an item a is better than an item b in some aspects, but not in others, and there is a weighing or outranking of these aspects to determine which item is better.
On the standard view, when we forgive, we overcome or renounce future blaming responses to an agent in virtue of what the forgiver understands to be, and is in fact, an immoral action he has performed. Crucially, on the standard view the blaming response is understood as essentially involving a reactive attitude and its expression. In the central case in which the forgiver has been wronged by the party being forgiven, this reactive attitude is moral resentment, that is, anger with an agent due to a wrong he has done to oneself. When someone other than the forgiver has been wronged by the one being forgiven, the attitude is indignation, anger with an agent because of a wrong he has done to a third party. Such a position was developed by Joseph Butler (1749/1900), and in more recent times endorsed by P. F. Strawson (1962), Jeffrie Murphy (1982), and Jay Wallace (1994). Wallace (1994: 72), for example, claims that “in forgiving people we express our acknowledgment that they have done something that would warrant resentment and blame, but we renounce the responses that we thus acknowledge to be appropriate.”
Since many years national and international science organizations have recommended the inclusion of philosophy, history, and ethics courses in science curricula at universities. Chemists may rightly ask: What is that good for? Don’t primary and secondary school provide been taught to you to be the edifice of science, and take it only as a provisional state in the course of the ongoing research process of which your work is meant to become a part. Next let’s see what kind of philosophy, history, and enough general education such that universities can ethics is needed for chemical research, and what not. back to an antiquated form of higher education? Or do they want us to learn some “soft skills” that can at best improve our eloquence at the dinner table but is entirely useless in our chemical work?
Imagine that, in the future, humans develop the technology to construct humanoid robots with very sophisticated computers instead of brains and with bodies made out of metal, plastic, and synthetic materials. The robots look, talk, and act just like humans and are able to integrate into human society and to interact with humans across any situation. They work in our offices and our restaurants, teach in our schools, and discuss the important matters of the day in our bars and coffeehouses. How do you suppose you’d respond if you were to discover one of these robots attempting to steal your wallet or insulting your friend? Would you regard them as free and morally responsible agents, genuinely deserving of blame and punishment?
In this paper, we consider two competing explanations of the empirical finding that people’s causal attributions are responsive to normative details, such as whether an agent’s action violated an injunctive norm—the counterfactual view and the responsibility view. We then present experimental evidence that uses the trolley dilemma in a new way to investigate causal attribution. In the switch version of the trolley problem, people judge that the agent ought to flip the switch, but they also judge that she is more responsible for the resulting outcome when she does so than when she refrains. As predicted by the responsibility view, but not the counterfactual view, people are more likely to say that the agent caused the outcome when she flips the switch.
[This is the extended text version of a lecture I delivered at the University of Otago, Dunedin on the 11th July 2019. As I explained to the audience, the lecture is a riff off my forthcoming book Automation and Utopia. …
It's interesting to compare the ways we talk and think about political vs non-political (civic/philanthropic or market) agents, advocacy, and organization. Consider the common objection to Effective Altruism, that it allegedly "neglects the need for systemic change." …
Suppose that pain is intrinsically morally undesirable, and that all agents have a non-instrumental moral reason to alleviate pain when possible. Now consider the following two cases: Alice: Alice thinks very little about morality as such. However, for as long as she can remember, she has been deeply moved by the pain of others. Although Alice would not be able to articulate any justification or explanation for her attitudes towards pain, she is saddened by the thought that others are or might be in pain, and is motivated to alleviate their pain whenever possible. She gives a significant sum of money to the Guinea Worm Eradication Fund because she knows that by doing so she will be able to significantly reduce the amount of pain caused by this parasite.
I argue that you can be permitted to discount the interests of your adversaries even though doing so would be impartially suboptimal. This means that, in addition to the kinds of moral options that the literature traditionally recognises, there exist what I call other-sacrificing options. I explore the idea that you cannot discount the interests of your adversaries as much as you can favour the interests of your intimates; if this is correct, then there is an asymmetry between negative partiality toward your adversaries and positive partiality toward your intimates.
Legal anti-positivism is widely believed to be a general theory of law that generates far too many false negatives. If anti-positivism is true, certain rules bearing all the hallmarks of legality are not in fact legal. This impression, fostered by both positivists and anti-positivists, stems from an overly narrow conception of the kinds of moral facts that ground legal facts: roughly, facts about what is morally optimific—morally best or morally justified or morally obligatory given our social practices. A less restrictive view of the kinds of moral properties that ground legality results in a form of anti-positivism that can accommodate any legal rule consistent with positivism, including the alleged counterexamples. I articulate an ‘inclusive’ form of anti-positivism that is not just invulnerable to extensional challenge from the positivist. It is the only account that withstands extensional objections, while incorporating, on purely conceptual grounds, a large part of the content of morality into law.
Revealed preference theorists interpret the preferences that feature in standard economic theory behaviourally, as mere descriptions of agents’ actual and hypothetical choice behaviour. This paper defends revealed preference theory against a pervasive line of criticism, according to which the empirical success of revealed preference methodology ultimately relies on appealing to some mental states, in particular the agent’s beliefs. This is then either taken to show that revealed preference theory is incoherent, or that it is unmotivated. Alternative interpretations of preference as a kind of mental state are usually proposed instead. This paper argues that all that is established by these arguments is that revealed preference theorists must accept a limited kind of mentalism in their theory of options, that is, their theory about how the options an agent is choosing between ought to be modelled. I characterize the limited mentalism required, and show that it is consistent both with an essentially behavioural interpretation of preference and with standard revealed preference methodology. I provide evidence that current economic practice is by and large consistent with the concession of a limited kind of mentalism about options, and argue that such a concession does not undermine the core motivations of revealed preference theory.
There is currently a theoretical tension between young children’s failure in False Belief Tasks (FBTs) and their success in a variety of other tasks that also seem to require the ability to ascribe false beliefs to agents. We try to explain this tension by the hypothesis that in the FBT, children think they are asked what the agent should do in the circumstances and not what the agent will do. We explain why this hypothesis is plausible. We examined the hypothesis in two experiments, each involving a new task. In the first task, the hypothesised misunderstanding of the question leads to failure without the need to ascribe a false belief, and we show that failure in this new task is correlated with failure in the FBT. In the second task, passing which requires ascribing a false belief to an agent, and for which we have partial yet encouraging results, the children are asked a question which is unlikely to be misunderstood. Children pass this task much more often than they do a standard FBT. The mentioned tension is thus resolved. We conclude that the so-called False Belief Task probably does not check the ability to ascribe false beliefs but rather linguistic development.
“Fake News” of Animal Advocacy:
Response to the claim that only 2% (or less) of people in the United States are vegetarian
Guest Post ByVasile Stanescu
“Groups and advocates have been at this [vegan advocacy] for decades and yet the percentage of people in the United States who are vegetarian has basically not changed at all”
--Matt Ball; Co-founder of Vegan Outreach
Why are some of the most well-known and most influential vegans and animal rights activists telling people that animal right activism is inherently useless and even that calls for veganism may be hurting animal activism? …
Consent allows people to perform a range of actions, but this range has its limits. Alicia says, “Make yourself at home while I’m at work,” and Bianca can now put her feet up and watch television. But Alicia’s consent doesn’t give Bianca permission to stick her finger in Alicia’s peanut butter and suck it clean, even if she likes doing that in her own home. Among all of the permissions that Alicia can grant Bianca, some will be granted by her consent, while others will not. I will call this range of permissions the scope of Alicia’s consent. This book aims to answer the question of what determines the scope of someone’s consent.
In Risk and Rationality, Buchak (Risk and rationality, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2013) advertises REU theory as able to recover the modal preferences in the Allais paradox. In our Thoma and Weisberg (Philos Stud 174(9):2369–2384, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-017-0916-3) however, we pointed out that REU theory only applies in the ‘‘grand world’’ setting, where it actually struggles with the modal Allais preferences. Buchak (Philos Stud 174(9):2397–2414, 2017. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11098-017-0907-4) offers two replies. Here we enumerate a variety of technical and philosophical problems with each.
Defenders of a traditional Christian conception of Hell as everlasting, harmful punishment for past sins will have to confront, at least, two charges of unfairness. The first has to do with the inequity of an eternal punishment. The never-ending punishment seems disproportionate to the finite sin (Kershnar: 2005, 2010; D. Lewis; M. Adams). A second and related problem is that boundary between sins that send one for all eternity to Hell and those sins that are just slightly less bad that are compatible with an eternity in Heaven is arbitrary and thus it is unfair that sinners so alike are treated so differently (Sider). Hell, as conceived by the tradition, is then claimed to be incompatible with God’s traditional attributes such as his commitment to justice, omniscience about what justice involves, and omnipotence to bring it about. Thus there can’t be such a Hell. I’ll argue that the two charges of unfairness can be avoided by appealing to a debt/atonement theory of punishment. This will allow the defense of the compatibility of God’s goodness with a Christian conception of Hell.
In this article, I offer responses to five commentaries on my recently published book, Cosmopolitan Peace. Those articles address my conception of individual and collective agency, my account of self-determination (and its implication for the problem of annexation during and after the war), and my accounts of, respectively, reparations and remembrance after war. I revise or provide further defences of those accounts in the light of my commentators’ probing remarks.
Recent work on agency has been largely an attempt to characterize the ideal agent, that is to say, not necessarily an agent that is always successful, and not necessarily an agent that is always morally attractive, but in any case an agent that is always and one-hundred-percent an agent. It is granted that real-world agency falls short of the ideal, but is either affirmed or presumed that the defective or incomplete agency we all-too-often encounter is to be understood by way of the ideal. To be sure, there is disagreement as to what the anchoring features of ideal agency are, with candidates such as full-fledged commitment to one’s actions, knowing what one is doing, and taking on challenges all in the mix. Here I want to recommend a different approach, one that takes the bounded-rationality research program as a model for investigating agency. Not only is all real-world agency, as I will explain, bounded, and not only should we try to make sense of the varied forms of bounded agency on their own terms, without seeing them as deviations from an ideal; we should not be trying to articulate a conception of ideal agency.
Some acts that accord with duty have what philosophers call moral worth. These acts manifest the agent’s virtuous motives and, thus, do her credit. More precisely, an act that accords with duty has moral worth if and only if the agent’s reason for performing it is the same as what would have motivated a perfectly virtuous agent to perform it. To illustrate, suppose that I’ve rescued a drowning child. This, we’ll assume, was my duty. Nevertheless, my act needn’t have moral worth. For if my only reason for rescuing the child was that I anticipated receiving a reward, it won’t. After all, this is not what would have motivated a perfectly virtuous agent.
There are people living among us who have done terrible things to other human beings – murder and rape, for example – yet who nonetheless deserve society’s forgiveness. They have been convicted for their crimes and punished by the laws we collectively agreed such moral transgressions deserve. …
The dominant framework for addressing procreative ethics has revolved around the notion of harm, largely due to Derek Parfit’s famous non- identity problem. Focusing exclusively on the question of harm treats what procreators owe their offspring as akin to what they would owe strangers (if they owe them anything at all). Procreators, however, usually expect (and are expected) to parent the persons they create, so we cannot understand what procreators owe their offspring without also appealing to their role as prospective parents. I argue that prospective parents can wrong their future children just by failing to act well in their role as parents, whether or not their offspring are ultimately harmed or benefitted by their creation. Their obligations as prospective parents bear on the motivations behind their reproductive choices, including the choice to select for some genetic trait in their offspring. Even when procreators’ motivations aren’t malicious, or purely selfish, they can still fail to recognize and act for the end of the parental role. Procreators can wrong their offspring by selecting for some genetic trait, then, when doing so would violate their obligations as prospective parents, or when their motivation for doing so is antithetical to the end of the parental role.
It is clear that, according to Kant, we have transcendental freedom. It is not so clear, however, how far this freedom extends. In particular, it is unclear whether there is freedom within the prudential realm: whether we can freely choose which ends of self-love to pursue as well as how to pursue them. Relatedly, it is clear that we can be practically irrational by ignoring the commands of pure practical reason and siding with self-love instead. However, it is not clear whether Kant recognises any other forms of practical irrationality, in particular whether there is room for weakness of will in terms of implementing one’s commitment to give priority to duty, as well as room for prudential irrationality. In short: What kinds of choices does transcendental freedom encompass? Can we fail to act morally despite having a good will? Is there freedom within the prudential realm? And can we be practically irrational in prudential matters?
It is often assumed that morally permissible acts are morally better than impermissible acts. We call this claim Betterness of Permissibility. Yet, we show that some striking counterexamples show that the claim’s truth cannot be taken for granted. Furthermore, even if Betterness of Permissibility is true, it is unclear why. Apart from appeals to its intuitive plausibility, no arguments in favour of the condition exist. We fill this lacuna by identifying two fundamental conditions that jointly entail betterness of permissibility: ‘reasons monotonicity of permissibility’ and the ‘weak classical view’. We then argue that there are good reasons for accepting both of the fundamental conditions. We note that there exist plausible moral theories that reject one of the fundamental conditions. However, the way in which those theories reject the fundamental conditions does not allow them to endorse the counterexamples that motivate the belief that Betterness of Permissibility might be false.
This article puts pressure on moral motivational internalism and rejects normative motivational internalism by arguing that we should be aesthetic motivational externalists. Parallels between aesthetic and moral normativity give us new reason to doubt moral internalism. I address possible disanalogies, arguing that either they fail, or they succeed, but aren’t strong enough to underwrite a motivational difference between the domains. Furthermore, aesthetic externalism entails normative externalism, providing further presumptive evidence against moral internalism. I also make the case that, regardless of these particular conclusions, examining different normative domains alongside each other is a fruitful way to move debates forward.
I argue that Nietzsche’s criticism of the Kantian theory of disinterested pleasure in beauty reflects his own commitment to claims that closely resemble certain Kantian aesthetic principles, specifically as reinterpreted by Schiller. I show that Schiller takes the experience of beauty to be disinterested both (1) insofar as it involves impassioned ‘play’ rather than desire- driven ‘work’, and (2) insofar as it involves rational- sensuous (‘aesthetic’) play rather than mere physical play. In figures like Nietzsche, Schiller’s generic notion of play— which is itself influenced by Kant’s claim that aesthetic pleasure is orthogonal to desire- satisfaction— becomes decoupled from his (further) Kantian view that aesthetic play essentially involves a harmony of sensuous receptivity and rational spontaneity. The result, I suggest, is a self- standing opposition between desires and passions. This motivates a recognizably Romantic vision of aesthetic disinterestedness, as freedom from desire realized in a state of creative determination by passion.
Two debates in normative ethics are the Subjectivism/Objectivism debate and the Actualism/Possibilism debate. Both have settled into rather intractable stalemates. My goal is to break through these stalemates and establish that the correct moral theory must be an Objective Possibilist one. I first argue that no Subjective Possibil-ism is plausible. I then argue that Actualism cannot adequately accommodate the intuitive moral data in cases of permissible beneficial sacrifice— cases in which it is permissible to harm some in order to prevent harm from befalling others. Insofar as Actualism and Subjective Possibilism are both false, some version of Objective Possibilism must be true.