18th-century British aesthetics addressed itself to a
variety of questions: What is taste? What is beauty? Is there is a
standard of taste and of beauty? What is the relation between the
beauty of nature and that of artistic representation? What is the
relation between one fine art and another? How ought the fine arts be
ranked one against another? What is the nature of the sublime and
ought it be ranked with the beautiful? What is the nature of genius
and what is its relation to taste? Although none of these questions was peripheral to
18th-century British aesthetics, not all were equally
Hume’s position in ethics, which is based on his
empiricist theory of the mind,
is best known for asserting four theses: (1) Reason alone
cannot be a motive to the will, but rather is the
“slave of the passions” (see
(2) Moral distinctions are not derived from reason (see
Section 4). (3) Moral distinctions are derived from the moral sentiments: feelings of
approval (esteem, praise) and disapproval (blame) felt by spectators
who contemplate a character trait or action (see
Section 7). (4) While some virtues and vices are natural (see
others, including justice, are artificial (see
Brian Jabarian U. Paris 1 & Paris School of Economics How should we evaluate options when we are uncertain about the correct standard of evaluation, for instance due to con‡icting normative intuitions? Such ‘normative’ uncertainty differs from ordinary ‘empirical’uncertainty about an unknown state, and raises new challenges for decision theory and ethics. The most widely discussed proposal is to form the expected value of options, relative to correctness probabilities of competing valuations. But this meta-theory overrules our beliefs about the correct risk-attitude: it for instance fails to be risk-averse when we are certain that the correct (…rst-order) valuation is risk-averse. We propose an ‘impartial’meta-theory, which respects risk-attitudinal beliefs. We show how one can address empirical and normative uncertainty within a uni…ed formal framework, and rigorously de…ne risk attitudes of theories. Against a common impression, the classical expected-value theory is not risk-neutral, but of hybrid risk attitude: it is neutral to normative risk, not to empirical risk. We show how to de…ne a fully risk-neutral meta-theory, and a meta-theory that is neutral to empirical risk, not to normative risk. We compare the various meta-theories based on their formal properties, and conditionally defend the impartial meta-theory.
I argue that the distinction between moral (“deontic”) and non-moral (“enticing”) reasons is a bogus one, and that “reasons first” approaches to ethics can’t account for the optionality of prudent self-care (flossing one’s teeth) or supererogatory gifts (of favors and kidneys). Non-moral reasons are, by definition, those that can’t ground moral obligations, even when unopposed by other reasons. But I think all reasons can ground obligations. When our unopposed reasons of self-interest, e.g., leave things optional, that isn’t due to a lack of intrinsic oomph; it is due to a countervailing prerogative, which lets us act against the balance of reasons. My main argument is that there isn’t any good way to delimit the non-moral, whereas there is a clean way to say which prerogatives we have: they correspond to our rights against others, allowing us to do what others are forbidden from doing for us.
Were I but capable of interpreting to the world one half the
great thoughts and noble feelings which are buried in her grave, I
should be the medium of a greater benefit to it, than is ever likely to
arise from anything that I can write, unprompted and unassisted by her
all but unrivaled wisdom.
—J. S. Mill (1977, 216)
Harriet Taylor Mill (1807–1858) poses a unique set of problems
for an encyclopedist. The usual approach to writing an entry on a
historical figure, namely presenting a straightforward summary of her
major works and then offering a few words of appraisal, cannot be
carried out in her case.
Philippa Foot produced a slim output of articles, most of which are
collected in two volumes, and one monograph on moral philosophy; the
articles treated issues in metaethics, moral psychology, and applied
ethics. Throughout her career, she defended the objectivity of
morality against various forms of noncognitivism and tangled with
issues of moral motivation, notoriously changing her mind about
whether moral judgments necessarily provide rational agents with
reasons for action. To the wider world, and perhaps especially to
undergraduate philosophy students, she is best known for inventing the
Trolley Problem, which raises the question of why it seems permissible
to steer a trolley aimed at five people toward one person while it
seems impermissible to do something such as killing one healthy man to
use his organs to save five people who will otherwise die.
This paper offers an account of the property Feuerbach and Marx called “species-being,” the human being’s distinctive tendency to identify herself as a member of her species, and to think of the species as a “we.” It links the notion to Kant’s theory of rights, arguing that every claim of right commits the maker of that claim to something like world government, and therefore to the conception of humanity as a collective agent. It also links species-being to the concept of practical identity, arguing that the conceptions under which we find our lives and actions valuable are ones according to which we make a positive contribution to the life of the species. It then argues that the resulting conception of humanity, together with certain considerations about the nature of the good, provides grounds for challenging the familiar claim that death is generally worse for human beings than for animals. On the other hand, because of species-being, the extinction of our species is a much worse prospect for human beings than for the other animals.
In this paper I explore the possibility of explaining why there is such a thing as the good in naturalistic terms. More specifically, I seek an explanation of the fact that some things are good-for human beings and the other animals in the final sense of good: worth aiming at. I trace the existence of the final good to the existence of conscious agents. I propose that the final good for an animal is her own well-functioning as the kind of creature she is, taken as an end of action, and that having this as her final good makes her better at the activity she is necessarily engaged in, namely living.
In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit (1984) observed that most people are biased towards the future at least when it comes to pain and pleasure. That is, they regard a given amount of pain as less bad when it is in the past than when it is in the future, and a given amount of pleasure as less good. While Parfit (implicitly) held that this bias is rational, it has recently come under effective attack by temporal neutralists, who have offered cases that with plausible auxiliary assumptions appear to be counterexamples to the rationality claim. I’m going to argue that these cases and the rationale behind them only suffice to motivate a more limited rejection of future bias, and that constrained future bias is indeed rationally permissible. My argument turns on the distinct rational implications of action-guiding and pure temporal preferences. I’ll argue that future bias is rational when it comes to the latter, even if not the former. As I’ll say, Only Action Fixes Utility: it is only when you act on the basis of assigning a utility to an outcome that you rationally commit to giving it the same value when it is past as when it is in the future.
T.M. Scanlon’s ‘reasons fundamentalism’ is thought to face difficulties answering the normative question—that is, explaining why it’s irrational to not do what you judge yourself to have most reason to do (e.g., Dreier 2014a). I argue that this difficulty results from Scanlon’s failure to provide a theory of mind that can give substance to his account of normative judgment and its tie to motivation. A central aim of this paper is to address this deficiency. To do this, I draw on broadly cognitivist theories of emotion (e.g., Nussbaum 2001, Roberts 2013). These theories are interesting because they view emotions as cognitive states from which motivation emerges. Thus, they provide a model Scanlon can use to develop a richer account of both the judgment-motivation connection and the irrationality of not doing what you judge yourself to have most reason to do. However, the success is only partial—even this more developed proposal fails to give a satisfactory answer to the normative question.
The use of modern medical technologies and interventions involves ethical and legal dilemmas which are yet to be solved. For the religious Jews the answer lies in Halakhah. The objective of this paper is to unscramble the difficult conundrum possessed by the halakhalic standing concerning the use of human embryonic cell for research. It also aims to take contemporary ethical issues arising from the use of technologies and medical advances made in human reproduction and study them from an abstract philosophical perspective. Instead of providing any Jewish practical ruling the paper have tried to incite, stimulate and encourage philosophical thoughts about the issue through the intensive understanding of traditional Jewish thoughts.
1. This post has no technical content. As the tag indicates, it’s entirely “Nerd Self-Help”—thoughts I’ve recently found extremely helpful to me, and that I’m hopeful some others might be able to apply to their own life situations. …
Descartes believed that non-human animals are automata, incapable of conscious experience. Kant wrote in the Anthropology that you and I are “through rank and dignity an entirely different being from things, such as irrational animals, with which one may do as one likes” (Kant 1798, 7: 127). Almost no philosopher would now defend these claims. They strike us as being antiquated, at best. Yet not long ago, a prominent contributor to these debates could write, in Philosophy and Public Affairs, that “people born autistic are incapable of forming deep personal relations” (McMahan 1996: 4). And it is a commonplace view in moral philosophy that humans born with severe congenital cognitive disabilities are ethically equivalent to pets.
Consider for a moment how you would answer the following question: what does God know? Regardless of your religious background or what you personally believe, the most likely answer is “everything.” This response is a common perception among people immersed in cultural contexts where monotheism is dominant. Could you, however, pinpoint a specific source from which you learned this information? If your answer wasn’t “everything,” do you at least appreciate that most people would give that response? Why do most people answer this way? What does it even mean to know everything?
The definition of art is controversial in contemporary philosophy. Whether art can be defined has also been a matter of controversy. The
philosophical usefulness of a definition of art has also been
debated. Contemporary definitions can be classified with respect to the
dimensions of art they emphasize. One distinctively modern,
conventionalist, sort of definition focuses on art’s
institutional features, emphasizing the way art changes over time,
modern works that appear to break radically with all traditional art,
the relational properties of artworks that depend on works’
relations to art history, art genres, etc.
Those are not at all to be tolerated who deny the being of a God. Promises, covenants, and oaths, which are the bonds of human society, can have no hold upon an atheist. The taking away of God, though but even in thought, dissolves all. John Locke, Letter Concerning Toleration ( 1689) Over the past few decades, much ink has been spilled in attempts to understand the relationships between religion, intolerance and conflict. And, although, some progress has been made, religion‘s precise role in intolerance and intergroup conflict remains a poorly researched scientific topic. This oversight is remarkable given that the vast majority of the world is religious (Norris & Inglehart, 2004), and hardly a day goes by without religious conflict shaping events and making international headlines (The Washington Post, May 11, 2011).
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I address three common empirical questions about the connection between religion and morality: (1) Do religious beliefs and practices shape moral behavior? (2) Do all religions universally concern themselves with moral behavior? (3) Is religion necessary for morality? I draw on recent empirical research on religious prosociality to reach several conclusions. First, awareness of supernatural monitoring and other mechanisms found in religions encourage prosociality towards strangers, and in that regard, religions have come to influence moral behavior. Second, religion’s connection with morality is culturally variable; this link is weak or absent in small-scale groups, and solidifies as group size and societal complexity increase over time and across societies. Third, moral sentiments that encourage prosociality evolved independently of religion, and secular institutions can serve social monitoring functions; therefore religion is not necessary for morality.
In both the Nicomachean and the Eudemian Ethics, Aristotle divides the human soul into the rational (to logon echon) and the non-rational (to alogon) part (NE 1.13, 1102a28). Although the details of this division are contested, there is a general agreement that the rational part is or contains reason (and so that it is capable of thinking) and that the non-rational part contains non-rational desires (i.e., appetite and spirit). It is also clear that, on Aristotle’s view, the virtuous disposition of character involves harmonizing the two parts in such a way that they become in some sense unified with respect to actions and feelings: they are supposed to ‘chime together’ (homophonei) (NE 1.13, 1102b29-30). This means that in an appropriately unified soul, the non-rational part does not merely happen to desire what the rational part prescribes but desires it somehow as a result of the rational part prescribing it (NE 1.13, 1102b33-3a1).
Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind argues that a careful examination of the scientific literature reveals a foundational role for reasoning in moral thought and action. Grounding moral psychology in reason then paves the way for a defense of moral knowledge and virtue against a variety of empirical challenges, such as debunking arguments and situationist critiques. The book attempts to provide a corrective to current trends in moral psychology, which celebrates emotion over reason and generates pessimism about the psychological mechanisms underlying commonsense morality. Ultimately, there is rationality in ethics not just despite but in virtue of the neurobiological and evolutionary materials that shape moral cognition and motivation.
Unless presently in a coma, you cannot avoid witnessing injustice. You will find yourself judging that a citizen or a police officer has acted wrongly by killing someone, that a politician is corrupt, that a social institution is discriminatory. In all these cases, you are making a moral judgment. But what is it that drives your judgment? Have you reasoned your way to the conclusion that something is morally wrong? Or have you reached a verdict because you feel indignation or outrage? Rationalists in moral philosophy hold that moral judgment can be based on reasoning alone. Kant argued that one can arrive at a moral belief by reasoning from principles articulating one’s duties. Sentimentalists hold instead that emotion is essential to distinctively moral judgment. Hume, Smith, and their British contemporaries argued that one cannot arrive at a moral belief without experiencing appropriate feelings at some point—e.g. by feeling compassion toward victims or anger toward perpetrators. While many theorists agree that both reason and emotion play a role in ordinary moral cognition, the dispute is ultimately about which process is most central.
Some things, such as human life, love, the arts and humor, are very valuable. An interesting question to ask is why they are so valuable? A potential answer is that they have their value because we value (desire, prefer, etc.) …
« Summer recapitulates life
I now know firsthand what it’s like to be arrested by armed police officers, handcuffed, and sharply interrogated, while one’s wife and children look on helplessly. …
Philosopher, poet, literary and cultural critic, George Santayana is
a principal figure in Classical American Philosophy. His naturalism and
emphasis on creative imagination were harbingers of important
intellectual turns on both sides of the Atlantic. He was a naturalist
before naturalism grew popular; he appreciated multiple perfections
before multiculturalism became an issue; he thought of philosophy as
literature before it became a theme in American and European scholarly
circles; and he managed to naturalize Platonism, update Aristotle,
fight off idealisms, and provide a striking and sensitive account of
the spiritual life without being a religious believer.
Some moral realists have defended moral realism on the basis of the purported fact that moral facts figure as components in some good explanations of non-moral phenomena. In this paper I explore the relationship between theism and this sort of explanationist defense of moral realism. Theistic explanations often make reference to moral facts, and do so in a manner which is ineliminable in an important respect – remove the moral facts from those explanations, and they suffer as a result. In this respect theistic moral explanations seem to differ from the sorts of moral explanations typically offered by moral explanationists.
[Editor's Note: The following new entry by James Edwards replaces the
on this topic by the previous author.] Any theory of criminal law must explain why criminal law is
distinctive—why it is a body of law worthy of separate
attention. This entry begins by identifying features of criminal law
that make this so (§1). It then asks what functions that body of
law fulfills (§2), and what justifies its creation and continued
existence (§3). If criminal law should be retained, we must
consider its proper limits (§4). We must consider the conditions
under which agents should be criminally responsible for whatever falls
within those limits (§5).
So was David Foster Wallace a fox or a hedgehog? There isn’t an obvious answer to the question. Clearly he knew a great many things, ranging from postmodern literary theory to the history and development of the mathematical concept of infinity, and from the paradoxical effectiveness of the simple clichés of Alcoholics Anonymous to the arcana of the U.S. tax code. On the other hand, despite the sometimes overwhelming breadth of what he knew about, the more familiar one becomes with Wallace’s body of work the more difficult it is to escape the feeling that there is something distinctively hedgehog-ish about it.
We consider whether and under what conditions it is morally illicit to profit from poverty. We argue that when profit counterfactually depends on poverty, the agent making the profit is morally obliged to relinquish it. Finally, we argue that the people to whom the profit should be redirected are those on whom it counterfactually depends.
Aristotle famously held that all desiring is directed toward some actual or apparent good, and a long train of celebrated philosophers have agreed with him, from Aquinas and Kant to Anscombe and Davidson. Philosophers writing in this tradition have tended to find Aristotle’s proposition not merely correct but obvious, so obvious that the Scholastics codified it in a dictum: quidquid appetitur, appetitur sub specie boni, “whatever is desired is desired under the guise of the good.” The last few decades, however, have seen a vigorous attack on this guise of the good thesis. The Aristotelian doctrine has been dismissed as not merely wrong but naïve, reflecting a picture of the human heart that is either hopelessly innocent or deliberately one-sided. What accounts for this transformation? How could what seemed plain to so many come to seem so patently false?
At the Doctor: You have six patients. One has Maleficitus, the others have Tolerabalitus. You don’t know who has what. You have a drug that will cure Tolerabalitus and one that will take the edge off Maleficitus. They, however, interact horribly. Footbridge With Suitcases: There are six people, all of whom you care about equally. They are all in suitcases. Five of these are on a track and one is on a footbridge. There’s a trolley heading towards the five and you can stop it if and only if you push the suitcase on the footbridge onto the tracks. You don’t know who is where.