What is it to be mentally healthy? In the ongoing movement to promote mental health, to reduce stigma and to establish parity between mental and physical health, there is a clear enthusiasm about this concept and a recognition of its value in human life. However, it is often unclear what mental health means in all these efforts and whether there is a single concept underlying them. Sometimes the initiatives for the sake of mental health are aimed just at reducing mental illness, thus implicitly identifying mental health with the absence of diagnosable psychiatric disease. More ambitiously, there are high-profile proposals to adopt a positive definition, identifying mental health with psychic or even overall wellbeing. We argue against both: a definition of mental health as mere absence of mental illness is too thin, too undemanding, and too closely linked to psychiatric value judgments, while the definition in terms of wellbeing is too demanding and potentially oppressive. As a compromise we sketch out a middle position. On this view mental health is a primary good, that is the psychological preconditions of pursuing any conception of the good life, including wellbeing, without being identical to wellbeing.
I’m going to try to post more short news items. For example, here’s a new book I haven’t read yet:
• Naomi Klein On Fire: The (Burning) Case for a Green New Deal, Simon and Schuster, 2019. I think she’s right when she says this:
I feel confident in saying that a climate-disrupted future is a bleak and an austere future, one capable of turning all our material possessions into rubble or ash with terrifying speed. …
In a recent issue of Bioethics, I argue that compulsory moral bioenhancement should be administered covertly. Alexander Zambrano has criticized this argument on two fronts. First, contrary to my claim, Zambrano claims that the prevention of ultimate harm by covert moral bioenhancement fails to meet conditions for permissible liberty-restricting public health interventions. Second, contrary to my claim, Zambrano claims that covert moral bioenhancement undermines autonomy to a greater degree than does overt moral bioenhancement. In this paper, I rebut both of these arguments, then finish by noting important avenues of research that Zambrano’s arguments motivate.
Via Rochelle Don on Flickr
People dispute the ontological status of robots. Some insist that they are tools: objects created by humans to perform certain tasks — little more than sophisticated hammers. …
The philosopher wrote:
The big move in the statistics wars these days is to fight irreplication by making it harder to reject, and find evidence against, a null hypothesis. Mayo is referring to, among other things, the proposal to “redefine statistical significance” as p less than 0.005. …
In much of the recent literature on the subject, autonomy is interpreted as having the capacity and freedom to be the primary judge and executor of how one’s life goes (see e.g. Dworkin 1998; Dworkin 1994; Beauchamp and Childress 2008; Korsgaard 2009; Radoilska 2013). In the case of the normal and competent human adult - sometimes identified with the enfranchised citizen of a modern democratic state - our capacity for self-governance can be thought of as grounding a constraint on what other people (including the state and its representatives) can legitimately do to us, thereby providing a rationale for consent requirements of various sorts (see e.g. Estlund 2007). On this view, the failure to elicit my consent in the context of some specific interaction is to fail to respect me as the autonomous, and thereby normatively qualified, agent I am. One obvious limitation of this explanation is that the practice of constraining behaviour by eliciting consent extends far beyond the domain of agents who satisfy the standard requirements of autonomous, self governing, rational
Certain metaphysical views are thought to have implications for the kinds of feelings that are appropriate to have. For instance, many philosophers maintain that we lack free will and that, as a result, reactive attitudes like resentment are inappropriate. Resentment would only be appropriate if people had genuine libertarian free will; since people lack such free will, we should not resent people even when they do us wrong (e.g., Pereboom 2001, Sommers 2007). Buddhist metaphysics also has implications for the kinds of reactive attitudes that are appropriate to have. Insofar as Buddhism denies the existence of a self, emotions that depend on a representation of self are based on a fundamental mistake.
Standard decision theory has trouble handling cases involving acts without finite expected values. This paper has two aims. First, building on earlier work by Colyvan (2008), Easwaran (2014), and Lauwers & Vallentyne (2016), it develops a proposal for dealing with such cases, Difference Minimizing Theory. Difference Minimizing Theory provides satisfactory verdicts in a broader range of cases than its predecessors. And it vindicates two highly plausible principles of standard decision theory, Stochastic Equivalence and Stochastic Dominance. The second aim is to assess some recent arguments against Stochastic Equivalence and Stochastic Dominance. If successful, these arguments refute Difference Minimizing Theory. This paper contends that these arguments are not successful.
Wang Yangming (1472–1529) was a Chinese statesman, general,
and Neo–Confucian philosopher. He was one of the leading
critics of the orthodox Neo–Confucianism of Zhu Xi
(1130–1200). Wang is perhaps best known for his doctrine of the
“unity of knowing and acting,” which can be interpreted as a denial of the possibility of weakness of will.
Mencius (fourth century BCE) was a Confucian philosopher. Often
referred to as the “Second Sage” of Confucianism (meaning
second in importance only to Confucius himself), Mencius is best known
for his claim that “human nature is good.” He has
attracted interest in recent Western philosophy because his views on
the virtues, ethical cultivation, and human nature have intriguing
similarities with but also provocative differences from familiar
Humean and Aristotelian formulations.
This paper discusses a heretofore under-explored connection between the philosophical literatures in bioethics and philosophy of science. The main point of the paper is that these two literatures can benefit from each other, which I demonstrate by showing how the philosophy of understanding can inform how we think about informed consent, and conversely. Specifically, I argue that possession of objectual understanding is one good-making feature of informed consent. This tells us something about informed consent, and has implications for the question of what the basic epistemic relations are between mind and world.
We seem to be responsible for our beliefs in a distinctively epistemic way. We often hold each other to account for the beliefs that we hold. We do this by criticising other believers as ‘gullible’ or ‘biased’, and trying to persuade others to revise their beliefs. But responsibility for belief looks hard to understand because we seem to lack control over our beliefs. This paper argues that we can make progress in our understanding of responsibility for belief by thinking about it in parallel with another kind of responsibility: legal responsibility for criminal negligence.
Julie chose b over a, even though she
knew b was more expensive than a. There is nothing puzzling about Julie’s choice. Perhaps Julie was
choosing among vacation options, and b was a week’s vacation
in Paris, while a was a week’s vacation in Peoria. In any
event, Julie evidently took the overall merits of b to
outweigh those of a, even if b was inferior from a
financial standpoint. (2)
Jimmy opted for d over c, despite his judging
c to be a healthier choice than d. Again, we find Jimmy’s decision unremarkable.
Image via Tim Gouw
Modern life is suffused by technology. We humans do not live in the natural world. We live in the technological world. From dawn to dusk, our activities are facilitated and mediated through a variety of technological aids. …
We examine the following consequentialist view of virtue: a trait is a virtue if and only if it has good consequences in some relevant way. We highlight some motivations for this basic account, and offer twelve choice points for filling it out. Next, we explicate Julia Driver’s consequentialist view of virtue in reference to these choice points, and we canvass its merits and demerits. Subsequently, we consider three suggestions that aim to increase the plausibility of her position, and critically analyze them. We conclude that one of those proposed revisions would improve her account.
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A nerdocratic oath
Recently, my Facebook wall was full of discussion about instituting an oath for STEM workers, analogous to the Hippocratic oath for doctors. Perhaps some of the motivation for this comes from a worldview I can’t get behind—one that holds STEM nerds almost uniquely responsible for the world’s evils. …
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: learning about the universe; and learning how to become civilized. The first problem was solved in the 17th century, with the creation of modern science. But the second problem has not yet been solved. That puts us in a situation of great danger. All our current global problems have arisen as a result. We need to learn from our solution to the first problem how to solve the second. This was the basic idea of the 18th century Enlightenment. Unfortunately, the Enlightenment made three blunders that are still built into academia today. Correct these ancient blunders, and we would have what we so urgently need: universities rationally devoted to helping us solve global problems and create a wise world.
Carl Schmitt (1888–1985) was a conservative German legal,
constitutional, and political theorist. Schmitt is often considered to
be one of the most important critics of liberalism, parliamentary
democracy, and liberal cosmopolitanism. But the value and significance
of Schmitt’s work is subject to controversy, mainly due to his
intellectual support for and active involvement with National
Urban animals can benefit from living in cities, but this also makes them vulnerable as they increasingly depend on the advantages of urban life. This article has two aims. First, I provide a detailed analysis of the concept of captivity and explain why it matters to nonhuman animals—because and insofar as many of them have a (non-substitutable) interest in freedom. Second, I defend a surprising implication of the account—pushing the boundaries of the concept while the boundaries of cities and human activities expand. I argue for the existence of the neglected problem of pervasive captivity, of which urban wildlife is an illustration. Many urban animals are confined, controlled and dependent, therefore often captive of expanding urban areas. While I argue that captivity per se is value-neutral, I draw the ethical and policy implications of harmful pervasive captivity.
An ethical theory is alienating if accepting the theory inhibits the agent from fitting participation in some normative ideal, such as some ideal of integrity, friendship, or community. Many normative ideals involve non-consequentialist behavior of some form or another. If such ideals are normatively authoritative, they constitute counterexamples to consequentialism unless their authority can be explained or explained away. We address a range of attempts to avoid such counterexamples and argue that consequentialism cannot by itself account for the normative authority of all plausible such ideals. At best, consequentialism can find a more modest place in an ethical theory that includes non-consequentialist principles with their own normative authority.
Big decisions in a person’s life often affect the preferences and standards of a good life which that person’s future self will develop after implementing her decision. This paper argues that in such cases the person might lack any reasons to choose one way rather than the other. Neither preference-based views nor happiness-based views of justified choice offer sufficient help here. The available options are not comparable in the relevant sense and there is no rational choice to make. Thus, ironically, in many of a person’s most important decisions the idea of that person’s good seems to have no application. KEYWORDS: Adaptive Preferences; Big Decisions; Future Selves; Good of a Person; Happiness; Incomparability; Rational Choice.
Recent scholarship has created renewed interest in the “right to exclude.” Many contend that, because owners have a right to exclude, private property has a tendency to promote individualism and exclusion. But, as I will argue, property can promote sociability and inclusion by providing owners with various ways of including others. Owners can assert their “right to include” by waiving exclusion rights, dividing existing rights by contracts or property forms, and creating new co-ownership arrangements. Inclusion is socially beneficial insofar as it enables sharing and exchange, facilitates financing and risk-spreading, and promotes specialization. Yet inclusion may entail costs, including coordination difficulties, strategic behavior, and conflicts over use. To mitigate such costs, the law authorizes not only informal and contractual inclusion but also inclusion through various forms of property like easements, leases, and trusts. By providing owners with a range of options by which to include others, these forms help to ensure that an owner’s private incentive to include converges with the socially optimal level of inclusion. Each form not only binds third parties but also provides owners and those they may include with a unique mixture of anti-opportunism devices, such as mandatory rules, fiduciary duties, and supracompensatory remedies. Understanding how the law promotes the social use of property provides insights into debates over the property/contract interface, numerus clausus, and the right to exclude itself.
In a recent article, Krauss (2017) raises some fundamental questions concerning (i) what the desiderata of a definition of lying are, and (ii) how definitions of lying can account for partial beliefs. This paper aims to provide an adequate answer to both questions. Regarding (i), it shows that there can be a tension between two desiderata for a definition of lying: ‘descriptive accuracy’ (meeting intuitions about our ordinary concept of lying), and ‘moral import’ (meeting intuitions about what is wrong with lying), vindicating the primacy of the former desideratum. Regarding (ii), it shows that Krauss’ proposed ‘worse-off requirement’ meets neither of these desiderata, whereas the ‘comparative insincerity condition’ (Marsili 2014) can meet both. The conclusion is that lies are assertions that the speaker takes to be more likely to be false than true, and their distinctive blameworthiness is a function of the extent to which they violate a sincerity norm.
Gratitude is the proper or called-for response in a beneficiary to
benefits or beneficence from a benefactor. It is a topic of interest
in normative ethics, applied ethics, moral psychology, and political
philosophy. Despite its ubiquity in everyday life, there is
substantive disagreement among philosophers over the nature of
gratitude and its relationship to other philosophical concepts. The
sections of this article address five areas of debate about what
gratitude is, when gratitude is called for, and how the answers to
those questions bear on other topics in moral philosophy and
Judgementalism is an interpretation of normative decision theory according to which preferences are all-things-considered judgements of relative desirability, and the only attitudes that rationally constrain choice. The defence of judgementalism we find in Richard Bradley’s Decision Theory with a Human Face relies on a kind of internalism about the requirements of rationality, according to which they supervene on an agent’s mental states, and in particular those she can reason from. I argue that even if we grant such internalism, attitudes other than preferences in the judgementalist sense rationally constrain choice. This ultimately makes a different interpretation of preference preferable.
The economist David K. Levine claims that if a government of a country makes torture legal, the inevitable result will be torture that is out of control. I point out an inconsistency in his approach to torture. I then argue that we should be open to rare counterexamples to his claim and describe a kind of counterexample.
In a recent paper in this journal, Tobias Fuchs has offered a ‘working test’ for well-being. According to this test, if it is fitting to feel compassion for a subject because they have some property, then the subject is badly off because they have that property. Since subjects of deception seem a fitting target for compassion, this test is said to imply that a number of important views, including hedonism, are false. I argue that this line of reasoning is mistaken: seems fitting does not imply is badly off. I suggest that Fuchs’s test can tell us little about well-being that we do not already know; and ultimately, tests of the sort he proposes can yield little insight into the nature of well-being.
I recently finished my first solo-authored book (available in all good bookstores in September!). Here’s a question: do I deserve any praise for doing this? Well, consider some relevant facts. …
Many commentators have questioned whether the interpretation of the term “ex post facto law” in Calder v. Bull, which restricted that term to retroactive criminal laws, is historically accurate. Most prominently, over seventy years ago, Professor William Winslow Crosskey argued not only that this “criminal-only” reading of “ex post facto law” departed from the original understanding of the Constitution, but also that Justices Chase, Iredell, and Paterson adopted that erroneous interpretation in order to assist James Wilson, who by 1798 had fled from his creditors and needed retroactive bankruptcy protection. Drawing on new evidence related to legal disputes involving three land companies with which Wilson was associated, which eventually gave rise to Hollingsworth v. Virginia, Fletcher v. Peck, and Johnson v. M’Intosh, this Article contends that Crosskey was likely correct about the original meaning of “ex post facto law,” but likely mistaken about the Justices’ motivations in Calder. In fact, Wilson’s land speculation, conflicts of interest, and aggressive pursuit of his companies’ interests were probably a source of embarrassment to his fellow Justices. Nonetheless, there is a clear discrepancy between the narrow construal of “ex post facto law” in Calder and how that term was widely used in the founding era, which merits further investigation. A better historical understanding of these land disputes also raises new doubts about the reliability of the discussion of ex post facto laws in James Madison’s Notes of the Debates in the Federal Convention.
A prominent novelist, Madeleine de Scudéry (1607–1701)
composed a series of dialogues dealing with philosophical issues. Primarily ethical in focus, her dialogues examine the virtues and
vices proper to the aristocratic society of the period. They also
explore questions of moral psychology, in particular the interplay
between temperament and free will. In the area of epistemology,
Scudéry analyzes the problem of certitude and self-knowledge. Theologically, she defends cosmological arguments demonstrating
God’s existence. Her aesthetic theory endorses the mimetic
thesis concerning art as the imitation of nature but the individuality
of artistic perception also receives attention.