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
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.
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.
. Mathematical formalisms that are constructed for inquiry in one disciplinary context are sometimes applied to another, a phenomenon that I call ‘tool migration.’ Philosophers of science have addressed the advantages of using migrated tools. In this paper, I argue that tool migration can be epistemically risky. I then develop an analytic framework for better understanding the risks that are implicit in tool migration. My approach shows that viewing mathematical constructs as tools while also acknowledging their representational features allows for a balanced understanding of knowledge production that are aided by the research tools migrated across disciplinary boundaries.
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).
Cognitive scientists have increasingly turned to cultural transmission to explain the widespread nature of religion. One key hypothesis focuses on memory, proposing that that minimally counterintuitive (MCI) content facilitates the transmission of supernatural beliefs. We propose two caveats to this hypothesis. (1) Memory effects decrease as MCI concepts become commonly used, and (2) people do not believe counterintuitive content readily; therefore additional mechanisms are required to get from memory to belief. In experiments 1–3 (n = 283), we examined the relationship between MCI, belief, and memory. We found that increased tendencies to anthropomorphize predicted poorer memory for anthropomorphic-MCI content. MCI content was found less believable than intuitive content, suggesting different mechanisms are required to explain belief. In experiment 4 (n = 70), we examined the non-content-based cultural learning mechanism of credibility-enhancing displays (CREDs) and found that it increased participants’ belief in MCI content, suggesting this type of learning can better explain the transmission of belief.
Humanity is teeming with breathtaking theodiversity—in religious beliefs, behaviors, and traditions, as well as in various intensities and forms of disbelief. Yet the origins and consequences of this diversity have received limited attention in psychology. I first describe how evolved psychological processes that influence and respond to cultural evolutionary trajectories generate and channel religious diversity. Next, I explore how theodiversity in turn shapes human psychology, and discuss three cultural dimensions of religious diversity in relation to psychological processes: (a) the cultural shift from small foraging bands and their local religious practices and beliefs to large and complex groups and their world religions, (b) cultural variability among world religions, and (c) secularization and the ensuing cultural divide between religious and nonreligious societies and subcultures. The contributions of psychology to the scientific study of religion will increase with a deeper understanding of theodiversity.
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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.
Establishing whether Big Gods helped drive the cultural evolution of large-scale cooperation requires the synthesis of multiple lines of evidence. Survey data and lab-based studies suggest that belief in (or priming the concept of) a powerful moralizing god can increase individual prosocial behavior (Norenzayan, Henrich, & Slingerland,
Cognitive theories of religion have postulated several cognitive biases that predispose human minds towards religious belief. However, to date, these hypotheses have not been tested simultaneously and in relation to each other, using an individual difference approach. We used a path model to assess the extent to which several interacting cognitive tendencies, namely mentalizing, mind body dualism, teleological thinking, and anthropomorphism, as well as cultural exposure to religion, predict belief in God, paranormal beliefs and belief in life’s purpose. Our model, based on two independent samples (N = 492 and N = 920) found that the previously known relationship between mentalizing and belief is mediated by individual differences in dualism, and to a lesser extent by teleological thinking. Anthropomorphism was unrelated to religious belief, but was related to paranormal belief. Cultural exposure to religion (mostly Christianity) was negatively related to anthropomorphism, and was unrelated to any of the other cognitive tendencies. These patterns were robust for both men and women, and across at least two ethnic identifications. The data were most consistent with a path model suggesting that mentalizing comes first, which leads to dualism and teleology, which in turn lead to religious, paranormal, and life’s-purpose beliefs. Alternative theoretical models were tested but did not find empirical
This paper contributes to the underdeveloped field of experimental philosophy of science. We examine variability in the philosophical views of scientists. Using data from Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, we analyze scientists’ responses to prompts on philosophical issues (methodology, confirmation, values, reality, reductionism, and motivation for scientific research) to assess variance in the philosophical views of physical scientists, life scientists, and social and behavioral scientists. We find six prompts about which differences arose, with several more that look promising for future research. We then evaluate the difference between the natural and social sciences and the challenge of interdisciplinary integration across scientific branches.
Some ‘naturalist’ accounts of disease employ a biostatistical account of dysfunction, whilst others use a ‘selected effect’ account. Several recent authors have argued that the biostatistical account offers the best hope for a naturalist account of disease. We show that the selected effect account survives the criticisms levelled by these authors relatively unscathed, and has significant advantages over the BST. Moreover, unlike the BST, it has a strong theoretical rationale and can provide substantive reasons to decide difficult cases. This is illustrated by showing how life-history theory clarifies the status of so-called diseases of old age. The selected effect account of function deserves a more prominent place in the philosophy of medicine than it currently occupies.
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.
I don’t know what concepts are, or even if there are any (Machery 2009). So it feels awkward to set out to write a paper specifically on conceptual engineering. The fact is, I’ve always been much less interested in what our terms mean (or the content of our concepts) than in what in the world is worth talking about (Haslanger 2012, Ch. 16), though of course, these two issues are related. I suppose I have myself to blame, however, for I have suggested more than once that valuable projects within philosophy can be ameliorative, more specifically, that we should seek not only to elucidate the concepts we have, but aim to improve them in light of our legitimate purposes (Haslanger 2000/2012, Ch. 6; also Haslanger 2017). More specifically, I have argued for ameliorative accounts of gender, man, woman, and race; or, in the language of concepts, for ameliorated concepts of gender, etc.
[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).
I propose a new model of implicit bias, according to which implicit biases are constituted by unconscious imaginings. I begin by endorsing a principle of parsimony when confronted with unfamiliar phenomena. I introduce implicit bias in terms congenial to what most philosophers and psychologists have said about their nature in the literature so far, before moving to a discussion of the doxastic model of implicit bias and objections to it. I then introduce unconscious imagination and argue that appeal to it does not represent a departure from a standard view of imagination, before outlining my model and showing how it accommodates characteristic features of implicit bias. I argue for its advantages over the doxastic model: it does not violate the parsimony principle, it does not face any of the objections so far raised to doxasticism, and it can accommodate the heterogeneity in the category of implicit bias. Finally, I address whether my view limits our ability to hold people accountable for their biases (it does not), and whether it is consistent with what we know about intervention strategies (it is). I conclude that implicit biases are constituted by unconscious imaginings.
Race is one of the most common variables in the social sciences, used to draw correlations between racial groups and numerous other important variables such as education, health care outcomes, aptitude tests, wealth, employment and so forth. But where concern with race once reflected the view that races were biologically real, many, if not most, contemporary social scientists have abandoned the idea that racial categories demarcate substantial, intrinsic biological differences between people. This, in turn, raises an important question about the significance of race in those social sciences: If there is no biological basis of race, why are racial categories useful to social scientists? More specifically, in virtue of what are racial categories a successful basis of informative, important social scientific generalizations? We’ll call this social science’s race puzzle.
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.