Journal of Philosophical Research

Published by Philosophy Documentation Center
Print ISSN: 1053-8364
In this paper, I present a solution to the Doomsday argument based on a third type of solution, by contrast to on the one hand, the Carter-Leslie view and on the other hand, the Eckhardt et al. analysis. The present line of thought is based on the fact that both aforementioned analyses are based on an inaccurate analogy. After discussing the imperfections of both models, I present then a two-sided model that fits more adequately with the human situation corresponding to DA and encapsulates both Carter-Leslie's and Eckhardt et al.'s models. I argue then that this new analogy also holds when one takes into account the issue of indeterminism and the reference class problem. This leads finally to a novel formulation of the argument that could well be more consensual than the original one.
Contemporary foundationalists prefer Moderate Foundationalism over Strong Foundationalism. In this paper, we assess two arguments against the former which have been recently defended by Timothy McGrew. Three theses are central to the discussion: that only beliefs can be probabilifying evidence, that justification is internal, in McGrew's sense of the term, and that only beliefs can be nonarbitrary justifying reasons. A particular belief of a person is basic just in case it is epistemically justified and it owes its justification to something other than her other justified beliefs or their interrelations; a person's belief is nonbasic just in case it is epistemically justified but not basic. Foundationalists agree that if one has a nonbasic belief, then---at rock bottom---it owes its justification to at least one basic belief. There are justified beliefs because and only because there are basic beliefs. Such is the genus Foundationalism.
for example by choosing a healthy lifestyle or by2making provisions for having themselves cryonically suspended in case of de-animation. In contrast to many other ethical outlooks, which in practice often reflect a reactionary attitude to new technologies, the transhumanist view is guided by an evolving vision to take a more proactive approach to technology policy. This vision, in broad strokes, is to create the opportunity to live much longer and healthier lives, to enhance our memory and other intellectual faculties, to refine our emotional experiences and increase our subjective sense of well-being, and generally to achieve a greater degree of control over our own lives. This affirmation of human potential is offered as an alternative to customary injunctions against playing God, messing with nature, tampering with our human essence, or displaying punishable hubris. Transhumanism does not entail technological optimism. While future technological capabilities carry immense potential
Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Virginia, 1993. Includes bibliographical references (leaves 407-412).
In Book VI of his Confessions, Saint Augustine offers a detailed description of one of the most famous cases of weakness of will in the history of philosophy. Augustine characterizes his experience as a monstrous situation in which he both wills and does not will moral growth, but he is at odds to explain this phenomenon. In this paper, I argue that Aquinas's action theory offers important resources for explaining Augustine's monstrosity. On Aquinas's schema, human acts are composed of various operations of intellect and will, and thus are subject to disintegration. In order to capture the gap in human action between making choices to pursue particular goals and translating those choices into behavior, Aquinas distinguishes between two operations of will that he calls choice and use. I apply hisdistinction between choice and use to Augustine's case, arguing that Augustine's moral weakness is a result of will's failure to use its choices. The central thesis of this paper is that Augustine's monstrosity is a bona fide case of weakness of will that is best explained as a failure in use at the level of will.
This chapter traces the development of one of the central debates of late 20th-century moral philosophy — the debate between realism and what Rawls called “constructivism.” It argues that realism is a reactive position that arises in response to almost every attempt to give a substantive explanation of morality. It results from the realist's belief that such explanations inevitably reduce moral phenomena to natural phenomena. The chapter traces this belief, and the essence of realism, to a view about the nature of concepts: that it is the function of all concepts to describe reality. Constructivism may be understood as the alternative view that the function of a normative concept is to refer schematically to the solution to a practical problem. A constructivist account of a concept, unlike a traditional analysis, is an attempt to work out the solution to that problem. The chapter explains how the philosophies of Kant and Rawls can be understood on this model. Philosophy
Contemporary theories of Virtue Ethics are often presented as being in opposition to Kantian Ethics and Consequentialism. It is argued that Virtue Ethics takes as fundamental the question, "What sort of character would a virtuous person have?" and that Kantian Ethics and Consequentialism take as fundamental the question, "What makes an action right?" I argue that this opposition is misconceived. The opposition is rather between Virtue Ethics and Kantian Ethics on the one hand and Consequentialism on the other. The former two are concerned with, respectively, the development of a virtuous character and a good will, whereas Consequentialism is essentially a doctrine that just provides a justification of the right option without specifying how this is to be achieved. Furthermore, I show that Consequentialism, interpreted as a justificatory doctrine, is both an impoverished doctrine and one that cannot be enriched by taking a "pick and mix" approach to other ethical theories in the way that Consequentialists advocate. I argue that there is at least one reason to prefer Kantian Ethics: Kantian Ethics necessarily avoids the objection of self-centeredness, whereas the avoidance of this objection is only contingent in the case of Virtue Ethics.
In this article I argue that Alston's recent meta-epistemological approach in terms of epistemic desiderata is not as epistemically plural as he claims it to be. After some preliminary remarks, I briefly recapitulate Alston's epistemic desiderata approach. Next, I distinguish two ways in which one might consider truth to be an epistemic desideratum. Subsequently, I argue that only one truth-conducive desideratum can count as an epistemic desideratum. After this, I attempt to show that none of the higher-order desiderata that are thought to be favorable to the discrimination and formation of true beliefs are genuinely epistemic desiderata. A strict interpretation of 'epistemic desideratum' leads to a rejection of all deontological desiderata as well. Finally, features of systems of beliefs, such as coherence and understanding, cannot count as epistemic desiderata either. In the end only two candidate-desiderata can count as epistemic, one of which is logically trivial. In the epilogue, I offer some suggestions as to how Alston's epistemic desiderata approach should be amended in order to make it epistemically plural.
W. D. Ross's ethical theory requires us somehow to compare the metaphorical "weights" of different prima facie duties, but it leaves mysterious how this might be done. The formulation of a procedure to achieve such a comparison would be desirable on practical, theoretical, and pedagogical grounds. I formulate a procedure that is congenial to Ross's theory. Central to my procedure are instructions to characterize the weight of each prima facie duty with respect to (a) the general stringency of this kind of duty, (b) the stringency of this particular duty relative to other duties of its own kind, and (c) the degree to which the duty specifically demands the particular action that it favors in a given case. The procedure leads to a determination of one's actual, all-things-considered duty in some cases but not in all.
This paper summarizes and critiques Amartya Sen’s use of functionings and capabilities to evaluate inequality and poverty. He judges that 'things' and 'means' to acquire things are inadequate measurements of poverty. His approach keys upon the functionings that can be performed by the poor and the capability sets that are available to them from which they can choose. Sen’s strategy proposes to enlarge these sets and provide improved functionings within them. Although this approach is preferable to a bare income or commodities orientation, it fails to appropriately emphasize the personal qualities that largely determine whether capability sets will be acted upon. Sen focuses upon a person’s range of available action and neglects the motivations that spur that person to choose and to apply herself to her choice. He also presumes that the functionings that constitute well-being, despite their individual and interrelated complexities, can be described and guaranteed without surpassing available resources, e.g., information, revenues and public support. A hierarchy of functionings is necessary to guide the commitment of resources and establish boundaries for their application.
I argue in this essay that practices of epistemological injustice by European scholars and researchers are neither a thing of the past nor a confine of philosophical debates driven by bad social science. Recent dimensions can be termed experimentations in science and ethics. Taking Africa as a place for scientific experimentation with hypotheses that have been classified as unethical is rife today, with the potential for far more serious and life threatening consequences. There are two phenomena that raise ethical questions and concerns: they are carried out by scientists and agencies who know well both short-term and long-term effects of the materials or products; moreover, the exportation of both the knowledge and materials for these experimentations is licensed by agencies of the governments of origin. The first concerns the exportation to and dumping in Africa of obsolete technological materials with high levels of toxity and radiation. The second concerns the mass exportation to Africa of scientific experimentations with genetically modified crops and foods when these are known in the countries of origin in Europe and America to bear pathogens harmful to both humans and ecological systems. The potential harm associated with these practices is comparable with, and puts them at the same level with, weapons of mass destruction, and their use ought to be questioned at the same level of concern as the use of sarin gas or cyanide in warfare.
This paper explores the relationship between technology and the environment. Although technological intervention can help humanity to address some of the most pressing environmental challenges, technological advances alone cannot solve all environmental ills. In some cases, the attempt to manipulate the environment through technology can lead to different types of environmental destruction. This paper thus suggests that the introduction and use of technology requires a critical assessment of its ethical and environmental benefits.
Kierkegaard's critique of Hegel and Hegelianism anticipates major twentieth-century philosophical movements ranging from structuralism, existentialism, and phenomenology, to post-structuralism and postmodernism. This paper analyzes Kierkegaard's interpretation of the relationship between subjectivity and temporality in pivotal passages in The Sickness Unto Death and The Concept of Anxiety. Heidegger's account of the interplay between presentation (Darstellung) and representation (Vorstellung) imagination points to Kant's theory of the imagination and suggests the way in which the Kierkegaardian subject is constituted by an irreducible alterity that is never present but is always already past. The infinite qualitative difference of the divine is reflected in the inescapable interiority of the subject. Kierkegaard's abyssal other returns in Barth's wholly other God, Heidegger's aletheia, Derrida's differance, and Lacan's real. For each of these writers, subjectivity is haunted by another it can neither exclude nor appropriate. This interior exteriority is the condition of the possibility of both desire and hope.
Philosophical Investigations 19-20 have received little critical attention and their importance has mostly gone unappreciated. In this paper these sections are examined a few sentences at a time in the order they were written with an eye to determining what Wittgenstein does and does not say and how he has been and can be misinterpreted. In addition it is suggested that the material deserves careful consideration because it sheds light on Wittgenstein's way of tackling philosophical problems, illuminates his pronouncements about philosophy later in the Investigations, and serves as a valuable antidote to the widely-held view that whenever he discusses a philosophical problem he ends up advancing a philosophical thesis.
Between 1945 and 1948, Michael Polanyi, Michael Oakeshott, and Karl Popper respectively discussed the nature of tradition, and the part that traditions play in free societies. This article analyzes these thinkers' ideas of tradition. Polanyi depicted tradition as knowledge that is embodied in skilled practice, and tradition for Oakeshott consists in activities that are suffused with practical knowledge and technique. Popper emphasized rational criticizability, whereas Polanyi and Oakeshott emphasized the tacit dimension of traditions.
This essay explores the relevance of Socrates' mythical introduction of recollection in the Meno. I argue that the passage at 81 a5-e2 addresses different levels of understanding, a superficial and a deeper one, corresponding to a literal and a metaphorical reading respectively. The major themes addressed in this passage - the immortality of the soul, transmigration, rewards and punishments in the after-life, Hades, the kinship of all nature and anamnesis - have distinct meanings depending on whether we approach them with a Platonic or an Orphico-Pythagorean eye. The literal understanding is appealing to Meno and is offered in reply to his challenge in order to persuade him to continue the investigation of virtue. It is, however, the deeper sense that Plato's Socrates intends for a more philosophically attuned audience.
It has been argued that killing persons is wrong because it deprives them of future experiences. Some opponents of abortion argue that the same apples to potential persons - fetuses, zygotes, embryos, etc. - so that to destroy them is as wrong as killing a person. Phil Gosselin rejects this position, employing the reductio argument that if it were so, contraception would be equally wrong, since it destroys potential persons that are gamete pairs. I argue in this paper that Gosselin's position on the ontological status of the "victim" of contraception, the gamete pair, is flawed in such a way that his conclusion that there is no morally relevant difference between what is destroyed by abortion and what is destroyed by contraception fails. A gamete pair is ontologically different from a fetus; "victims" of contraception and victims of abortion are not significantly analogous, and the reductio that depends upon their similarity for its force is unsuccessful.
Plato's definition of pleasure as perceptible replenishment of a lack has been criticized as too narrow and incapable of accounting for some of the corporeal and all the non-corporeal pleasures. Plato's suggested reply, based on objective standards in relation to which we are to estimate the reality and degree of replenishment we experience, seems to give rise to another difficulty, concerning the legitimate diversity of our natural inclinations and tastes. I argue that Plato's definition of pleasure makes perfect sense when integrated in the horizon of his metaphysical presuppositions and that he is successful in reconciling the diversity of subjective tastes with his view of an ultimate objective hierarchy of value by appeal to the notion of the mean.
One of the longest standing objections levied against virtue ethics is the Self-Absorption Objection. Proponents of this objection state that the main problem with neo-Aristotelian accounts is that the virtuous agent’s motive is to promote her own eudaimonia. In this paper, I examine Christopher Toner’s attempt to address this objection by arguing that we should understand the virtuous agent as acting virtuously because doing so is what it means to live well qua human. I then go on to defend Toner’s view from two of Anne Baril’s criticisms: that his account is un-Aristotelian, and that his account does not take seriously the importance of the virtuous agent organizing her life in a way that is good for her. In doing so, I pave the way for neo-Aristotelian virtue ethicists to develop an adequate response to the self-absorption objection along Toner’s lines.
In his latest book, Realistic Rationalism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1998), Jerrold J. Katz proposes an ontology designed to handle putative counterexamples to the traditional abstract/concrete distinction. Objects like the equator and impure sets, which appear to have both abstract and concrete components, are problematic for classical Platonism, whose exclusive categories of objects with spatiotemporal location and objects lacking spatial or temporal location leave no room for them. Katz proposes to add a "composite" category to Plato's dualistic ontology, which is supposed to include all those objects with both abstract and concrete components. But every concrete object stands in an indefinite number of relations to abstract ones. Thus, Katz must offer principled criteria describing just those relations that produce a composite object, lest all concrete objects turn out to be composite. The trouble that he has in specifying such a "creative" relationship results from his clinging to the traditional definitions of "abstract" and "concrete." The substance dualism that results renders the articulation of any relations between abstract and concrete difficult, and a category such as Katz's "composite objects" impossible.
What is it about the concept of absurdity that allows it to be applied to everything from the nature of existence to statistical methodologies to slapstick comedy? This article seeks an answer in the structure of how we experience the phenomena regularly cited to substantiate absurdity claims, namely those putatively labeled ‘confusing,’ ‘humorous,’ or both. Taking its cue from evolutionary and phenomenological accounts of humor and confusion, and responding to the canonical statements of Albert Camus and Thomas Nagel, the essay proposes that certain structures of experience parallel the structure of absurdist arguments.
Defending the distinction between believing and accepting a proposition, 1 argue that cases where agents allegedly exercise direct voluntary control over their beliefs are instances of agents exercising direct voluntary control over accepting a proposition. The upshot is that any decision to believe a proposition cannot result directly in one's acquiring the belief. Accepting is an instrumental mental action the agent performs that may trigger belief. A model of the relationship between acceptance and belief is sketched and defended. The consequences of the distinction between belief and acceptance, and the model of belief control sketched are then applied to the recent case made by Carl Ginet in defense of the conceptual and psychological possibility of agents exercising direct voluntary control over their beliefs.
Can a reliabilist theory of justified belief be extended to account for justified credence? In exploring this question, this paper first takes as its target Tang’s (2016, 2021) reliabilist account of justified credence, which is inspired by William Alston’s “indicator reliabilism” (or “internalist externalism”) about justified belief. I point out a neglected shortcoming in Tang’s account, which concerns its failure to properly explain degrees of justification. Fortunately, Alston’s epistemology contains the resources which can be developed to remedy this defect. The central idea here is that the justificatory status of a credence can not only be (ultima facie) defeated by a subject’s own perspective, but also be (ultima facie) enhanced by that. Finally, it is argued that this idea applies to beliefs as well.
This article offers an interpretation of Aristotle’s tenet that chance and accidental causes are indeterminate. According to one existing reading, the predicate ‘indeterminate’ is said of the effect of chance (and of accidental causes), meaning ‘causally indeterminate.’ Another reading claims instead that the predicate ‘indeterminate’ is said of the cause of a chance event, meaning something close to ‘potentially infinite in number.’ For my part, I contend that the predicate ‘indeterminate,’ when applied to Aristotle’s concept of accidental cause and to chance, is best understood as a second-order predicate. More precisely, Aristotle uses ‘indeterminate’ to qualify a certain type of causal relation, rather than to indicate a quality of the causal power or of the effect. As a preparatory step in my argument, I contend that ‘accidental’ and ‘per se’ are also best understood as second-order predicates of ‘cause,’ and as a corollary of my main thesis I offer an interpretation of how chance involves an infinite number of possible causes.
In a recent paper, Breckenridge and Magidor argue for an interesting and counterintuitive account of instantial reasoning. According to this account, in arguments such as one beginning with 'There is some x such that x is mortal. Let O be such an x. . . . ,' the 'O' refers to a particular object, although we cannot know which. I give and defend a simple counterexample involving the notion of an unreferred-To object.
In response to Mark D. White's Kantian critique of my article "A Modest Proposal: Accounting for the Virtuousness of Modesty," I argue that invoking Kant's notions of dignity and respect in order to provide an egalitarian account of modesty brings with it conceptual commitments that are not always easy to reconcile with the moral phenomenology of that virtue. In light of this I question White's claim that a Kantian account of modesty offers a better explanation than the existential phenomenological approach that I endorse.
This paper addresses a question concerning psychological continuity, i.e., which features preserve the same psychological subject over time; this is not the same question as the one concerning the necessary and sufficient conditions for personal identity. Marc Slors defends an account of psychological continuity that adds two features to Derek Parfit's Relation R, namely narrativity and embodiment. Slors's account is a significant improvement on Parfit's, but still lacks an explicit acknowledgment of a third feature that I call relationality. Because they are usually regarded as cases of radical discontinuity, I start my discussion from the experiences of psychological disruption undergone by victims of severe violence and trauma. As it turns out, the challenges we encounter in granting continuity to the experiences of violence and trauma victims are germane to those we encounter in granting continuity to the experiences of subjects in non-traumatic contexts. What is missing in the most popular accounts of psychological continuity is an explicit acknowledgment of the links that tie our psychological lives to other subjects. A more persuasive notion of psychological continuity is not only embodied and narrative, as is Slors's notion, but also explicitly relational.
In most everyday instances of reasoning, reasoners can gain, lose, and reacquire entitlement to (or justification for) a possible commitment (or belief) as a result of their consecutively acquiring new commitments. For example, we might initially conclude that 'Tweety can fly' from 'Tweety is a bird,' but later have to reject this conclusion as a result of our coming to learn that Tweety is a penguin. We could, even later, reacquire entitlement to 'Tweety can fly' if we became committed (and presumably entitled) to the claim 'Tweety has a jetpack.' I will call this very common feature of reasoning entitlement recovery. In this paper I will argue that the types of inferential relations that are central to Brandom's entire account of language and reasoning make entitlement recovery impossible. I will then briefly attempt to diagnose why this problem arises for Brandom and suggest how his account should be modified so that it will successfully allow entitlement recovery.
This paper argues that Epistemic Contextualism, Knowledge Closure, and the Knowledge Account of Assertion are inconsistent. The argument is developed by considering an objection to Contextualism that is unsuccessful. Some Contextualist responses are canvassed and rejected. Finally, it is argued that an analogue of the inconsistency arises for those who accept that justification is closed under known entailment.
In this paper I present an interpretation of the role of pleasure in Kant's theory of desire formation. On my reading Kant's account of how desires are formed does - in spite of what some commentators say - commit him to hedonism. On the face of it, Kant writes of the determination of the faculty of desire in three distinct ways, but I argue that these accounts can be reconciled in a single, more comprehensive (and thoroughly hedonistic) theory. This comprehensive theory has the virtue of complementing and elucidating some of the lesser-known things that Kant has to say on the nature of pleasure in the Critique of Judgment and Anthropology from a Pragmatic Point of View.
Brandom (1994) claims to have succeeded in showing how certain kinds of social practices can institute objective deontic statuses and confer objective conceptual contents on certain performances. This paper proposes a reconstruction of how, on Brandom's views, this is supposed to come about, and a critical examinution of the explicit arguments offered in support for this claim.
William Alston once argued that justification is not necessary for knowledge. He was convinced of this because he thought that, in cases of clear perception, one could come to know that P even if one's justification for believing P was defeated. The idea is that the epistemic strength of clear perception is sufficient to provide knowledge even where justification is lacking; perceiving (and believing) that P is sufficient for knowing that P. In this paper, I explore a claim about knowledge that is the opposite side of the coin from Alston's position: clear perception (with belief) that P is necessary for knowledge. Taking my cue from John Locke, I examine the plausibility of a theory of knowledge that distinguishes justified true unGettiered belief that P from knowing that P. Although I don't fully advocate this position, I argue that it has significant plausibility, and that the initially troubling consequences of the account are not as problematic as one might have suspected.
There is a growing trend toward recognizing that moral obligation is centrally grounded in accountability. This, however, may seem to offer another argument, perhaps in the footsteps of Kant, that other animals have no moral standing. Accountability seems to be grounded in some kind of authoritative demands and, as Stephen Darwall puts it, "second-personal address." Other animals are not competent in such practices, so they may seem to be left out of the domain of obligation. I argue that demand-Accountability-based obligation is consistent with robust moral standing for other animals. Our accountability could be based on demands made by the moral community at large, which would put other animals on equal footing with moral agents in terms of how obligations might apply to them. Further, I argue that the most plausible model of demand-Accountability-based obligation would have such a community-centered structure and would support other animals having moral standing.
Fodor's Informational Semantics states that the content of a representation depends on the counterfactual relation between the representation and the represented. However, his theory suffers from the psychological explanation problem and the indeterminacy problem raised by twin cases. In response to these problems, Fodor has introduced narrow content and a mixed theory of content that combines a historical account with the counterfactual account. In The Elm and the Expert, he drops both of them for the reason that twin cases are nomologically impossible. I argue that Fodor underestimates the persistence of the problems raised by twin cases. Consequently, I contend that Fodor has to keep both the narrow content and the historical account.
David Rosenthal and Fred Dretske agree that creature consciousness should be used to give a reductive explanation of state consciousness. They disagree, however, over what type of creature consciousness will do the job. Rosenthal, defending a higher-order thought (HOT) account, argues that higher-order creature consciousness is what is needed. Dretske, defending a first-order (FO) account, argues that first-order creature consciousness is what is needed. I attempt to advance this debate by presenting a case for a third creature-conscious account of state consciousness - what I call the same-order (SO) account. I show that by defining a conscious mental state as a mental state whose possessor is conscious of what it represents, we are offered a unique creature-conscious account of state consciousness that avoids some of the problems that have plagued both the HOT and FO accounts.
I problematize the notion of self-legislation. I follow in Elizabeth Anscombe's footsteps and suggest that on a plausible reading of Kant, he does not so much misidentify the sources of moral normativity, as fail to identify any such sources in the first place: The set of terms with which the Kantian is attempting to do so is confused. Interpreters today take Kant's legal language to be merely metaphorical. The language of 'self-legislation,' in particular, is replaced by such interpreters with a language of 'self-constitution.' I challenge that, and claim that the language of legislation and judgment was, for Kant, more than a metaphor: The recognition of the moral law, he says, motivates us as if it were "the bidding of another person." Legislation is typically remote in this way. It typically requires a distance between lawgiver and law-receiver-a distance that allows, for instance, for self-inspection and judgment. For Kant, these are the terms in which to explain the forms of the moral judgment and the sources of moral normativity. It is questionable, however, whether we can be remote from our own actions in the way required-whether we can observe our own actions. We cannot, for example, raise our hand and wonder how far it will go up. I develop this claim into an Anscombean challenge to Kant, and I call upon Kantians to take it seriously.
In Morals from Motives (2001), Michael Slote proposed an agent-based approach to virtue ethics in which the morality of an action derives solely from the agent’s motives. Among the many objections that have been raised against Slote’s account, this article addresses two problems associated with the Kantian principle that ought implies can. These are the problems of “deficient” and “inferior” motivation. These problems arise because people cannot freely choose their motives. We cannot always choose to act from good motives; nor can we always avoid acting from bad ones. Given this, Slote’s account implies that we sometimes cannot do what we ought to do, contrary to Kant’s principle. In this article, I propose an alternative agent-based account which, I argue, circumvents these problems. While people cannot choose their motives, they can choose their intentions. By characterizing virtuous action, as I do, in terms of good intentions rather than in terms of good motives, the conflict between what people can do and what they ought to do is resolved.
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