Donald Davidson and Karl Jaspers on Objectivity and Non-Linguistic Experience
Daniel Adsett, Marquette University
In this paper, I argue that two modes of Karl Jaspers’ Encompassing—Existenz and consciousness-in-general—can be profitably used to disentangle the distinction, found in Donald Davidson’s theory of triangulation, between creatures with and without concepts of objectivity. Although I agree with Davidson that a concept of objectivity and intersubjective communication require each other, I claim, following Jaspers, that it is precisely through a creature’s concept of objectivity and ability to communicate that it can become aware of its own solitary and unique non- or pre-linguistic experiences.
Dissimulation and Social Perception
Rami Ali, Lebanese American University
Do we perceive others' mental states? Naively, the answer is yes. But on the received philosophical view, the answer is no. In what follows I aim to adjudicate the matter with a direct comparison between object perception and social perception (the perception of others' mental states). I begin by providing an account of how the mental states' of others might be perceivable in the same way objects are. Then, I bracket two observations that hinder the comparison, before turning to the comparison itself. I argue that a direct comparison reveals that object perception differs from social perception in that others, unlike objects, can dissimulate. Dissimulation, which is a technical term I employ, refers to the putting on and concealing of perceptual appearances. While objects might appear misleadingly, they cannot dissimulate. But this does not leave us with the isolated case of dissimulation. This is because coloration in nature is not unlike dissimulation. Despite the differences between cases of dissimulation and coloration, I argue that the similarities suggest that just as an animal's colors might be concealed throughout its life without thereby making its color (in principle) unobservable, so the fact that humans dissimulate cannot establish that mental states are not (in principle) perceivable. Indeed, I argue that if dissimulation is at all possible, mental states must be perceived.
Narrative Identity and Social Recognition: Capturing the Phenomenology of Child Abuse
Bertha Alvarez Manninen, Arizona State University
It is unsurprising that there has been little written on the ethics of child abuse from a philosophical perspective, as there is really little to debate concerning its moral impermissibility. We can denounce child abuse on utilitarian grounds, since its harmful effects are well documented, or on deontological grounds, since such maltreatment violates a caregiver’s moral obligations towards the child they are entrusted to nurture. None of these are incorrect—but they are incomplete. A deeper appreciation of what makes child abuse morally objectionable requires exploring the phenomenology of the abused child One of the most theoretical and abstract branches of philosophy is metaphysics, in particular questions concerning the nature of personhood and human identity. It is through these lenses that, I argue, we can gain a philosophical perspective concerning the experience of child abuse from a victim’s standpoint.
Identification and Justifications
Amichai Amit, University of Chicago
One of the greatest challenges confronting neo-Humeanism is accounting for the distinction between merely motivating reasons and justifying reasons (justifications). The difficulty in accounting for this distinction consists in the neo-Humean univocal theory of practical reasons, according to which all reasons are traceable to one’s desires. If all reasons univocally stem from one’s desires, there needs to be a further criterion that distinguishes between merely motivating reasons and justifications. I argue that identification with one’s desires promises such criterion, but that neo-Humeans have failed to account for identification in a manner adequate for the distinction between motivating reasons and justifications. This failure consists in a principled difficulty: an adequate account of identification requires a rational framework that is rendered seemingly impossible by the neo-Humean univocal theory of reasons. I conclude by sketching a holistic conception of reasons that facilitates an account of identification both adequate and compatible with neo-Humeanism.
Wagering with and without Pascal
Joseph Anderson, Central Michigan University
Daniel Collette, St. Norbert College
Pascal’s wager has received the attention of philosophers for centuries. Most of its criticisms arise from how the wager is often framed—or, that it is not. We present Pascal’s wager three ways: in isolation from any further apologetic arguments, as leading towards a regimen intended to produce belief, and finally embedded in a larger apology that includes evidence for Christianity. We find that none of the common objections apply when the wager is presented as part of Pascal’s larger project. Pascal’s wager is a successful argument in its proper place. However, the most interesting features of our first two presentations of the wager turn out to be either irrelevant or missing from our reading: infinite utility and the relativity of evidence. The successful wager is a boring wager. Still, this study shows how the wager might profitably be incorporated into different apologetic contexts and why it often can’t.
Blameless Participation in Structural Injustice
David Atenasio, Loyola University Chicago
In Responsibility for Justice (2011), Iris Marion Young introduces the notion of a structural injustice. A structural injustice occurs when members participating in a market scheme of coordination act blamelessly, but the scheme nevertheless produces an unreasonable level of harm. In this paper I argue that Young overestimates the extent to which a structural injustice may result from blameless participation. If we disambiguate what Young means by structural injustice, we find that most examples of structural injustice involve widespread blameworthy participation. Those examples that do not involve blameworthy participation are not rightfully categorized as structural harms or injustices. Rather, they result from individual failures to discharge duties of beneficence or distributive justice. In either case, we should not be afraid to pierce the veil of collective action and place blame where it is due.
Physicalist Arguments Against the Afterlife
Yuval Avnur, Scripps College
Most secular, scientifically-minded people think that there is no afterlife. The reasoning often goes like this: empirical evidence, or “science,” suggests that everything, even our minds, is or is dependent on physical things. Since an afterlife requires such non-physical things, empirical evidence suggests there is no afterlife. Of course, there are traditions according to which the afterlife is a physical phenomenon (resurrection, reincarnation, futuristic scenarios such as “uploading”), so they escape such an argument. However, even setting those traditions aside, and even granting that empirical evidence supports physicalism, the conclusion that there is no afterlife doesn’t follow. We lack empirical evidence against at least one sort of afterlife. For, things would look empirically exactly as they do now if there were something for us beyond this life.
An Empirical Defense of Philosophical Expertise
Theodore Bach, Bowling Green State University
In some domains (meteorology, live-stock judging, chess, etc.) experts perform better than novices, and in other domains (clinical psychiatry, financial advising, etc.) experts do not perform better than novices. According to empirical studies of expert performance, this is because the former but not the latter domains make available to training practitioners a direct form of learning feedback. Several philosophers resource this empirical literature in order to cast doubt on the quality of philosophical expertise. They claim that philosophy is like the dubious domains in that it does not make available the good, direct kind of feedback, and thus there are empirical grounds for doubting the epistemic quality of philosophical expertise. I examine the empirical studies that are purportedly bad news for professional philosophers. On the basis of that examination, I set forth three reasons for why the empirical study of non-philosophical expertise does not undermine the status of philosophical expertise.
The Pragmatics of Protest as Positive Propaganda
Michael Barnes, Georgetown University
This paper considers Jason Stanley's recent analysis of propaganda. Specifically, it discusses what Stanley calls "positive propaganda," and in particular his suggestion that instances of protest—such as the 1964 march on Montgomery—are paradigmatic examples of positive propaganda. I argue that Stanley’s model of propaganda is an inadequate and unhelpful tool to apply to protest. This is because what makes (egalitarian) protest distinct, I claim, is its moral-epistemological function of foregrounding the moral authority of the protestor. We lose sight of this if we think of protests as engaging in argument with their opponents, and Stanley’s model’s focus on the content of claims encourages this. I argue instead that it is by noting the distinct pragmatic features of protest—that is their entitlement conditions, and the unique uptake these speech acts aim at—that best reveals the important moral, political, and epistemic significance of protest.
No Free Lunch: The Significance of Tiny Contributions
Zachary Barnett, Brown University
There is a well-known moral quandary concerning how to account for the rightness or wrongness of acts that clearly contribute to some morally significant outcome—but which each seem too small, individually, to make any meaningful difference. One consequentialist-friendly response to this problem is to deny that there could ever be a case of this type (e.g., a collection of individually harmless acts that causes a grave harm). The paper pursues this general sort of strategy, but in an unusual way. Existing arguments for the consequentialist-friendly position tend to be sorites-style arguments. Such arguments imagine varying a subject’s predicament bit by bit until it is clear that a relevant difference has been achieved. The arguments offered in this paper are structurally different, and do not rely on any sorites series. For this reason, they are not vulnerable to objections that have been leveled against the sorites-style arguments.
A Puzzle about Inference in Spinoza
Galen Barry, Iona College
Many of Spinoza’s arguments us to consider what logically follows from certain impossibilia. There is nothing unique about his use of these sorts of arguments. But Spinoza faces a puzzle about how they are supposed to work. I argue that his views on representation and logical entailment generate the following apparently inconsistent triad: (A) We can know what follows from self-contradictory beings. (B) In order to know what follows from x, we must be able to form an idea of x. (C) We cannot form ideas of self-contradictory beings. I argue that Spinoza rejects (B): we can know what follows from self-contradictory beings even if we cannot form ideas of them. In defending this solution I hope to show that Spinoza’s method of argumentation is partly linguistic insofar as it is aimed at correcting the misuse of language which makes per impossibile reasoning necessary.
W. E. B. Du Bois on Democracy and Dissent in the Jim Crow Era
Elvira Basevich, University of Michigan–Dearborn
In this talk, I reconstruct the normative basis of W.E.B. Du Bois's critique of American democracy during the Jim Crow era. I argue that the implicit normative basis of his critique appeals to the moral rights of citizenship, with respect to which the black church and school assumed the civic responsibility of protecting in the segregated black community. Next, I illustrate that neither John Rawls nor Axel Honneth capture the imbrication of the ideal of citizenship and the moral agency of members of derogated racial groups. In particular, they fail to countenance the notion of the civic as guiding institutional practices in civil society in the wider context of a white racial polity.
Nonfunctional Semantics in Plants
Mark Bauer, University of Colorado Denver
Teleosemantics is the view that semantic classification is a species or form of functional classification. While it is plausible, I think, that there are semantic functions in the natural world, I want to suggest that not all semantic states are functional. An assumption commonly endorsed by the teleosemantist is that there is a distinction between accidental or incidental contributory effects and functions. Endorsing that distinction, I will suggest, suffices for nonfunctional semantics to be a theoretical possibility. In fact, plant signaling might be an actual instance of that theoretical possibility.
Naive Realism for Unconscious Perceptions
Ori Beck, University of Cambridge
Berger and Nanay (2016) argue that naive realism is undermined by the possible existence of unconscious perceptions. I address their argument, and develop a new version of naive realism—Neuro-computational Naive Realism (NNR) —that is compatible with the possible existence of unconscious perceptions. The view also enjoys other advantages.
Might Do Better: Flexible Relativism and the QUD
Robert Beddor, Rutgers University
Andrew Egan, Rutgers University
The past decade has seen a protracted debate over the semantics of epistemic modals. According to contextualists, epistemic modals quantify over the possibilities compatible with some contextually determined group’s information. Relativists often object that contextualism fails to do justice to the way we assess utterances containing epistemic modals for truth or falsity. However, recent empirical studies cast doubt on this objection, suggesting that ordinary speakers’ judgments about epistemic modals are more closely in line with contextualism than relativism (Knobe and Yalcin 2014; Khoo 2015). In this talk, we advance this debate by reporting new empirical research that reveals a previously overlooked dimension to speakers’ truth-value judgments concerning epistemic modals. Our results show that these judgments vary systematically with the question under discussion in the context of assessment. We argue that this “QUD effect” is difficult to explain if contextualism is true, but is readily explained by a flexible relativist semantics.
Nietzsche's Theory of Forms
Michael Begun, Fordham University
This paper traces the development of Nietzsche’s theory of forms from his earliest philological context to the point in his later philosophical work where he considers psychology explicitly in terms of such a theory. First, I consider the relevant theoretical background to Nietzsche’s conception, most notably in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and August Schleicher, but also to a lesser extent in figures like Burdach and Haeckel. Second, I show how Nietzsche’s thought of will to power, which he first formulated in connection with a philosophical concern to describe basic elements of human psychology, came to be conceived by him in terms of a “morphology and developmental theory of will to power” by the time that he wrote Beyond Good and Evil. Ultimately, I contend that Nietzsche’s aim with this theory of will to power was to promote self-reflection on the use and misuse of psychology by philosophers of his day.
How A Causalist Theory of Action Can Account for Intentional Omissions
Elizabeth Bell, University of Wisconsin–Madison
I argue that The Causalist Theory of Action can account for intentional omissions by arguing that intentional omissions are identical to an agent’s positive acts. Since acts of omissions are identical to an agent’s positive acts, intentional omissions pose no special problem for the theory. I make clear that our intuitions to the contrary can be explained by the fact that it will often be contextually inappropriate to redescribe an agent’s intentional omission in terms of a positive act because context based norms demand that an act description give a specific amount and type of information.
Hume’s General Point of View: A Two-Stage Approach
Nir Ben-Moshe, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
For those who embrace a naturalistic picture of the world and are skeptical about the prospects of meta-ethical realism, an answer to the question of what accounts for the correctness of moral judgment has proven to be elusive. Sentimentalists such as David Hume articulate a standard of correctness for moral judgment by utilizing the following simple idea: agents who are under the appropriate conditions determine what is morally right. My aim in this paper is to offer a new two-stage interpretation of Hume’s “general point of view” as the appropriate conditions from which moral judgments ought to be made. After showing why Hume’s accounts of the general point of view in both the Treatise and the Enquiry are inadequate, I argue that the relevant appropriate conditions need to be jointly constructed (second stage) from information attained by sympathizing with the actor’s narrow circles (first stage).
Other-Directed Desires, Care, Contractarianism
Asha Bhandary, University of Iowa
This paper evaluates a set of challenges posed by persons’ internalization of privilege and disadvantage for a contractarian account of fairness. Should contractarianism take the life-experience of the privileged as the normative ideal, and then extend that scheme of rights and liberties to everyone? Alternatively, should it lower everyone’s expectations to the level of needs-satisfaction at which disadvantaged persons live—for perhaps doing so would eliminate social structures in which people of color and women, and particularly women of color, are exploited? I move towards answering these questions by asking whether other-directed desires ought to be ruled out by a Rawlsian constructivism that asks what ideally rational agents would accept. The potential value of being other-directed is evaluated in the context of intuitions about the disvalue of servility.
Stoicism Meets Strawson: A Response to Christopher Gill’s Strawsonian Interpretation of Stoicism
Robert Bingle, Duke University
Despite being compatibilists about free will, Stoics unequivocally deny that we are ever justified in blaming or resenting wrongdoers. To better understand this puzzling position, Christopher Gill suggests we interpret Stoicism in light of P.F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment.” Since Stoicism also claims that the non-wise suffer from a universal mental illness, Gill reasons that we should read it as endorsing a universal adoption of Strawson’s objective attitude, whereby we cease viewing wrongdoers as proper targets of our resentment, and instead view them as requiring treatment. In this paper, I reject Gill’s Strawsonian interpretation. I argue that it equivocates between two different senses of mental illness found in the Stoic literature, mania—which Stoicism claims all non-wise suffer from—and melancholia—which is closer to what Strawson associated the objective attitude with. Instead, I conclude that Stoicism’s rejections of resentment are better understood as moral arguments aimed at achieving eudaimonia.
Humility Is Not A Virtue
Paul Bloomfield, University of Connecticut
Humility is most often considered a virtue but there are unexplored reasons for thinking it is not. In addition, there are positive reasons for thinking of it as a "corrective" modeled on continence, such that humility corrects for arrogance in the way that continence corrects for incontinence.
Hobbes on the Passions
Christopher Bobier, University of California, Irvine
On Arash Abizadeh’s (2017) reading of Hobbes, passions are complex mental states involving a mental representation of an object as either good or bad and a conative inclination toward or away from that object. Support for this reading is grounded in passages where Hobbes claims that passions are imaginations of the mind. I argue that that such passages are not really evidence that passions are partly constituted by imaginations. I argue that Abizadeh conflates Hobbes’s answer to the question, how do we identify passions, which is an epistemic question, with his answer to the question, what are the passions, which is a metaphysical question.
Is There Such a Thing as Genuinely Moral Disgust?
Mara Bollard, University of Michigan
In recent years, discussions of moral disgust have become increasingly frequent. Advocates of moral disgust all defend some version of the claim that disgust has a legitimate—or proper, positive, important, or indispensable—role to play in moral judgment and discourse. Moral disgust skeptics, on the other hand, seek to deny such claims. How precisely to interpret the disputes that have arisen between moral disgust’s advocates and its critics is a surprisingly complex matter. What does not seem to be at issue in debates in the moral disgust literature, at least not by the lights of the scholars involved, is the ontological question of whether there is, in fact, a distinctive psychological state of genuinely moral disgust. In this paper, I investigate the previously neglected ontological question. I argue that the case has not yet been made that there is such thing as genuinely moral disgust.
Natural Goods in the Eudemian Ethics: A Particular Type of Good-For
Giulia Bonasio, Columbia University
I investigate how Aristotle’s conception of natural goods in the Eudemian Ethics provides an unexplored resource for ethical naturalism. I focus on two reasons for understanding Aristotle’s ethics as a form of naturalism: for Aristotle, the notion of the highest good is connected to our nature and to our function, and there is no supernatural entity that provides a standard for evaluation of particular actions or states of affairs as good or bad. In section 1, I argue that natural goods are simpliciter-goods. In section 2, I provide an argument in favor of the idea that natural goods are a particular type of good-for: they are good for what I call the standard.
There Are No Intrinsic Desires
Paul Boswell, Université de Montréal
There are no intrinsic desires. I do not claim that there is nothing we desire for its own sake. What I object to is a view that casts intrinsic desires in the role of ultimate grounds of what an agent objectively ought to do, and which holds that practical reasoning is a matter of determining what one actually wants, deep down. In this paper I show that such a view, Hard Humeanism, requires intrinsic desires to have such abstract content that it becomes wildly implausible that what one ought to do is grounded in what you want. I do this by first offering a sketch of a solution to a well-known critique of Humeanism, known as the specificationist critique. I then show that the emended view that survives this critique prevents the Hard Humean from accounting for the rationality of changes of intrinsic desire during maturation.
Good Friend: Bad Believer?
Anna Brinkerhoff, Brown University
Friendship places demands on what we do: we should treat our friends differently than our nonfriends. Some philosophers have wondered whether friendship places demands on what we believe, too. Should we believe differently when it comes to our friends than our nonfriends? Simon Keller and Sarah Stroud argue that we should. Specifically, they argue that friendship requires epistemic partiality and that this puts friendship at odds with rationality: friendship tells us to base our beliefs on some things that don’t bear on their truth and rationality tells us the opposite. In at least some cases, then, we can be good friends or good believers but not both. I will argue against Keller and Stroud’s view by offering an alternative that shifts the focus away from (ir)rationality altogether. Friendship doesn’t require us to have certain beliefs, irrational or otherwise: it requires us to direct our attention in certain ways instead.
Autonomy, Alienation, and Well-Being: Seeing One’s Well-Being through Autonomous Action
Teresa Bruno-Nino, Syracuse University
The Resonance Constraint (if something is good for an agent, then it resonates with her first-person perspective) has played a crucial role in debates about well-being. Subjectivists have used it as part of an argument for their view. Objectivists have tried to accommodate it or dismiss its importance. Yet, it remains rather mysterious what resonance amounts to. I suggest that there is a kind of resonance, what I call “resonance as autonomous engagement,” that has been overlooked and that is sufficient to meet Resonance. My first task is to explain the phenomenon. My second task is to evaluate the impact of resonance as engagement for the debate between subjectivists and objectivists about well-being. I argue that resonance as engagement is a powerful resource for objectivists to address alienation objections and give a response to a well-being skeptic, someone who believes that there’s no such thing as goodness for a person.
Moral Uncertainty and Moral Demandingness
Michael Bukoski, Dartmouth College
Suppose that you believe that Singer’s principle (requiring that one donate a large portion of one’s discretionary income to effective charities) is probably—but not certainly—false. I consider the argument that because donating to charity is definitely permissible, it would be reckless and therefore morally wrong not to donate anyway, just to be safe. An objection to this simple argument is that it ignores the fact that a moral requirement to donate anyway would threaten important (possible) moral values, such as integrity. I defend two different but compatible alternatives to the simple argument that avoid this objection. The first is that one should respond to moral uncertainty by maximizing expected moral value. The second is that a morally virtuous person is rationally required to donate in such circumstances. The overall conclusion is that the practical force of Singer’s principle is more difficult to escape than one might have thought.
The Promise of Lockean Tacit Consent Theory
Jeff Carroll, University of Virginia
John Locke is strongly committed to both voluntarism and a consent theory of political obligation. John Simmons has defended both Locke’s voluntarism and Locke’s consent theory of political obligation as being true. Obviously, there have been very few express consenters. This means that Locke’s concept of tacit consent has to do most of the heavy lifting in generating political obligation. Simmons argues that it is not sufficiently strong. The implication is philosophical anarchism. I believe that tacit consent has spent more time in the gym than Simmons. Though mere residence does not qualify as tacitly consenting, a not too distant scenario in which individuals are presented the choice to “emigrate or stay and consent” and they opt to stay, I believe, would. By responding to Simmons’s critique of “emigrate or stay and consent” choice situations, I provide a Lockean path out of philosophical anarchism.
The Metaethical Implications of Epistemic Value
Spencer Case, University of Colorado Boulder
Some philosophers have thought that certain cognitive states, which have epistemic value, ground epistemic normativity. Here I argue that the existence of this kind of value supports moral realism. I consider two kinds of argument for that conclusion. The first draws out the implications of what has been called “pragmatic encroachment” on epistemic considerations. If there is such encroachment, as some philosophers believe, then there is also likely to be ethical encroachment, meaning that certain truths about epistemic value imply truths about moral value. The second argument is this: if epistemic value is valuable simpliciter, as it would have to be if epistemic normativity is to be authoritative, then we plausibly have some moral reasons to respect epistemic value, i.e., to promote rather than to diminish it.
Ideal Counterpart Theorizing and the Accuracy Argument for Probabilism
Clinton Castro, University of Wisconsin–Madison
Olav Vassend, Nanyang Technological University
One of the main goals of Bayesian epistemology is to justify the rational norms credence functions ought to obey. Accuracy arguments attempt to justify these norms from the assumption that the source of value for credences relevant to their epistemic status is their accuracy. This assumption and some standard decision-theoretic principles are used to argue for norms like Probabilism, the thesis that an agent’s credence function is rational only if it obeys the probability axioms. We introduce an example that shows that the accuracy arguments for Probabilism given by Joyce (1998, 2009) and Pettigrew (2016) fail, and that Probabilism in fact turns out to be false given Pettigrew’s way of conceiving of the goal of having accurate credences. Finally, we use our discussion of Pettigrew’s framework to draw an important general lesson about normative theorizing that relies on the positing of ideal agents.
What’s Really Wrong with Annexation: A Non-Domination Account
Amandine Catala, Université du Québec à Montréal
This paper aims to identify and to clarify what’s really wrong with annexation, i.e., what the intrinsic wrong-making feature of annexation is and why. Several accounts of the wrongness of annexation have recently been offered in the literature. I start by critically assessing existing accounts. I show that the features they identify as wrong-making are incidental rather than intrinsic to annexation, and that these accounts are therefore unable to capture what is inherently wrong with annexation. As a result, they counterintuitively imply that certain cases of annexation are permissible. I then offer an alternative account, that explains the wrongness of annexation in terms of domination. To do so, I develop a new account of self-determination, which allows us to explain more systematically and precisely where existing accounts go wrong, and to pinpoint where we might locate the wrongness of annexation instead.
Essentially Indexical Second-Person Thought
Bryan Chambliss, University of Arizona
A second-person thought is one that has a component corresponding to a second-person pronoun, like ‘you’, in the apt linguistic expression of the thought. An essentially indexical second-person thought is a second-person thought whose content is distinctive in its being essentially indexical, and manifesting an irreducibly second-person perspective. I argue for essentially indexical second-person thought by extending a well-known argument for essentially indexical thought—much as essentially indexical first-person thought plays an indispensable role in explaining action, essentially indexical second-person thought plays an indispensable role in explaining our interactions with other agents. But given its reliance upon existing arguments for essentially indexical thought, my argument might underwrite a bold thesis (essentially indexical thought exists) or a modest thesis (if essentially indexical first-person thought exists, then so does essentially indexical second-person thought). I defend the modest thesis, and explain why all parties to the debate ought to be interested.
What's Wrong with Telling Someone Else's Story?
Rebecca Chan, University of Notre Dame
This paper explores whether it is permissible to tell someone else’s story. Specifically, I’m interested in works—such as those in literature and art—that attempt to convey the experiences of a group of which the author or artist is not a part. Telling someone else’s story requires robust “what it’s like” knowledge, and there is a strong presumption that authors either lack this knowledge. Without this knowledge, these works are epistemically defective in the same way that fabricated or misappropriated research is in, e.g., the sciences. Finally, I note that the epistemic wrongness of telling someone else’s story connects with an account of wrongness grounded in social injustice: membership in a group of a socially unjust society is sufficient (though not necessary) for lacking the relevant knowledge of “what it’s like” to be a member of a different group.
Scanlon's Theories of Blame
Eugene Chislenko, Temple University
T.M. Scanlon recently offered an influential treatment of blame as a response to the impairment of a relationship. I argue, first, that Scanlon’s remarks about the nature of blame suggest several sharply diverging views, so different that they can reasonably be considered different theories: a judgment-centered theory, on which blame is the reaction the blamer judges appropriate; an appropriateness-centered theory, on which blame is the actually appropriate reaction; and a substantive list theory, on which blame is any of a list of reactions, such as anger or loss of trust. Once distinguished, each theory faces a series of formidable challenges. I argue that the notion of directed attention, central in Scanlon’s earlier work, can be used to address these challenges, while preserving the spirit of Scanlon’s discussion of blame.
(Epistemic) Probability Is Degree of Support, Not Degree of (Rational) Belief
Nevin Climenhaga, University of Notre Dame
I argue that when we use “probability” language in epistemic contexts—e.g., when we ask how probable some hypothesis is, given the evidence available to us—we are talking about degrees of support, rather than degrees of belief. The probability of A given B is the (mind-independent) degree to which B supports A, not the degree to which someone with B as their evidence believes A, or the degree to which someone would or should believe A if they had B as their evidence. My central argument is that degrees of support can correctly model good reasoning in cases of old evidence where degrees of belief cannot. I consider ways to revise orthodox degree-of-belief Bayesianism in order to account for this kind of case, and argue that such revisions end up unable to account for reasoning about probabilities conditional on evidence that it is metaphysically necessary to possess.
Generation-Bias Implies Evaluation-Bias
Finnur Dellsen, University College Dublin
It is often argued that while biases routinely influence the generation of scientific theories (in the “context of discovery”), a subsequent rational evaluation of such theories (in the ‘context of justification’) will ensure that biases do not affect which theories are ultimately accepted. Against this common line of thought, I show that the existence of certain kinds of biases at the generation-stage implies the existence of biases at the evaluation-stage. The key argumentative move is to recognize that a scientist who comes up with a new theory about some phenomena has thereby gained an unusual type of evidence, viz. information about the space of theories that could be true of the phenomena. It follows, I argue, that if there is bias in the generation of scientific theories in a given domain, then the rational evaluation of theories with reference to the total evidence in that domain will also be biased.
Sexual Orientations: The Desire View
Esa Diaz-Leon, Universitat de Barcelona
Talk about sexual orientations is widespread in our society and our culture, but very few analytic philosophers have paid attention to questions about the nature of sexual orientations, such as what sexual orientations are, what ‘sexual orientation’ means, and whether sexual orientations really exist. In this paper I aim to examine the main theories about the nature of sexual orientations that are available in the recent literature, including behaviourism, dispositionalism, and the view according to which sexual orientations are mental states such as desires. I will discuss several objections to these views, and I will develop and defend a new version of the desire view of sexual orientations.
Corporate Essence and Identity in Criminal Law
Mihailis Diamantis, University of Iowa
How can you tell whether you are punishing the right corporation? Though central to corporate criminal justice, theorists have yet to address this basic question. Without a theory of how corporate identity persists through time, we cannot be sure that the corporation we punish today is the same as the corporation that committed the past crime. Nor can we even know how to go about finding the answer. Simple cases, where crime and punishment are close in time and the corporation has changed little, can mislead us to think an answer is always easy to come by. The issue becomes much more complicated when corporate criminals undergo any number of very common transformations—rebranding, spinning-off, merging, changing ownership, changing management, swapping lines of business, etc. These changes are common among corporations trying to conceal or limit liability for past crimes. This article takes a first step toward developing a workable and philosophically satisfying theory of corporate personal identity that achieves the deterrent, rehabilitative, and retributive purposes of criminal law. Along the way, it draws together threads from law, philosophy, and cognitive science bearing on identity through time.
Speciesism, Prejudice, and Epistemic Peer Disagreement
Samuel Director, University of Colorado Boulder
Peter Singer famously argued that, not only is speciesism unjustified, it is based on a prejudice, like racism and sexism. Shelly Kagan has recently argued against Singer, claiming that one can believe in speciesism without doing so on the basis of a prejudice. In this paper, I defend Kagan’s position. However, I find Kagan’s argument unsatisfactory; so, I advance an alternative argument, different from Kagan’s, in support of his claim. Briefly, I argue that, if there is epistemic peer disagreement about a view, then the parties to this disagreement cannot reasonably label each other as prejudiced in their beliefs about this view. Additionally, I do not claim that speciesism is true; my claim is that one can reasonably affirm speciesism without being prejudicial in the manner that racists and sexists are.
Abominable KK Failures
Kevin Dorst, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
KK is the thesis that if you know something, you’re in a position to know that you know it. Though it’s unpopular, a flurry of considerations have recently emerged in its favor. Here we add fuel to the fire: standard resources allow us to show that any failure of KK will lead to the knowability and assertability of abominable indicative conditionals of the form, "If I don’t know p, then p." Such conditionals are manifestly not assertable—a fact KK defenders can easily explain. Williamson (2013) offers an explanation of similar data from Cohen and Comesana (2013), and argues further that KK cannot explain a variety of related cases. But I reply that Williamson’s proposal does not explain our data, and in fact KK can explain the related cases.
Resilience in the Face of Counter-Evidence
Ravit Dotan, University of California, Berkeley
Suppose you have some credence in hypothesis h, and you come upon counter-evidence to h, call it e. What would be a rational response? Intuitively, you should decrease your credence in h. However, you may also: revise auxiliary hypotheses, undermine the integrity of e or its bearing on h, put e aside in the hopes that it will be dealt with in the future, or simply ignore e. Is resilience in the face of counter-evidence rational? I.e., is it sometimes rational to keep the same attitude towards hypothesis h when counter-evidence comes up? In this paper, I explore three accounts to answer this question, and point to difficulties in them.
Tom Dougherty, University of Cambridge
Liking is a particularly simple pro attitude that features in many aspects of our lives. In this essay, I aim to clarify what liking is, before outlining some theoretical work that the attitude can do for us. In moral philosophy, liking can feature in our theories of practical reason and our theories of the good: for example, it is plausible to think that our likes are sources of reasons for action, and we sometimes satisfice in our reasoning simply by picking an option that we like. In political philosophy, liking can feature in our theory of what a just society would look like: it is plausible that a just society provides people with the social bases for liking themselves, and is a society in which social groups do not dislike each other.
Neuroscience of Mindreading: A Case for a Plurality of Specialized Mindreading Mechanisms
Maria Doulatova, Washington University in St. Louis
Carruthers (2011) argues that a single sub-personal interpretive or theory-based method, subserved by a single cognitive mechanism, is used for all types of mindreading. I offer three empirical arguments against Carruthers’ one-for-all hypothesis. Firstly, if the one-for-all hypothesis obtained, we would not see double dissociations—of the kind indicative of distinct cognitive mechanisms—in neural activations during two mindreading tasks. Secondly, since certain mindreading methods hinder subsequent performance on cognitive tasks more than others, it would make sense if mindreading methods were context-sensitive rather than one-for-all. Finally, given the contrary demands placed on socializing with ingroup versus outgroup members, it would be beneficial to have bonding-promoting mindreading mechanisms reserved for mindreading ingroup members, whereas competition-prompting mindreading mechanisms reserved for mindreading outgroup members. Thus, there are two specialized mindreading mechanisms, used depending on (i) mindreader’s perceived closeness to the target, and (ii) working memory demands surrounding the mindreading task.
Substantive Reciprocity and Educational Justice
Jenn Dum, Binghamton University
In this paper I argue that educational justice needs to be characterized in terms of substantive reciprocity. First, I establish that it is a demand of justice for schools to provide the conditions of students’ individual development into autonomous persons. Then I argue that such development requires active social participation structured by substantive reciprocity. Substantive reciprocity is a relational normative demand that supports responsive relationships in which individuals can actively engage with others and develop the ability to follow through with their goals and to represent their needs and interests to others. I conclude by commenting more on what it means for educational institutions to be assessed in terms of substantive reciprocity. In a just educational system, there needs to be coherence among the implementation of policies in schools, the aims of these policies, and the norm of substantive reciprocity within the relationships that such policies effect.
Cebes’ Objection and the Final Immortality Argument
David Ebrey, Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin
In the Phaedo Cebes objects to Socrates’ affinity argument using an analogy to a cloak maker. Socrates says that responding to this objection requires investigating natural science, an investigation which leads directly into his final immortality argument. How is Cebes’ objection related to the final argument? Almost all commentators say that the final argument is simply a new, independent argument for immortality. I argue that it addresses the details of Cebes’ objection and thereby fills in the affinity argument’s claim that the soul is akin to and more like the forms. On this reading, in the final argument Socrates argues that the soul is closely related to the forms in way that does not allow it to be merely closer to immortality than a cloak. The affinity and final immortality arguments are one long investigation into the soul’s relation to the forms, an investigation made more precise by Cebes’ objection.
Question Begging and Analytic Content
Samuel Elgin, Yale University
Among contemporary philosophers, there is widespread (but not universal) consensus that begging the question is a grave argumentative flaw. However, there is presently no satisfactory analysis of what this flaw consists of. Here, I defend a notion of question-begging in terms of analyticity. In particular, I argue that an argument begs the question just in case its conclusion is an analytic part of the conjunction of its premises.
On the Incompatibility of Faith and Intellectual Humility
James Elliott, Purdue University
Although the relationship between faith and intellectual humility has yet to be specifically addressed in the philosophical literature, there are reasons to believe that they are incompatible, especially when judging from popular writings and pre-theoretical intuitions. In this paper I attempt to specify and explicate this incompatibility, which is found in specific conflicting epistemic attitudes they each respectively invite. I first suggest general definitions of both faith and intellectual humility (understood as intellectual virtues), building off current proposals in the literature, in an attempt to portray both in as broad and uncontroversial a manner as feasible. I then move to arguing how this prima facie incompatibility aligns with these understandings of faith and intellectual humility, and illustrate how this incompatibility is even clearer on one recent theory. I close by considering some avenues of response for those who want to maintain that intellectual humility and faith are compatible intellectual virtues.
“The Theater of Cruelty”: Representation, Repetition, and Survival in Derrida’s Death Penalty
Rick Elmore, Appalachian State University
This paper develops the precise character of Derrida’s abolitionism through an analysis of his deployment of the notion of “the theater of cruelty” in Death Penalty Lectures. More specifically, the author links “the theater of cruelty constituted by the history of the death penalty” to Derrida’s 1967 critique of Artaud, showing how the irreducible and “cruel” logic of “repetition” Derrida traces in that work marks, in augmented fashion, Derrida’s abolitionism. For Derrida, the contestation of the unique cruelty of capital punishment, its foreclosing of the condemned person’s “finitude” or openness to the future, requires that one embrace a thinking of repetition as survival. Hence, the notion of theater and Derrida’s critique of Artaud help to explain the precise character of both Derrida’s critique of abolitionist discourse and his own deconstructive abolitionism.
Kantian Archetypes and Action
Alexander Englert, Johns Hopkins University
In the Critique of Pure Reason, Kant states that ideas give us the rule for organizing experience and ideals serve as archetypes or standards against which one can measure copies. Albeit undefined, Kant also states that ideas and ideals can be practical. I offer a reconstruction of how ideas and ideals might be practical in connection to action. However, a skeptical objection remains, namely: if we have a rule for action, what further purpose can an archetype serve? The skeptic finds practical archetypes superfluous to practical reasoning. I offer the preliminary sketches of a reply by pointing out that practical archetypes might serve a function in judging the degree of moral imperfection in our characters and in the state of the world. They do not tell us how to act, but rather give us grounds to be primed for action by pointing out moral work left undone.
A Priori Concepts in Euclidean Proof
Peter Epstein, University of California, Berkeley
For over two millennia, Euclid’s Elements was seen as a paradigm of a priori reasoning. With the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries, and the eventual realization that our universe is itself non-Euclidean, the status of our geometrical knowledge was radically undermined. In the wake of this upheaval, philosophers adopted two revisionary interpretations of Euclidean proof. Some suggested that we understand Euclidean proof as a purely formal system of deductive logic—one not concerned with specifically geometrical content at all. Others suggested that Euclidean proof employs concepts derived from our sensory experience or imagination. I argue that both interpretations fail to capture the true nature of our geometrical reasoning. Euclidean proof is not a purely formal system of deductive logic, but one in which our grasp of the content of geometrical concepts plays a central role; moreover, our grasp of this content is a priori, rather than being derived from experience.
Transparency and Attentional Development
Emma Esmaili, University of British Columbia
On a widespread approach, explaining perception and attention that’s directed to or about objects requires that we build in some primitive intentional capacity, which then serves as the foundation for the full range of object-directed states. This conventional approach is found on both sides of many debates in philosophy and science, often realized via two assumptions: (a) primitive feature-detection scaffolds object perception, and (b) a divide between objective and subjective states is foundational to the mind’s architecture. Philosophical positions in the transparency debate adopting these assumptions were recently supported by empirical studies of attention. Yet, by using an emerging theoretical approach to explain the case of sustained attention’s development, one of the earliest endogenous attentional systems to develop, I show precisely how the conventional approach is debilitated. Finally, I use the transparency debate’s underplayed notion of mental oil to capture the non-intentional mental processes at the foundations of object-directed states.
Nietzsche’s Interest in Cultures of Breeding
Leonard Feldblyum, Georgia State University
In this paper, I clarify Nietzsche's interest in the subject of breeding. First, I investigate Nietzsche’s use of the terms “breeding” and “higher type,” and focus on a trait of the higher type that could serve as a principle of selection in a breeding program. Next, I provide evidence that Nietzsche is interested in the design and implementation of breeding programs for higher types. Finally, I turn to Nietzsche's discussions of past aristocratic breeding cultures, and use them as case studies from which I extract some methods and techniques that a breeding program for higher types would employ. The goal is to obtain a preliminary sketch of Nietzsche’s answer to the problem of “what type of human should be bred” (A 3), along with at least some of the methods and techniques Nietzsche thinks would be required for designing and implementing a breeding program for this higher type.
Spinoza on the Priority of Part to Whole
Daniel Ferguson, Yale University
Yitzhak Melamed and Ghislain Guigon have recently argued that for Spinoza, parts are prior to their wholes for all wholes (GPT). They argue that this is a key premise for Spinoza’s arguments that God is not a composite. I argue that Spinoza holds a more modest priority thesis, viz. that parts are prior to their wholes for all wholes composed of substances (SPT). I offer two reasons for this. First, there is a counterexample to GPT: the infinite mediate mode of Extension is composed of finite modes, but its parts cannot be prior to the whole given Spinoza’s characterization of this infinite mediate mode. Second, Spinoza’s considered arguments for God’s simplicity do not require GPT, and SPT is sufficient for these arguments to go through.
Spinoza's Account of Self-Knowledge
Carolina Flores, Rutgers University
Self-knowledge—the distinctive kind of knowledge of one’s own present mental states which is available to the subject who has those mental states—plays an important role in Spinoza’s Ethics, in particular in his account of the good life. In addition, its purported distinctiveness seems hard to make sense of under Spinoza’s stringent naturalism, according to which everything must be explainable from general metaphysical principles that apply throughout nature. Despite its importance to understanding Spinoza, there is little discussion of his view of self-knowledge in the literature. My aim is to address this gap by arguing that for Spinoza self-knowledge is a matter of having ideas of one’s own ideas with a high degree of consciousness. This view entails a rejection of inner sense models of self-knowledge and that self-knowledge is distinguished from knowledge of external modes by its method and metaphysical and epistemic directness.
Environmental Aesthetics, Moral Intuitions, and Conservation
Allison Fritz, Auburn University
This brief paper aims to illustrate that the machinery of moral foundations theory can further inform our understanding of environmental aesthetic experience and reactions, in particular, negative ones. If theoretically viable, this explanatory schema may prove valuable in not only understanding the differences in environmental-aesthetic reactions, but also in further using such differences to advance conservationist goals. In particular, we can integrate research from political psychology concerning the different foundations upon which politically diverse persons rely with the ideas presented here to understand the different sources of aesthetic reactions, which is important, given the role that aesthetic values can play in motivation. Equally important is the fact that aesthetic value is not politicized. That is to say—aesthetic concerns, considered as such, are not the property of either political party. Politically diverse individuals can rally around an environmental cause when couched in aesthetic reasons.
Leibniz, a Friend of Molinism
Juan Garcia, Ohio State University
Leibniz is commonly labeled a foe of Molinism. His rejection of a robust account of libertarian freedom coupled with a few explicit passages in which Leibniz distances himself from the doctrine of middle knowledge seem to justify this classification. In the present paper, I argue that this standard view is not quite correct. I isolate a tenet essential to Molinism: that God knows what creatures would freely do in different possible circumstances prevolitionally—i.e., prior to God willing anything. I ague that Leibniz himself endorses a version of this distinctive Molinist tenet and utilizes it for theoretical purposes similar to those of Molinists. I conclude that Leibniz is much closer to Molinism than is typically acknowledged. Leibniz rather than a foe is best characterized as a friend of Molinism.
Feminism and the Essentially Contested Concept of “Woman”
Manon Garcia, Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
After the beginning of the Third Wave, the internal divisions of feminism gave rise to the concern that feminism would disappear out of lack of unified ground. A central aspect of the current divisions of feminism is conceptual and this paper claims that understanding the concept of “woman” as an “essentially contested concept” clarifies the divisions and makes the case that there is still a common ground that allows for unity in feminism.
Moral Regret as Moral Feeling
Katherine Gasdaglis, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Kantian moral theories are often criticized for their inability to capture the phenomenology and propriety of moral regret. By considering the role of moral emotion in Kant’s psychology of obligation, I argue that moral regret can be modeled as a retrospective version of “moral feeling.” Moral feeling is a subjective condition on being put under obligation at all, insofar as it makes us conscious of our duties in particular ways. Regret makes us retrospectively aware of certain standing general duties not fully extinguished in particular cases. This account also better captures our experience of the propriety of regret. A subject who feels nothing at all in working long hours while his parent lies sick in bed isn’t committing a moral wrong—wrong doesn’t seem to apply—rather he suffers a deeper moral deficiency, perhaps lacking the psychological constitution to be moved by the moral law at all.
Free Lawfulness in Judgments of the Beautiful and the Sublime
Gerad Gentry, University of South Carolina
Contrary to the norm in contemporary Kant scholarship; I defend Kant’s claim that judgments of the beautiful and judgments of the sublime must be held together in a formal conception of aesthetic judgment. I argue that we must first carefully identify what Kant means by the “free lawfulness of the imagination.” Second, we need to keep in view Kant’s key claim that “The reflecting power of judgment . . . gives itself such a transcendental principle as a law.” Only in light of this distinction between (a) the synthetic, a priori principle whereby such pure judgments are possible, and (b) that principle given as a law or form for the judging, can we (c) bring into focus both the form of judgments of the beautiful and judgments of the sublime as pure aesthetic judgments as well as the significance of these for reason in general.
“Melancholy,” “Spleen” and Other “Humours” in the Conclusion to the Treatise’s First Book
Charles Goldhaber, University of Pittsburgh
In the conclusion to the first book of the Treatise, Hume's skeptical reflections have plunged him into melancholy. He then proceeds through a complex series of stages, resulting in renewed interest in philosophy. Interpreters have struggled to explain the connection between the stages. I argue that Hume's repeated invocation of the four humors of ancient and medieval medicine explains the succession, and sheds a new light on the significance of skepticism in his theory of human nature.
The Theory of Conditional Assertion
Simon Goldstein, Rutgers University
According to one tradition, uttering an indicative conditional involves performing a special sort of speech act: a conditional assertion. We introduce a formal framework that models this speech act. Using this framework, we show that any theory of conditional assertion validates several inferences in the logic of conditionals, including the False Antecedent inference (that not A implies if A, then C). Next, we determine the space of truth conditional semantics for conditionals consistent with the theory of conditional assertion. The truth value of any such conditional is settled whenever the antecedent is false, and whenever the antecedent is true and the consequent is false. Finally, we consider the space of dynamic meanings consistent with the theory of conditional assertion. We develop a new family of dynamic meanings that combine a traditional test operator with an update operation, and show that all such meanings satisfy the requirements of conditional assertion.
Evaluating the Uncooperativeness Solution to the Mismatch Problem
Robert Gruber, University of Massachusetts Amherst
In many familiar cases, a group of people acts together to bring about a bad outcome, and though they together could have done better, no individual member of the group could have done any better. We find examples of such situations in the tragedy of the commons, in certain voting cases, and in anthropogenic climate change. A notable problem with such cases is that consequentialism apparently delivers mismatched verdicts; the theory paradoxically condemns the group without being able to say anything against what the individuals have done. Several philosophers assume that it's essential to the problem cases that the individuals fail to cooperate. In order to resolve the mismatch, they suggest that uncooperativeness constitutes a moral failing under a suitably extended version of consequentialism. Unfortunately, as I explain in this paper, this strategy cannot work. Some versions of the problem case don't involve uncooperative individuals.
Groundwork for a Transcendentalist Semeiotics of Nature
Nicholas Guardiano, Southern Illinois University Carbondale
One of Charles Peirce’s most profound acts of reasoning in “uberty” is his application of his semeiotics to nature. He infers that the lives of insects, birds, dogs, horses, snakes, plants, and crystals engage in semiotic behavior. Creatures across the biosphere, inanimate physical objects, and even the universe as a whole in its ontological structure, he describes as inherently semiotic. Peirce’s unique perspective of nature suggests a theoretical framework for a philosophy that adequately treats nature as a semiotic reality, which extends beyond the human umwelt. Moreover, his formal descriptions of the sign contain fundamental concepts for a comprehensive semeiotics of nature. In this essay I develop Peirce’s ideas in order to present the metaphysical grounds of nature in its capacity as a semiotic expression. I also contextualize my thesis in the philosophy of New England Transcendentalism, which presents the connaturality of mind and matter, and humankind and nature.
A Kantian Answer to Aenesidemus: Appropriating Kant’s Doctrine of Self-Positing in the Opus Postumum
Bryan Hall, St. John's University
G.E. Schulze’s anonymously published Aenesidemus (1792) has long been recognized as an important document for the development of early German Idealism. Aenesidemus is directed at two main targets: K.L. Reinhold’s Kantian Elementarphilosophie as well as Kant’s position in the Critique of Pure Reason (CPR). For scholars, however, the most important thing about Aenesidemus is the effect it had on J.G. Fichte who published a review of Schulze’s book in 1794. In particular, scholars have focused on how Aenesidemus precipitated Fichte’s break with Kant’s Critical philosophy and his turn toward absolute idealism. Little attention has been paid, however, to Kant’s own response to Aenesidemus. Although Kant never publically responded to Aenesidemus, he discusses it briefly in a 1792 letter to J.S. Beck and in several suggestive remarks from the unpublished Opus postumum (OP). This paper will use Kant’s remarks from OP to reconstruct and ultimately defend a Kantian answer to Aenesidemus.
Truth at a World and Pre-Worldly Truths
Sungil Han, Seoul National University
How can we say of an actual individual that it could have not existed? Robert Adams proposed that my nonexistence, for instance, is true in no world but true at a world in which I do not exist. My aim in this paper is to extend Adams’s proposal to show, as opposed to Adams’s view, that fundamental singular propositions about me are also true at the world. First, I clarify the notion of truth at a world left unclear so far: that proposition p is true at world w is that w presupposes p or the supposition that p is a precondition for w’s proper representational function. I then argue that identity, nonidentity, and essential propositions about me are true at a world in which I do not exist, which vindicates the view, espoused notably by Kit Fine, that these truths about individuals are pre-worldly, and unqualifiedly necessary, truths.
Dispositional Essentialism, Directedness, and Final Causation
William Hannegan, Saint Louis University
Dispositional essentialists U. T. Place, George Molnar, and C. B. Martin (PMM) hold that dispositions are directed to their manifestations. Thomists have noted that this directedness is similar to the directedness of final causation (Feser 2014; Oderberg 2016). I argue that PMM should adopt the most basic type of Thomistic final causation, called “natural inclination.” PMM need natural inclination in order to explain the production of manifestations. Once adopted, natural inclination would bring PMM a number of benefits: it would help them to ward off an attack on dispositional directedness by Stephen Mumford; to protect dispositions from the charge of causal irrelevance; to ensure that dispositions are not reducible to categorical bases; and to vindicate Molnar’s conjecture that dispositions must be intrinsic.
Thought Experimenting on Knowledge
Michael Hannon, Queen's University
Thought experiments play crucial roles in philosophy, but many are poorly designed to shed light on their subject matter. This paper focuses on thought experiments in epistemology. I argue that several influential thought experiments introduce confounding variables that obscure both theoretical and experimental investigations of knowledge.
Constitutive Moral Luck and Strawson's Argument for the Impossibility of Moral Responsibility
Robert Hartman, University of Gothenburg
Galen Strawson’s Basic Argument is that because self-creation is required for being truly morally responsible for something and self-creation is impossible, it is impossible to be truly morally responsible for anything. I contend that the Basic Argument is unpersuasive. First, I argue that the moral luck debate shows that the self-creation requirement is contradicted by part of our commonsense ideas about moral responsibility and supported by another part, and that this ambivalence undermines the only reason that Strawson gives for the self-creation requirement. Second, I explain that the plausibility of the self-creation requirement is generated by generalizing from instances of constitutive luck that obviously undermine moral responsibility to all cases of constitutive luck. But this is an overgeneralization, because certain kinds of constitutive luck are benign with respect to morally responsible agency or other kinds enable it.
Virtue Before Politics in Plato’s Laws
George Harvey, Indiana University Southeast
I examine the Athenian’s account in Laws III of conditions of the pre-political age in light of his estimation of the ethical characters of individuals of this age as more courageous, temperate, and “in all ways more just” than people who live in civilized times, identifying the factors that are responsible for the good ethical characters. Because the pre-political age is an age of divine rule, as all of its features are the result of divine agency, I argue that the good qualities of pre-political individuals should therefore be considered genuine virtues. I then show how this assessment if the pre-political character is consistent with the Athenian’s general remarks about virtue, and how the pre-political age may provide important guidance to the legislator seeking to instill virtue in citizens.
An Abductive Solution to the Problem of Memorial Justification
Ali Hasan, University of Iowa
I defend an inductive solution—more specifically, an abductive solution—to the problem of memorial justification. A natural worry is that any inductive solution is bound to be circular, for it would have to depend on memory. I argue that a non-circular, abductive justification for relying on memory is available. The justification is, roughly, that my having the sort of experience that my apparent memory should lead me to expect is best explained by the hypothesis that my apparent memories are reliable. The only person to seriously attempt an inductive solution to the problem is R. F. Harrod (1942). Coburn (1960) argued that Harrod’s solution contains a serious flaw. I show that my solution is not vulnerable to objections from Coburn, or more recent ones from BonJour (2010), and Huemer (1999). My main goal is to show that a solution along these lines is worthy of serious consideration.
No Microphysical Causation? No Problem: Saving a Completeness-Based Argument for Physicalism from Selective Causal Skepticism
Matthew Haug, College of William and Mary
Recently, several philosophers have argued that causation is not an objective feature of the microphysical world but rather is a perspectival phenomenon that holds only between “coarse-grained” entities such as those that figure in the special sciences. This view seems to pose a problem for arguments for physicalism that rely on the alleged causal completeness of physics. In this paper, I address this problem by arguing that the completeness of physics has two components, only one of which is causal. These two components of completeness can be used in an argument for physicalism that is supported by strong inductive evidence even in the absence of microphysical causation.
A Nomically Interconnected But Non-Monistic Cosmos
Christopher Hauser, Rutgers University
Jonathan Schaffer has recently advanced several arguments for priority monism, the thesis that the cosmos is the one and only fundamental material object and substance upon which all other material objects (its parts) ontologically depend. I offer a priority pluralist response to one of Schaffer’s arguments, namely, the argument from nomic integrity. In particular, I object to Schaffer’s account of the integration required for substancehood. On Schaffer’s view, the integration of a substance requires that it be incapable of being causally affected by anything else. This thesis conflates ontological independence with causal independence. According to my alternative view, substantial integration requires only that the substance be capable of making a non-redundant causal contribution to what happens. After motiving this alternative account of substancehood, I show how accepting it can be used to not only defend pluralism from Schaffer’s argument from nomic interconnectedness
What's in a Name? Etymologies in Plato's Cratylus
Christopher Healow, University of California, Davis
Some have thought that Plato’s effort to decode Greek terms in the etymological digression (Cratylus 391d-427d), along with his other remarks, show that Plato must have taken the enterprise of discovering etymologies quite seriously. Others argue that comedic elements in Plato’s etymologies may indicate he took a more dismissive stance regarding the value of such analyses. One thing that both camps agree on, however, is that determining Plato’s attitude toward etymologies would help settle whether his own view of language is more akin to Hermgoenes’ conventionalism or Cratylus’ naturalism. But the question often asked—Does Plato take etymological analyses seriously?—elides multiple questions that need to be distinguished if we’re to get a fuller sense of what Plato believed. In what follows I detail four distinct forms of this question, offer Plato’s answers to these questions, and explain what implications this has for his philosophy of language more generally.
Three Popular but False Claims about Personal Identity and Harm to Embryos
David Hershenov, University at Buffalo
There are three mistakes frequently made concerning how personal identity bears upon the issue of harm to embryos. One is the view that the identity of a mindless human embryo and a human person is a necessary condition for abortion being a great harm to that embryo. A second is that the identity of a mindless entity and a human person is a sufficient condition for that entity’s destruction being a great harm to that entity. A third error is due to Parfit’s criterion for identity that leads to his famous claim that the identity doesn’t matter, only psychological ties do. A consequence is that the identity of a mindless embryo and the later human person is irrelevant since mindless embryos can’t be harmed. I will explain why these three beliefs are wrong and suggest a refocus of the abortion debate upon issues not so tied to personal identity.
Naive Admissibility in the Cut-Free Approach
Ulf Hlobil, Concordia University
The paper argues that recent criticism by Barrio, Rosenblatt and Tajer of the nontransitive approach to semantic paradoxes is not convincing. The criticism applies to all approaches that do their metatheory in classical logic. If we do the metatheory of nontransitive logics in a nontransitive logic, however, there is no reason to think that the argument behind the criticism goes through.
The Agency-Last Paradigm: Leeway Theory and the Cognitive Science of Free Will Judgments
Geoffrey Holtzman, Illinois Institute of Technology
Philosophers sometimes contend that people only care about free will because we care about moral responsibility. In this essay, I extend this contention to claim that in many cases, people only attribute free will because we have already attributed moral responsibility. To support this hypothesis, I develop and test three competing models of the conceptual relationships between determinism, moral responsibility, and free will in ordinary cognition. I then present the results of two new studies, both of which suggest that attributions of free will under deterministic circumstances commonly come after and are informed by judgments of moral responsibility. I then bring these findings to bear on recent debates about competing notions of free will, and the possibility that free will (in these competing senses) may be necessary for moral responsibility.
The Problem of Many Counterparts
Hao Hong, Indiana University Bloomington
Cian Dorr (2005) argues that Lewis’s counterpart theory is incompatible with his theory of propositions. Lewis' counterpart theory allows the existence of possible worlds in which there are qualitatively different counterparts of the same individual. However, Dorr points out that the existence of such worlds leads to a problem for Lewis' theory of propositions. In this paper, I further develop Dorr's argument at first and then propose a response on behalf of Lewis. I argue that Lewis’s commitment to Supervaluationism can be used to solve the problem. Instead of changing his view on propositions, he can maintain his view once he allows for semantic indecision as concerns actual world reference to entities in other possible worlds.
Rights, Moral Labor, and Moral Community
Hailey Huget, Georgetown University
What creatures have rights? In attempting to give non-arbitrary answers to this question, most philosophers start by considering what the purpose or function of rights might be, and using that to demarcate the boundary between rights-bearers and non-rights-bearers. However, it’s not at all clear that we should expect a resolution to this question about the purpose or function of rights any time soon. So I propose a way of distinguishing the former issue—the scope question—from the latter issue, the function question, and aim to make progress on the former while bracketing the latter.
Indifference Reasoning in Aristotle’s Natural Philosophy
Tyler Huismann, University of Colorado Boulder
In this paper, I identify an indifference argument in Aristotle’s On Generation and Corruption. The argument is well-appreciated—it is directed against those who posit Platonic Forms as efficient causes, and much of the scholarly interest in it has originated from a desire better to understand Aristotle’s interpretation of Plato’s theory of Forms, and whether Aristotle’s report does or does not inform us about Plato’s theory in its own right. But that is not at all my concern. I shall be dwelling solely on the argument’s logical structure and what it tells us about Aristotle’s own causal theory. I argue that the fact that it is an indifference argument reveals a novel aspect of his conception of efficient causation: efficient causes must be temporally contrastive, in a sense defined below. I also anticipate an objection to this reading, and in doing so explain this aspect in greater detail.
Entrapment, Counterfactuals, and the Police
Luke Hunt, Radford University
Under the subjective test for entrapment in criminal law—the predominant test based upon federal precedent—a person is entrapped when the government induces the person to commit a crime that the person is not predisposed to commit. The result is that legal institutions must consider whether the person would have committed a crime under circumstances that did not actually occur, namely, under circumstances in which the government did not induce the person. This paper argues that the subjective test for entrapment is untenable because it it relies upon a possible world analysis that gives rise to unjustified metaphysical, epistemological, ethical, and political problems. The upshot is that entrapment should be less about criminal law (what is in the mind of the defendant) and more about criminal procedure (the actions of the police).
A Defense of Intrapersonal Belief Permissivism
Elizabeth Jackson, University of Notre Dame
Abstract: In this paper, I defend a version of Permissivism, the view that there can be more than one rational doxastic attitude for a body of evidence. I argue for Intrapersonal Belief Permissivism (IBP): that possibly, a single agent, given her evidence, can rationally hold more than one belief-attitude. First, I explain and respond to several objections to IBP from White, Hedden, and others. Then, I give two positive arguments for IBP; the first involves epistemic supererogation, and the second involves doubt. I conclude that IBP, while unpopular, is a view that philosophers should take seriously.
We Can Have Our Buck and Pass It, Too
Zoe Johnson King, University of Michigan
This paper argues against the “buck-passing” view that the moral rightness of an act cannot be a reason to perform it, and that our reasons for action are instead given by the features that make acts right (the “right-making features”). I argue that both an act’s rightness and its right-making features are reasons to perform it. I first summarize the main consideration that has been thought to support buck-passing, which I call “the redundancy intuition.” I then argue that the redundancy intuition overgenerates: the mere fact that it is possible to elicit a redundancy intuition with respect to X is not enough to show that X cannot be a reason for action. I then explain the deeper error that I think buck-passers make in using the redundancy intuition to tell what is a reason and what is not. I end by offering an alternative way to understand the redundancy intuition.
Reason Enslaved: Plato's Depiction of the "Oligarchic Man"
Mark Johnstone, McMaster University
Like Hume, Plato thought reason can be “enslaved” to another part of one’s psyche. However, unlike Hume, Plato deemed the enslavement of reason neither inevitable nor appropriate. Rather, on his view, every soul ought ideally to be “ruled” (archesthai) by reason. But for Plato, what happens to reason when it is “enslaved”? In this paper, I answer this question by examining Plato’s depiction, in Republic 8, of the character type Socrates calls the “oligarchic man.” Socrates says this man’s reason is “enslaved” to his soul’s appetitive part. I argue that, in contrast to the Humean view, his enslaved reason still gives rise to its own desires. Furthermore, these desires aim at what he considers best, as the desires of reason do in every soul. However, he now regards and pursues as good only what adds to his wealth—an object characteristically desired by his soul’s ruling appetitive part.
What Is the Direct Object of Visual Experience?
Seokman Kang, University of Missouri
Contemporary relationalism about visual experience holds that visual experience constitutively involves the subject standing in a primitive awareness relation to mind-independent items in one’s environment. I identify four versions of the view: standard, object, fact, and property relationalisms, and argue that property relationalism is the most plausible view among them by presenting cases involving visual phenomenology against other relationalist views. Against standard relationalism, I present cases that undermines any two-category relationalism. Against object and fact relationalism, I present a case that undermines any view that includes particular objects as the direct object of visual experience. One of the consequences of my criticism of standard relationalism also shows that a recent series of attempts to marry the view with representationalism about visual experience are unsuccessful.
Contractualism, Narrow Person-Affecting Wrongness and the Non-identity Problem
Corey Katz, Ohio State University
In cases that face the non-identity problem it is difficult to argue that the victim in particular is made worse-off, since had she not been caused to suffer a bad she would have never existed with a life worth living. Recently, a number of theorists have argued that Kantian contractualism can identify the particular victim who is wronged in such cases. In this paper, I argue that Kantian contractualism is a narrow person-affecting theory because it has the value of mutual justifiability between actual moral agents at its core. I argue it is not enough that an agent has violated a moral principle for the Kantian contractualist to claim that the agent has wronged the particular victim herself. Among other reasons, this is because it is ambiguous whether the victim herself could or could not reasonably reject the agent’s actions now that she exists and enjoys life’s goods.
The Normative Problem for Logical Pluralism
Nathan Kellen, University of Connecticut
It is commonly thought that logic, whatever it may be, is normative. While accounting for the normativity of logic is a challenge for any view of logic, in this paper I argue that it is particularly problematic for certain types of logical pluralists, due to what I call the normative problem for logical pluralism (NPLP). I introduce the NPLP, distinguish it from other problems that logical pluralists may face, and show that it is unsolvable for one prominent type of logical pluralism, and pressing for any other type.
Happiness As Emotions that Reflect the Prudential Value of One’s Life
Hyunseop Kim, Seoul National University
In this paper, I develop a new emotional state account of happiness. I argue that one’s happiness in the descriptive sense is the overall emotional condition that reflects or evaluates the prudential value of one’s life. More specifically, I argue for the following claims: Happiness consists in the emotions that are reflective of, rather than the conceptual or propositional judgment about, the prudential value of one’s life. Those happiness-constituting emotive states are comprised of (un)conscious episodes and non-conscious dispositions that produce them. What Haybron thinks constitutes happiness is not happiness per se, so much as sources of happiness (i.e., what happiness-constituting emotions are about) or reasons to be happy (i.e., what makes happiness-constituting emotions appropriate or correct). Unlike Haybron’s account, my account makes room for (and good sense of) inappropriate (un)happiness. I also show how my account of happiness fits in line with the evaluative account of emotions in general.
Bayesian Networks and Multi-Level Causation
David Kinney, London School of Economics
In this paper, I argue that the Bayesian Network approach to causal modelling is generally consistent with Jackson and Pettit's ecumenical view that causal descriptions of the same phenomenon given at different levels of granularity are on equal footing, so that there is no uniquely correct level of causal description for many phenomena. Given the ubiquity of the Bayes Nets approach to causal modelling in both Philosophy of Science and science itself, this seems like a point in favor of the ecumenical view, and a point against rival exclusionary accounts, most prominently those put forward by List and Menzies on the one hand, and Kim on the other.
Joint Attention, Symmetrical Sharing, and the First-Person Plural
James Kintz, Saint Louis University
There has been much recent work in social metaphysics concerning the nature of collective phenomena, and of central importance to these discussions is our use of the term “We.” Yet there is a puzzle as to how a collection of individuals can refer to themselves as “We.” Margaret Gilbert argues that when a collection of people forms a plural subject they enter into the We relation, but I suggest that her view fails to clarify how a We is distinct from other social interactions. Instead, I argue that what is needed to capture the uniqueness of the We relation is the form of sharing that obtains in certain cases of joint attention. While I suggest that other social interactions incorporate forms of sharing, the We relation involves a unique symmetrical sharing, and it is precisely this symmetrical sharing that turns a collection of individuals into a We.
Cameron Kirk-Giannini, Rutgers University
Can rational communication proceed when interlocutors are uncertain which contents utterances contribute to discourse? An influential negative answer to this question is embodied in the Stalnakerian principle of uniformity, which requires speakers to produce only utterances that express the same content in every possibility treated as live for the purposes of the conversation. The principle of uniformity enjoys considerable intuitive plausibility and, moreover, seems to follow from platitudes about assertion; nevertheless, it has recently proven controversial. In what follows, I defend the principle by developing an argument for it based on premises reflecting the central aims and assumptions of possibility-carving frameworks for modeling inquiry—that is, frameworks which describe the evolution of individuals' attitudinal states in terms of set-theoretic operations defined over a domain of objects representing possibilities.
Deference, Ideals, and Moral Risk
Jonathan Knutzen, University of California, San Diego
Should you defer to an epistemic superior in matters moral? The question has received a variety of answers in the literature on moral deference—some affirmative, others negative. In attempting to answer the question, philosophers have identified a range of reasons which plausibly explain why one should either defer or not defer. Taking the literature as one’s guide, one might be tempted to think that the answer to the question of whether to defer is always and invariantly the same and that there is really just one primary reason which explains why this is so. This paper proposes what I take to be a more adequate picture, namely that there are a variety of morally relevant considerations which compete, and that the answer to the question of whether to defer or not depends on the balance of reasons in particular cases. The paper seeks to get clear on the most important moral reasons for and against deference and to provide some illumination about how to think about the conflict between them.
On the Substitution of Identicals in Counterfactuals
Alexander Kocurek, University of California, Berkeley
It is widely held that counterfactuals validate the substitution of identicals. Recently, however, this view has been challenged by those who think counterpossibles are not vacuous. Williamson argues that we should maintain the substitution of identicals for counterfactuals, since otherwise we cannot explain why so many instances of the principle seem valid. Brogaard and Salerno offer an alternative explanation, viz., that the substitution of identicals only fails for counterpossibles. In this paper, I argue that appealing to this principle causes a number of problems for the counterpossibilist. Instead, I propose an alternative explanation for the apparent validity of the substitution of identicals and argue that the counterpossibilist should reject the substitution of identicals even for counterfactuals with possible antecedents. Ultimately, I suggest the debate over counterpossibilism is, at its course, a debate over the role of representation in counterfactual reasoning.
Unconditional and Intrinsic Value: Why Intrinsic Value Might be Largely Extrinsically Valuable
Zak Kopeikin, University of Colorado Boulder
Abstract: Intuitively there’s a close connection between something having intrinsic value and its being unconditionally valuable. If the source for X’s value solely depends on X’s intrinsic properties, then X’s value doesn’t seem to be conditional on anything else and thus seems unconditional. In this paper, I argue that there is an ambiguity in “unconditional” that obfuscates our thinking about intrinsic value. Intrinsic value, I argue, is unconditional value in one sense but not the other. The latter sense, I argue, is the more interesting notion. This more interesting conception of unconditional value involves intrinsic value, but also requires other robust theoretical commitments. Because of this, I argue that intrinsic value alone may be less valuable than it’s often considered to be.
A Puzzle about Places
Daniel Korman, University of California, Santa Barbara
What is the relationship between a place and the material object that it is said to occupy? For instance, what is the relationship between a restaurant and the building it occupies, or between a country and the territory it occupies? I argue that places cannot be identical to their material hosts and also cannot be material objects constituted by their material hosts. I then argue that places are immaterial objects, on the strength of an analogy to such other immaterial objects as literary works, musical works, and languages.
Fittingness and Value: A Two-Level Theory of (Some) Aesthetic Normativity
Robbie Kubala, Columbia University
Much recent work in aesthetic normativity takes for granted an axiological model, on which value is the principal normative concept. But certain paradigmatic aesthetic practices—such as interpretation, appreciation, and presentation—seem to encompass judgments of fittingness as well as judgments of value. In this paper, I argue for three claims: (i) concepts of fittingness and value must both be deployed to account for the normativity of these practices, (ii) fittingness cannot be reduced to value, and (iii) the relation between them is best captured by a two-level theory, inspired by John Rawls, on which the practices as a whole are justified by considerations of value, but particular actions falling under the practices are justified by considerations of fittingness.
Neo-Conventionalism and Global Modal Error
Justin Kuster, University of Minnesota
In this paper I argue Ross Cameron’s Neo-conventionalist account of the source of necessity is incompatible with the epistemic phenomenon of global modal error. By “global modal error” I have exclusively in mind a modal error that we, as a collective, make. I begin by establishing global moral error as a genuine epistemic phenomenon. I then develop an argument that shows Neo-conventionalism is incompatible with the phenomenon of global modal error—Neo-conventionalism is incompatible with the phenomenon of global moral error insofar as it doesn’t provide us with a basis for comparison, which, I argue, is essential for explaining this kind of error. The reason why there is no basis of comparison within Neo-conventionalism is that it collapses metaphysical modality into a subjective modality. There’s no way that we can ever be mistaken about the modal status of any proposition since we determine the modal status of every proposition.
Anger and African Political Philosophy: A Lesson for Responsibility Theorists
Timothy Kwiatek, Cornell University
Responsibility theorists have a real soft spot for anger. They appeal to its importance as a reactive attitude when considering responsibility and treat it as though it is universally affirmed. Even though it is rarely socially appropriate to lash out in anger or to seek revenge, still its role is defended. Motivations for the continued defense of anger include (1) the claim that it is inevitable and pan-cultural, and (2) the claim that it is irreplaceable in human interactions. In this paper I argue that neither of these is true. First I identify the specific normative and descriptive claims about anger that are in question. Then, I appeal to the works of two African Political Philosophers, Nkiru Uwechia Nzegwu and Kennith D. Kaunda, to suggest that this fondness for anger is not pan-cultural and it is often possible for people to get alone quite well without it.
Nietzsche on Realism in Art and The Role of Illusions in Life-Affirmation
Marie Le Blevennec, Georgia State University
In this paper, I contend that Nietzsche’s remarks about realism in art support Bernard Reginster‘s claim that Nietzsche abandons his emphasis on illusion in The Birth of Tragedy in favor of tough-minded realism about life’s terrible truths. First, I show that Nietzsche’s contrasting claims about artists like Stendhal and Flaubert reflect a distinction between two basic types of realism: (1) the unhealthy realism exemplified by Flaubert, and (2) the healthy realism exemplified by Stendhal. I then use this understanding of healthy realism in art in order to argue that Nietzsche considers a healthy realist perspective vital for life-affirmation.
What Is It to Be Located?
Matt Leonard, University of Southern California
What is it for a material object O to be located at a region of spacetime R? Call this The Location Question. There are two natural answers to this question. The first is that there is no informative metaphysical analysis of what it is for O to be located at R. The second is that being located somewhere is just being identical to a region. But both answers suffer from well-known problems. The former makes certain necessary truths seem spooky. And the latter is in tension with the plausible theses that it is contingent where I am located and that a statue is distinct from the clay from which it is made, while sharing the same location. This paper explores a new theory of location and argues that it has the virtues of these answers but not their vices.
Constraint, Autonomy and Self-Formation (Bildung) – A Reading of Kant’s Theory of Education
Hao Liang, Northwestern University
Kant claims that the greatest problem of education is how to unite submission under lawful constraint with the capacity to use one’s freedom. This idea of constraint seems to be in conflict with Kant’s moral philosophy for an autonomous agent has to be self-determined. In this paper, I show that there is no conflict between these two claims. My first argument is to draw an analogy between Kant’s philosophy of right and moral education. I argue that children are in the normative state of nature for their actions lack moral authority. If human beings have moral obligation to move out of the state of nature, parents are justified in imposing certain constraints on children. My second argument is to show that moral education is distinctively free. Moral education should aim at creating a safe space to let children try to exercise their capacity of free will, which is about self-formation.
Why Self-Promises are Problematic
Alida Liberman, University of Indianapolis
I argue that self-promises cannot be understood as genuine promises. First, the possibility of unilateral release from a self-promise undermines the force of the obligation. Allen Habib and Tim Oakley have each offered counter-examples to this argument. While these cases establish that some kinds of duties to the self are unproblematically waivable, they do not support the kind of release that is involved in cases of promises, which is release at will. I then defend the claim that promises involve release at will from an argument to the contrary from Connie Rosati. Second, I argue that the rational censure we apply to those who abandon self-promises is different in kind from the distinctively moral censure applied to those who break interpersonal promises, and I defend this claim against a different objection from Rosati. This shows us that self-promises and interpersonal promises are not fundamentally the same phenomena.
In Defense of Physicalist Christology
Joungbin Lim, Troy State University
Physicalist Christology (PC) is the view that God the Son (GS), in the Incarnation, became identical to the body of Jesus. The goal of this paper is to defend PC from two recent objections. One is that if GS becomes a physical object, then he cannot have properties had by God (e.g., necessary existence). Then, by Leibniz’s law, the Incarnate GS cannot be identical to God. The other objection is that PC implies that GS ceases to exist from his death until resurrection. It follows that there is no continuing Trinity of GS while in the grave. I argue that the first objection fails because the very same argumentative strategy applies to the Incarnation on any view. As for the second objection, I endorse an animalist theory of death and argue that GS continues to exist as a corpse between his death and resurrection.
James Lincoln, University of Kentucky
The following is not a paper which aims to theorize about responsibility or blameworthiness in cases where agents lack knowledge of some obligation, fact, or value. Rather, I aim to explore the moral psychological and epistemic dimension of what I call “moral ignorance.” In this paper I construct my view of moral ignorance by following in the footsteps of Linda Alcoff, Patricia Hill Collins, and Charles W. Mills. In doing this, I adopt what I call the cognitive model of ignorance (CMI) as a guiding epistemic account of the phenomenon. Apropos of this, I argue that moral ignorance is a kind of subjectivity that results from acquiring morally salient patterns of perceptual attentiveness and belief-influencing premises which manifest selectivities and blind spots in a subject’s moral epistemic life.
An Aristotelian Response to the Globalism Objection
Marcella Linn, Loyola University Chicago
A major objection that situationists lodge against Aristotelian virtues is that they are global traits: they are traits of character that are reliably expressed in trait-relevant actions in a range of trait-relevant situations, and they are stable over time. But, the growing empirical evidence suggests that character traits, including virtues, are at best local—they are dispositions to act in trait-relevant ways only in narrowly defined situations. And so, situationists conclude that any ethical theory based on global traits is empirically inadequate. Both opponents and proponents of Aristotelian virtue ethics take for granted that Aristotelian virtues are global traits of character. I argue, however, that Aristotelian virtues are far more narrow than commonly supposed. The result is that Aristotle’s view is far more defensible against the situationist critique that it is empirically inadequate given that it avoids the globalism objection.
On the Moral Equality of Stalin and Martin Luther King
Nethanel Lipshitz, University of Chicago
I defend Basic Equality—the idea that all human beings have equal moral status—against a criticism made by Uwe Steinhoff and John Kekes. Steinhoff and Kekes argue that Basic Equality is false because it conflicts with commonsense intuitions about the higher moral status of virtuous persons. They propose an alternative view, which I dub Status-Virtue Correlation. On this view, moral status is correlated with one’s actual virtue. I offer two thought-experiments to undermine Status-Virtue Correlation. Building on these thought-experiments, I consider two possible defenses of Basic Equality, one that appeals to forfeiture (which I reject), and one that appeals to justified infringement of rights (which I endorse).
The Leibnizian Roots of Hegel’s “Force and Understanding”
Ansgar Lyssy, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitat Munchen
In this paper I present an interpretation of the first part of Hegel’s notoriously obscure “Force and Understanding”-chapter from the Phenomenology of Spirit, which I will read as an adaptation of some core ideas of Leibniz’s dynamics. This interpretation uses Hegel’s own later lectures on the history of philosophy to “map” the conceptual development of the transition from sense-certainty to self-consciousness to the historical development from Locke through Leibniz to Kant. This brief interpretation displays two distinctive features. First, it allows us to make sense of some otherwise rather difficult passages, such as the duplicity of forces or the expression that one force acts as a medium of the other. Second, I try to show how Hegel’s conception of the priority of concepts over force can plausibly be viewed as presenting a criticism of Locke’s (and Newton’s) empiricism.
Scientific Consensus Without Inconsistency
Alexandru Marcoci, London School of Economics
James Nguyen, University of Notre Dame
The fragmentation of academic disciplines forces individuals to specialise. In doing so, they become experts over their area of research. But under certain innocuous assumptions, this gives rise to an impossibility result when it comes to aggregating the beliefs of experts to deliver the beliefs of a discipline as a whole. We show that when experts' beliefs come into conflict, they should waive their expert status. If they do, then they can guarantee that the discipline remains consistent.
Attention, Deliberation, and Having “One Thought Too Many”
Stephen Marrone, Georgia State University
Much has been written about Bernard Williams’s remarks (1981) regarding the (imagined) man faced with the choice of saving either a drowning stranger or his drowning wife. For Williams, the man's justification for saving his wife ought not to be any kind of practical syllogism, but simply, "because she is my wife." Susan Wolf claims (2012) that the standard response to Williams, which she dubs the Standard View, has been inadequate. Wolf then considers and rejects a potential response to the Standard View—what she calls the "virtuous attention" view. Such a view, Wolf argues, is merely a variation of the Standard View. In this paper, I argue that the virtuous attention view is not a variation of the Standard View. While Wolf’s reading of Williams is correct, I argue that a developed version of the virtuous attention view can actually provide support for Wolf's reading of Williams.
Individuum, Existentia, and Potentia: Spinoza’s Recipe for Particulars
Christopher Martin, University of Wisconsin–Green Bay
Spinoza’s Ethics is written for the benefit of certain finite particulars. Yet as Tschirnhaus would press, Leibniz would opine, and Hegel would openly declare, Spinoza appears incapable of explaining how these particulars are possible within the confines of his one-substance metaphysic. One proposal, dubbed “acosmism” by Hegel, is that Spinoza never meant to derive finite or durational realities from God. As most every discussant of this view (save Hegel) recognizes however, this interpretation cannot be sustained. A more promising strategy proposes that the collection of finite modes under some attribute comprise one of its infinite and eternal modes. Though promising, I argue that such a collection of finite modes can never comprise an infinite or eternal mode of some attribute. I propose a new solution to this problem by defending an interpretation of ordinary particulars as temporary reflections cast by God’s power propagating through the infinite and eternal essences that follow as propria from God’s nature. The essences, because they follow immediately or mediately from God’s nature, are infinite and eternal. However, as such they are also static. This is problematic because these essences, in addition to continuing God’s being, also extend God’s power which, as Spinoza understands it, is absolute, dynamic, and active. The only way for God’s propria to extend God’s power, I argue, is by projecting finite and durational instances of themselves that interact with finite and durational instances of God’s other propria. The product of these expressions—what we experience as the common order of nature—is little more than a series of shadows reflecting God’s power as it is cast through the infinite and eternal essences of God’s nature.
On the Hypothetical Given
Adam Marushak, University of Pittsburgh
My aim in this paper is to assess the viability of a perceptual epistemology based on what Anil Gupta calls the "hypothetical given". On this account, experience functions only to establish relations of rational support between what Gupta calls "views" and perceptual beliefs; experience alone yields no unconditional entitlement to perceptual beliefs themselves. I will argue that the hypothetical given is a genuine alternative to the prevailing theories of perceptual justification but that the account faces a dilemma: on a natural assumption about the epistemic significance of support relations, the hypothetical given results in either rationalism or skepticism.
Formalization, Reliabilism, and Justification
Conor Mayo-Wilson, University of Washington
I argue that informal mathematical proofs often provide greater justification for believing a theorem than do formal derivations.
Confabulation, Agency, and Self-Knowledge
Colin McCullough-Benner, University of Connecticut
In this paper, I argue that philosophers interested in self-knowledge ought to pay attention to our knowledge of why we do what we do, a topic typically ignored in discussions of self-knowledge. A default presumption of first-person authority attaches to reports of why we acted as we did, so that it is inappropriate to doubt such reports or ask for supporting epistemic reasons unless one has a very good reason to do so. And this presumption is connected in an important way with our according others the status of an agent. But this presumption is in tension with an extensive body of empirical research suggesting the existence of widespread and systematic errors in our reports of why we acted as we did. After setting up this problem, I make steps toward resolving it with a modified version of the agency-based account proposed by McGeer (1996, 2007).
What Is a Slur’s Truth-Conditional Content? The Essence Theory
Amanda McMullen, University of Miami
There has been ample discussion in the literature on slurs on what constitutes the characteristic derogatoriness of literal, non-appropriated uses of slurs. Yet, there has not been as much attention directed towards another question: for a sentence containing a slur, like “Javier is a Spic,” what property does “Spic” contribute to the proposition that sentence expresses? Based on a diverse range of evidence, including contexts in which slur-users explicate what they mean by their slurs, I argue that we should reject the orthodox view, on which the property a slur expresses is identical to that expressed by its Non-Pejorative Correlate (NPC). Using explicating contexts—rather than whether derogatoriness projects in certain contexts—as evidence also enables us to reject views, which presuppose that the slur property also accounts for slurring utterances’ derogatoriness. Additionally, I propound the Essence Theory (ET), according to which a slur contributes a particular essence property.
Why Do Itches Itch? Emotions and Appetites in the Socratic Dialogues
Freya Mobus, Cornell University
What is Socrates’ explanation for why we are motivated to act when we are hungry and thirsty? Traditionally, interpreters have argued that all motivation arises out of deliberation about what is best to do. Hunger is motivational because we have deliberated that it is best to eat right now. Brickhouse and Smith (B&S) have argued instead that hunger is painful, and since we desire pleasure and want to avoid pain, hunger is motivating. In this paper, I will respond to what I call the B&S challenge: If we do not have an independent desire for pleasure, next to our desire for the good, how can appetites and emotions be motivational before we deliberate about what is best to do? B&S’s opponents ought to have a particular interest in responding to that challenge, I argue, because they smuggle into their account itches and hankerings (Penner), raw desires (Reshotko), and attractions and aversions (Singpurwalla), i.e., pre-deliberation pushes and pulls. I am interested in understanding how those pre-deliberation motivations can have any motivational pull. Another way to put the B&S challenge is then: Why do itches itch? My Solution: I propose that in Socratic psychology appetites are pleasant or painful, and pleasure and pain are motivational because they are evaluative; our perceptual apparatus automatically represents pain as bad and pleasure as good. Itches itch because we are hard-wired to perceive pain as bad and pleasure as good. I thereby propose that we can understand appetites and emotions as neither motivationally inert pre-deliberation states, nor deliberated desires (Irwin, Penner, Reshotko), without following B&S who argued that we have an independent desire for pleasure, and without following Singpurwalla and Carone who argued that appetites and emotions are beliefs.
Nietzsche's Critique of Stoicism: Passion, Suffering, and Revaluation
James Mollison, Purdue University
Nietzsche criticizes Stoicism for undervaluing the passions, especially suffering, and for mistaking their characteristic disposition for a universal ethical ideal. I unpack these criticisms in four sections. First, I argue that Nietzsche targets those Stoics who understand the passions as cognitive judgments. I then narrow his objections by showing that he shares the Stoics’ cognitivist view of the passions, admits the efficacy of extirpating the passions, and shares their denial of external goods’ intrinsic value, while insisting on suffering’s instrumental value. Third, I show that Nietzsche’s chaotic view of nature justifies his normative anti-realism and suggest this, combined with his cognitivist view of value, leads to normative fictionalism, where values are adopted for pragmatic reasons. He thus objects to Stoic virtue on meta-ethical and practical grounds. Lastly, I suggest that suffering is instrumental for value-creation because it inspires mistrust of our most precious beliefs while demanding alternative accounts of meaning.
The Limits of Proceduralist Justification
Jake Monaghan, University at Buffalo
A promising way to justify political decisions and outcomes is to justify the procedure which generated them. This method—proceduralism—allows us to justify political outcomes to a diverse group of citizens without justifying each outcome on an individual basis. In this paper, I take a systematic look at how procedures are supposed to do normative work. Based on this systematic assessment, I conclude that many proceduralists set the reliability bar too low. I motivate two additional authority requirements for procedures. I introduce the notion of “predictable” procedural failure, and argue that in order for a procedure to confer authority on its output, it must not have failed predictably. Finally, I argue that even when procedures are highly reliable, it must not be the case that their failures are unevenly distributed. The goal is develop a richer proceduralism, one that is more sensitive to the failures of real institutions.
Williams on Life After Reflection: Reading Truth and Truthfulness in the Shadow of Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy
Michael Morgan, Wheaton College
In Ethics and the Limits of Philosophy, Bernard Williams famously argues that reflection has the potential to undermine ethical knowledge. Though Williams attempts to mitigate the damage through his proposed “confidence” model, many philosophers have questioned its adequacy. In his later work, Truth and Truthfulness, Williams argues that there are at least two virtues that are stable under reflection: what he calls Accuracy and Sincerity. Rather surprisingly, neither he nor any other contemporary commentators have thought to judge this claim against the stringent standard of Ethics and the Limits. In this paper I fill this gap in the literature. I argue that there is a deep tension between the two accounts. If the main argument of Ethics and the Limits is correct, then the two virtues that form the core of the Truth and Truthfulness account are unstable under reflection. Williams undermines Williams.
Stranger In a Strange Land: An Optimal-Environments Account Of Evolutionary Mismatch
Rick Morris, University of California, Davis
Evolutionary medicine researchers characterize some health outcomes as evolutionary mismatch. Mismatch problems are problems which arise as the result of organisms living in environments to which they are poorly adapted, typically as the result of some rapid environmental change. The nature of evolutionary mismatch itself is unclear, however. I propose that we conceptualize mismatch as a relation between an optimal environment and an actual environment. Given an organism and its particular physiology, the optimal environment is the environment in which the organism's fitness is maximized. The actual environment is the environment in which the organism actually finds itself. To the extent that there is a discordance between the organism's actual and optimal environments, there is an evolutionary mismatch. In the paper, I show that this account of mismatch gives us the right result when other accounts fail, and provides useful targets for investigation.
Defeaters and Disqualifiers
Daniel Munoz, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Justification depends on context: even though E on its own justifies H, still it might fail to justify in the context of D. This sort of effect, epistemologists assume, is due to the possibility of defeaters, which undermine or rebut a would-be justifier. I argue that there is another fundamental sort of contextual factor, disqualification, which doesn’t involve rebuttal or undercutting, and which cannot be reduced to any notion of screening-off. A disqualifier makes some would-be justifier otiose, as direct testimony sometimes does to distal testimony, and as manifestly decisive evidence might do to weak but gratuitous evidence on the same team. Basing a belief on disqualified evidence, moreover, is irrational in a distinctive way. Rationality requires us finite agents to conserve effort and unclutter our minds. By ignoring disqualified evidence, we do both.
Schopenhauer’s criticisms of Kant’s Formulas of Humanity (FH) and Autonomy (FA)
Sean Murphy, Indiana University Bloomington
Amid his critical discussion of Kant's moral philosophy in On the Basis of Morals, Schopenhauer offers a criticism of Kant's second and third formulas of the moral law: the formula of humanity and the formula of autonomy. This paper examines these criticisms, and considers how Kant or Kant-inspired ethicists might respond. At the heart of Schopenhauer’s criticisms lies a particular way of thinking about the ends that humans adopt and that they strive to bring about in action. Essentially, Schopenhauer’s notion of an end is such that it bears a tight conceptual connection to motivation. “Every end is such only relative to a will whose end it is, i.e., as we have said, whose direct motive it is” (On the Basis of Morals, 161). This remark will be explained, and it will be shown that, for Schopenhauer, the very idea of a purely rational motive is unfounded.
Closure, Transmission, and Counter-Closure for Justified Suspended Judgment
Peter Murphy, University of Indianapolis
Closure, Transmission, and Counter-Closure principles for justified belief are familiar. But what about parallel principles for justified suspended judgment? More generally, if someone has a justified suspension regarding some proposition, does this require that she has a justified suspension regarding some other proposition? Or does it put her in a position to have a justified suspension regarding some other proposition? I formulate and evaluate four suspension-to-suspension justification principles that are like the familiar ones for justified belief. I argue that all four are false, and that this is some evidence that suspended judgment has its own unique epistemology.
Musical Works as a Social Kind
Eric Murphy, McGill University
Given that philosophers of music have now proposed a variety of ways to conceive of works, I think it is prudent at this juncture to ask two questions: (1) is there anything that unites these varying conceptions of musical work and (2) if so, what is the ontological nature of musical work qua category? I answer the former question in the affirmative and the latter that musical works qua category are a social kind. That is, there is something that it is to be a musical work in general; musical works share a cluster of social properties despite their ontological differences. To see what unifies musical works as a category requires us to adjust our usual perspective to see musical works as the conceptual tool we employ to mentally organize our musical activity. In particular, I argue we employ works to allocate creative credit and categorize performances, recordings, and playings.
Epistemic Exploitation and the Necessity of Inquiry
Brennan Neal, Georgia State University
Abstract: In this paper, I consider Nora Berenstain’s argument that an epistemic injustice of epistemic exploitation occurs “when privileged persons compel marginalized persons to educate them about the nature of their oppression” (569). I argue that Berenstain’s account of epistemic exploitation problematically classifies virtuous inquiry conducted in good faith as an epistemic injustice. I then advance a positive argument to demonstrate that privileged individuals, as part of their obligation to resist oppression, have an obligation to ask marginalized individuals about the conditions of their oppression. Finally, I extend Carol Hay’s argument that the marginalized have a limited obligation to resist oppression in order to demonstrate that marginalized individuals have a limited obligation to respond to the inquiry of the privileged.
Kant's Pure General Logic: Normativity, Constitutivity, and the Form of the Understanding
Tyke Nunez, Washington University in St. Louis
There are two ways interpreters have tended to understand the nature of the laws of Kant’s pure general logic. On the first, these laws are norms for how we ought to think, and will govern anything that counts as thinking. On the second, these laws are criterial conditions for being a thought, and violating them makes a putative thought not a thought. These traditions seem to be in tension insofar as the first depends on the possibility of thoughts violating these laws, and the second makes violation impossible. Surprisingly, given this tension, Kant himself seems unperturbed by it. In this essay I develop an interpretation of Kant’s pure general logic that can preserve core insights behind both interpretive traditions, while explaining why Kant would have been unbothered.
Neural Plasticity and the Persistence of Consciousness
Howard Nye, University of Alberta
In this paper I defend a novel view about what it takes for us to persist over time in an ethically relevant sense, namely that we do so just in case the structural information that organizes our centers of consciousness continues to organize future centers of consciousness. Drawing on the empirical phenomenon of neural plasticity in brain reorganizations following damage, I argue that our centers of consciousness could come to be realized by new populations of neurons that inherited their dispositions to produce consciousness from our original neurons. I argue, moreover, that the relevant “inheritance” consists in the information organizing the old realizer’s disposition to produce consciousness coming to organize the new realizer’s disposition to produce consciousness. The resulting view supports the practical conclusions that neither neural prostheses nor diminutions in the continuity of our non-phenomenal psychological states (e.g., beliefs, desires, and intentions) diminish our ability to enjoy future goods.
In Defense of Humanism: A Reply to Manne
Annalisa Paese, University of Pittsburgh
According to Kate Manne, the appeal to the notion of dehumanization in connection with e.g., genocide and slavery is, typically, just a façon de parler. She holds that approaches to moral psychology that take it seriously are misguided because the central cases of purportedly dehumanizing conduct presuppose the awareness of the victims’ humanity on the part of their tormentors and, therefore, cannot be explained as resulting from their lacking this awareness. In this paper, I show that Manne’s criticism depends on a problematic assumption about what can count as genuinely explanatory in moral psychology. I criticize this assumption by arguing that it forces us to dismiss as explanatorily useless a conception of what seeing someone as a human being amounts to that is, in fact, indispensable to even have in view the field of phenomena Manne discusses.
Paradox with Just Self-Reference
Ted Parent, Virginia Tech
If a semantically open language allows self-reference, one can show there is a predicate which is both satisfied and unsatisfied by a self-referring term. The argument requires diagonalization on substitution instances of a definition-scheme for the predicate “x is Lagadonian.” (The term “Lagadonian” is adapted from David Lewis). Briefly, a self-referring term is counted as “Lagadonian” if the initial variable in the schema is replaced with the term itself. But the same term is not counted as Lagadonian if this variable is replaced with the quotation or other name for the term. Thus the term both satisfies and does not satisfy “x is Lagadonian.”
Extending the In/At Distinction
David Pattillo, University of Notre Dame
Existentialism and the claim that some negative existentials are possibly true together motivate a distinction between propositions being true at worlds and being true in worlds. I argue that the same motivation exists for distinguishing between properties being instantiated at worlds and being instantiated in worlds, and that both truth at and instantiation at can be analyzed in terms of properties of worlds. I then show that, though Williamson's ontology implies he does not need a distinction between truth in and truth at, no such move saves him from needing a distinction between instantiation in and instantiation at. If he admits such a distinction, then it is difficult to argue that a truth in/at distinction is much of a cost.
Socratic Belief in the Gorgias
Andrew Payne, St. Joseph's University
This paper sketches a Socratic conception of belief in the Gorgias, beginning with Socrates’ account of his own beliefs. As he tells Callicles at 482a-c, he says the same thing always and exhibits consistency and harmony in belief. Saying the same thing always, as Socrates does, is a prerequisite for belief in the full sense. In contrast, Polus and Callicles waver in their beliefs, as they say first one thing and then the opposite. They do not hold any beliefs about justice and its relation to happiness in the full sense of belief. Finally I provide a dispositional account of Socrates’ claim that Polus and all humans believe that suffering injustice is better than doing injustice. All humans are able to engage in Socratic elenchus, and in doing so their wavering beliefs will be turned into stable beliefs held fully and without qualification.
Proportionality and Omissions Reconsidered
Jonathan Payton, University of Toronto
It seems that omissions can be causes. For instance, it seems that my failure to water my plants causes them to die. But it seems that if an event is caused by one omission, it is caused by many. For instance, my plants would not have died if Donald Trump had watered them, and so Trump’s omission seems to be as causally efficacious as mine. This is the Problem of Profligate Causation. A solution to this problem must single out, for any event, at most one omission as cause, to the exclusion of all others. I propose and defend a solution that appeals to Stephen Yablo’s proportionality constraint on causation: C causes E only if an explanation of E in terms of C contains the right amount of causally relevant detail, no more and no less. I argue that recent objections to this solution fail.
Authority Without Identity: Defending Advance Directives via Posthumous Rights Over One’s Body
Govind Persad, Johns Hopkins University
This paper offers a novel approach to existing debates regarding the moral authority of advance medical directives in dementia cases. Many have assumed that advance directives would lack moral authority if dementia truly produced a complete discontinuity in personal identity, such that the pre-dementia individual is a separate individual from the post-dementia individual. I argue that even if dementia were to undermine personal identity, the continuity of the body and the pre-dementia individual’s rights over that body could support the continuing moral authority of advance directives made pre-dementia. I propose that the pre-dementia individual retains posthumous rights over her body that she acquired through historical embodiment in that body, and further argue that claims grounded in historical embodiment can sometimes override or exclude moral claims grounded in current embodiment. I close by considering how advance directives grounded in historical embodiment might be employed in practice, and what they would justify.
John Baconthorpe on the Divine Knowledge of Individual things: An Interpretation of Averroes
Francesco Pica, University of Toronto
Between the late XIII and the early XIV century there was a lively debate among the scholars: if God knows the individual creatures and how. It was prompted by Aristotle’s statements in Metaphysics XII: that the Fist “thinks about himself” and He “does not think about the lower beings”. Scholastics were concerned that Aristotle’s statement could undermine one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith such as God’s knowledge of the individual person and of his actions. Help to understand Aristotle was primarily sought in his faithful commentator Averroes, but the latter became himself source of further disagreement, in particular, his idea that God’s own being is the sources of His knowledge. My study will focus on one particular aspect of this vibrant debate, namely the attempt to offer an “orthodox” interpretation of Averroes’s view on divine knowledge as proposed by John Baconthorpe (1290–1348), known as the “Princeps Averroistarum.”
The Discipline(s) of Virtue: Knowledge and the Unity of the Virtues in the Protagoras"
Allison Pineros Glasscock, Yale University
In the Protagoras, Socrates appears to defend the view that the virtues are some kind of unity (the Unity Thesis). According to one family of interpretations of the Unity Thesis, Socrates is here defending the view that the virtues are identical with a particular kind of knowledge (knowledge of good and bad) or the view that the virtues are mutually entailing subdisciplines of knowledge of good and bad. I argue that this family of interpretations is not supported by the arguments Socrates actually gives for the Unity Thesis in the Protagoras. Then I defend a minimalist interpretation of the Unity Thesis: the virtues are identical with (a kind or kinds of) knowledge. This minimalist interpretation does not rule out the possibility that the virtues might turn out to be identical with a particular kind of knowledge, nor does it rule out the possibility that they might be mutually-entailing subdisciplines of a particular kind of knowledge. However, it does not entail these stronger positions either. I argue that the aim of the Protagoras discussion of the unity of the virtues is only to establish the minimalist version of the Unity Thesis. Recognizing this allows us to better appreciate why Socrates thinks it is important to defend the Unity Thesis in this dialogue.
Synonymy between Token-Reflexive Expressions
Alexandru Radulescu, University of Missouri
Synonymy, at its most basic, is sameness of meaning. Token-reflexive expressions, at their most basic, are expressions whose meanings work by relating particular tokens of that particular expression to their referents. In doing so, they refer to the particular expression whose meanings they are. This seems to entail that no two token-reflexive expressions are synonymous. In this paper, I propose and defend a notion of synonymy that allows for synonymy between token-reflexive expressions, while being a fairly conservative extension of the customary notion of synonymy.
Are There Really Two Kinds of Happiness in Nicomachean Ethics 10. 8?
Bryan Reece, University of Toronto
In the first sentence of Nicomachean Ethics 10. 8, Aristotle makes the bewildering announcement that the life of morally virtuous activity that he has been heralding throughout the rest of the work is secondary to the life of theoretical activity. The universally adopted ways of understanding the sentence commit Aristotle to there being two kinds of happiness, theoretical and practical. Such a distinction between two kinds of happiness has puzzled readers because of its lack of connection with what Aristotle has said previously in the NE. However, there is an equally plausible, though hitherto unrecognized, way of understanding the sentence that does not make Aristotle distinguish between two kinds of happiness, but rather shows him at work drawing a different and much less startling distinction that better connects this sentence with Aristotle’s overall argument about happiness in the NE.
Antilogic as Counterfeit Philosophy in Plato’s Middle Dialogues
Doug Reed, University of Rhode Island
Across several dialogues in his middle period Plato contrasts genuine philosophical practice with what he considered to be a counterfeit version of philosophy. In this paper I consider passages from the middle books of the Republic, the Euthydemus, and the Phaedo to show that Plato singles out the antilogikoi, practitioners of antilogic and contradiction, as counterfeit philosophers. I will argue that—contrary to the usual interpretation, which identifies the antilogikoi as sophists—Plato in fact distinguishes these two groups from one another. This finding suggests that we need to rethink our understanding of how Plato catalogued genuine philosophy’s intellectual competition.
Cicero's Mistake: The Incoherence of Chrysippan Consolation for All
Benjamin Ricciardi, Northwestern University
Several accounts of the Stoic theory of emotion assert that, in addition to the normative judgement that a good or evil is present or in prospect, the subject must also assent to the 'appropriateness' of having the emotion (qua elevation or contraction of the soul), as one would for any other impulsive impulse. This makes it possible to suggest that one might, and even should, withhold assent to the emotive impression proper (i.e., the “appropriate to emote” one) while retaining the normative one, and thus be free of emotion while still affirming the reality of external goods and bads. In his fourth Tusculan Disputation, Cicero proposes that this “Chrysippan consolation” can and ought, therefore, be accepted by people of all philosophical schools. Though initially somewhat plausible, there are good reasons to think that this strategy is not really viable, even accepting the descriptive Stoic theory of emotions.
Property and Necessity: The Scope of Hume’s Justice
Krista Rodkey, Valparaiso University
The property-centric nature of Hume’s presentation of justice in the Treatise and the Enquiries raises questions about whether he intends the scope of justice to be broad (including murder, injury, and discrimination) or narrow (including property alone). Baier argues that Hume’s view of justice, while initially narrow, widens in his later works; Harris argues that such a view is implausible given that Hume must have had a strong reason for choosing a narrow scope in the first place. I argue in favor of understanding Hume’s account to be, even initially, broad in scope. I support this view by reconsidering the argument Hume gives for the necessity of justice and analyzing the commitments needed for such an argument. I consider two further puzzles Hume’s necessity requirement raises for a property-centric view of justice, ending with a consideration of the rhetorical reasons Hume might have had for focusing so narrowly on property.
Unintelligibility and Epistemological Resilience
Taylor Rogers, Northwestern University
“Unintelligibility and Epistemological Resilience” examines what Kristie Dotson calls “epistemological resilience,” or the capacity of an epistemological system to remain stable despite attempts to alter it. I argue against the distinction Dotson draws between epistemic oppressions which are “reducible” to factors of social power, and those which are distinctively epistemic, finding epistemological resilience as their primary obstacle for resistance. Relying on an important conceptual clarification of what is meant by “shared” epistemic resources, I argue epistemological resilience is a major source of resistance for all forms of epistemic oppression. As such, it should be a central focus for combatting the phenomenon of epistemic oppression generally, rather than being restricted to its own case.
A Conventionalist Account of “Natural” Rights
Tristan Rogers, University of Arizona
Hume observes in the Treatise that the “rules, by which properties, rights, and obligations are determin’d, have in them no marks of a natural origin, but many of artifice and contrivance” (p. 528). Consequently, when we talk of property as a natural right, it is difficult to do so without noticing things like easements, liabilities, zoning, licensing, etc. Call that the conventionalist challenge. Eric Mack, in a series of papers, attempts to mitigate the force of the conventionalist challenge in defending what he calls a natural right of property (Mack, “The Natural Right of Property,” 2010). This paper argues that Mack’s natural rights view does not successfully meet the conventionalist challenge, and further, that a suitably modified Humean conventionalist account can explain the conviction that we have rights without appealing to natural rights.
Self-Harm By Morally Responsible Agents: An Example of Wrongdoing that Retributivists Shouldn’t Punish
Alexandra Romanyshyn, Saint Louis University
In this paper, I address questions of moral agency and wrongdoing in cases of self-harm. According to Aquinas, self-harm is morally bad. It seems, at first glance, that one who engages in self-harm is therefore deserving of punishment or censure. On the other hand, pathologizing self-harm rids one of punishment, but also reduces one’s moral agency, which can ultimately be dehumanizing. Since both options sound unpalatable, I outline a third way: using Eleonore Stump’s account of the divided will, I explain that one who self-harms can primarily be the victim of the wrong. Using Jean Hampton’s account of retributivism, victims must be elevated to counter the wrong performed against them. Thus, one who self-harms, qua victim, would deserve elevation, not censure. By my account, then, we can preserve the agency of those who self-harm, while maintaining that they ought not receive negative repercussions.
Thomas Reid, Aesthetic Perception, and Literature
John Rosenbaum, Baylor University
Thomas Reid was a common-sense philosopher, and one of the first Western philosophers to have a theory of art. For him beauty is a real property in objects and is not simply in the eye of the beholder. Given real aesthetic properties, he developed an account of aesthetic perception, aka “taste.” I put Reid’s theory of taste in dialogue with contemporary analytic philosophy of fiction. Assuming fictions are abstract objects, I draw out a puzzle for Reid’s theory of taste. I conclude that Reid is faced with a dilemma, each horn of which clashes with one of his common-sense ideals.
A Dilemma for the Future-Like-Ours Argument against Abortion
Nicholas Rimell, University of Virginia
Matthew Adams, University of Virginia
The most prominent argument against abortion (at any stage) is the future-like-ours argument. We begin by showing that this argument rests on an important assumption: in the first trimester of an aborted pregnancy, there exists something that would have gone on to enjoy conscious mental states, had the abortion not occurred. We then demonstrate that, whichever theory of composition—nihilism, unrestricted composition, or restricted composition—is true, the following dilemma arises: either this assumption is false or it depends on very controversial metaphysics. Consequently, we reject the future-like-ours argument.
Are Humean Critics Real and Can We Find Them Amongst Us?
Stephanie Ross, University of Missouri-St. Louis
Abstract: In this paper I consider Humean ideal critics, explain why I think they must be real, and address some problems that arise regarding how we can identify the ideal critics amongst us. I close by indicating additional problems that must be solved before we can conclude that such individuals are our best guides to aesthetic understanding.
The Paradox and Promise of Apology
Francey Russell, University of Chicago
I argue that apologies have a paradoxical structure. When we apologize for a moral wrong, we must both own and disown the action. We must own it in order to take moral responsibility for what we did, and we must disown it in order to normatively reject it. The most common way of analyzing apologies argues that in apologizing the agent “splits herself” from what she did. But, I argue, this would lose the connection with the deed that is necessary for the agent to take moral responsibility. I compare apologies to excuses and justifications, defend my thesis against efforts to dissolve the paradox, and conclude by showing why the paradox is not something we must simply resign ourselves to, but is something we should embrace. The paradox of apology is connected to apology’s essential creativity, and its role in moral growth.
Democracy Within, Justice Without: The Duties of Informal Political Representatives
Wendy Salkin, Harvard University
Formal political representation (FPR) is familiar within democratic theory. Less discussed, though no less ubiquitous, is informal political representation (IPR): a person speaks/acts for a group before an audience, though not elected/selected via a corporately organized procedure. The informal representative (IR)’s position does not depend on authorization. Though perhaps accountable to the represented, available mechanisms (protest, dissent) are less reliable than formal mechanisms (impeachment, recall). Group membership is less well-defined in IPR. Further: whereas in FPR, democratic values that ought guide the representative-represented relationship (RRR) can be promoted through institutionalization, in IPR, institutional structures are absent. Our account of the ethics of IPR must not treat it as a deviant case of FPR. I argue: IPR plays a distinctive role in promoting a society of equals; and, to realize a society of equals, IRs must promote an RRR that foregrounds such democratic values as respect, publicity, transparency, openness to criticism.
Can We Rationally Believe Conciliationism?
Eric Sampson, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Conciliationists hold that, when an agent learns that an apparent epistemic peer disagrees with her about p, she is rationally required to suspend judgment about (or significantly reduce her credence in) p. Conciliationism has a well-known self-undermining problem: Conciliationism is itself controversial among excellent philosophers. It thus seems to entail that it is irrational for conciliationists to believe their own view. Conciliationists have argued, in various ways, that this isn’t so. I argue that these defenses fail for the same reason: these defenses depend for their success on claims that are also the subject of disagreement among conciliationists’ epistemic peers. It is thus irrational, by conciliationists’ standards, to believe the claims conciliationists employ in their defenses and therefore irrational to believe that their defenses succeed. I argue that there is excellent reason to think that this problem will afflict any future defenses of Conciliationism against this problem, too.
Loving Friendships and Loving Romances:Tracing the Differences
Olivia Schuman, York University
This paper proposes a scheme for outlining the difference between romantic and friendly loving relationships. According to Laurence Thomas (2013), who defends one of the leading accounts of friendship, the lack of erotic attraction and the capacity to be a mirror onto the other through mutual affirming trust is what distinguishes deep friendships from ideal romantic relationships. In this paper, I reject his view and show that neither mirroring nor the absence of erotic attraction are the exclusive domain of friendship. I will provide an alternative account of the difference between these two relationships, which I call the Axes View. On the Axes View, friendship is characterized by an overall greater distance along a cluster of axes, whereas romance is characterized by greater intimacy. The Axes View is better able to accommodate the varied and overlapping forms which friendship and romance take, without thereby collapsing them into each other.
Two Theories on the Evolutionary Function of Dreams
Arieh Schwartz, University of California, Davis
Is dreaming prevalent throughout the natural kingdom because it performs an adaptive function? Part one considers the leading negative account on this question (Flanagan, 1995; 2000) on which dreams are evolutionary byproducts or “spandrels” of neural processes that were positively selected for. I argue the account is premature because it is unobvious how the neural processes that were allegedly selected for could give rise to dreams, or that the information-processing of dreaming was not also selected for. Part two considers the leading positive account, proposed by Antii Revonsuo (2000; Revonsuo and Valli 2000), that dreaming was selected for because it allows organisms to effectively rehearse threat-perception and avoidance skills. I cast doubt on the empirical evidence used to support of the threat simulation theory. I argue it is best to withhold judgment about the function of dreams, while pointing to what it will take for both accounts to make progress.
Kant on Self-Affection and Self-Consciousness
Janum Sethi, University of Michigan
I propose a novel interpretation of the notion of “self-affection”: the cognitive act that Kant argues is necessary for self-consciousness. I argue that the dominant 'Introspection View' of self-affection—according to which it consists in introspecting one's representations—fails to incorporate and explain important features of Kant's discussion. In its place, I defend the “Synthesis View,” on which self-affection does not require a special act of introspection, but rather occurs every time the subject synthesizes representations. Self-affection is necessary for self-consciousness, on my view, because in order to become aware of the contents of her mind, a subject must synthesize the manifold of intuition and determine how she judges the world to be.
Evidence, Prediction, and Agency
Adam Shmidt, Boston University
Using statistics concerning race in order to generate predictions about individuals’ behavior often strikes us as unfair. In this paper, I argue that a complete explanation of what makes such reasoning ethically problematic also reveals why it is often epistemically problematic as well. The structure of the paper is as follows. First, I offer an example of intuitively unfair statistical reasoning. Next, I turn to the dominant approaches in the philosophical literature on the ethics of belief and argue that neither evidentialism nor pragmatism adequately captures the intuition that the reasoning in the example I provide is unfair. Finally, I identify two formal features of evidence in order to explain why patterns of reasoning that are generally epistemically appropriate fail when used to make predictions concerning the future choices of rational agents.
Ordinary and Ideal Rationality
Robert Siscoe, University of Arizona
Logical omniscience requirements for rationality face very intuitive counterexamples, for on such theories, all of our ordinary assessments of rationality are false. In response to this challenge, proponents of ideal rationality requirements argue that ordinary assessments of rationality, while valuable, nonetheless fall short of ideal rationality. But “ideal rationality” is a technical term, and it is not at all clear how it should be understood. In this paper, I argue that ideal rationality should be understood as complete rationality, discon?rming logical omniscience requirements for rationality.
Propositions and the Content of Desires
Daniel Skibra, Northwestern University
While philosophers disagree about whether or not intentional attitudes can have non-propositional content, even those philosophers who countenance non-propositional content for certain attitudes tend to think that (exceptions like objectual content or de se content aside) the content of these attitudes is fully propositional. I challenge this contention by pointing out an asymmetry between belief contents and desire contents. Intuitions about belief contents tend towards eternalist contents, as arguments by Richard  make clear, and fit in with a traditional, eternalist conception of propositions more broadly. By contrast, analogous arguments show desire contents to be temporally neutral. Having shown this, I offer some additional considerations suggesting that desire contents are temporally neutral systematically, unlike their belief counterparts.
Moral Disagreement and Non-Moral Ignorance
Nicholas Smyth, Simon Fraser University
The existence of deep and persistent moral disagreement poses a problem for a moral realist. It seems reasonably clear that a philosopher who thinks that there is a single coherent set of mind-independent truths should have to explain how human populations have manifestly failed to converge on those truths. Moral realists have correspondingly offered a few such explanations, and in this paper, I argue that one very popular explanatory strategy fails. This is the strategy one which explains away much moral disagreement by citing the pervasive influence of non-moral ignorance. I show that for various conceptual, historical and moral-philosophical reasons, we should not believe that the sorts of moral disagreements which concern us are explained by factual or non-moral ignorance.
The Venus Paradox: Beauty and Disability
Yujia Song, Salisbury University
Why do we consider the Venus de Milo to be beautiful, but judge an actual, deformed human body differently? "The Venus Paradox," as I call it, is an interesting problem in at least three respects. First, understanding it requires an exploration into the prevailing conception and perception of disability in our society. Second, it also requires an understanding of what we take art to be and how we experience works of art. Third, it is hoped that an adequate explanation of the paradox would point us to improved aesthetic responses to disabled bodies, responses that will carry moral and political significance as well. In this paper, I review three different explanations that have been offered for “the Venus Paradox.” I argue that the account given by Anita Silvers is superior to those by Lennard Davis and Tobin Siebers, in light of the three considerations I outlined.
No Crystal Balls
John Spencer, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Crystal balls, in Hall’s (1994) sense, make trouble both for chance-credence principles and for causal decision theory. I argue that crystal balls are metaphysically impossible.
Introspective Awareness and Responsibility for Attitudes
Etye Steinberg, University of Toronto
Abstract: According to a common, “reflectionist” view, the capacity for higher-order reflection on our lower-order attitudes and mental states is necessary for being responsible for these attitudes, and for the actions that these ensue from these attitudes. Recently, several authors have argued that such reflection is not necessary for responsibility, whether for attitudes or for actions. In this paper, I argue for the more radical claim that, if reflection is necessary for awareness of an attitude, then one cannot be responsible for this attitude. If reflection is necessary for awareness of an attitude, then the kind of knowledge one would have of this attitude will be merely observational, or theoretical. If so, then this attitude is not sensitive to the right kind of reasons. This implies that one cannot be answerable, and therefore responsible, for having this attitude.
Socratic Refutation and Moral Motivation
Jacob Stump, University of Toronto
In the Apology, Socrates outlines his project of converting people to the life of philosophy. He identifies refutation as a tactic that he uses to try to accomplish it. Many scholars rightly think that refutation is useful to Socrates’ conversion project insofar as it can motivate his interlocutors to undertake further philosophical inquiry. They are mistaken, however, about how refutation provides this motivation. In this paper, I show that the standard account of how refutation motivates further philosophical inquiry is incorrect, and I provide a more compelling explanation for this. In doing so, I identify a key part of Socratic refutation that has gone overlooked, namely that Socrates does not refute his interlocutors qua individuals or qua fellow human beings, but rather qua practitioners of a social role.
Gun Control, the Right to Self-Defense, and Reasonable Beneficence to All
Philip Swenson, College of William and Mary
Dustin Crummett, University of Notre Dame
One of the strongest arguments against the implementation of gun control measures is that such measures violate the right to self-defense or security against attack. The argument claims that even if a particular gun control measure has good results overall, it infringes, in a manner which is prima facie seriously wrong, the rights of those who end up being killed or significantly harmed due to their resultant inability to defend themselves. We argue that uncertainty on the part of the government about who will be harmed by a particular gun control measure underwrites a strong response to this argument.
Self Intimation, Infallibility, and Higher-Order Evidence
Eyal Tal, University of Arizona
The Self-Intimation Thesis is a bottom-up level-connection theory, consisting of two entailment relations: (1) if we have justification to believe a proposition P, we also have justification to believe that we have justification to believe P, and (2) if we lack justification to believe P, we also have justification to believe that we lack justification to believe P. Self-Intimation has two interesting results. First, assuming a modest Uniqueness principle, Self-Intimation entails the Infallibility Thesis. Second, Self-Intimation and Infallibility jointly suggest a counterintuitive treatment of evidence about whether we have justification to believe P (higher-order evidence). Given both theses, higher-order evidence can only mislead us or agree with the infallible justification we already have about whether we have justification to believe P. Noticing this requires us to form our higher-order beliefs without higher-order evidence.
Descartes on Hatred
Melanie Tate, University of Washington
Commentators on Descartes have become increasingly interested in Descartes’ ethical theory and moral psychology. Recently, Hasana Sharp has argued that “attention to Descartes’ account of hatred . . . reveals that it is precisely our embodiment that requires us to assert and maintain our power to withdraw from relationships and affirm our distinctness” (2011, 356). Contra Sharp, I argue that hatred is not necessary to protect the body. In fact, Descartes maintains individuals should never hate others, as hatred causes sadness, viciousness, and friendlessness. I begin by providing Descartes’ reasons for thinking that we should not hate others. I then show that we do not need to experience hatred in order to protect our body. To conclude, I argue that paying attention to the effects of passions on the soul can provide some insight into recent discussions about the role of egoism and altruism in Descartes’ theory of the passions and his ethics.
Sovereignty as Responsibility and the Duty to Admit
Drew Thompson, Loyola University Chicago
The developing norm of the responsibility to protect (RtoP) establishes a responsibility, and a right, for the international community to interfere in the domestic affairs of sovereign states under certain conditions. RtoP requires the development of a new conception of sovereignty, sovereignty as responsibility, which holds a state’s sovereignty to be contingent upon fulfilling responsibilities to its population, responsibilities that can be formulated in the language of human rights. When a state does not fulfill these obligations, the international community has the legal right, and perhaps duty, to intervene. I argue that if the international community is to have a legal duty to intervene, as it should, then this duty is to be derived from more basic moral obligations to compensate for the effects of the system of sovereign states. This compensation, I will argue, can be extended to ground a legal duty to admit certain classes of nonmembers.
The Supplemented Soul: Thomistic Corruptionism and Mereology
Christopher Tomaszewski, Baylor University
The question of whether the human person immediately survives death has been the subject of considerable recent dispute among Thomists, between corruptionists who argue that the human person is indeed destroyed by death (temporarily, until they come back into existence at the general resurrection) and survivalists who argue that the human person lives on constituted by his soul alone in the interim state between death and the general resurrection. One front in this dispute has been mereological in nature, since according to survivalism, the human person immediately survives death and, in the interim state between death and the general resurrection, he has his soul as his sole proper part. In this paper, I argue that Aquinas clearly endorses a mereological supplementation principle known as Strong Company, using very strong textual evidence in his Scriptum super Sententiis thus far unnoticed in any of the corruptionist or survivalist literature.
The Meaning of Health in the Liberal Theory of Justice
Paul Tubig, University of Washington
The aim of this paper is to develop a moralized conception of health that would make health a legitimate concern of justice. This is important if we employ the notion of health normatively to determine the nature and extent of our social duties, especially in regards to access to medical resources and services. Working from the Rawlsian conception of justice, I will argue that a reasonable political conception of health ought to be derived from Rawls’s democratic account of persons as agents possessing a specific set of moral powers and highest order moral interests to develop and exercise these powers. We can reasonably reconceive health as a necessary background condition to serve these interests. By understanding health in this way, the project of health equity and maintenance would then be politically justified as a legitimate priority of justice.
An Argument for Divine Satisficing
Chris Tucker, College of William and Mary
No one expects God’s ethics to have a satisficing structure, a structure which makes it rational, in the absence of countervailing considerations, to reject the better for the good enough. Once such a structure is distinguished from a superficially similar one, it becomes clear that there are no good arguments that human or divine ethics has a satisficing structure and very few people endorse such a position. I argue, however, that God’s ethics does have a satisficing structure. At least it does, given the standard neo-Platonic metaphysics of value popular among theists. This argument provides a new rationale for a key premise in the argument from evil, namely that God necessarily prevents suffering in the absence of countervailing considerations. Consequently, Mark Murphy’s recent objections to that premise fail.
Metanormative Practical-Point-of-View Constructivism
Joel Velasco, Texas Tech University
In a series of papers, Sharon Street has described and defended what she calls Metaethical Constructivism. Unlike previous constructivists, Street denies that the truth of normative claims necessarily depend on procedures to arrive at them. Instead, following ideas inspired by Korsgaard and Rawls, she focuses on the idea of a normative claim “being entailed from within the practical point of view.” In this paper we argue that Street’s definition of normative truth fails to properly capture fundamental aspects of the constructivist view, and we attempt to do better. We argue that the fundamental idea is that of the truth of “S ought to F” which we analyze as saying that F follows from S’s beliefs and values where “follows” means is derivable from these premises by valid practical inference rules. This allows us to see that constructivism fits neatly into metaethical logical space as an anti-realist form of cognitivism.
Temporal Feature Placing and the Perceived Unity of Time
Gerardo Viera, University of British Columbia
While we perceive events in our environment through multiple sensory systems, we nevertheless perceive all of these events as occurring within a single unified temporal order that seamlessly encompasses timescales ranging from milliseconds through much longer. In this way, there is a perceived unity to time (PUT). I argue that the existing philosophical and scientific accounts of PUT fail, since they assume that an explanation for how perceptual processes represent temporal properties will also provide an explanation of PUT. I argue, these two explanatory tasks are separate. Instead, we should understand an explanation of PUT as paralleling in certain respects explanations of feature binding in vision. In both cases a representational framework is needed within which perceived properties, objects, and events can be located. Finally, I conclude by showing how this understanding of PUT has direct implications for the more general literature on the unity of consciousness.
Searching for the “Why”: Plotinus on the One Beyond Being
Michael Wiitala, Cleveland State University
Many philosophers find Plotinus’ philosophical framework rather fanciful. What philosophical reasons could there be for positing the One, Intellect, and Soul as the three fundamental principles of all reality? One such reason could be that our ability to successfully engage in why-inquiries presupposes them. Plotinus’ philosophical orientation is driven by a search for the “why” of things and a confidence that the goal of every why-inquiry is attainable. I will argue that Plotinus understands this search for the “why” to entail that, for every object or state of affairs, there must be some principle that explains why that object or state of affairs is the way it is or has the character it does. In particular, I will explain how Plotinus’ confidence that the object of this sort of why-inquiry is attainable leads him to claim that the first principle—the One or Good—is beyond being.
Thumos and Friendship in Plato's Republic
Josh Wilburn, Wayne State University
In this paper I argue that the traditional picture of Plato’s account of spirited motivation—which emphasizes its responsibility for competitive and aggressive desires, emotions, and behavior—should be expanded. My interpretation is grounded in a close analysis of Republic 375a-376c, the crucial passage from Book 2 in which Plato first introduces his conception of “spiritedness” in the dialogue through the analogy to noble dogs. I argue that in that passage Plato understands the spirited part of the soul, or thumos, as the source both of aggression toward what is “unfamiliar” or “foreign” (allotrion) and of gentleness toward what is “familiar” or “one’s own” (oikieon). According to this interpretation, the spirited part of the soul is responsible not only for feelings associated with anger and hostility, but also for feelings of friendship and affection for others.
Two Puzzles about Agentive “Can”
Malte Willer, University of Chicago
I discuss two observations about how agentive 'can' differs from other existential modals, most prominently epistemic "might" and deontic "may": (i) the former, but not the latter, exhibit a tendency to resist distribution over disjunction; (ii) the negation of the latter, but not of the former, brings in its wake a commitment to the corresponding necessity of a negation. These observations call for an explanation by a modal analysis that satisfies two methodological constraints: (i) existential modals of all flavors (deontic, epistemic, agentive, telic, and so on) should receive a uniform semantic analysis; (ii) features that all existential modals have in common, such as their tendency to license free choice effects, should receive a uniform semantic or pragmatic explanation. I provide such an analysis in a framework that combines tools and techniques from dynamic and inquisitive semantics with insights from the literature on the role of agency in deontic logic.
Toward a Functional Account of Normative Reasons: A Strategy for Conceptual Individuation
Brandon Williams, Rice University
A lot has been said about normative reasons, and the most tired debate is that between Reasons Internalists and Reasons Externalists. Yet, the debate remains important because it indicates diverging concepts of normative reasons such that the different parties to the debate have been speaking past each other all along. This paper is part of a larger project in which I develop a functional account of normative reasons. The present aim is to argue that the functional account is the best way forward in determining what concept of a normative reason we do have and what concept we should have.
Why Is a Person Irreplaceable?
Mengyao Yan, Baylor University
In her 2016 presidential address, “The Dignity of Persons and the Value of Uniqueness,” Linda Zagzebski proposes an account of dignity, especially focusing on developing an explanation of the irreplaceable value of a person. She argues that this unique value is grounded in the first-person consciousness. In this paper, I will first present her account of dignity with a special emphasis on her account of irreplaceable value. After offering a critique on her account, I will propose an alternative account of irreplaceable value, which is grounded in a person’s relationality. I will argue that my account is not only stronger than hers, but also able to avoid its problems and to keep its merit.
Essence, Necessity, and Definition
Justin Zylstra, University of Alberta
What is it for something to be essential to an item? For some time, it was standard to think that the concept of necessity alone can provide an answer: for something to be essential to an item is for it to be strictly implied by the existence of that item. We now tend to think that this view fails because its analysans is insufficient for its analysandum. This appears to be the case if we assume that the concept of essence under consideration is strongly linked with real definition. In response, some argue that we can supplement the analysis in terms of what is strictly implied by the existence of an item with a further condition. In this paper I argue that this view is untenable in its current form.