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Democracy and Disingenuousness: The Case for Public Sincerity (Thursday evening)
Erik Anderson, Furman University
The principle of sincerity requires that when we engage in public acts of political advocacy, we do not intentionally represent ourselves as accepting beliefs we do not actually accept. While many theorists of public reason accept the principle, there seem to be cases where there are strong reasons for not abiding by it. In particular, it seems like insincere argumentation might sometimes be necessary in order to combat serious injustices. In this paper, I determine what the principle of sincerity requires and detail two justifications for accepting it, a moral justification and an epistemic justification. I then consider whether political exigencies ever justify us in disregarding the principle. I argue that there are a number of reasons why we should continue to argue sincerely even in the face of serious injustice.
On the privilege of a neutral theory (Thursday afternoon)
William Bausman, University of Minnesota
A particular line of argumentation uses the neutral theory of ecology to privilege neutral over non-neutral explanations of the patterns of biodiversity and biogeography. This line of argumentation has an interesting and controversial history within biology. However, the reasoning is not at all transparent. My first aim in this paper is to characterize the reasoning in a way which makes this line of argumentation stand out. My second aim is to argue for a justification for such a seemingly-problematic line of argumentation informed by the scientific usage and history of null and neutral theories.
Justification as Faultlessness (Thursday morning)
Bob Beddor, Rutgers University
According to deontological approaches to justification, we can analyze justification in deontic terms. In this paper, I try to advance the discussion of deontological approaches to justification by applying insights in the semantics of deontic modals. On the position I develop, "justified" expresses a status that I call, “faultlessness”, defined as the dual of weak necessity modals. On this view, an agent is justified in believing p iff it's not the case that she epistemically should [/ought] not believe p. While this view is often conflated with the idea that "justified" expresses permission, it is importantly distinct. Indeed, it gives us precisely what’s needed to avoid the problems facing rival versions of a deontological approach.
Two Concepts of Mercy (Thursday afternoon)
Kristen Bell, University of Southern California
Echoing the strategy of Isaiah Berlin in “Two Concepts of Liberty,” I identify two concepts of mercy in Western political thought: negative mercy and positive mercy. To grant negative mercy is to compassionately spare someone from harsh treatment (generally in the form of punishment) that she deserves. To show positive mercy is to respond to someone justly when unjust social rules call for a harsher response (generally in the form of punishment). Contemporary people generally use the term “mercy” to mean negative mercy whereas Seneca and other pre-modern thinkers use it to mean something closely akin to positive mercy. In the paper, I develop the account of positive mercy and argue for its (re-)adoption into our working repertoire of jurisprudential and political concepts.
Lost in the Multiverse: Self-Locating Uncertainty and Typicality (Friday afternoon)
Yann Benétreau-Dupin, University of Western Ontario
Philosophers and cosmologists have claimed that our self-locating uncertainty may help us deal with issues of fine-tuning, make predictions in the multiverse and guide cosmological model selection. Such arguments rest on a prescription of “assumption of typicality” or, more recently, on solutions to the Sleeping Beauty problem. I show— pace Elga—that because the Sleeping Beauty problem concerns how to handle knowl- edge of observation bias, not self-location uncertainty, it cannot be used to that effect. Moreover, by showing that cosmological claims resting on typicality assumptions (e.g., anthropic reasoning or the Copernican principle) cannot contribute to the confirmation of the laws of the universe and therefore are unnecessary, I claim that self-locating uncertainty does not require special handling within confirmation theory. Legitimate worries about our location should—and can—be handled as any other information or uncertainty about our observation bias.
Giving Up on Someone (Friday morning)
Kiran Bhardwaj, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
We usually think nothing of our practice of ‘giving up’ on someone who has behaviors or attitudes that are morally criticizable—after all, it is my prerogative to choose with whom I will associate, and exclusion seems to be an unobjectionable part of my toolkit of social sanctions. However, I will argue that it is (in many cases) impermissible to withdraw from the person or exclude them from our local community—in fact, it would be to make an exception for oneself. This paper will discuss the moral psychology of giving up on someone and what our requirement to refrain from giving up on someone tells us about the nature of blame.
Blaming the Buddha: Buddhism and Moral Responsibility (Wednesday afternoon, Friday afternoon)
Bobby Bingle, Georgia State University
This paper answers the question “what does Buddhism say about free will?” I begin by investigating the influential answer Charles Goodman offers to this question. Goodman claims Buddhists reject getting angry at wrongdoers because people are not morally responsible agents. However, I contend Goodman’s interpretation has three problems: Buddhist texts do not support it; it implies a stronger position which undermines positive attitudes towards agents (like compassion) which Buddhism endorses; and it ignores important distinctions made in the current moral responsibility literature. Instead, I interpret Buddhism as a Quality of Will Theory, such that agents can be morally responsible and their underlying motivation determines whether or not they are morally praiseworthy or blameworthy.
Forcing Nozick Beyond the Minimal State: The Lockean Proviso and Compensatory Welfare (Saturday morning)
Adam Blincoe, University of Virginia
Forcing Nozick Beyond the Minimal State: The Lockean Proviso and Compensatory Welfare Critics of Nozick have claimed that his formulation of the Lockean proviso is too permissive to serve as a morally plausible constraint on resource acquisition. In this essay I advance a new critique of Nozick’s entitlement theory. In particular, I argue that even on his own permissive formulation of the Lockean proviso, he faces a dilemma, either: (a) Nozick must accept redistributive taxation for the purposes of guaranteeing a compensatory level of welfare, which pushes him far beyond his goal of a minimal state, or (b) he must admit that his entitlement theory cannot satisfy the Lockean proviso (hence he must relinquish the Lockean credentials of his theory). I will develop this dilemma by advancing a unique challenge to how Nozick (and some Nozickians) evaluate the welfare prospects of of the poor in conditions of moderate scarcity.
The Common Cause Account of the Intentionality of Hume's Indirect Passions (Friday morning)
Brandon Boesch, University of South Carolina
In the Treatise, Hume claims that the indirect passions are intentional, meaning they each have objects; e.g., pride is about the self. Since the indirect passions are impressions, it is not clear how they can manage to have an intentional object. One common explanation claims that pride is about the self because it is the cause of the idea of the self. A different explanation claims that the idea of the self is part of the passion, and so intentionality is intrinsic to the passion. Both of these accounts fail: the first fails to consider the explanation of the production of pride and the second denies an argument important to Hume’s moral philosophy. I will defend a third account which focuses on the importance of the production of the indirect passions explains that the intentionality comes from the passion’s being caused jointly by the idea and impression.
A Defense of Statism about Epistemic Reasons (Thursday afternoon)
Patrick Bondy, Cornell University
This paper is about what sorts of things can be reasons which provide doxastic justification. Two main competitors about the sorts of things which can be reasons for beliefs are propositionalism (only facts or true propositions can be reasons/evidence) and statism (only mental states such as beliefs and experiences can be reasons/evidence). This paper begins with an argument in defense of statism, and then responds to an important argument from Timothy Williamson in favour of propositionalism. Williamson argues that only propositions play the role that evidence plays in our scientific and probabilistic talk, so only propositions can be evidence. I respond that this argument does not in fact support propositionalism about evidence, and indeed, if we take a subjectivist interpretation of probabilistic doxastic updating rules, then standard treatments of evidence and probability speak strongly in favour of statism rather than against it.
Partiality’s Negative Analogue (Thursday afternoon)
Joshua Brandt, University of Toronto
We take valuable relationships, such as friendship, family, and nationality to justify ‘positive partiality’: members of these relationships acquire special permissions or obligations for preferential treatment . This paper explores a new kind of partiality, one receiving only peripheral attention in contemporary and historical discussions. I consider how we should understand a relationship of justified ‘negative partiality’, i.e. a relation that justifies unfavourable treatment. First, I develop a scheme for conceptualizing negative partiality, which is employed as a means of responding to potential critics of ‘negative partiality’. Second, I offer commonsense support for negative partiality’s justification. Third, I argue that there are both symmetries and asymmetries between positive and negative partiality.
A Libertarian Case for Mandatory Vaccination (Wednesday afternoon)
Jason Brennan, Georgetown University
This paper argues that mandatory, government-enforced vaccination can be justified even within a libertarian political framework. If so, this implies that the case for mandatory vaccination is very strong indeed, as it can be justified even within a framework that, at first glance, loads the philosophical dice against that conclusion. I argue that people who refuse vaccinations violate the "clean hands principle," a (in this case, enforceable) moral principle that prohibits people from participating in the collective imposition of unjust harm or risk of harm. In a libertarian framework, individuals may be forced to accept certain vaccines not because they have an enforceable duty to serve the common, and not because cost-benefit analysis recommends it, but because anti-vaccers are wrongfully imposing undue harm upon others.
Frege and Propositional Unity (Wednesday afternoon)
Silver Bronzo, University of Chicago
This paper identifies a tension in Frege’s philosophy and offers a diagnosis of its origins. Frege’s Context Principle can be used to dissolve the problem of propositional unity. However, Frege’s official response to the problem does not invoke the Context Principle, but the distinction between “saturated” and “unsaturated” propositional constituents. I argue that such a response involves assumptions that clash with Frege’s Context Principle. I suggest, however, that this tension is not generated by deep-seated philosophical commitments, but by Frege’s occasional attempt to take a dubious shortcut for justifying his conception of propositional structure.
The Rationality of Intuitive Judgment (Wednesday afternoon)
Cameron Buckner, University of Houston
The last decade has seen a surge of interest in the possibility of rationality in the absence of language-like representations--that is, without spoken language, internal speech, or a language of thought. A well-known skeptical position, which I here call “Classical Inferentialism” (CI), holds that such reason-based explanations in the absence of language-like representations are illegitimate. I here sketch a model, based on the latest psychological research into the nature of intuitive judgment, that inferential heuristics can provide rational practical inferences. This model shows that the old Lockean idea that practical reasoners intuitively grasp rational connections between thoughts can be developed into an empirically and philosophically coherent proposal. I end by considering an objection to this proposal: that it fails to honor traditional constraints on rational inference in that it does not allow intensional comparison of options, arguing that intuitive “hunches” enable such comparisons to the point of adaptive satisficing.
Nietzsche's Critique of Language and Logic (Thursday afternoon)
Steven Burgess, St. Norbert College
Many recent commentators on Nietzsche’s thought presuppose that he holds a correspondence theory of truth and, along with it, a relatively traditional understanding of the basic constituents of language. This latter view holds that certain linguistic entities can capture precise, distinct units of propositional content and static, rigidly designated conceptual meanings. A closer look at Nietzsche’s various analyses of language and logic reveals not only that he does not subscribe to such a position, but that he offers a sustained critique against the possibility of any form of atomism of language.
Logical Consequence for Actualists (and Other Contrastivists) (Friday morning)
Fabrizio Cariani, Northwestern University
Contrastivists view "ought"-sentences as expressing comparisons among alternatives. Actualists believe that the value of each alternative in such a comparison is determined by what would actually happen if that alternative were to be the case. One of the arguments that motivates actualism is a challenge to the principle of agglomeration over conjunction—the principle according to which if you ought to run and you ought to smile, then you ought to run and smile. I argue that there is no way of developing the actualist insight into a logic that invalidates the agglomeration principle without also invalidating other desirable patterns of inference. Finally, I extend the analysis to other contrastive view to motivate similar skepticism about the actualist’s challenge to agglomeration.
Control for Embedded Agents (Wednesday afternoon)
Bryan Chambliss, University of Arizona
Implicit bias presents problems for reasons-responsiveness accounts of the control condition for morally responsible action. While many actions that reflect implicit bias (hereafter biased actions) seem to be culpable wrongs committed by the agent, such actions plausibly violate this control condition. This renders the agent not responsible for these actions, suggesting the need to revise or supplement the account. Tracing conditions represent one well-known, but problematic, means of supplementing the account. Andy Clark’s notion of ecological control provides an appealing alternative. I re-articulate ecological control by severing its connections to metaphysical claims about the extended mind. So understood, we see that ecological control is best construed as supplementing the reasons-responsiveness account of control, not as a competitor. Ecological control and tracing conditions remain importantly different, however, as agents often retain ecological control during biased actions, making possible an agent’s moral responsibility for biased behavior.
On Ugliness, or the Radical Lack of Purpose; a Kantian account of negative aesthetic judgment (Friday afternoon)
Matthew Coate, Stony Brook University
What does it mean for something to be judged ugly? On Kant’s account of aesthetic judgment, an object judged beautiful brings about a “free play of the imagination and the understanding,” but ugliness, he says, is the “contrary to beauty.” Assuming Kant is correct on both counts, we must conclude that the judgment of ugliness involves a dynamic contrary to this “free play” that is nevertheless not its mere absence, since its absence is what is exhibited in usual cognitive, non-aesthetic judgment. In this essay, I examine the judgment of an object as beautiful and the “free play” of the faculties that it involves in order to then work out what the “contrary” of this would be, and discover that the judgment of ugliness is thereby clarified. An object, I discover, is judged ugly when, due to the arrangement of its elements, it points to a radical absence of purposiveness.
Corrective Justice, Distributive Justice, and Apologies (Saturday morning)
Andrew Cohen, Georgia State University
This paper considers the relation of corrective to distributive justice. I argue these are sometimes independent domains of justice. I focus on the case of apologies. Apologies are sometimes among the measures specified by corrective justice. I argue that the sorts of injustices that apologies can help to correct need not always be departures from ideals specified by distributive justice. Apologies and the moral relations they engage might thus be parts of a domain of justice that is neither distributive nor dependent on distributive justice.
What Jones Didn’t Do: Rethinking Some Linguistic Evidence for Davidsonian Event Semantics (Wednesday afternoon)
Andres Colapinto, Borough of Manhattan Community College
This paper aims to poke a small but consequential hole in the Davidsonian event-quantificational model for the semantics of so-called ‘action sentences,’ by reexamining some linguistic data that seems to support the model. While the model is non-intuitive in many ways, it does derive intuitive plausibility from instances of (apparent) anaphoric reference to ‘covert’ evental referents—as in, “Jones buttered the toast at midnight, and he did it in the bathroom.” The ‘it’ appears to seek a referent, and we (supposedly) find it in the covert logical form of the first clause. I argue that such an analysis imprudently presupposes that ‘it’ is in fact a referring expression in such cases. We can instead analyze the ‘do it’ construction—following a proposal by the linguist Thomas Stroik—as a mostly meaningless syntactical placeholder, where neither ‘do’ nor ‘it’ carry the meanings we tend to ascribe to them.
The Heroes and Villains of Evolutionary History: Ethical Reductionism and the Darwinian Dilemma (Saturday afternoon)
Ross Colebrook, The Graduate Center, CUNY
Our contingent evolutionary history and natural origin are often taken to suggest that moral facts do not exist, or that moral facts are not objective. I argue that such suggestions are misguided. Our evolutionary history should not in itself produce any additional skepticism about moral realism. Such suspicions can be allayed, I argue, by whole-heartedly embracing the wonderful but much-maligned thesis that is ethical reductionism.
The Possibility of Preemptive Forgiving (Thursday afternoon)
Nicolas Cornell, University of Pennsylvania
This paper defends the possibility of preemptively forgiving, i.e., forgiving before the action in question has taken place. The main reason for doubting the possibility of such preemptive forgiving, I suggest, is the sense that that it would amount to granting permission. The paper traces this thought to a commitment about the claims and complaints—or, more generally, about rights and accountability. If claims and complaints mirror one another, then it will look impossible to waive one’s complaint without also waiving one’s claim. This paper contends, however, that one can forgive an action prospectively without, necessarily, granting permission. If this is correct, then I believe that it has implications for our understanding of how moral claims and complaints connect with one another.
Self-Deception as Unwitting Pretense (Friday afternoon)
Jason D’Cruz, University at Albany
I defend the view that self-deception should be modeled as a kind of imaginative pretense. The view faces serious obstacles. First, being self-deceived is an irrational condition, but ordinary pretending (e.g. that of actors and role-players) is not. Second, self-deceivers are sincere, and often defend their self-deceptive postures. Ordinary pretends do no such thing. So how can the pretense model accord with our sense of the irrationality of self-deception and the sincerity of self-deceivers? I propose that these objections can answered by distinguishing witting from unwitting pretense. I maintain that SELF-DECEPTION AS UNWITTING PRETENSE accords with the sense in which self-deceivers are both canny and oblivious.
Typecasts, Tokens, and Brands: Credibility Excess as an Epistemic Vice (Thursday morning)
Emmalon Davis, Indiana University Bloomington
Miranda Fricker maintains that testimonial injustice is a matter of credibility deficit, not credibility excess. In this paper, I argue that this restricted characterization is too narrow. First, I discuss Fricker’s reasons for dismissing credibility excess as a central form of testimonial injustice. Next, I consider interpersonal and institutional cases in which marginalized individuals are overly-esteemed qua knowers, where such inflated credibility assessments are motivated by identity-prejudice and harm targets in their capacities as possessors and transmitters of knowledge. I argue that these cases meet Fricker’s criteria for testimonial injustice and so constitute central cases of the vice. Finally, I propose an amendment to Fricker’s virtue of testimonial justice. I argue that the virtue is more appropriately understood as a mean between two extremes. That is, attempts to neutralize bias in one’s credibility assessments must be sensitized not only to prejudicial deficit but to prejudicial excess as well.
McDowell on Annexing Perceptual Content (Wednesday afternoon)
Patrick Denehy, Temple University
I argue that John McDowell’s most recent conceptualist position with respect to perceptual content is implicitly committed to some nonconceptual content in perception, thereby denying a thoroughgoing conceptualism. After canvassing his response to the fineness of grain argument from Mind and World, I explore his more recent claim that annexing perceptual content into one’s linguistic-conceptual repertoire retains the conceptuality thesis in virtue of the unity of the form of an intuition. I challenge this annexing maneuver by rejecting the Sellarsian-Kantian form of an intuition with help from Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology. Rather than emphasize embodied motor intentional comportments in the world, like Hubert Dreyfus or Sean Kelly, I attempt to undercut McDowell’s rationalist position in its own terms.
Kant’s publicity principle as dynamic consent (Wednesday afternoon)
Yi Deng, North Georgia College
In the second appendix to Perpetual Peace (PP), Kant introduces his publicity principle as the standard for determining justice or national and international policy, and claims, “all actions relating to the rights of others are wrong if their maxim is incompatible with publicity” (PP 8: 381). In this paper, after introducing various interpretations of the publicity principle, including publicity as mutual knowledge, publicity as general consent, publicity as negotiable consent, I will promote publicity as dynamic consent as a recursive justification of the publicity principle, which requires relevant agents’ moral incentives and dynamic knowledge. By incorporating the modal condition of negotiable consent and the practical effectiveness of mutual knowledge, the publicity principle works as a practical extension of general consent in a non-ideal world.
A Contextualist Solution to Miner Disagreements (Saturday morning)
Kevin Dorst, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
One puzzle (among others) raised by Kolodny and McFarlane's case of the miners is the problem of disagreement: how can a contextualist semantics account for the linguistic data about how agents with different information can disagree about what ought to be done? Dowell proposes a response to these worries, but there is reason to worry that her theory is too flexible to be genuinely predictive/falsifiable. In this paper I argue that contextualists can do better: there is a conservative modification of the standard account that both (i) plumps for a determinate (falsifiable) reading of deontic modals which explains the disagreement data, and (ii) is well-motivated by a philosophical account of the deliberative significance of `ought'-judgments.
Partial Relations Are Not Transitive (Saturday afternoon)
Matt Duncan, University of Virginia
At this point, one might worry that I’ve rigged the game—that the above results are merely an artifact of the way I have construed the capacity for thinking. I have tied the capacity for thinking to thinking itself. And, by doing this, the essential unity of thinking guarantees the essential unity of the capacity for thinking. But I deny that this is an odd or unfair result. I have not rigged the game. I have made it exactly as it should be. I have characterized and individuated capacities for thinking by what they do. They give rise to thinking. And thinking is essentially unified. So it makes perfect sense that capacities for thinking are essentially unified. Or consider this: No active capacity for thinking can give rise to multiple non-unified total states of thinking. Such fission is impossible. This leaves open whether an inactive capacity for thinking can fission. But the only difference between an active and an inactive capacity for thinking is that one (but not the other) needs its possessor to be appropriately stimulated in order for it to give rise to thinking. And appropriate stimulation does not involve any addition to or rearrangement of the structural features responsible for a capacity for thinking. So there is no reason to believe that the differences between active and inactive capacities for thinking are so great that the one cannot fission but the other can. If an inactive capacity for thinking can give rise to divided thinking, then so can an active capacity for thinking. But an active capacity for thinking cannot give rise to divided thinking. So neither can an inactive capacity for thinking. It may be tempting to worry that more is possible when one isn’t on guard—when one is asleep and unaware of what’s going on. But this temptation is no more rational than the temptation to be afraid of the dark. In both cases, nothing changes just because the lights go out; the darkness offers no additions or subtractions save for the light by which one sees.
Confirmation Theory with Imprecise Probabilities (Friday afternoon)
Lee Elkin, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
In this paper, I consider a theory of confirmation with sets of probability measures as opposed to a single precise probability measure. A motivation for utilizing sets of probability measures or imprecise probability is that information is sometimes incomplete and in turn an agent’s credal attitude is best represented by a range of probabilities. With imprecise probability in mind, I turn to confirmation and develop a naïve imprecise Bayesian confirmation theory. In the end, I detail a few challenges that the theory faces as a result of the model. I note that the challenges reveal that probabilistic confirmation is more complicated than traditionally assumed.
Reasons, Dispositions, and Value (Saturday afternoon)
Aaron Elliott, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
In this paper I discuss an objection to Buck-Passing (BP) accounts of value, which take value to be derivative of or reducible to reasons. The objection is that there can be value in worlds in which there are no reasons, and so value must not be ontologically derivative of reasons. Thus, BP is false. This paper shows that BP can allow such worlds, while maintaining that reasons are prior to value. I show this by exploring the debate over the nature of dispositions, showing that BP has diverse resources to appeal to. I first explain BP. Next, I discuss the strongest version of the challenge. I show that on many accounts of dispositions, while we should accept that particular instances of dispositions are prior to their particular manifestations, we should also accept that there is a sense in which dispositions are dependent on their manifestations. This provides BP with resources to respond to the challenge.
Is Racial Science Racist? (Thursday morning)
Mark Engelbert, Independent Scholar
A number of scientific research programs have sought to establish the existence of genetically-based differences between human racial groups in socially-important psychological traits (e.g., intelligence). These claims have long been subjected to criticism not only on empirical grounds, but also on moral grounds including charges of racism. Practitioners of “racial science” deny such charges, and these debates have generally been unproductive. I suggest that one reason for this lack of productive debate is the absence of a well-defined and shared understanding of what racism is. Thus, I examine racial science in the light of several philosophical analyses of racism, including (a) racism as inferiorization or pernicious belief, (b) racism as an institution, and (c) racism as racial ill-will or disregard. I conclude that although charges of racism are often more difficult to sustain than many have supposed, much of racial science is plausibly racist under the ill-will/disregard account.
Attention, Reference, and Core Object Cognition (Saturday afternoon)
Emma Esmaili, University of British Columbia
In this paper, I raise an issue with a class of developmental models that appeal to an attentional system to explain how our first thoughts about objects get off the ground, namely Core Cognition models. I argue that these models are vulnerable to version of a circularity problem originally raised by Mole (2010) and Wu (2011) against any attention-based account of reference. In particular, I demonstrate that among the available ways of interpreting the sorts of representations produced by the attentional system in these models, there is not one interpretation that can both avoid the circularity worry and underpin our initial conceptual representation of objects.
An Account of Decisions (Saturday afternoon)
Patrick Fleming, James Madison University
In this paper I offer an account of practical decisions. A decision does not need to be a conscious avowal, have any particular propositional content or phenomenological dimension. Whether a mental state is a decision depends on more than what happens at any one moment in time. I explore Raz’s claim that that the point of a decision is to put an end to deliberation. For a mental state to be a decision it must play a certain functional role. I explain that role as I develop my account in contrast to the work of Holton, Wallace and others.
'Provisional' Right or No Right at All? (Saturday morning)
Nicolas Frank, University of Virginia
Many “Kantian” theories of the necessity of the state and the moral foundations of political obligation are only loosely associated with Kant’s actual work. However, in the last decade theorists have begun embracing fuller accounts of Kantian justifications of the state in order to avoid problems to which past Kantian theories were susceptible. These “new” Kantians best represented by Anna Stilz and Arthur Ripstein involve a tension in the idea of property as a “provisional” right. It is said that it is a right, but one that cannot be enforced through coercion. Yet, rights are, by definition according to Kant, entitlements to coerce. In the following, I show that this tension creates deep problems for certain Kantian attempts to account for the moral foundations of political authority and that these problems are present wherever such an account relies on “provisional” rights to show the necessity of the state.
Moral Heroism, Living Organ Donation, and the Problem of WInning by Donating (Thursday morning)
Kyle Fruh, Beloit College
Living organ donors frequently describe their donations as especially beneficial – for them. The idea that the welfare of donors is strikingly advanced by donating I call the winning by donating claim. This claim poses a problem for understanding living organ donation as a moral achievement: what’s morally heroic about producing a striking benefit for yourself? I develop an account of moral heroism as a species of moral achievement such that living organ donations are possible instances of moral heroism. Since moral heroism is, as I argue, characterized by actions that constitute significant sacrifices, and since donating an organ while alive is a paradigmatic sacrifice, this is initially plausible. The question posed by the winning by donating claim is whether it is compatible with making a sacrifice that the agent should greatly benefit from the act. My argument for an affirmative response features a distinction between ways gains and losses interact.
Defending Non-Summativism about Group Belief (Saturday afternoon)
Georgi Gardiner, Rutgers University
Summativism about group belief holds that whether a group believes p largely depends on whether its members believe p. Almost any summativist position entails the (widely-held) “minimally summativist condition” (MSC), which holds that a group believes that p only if some member(s) of the group believe that p. Non-summativism, by contrast, denies the MSC and holds that an individual member believing p is not necessary for group belief that p. In this paper I argue against the MSC and defend non-summativism. Lackey has recently defended the MSC. She argues that non-summativist views fail the group lies and bullshit desiderata. That is, they cannot provide resources to distinguish between group’s lying/bullshitting and group’s reporting their beliefs. In this paper I first motivate non-summativism, and then defend non-summativism from Lackey’s criticisms. I then argue Lackey’s proposal of employing the MSC itself fails to make progress towards satisfying the lies and bullshit desiderata.
Group Agents, Non-Rational Animals, and Legal Personhood (Wednesday afternoon)
Jon Garthoff, University of Tennessee
The claim that corporations are not people is perhaps the most frequently voiced criticism of the United States Supreme Court decision Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission. There is something obviously correct about this claim. While the nature and extent of our obligations with respect to group agents like corporations and labor unions is far from clear, it is manifest in moral understanding and deeply embedded in legal practice that there is no general requirement to treat them like natural persons. Group agents may be denied rights to marry, to vote, or to run for public office. More generally the need to guard against problematic discrimination, the core injustice in racism and sexism, has no direct application to the case of group agents. There is also something obviously incorrect about the claim that corporations are not people. The legal practice of treating at least some group agents as persons under law is ancient, found already in Roman law at the time of Justinian. This legal practice was greatly expanded during the 13th century by Pope Innocent IV, who counted municipalities, universities, monasteries, churches, and guilds as legal persons. It was expanded further in the 17th and 18th centuries with the advent of joint-stock companies first in Amsterdam, then later in London and elsewhere, as corporations became a crucial vehicle for economic investment. The contemporary corporate form arose later still in the context of industrialization, as the practice of limiting the liability of shareholders for corporate actions only to their investment in the corporation was developed and enshrined; and the status of limited liability corporations as legal persons was firmly established in United States case law by the end of the 19th century. In this essay I propose that reflection on how to reconcile the sense in which group agents are persons with the sense in which they are not reveals that fundamental revision to the doctrine of legal personhood is needed. More specifically I propose that legal personhood be decomposed into at least two elements -- standing and liability -- and that legal systems reject the principle that an entity possesses one just in case it also possesses the other. The integration of standing and liability, a central part of the doctrine of legal personhood throughout its history, results from modeling the legal status of group agents too closely on that of natural persons. The import of this point ramifies well beyond United States campaign finance, indeed well beyond the legal status of group agents. Decomposing legal personhood also makes possible a satisfactory account of the legal status of severely mentally disabled people, very young children (including fetuses), and more generally animals with phenomenal consciousness but lacking the cognitive capacities to understand reasons and justifications.
Two Conceptions of Practical Reasons (Saturday afternoon)
Christoph Hanisch, Universität Wien
My talk reconciles Joseph Raz’s and Christine Korsgaard’s accounts of reasons for action. Korsgaard’s account assigns priority to identity-constituting practical principles (constructively employing them in practical deliberation and action generates reasons), whereas for Raz reasons qua facts are the foundational normative units (principles are mere practical tools, assisting us with weighing and balancing agency-independent reasons). The central element of my reconciliation-attempt is an analogy: Taking-up a Razian, realist, stance vis-à-vis one’s practical reasons is a non-optional principled feature of one’s first-personal deliberative standpoint. This remains true even if this renders the constructivist workings of our reasons analogous to those of a (benign) placebo. We are practically justified in upholding the ontological “illusion” of agency-independent normative reasons.
Unraveling the Asymmetry in Procreative Ethics (Wednesday afternoon, Thursday morning, Friday afternoon)
Trevor Hedberg, University of Tennessee
The Asymmetry in procreative ethics consists of two claims. The first is that it is morally wrong to bring into existence a child who will have an abjectly miserable life; the second is that it is permissible not to bring into existence a child who will enjoy a very happy life. In this paper, I distinguish between two variations of the Asymmetry. The first is the Abstract Asymmetry, the idealized variation of the Asymmetry that many philosophers have been trying to solve. The second is the Real-World Asymmetry, a non-idealized variation that applies explicitly to cases of ordinary human reproduction. I argue that the Real-World Asymmetry can be defended by properly acknowledging the general wrongness of causing someone else to suffer, the limits of what morality can reasonably demand of us, and the significance of respecting women’s autonomy. I then argue that the Abstract Asymmetry is indefensible.
Kidnapped: The Ethics of Paying Ransoms (Wednesday afternoon)
Jeffrey Howard, University of Essex
Should governments pay ransoms to terrorist organizations that kidnap their citizens? The United Kingdom and the United States refuse to negotiate with unjust foreign organisations that kidnap and threaten to kill their citizens. In contrast, continental European countries, such as France and Germany, regularly pay ransoms to rescue their kidnapped citizens. Who is right? This debate has raged in the public domain in recent months, but no sustained attempt has been made to subject the matter to philosophical scrutiny. This article remedies the lacuna by offering a qualified defense of the state’s obligation to pay ransoms to rescue its citizens. It contends that the state’s duty to protect its citizens from murder grounds a defeasible obligation to pay ransoms. It considers the objection that a policy of paying ransoms increases the likelihood of future kidnappings, and it explains why this objection is not sufficiently weighty. It then identifies a more powerful objection: namely, that a state’s payment of ransoms makes the state complicit in the serious injustices that its ransom payments fund. The article explains how states can mitigate this problem by taking measures that offset the pernicious consequences of paying ransoms.
In Defense of the Wrong Kind of Reasons (Wednesday afternoon)
Chris Howard, University of Arizona
In recent work, Jonathan Way defends the skeptical view that reasons of the wrong kind are reasons to want and to bring about certain attitudes but not reasons for those attitudes. Way’s argument turns on the fact that reasons transmit: that there’s often reason for one action or attitude because there’s reason for another. Way argues that reasons of the wrong kind transmit in a way that’s distinctive of such reasons – i.e., in a way that’s different from the right kind of reasons – and that only skeptics about the wrong kind of reasons can plausibly explain this fact. He claims that this result lends significant support to the skeptical view. In this paper, I argue, contrary to Way, that the manner in which the wrong kind of reasons transmit isn’t distinctive of such reasons: that the right kind of reasons transmit in a parallel fashion. The upshot is that those who don’t deny the existence of wrong-kind reasons can plausibly explain the way in which such reasons transmit by appeal to a fully general principle concerning the transmission of reasons. And this means that skepticism about the wrong kind of reasons can’t gain in plausibility from its purportedly unique ability to explain why reasons of the wrong kind transmit in the way that they do. So Way’s argument fails to provide important support for the skeptical view.
Rawls on Accepting the Punishment for Civil Disobedience (Thursday afternoon)
Brian Hutler, University of California, Los Angeles
In A Theory of Justice, Rawls says that punishing civil disobedience is often unjust. Yet he also claims that citizens should accept their punishment for civil disobedience. These two claims lead to a contradiction given two additional premises: citizens have a right not to be punished for civil disobedience; and citizens ought to resist violations of that right. Rawls can avoid the contradiction in two ways: First, citizens need not resist punishment when accepting it functions as a continuation of their protest. Or second, citizens lack a right not to be punished because they have a general duty to comply with the law. Although both routes escape the contradiction, I think that the latter is closer to Rawls’s own view. For Rawls, accepting unjust punishment—without admitting moral guilt—is how the citizen can reconcile their duty to comply with the law and their individual moral responsibility.
Bayle on Religious Toleration: Whence and Why? (Wednesday afternoon)
Kristen Irwin, Loyola University Chicago
In his Philosophical Commentary (1686), Pierre Bayle offers three main arguments on toleration. The natural light reveals that intolerance is immoral; call this the natural light argument against intolerance. We ought to renounce rights if others’ exercise of them in good conscience would lead to evil; call this the reciprocity argument against intolerance. Finally, we have a right to affirm beliefs of conscience for which we have no conclusive evidence, or which are in fact false; call this the erring conscience argument for tolerance. The relatively secular nature of these arguments is often taken to explain the inclusivity of Bayle’s conception of toleration. I show how the grounding of these arguments on mostly secular claims is consistent with the religious grounds and motivations that Bayle offers for similarly inclusive conclusions. My analysis shows that Bayle argues on both types of grounds, and both against intolerance and in favor of tolerance.
Knowledge, Virtuous Action, and Experience (Friday morning)
Dhananjay Jagannathan, University of Chicago
What role does knowledge play in the exercise of the virtues of character according to Aristotle? This straightforward question has wide-ranging implications for the structure of Aristotle's ethical theory, but his most explicit treatment of the topic in Nicomachean Ethics II.4 poses significant difficulties. For there Aristotle makes both knowledge and choosing for its own sake conditions on someone's acting virtuously, but considers knowledge far less important than choice. Since excellent choice, plausibly, must be knowledgeable, an interpretive puzzle arises, one which opens into broader considerations about the roles of desire and reasoning in virtue. In this paper, I show first that various strategies for avoiding the interpretive puzzle fail, such as taking the knowledge to be that of a voluntary agent or a form of worldly knowledge, or collapsing the knowledge and choice conditions altogether. I then consider how the recent rationalist and anti-rationalist interpretations of virtuous choice due to Hendrik Lorenz and Jessica Moss would handle this puzzle and identify a crucial common assumption that generates difficulties for their views: that the knowledge relevant to choice is practical wisdom. I argue that both the more local interpretive puzzle in II.4 and the more global question about the nature of choice can be resolved by jettisoning this assumption. I conclude by demonstrating the advantages of understanding the relevant sort of knowledge to be ethical experience (empeiria), which is knowledge of the kinds of actions that are appropriate to kinds of circumstances. Such knowledge is the rational residue of habituation and so is necessarily connected to virtue, but is not itself the point of habituation or a constituent part of the non-rational virtues of character. This interpretation allows for a reconfiguration of our understanding of Aristotle's account of moral development and the role of reasoning in moral life.
Toward an Husserlian Resolution of the Cognitive Phenomenology Debate (Friday afternoon)
Jered Janes, Marquette University
A debate has recently arisen between “phenomenal conservatives” who endorse the view that there is not “something it’s like” to consciously think and “phenomenal liberals” who endorse the view that there is. First, I clarify that the question driving this “cognitive phenomenology debate” is whether cognitive conscious intentional states (cognitive CIS) are intrinsically phenomenal and, following Carruthers and Veilett, that the criterion by which this should be determined is whether cognitive CIS constitute simultaneously occurring phenomenality. Second, I argue that the phenomenal contrast arguments relied upon by liberals are incapable of establishing that cognitive CIS constitute simultaneously occurring phenomenality and that they are therefore incapable of establishing that cognitive CIS are intrinsically phenomenal. Third, I argue that what is required to establish these two things is the articulation of a more accurate account of phenomenality than that operative in the debate literature, an account that can be gleaned from Husserl.
Kant's Criticism of Leibniz on the Two Sources of Knowledge (Thursday afternoon)
Chris Johns, American University of Beirut
Kant claims that Leibniz fails to distinguish two sources of cognition: sensible and intelligible. By dismissing the senses as “confused perceptions” and reducing cognition to intelligible “clarity” only, Leibniz was lead to mistake appearances for things in themselves. Commentators have since shown that Leibniz in fact acknowledges and distinguishes the two sources. However, I show that Kant’s criticism is really directed at Leibniz’s failure to recognize that the transcendental categories of experience, namely the a priori intuition of space and the concepts of identity and difference, are subjectively constitutive of experience. So it is this failure, not the failure to distinguish two sources of cognition, that led Leibniz to mistake appearances for things in themselves. This clarifies an important difference between the epistemology of the two philosophers.
Aristotle’s Clincher: Metaphysics, 1006b28-1006b34 (Friday morning)
Jeremy Kirby, Albion College
Aristotle provides a modal argument, in book four of the Metaphysics, 1006b28-1006b34, against an interlocutor who would deny that no subject admits of contradictory predications. Following R.M. Dancy (1975), I’ll call this argument “the Clincher,” and the principle it is designed to defend “the PNC.” I offer a reading that respects the dialectical context and addresses the major exegetical difficulties. I maintain that Aristotle included substance terms in the argument, as doing so allows him to address some of the motivations of the disputant who would deny the PNC. Nevertheless, I argue, one can read Aristotle’s argument, to a large extent, as metaphysically ecumenical.
Volitional Self-Contradiction and Kant’s Formula of Universal Law (Friday morning)
Pauline Kleingeld, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen
The moral criterion articulated by Kant’s Formula of Universal Law is generally thought to require one to act only on maxims that one can will as universal laws. Understood in this way, the Formula has been the target of a number of classic objections. In this essay I develop an alternative interpretation, which I call the Volitional Self-Contradiction interpretation. On this reading, the Formula of Universal Law requires the simultaneous compossibility of willing a certain maxim as one’s own maxim and willing it as a universal law. I first examine the significance of a single word that occurs in almost all important versions of the Formula, namely, ‘simultaneously’. On this basis, I offer a novel interpretation of Kant’s repeated assertions that maxims that fail the requirement ‘contradict themselves’ and lead to ‘self-contradiction’ of the will. This interpretation makes it possible to explain how the relevant volitional self-contradiction is generated, without introducing a special sense of ‘contradiction’, and without presupposing substantive values or a thick account of human rational agency.
Emotional Labor and Emotional Authenticity (Wednesday afternoon)
Adam Kovach, Marymount University
Emotional labor is the regulation of emotions or displays of emotion for purposes of work or professional activity. This paper develops an account of emotional authenticity as truthfulness in forming ones emotions. It is argued that because emotional truth is coherence truth, emotional authenticity is a fragile virtue that can be undermined by persistent emotional labor.
Foul Behavior (Friday morning)
Victor Kumar, University of Michigan
Disgust is an emotion that evolved to facilitate avoidance of disease and infection. However, it has since infiltrated morality. Many philosophers are skeptical of moral disgust because of its apparent affiliation with conservative values, and they seek to ground their skepticism in the emerging science of disgust. Daniel Kelly argues that disgust is an unreliable guide to moral evaluation. Martha Nussbaum argues that disgust shapes thought and behavior in ways that are harmful to others. However, neither set of arguments justifies sweeping skepticism about moral disgust. Empirical research shows that disgust has been recruited to support norms and values that are shared by liberals and conservatives. Disgust plays an important role in relation to reciprocity norms: norms related to cheating, dishonesty, and exploitation. Disgust is a warranted response to violations of reciprocity norms because it accurately represents the ability of these moral wrongs to contaminate and circulate within a population. Repurposing its original functions in relation to disease avoidance, disgust motivates social exclusion, tracks the spread of immorality, and acts as a signaling system to coordinate attitudes and behavior. Disgust has also come to play a valuable role in political life, for example, by denying sexual predators and harassers the opportunity to participate in the communities that they exploit. Thus, although disgust has its roots in food and filth, it also supports important moral values. Instead of expunging moral disgust, as Kelly and Nussbaum suggest, we would do better to understand under what conditions it is warranted, and thereby come to appreciate its suitability for moral life. Many philosophers are skeptical of moral disgust because of its apparent affiliation with conservative values. Daniel Kelly argues that disgust is an unreliable guide to moral evaluation. Martha Nussbaum argues that disgust is harmful to others. However, neither set of arguments justifies sweeping skepticism about disgust. Empirical research shows that disgust has been recruited to support reciprocity norms that are shared by liberals and conservatives: norms related to cheating, dishonesty, and exploitation. Disgust is a warranted response to violations of reciprocity norms because it accurately represents the ability of these moral wrongs to contaminate and circulate within a population. Disgust motivates social exclusion, tracks the spread of immorality, and acts as a signaling system to coordinate attitudes and behavior. Instead of expunging moral disgust, we would do better to understand under what conditions it is warranted, and thereby come to appreciate its suitability for moral life.
Involuntary and Implicit Racim (Thursday morning)
Timothy Kwiatek, Independent Scholar
J. L. A. Garcia offers a volitional account of racism, which establishes racism as a vice. This account it meant to capture all and only the cases of what is intuitively considered to be racism as different instances of one unifying concept. The problem of implicit racial bias has been offered as an example of racism which his account fails to capture. Garcia responds to this by saying implicit racial bias is not an instance of racism, so it is not a problem for his account. I offer a modification of his account which disposes of the volitional aspect and replaces it with a much broader theory of moral responsibility. This account can explain all the same instances of racism as Garcia’s original account. It can also explain that implicit racial bias is an instance of racism and explain why this is the case.
Causal Models and the Ambiguity of Counterfactuals (Wednesday afternoon)
Kok Yong Lee, National Chung Cheng University
Counterfactuals are inherently ambiguous in the sense that the same counterfactual may be true under one mode of counterfactualization but false under the other. Many have regarded the ambiguity of counterfactuals as consisting in the distinction between forward-tracking and backtracking counterfactuals. This is incorrect since the ambiguity persists even in cases not involving backtracking counterfactualization. In this paper, I argue that causal modeling semantics has the resources enough for accounting for the ambiguity of counterfactuals. Specifically, we need to distinguish two types of causal manipulation, which I call “intervention” and “alteration” respectively. To intervene a causal model M is to change M’s structural equations in some specific way, while to alter M is to change the value assignment of M’s variables in some specific way. I argue that intervention and alteration offers a natural explanation for the ambiguity of counterfactuals.
Essential Indexicality Without Indexicals (Thursday afternoon, Thursday evening)
Pengbo Liu, University of Massachusetts Amherst
It is widely accepted that indexical thoughts pose a special challenge to philosophical theories of propositional attitudes. Recently, however, many authors have challenged this received view. The goal of this paper is twofold. First, I will clarify the so-called problem of the essential indexical; Second, I will respond to some of these challenges. I begin by revisiting Perry’s classical discussion of indexical beliefs. I argue that 1) there are several distinct ways to understand the essentiality of indexical thoughts, and 2) Perry’s main concern is first-personal ways of believing/thinking rather than indexical terms as such. In the second section, I distinguish between two kinds of indexicality, i.e., implicit indexicality and explicit indexicality. Many of challenges and putative counterexamples to the received view, I argue in the last section, equivocate these two kinds of indexicality and thus are ultimately unsuccessful.
Unnameable Objects and Universal Quantification (Wednesday afternoon)
Shay Logan, University of Minnesota
In this paper I argue that if we restrict ourselves to considering only logical and metaphysical possibility, then it is possible that there is an unnamable object, regardless how we interpret the modalities in that claim. This may at first seem to pose a problem to our ability to use universal quantifiers in an intuitive way, but it will be shown this relies on making an unwarranted metasemantic assumption.
Communal Ownership and Kant's Theory of Right (Saturday morning)
Suzanne Love, University of Pittsburgh
In his Doctrine of Right, Kant seems to take for granted that a rightful condition would include a regime of private ownership. Here, I argue that Kantian principles are also compatible with communal ownership. I argue that Kant’s argument for his postulate of practical reason with regard to rights entails a standard of meaningful use by which property regimes can be evaluated: a regime must make it possible for usable objects to be meaningfully used. I argue that a regime of fully communal ownership can satisfy this standard. If this is so, then much greater exploration of the relationship between freedom and property rights is warranted.
From Self-Cognition to Self-Legislation: Kant on the Relation between Human Understanding and Logic (Friday afternoon)
Huaping Lu-Adler, Georgetown University
Kant says: logic concerns how we ought to think. But why should we follow logical rules in thinking? On what ground could specific logical rules be regarded as binding for all our thinking activities, and why would human understanding need to represent these rules as imperatival laws for its own use? I motivate these questions by considering Locke’s challenge to syllogism and the worry that, since logical rules describe the essence of thought, it makes no sense to deem them imperatival laws. Kant’s answer: logical rules achieve imperatival status through a self-legislative act by human understanding based on a self-cognition comprising pure and applied logics, whereby it learns both the rules that describe its ideal function and what may cause it to deviate from them under empirical conditions. Kant’s view on the nature and source of logical laws thereby proves to stand apart from the Lockean, Cartesian and Leibnizian alternatives.
Cyber Surveillance as (Morally Problematic) Preventive Self-Defense (Wednesday afternoon, Friday morning, Friday afternoon)
George R Lucas Jr., Naval Postgraduate School
Alongside Stuxnet and Olympic Games, the revelations some two years ago (by former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden) of massive ongoing telephony and data surveillance by the U.S. National Security Agency re-engages a longstanding controversy over the morality of preventive war. To show this, I first claim that the controversial NSA surveillance program is not fully or accurately portrayed as merely a case of anti-terrorist “mission creep,” nor simply a gradual expansion of illicit powers, or the willful and callous abrogation of individual privacy. The matter is far graver than these descriptions of routine bureaucratic overreach would suggest. Instead, the NSA surveillance and data-mining programs collectively represent a deliberate and thoughtfully-conceived, yet morally problematic program, by U.S. security and intelligence forces, of preventive self-defense: against terrorism, surely, but against a number of other threats as well, including infrastructure sabotage, crippling state and corporate espionage, and even (insofar as legally permitted) against the commission of serious international and domestic internet crime, both in the U.S. and abroad. In describing the intent and technical details of this surveillance program, and its exponential expansion of scope, I argue that it was never intended as an operation of Stasi-like surveillance of American citizens, or even of innocent persons everywhere (even though that is exactly how these actions were, at first, portrayed by the press and critical public). What all this constitutes instead is the attempt to carry out an effective program of preventive (NOT "pre-emptive") self-defense of American citizens, and also of the citizens and polities of allied nations (at very least, those who are members of the “Five Eyes”), against a variety of forms of cyber attack. That characterization certainly does not justify the program but merely helps correct the impression of what it signifies, and it will hopefully turn the debate in a constructive direction toward the policies that underlie this, and many other defense programs conceived or fully operational at present. The justification or criticism of the NSA program, in particular, perforce depends upon first recognizing it as a novel form of this resurgent doctrine in the just war tradition: namely, that faced with a very definite and gathering threat, a nation or society is entitled to defend itself by any legitimate means possible, even before the first blows against it are struck, or even “imminent.” In defending this possibility, I develop several rigorous, "just war-like" criteria that govern and constrain morally permissible versions of big-(meta)data surveillance as a justified form of self-defense. As morally problematic as this strategy may seem, tragic terrorist attacks, ranging from the Boston Marathon bombing (15 April 2013) to the recent assault on the offices of the humorist magazine, Charlie Hebdo in Paris (7 January 2015) offer circumstances in which “big-data” surveillance might have proved useful in the detection or deterrence of these attacks
Moral Progress in the History of the Moral Norms (Saturday afternoon)
Andres Luco, Nanyang Technological University
In his recent book The Moral Arc (2015), Michael Shermer makes an admirable case for the occurrence of moral progress at the social level. Society-level moral progress occurs when a change in the norms, practices, and institutions of a society constitutes a moral improvement, relative to the way that the norms, practices, and institutions were before. Shermer argues compellingly that society-level moral progress has taken place with the decline of witch executions, the pacification of international affairs, the rise of democracy, the abolition of slavery, the extension of equal rights to women and homosexuals, and increasing support for animal rights. However, the huge body of historical and sociological information that Shermer draws on will likely fail to convince a proponent of what Philip Kitcher calls the mere-change view (Kitcher 2011: 138 – 140, 210). This is the view that changes in norms, practices, and institutions can never be moral progress, because there is no objective standard by which such changes may be evaluated as resulting in a state of affairs that is morally better than a previous state (Kitcher 2011: 210). Against the mere-change view, I shall argue that moral progress does indeed occur, and moreover that it can be understood as increased success in achieving the end of a moral enterprise. The end of a moral enterprise is a state of affairs favored by selection pressures which govern the historical evolution of moral norms. Such an end can be identified through sociological inquiry of the kind that Shermer and others pursue.
Augustin's Concessions: A Problem for Indeterminate Credal States (Friday afternoon)
Stefan Lukits, University of British Columbia
Many Bayesian epistemologists now accept that it is not necessary for a rational agent to hold sharp credences. There are various compelling formal theories how such a non-traditional view of credences can accommodate decision making and updating. They are motivated by a common complaint: that sharp credences can fail to represent incomplete evidence and exaggerate the information contained in it. Indeterminate credal states, the alternative to sharp credences, face challenges as well: they are vulnerable to dilation, under certain conditions do not permit learning, and provide a narrative about the relationship between precision and entropy that cannot be formalized. This paper focuses on two concessions that Thomas Augustin and James Joyce make to address these challenges. These concessions undermine the case for indeterminate credal states. I use both conceptual arguments and hands-on examples to demonstrate that rational agents always have sharp credences.
Heidegger on Human Finitude: Beginning at the End (Friday afternoon)
Oren Magid, Georgetown University
Interpreters generally understand Heidegger’s notion of finitude in one of two ways: (1) as our mortality – that, in the end, we are certain to die; or (2) the susceptibility of our self- and world-understanding to collapse – the fragility and vulnerability of human sense-making. In this paper, I offer an alternative account of what Heidegger means by ‘finitude’: human self- and world-understanding is non-transparently grounded in a ‘final end.’ After laying out this view, via an appeal to the Socratic account of action and desire in the Gorgias, I discuss its relationship to the two leading views of finitude mentioned above.
Knowing Possibilities and the Possibility of Knowing (A Further Challenge for the Anti-Realist) (Thursday morning)
Peter Marton, Clark University
Knowing that some state of affair -- expressed by a proposition, p -- is possible (Ksp), and the possibility that one knows p (Ksp) have, quite obviously, different meanings. This paper focuses only on their logical relationship -- whether they entail one another. I will argue for the following three claims: (i) the basic verificationist principles of anti-realism, in conjunction with some other, intuitively reasonable principles, do entail that these two concepts are substitutionally equivalent. (ii) Our pre-theoretical expectations question this outcome, as counterexamples can be manufactured. I will also argue that this substitutional equivalence has further, highly counter-intuitive implications. (iii) While the standard strategies to avoid the well-known paradoxes of anti-realism (as e.g. the Church - Fitch paradox) fail to (dis-) solve this new paradox, the introduction of a truth operator does avoid it. Considerations about the price of such move will conclude the paper.
The "Great Phantom": Merleau-Ponty on Group Identity, Hauntedness, and Political Solidarity. (Friday afternoon)
Laura McMahon, Villanova University
One of Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s chief insights in Phenomenology of Perception (1945) concerns the primacy and tenacity of bodily habit in the establishment and continuation of meaningful structures in the world of perception. On the one hand, bodily habits open us to a world that calls forth our cultivated bodily powers in creative ways. On the other hand, habits have the peculiar power to keep past meaningful structures alive that may be distinctly “out of step” with the manifest realities and demands of the present. In this essay, I argue that this double structure of habit is alive not only at the level of individual lived experience but also at the level of shared social life. Social groups have their own habitus, as Merleau-Ponty and Pierre Bourdieu after him call it. I argue that we are haunted by inherited schemes of perception at the heart of our “own” identities in manners that both open us to the world in meaningful ways and, simultaneously, tend to reproduce unequal and oppressive political realities. In Part 1, I discuss the double nature of habit through a presentation of Merleau-Ponty’s account of the phenomenon of the phantom limb in Phenomenology of Perception. In Part 2, I discuss the ways in which habit plays out at the level of group existence, such that we are the avatars of oppressive historical logics that blind us to the demands and possibilities of the present. In Part 3, I investigate what it takes to be self-consciously, rather than unwittingly, political. I argue that this takes the form of a phenomenological bringing to notice of the politically “haunted” character of lived experience, in a manner that resembles a therapeutic encounter and that enables us to see the shared world as a site for transformation rather than a fixed “given.”
The priority of non-alethic perceptal experience (Saturday afternoon)
Neil Mehta, Yale-NUS College
In alethic perceptual experience, we perceive that certain things are true. In non-alethic perceptual experience, we simply perceive objects, properties, and events. Which type of perceptual experience is metaphysically prior? Non-alethic perceptual experience, I say. I first examine two extant arguments for this conclusion. The first is unsuccessful; the second requires a highly controversial premise. I then provide a better argument for this conclusion based on the systematicity of perceptual experience, i.e., the fact that the truths which we can perceptually experience are systematically related.
Contractualist Conventionalism (Thursday afternoon)
Christopher Melenovsky, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Conventionalists argue that many moral obligations are dependent on the existence of specific social practices. In order for such a view to be compelling, conventionalists must explain why persons would have moral reason to follow the rules of a contingent social practice. Too often, such explanations are self-defeating because they explain rule-following as instrumentally justified. In this paper, I give the core of a contractualist argument for conventionalism that overcomes this problem. I argue that persons, as planning agents in a complex social world, have a fundamental interest in being able to rely on others to follow the rules of certain social practices. Because of this fundamental interest, representative persons would agree to a moral duty to follow the rules of social practices. Once we recognize this as practice-independent moral principle, then many of our everyday obligations can be explained as the requirement to follow the rules of social practices.
The Transformation Game (Saturday afternoon)
Chris Meyns, University College London
Can we rationally decide about major life events, such as starting a business, having a child, or joining a revolution? L.A. Paul has recently argued that we cannot (Paul 2014, 2015). We cannot, because such events are transformative: they change who we are, what we know, and what we value. Given transformation, we cannot in advance determine which of possible future outcomes will be preferable to us, prior to having had the experience. Here I accept that Paul is right about transformation. However, I show that this does not undermine the possibility of rational decision making. We can rationally decide about major life events, by incorporating our possible future values into a probability assessment. With this in hand, we can determine expected utility also of transformative outcomes, and decide rationally. I consider three objections, and conclude that none of them undermines my solution. Decisions about major life events can be made rationally.
Qualitativism, Haecceitism, and Time (Saturday morning)
Daniel Murphy, Cornell University
According to qualitativism, fundamental or ultimate reality is purely qualitative or general (see e.g. Adams 1979, Dasgupta 2009 and 2014, Kment 2012, and Russell 2013). Qualitativism seems to imply antihaecceitism, the view (roughly) that qualitatively identical possible worlds are identical simpliciter. Accordingly, objections to antihaecceitism constitute objections to qualitativism, and my main aim in this paper is to assess a prima facie powerful objection in this vein. My main conclusion is that the prospects for qualitativism in light of the objection are importantly sensitive to the nature of time. Antihaecceitism can be challenged by motivating a counterexample, i.e. a pair of worlds that are duplicates, distinct, and both possible. For example, the actual world and a world in which Obama and Biden swap “qualitative roles” constitute a pair of duplicate, distinct worlds. If the latter world is possible, we have a counterexample to antihaecceitism. Anyone antecedently inclined toward antihaecceitism (in the relevant sense of ‘antihaecceitism’), and hence to qualitativism, will be inclined to reject the idea that Obama and Biden could have swapped roles, and the same will go for a wide variety of candidate counterexamples to antihaecceitism. However, there is a particular kind of candidate counterexample that seems particularly difficult to resist (cf. e.g. Adams 1979, Melia 1999, and Kment 2012). Consider a pair of worlds whose histories intuitively share an initial, qualitatively symmetric temporal part, which then diverge in the particular way that this symmetry is “broken”. For example, consider a pair of worlds in which an initially qualitatively identical pair of spheres originate ex nihilo, where these worlds differ only as to which sphere ceases to exist later. I argue that the would-be qualitativist can resist such a counterexample, but only if he eschews a “dynamic” theory of time on which the future is “open”.
Objective Goods, Beneficial Lives, and Morality (Wednesday afternoon)
Howard Nye, University of Alberta
Many philosophers and policymakers hold that there are much weaker moral reasons to preserve the lives of intellectually disabled individuals, on the alleged grounds that their lives will inevitably contain few objective goods and consequently be much less good for them. In this paper I argue that this view is unsound for reasons of general theoretical importance for understanding the relationships between well-being, objective goods, and morality. I contend that the strength of our moral reasons of beneficence to preserve someone’s life are determined, not by how choiceworthy it will be, but by how strongly we should prefer her survival out of care for her. I argue, moreover, that while someone’s life’s involving greater objective goods may make it intrinsically more choiceworthy, our reasons to prefer its preservation out of care for her are determined primarily by how much she enjoys it and how fully and richly it engages her.
On Evading the Deontic Puzzle (Thursday afternoon)
Luis Oliveira, University of Massachusetts Amherst
The deontic puzzle is the tension between Doxastic Involuntarism (the claim that we do not have voluntary control over our beliefs), Epistemic Deontology (the claim that `S ought to believe that p' is sometimes true), and the Ought-Implies-Can principle. I argue against evading this puzzle by taking doxastic ought-claims as evaluative instead of prescriptive employments of the English `ought' (cf. Matthew Chrisman, Richard Feldman, and Hilary Kornblith). My claim is that such evasion comes at the price of objective normative reasons for belief, and, consequently, of the related deontological aspects of epistemology.
Ethical First-Person Authority and the Moral Status of Rejecting (Wednesday afternoon)
Burkay Ozturk, Texas State University-San Marcos
The first-person authority account of gender identity faces a problem: If, as commonly agreed, beliefs about oneself can be false, why should it be always wrong to reject on epistemic grounds another person’s beliefs about his or her identity? Talia Mae Bettcher attempts to navigate around this problem. She argues that the first-person authority over one’s own identity is ethical, not epistemic. So, third-person rejections based on doxastic fallibility not only miss the target, but also constitute a moral wrongdoing. My aim here is to identify some difficulties this account faces. In particular, it runs into the following problem: If self-identification had primacy over third-person considerations, as Bettcher claims, one would have a right to not be rejected. However, there are cases where rejection of political and religious self-identification is prima facie morally permissible. Therefore, there is no unqualified right to not be rejected. Whether rejecting a public avowal is morally suspect or not depends on three things: the reasons for third-person rejection (defeaters against first-person authority), the first-person responses to those defeaters, and whether the actions that constitute denial or resistance in question amount to dejection.
Consequentialism in reflective equilibrium (Thursday morning)
Caleb Perl, University of Southern California
We should distinguish two sorts of reasons for accepting a consequentialist theory. We find ourselves with many intuitions about what we ought to do, including some extremely high-level intuitions about what we ought to do. The first way to defend a consequentialist theory builds only from those high-level structural intuitions; it tries to show that they entail some kind of consequentialism.The second approach does not privilege high-level intuitions. It presents some kind of consequentialism as the best systematization of our intuitions about particular cases as well as our high-level structural intuitions. This second approach is the familiar method of reflective equilibrium. This article investigates the prospects for justifying a consequentialist theory as the outcome of reflective equilibrium. We first observe that a familiar problem for consequentialist theories makes it hard to defend them in that way. Then we'll articulate a subtly shifted conception of deontic judgment that avoids this problem.
In Defense of Use-Based Health Care Financing (Thursday morning)
Govind Persad, Stanford University
The World Health Organization’s conception of fairness in health care financing involves a strong commitment to the separation of health system financing from system use. In this short paper, I evaluate five potential normative justifications for separating system use from system financing, as the WHO recommends: (1) Unforeseeability and Unassessability: health care expenses are large and difficult to foresee. (2) Protecting the Vulnerable: paying for medical care hurts the vulnerable. (3) Luck Neutralization: ill health is a form of bad luck. (4) Civic Entitlement: health care is a civic entitlement similar to voting or national defense. (5) Accommodation: subsidizing health care costs enables people to make health decisions for the right kinds of reasons. I argue that these justifications cannot support the complete separation of use from financing. They may support a variety of other measures, but they do not require completely divorcing health system use from payment.