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Eric Schwitzgebel
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David: Yes, exactly! In the longer version of this, I cite both Adams and Smith as those whose views are probably closest to my own.
We might be starting out from some pretty different places, LK, so it might take a longer conversation than this for me to understand where you're coming from. Hopefully, we'll have a chance for that conversation sometime!
Clement: I'm inclined to agree that those circumstances are more favorable for forgiveness -- though I would resist leaning too rigidly on either their necessity or sufficiency.
LK: Quite a range of questions! I find blameworthiness intrinsically interesting in its own right. But a major part of my concern here is to resist the following thought pattern: "I have all these implicit biases and spontaneous reactions, but they're not under my control and I don't endorse them, so I can't blame myself for them; so I'm cool." On undressing people in your mind: I do think that is, or can be intrinsically blameworthy because disrespectful, in certain contexts, even independent of outward behavioral consequences. (Compare with Angela Smith and Robert Adams.) I also think one is a more praiseworthy person if one does not feel disgust than if one does feel disgust toward Hemlata; I think that's a standard we should hold ourselves to and blame ourselves (not too harshly, though) for failing to meet if we do fail to meet it. I'm not sure about what you're asking in your penultimate paragraph: I don't deny credit for praiseworthy outward action, nor deny blame for failing to engage in required action. Action is more important than thought. Maybe you'll see better where I'm coming from if I contextualize this post a bit with my general theory of attitudes, which is that pretty speech and conscious endorsements and what you sincerely endorse in your reflective moments are only a small part of what it is to have an attitude. What matters more is how you generally live your way through the world.
by Eric Schwitzgebel As Aristotle notes (NE III.1, 1110a), if the wind picks you up and blows you somewhere you don't want to go, your going there is involuntary, and you shouldn't be praised or blamed for it. Generally, we don't hold people morally responsible for events outside their control.... Continue reading
p: Both ancient Roman culture and modern Indian culture are the types of large, enduring cultures that I have in mind (unlike ISIS, which others have raised in comments), so I won't try to weasel out in that way! My thinking here is that it's a mistake to treat either official state doctrine or majority opinion as definitive of the moral range of the culture's attitudes. Not all Romans were cool with slaving, killing, and raping -- as you can see expressed in the attitudes of philosophers during the period. The diversity of moral opinion within Roman culture about such topics, at least to judge by the written philosophical works available, was large. I do think that the 21st century U.S. tends to be less okay (at least officially and in academic circles) with slavery and rape than has been common in many cultures, so those are some of the better cases for difference, I think, than some other issues. But broadly, I'd make a similar point here as the one I made about ancient China: Reading Seneca, Cicero, Epictetus, etc., does not plunge one into a radically alien perspective; most of the issues and debates cover similar ground. I don't know as much about India, but I'd guess that the case is similar.
Eric: I agree that it would be analytic rather than descriptive if being radical disqualified a group from being a culture. I also think that if one slices "cultures" narrowly, then my claims become less plausible. What I really had in mind were very large, very durable groups that one doesn't easily enter or exit by shifting one's opinion, like China through the Warring States period or the U.S. over the past 50 years.
I don't know much about ISIS, but lots of cultures have radical subgroups that gain power for a while.
Joe/Eric: Right, I agree that if we let any old minor disagreement count, then the thesis loses all force. On the other hand, with Moody-Adams, I want to resist the mistake of thinking that there is a single moral view in a culture, the view of the people with the most social power or the authority to state the official line. So I want to consider only major strands. How to define "major" is of course a challenge, but at first pass I hope it's clear enough. Confucianism, Mohism, and Daoism in ancient China, for starters -- but I'd also like to allow a diversity of shared views among women and slaves, too.
Eric W.: You're not assuming genuinely conscious avatars, I think, or that one's livelihood depends on them or something? So maybe we differ empirically a bit. My guess is that it would be unlikely to find a large, major culture in which this random-seeming thing were a major moral violation without there being some familiar-seeming story about it. My thought is that when you go to what is maybe our best actual case for a distant culture with a large written philosophical tradition, that's exactly what you *don't* see.
Thanks for all the interesting comments, folks! Justin: That sounds about right to me! Anon Grad: Well, that's the easy way to defend my point! Too easy of course. So the issue would be where to fall within the range of moderate. My suggestion is that if you read the diversity of texts in ancient Chinese philosophy, you might find yourself moving more toward the universalist side and away from the relativist side than you had previously been, if you have a general tendency to see cultures as varying enormously in their moral structures. P: I think part of our disagreement here might be disagreement in what counts as a "culture". "Nazi culture" is not a culture in my sense, though "mid-20th-century German culture" is a culture. There were many people who disagreed with the Nazi outlook. I'd agree with Eric W., though, that the outlook that held the political power is rather different in attitudes toward racism and military conquest than the outlook that is politically dominant in the 21st century U.S. (this isn't to say that the politically dominant outlook here entirely lacks racist and aggressive strands). Chinese PhD: I think I more or less agree with that, but I'm not sure that adding religion changes that much. The U.S. is a pretty religious culture in some ways, for example. This has an attitude on a certain range of (especially metaphysical) beliefs, but perhaps not a huge effect on overall moral outlook. Eric W.: I think I'd agree with that, but I would regard that as a pretty substantial retreat from standard formulations of SDCMR, unless "hegemonic" is read very strongly; and I'd add that the diversity of opinion is often over a similar range of issues, so that we can find variants of familiar outlooks everywhere, even if in some places one is more dominant than another.
P, my comparison is between large cultures, not between a culture and one particular subgroup of another culture. The U.S. also has fanatical groups who might perpetrate substantial violence were the conditions right.
by Eric Schwitzgebel Cultural moral relativism is the view that what is morally right and wrong varies between cultures. According to normative cultural moral relativism, what varies between cultures is what really is morally right and wrong (e.g., in some cultures, slavery is genuinely permissible, in other cultures it isn't).... Continue reading
Samir, you are a philosopher! I think we should own the word instead of avoiding it because of associations either too negative or too positive. You are what a philosopher is and should be, that is, neither sage nor useless pedant.
My father, Kirkland R. Gable (born Ralph Schwitzgebel) died Sunday. Here are some things I want you to know about him. Of teaching, he said that authentic education is less about textbooks, exams, and technical skills than about moving students "toward a bolder comprehension of what the world and themselves... Continue reading
by Eric Schwitzgebel 10. Listicles destroy the narrative imagination and subtract the sublimity from your gaze. 9. The numerosities of nature never equal the numerosity of human fingers. 8. The spherical universe becomes pretzel sticks upon a brief conveyor. 7. In every listicle, opinion subverts fact, riding upon it as... Continue reading
Zury: Maybe so! Sounds a little like the theodicy that "I have faith that it all serves a greater purpose that we don't understand", transhumanist version.
Charles: That seems right. I don't think Lewis's view fits those criteria, however. And Dretske's view certainly does not. In his 1995 book, he gives exactly the kind of explanation you ask for at the end of the first paragraph (how successfully is another question). Basically: representational content depends on learning history and evolutionary history; consciousness depends on representational content. The kind of "dependence" here is not causal but metaphysical. Hence the Swampcases. On your second paragraph: Of course what you say is more intuitively reasonable. But the point of the example is to display that on Lewis's and maybe Dretske's views there would be pain relief even without such an intuitively reasonable mechanism for it.
Eric W., I've emailed you to continue discussion. The Tyrant starts out normal (at least on the effects-of-pain side), but there's at least one phase in which he is "mad". I can see now that my post was too brief and unclear for this complex story and set of issues -- though hopefully the basic idea still comes through that if part of pain's supervenience is current but non-local events, they some Tyrranical strategy for pain-relief ought to work.
As I read it, kvetching is part of the typical causal role of pain. Why wouldn't it be? And the madman's brain state does not at all occupy the typical causal role of pain. Lewis says that pain has no tendency to make the madman groan or writhe, and that he is not in the least motivated to prevent pain or get rid of it. Kvetching isn't specifically mentioned, but I read the case as excluding it. Do you see something in the set-up that suggests otherwise?
Ah, but he won't kvetch, will he? And whether the experience would continue to be unpleasant is difficult to assess, if there really is no kvetching. I'm not sure Lewis's view is detailed enough to have a specific commitment on that. Part of my project in the piece is to push on the view enough to make vivid how strange and sketchy it really is (which doesn't imply false).
by Eric Schwitzgebel According to a broad class of materialist views, conscious experiences -- such as the experience of pain -- do not supervene on the local physical state of the being who is having those conscious experiences. Rather, they depend in part on the past evolutionary or learning history... Continue reading
Don, how horrible about your wife! It is very much easier to think that life is fair when all is well and you're riding high. When things come crashing down, some people might find comfort in the thought that there is some transcedental rectification, but from a secular perspective that can sound hollow or even insulting. That pattern of thinking is an important part of the psychology of philosophy here -- the psychology of the belief in moral order. Developmental psychologists have found origins of it in early childhood ("just-world thinking" and "immanent justice"). I think such thinking is simultaneously irrational, beautifully aspirational, and objectionably affirmatory of the status quo. (Still can't hang all that together in my mind.)
Clement: Right, there are plenty of precedents for the moral order view (or at least partial versions of it) in the west, though the issue has somewhat slipped out of fashion. Measuring happiness and measuring morality are both very tricky (and I'm not sure that happiness or unhappiness is exactly what the moral order view requires; that's an extra argumentative step). I'm with Dan Haybron on the difficulty of measuring happiness. And we're nowhere close to developing the moralometer! So it's one of those tricky issues that requires broad thinking about a wide range of considerations both philosophical and psychological -- exactly the kind of issue I've always loved.
Thanks for the thoughtful comments, Clement and Christy! Clement: Some political philosophy is directed toward a vision of increasing the the moral order of society; but (a.) political philosophy tends to be normative and I'm more interested in the empirical question, and (b.) political arrangements, at least narrowly conceived, are only a piece of the picture. Much of the picture is more psychological and interpersonal: How does cheating on one's spouse tend to make one feel? Are jerks happy? I find myself attracted to a Confucian vision that recognizes some truth in Mencius but also perhaps emphasizes Xunzi's picture of aiming toward a political and personal philosophy artificially structured toward increasing moral order. Christy: The two pieces you mention seem to fit together quite naturally! Here's how I see them fitting: Most people deserve far better than they get, but society is structured so that the worst tyrannize the rest. I'm not saying that's right; but it's one way to hang together your commonsense constraint with an immoral world order.