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Jonathan Way
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Philosophy at Southampton will host a major international conference, as part of the AHRC-funded ‘Normativity: Epistemic and Practical’ project, from Tuesday the 8th to Thursday the 10th of September 2015. This closing conference aims to bring together the three main... Continue reading
Posted Jun 10, 2015 at PEA Soup
This year's British Society for Ethical Theory Conference will be held at the University of Southampton on 13th and 14th July. The list of papers is below the fold. For further details, including registration, see: Keynote speakers What is... Continue reading
Posted Apr 27, 2015 at PEA Soup
The University of Southampton will host two one-day workshops in April that might be of interest to Pea Soup readers. The first, on April 13th, is on Taking Pregnancy Seriously in Ethics and Epistemology. The second, on April 18th, is... Continue reading
Posted Mar 17, 2015 at PEA Soup
Southampton will be hosting two workshops in June. On Friday 13th June, there will be a workshop on Epistemic and Practical Normativity. On Wednesday 18th June, there will be a workshop on Taking Pregnancy Seriously in Ethics and Epistemology. See... Continue reading
Posted May 14, 2014 at PEA Soup
Thanks again all! Brad - yes, I'm happy to grant that if X counts in favour of Y then either X is a reason to Y (if Y is an action- or attitude-type) or X is a reason to have some attitude (e.g. desire, being glad, hope) towards Y. This isn't to deny that the latter things are reasons. However, it is to grant that they are not reasons for the thing favoured - in effect, it's to grant that there can't be reasons for things like height, eye colour, or perceptual experiences. My question is then why there are no reasons for such things. And the worry is that reasons primitivists simply have to take it as a primitive fact that there can only be reasons for some things and not others. Now perhaps this wouldn't be so bad in itself. But the more things that have to be taken as primitive the worse, I think. Steve - yes, I think I was assuming the first story, which I thought was the Sinnott-Armstrong line (although I confess that it's been a while). In any case, you're right that the contrastivist story is another way to go. Thanks for pointing that out - I'll need to think about it. Daniel - Necessary connections are very strong claims. If it seems that the world couldn't but be a certain way, it seems fair to ask why that is. Now perhaps - this probably depends on further issues about the nature of analysis or modality - some necessary connections are brute. But it still seems to me that the fewer necessary connections a theory posits, the better. Now since this is a comparative claim, you're right that we'll ultimately have to compare theories to figure out the upshot of my points in the post. Note though that, e.g. value primitivists don't face the worry I raise here. Height, eye colour, and perceptual experiences can be good, just as actions and attitudes can. So value primitivists don't face a task of explaining why only certain sorts of things can be good. That looks like one respect in which value primitivists have an advantage over reasons primitivists. I'm not sure if I see the point about verbal disputes. I don't think that saying that a necessary truth is a conceptual truth is to deny that this necessary truth requires explanation. Rather, it's to provide an explanation. (Why are all bachelors unmarried? Because, given the concept of a bachelor, part of what it is to be a bachelor is to be unmarried)
Toggle Commented Jun 25, 2013 on A Worry About Reasons Primitivism at PEA Soup
Thanks for the comments everyone! Steve - you're right, of course, that RIC might turn out to be false. I tend to find Peter Vranas and Bart Streumer's arguments for it (and against the pragmatic story) fairly convincing. Even if I'm wrong about that though it'd be interesting (as Alex says) if reasons primitivists were committed to denying RIC (and the other conditions on reasons). Commitments of this sort look like costs of the view. For instance, one common response to the wrong kind of reason problem is to appeal to the idea that reasons have to be the kinds of things one can respond to (the third condition I mention in the post). If reasons primitivists can't appeal to this condition, they can't avail themselves of that response to the problem. Alex - you're right that the 'counts in favour' talk isn't typically put forward as an analysis. But the objection isn't simply that reasons primitivists face counter-examples. The worry is that they are unable to explain conditions on reasons which seem plausible and which some might hope to do work (as in the wrong kind of reason problem, as I say in response to Steve). Brad - Sorry, I'm not quite sure I follow. The response you suggest seems to concede my point that not all considerations which count in favour of A-ing are reasons to A. I think that's all that's needed to raise the question of what explains conditions on reasons which don't apply to favourers as such. Jussi - there's quite a few points there! I think the first response is covered by some of the points above. The second response might be the way to go but at the moment I'm not seeing why the notion of favouring has to be bound up with notions of rationality and justification. (Whereas it seems very plausible that there are connections between these notions and reasons). You're right about Scanlon - but my question is why reasons primitivists get to assume those sorts of conditions. I'd be interested to hear your explanation. Daniel - you're right that primitivists about F don't have to accept bans on necessary connections involving F. But the suggestion in my post is only that necessary connections (tend to?) require explanation. Such explanations don't have to appeal to the nature of F. They could instead appeal to other properties/concepts involved in the connection. For instance, if I remember correctly, Williamson explains why knowledge entails belief by appealing to the nature of belief as 'would be knowledge'. (I'm not sure if an explanation of this sort is available for the connection you cite). I don't yet see how explanations of this kind could be provided for the connections I cite but perhaps some are available.
Toggle Commented Jun 24, 2013 on A Worry About Reasons Primitivism at PEA Soup
A recently influential idea in the philosophy of normativity is reasons primitivism. Reasons primitivists hold that we can give no account of what it is for some consideration to be a (normative) reason. At most we can say that reasons... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2013 at PEA Soup
I also have a comment about the issue of whether the right/wrong distinction applies to reasons to act. Above I expressed some skepticism about whether the distinction Wlodek and Toni draw between the two kinds of reasons to act is well-thought of as a distinction between right and wrong kind of reasons. But Wlodek and Toni's use of this distinction to object to my argument may be independent of this question. Wlodek and Toni's worry was that my argument over-generalises - that if it works, it implies that there are no WKRs for action. But even if reasons to act which depend on the value of so acting are not best thought of as WKRs, it would be bad news if my argument implied that there are no reasons to act of this sort. Fortunately, I don’t think my argument would generalise in this way. That’s because these "act-based reasons" don’t seem to obey any distinctive transmission principle. It’s not the case that if there’s act-based reason to A and B-ing facilitates A-ing, then there’s act-based reason to B – it might be that there’s reason to B only because it helps you to A. What does look plausible is that if there’s act-based reason to A and B-ing facilitates A-ing, then there’s reason to B. But that is just an instance of the general transmission of reasons to act. So I don’t see that my argument raises any special problems about whether there are act-based reasons to act (as opposed to any other kind).
Thanks to Pamela for her very helpful comment. It raises lots of tricky issues and I need to think more about it. Here is an initial thought in response, which I take to be along the same lines as that which Wlodek suggests in his comment above. I agree that if the WKR problem is the problem of sorting the right from the wrong kind of reasons, then WKR skepticism is no solution. But we don’t have to think about the problem in this way. Rather, we can just think of it as the problem that FA accounts (and other views – e.g. evidentialism about reasons for belief, the view that rationality is a matter of responding to reasons) face a family of alleged counter-examples. WKR skepticism gives us a way to handle those examples – we say that the apparent counter-examples are no counter-examples at all, since the considerations adduced in the examples are not reasons for the relevant attitudes, but only reasons to want or bring about those attitudes. And my thought is that we can defend this line by observing that the considerations adduced in the examples are guaranteed to behave in a certain way and noting that this would be explained by the hypothesis that all we have here are reasons to want and bring about attitudes – since those are things which are also guaranteed to behave in this way. This way of putting the point may perhaps help to allay another worry suggested by Pamela’s comment – roughly, that since the transmission principles I appeal to are couched in terms of the right and wrong kind of reasons, we’ll need an account of that distinction before we can make sense of these principles. I don’t think that this is quite right. It’s agreed on all sides that there are considerations in the WKR examples which have a certain kind of normative significance. We can think of the transmission principles as saying that considerations of that sort are guaranteed to behave in a certain way. It seems like that’s an observation we can make without committing to whether or not these things are really reasons for the relevant attitudes, or only reasons to want or bring about those attitudes. Pamela also raises the question of whether we might use the sorts of observations I make to solve the WKR problem in the form that she poses it. This is a really interesting question which I’m not sure of the answer to. I think there might be some possibility of proceeding in this way though – I might try and say more about this later.
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Mar 20, 2012