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The philosophy department at the University of Colorado Boulder is now accepting applications for the 2016 Colorado Summer Seminar in Philosophy, which will run from July 18th through August 4th in Boulder. The end of the Seminar coincides with the... Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2016 at PEA Soup
RoME Seventh Annual ROCKY MOUNTAIN ETHICS CONGRESS University of Colorado, Boulder August 7-10, 2014 Boulder, Colorado an international conference geared to offer the highest quality, highest altitude discussion of ethics, broadly conceived Call For Papers The Center for Values and... Continue reading
Posted Dec 12, 2013 at PEA Soup
I think that one way to think of the point I'm making is that our ability to work out a priori the moral relevance of all the empirical facts can itself be affected by empirical facts. There can be empirical defeaters for a priori justification. To be sure, I don't think that empirical facts can themselves determine what has intrinsic moral value. But they can affect what it is reasonable for us to believe concerning what has intrinsic moral value. That's why I described the argument as "indirect." Is this only in odd cases? The example I used was of an odd case (an evil genius case), but the more interesting cases may not be odd at all. One such possibility is that certain classes of our intuitions might be unreliable because, say, they are connected in some way to the "emotional part" as opposed to the "rational part" of our brain (that's kind of a caricature of part of Joshua Greene's argument). Another possibility is that evolutionary considerations cast doubt on some or all of our moral intuitions.
Hi David, Hmmm. Let's try a concrete, simple case. Suppose I intuit that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad. On this basis, I judge that it is likely that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad. As you describe, I reason non-empirically that if in fact this intuition is caused by an evil genius, then it provides no epistemic justification. So far, I've yet to peek at which world is actual. Here are two words that could be actual: Wn: A "normal" world with no evil geniuses. Wg: A world in which my intuition is caused by an evil genius. If I discover that Wn is actual, I'll be pretty confident that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad. If I discover than Wg is actual, I'll have no confidence that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad. I think these last claims can basically be rephrased as follows. If Wn is actual, it's pretty likely that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad. If Wg is actual, the likelihood that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad is much lower. Thus, discovering which world is actual will help me determine how likely it is that pain is necessarily intrinsically bad.
Hi David, I agree that the truly fundamental moral principles are not empirically falsifiable in the direct way you are imagining. These principles make no empirical predictions. But I'm open to the idea that there could be *indirect* empirical arguments against them. The kind of argument I have in mind would be an argument for the conclusion that our epistemic justification for believing in the principle is no good. From this we could conclude that we have no reason to think that the principle is true. That on it's own is a pretty interesting conclusion. But we might even be able to go further. If some principle of parsimony is true (or perhaps some other epistemic principle), we might be able to infer that we have reason to think that the principle is not true. And that may amount to the claim that the principle is probably not true. And that would seem to be a moral conclusion. The central premise is the premise asserting that our epistemic justification for believing in the principle is no good. I take it that we could have empirical evidence for such a premise. For example, you could learn that there is a device implanted by an evil genius in your brain, and that that is what is causing you to have the intuitions that support the principle. Or, less exotically, some empirical results from experimental philosophy might cast doubt on these intuitions. Or perhaps some considerations from evolution.
I recommend - Nick Hornby's How to Be Good, and - Rebecca Goldstein's The Mind-Body Problem. I've also wanted to read - Bernard Suits' The Grasshopper, though it's not a novel; it's a philosophical dialog.
Toggle Commented Apr 25, 2013 on Philosophy in Novels at PEA Soup
Dale, I didn't mean to be defining agential ratification more narrowly than you want to. I meant to be using your definition. As you just put it, it is that "x is agentially ratified by y if y, at some point in 4-D space, whether in actual or idealized conditions, takes a positive mental stance toward x." On the version of desire satisfactionism I have in mind, our desire satisfactions are what's good for us. Since it is no part of the concept of a desire satisfaction that it be ratified by the subject in order for it to occur, it seems to me that a desire satisfaction can occur without the subject ratifying it (at any point in 4-D space, whether in actual or idealized conditions). I admit such cases would be bizarre. In typical cases, we are prepared to ratify our getting what we want. But the same is true of pleasure, too: although it is possible to get pleasure without ratifying it, in typical cases, we are prepared to ratify our pleasures. Thus, since desire satisfactions can occur without being ratified by us, and since the theory says that all desire satisfactions are good for us, the theory can't claim that being ratified by us is what makes desire satisfactions good for us.
Toggle Commented Dec 15, 2007 on Hedonism and Categorization at PEA Soup
Interesting post, Dale. Instead of trying to respond on behalf of the hedonist, I wanted to explain why I think at least some desire theorists are in the same boat as the hedonists here. I think there are two importantly different kinds of desire theory of welfare. On one kind, what is good for us are the objects of our desires. This is paradigmatic subjectivism and is the version of the view I believe you had in mind. On the other kind of desire theory, what's good for us is getting what we want, or desire satisfactions. These are more complex states of affairs consisting of someone's getting something they want. The difference sounds trivial, but I don't think it is. The topic of your post brings out one way in which it's not trivial. This second sort of desire theory is less subjectivistic, in that on this view, desire satisfactions are good for us independent of our ratification of them. They are good for us "whether we like it or not." (This is especially clear when we consider future desire satisfactions involving things we don't now want.) It therefore seems to be, like hedonism, a form of objective list theory with just one item on the objective list. Perhaps, then, this desire theorist must likewise figure out what sets desire satisfaction apart from other purported members of an objective list. BTW, I didn't cook up this distinction between kinds of desire theory just in response to your post. I actually think the latter, less-subjectivistic version of the desire theory is more defensible.
Toggle Commented Dec 14, 2007 on Hedonism and Categorization at PEA Soup
Though it's cool that you're going for a new look, I can't deny that I prefer the colors, the font, and the width of the old format, too.
Toggle Commented Jun 18, 2007 on Happy 3rd Birthday! at PEA Soup
Yes -- congratulations. PEA Soup rocks. Please don't everyone laugh at me, but what "new look" are you talking about? The blog looks on my computer like it always has. In any case, I second Campbell's suggestion: pea green would be cool, and fitting. (I'm serious.)
Toggle Commented Jun 15, 2007 on Happy 3rd Birthday! at PEA Soup
Hey Doug, I might just be missing something, but maybe this is a plausible transfer principle in accordance with which state-gives reasons transfer: If S has reason to want e to occur, and e will occur only if S Ψ's, then S has reason to Ψ, where 'Ψ' ranges over actions as well as attitudes. Maybe this principle explains why I have reason to eat (since I have reason to want to live [or at least let's pretend this for the sake of the example], and I will live only if I eat). Applying it to your case, since you have reason to want not to be punished, and you will avoid punishment only if you believe CS is a triangle, you have reason to believe CS is a triangle, a state-given reason. Another thing I was wondering about is, Can't a person have a basic state-given reason to have an attitude? E.g., maybe we all have reason to be happy that the sky is blue, not because the sky's being blue is good, but because it is good for us to be happy about stuff. If so, is this enough to vindicate state-given reasons?
Toggle Commented Jun 6, 2007 on No State-Given Reasons at PEA Soup
Jussi, Thanks for that. Two comments and a question: 1. I suppose I feel some of the force of Crisp's rhetorical question, "What extra reason against, say, killing in certain circumstances is provided by that killing’s being prohibited by some set of special principles?" But I wish he'd say more than he does. 2. Regarding your last line of thought, I don't think Crisp denies that there are moral reasons. He denies that there are no ultimate moral reasons. So he can agree that the fact that some act would be morally wrong can provide a non-derivative reason not to do it. (E.g., it might be that whenever you do something wrong, you feel guilty. Since you have reason not to do what makes you feel guilty (since feeling guilty feels bad), an act's being wrong always (though derivatively) gives you reason not to do it). In this sense, he can say that there really are moral reasons. Analogously, he's say, sure, there's water, but there is no "ultimate water." Water exists in a derivative way. It's not a basic thing. But, still, there really is water. 3. Aside from any intrinsic interest a person might have in the question of whether there are any ultimate moral reasons, does Crisp's thesis in Chapter 1 matter? What effect will our view about this thesis have on whatever other views in ethics we hold?
I think your solution is pretty cool, Dr. McX. Another way to go might be to understand welfare -- i.e., the "good for" relation -- as a relation not between a life and the person who lives it but between a *world* and a person. If hedonism is true, the value of some W for S = the amount of pleasure minus pain S experiences in W. If some OLT is true, then that value = the amount of knolwedge, virtue, aesthetic appreication (or whatever) the person gets there minus whatever bads he suffers. If S doesn't exist at W, then it turns out that the amount of pleasure minus pain S experiences at W is zero. The same would go for an OLT. So we can get it to be that it could be better never to have existed. This avoids having to say that you have a life even at worlds at which you don't exist. Is this solution cheating in some way?