This is James Dreier's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following James Dreier's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
James Dreier
Recent Activity
Maybe an example of Robbie Williams's fits Alex Gregory's schema: you want to honor your obligations, and you agreed last night vote for Mary. But you were a little drunk. Plausibly it's vague how drunk a person has to be before their would-be promises fail to generate obligations. (This is RW's variant of a Jackson-Smith example.) Miriam Schoenfield has a similar example of a vague moral concept, but it doesn't lend itself quite as well to participation in a vague project.
Toggle Commented Aug 12, 2016 on Do we have Vague Projects? at PEA Soup
I thought you chose 'blue' because lots of people think it is a response-dependent concept. No? Would 'square' do just as well? If all there is to fittingness in our perceptual reactions is accuracy, then 'square' should be just as good. I don't have an account of what normativity is, but I think it's pretty plausible that if a concept has, let's say, a normative constituent, then it is itself normative. Do you disagree? On a slightly different topic: One thing I like about Justin and Dan's view is that it promises to explain fittingness in terms of reasons. Other views (I recently heard Chris Howard give a paper like this) offer to explain reasons in terms of fittingness. But Josh's view does neither of these things, as far as I can tell -- is that right Josh?
Great! Interesting topic. Like Dan and Justin I'm a little confused about the Normativity Objection. Josh, why is it that the objector is supposed to provide a full account of normatively according to which it turns out that your view fails to vindicate it? Is it because you are just agnostic about whether 'shameful' and the like are normative? Also: I would have thought, just without thinking about it too much, that a "fitting visual reaction" account of 'blue' would in fact make 'blue' normative. On that account, something's being blue immediately entails that it is fitting to see it as blue, right? But you think that's not sufficient to show that 'blue' is normative?
Ralph, I think Doug is right about this. You say, if this belief [viz., that she ought not to do A] is rational, then the proposition that doing A does not maximize the relevant value will have probability 1. It follows that doing A cannot maximize the expectation of this value according to this probability function, and so doing A cannot be rational. But it doesn’t follow. In the kinds of cases Doug mentions, even though the probability that A maximizes the value is zero, A does maximize the expected value. This is a general feature of expectation, not a special feature of value. (There’s a philosopher named ‘Jacob Ross’ who has written about such cases in detail, and a philosopher named ‘Mark Schroeder’ who has a paper-in-progress about them – just on the off chance that you should run into one of them...)
Toggle Commented Jul 8, 2016 on Objective and subjective akrasia at PEA Soup
I am pleased to announce a Call for Abstracts for the 2nd annual CHillMeta workshop, taking place in Chapel Hill on September 9-11, 2016. Abstracts (of 3 double-spaced pages) of papers in any area of metaethics are welcome from almost... Continue reading
Posted Feb 16, 2016 at PEA Soup
I think you have exaggerated the under-representation of women in philosophy. Or maybe "Woman in Philosophy" is like "Man in the Holocene"?
Well, rank uncertain prospects. Then you can extract a cardinal (interval) scale.
Ralph, it seems likely that the moral ranking and the non-moral ranking together determine the all-things-considered ranking. If that's true, then we don't really need a triple ranking view. Do you think the moral ranking and the non-moral ranking together determine the all-things-considered ranking?
Due to a website renovation, the Brown Electronic Article Review Service was offline for many months. But it's back now. It's really just an archive now, but it has some good stuff and I know people want to cite it... Continue reading
Posted Oct 6, 2015 at PEA Soup
Sergio, I was a little worried about that disanalogy – I don’t believe in obligations to self, but I know you do. I basically agree with your diagnosis. The advisor can treat the fact that the agent will procrastinate, become overly altruistic, etc., as a kind of natural fact, and (maybe) the agent cannot treat it that way. Peter, I guess it does seem right that Smith could push Jones to the ground in order to get the O blood (and maybe could not permissibly do that if no AB truck were coming soon), and maybe someone could push Bloggs into the water if it was clear he wasn’t going to jump in. Are those the sorts of harms you had in mind?
That sounds helpful, Peter. Which things will which others be permitted or not permitted to do depending on whether Sobel is morally obligated to retrieve vovó's ring?
I think it’s interesting and surprising that in his ring example Sergio would be pleading with Sobel not to fulfill (what Sergio takes to be) Sobel’s moral obligation. (I am assuming that its being an obligation to Sergio isn’t the point here – Sergio would still be begging Sobel to act in a morally impermissible way even if the obligation was to some third party.) It makes me feel more confident that the criticism of Actualism is a criticism of a semantic theory rather than a criticism of a practical view. Maybe Sergio and I agree about (i) what to do in these scenarios, (ii) what to advise others to do, and (iii) even how to feel about it afterward – I think Sobel would properly feel bad about failing to recover vovó Tenenbaum’s ring. So the disagreement is about whether Sobel was obligated to jump in. But now this does seem like it could just be a semantic disagreement.
Hm. 'Deliberate'? (The verb.)
In a simpler case (Simple Sobel) in which there are just four shirts and no crocs, I think it would not be conscientious for Sobel to let the t-shirts drift. Let’s suppose jumping in the water is not itself a cost, for Sobel. So, he’s just letting them drift away, even though he knows how important they are? WTF, Sobel? It’s true that it’s hard to tell when a dispute is merely terminological, but I think in moral cases we can generally tell by seeing what the practical upshot of the difference is. What does it amount to? Since Travis and I agree about what to advise Bloggs and Sobel (I think), and what to do in the various situations, I think probably remaining disagreements are terminological. You can take the ‘and rationally’ out of my earlier comment, if that word is throwing you off. If the verb ‘reason’ is causing you trouble, that’s a bigger problem.
Oh, that’s interesting. I don’t agree with that. So now it does look like there is a genuine practical, normative disagreement here, rather than a terminological one. What happens if we lower the stakes a little on one side? Sobel is facing a similar situation, but instead of lives at stake it’s t-shirts. They are important t-shirts (some prized shirts from McDaniel’s Monads collection). Sobel is prone to become overly impressed by altruistic considerations, so if he jumps he’ll lose his foot trying to save all six shirts, although he certainly could save four shirts and then climb out safely. We all know Sobel so well that we all know this. If I am the one able to give advice (obviously it really should be Smith, but he’s too busy working on a project for over-privileged youth at the moment), I will definitely advise Sobel not to jump in. If Sobel (uncharacteristically) reasoned clearly and rationally, I believe he’d reach the same conclusion. That seems quite conscientious to me. But why does Sobel not reason conscientiously to the conclusion to jump and save just four t-shirts? Because he cannot reach that conclusion, knowing what he knows. Of course, there is probably a separate question that people are driving at when they're disinclined to "let him off the hook." I don't have a good feel for that question.
I like Travis's explanation, because I've always kind of suspected that at least some of what Possibilists and Actualists disagree about is the proper use of certain words ('ought', 'permissible', 'obligation', ...). Assuming there is no problem about what 'advise' means, Travis's question of what to advise Bloggs to do avoids the semantic issue and goes right for the practical one. And Actualism seems to give a better answer to the practical question (what to do, what to advise). I figure Smith is not bemused about Bloggs's choice and action, but about the words Bloggs is using to articulate them. Is that right, Peter? (Smith usually has more to say than "??????????????????", is why I ask.)
Suppose someone had the view that shapes are not objective: maybe the view that the only shapes things ever have are dispositions to look certain ways from certain perspectives, or some such secondary quality view. Then the question would arise whether these properties are the ones people are talking about when they say "the orbit is elliptical". A reasonable answer would be, no, they are presupposing in their assertions that shapes are objective (i.e., primary) qualities of things in space. Does that sound crazy? (I mean, I guess the view that shapes are secondary qualities is a bit crazy, but aside from that.)
Maybe 'good' (in its moral use) has 'objective' as a presupposition. Then 'objectively good' would seem redundant, but would make a different contribution to content and force from ‘good’. It would be like 'inappropriately lewd' (according to the presuppositional theory of the evaluative force of thick terms). That would be one way of having objectivity as a part of the meaning of ‘good’, without entailing that the negation of ‘objectively good’ is just the negation of ‘good’.
Aha. Funny – the reason I asked, Jack, is that I once said the same thing (during a question session at SPAWN, I think), and Jonas corrected me then. Jonas: according to moral error theory, utterances of sentences like "Torture is wrong" predicate a non-existent or uninstantiated property to an object (e.g. an act type or token). In general, I take such claims to be false. Take Pekka Väyrynen’s view of lewdness. Pekka might have an error theory of lewdness, but he does not think that “Madonna’s show was lewd” predicates a non-existent or uninstantiated property to the show, and according to his view the statement isn’t false. Of course, Pekka’s view is not a presupposition view, and there are other important disanalogies between his view of thick terms and Mackie’s view of moral terms, but the point is that you can be a kind of error theorist and reject a chunk of language as based on a mistake without being committed to the conclusion that everything said with that language is false. John, I wonder if “objectively good”, for Mackie, is a conjunctive predicate. Maybe it conjoins a straightforwardly normative predicate with a non-normative, metaphysical one. In that case, asserting of something that it is “objectively good” would assert a normative claim, but then denying this same claim would not be itself a normative claim. (Compare: “No, the Pope is not both virtuous and divinely inspired.”)
I think when Mackie says his skepticism is independent of any first order view, he means that one who subscribes to it is free to continue valuing things just as always. This is supposed to be in contrast to, say, Nietzsche, whose skepticism (as Mackie understands it) leads to a particular evaluative or normative stance. Mackie values things much in the way a (middle class Anglo academic) moral realist does, only he doesn't think that in doing so he is responding correctly to any demand made by the way things are. I have a couple of questions. The first is about the presupposition-failure interpretation of Mackie's error theory. I like this interpretation. My question, for Jack, is: where does Mackie say that assertions whose presuppositions fail are false? My second question, for John, is: what is a normative proposition? There is no commonsense, pre-theoretic notion of a normative proposition, since 'normative proposition' is a philosopher's term of art. I don't see how we can decide what things are normative propositions until we have a fairly specific account of what a normative proposition is. In particular, I have no pre-theoretic view about whether the proposition that nothing is objectively good is a normative proposition. I can think of some theoretically laden accounts, some of which I like better than others, but it seems to me to be badly question-begging to start with any of them.
The First Annual Chapel Hill Metaethics Workshop (announced here in April) now has a complete lineup, including a new Sanders Prize winner. Program below the fold; and more info at the workshop's web site. To register (for free!) just send... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2015 at PEA Soup
A much-anticipated announcement from Russ Shafer-Landau: The annual metaethics workshop that's long been held at UW-Madison is now moving (along with yours truly) to UNC Chapel Hill. There will be no workshop in Madison this year. The dates of this... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2015 at PEA Soup
Jussi, I don’t think Premise 2 could be right. A typical reason to believe that p isn’t a conclusive reason to believe that p. For example, the fact that the class in room 223 is a philosophy class is a reason for you to believe that the instructor is male. But, the worlds in which you believe the instructor is a male on the basis of the class being a philosophy class are not worlds in which the fact that the class is a philosophy class rules out the instructor’s being a woman. That's not just a quibble. I doubt there is any way to finish the analysis without including normative terminology.
Toggle Commented Apr 1, 2015 on Smith's Objection to Buck-Passing at PEA Soup
Terence, I'll add that I think the reading I've advocated, which has expressivists invested in the simulation project, would not commit expressivism to "a bizarre and prima facie pointless exercise." Just to remind you: I said it would be a bizarre and prima facie pointless exercise on the assumption that the way normative concepts work according to non-naturalist metaethics is not the same as the way normative concepts work as actual people employ them. Do you mean to disagree with that?
Hm, I think AG's words can be construed either way. But anyway (following more along the lines of what Mike says), let's imagine for a moment that we have a really precise and accurate version of how normative concepts work according to non-naturalist realists, and we also get a precise and accurate version of how normative concepts work in the actual world of human beings who possess and use these concepts. And, we find, these are not the same. (Which is looking more likely; see Sarkissian, Park, Tien, Wright, and Knobe, 2011) So now there are two quasi-realist mimicry projects. But one of them seems like a bizarre and prima facie pointless exercise, while the other has on its face a serious and important motivation. I hereby express my plan to pursue the second if in Allan Gibbard's shoes.