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I'd be curious to know if some of our contributors and readers would be interested in collaborating with me on creating an open online textbook in moral theory. Open source textbooks hold promise in reducing costs to students and making... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2016 at PEA Soup
I'm curious to know whether cover letters that accompany journal submissions make any difference — whether editors read them, whether the letters influence publication decisions, etc. I've always treated this as pro forma: "Dear Editors, Please consider this manuscript for... Continue reading
Posted Jan 3, 2015 at PEA Soup
We invite all interested scholars to contribute to the program of the inaugural conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Death of Dying. The conference will be held 20-22 November 2014 on the campus of California State Polytechnic... Continue reading
Posted Jan 12, 2014 at PEA Soup
Citations are an imperfect measure. I've been told that one paper of mine put an end to debate concerning a particular topic, and that's why it's not cited! Cited work tends to be first or come at a critical juncture, but need not be the best. Indeed, I suspect some papers are heavily cited *because* they're wrong. Nevertheless, I agree that we should rely more on objective measures. There's definitely an echo chamber effect in philosophy: this is a good paper because it's published in a top journal, and we all "know" the top journals publish the best material (as though even the most selective journals don't make mistakes about what to publish!). So yes, less of the reputational bias.
I've recently reviewed manuscripts for two interdisciplinary journals, journals in which philosophers can and do publish but in which articles by philosophers would be in the minority. I later surmised that the manuscripts I reviewed were not written by philosophers.... Continue reading
Posted Dec 13, 2012 at PEA Soup
I am currently working on a manuscript in which sophisticated consequentialism (SC) plays a role, and I want to make sure I characterize the view accurately. The heart of SC is the recommendation that the act consequentialist standard of right... Continue reading
Posted Jun 18, 2012 at PEA Soup
Hi Josh - Great analysis. Makes me want to pick up Analysis. A few thoughts: 1. Your response depends on the thought that acts can vary in how much or how well they treat people as ends in themselves. It sounds funny to my ear to speak of this as a matter of degree. Either an act treats me as an end in itself or it doesn't. Might Kantians explain strength of obligation better by appealing to the different extents to which acts affect rational autonomy? 2. I'm not so confident that deontologists can 'deontologize' any non-consequentialist consideration as easily as consequentialists can 'consequentialize' any deontological consideration. The example you mention, rights violations or affirmations, can be consequentialized fairly easily by reconceptualizing them as value-bearing states of affairs. But it's less clear to me that some consequentialist considerations can be so easily deontologized. Suppose that there is an obligation to ø which is highly dependent on the consideration that ø-ing will provide pleasure to large numbers of people. Let's call the strength of this obligation S. Whether that consideration can be deontologized may depend on the kind of deontologist you are, but how, for instance, would a Kantian show that the obligation to ø is S-strong because ø-ing fails to treat people as ends in themselves to degree S? Denying people pleasure does not obviously fail to treat people as ends in themselves at all. 3. Kantians and deontologists should answer criticisms like WSA's, but in some respects, I'd like deontologism to have some normative friction, as you put it in response to Jussi. WSA and other consequentialists think it advantageous that their views can consequentialize non-consequentialist considerations, but I've wondered whether, rather than being an advantage, this doesn't just show that "consequentialism" is trivial. In the universe of possible rightmakers, consequentialism throws an all-comers party, refusing to tell us which of the candidate rightmakers really are rightmakers. In contrast, I'd like deontologism to insist that it has the right account of rightmakers and that consequentialism is sometimes flat out incorrect about certain considerations being rightmakers at all. I'm having trouble coming up with examples at the moment, but aren't there cases where deontologists will insist that certain states of affairs consequentialists think are relevant to rightmaking are actually irrelevant? So irrespective of the effectiveness of your reply to WSA, I kind of don't want it to work.
Paul, you're right that pay and hours worked aren't assumed to be connected. It's a task-compensated profession. But implicit in the furlough is that we are supposed to work less as a way of offsetting the cut in pay. The reduction in hours worked is simply the state's way of quantifying that reduction in work. So I like your way of putting it in terms of outcomes: Committee work is an interesting possibility. But the Kantian in me asks whether that can be universalized: yes, my university could probably operate without my serving on various committees, and perhaps without some committees even existing. But not everyone could do that, since the essential committee would go undone.
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2009 on The ethics of the faculty furlough at PEA Soup
Adrienne, Great topic. A few thoughts: I worry that distinction #2 should be redescribed. As you have it: 'conditional' = 'valuable in relation to something else' 'unconditional' = 'valuable in all circumstances' That sounds correct to me as a gloss on 'unconditional'. This seems to be Kant's usage when he contrasts the value of the good will with the value of happiness. The latter is good only on the condition that it is accompanied by good will, whereas good will is good regardless of whether it is accompanied by happiness (or any other good). But 'conditional' ends up being nearly synonymous with 'extrinsic' (as you describe it): valuable because its value is acquired from something besides itself. Shouldn't 'conditional' be something more like 'valuable only in some circumstances'? I'm wondering if perhaps all unconditional values are intrinsically good, even if (as Langton's paper argues) not all intrinsic goods are unconditionally valuable. Also, I share your thought that what does a lot of work in Kantian thinking about the value of humanity is that it is priceless. My reading of Kant's prohibition on suicide is that his argument rests on the inference that one's humanity is priceless because it is unconditionally valuable. But your remarks suggest (and I agree) there are problems with using this inference to support a total prohibition on suicide. It would justify the claim that humanity can't be traded for something of conditional value (happiness, say) but it does not justify the claim that it can't be traded for something also of unconditional value (humanity). Kant might well have been OK with that result though, given what he says in the 'casuistical questions' that follow the discussion of suicide in the Metaphysics of Morals.
Toggle Commented Jun 14, 2009 on Too many distinctions in value at PEA Soup
Jussi, I've not gotten to Korsgaard's book yet, but I'm pretty familiar with her earlier work. So here's my conjecture as to how the argument is supposed to work (and I think this is consistent with Kenny's suggestion that she means to answer the normative skeptic): Her complaint against moral realism is that moral facts are not "sufficiently normative" to account for the rational obligatoriness of morality. (So she assume at the outset an internal relation between moral obligation and reason.) So begin with the hypothetical imperative argument. The HI says to take the best means to our chosen ends. But if, in a particular instance, Y-ing is the best means to our chosen end X, what makes it rationally required that we Y? By itself, the normative instrumental fact — that Y-ing is the best means to X — does not make Y-ing rationally required. In order for Y-ing to be rationally required, we must take HI itself as rationally required and apply it to the case at hand. It is thus the further mental act of applying HI, and thereby treating HI as rationally required, that makes the instrumental fact sufficiently normative for Y-ing to be rationally required. And since one might reasonably ask why it's rationally required to abide by HI, neither the instrumental fact by itself nor HI can serve to explain the normativity of choosing the best means to our ends. Here's the parallel she's drawing with moral realism. Let's say that in some situation Z-ing is morally required by the moral fact F. Are we rationally obligated to Z? Just as with the normative instrumental fact that Y-ing is required for end X, a further principle is required to show that Z-ing is rationally required. In the case of instrumental rationality, HI is the principle. In the case of morality, the principle would have to specify how F renders Z-ing rationally required. But then, it's the mental act of endorsing and applying this principle, not F, that renders Z-ing rationally required. And if it can then reasonably be asked why we should endorse and apply *that* principle, then neither F nor that principle account for the normativity (i.e., the rational obligatoriness) of doing what is morally required. So either the normative facts account for rational requirements on their own or they need some further principle (as Kenny called them, bridge principles) to do that, but the rational obligatoriness of any such principle is open to reasonable doubt by, for instance, a normative skeptic. What we need, then, is to account for the rational obligatoriness of certain acts in terms of requirements internal to rational deliberation as such. That's the aim of her constructivist/constitutive program in ethics. A small point: If Korsgaard treats moral realism as a view not only about moral facts but (as you say) a view "about what counts as a reason for what," then the force of the argument might be blunted, since F's being a reason to Z seems more immune to the skeptic's question "but what reason have I to do Z?". But it can't fully answer the argument since the skeptic might then question the principle that shows that Z-ing is not simply rational but rationally required. I hope that's on track...
Toggle Commented Jun 8, 2009 on Korsgaard on Moral Realism at PEA Soup