This is Simon Rippon's Typepad Profile.
Join Typepad and start following Simon Rippon's activity
Join Now!
Already a member? Sign In
Simon Rippon
Budapest, Hungary
Assistant Professor in Philosophy at Central European University
Recent Activity
Hi Doug, I was going to agree with everything you said, but then God Himself (in the form of an invisible and usually causally inefficacious ectoplasmic dragon) told me that NAT is more parsimonious. I trust you'll take my word for this, having no reason to doubt it!
John, you're right of course, there is a distinction between trying to lie and actually lying. I shouldn't have suggested that there these are identical. (Perhaps your response points to an important disanalogy with my Hesperus/Phosphorus example). What I should have said is just that the distinction is incorrect in the case at hand. So why are your respondents so strongly tempted to deny this, and say, in the case where he mistakenly says something true, that he tried to lie but only thinks he lied? Perhaps because the story makes salient one distinction: saying something false while intending to say something false/saying something true while intending to say something false, while the descriptions the respondents are asked to apply to the story implicate another distinction: trying to lie and actually lying/trying to lie but only thinking you lied. It is tempting to think the latter distinction maps onto the former (perhaps in part due to norms of conversational relevance: don't make a distinction unless it's a relevant one). Since these distinctions are quite unusual and unobvious, it wouldn't be that surprising if lots of people confuse them. Similarly with the "shot at" case I suggested (which doesn't depend on identity, as the Hesperus/Phosphorus analogy might). (By the way, on reflection I think that the above distinction is also a genuine one, though your Best Street story makes obvious that it is slightly different from the actually lying/trying to lie distinction.) By the way, FWIW I tested the "shot at" case on exactly one conveniently nearby non-philosopher, who without hesitation answered (2). My own view about the ordinary concept of "shot at" remains unshaken!
Toggle Commented Feb 14, 2015 on The Truth about Lying at PEA Soup
Hi John, thanks. I am not optimistic that we can safely work out pragmatic implications a priori, it would surely be better to test things out and see what happens. But I would suggest that the use of the conjunction implicates that trying to lie and actually lying are not the same thing. So the respondents are in effect being prompted to make a (false) distinction between the two halves of the claim. Another analogy might help: The ancient Greeks saw a bright star that appeared in the evenings and named it "Hesperus". They also saw a bright star that appeared in the mornings and named it "Phosphorus". It turns out that these two "bright stars" were actually the very same planet: Venus. Yesterday evenings, I looked up at the sky and saw the planet Venus. Which of these claims better describes what I saw: 1 - I saw Phosphorus 2 - I did not see Phosphorus I think people will mostly choose 1 here. But ask a different group which of these claims is the better description: 3 - I saw Hesperus and Phosphorus 4 - I saw Hesperus but not Phosphorus. And now I'd be willing to bet that a lot of people will choose 4.
Toggle Commented Feb 13, 2015 on The Truth about Lying at PEA Soup
Good for Angelo, what a young achiever! This is all interesting, but I'm not yet convinced the results tell us much either about what lying is or even about what "the ordinary concept" of lying is. The phrase "He tried to lie and actually did lie” is a mighty unusual one, and this and the other choice of response offered might be taken by respondents to have their own pragmatic implications. I'd be curious about an analogous experiment that might bring this out. The ordinary meaning of "shot at" is something like "shot in the approximate direction of". Does the ordinary concept of "shot at" require the shooter to have actually hit the target? Obviously not; it is possible to be shot at without being hit. Here's the case, then: Jacob looked through the sight, aimed the rifle at Mary and pulled the trigger. Jacob thought the bullet hit Mary. In fact, the bullet [struck Mary's arm / embedded itself in a wall next to Mary]. 1 - Jacob tried to shoot at Mary and actually shot at Mary 2 - Jacob tried to shoot at Mary but only thinks he shot at Mary After answering the prompt "Jacob's bullet [did/did not] hit Mary", I would be willing to bet that in the miss condition, a large number of respondents would choose 2.
Toggle Commented Feb 11, 2015 on The Truth about Lying at PEA Soup
Jamie: I am interested but I don't think I understand your point about Rhoda. If Rhonda's reasoning is rational (absent some further implicit premise), so must my smoker's be. But there is something wrong with the smoker's inference. You may be right that with the appropriate background beliefs, it is rational to form beliefs about attitude-independent facts based on changes in one's non-cognitive attitudes alone. But these background beliefs must provide for an explanatory connection between the facts and the relevant non-cognitive attitudes. For example, if I justifiably believed that natural selection had made humans desire just things that historically conferred a selective advantage, and I formed a desire for pomegranate, it may be rational to infer that pomegranate historically conferred a selective advantage. But this can only be rational because of the supposed explanatory connection between the fact (selective advantage of pomegranate) and the non-cognitive attitude (desire for pomegranate): my explanation of my desire invokes the fact that I then go on to infer. (We could even formulate a hypothetical case in which the very fact that p explains the desire that p, thus licensing a special case of "wishful thinking" in the everyday sense.) Similarly, maybe Rhoda justifiably believes that she won't plan to stop if the light weren't red. Then, when she forms the plan to stop, maybe she can rationally infer from this that the light is red. (I'm not sure, but I'll grant that all such inferences are rational). But all that this point shows, as far as I can see, is that the first, "wishful thinking", premise of my argument needs to be spelled out quite carefully to ensure it allows for this sort of special case. Have you got some reason for thinking that non-cognitivists always have recourse to explanatory connections like those that exist in the pomegranate case, whenever they are committed to treating inferences from changes in their non-cognitive attitudes to moral claims as rational?
...here's an inference which may be analogous. Plan: Abstain from activities that are hazardous to my health. Plan: Have just one more cigarette. => Having just one more cigarette isn't hazardous to my health. Looks like wishful thinking, no?
Jamie: so you think Rhoda's inference looks like this? Plan: Stop only when the light is read Plan: Stop => Belief: The light is red I think that's irrational. What's her evidence for the belief? *Maybe* it would be rational if she also had evidence for the belief that she only forms consistent plans. But that doesn't seem to be part of your case. I think it's hard to imagine your case without attributing to Rhoda a bunch of other beliefs that might rationalize the conclusion (that the instructor has commanded her to stop, that the instructor only commands stopping when the light is red, etc). But we should exclude these from consideration.
Jamie: I agree that the ordinary term "wishful thinking" is a bit narrow for what is being described. I understood it and adopted it as a technical term in this context, as no convenient term exists for the broader class of epistemic irrationality that consists in modifying one's beliefs about attitude-independent facts to correspond to one's non-cognitive attitudes. I can't see how it makes a difference that the non-cognitive attitudes might be plans or intentions. How can changes purely in one's plans or intentions can make it epistemically rational to change one's beliefs about attitude-indepedent facts? If I form the intention to drink this glass of water, it may not be irrational to accept the belief that this glass will soon be empty. But this fact will be attitude-dependent in an important respect. (Similarly, if I believe that my mother only cooks what I like for dinner, and I come to dislike eggs, it may not be irrational to accept the belief that my mother will not cook eggs for dinner. But this is an attitude-dependent fact in an important respect.) Plans or intentions also presuppose facts about possibility. But it would be epistemically irrational for me to form the plan or intention to fly to the moon by flapping my arms, and then infer that I can fly to the moon by flapping my arms on the basis of my having adopted the plan or intention. Sebastian: the broader reading I had in mind was the one in which "attitude-independent facts" refers to just attitude-independent facts, and not only to "attitude-dependent Facts", as you helpfully put it. I agree with you that expressivists' further commitments may force them to deny that premise. But one cannot straightforwardly conclude that my argument begs the question! In fact, the expressivist reply you suggest looks like a question-begging insistence that coming to accept a claim about attitude-independent facts purely as a result of a change in one's non-cognitive attitudes may be rational. I think expressivists need an argument for this point that does not presuppose the truth of expressivism itself. Facts about non-cognitive attitudes are obviously not attitude-independent facts, and what makes attitudes non-cognitive is that they are not belief-like states. Arguably, belief-like states constitute evidence for what is believed, and what is believed of course may be an attitude-independent fact. But desire-like states cannot similarly be evidence for what is desired (and, going back to Jamie's point, plan-like states cannot similarly constitute evidence for what is planned, except insofar as what happens may be explainable by reference to our plans). This asymmetry between beliefs and non-cognitive attitudes is what makes it quite mysterious how it could ever be rational to come to accept a claim about attitude-independent facts purely as a result of a change in one's non-cognitive attitudes. I think expressivists owe us an argument against this claim, if they want to deny it.
Jussi, thanks - I did not mean to challenge your objection to treating reasons internalism as an obvious entailment of expressivism. But I do think you went too far in saying that there is "no connection whatsoever between existence internalism and expressivism". That remains to be seen. If expressivism together with some other undeniable or extremely plausible premises entails existence internalism, that would certainly be an important connection. Sebastian, I don't think the argument rests on an equivocation on "attitude-independent fact" at all - you are simply tollensing my modus ponens, while still accepting as much of my first premise as possible. Of course, such a move is always logically available. Expressivists could similarly respond to (part of) the Frege-Geach problem, for example, by denying our intuition that the relevant arguments are valid or anything analogous to valid. My response is simply that my fist premise, understood in the broader way you describe, is extremely plausible (and in the literature, some of which Jussi cites, I haven't found any good arguments against it, but I'd be happy to find out if I've missed one). For how *could* changes in one's non-cognitive attitudes alone make it epistemically rational to change one's beliefs about attitude-independent facts?
This discussion has been helpful. I'd like to try out another tack for filling in the argument from expressivism to subjectivism, which I'd be happy to be set straight about. It starts from Cian Dorr's "wishful thinking" objection to non-cognitivism, which I'll first describe. Dorr claims that a non-cognitivist cannot accept that it is rational to infer the conclusion of an argument like this having come to accept its premises: P1. If lying is wrong, then lying will be punished in the afterlife. P2. Lying is wrong. => C. Lying will be punished in the afterlife. Here is Dorr's argument: Suppose Edgar starts out confidently accepting P1 but has no other evidence for C. Suppose now that Edgar comes to accept P2. Intuitively, we would say that Edgar may rationally infer C on the basis of P1 and P2. But Dorr contends that non-cognitivists hold that coming to accept a moral judgment like P2 can consist purely in undergoing a change one's non-cognitive attitudes. But if this is so, then coming to accept a moral judgment like P2 cannot licence a change in belief about attitude-independent facts like C - that would just be wishful thinking! Contrast the above argument with this one: P1'. If lying is wrong then getting your little brother to lie is wrong. P2. Lying is wrong. => C'. Getting your little brother to willfully murder is wrong. Setting the Frege-Geach problem aside, non-cognitivists can unproblematically endorse someone's coming to accept C' as a result of coming to accept P2, because there is no wishful thinking involved here. The non-cognitivist can understand this second inference as undergoing a change in one non-cognitive attitude as a result of undergoing a change in another of one's non-cognitive attitudes. Dorr's premise about the nature of non-cognitivism seems right (at least it is true of pure non-cognitivists like Gibbard and Blackburn), and he seems right about the "wishful thinking" involved in making up one's mind about attitude-independent facts on the basis of one's non-cognitive attitudes. But it seems to me that we can derive a non-cognitivist commitment to subjectivism from these premises, with an argument placed in the non-cognitivist's mouth as follows: 1. Coming to accept a claim about attitude-independent facts purely as a result of a change in one's non-cognitive attitudes must be irrational (this is the wishful thinking point). 2. Coming to accept a moral claim purely as a result of a change in one's non-cognitive attitudes need not be irrational (cf. the inference to C' above). => C1. Moral claims are not claims about attitude-independent facts. 3. "One has moral reason not to lie" is a moral claim. => C2. "One has moral reason not to lie" is not a claim about attitude-independent facts. => C3. It is not an attitude-independent fact that one has moral reason not to lie. => C4. If it is a fact that one has moral reason not to lie, it is an attitude-dependent fact. 4. It is a fact that one has moral reason not to lie. => C5. It is an attitude-dependent fact that one has moral reason not to lie. Of course many pure non-cognitivists will also want to deny C5, interpreting it as a first-order normative claim. But how can they avoid also asserting it via this argument, and thereby endorsing subjectivism?
Hi Nomy, thanks very much for your detailed replies. I find myself in agreement with Daniel and Julia here. You write: "even if all I do is examine [my advisor's] past actions, having a view as to which of them are right implies having a view as to what makes actions right" Yes it does, but it doesn't entail that I have any view at all about what will make *this particular* action right, if I am a particularist. And having no view about this matter precludes my concern to do what is right in this case being understood as a de re concern to act for the right-making features of the action (except as these are understood as Julia suggests). The particularist who defers to an advisor is like a gambler who asks a reliable tipster to place a bet for him on the 3:30 this afternoon, hoping that the tipster will place the bet on the winner (let's suppose the winner will in fact be Red Rum). The gambler knows that the tipster has been right in the past, and that rests on the gambler's knowledge of the tipster's past predictions and of what kind of thing a race winner is. But our gambler only has a de dicto motivation to bet on the winner of the 3:30 this afternoon. If he had a de re motivation to bet on Red Rum, he would have no need to ask the tipster to place the bet on his behalf! (Some of what you write above seems to suggest, by analogy, that this gambler's motivation would only count as de dicto if his real concern was to place the bet on whatever horse *the tipster thinks* will be the winner, without regard to which horse will win. Of course, this will not describe our gambler's concern - he primarily wants to place a bet on *the winner*. But this standard would draw the line for having de dicto concern in the wrong place: even if the gambler only cares about the tipster's opinion insofar as it tracks actual winners, our gambler lacks a de re motivation to bet on Red Rum). Similarly then, the particularist who is motivated as in Julia's case (3) lacks a de re concern to act on whatever (ultimate/fact-based/ideal/objective) reasons would make pushing the left button morally right. Yet this individual seems praiseworthy in one respect that is lacking in Daniel's case (3*).
Toggle Commented Jun 19, 2014 on Moral Concern De Dicto (Again) at PEA Soup
Hi Nomy, This is a very interesting and thought-provoking post. But I'm not sure what your argument for this claim is supposed to be: "We can’t have it both ways. If caring about the right de re confers praiseworthiness then caring about the right de dicto doesn’t." If I understand you rightly, you claim that in cases where a person has good moral judgment, her concern for right-making features of action makes her decision praiseworthy. And in cases where a person has bad moral judgment (e.g. Gwendolyn), there is nothing praiseworthy about her concern for the features of action she regards as right-making. What I don't understand is how this is supposed to establish the point that we can't have it both ways, and praise _both_ de re and de dicto concern for morality. All the above can be accepted, while also saying that there's _something_ praiseworthy about Gwendolyn's concerns, namely that she is concerned to do the morally right thing, understood de dicto. The cases of Fernando and Scott raised by Daniel Muñoz could be bolstered by stipulating that each of them firmly believes moral particularism to be true. That way, when they consult their advisors, we can only understand them as doing so because they believe that their advisors are reliable at picking out right-making features, understood de dicto. And this seems like a praiseworthy concern to have (at least in circumstances where their only reasonable option is to consult such an advisor).
Toggle Commented Jun 17, 2014 on Moral Concern De Dicto (Again) at PEA Soup
Hi Dan, thanks. What worries me about the answer you just gave (I thought you might give it) is that it seems we can get the same kind of criticism of 'seeing redly' going now as you were pressing in the case of fear. So, if a dispositional analysis of redness seems right, a dispositional analysis of fear ought to be equally plausible. More specifically, like dangerousness and what merits fear, redness and what merits being seen redly seem capable of coming apart. I'll avoid finkishness, though I'm afraid I'll have to resort to a science fictional example. Imagine a new type of computer display screen has been invented. Although it is the size and shape of an ordinary screen, it doesn't reflect or emit light (well, it does reflect light, but only in uniform dull metallic way). To display a coloured image to a user, it sends out some very precise magnetic pulses that directly produce electrical impulses in the optic nerve of the viewer. When it outputs a plain red computer image, then, it has the disposition to be appear redly (to normal observers in standard conditions). Intuitively, it merits being seen redly in one clear sense (the sense which picks out how an observer with a well-functioning visual system would see it). But intuitively, we don't believe it to be red. So in a different sense, because it isn't red, it doesn't merit being seen redly. If such an invention (or similar features of the natural world) existed, perhaps this would be a natural and familiar way to criticize our visual impressions. But none of this would show, as far as I can see, that the point of the concept RED is not to describe the world but to evaluate it.
Thanks, Dan and Justin, for your very thoughtful replies to my comments, most of which I find very persuasive (I apologize for my delay in replying as I'm rather busy at the moment). I think your reply to the cigarettes example is very compelling. I'm not entirely sure about about your claim that there's a natural way of evaluating emotions according to which, for example, roller coasters don't merit fear. To try to get a getter handle on this, I'd like to paraphrase a part of your post and ask what you'd like to say about the following claim: To think something red is to think it fitting to see it redly. Equivalently, this is to think the object merits being seen redly.
I mistakenly said near the end of my last comment 'If you say all such cases where 2 and 3 seem to come apart are of predictable unfitting attitudes, it looks like you are in danger of begging the question about what "merits fear" is coextensive with'. I should have said 'cases where (1) and (2) seem to come apart'. I neglected to address your previous response as well. You suggested a different way of dealing with at least some of these cases: they are not really cases of fear at all, but of something else, maybe the occurrence of 'sub-fear responses, such as anxiety and the startle reflex', or some kind of pretence (I'm not sure exactly what you have in mind here). A worry about your response: to capture the phenomenology of the cases accurately, we will have to characterize the relevant 'sub-fear responses' in at least partially sentimental terms. What we experience in the cases I have in mind often feels at least a lot like fear. But doesn't the proposed reply then lead to an unnecessary multiplication of entities? You would have to describe a 'sub-fear' sentiment, whose being merited would not seem to correspond to a property that we have any any particular reason to care about, and then 'fear' proper, whose being merited would correspond to the dangerous. Why not just take the simpler route and say that fear itself is felt in these cases, and that is is a sentiment whose being merited does not always correspond to the dangerous? I'd say what's distinctive about the cases I have in mind is that either (i) they arouse fear, even when we know they are not really dangerous and our fear-system is functioning well, or in the opposite case (ii) they fail to arouse fear, even when we know they are really dangerous and our fear-system is functioning well. Why does this make them distinctive? Because what it is (or at least part of what it is) for us to fear something is for it to seem dangerous to us. What we believe to be the case and what seems to be the case usually lines up. But, as in the Muller-Lyer illusion (where the lines seem to be different lengths even when our visual system is functioning well and we know they are the same length), what seems to be the case can sometimes come apart from what we believe to be the case.
Hi Dan, thanks. It's great to be able to meet virtually and have these conversations. Yes, I think 'seemingly dangerous' does mean roughly 'the sort of thing people are disposed to fear', which is why it will be no surprise that it's response dependent. Now should we understand 'merits fear' as (1) coextensive with 'the sort of thing that psychologically healthy, fully-informed people are disposed to fear', or as (2) coextensive with 'dangerous', or as (3) both of these? You are committed to either (2) or (3). The kind of examples I raised suggest that (1) and (2) come apart, so (3) can't work. And if my (I think) non-theory-driven intuitions about 'merits fear' are right, the correct answer must be (1). Other examples of the same kind: watching a trapeze artist perform over a safety net, the haunted house at the fairground. I could have used examples of things that are dangerous but seem not to merit fear, such as smoking cigarettes, or persistently failing to eat your 5 a day of fruit and veg. I suspect you'll find these less convincing. If you say all such cases where 2 and 3 seem to come apart are of predictable unfitting attitudes, it looks like you are in danger of begging the question about what 'merits fear' is coextensive with. I note that in your quick response about the roller coaster, you incautiously wrote 'I don’t think they merit fear, and I suspect that I would act differently if I did. I think it’s more dangerous driving to the amusement park.'. (Rather than the theory-neutral, and at least to me, much less plausible: 'I think driving to the amusement park merits more fear'). This suggests to me that your judgement about whether roller coasters merit fear might be a theory-driven one.
Great post. I am worried about the fitting attitude analysis of the dangerous as that which merits fear, because some things seem to merit fear which are not at all dangerous. For example, viewing the shower scene in 'Psycho', a magician doing a sawing the person in half type of trick, or going on a roller coaster ride. Whether things merit fear, to put it bluntly, seems to have more to do with how dangerous they seem to a fully informed and otherwise generally normal observer than with how dangerous they actually are. It would be no surprise, of course, to learn that 'seemingly dangerous' is a response dependent property. So you need to prove that your response-dependent analysis is of the underlying property of actual dangerousness, if you want to show there's a surprising and significant kind of response dependence here.
Whoops I don't know how that ended up here, sorry!
Great post. I am worried about the fitting attitude analysis of the dangerous as that which merits fear, because some things seem to merit fear which are not at all dangerous. For example, viewing the shower scene in 'Psycho', a magician doing a sawing the person in half type of trick, or going on a roller coaster ride. Whether things merit fear, to put it bluntly, seems to have more to do with how dangerous they seem to a fully informed and otherwise generally normal observer than with how dangerous they actually are. It would be no surprise, of course, to learn that 'seemingly dangerous' is a response dependent property. So you need to prove that your response-dependent analysis is of the underlying property of actual dangerousness, if you want to show there's a surprising and significant kind of response dependence here.
Hi Antti, thanks, this is interesting. I take it that you take "flourishing" and "leading a value-laden life" to be equivalent. And I take it that your reply to Johnston on Scheffler's behalf can be boiled down to two claims. First, that it is not sufficient for one to be flourishing that one's life merely has some value in it (or has acquired some benefit from others). Second, that what is necessary to our flourishing is not the existence of future generations with flourishing lives, but merely a realistic expectation of the existence of a future generation or generations with lives that have some value in them (or that we can benefit). I haven't read Scheffler's lectures so I may be underestimating the arguments he brings to bear, but I'm skeptical about the existence of any afterlife condition on a flourishing life. My worry about your reply is that by reading the afterlife condition in a fairly minimal way (we don't have to understand ourselves as contributing to a glorious future history of flourishing human lives, but only need to think we have a realistic possibility of benefiting a single generation of fairly badly-off future people), you're going to make any argument for treating the afterlife as a necessary condition on our flourishing less plausible. Why is it a necessary condition on my flourishing that there is a realistic possibility of providing some benefit to a future generation, even while I will be doing nothing to contribute to future human flourishing? If this sort of thing could indeed ground flourishing, then why can't my life count as flourishing in virtue merely of benefits I provide to my own generation? Clearly there are specific future directed activities that would lack value if we are the last generation. But I can't see why my ordinary activities like "reading fiction or appreciating art" would demand the existence of a single, non-flourishing future generation in order to count as contributing to my own flourishing.
Toggle Commented Jan 4, 2014 on Why Afterlifism Isn't a Ponzi Scheme at PEA Soup
Ha!
Toggle Commented Sep 17, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Sharon Street at PEA Soup
Hi Sharon, thank you for your kind reply. Your response to my first question is particularly helpful, as it corrects a misreading I fell into of what you meant in saying that your constitutivist account was "analytic or conceptual" (I now think your view is further from Korsgaard's and closer to my own than I had previously thought). It seems to me that you give your view most clearly when you present it roughly this way: *What it is* to judge that one has conclusive reason to pursue an end is, in part, to judge that one has reason to pursue the necessary means to it(on the de dicto reading, rather than the de re reading, because one might of course be ignorant about the necessary means). This seems to me preferable to trying to explain your view by talking about what one *would* judge in a counterfactual state of "full awareness". For example, in your reply here, as in CAR, you attempt to explain the difference between taking oneself to have conclusive reason to pursue an end and what we can call merely "schmaluing" in terms of its entailing what looks like a purely psychological *counterfactual* truth - e.g. the imagined fact that *if* I were fully aware that getting on a plane were necessary for getting to Rome, *then* I'd make the normative judgment that I have reason to get on a plane. But this way of explaining what the normative judgment amounts to seems to invite a "so what?" reaction. It may be conceptually true that I only hold the normative judgment 'I have conclusive reason to go to Rome' if I would, in a state of full awareness, judge 'I have reason to get on a plane'. But there is nothing here to suggest that my making that normative judgment gives me any reason at all to try to get into the state of full awareness, e.g. by finding out what the means to getting to Rome actually is. Is there a reason for preferring this full awareness type of explanation that I'm missing? On the second question, I had read your defense of future Tuesday indifference and found it by and large highly persuasive, but it didn't entirely assuage my worries about actual or potential moral degenerates (some of which seem like more than mere figments of the fevered metaethicist's imagination!). I'm not really worried about a sort of alien Ideally Coherent Nazi who just has an all things considered reason to persecute Jews, but rather about a common Nazi who - with ruthless consistency - just doesn't recognize a set of moral reasons pertaining to Jews that the rest of us tend to accept. What reason do I have (perhaps relevantly, in the less than ideally coherent position I find myself in) to think that this Nazi is indeed subject to the moral reasons he denies - especially given that the only examples of "incoherence" you give (at least in CAR) are all apparent examples of either means-end or logical inconsistency? You seem to suggest in the Tuesday paper that a Caligula could be subject to moral reasons that are non-normative for him, but this looks like an inverted commas sense of "moral" and this is surely not what I want to think the Nazi is subject to. Could you say a bit more about your view on what makes a reason moral in character, and on how individuals become subject to moral reasons?
Toggle Commented Aug 26, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Sharon Street at PEA Soup
Hi Sharon, I think you may have missed my questions (posted August 21, 1:43pm). thanks, Simon.
Toggle Commented Aug 26, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Sharon Street at PEA Soup
Dear Sharon, It's great to see you up as featured philosopher here at Pea Soup - thanks for participating and for for arguing so forcefully for Humean constructivism in your writing! I'd like to ask you about the conception of our normative judgments 'withstanding scrutiny' that you develop, in particular in CAR. There you offer three examples: (i) judging ourselves to have conclusive reason to pursue ends constitutively requires (not just in a rational but in an analytic, conceptual sense) that we take ourselves to have reason to pursue what we recognize to be the necessary means to them. (ii) judging X to be a reason to Y constitutively requires our not judging X to not be a reason to Y. (iii) judging that only facts of kind X are reasons to Y, and recognizing that Z is not a fact of kind X, consitutively requires not judging that Z is a reason to Y. So here goes with the questions: 1) Suppose that Smith's values are not ideal in one of the above respects. For example, suppose that Smith(prima facie) takes herself to have conclusive reason to pursue some end Y and recognizes that X is a necessary means to Y, but does not take yourself to have reason to X. Then the upshot of your constitutivist account seems to be that Smith doesn't *really* take herself to have conclusive reason to Y at all. She must have been doing something else altogether - perhaps she is having some other attitude toward Y: schmaluing. So what reason is there - if any - for Smith to stop schmaluing, and to start taking herself to have conclusive reason to Y and (at the same time) taking herself to have reason to X? Does your account really leave room for the possibility of defective or non-ideal normative jugments? You go on to say that 'to make a normative judgment is to "give laws to oneself." As soon as one takes anything whatsoever to be a reason, one thereby "legislates" standards according to which, by one's own lights as a valuing agent, one is making a mistake, whether one know it or not, if one endorses certain other normative judgments." (CAR, 230). But the way you couch your constitutivist account as analytic raises the question of how such a mistake is even possible. Perhaps, as your discussion seems to suggest, you think that mistakes of this kind are possible just in cases of ignorance. But this answer seems to me to raise a dilemma for you: Either (i) the constitutive standards of normative judgment *have nothing to say* about cases where the agent is relevantly ignorant (e.g. cases where the agent is ignorant that X is the necessary means to her end Y), so that the agent violates no standards of normative judgment in these cases (and therefore, it would seem, has no obvious reason to revise her judgments e.g. to take herself to have reason to pursue the means), or (ii) the constitutive standards of normative judgment *do* apply even when the agent is relevantly ignorant, so that an agent who, e.g. fails to take herself to have reason to pursue the necessary means to her end just because of her ignorance of the means in fact violates a constitutive standard. But if you take this option you must rewrite the standard of taking oneself to have conclusive reason to pursue an end as follows: judging ourselves to have conclusive reason to pursue an end constitutively requires that we take ourselves to have reason to pursue what *is in fact* the necessary means. But now we will get the result that an ignorant agent Smith does not *really* take herself to have conclusive reason to pursue her end, so she doesn't seem to be making a mistake at all: she is just schmaluing. Why should she care? Why should we care? So what if (as a matter of psychological fact) she *will* start taking herself to have decisive reason to pursue the end if and only if she comes to recognize the necessary means to it? 2) Even if the constitutive requirements above can and do act as normative standards for revising some of our normative judgments in the light of others, they seem to me to set the bar for 'withstanding scrutiny' very low. Is there a basis, on your account, for criticizing e.g. the Nazi morality that would take one to have reason to respect everyone but Jews and gypsies, and locate that reason in everyone's non-Jewish, non-gypsy human human nature? Could Nazis bootstrap into existence a decisive reason for themselves to send Jews to concentration camps merely by judging that Jewishness is a decisive reason for internment, not judging that Jewishness is not a reason for internment, not judging that only reasons of criminality are reasons for internment, and so on? Thanks again, I very much look foward to reading your answers!
Toggle Commented Aug 21, 2013 on Featured Philosopher: Sharon Street at PEA Soup
Ralph, Instead of what's morally permissible, let me introduce the concept of "the things Fred is rationally required to do", or for short: what's FRR. I will assume that you accept a structurally similar argument showing that there are unknowable truths about what's FRR. And I'm pretty certain I would want to deny that conclusion, and deny your premise 2 in that case. So you ask: What's special about FRR, such that the "margin for error" principle doesn't apply to it, whereas we can arguably all accept that it does apply to knowledge about, for example, tree heights? I think the answer has to be that you're misunderstanding the concept of what's FRR by presupposing a picture of it as a set of truths that exists prior to Fred's coming along and discriminating between cases, as for the case of tree heights. Fred's powers of discrimination between cases are of course still limited in the sense that he is often unsure of what's FRR - for example: when there are considerations of very different kinds pointing in opposite directions, Fred may be unsure of whether one set of considerations outweighs the other, or whether they are equal. But crucially, Fred is not unsure in these instances because he's trying to properly describe some fact about what's FRR that exists prior to and independent of his actual or ideal judgments. What he's unsure about is, rather, how to solve his practical problem about what to do. Your argument for unknowable truths depends on the margin for error principle: Fred can't know that doing p is FRR in a given case unless doing p is FRR in the neighbouring cases that Fred can't distinguish from it - cases, say, where the considerations in favor weigh just slightly more or slightly less - otherwise Fred's belief would be too unreliable to constitute knowledge. Then you need to assume that there exists a case right at the margin, where the considerations in favour have _barely enough_ weight to make doing p FRR. From these two assumptions, you can derive that doing p is FRR in this marginal case, can't Fred know that it is. But how can this description of the marginal, unknowable case be a coherent description of any case of what's FRR? After all, what I *mean* when I say that Fred is rationally required to do p is that Fred's own reasoning should lead him to the conclusion: do p. And that's why what's FRR is different from tree heights. The fact that a tree is 60 inches high does not depend on whether or not Fred ought to believe it. But the fact that doing p is FRR does depend on whether Fred ought to reach the conclusion: "do p" by his own reasoning. So whenever Fred does reason in the right way to the conclusion: "do p", it's implausible to deny either that doing p is FRR in this case, or that Fred knows that doing p is FRR in this case. The marginal case could only be a case where, if the considerations in favor of doing p were very marginally weaker, Fred's reasoning in the right way would produce a different result. But then the margin for error principle can't be applied: there *are* no neighbouring cases where the truth might outstrip Fred's ability at least in principle to recognize it. Fred *can*, at least in principle, know just where the threshold lies. If you will agree with me about the case of what's FRR, then you could only run the Williamsonian argument with respect to moral truths by start out with the assumption that moral truths are like tree heights rather than like what's FRR. So I think the argument about unknowable moral truths is question begging.
Toggle Commented Aug 10, 2010 on There are unknowable moral truths at PEA Soup