NDPR Review Forum: Dale Dorsey’s The Limits of Moral Authority

How often have you read a book review and wondered what the author of the book might say in response to the reviewer? How often have you wanted to chime in and ask some more questions to the reviewer or author in light of a review? How often have you asked yourself rhetorical questions like this and wondered why no one is listening?

PEA Soup listens, and we’re here to end the rhetoric. Today we provide a new forum for discussion of NDPR book reviews of interest to our readers (topics in moral and political philosophy). And while we will invite the authors (of the review and the book) to show up for discussion, we are also inviting readers of the review or the book itself to air any questions or grievances about the book or the review they might have.

We begin with a brand new review by one of our Soupers of a book by another of our Soupers: Doug Portmore’s review of Dale Dorsey’s book The Limits of Moral Authority. Here’s the link to the review. All (relevant, thoughtful) comments on the book or the review are welcome!

22 Replies to “NDPR Review Forum: Dale Dorsey’s The Limits of Moral Authority

  1. Me too! (I might have something substantive to say about Doug’s criticisms in a little while, but for now I’d just like to thank him for a very generous and insightful review.)

  2. Doug, I am wondering how we should understand the notion of requirement. Against Dale, you argue in favor this:

    (C1) it is conceptually necessary (indeed, analytic) that a subject is morally required to φ only if she would be blameworthy for freely and knowledgeably failing to φ — at least, absent suitable excuse

    You go on to give a cool thought experiment in which, roughly, we try to imagine a world that violates C1 and our minds boggle.

    I am wondering whether ‘morally right’ as used by consequentialists can be equated with ‘is morally required’. If so, then it seems I can indeed conceive of a world in which subjects are morally required to φ but in which they would not be blameworthy for freely and knowledgeably failing to φ. I need only imagine adopting the global consequentialist view developed by Julia Driver in her dense gem of a book “Consequentialism”. Assuming I am remembering her view correctly, many acts are morally wrong yet not blameworthy, and this seems to cast serious doubt on C1. One might reject Driver’s picture, of course, but it is a worked out coherent view and seems to show that the conceptual claim C1 is too strong.

    Am I right in thinking this is a good response? Or is there perhaps more packed into “moral requirement” than there is packed into Driver’s “Morally right”? I would love to hear what you think about this and about how Dale is thinking about the concept of a moral requirement.

  3. Hi Brad,

    Thanks for the question. Many acts are indeed wrong but not blameworthy. For instance, cutting the red wire when both one’s evidence suggests that doing so will deactivate the bomb and the fact is that doing so will detonate the bomb is wrong but not blameworthy. But this doesn’t cast doubt on C1. What would cast doubt on C1 is only the existence of wrong acts that were performed freely, in full knowledge of the relevant facts (like the fact that cutting the red wire will detonate the bomb), and without suitable excuse and yet were not blameworthy.

    Does this address your worry? Or is your worry that global consequentialists hold that we ought to blame someone for X-ing so long as doing so would have optimal consequences and so independently of whether that someone did anything wrong in X-ing. If that’s the worry, then I would argue that these global consequentialist are not talking about whether that someone is blameworthy (that is, the fitting target of reactive attitudes), for whether it is fitting, say, to resent someone has nothing to do with whether having that attitude would have good consequences.

  4. Thanks Doug!

    Let me fill out your example in the light of your response. We are trying to translate the tribe’s term ‘inshnoral’. Let’s assume we have already found their terms for well-being, causal consequence, and the other terms used in consequentialist theorizing. We talk to them about ‘inshnoral’ and they tell us that acts are inshnoral iff they do the greatest good for the greatest number. They also explain their practices of blame to us. They blame in the ways that bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. These self-descriptions match our observations of what is treated as competent use and practice in the community.

    From our point of view, the tribe are blaming people who are not blameworthy and calling acts ‘inshnoral’ that are not blameworthy. Moreover, there are knowingly and freely performed inshorl acts they don’t blame (b/c that would not be for the best) and they are against those who buck that practice of blame – if someone always blames those who knowingly and freely perform inshoral act the tribe treats that person as if she were making a mistake. In this case I simply do not feel confident that it would be a mistake to translate ‘inshnoral’ as ‘moral’. I don’t currently think someone who did translate it that way would be making a conceptual error.

    You ask “how were we able to determine that ‘inshnoral’ is correctly translated as ‘immoral’ as opposed to ‘ugly’, ‘rude’, ‘irrational’, or ‘imprudent'” It seems obvious that we would not use any of these translations once we learn that they use ‘inshnoral’ to pick out the acts that bring about the greatest good for the greatest number. Some might have reservations about ‘moral’ as a translation, but these other options seem much more obviously unfit. But I could try to say why if you don’t agree.

  5. Hi Brad,

    Let’s suppose that one of the tribe’s members, Abe, freely does X which both harms Pat and fails to maximize the good. Moreover, let’s assume that Abe knows all the relevant facts. And let’s assume that everyone in the tribe would call Abe’s X-ing inshnoral. Also, let’s assume that we discover that the people in this tribe believe that it is fitting for P1 to resent P2 for P2’s doing something that harms P1 and fitting for P1 to feel guilty for having done so only if none of conditions c1-c23 are met. And let’s assume that none of conditions c1-c23 are met in the case where Abe X-ed. And lastly let’s assume that no one thinks that it’s fitting for Pat to resent Abe for X-ing nor think that it’s fitting for Abe to feel guilty for having X-ed — fitting in the way that it is fitting to believe in accordance with one’s evidence even when forming such beliefs would have suboptimal consequences. (And we need to keep the issue of whether the people in the tribe think that it is fitting for Pat to feel resentment towards Pat with the issue of both whether Pat should act so as to express this feeling or whether Pat or anyone else should act so as to oppose some sanction on Abe.)

    In this case, I can’t imagine that we should think that ‘wrong’ is the correct translation of ‘immoral’ even if they hold that an act is inshnoral iff it maximizes the good. As far as I can tell, they don’t think that it is wrong to do what’s inshnoral but think only that it is rude, illegal, contrary to the rules of God, or something like that.

    So, note that it is not their practice of performing acts that express blame that matters but their views about when it is fitting/appropriate to feel/have certain reactive attitudes such as guilt, indignation, and resentment that’s relevant. And if, as in the case above, the tribe’s people don’t think it appropriate for Abe to feel guilt nor appropriate for Pat to feel resentment, then I don’t see why we should think that ‘inshnoral’ translates as ‘wrong’.

    Suppose, for instance, that the people of this tribe hold that reactive attitudes such as guilt and resentment are fitting/appropriate when and only when people do something that violates God’s commands and none of conditions c1-c23 are met. And suppose that their word for acts that violate God’s commands is vimoral. It seems to me that we should translate their word ‘vimoral’ (not their word ‘inshnoral’) as our word ‘immoral’ even if they hold that an act is inshnoral iff it maximizes the good and even if their practice is not to act so as to express blame unless doing so maximizes the good.

    So I guess that I disagree with you when you say: “It seems obvious that we would not use any of these translations once we learn that they use ‘inshnoral’ to pick out the acts that bring about the greatest good for the greatest number.” If they believe that the fitting reaction to inshnoral acts is not a reactive attitude like guilt and resentment when no suitable excuse is present but only the sort of reaction that we have to someone who acts rudely but not immorally, then it seems obvious to me that we should translate ‘inshnoral’ as ‘rude’ and not ‘immoral’.

  6. Hi Doug,

    Interesting move! I see your point and can see that if the tribe has certain wacky beliefs about blameworthiness and inshnoral we might hesitate to translate ‘inshoral’ with ‘immoral’. The hesitation seems to take hold if the tribe hold that some are blameworthy and others are not but these beliefs diverge systematically from the relevant inshnoral beliefs.

    But what if they simply do not use the concept of blameworthiness? Or what if they doubt it applies to anyone?

    (case 1) They simply look confused when we try to ask about blameworthiness (e.g. making the epistemic comparison). At first they think we are asking about blame or higher order reactions to blame practice deviants, but once we clarify they are just stumped.

    (case 2) They tell us that back in the dark ages people used to use that concept but then everyone learned the truth of hard determinism and they thankfully left the concept behind when they left behind weird concepts of courtly honor and virtue. Their sociologists now explain that there was some evolutionary fitness to the use of that concept in the past, and that they made progress when we decided to toss out evolutionarily fit but overall harmful concepts like ‘blameworthy’ and ‘duel-worthy insult’.

    In these cases, I think, your pressure to resist the translation abates. You might resist the translation, but I can’t see why you think that translating the concept as ‘moral’ would run afoul of a conceptual or analytic truth. But then again I am not sure how to understand and discern such truths.

  7. Dear Doug and Dave,

    I haven’t read Dave’s book yet, though I very much look forward to it. I have a question regarding a certain argument that Doug ascribes to Dave (all my quotes are from the review). The argument turns on the following:

    Rationalism (R) “A subject is morally required to φ only if she is normatively required to φ”

    Principle of Moral Impartiality (PMI) “If the fact that my φ-ing would promote and/or protect the interests of person x constitutes a moral reason for me to φ, then the fact that my ψ-ing would promote and/or protect the equivalent interests of any other person y constitutes a moral reason of equal strength for me to ψ”

    Hypothetical Case (HC) My wife and a stranger have equal interest in being rescued by me. Given my partialist projects and commitments, I have more normative reason to rescue my wife than to rescue the stranger.

    Doug describes the argument in the following way: “Given the impartial nature of the moral point of view [PMI] and the fact that we have some normative requirements in virtue of our partialist projects and commitments [as in HC], we are sometimes… morally required to perform acts that we’re not normatively required to perform [~(R)].”

    But since (R) is not stated as a biconditional, it’s not clear to me how HC and PMI, together, are in tension with it. They seem to describe a situation where I have equal moral reason to rescue A and B and a normative requirement to rescue A than B. Yet R would be in trouble only if we had a case where I have a moral requirement to φ without having a normative requirement to φ. And HC and PMI don’t seem to give us that. So it’s not clear to me how PMI and our partialist projects and commitments show that we can be “morally required to perform acts that we’re not normatively required to perform,” as opposed to showing that we can be normatively required to perform acts that we’re not morally required to perform.

  8. Hi Brad,

    Interesting questions. In case 1, I’m inclined to think that they don’t have the concept of wrongness. What makes you think that they have the concept? It seems that it would be a mistake to think that the concept of failing to maximize the good is just the concept of being wrong, for that would mean that everyone moral theorist who disagrees with agent-neutral consequentialism is just conceptually confused.

    Case 2 is a bit more complicated. I would have thought that once they learned the truth of hard determinism, then would have accepted an error theory of moral language such that they think that all use of the word ‘wrong’ was in error. Still, they might continue to use the word in error for pragmatic reasons. But if you’re suggesting that the utterance ‘inshnoral’ in the present age no longer refers to a concept that is tied to blameworthiness, then I think that it would be mistake to translate it to mean ‘wrong’. But, perhaps, you disagree with my conceptual analysis of wrong, according to which to say that an act is wrong is just to say that it is the sort of act would be the fitting target of reactive attitudes such guilt and resentment if freely and knowledgeably performed without suitable excuse. But if that’s so, then what is your analysis? On what basis are you translating ‘inshnoral’ as ‘wrong’. As I suggested above, I suspect it can’t be simply that you think that ‘wrong’ just means ‘failing to maximize the good’. But if that’s not the basis for your making the translation, then what is?

  9. Sorry for my lateness in joining this discussion. A combination of sickness and child care emergencies. In any event, here are a few thoughts about Doug’s review, which (again) I thought was very insightful and challenging.

    WRT my argument against a priori rationalism, I think it’s important to understand the dialectic of the chapter up to that point. I understand “a priori rationalism” as an argumentative methodology, viz., that moral rationalism can be established without substantive inquiry into the demands of morality or practical rationality. I argue against three positive arguments for a priori rationalism—one proceeding from the suggestion of morality’s importance, the other from the concept of a moral requirement (i.e., that moral rationalism is analytic, and one from the a priori ground of moral requirements. None of these work, or so I argue. The link between morality and blameworthiness comes up as an illustration of the first of my positive arguments against a priori rationalism. I argue that a priori rationalism faces an insuperable explanatory burden: you need to tell me why morality, and not a bunch of other domains, is rationally authoritative. This had better be as a result of some property that morality has and that other domains lack. But, or so I claim, this isn’t possible, because any such explanatory property wouldn’t be ascribed to morality without the presupposition that morality maintains normative authority. And so it is—or so I claim—with the blameworthiness argument. To ascribe blameworthiness (as a matter of concept) to specifically moral failure is implausible without the presupposition that one ought to conform to moral requirements. And so this argument fails to fulfill its explanatory burden.

    OK, so this takes up a lot of the book and I’ve just glossed the dialectic. But Doug suggests that I can’t have shown that the blameworthiness argument fails unless I offer some sort of conceptual analysis of moral requirements (which, admittedly, I don’t do). But, first, I don’t see why this is a problem given the dialectical context in which my argument occurs. My claim was that unless you’ve already presupposed that moral requirements are normatively overriding, we wouldn’t ascribe blameworthiness to moral failure, instead to normative failure. And hence the argument fails. Of course, it could still be that morality is conceptually normatively overriding—but then the blameworthiness argument just becomes the argument from analyticity, which I already suggested should be rejected. Second (and somewhat sheepishly because this doesn’t appear in the book), I’m generally of the view that conceptual analysis is not the right sort of inquiry to lead us to an understanding of what is distinctive about moral demands. Maybe, in other words, morality is blameworthy. But this will only be discovered because we find that it’s plausible to say of the moral requirements we accept that, in fact, failure to conform to them is plausibly blameworthy. But as I say this isn’t in the book, so it’s a fair charge for Doug to point out that I don’t really say what’s distinctive (though I do suggest the signposts, and insist that these signposts should be left open to revision based on substantive first-order inquiry).

    Doug asks, of the “ishnoral” case: “Could it be, then, that ‘inshnoral’ is correctly translated as ‘immoral’ even if they don’t think that guilt and resentment are appropriate reactions to inshnoral acts that have been freely and knowledgeably performed without suitable excuse? And, if so, how were we able to determine that ‘inshnoral’ is correctly translated as ‘immoral’ as opposed to ‘ugly’, ‘rude’, ‘irrational’, or ‘imprudent’?” My suggestion is that it could, in fact, be translated correctly as ‘immoral’, but that how we distinguish the translation—immoral, imprudent, and so forth—will and must depend on a posteriori inquiry into the acts that are described as ‘ishnoral’, and so forth.

    I don’t have much to say about Doug’s critique of the Principle of Moral Impartiality, except to say that my argument against moral rationalism is supposed to hold if you so much as have a moment’s thought that the PMI is something plausible to say about morality. If you don’t, well, you don’t and that argument won’t convince you. But notice that thinking that there is something plausible about the PMI doesn’t commit one to believing that, ultimately, the PMI is true. You might be convinced for reasons of partiality, and so forth, that the PMI is false. But (or so I argue) even if you think there’s something plausible about it, I have as much as I need to show that we should accept it and in accepting it reject moral rationalism.

    Just a few things spring to mind when it comes to Doug’s critique of my notion of the supererogatory (which requires you to deny moral rationalism). First, he writes: “First, it wrongly implies that supererogatory acts cannot be normatively impermissible. But suppose that I give my last two tablets of aspirin to you so as to alleviate your mild headache rather than take them myself and alleviate my migraine. Intuitively, it seems that my act is supererogatory but not normatively permissible.” Just to put my cards on the table, I’m of the view that this act isn’t supererogatory—indeed, it’s not even permissible. But maybe I’m wrong. Even still, there’s nothing essential to my view of the supererogatory that would require you to accept that all acts that are morally better than are normatively required are normatively permissible. I think that’s plausible, but it’s an easy revision to make and I don’t THINK anything hinges on it. Second, Doug writes: “Dorsey’s view implies that a supererogatory act cannot be normatively required. But suppose that I have already read several drafts of a student’s paper and so have no moral duty to read yet another draft. But if my reading one more draft is likely make the difference to her keeping her scholarship, then it seems to be the thing that I’m normatively required to do even though it is supererogatory.” Now this verdict is essential to my view. But I have a hard time sharing Doug’s way of categorizing the act. For my money, this looks like an action that is clearly morally required—it is essential for the student to keep her scholarship. But it may not be normatively required: I have already spent a great deal of my time reading her work and so I have no general obligation to read more. And so though this act is supererogatory, because I am justified in not performing it, it is nevertheless morally required because it’s crucially important for the student and her interests. But I suspect that this is just a clash of intuitions here.

    Anyway, there’s almost certainly a lot more to say here, and Doug’s challenges are very important to take seriously.

    Luis – When it comes to your case, I agree that there wouldn’t be any tension. But I think the key issue is that we have normative permission to be partial even when the moral reasons tell in favor of not saving those close to you. If, for instance, saving the stranger would generate slightly more pleasure for some other stranger you don’t know it strikes me that you still have permission, all things considered, to favor your spouse. Does this help? So it looks like in this case I must deny rationalism. Which I do. And you should too!

  10. Hi Dale,

    Thanks for your interesting thoughts. While digest them, could you say a bit more about this: “My suggestion is that it could, in fact, be translated correctly as ‘immoral’, but that how we distinguish the translation—immoral, imprudent, and so forth—will and must depend on a posteriori inquiry into the acts that are described as ‘ishnoral’, and so forth.”

    Could you run through example showing how the a posteriori inquiry might go in my case such that we come to the conclusion that ‘inshnoral’ is best translated as ‘immoral’ as opposed to ‘rude’, ‘illegal’, or ‘imprudent’?

  11. Hi Dale,

    And let me add just one more thing: I agree that we can’t do translation of ‘inshnorla’ without a posteriori inquiry into the acts that are described as inshnoral. After all, we have to do some empirical research to find out both what conditions these people think exonerate people from blame and whether they think it’s appropriate to blame people for inshnoral acts even when none of these exonerating conditions apply. But I take your point to be that we need to do something else besides or instead of this. And once we do, we may find out that ‘inshnoral’ is best translated as ‘immoral’ even though they don’t think that people who perform inshnoral are blameworthy even in the absence of any exonerating conditions. So could you say what you have in mind as being this something else or instead.

  12. Hi Doug,

    Good Questions. I don’t have an account of the concept *moral*. I’m not that confident about how to pursue conceptual analysis in general, let alone in this case. In addition to general unease about the project (e.g. derived from reading lots of Wittgenstein influenced philosophers in grad school and then more recent phil language/mind), I am extra pessimistic about the moral case. Reading the debates about this back in the Hare/Frankena era, including debates about whether the IK have moral concepts and debates about whether people in shame cultures have moral concepts have left me suspicious of any claims to be able to simply pick out necessary features of the concept ‘moral’. In general, I think that any such claims would have to be based on investigation of all kinds of cases, and not based on some sort of intuition about the nature of the concept (or bald claims about “platitudes”). I suspect in the end we will just have some marks of the moral or some similarity judgments against paradigms. The point is that I am certainly not going to propose a counter-analysis!

    You think the connection to blameworthiness is necessary and ask why I would translate the word as ‘immoral’ given that there is no such connection. First, I think that the word would still hit some core marks of the moral (e.g. it tracks how the acts impact others’ well-being and reflects a certain conception of impartiality/equality). Second, many of my confident moral judgments do pick out the acts that the approach picks out and I think their claims about the wrong-making features capture part of the truth. So it looks like the tribe members are labeling acts because of how they impartially impact others well-being – a sometimes wrong-making feature – and many of their judgments are co-extensive with mine. I guess those would be my reasons for accepting the translation as not conceptually confused. Well, doubt we will agree here, but this has been interesting!

  13. Hi Brad and Dale,

    Brad: Fair enough regarding your skepticism concerning the project of picking out necessary features of the concept ‘moral’. I think that we just have different degrees of confidence in certain basic claims. For I guess that I’m not nearly as confident as you are that the case described provides enough information to conclude that ‘inshnoral’ is likely best translated as ‘immoral’ and am much more confident than you are that there would have to be some tight connection between their judgments of inshnorality and their judgments of immorality before we could be rightly think that ‘inshnoral’ translates as ‘immoral’.

    Dale and Brad: I guess my point for Dale would be that I think that more needs to be said before he can convince us that my C1 is “wrong as a piece of conceptual analysis” (p. 57). He needs to either argue for an alternative conceptual analysis, which he doesn’t do. Or he needs to argue that we have good grounds for being skeptical that there are any necessary features of the concept of ‘immoral’, which he also doesn’t seem to do. Instead, Dale seems to rely on the assumption that unless a group already presupposes that moral requirements are normatively overriding, they wouldn’t ascribe blameworthiness to moral failure. But my example is an example of just such a group. This tribe doesn’t think that having a normative permission to X can exonerate an agent from being blameworthy for X-ing. So these people think that agents are blameworthy for disobeying God even when they have a normative permission to do so. But they don’t think that people are blameworthy for doing what’s inshnoral even when they do something inshnoral without anything that they consider to be a suitable excuse. It seems to me that such an example is perfectly coherent. Thus, it seems to me that, contrary to Dale’s assertions, even if a tribesperson hasn’t already presupposed that moral requirements are normatively overriding (and the people of this tribe don’t), she would ascribe blameworthiness to moral failure. It’s just that they take moral failure not to lie with inshnorality but with disobeying God (which is what they call ‘vimoral’ behavior).

    Of course, Dale could continue to assert that it’s not possible for these tribes people to think that people can be blameworthy for acting vimorally even when they have a normative permission to act vimorally and, thus, claim that my case is incoherent. And I concede (given my acceptance of C2), that no one is blameworthy for doing what they have a normative permission to do. But my claim in this case is only that they can coherently think that agents are blameworthy for doing what they have a normative permission to do. So to argue that my example is incoherent, it would seem that Dale would again need to do some conceptual analysis to show that it is conceptually incoherent for these people to think that people can be blameworthy for doing what they are normatively permitted to do. But again he eschews such conceptual analysis. So I just don’t see how he can make a conceptual claim: the claim that C1 is “wrong as a piece of conceptual analysis” without doing conceptual anaylsis.

  14. In the last sentence of the first paragraph, I meant to write: “some tight connection between their judgments of inshnorality and their judgments of BLAMEWORTHINESS before we could be rightly think that ‘inshnoral’ translates as ‘immoral’.”

  15. Hi guys:

    Just a few points—this is really helpful stuff to think about.

    “I guess my point for Dale would be that I think that more needs to be said before he can convince us that my C1 is “wrong as a piece of conceptual analysis” (p. 57). He needs to either argue for an alternative conceptual analysis, which he doesn’t do. Or he needs to argue that we have good grounds for being skeptical that there are any necessary features of the concept of ‘immoral’, which he also doesn’t seem to do.” I don’t see that this is so, for two reasons. First, why should it be incumbent on someone who believes that x is a poor conceptual analysis of y to give an alternative conceptual analysis of x (or be generally skeptical that some conceptual analysis could be found)? If you have an argument to some conclusion that relies on a conceptual analysis of “car” in which car means “manmade flying artifice”, then it seems to me that I lack any need to offer an alternative conceptual analysis of “car” to show that your argument is faulty. Nor do I have to be skeptical that some such analysis could be found. All that’s required is to show that the conceptual analysis you rely on is implausible. I guess I’m thinking that your suggestion is too high an argumentative burden for the simple point I’m trying to establish there. Second, you’ll notice that I don’t simply come out and say: “C1 is wrong as a piece of conceptual analysis.” I say: “Independently of a presumption that morality is normatively overriding, C1 is wrong as a piece of conceptual analysis.” And I go on to argue for that claim, at some length (pgs 57-60). Now, you might say: “but everything you say still leaves it open that morality should be conceptually linked to blameworthiness BECAUSE morality is conceptually linked to normativity, and because you haven’t done any positive conceptual analysis, you haven’t ruled THAT out.” That’s true! But I hope to have offered sufficient reason to reject that morality is conceptually linked to normativity earlier in the chapter.

    To be honest, and sorry for being slow on the uptake, I’m having more and more trouble understanding the upshot of the ishnoral case. Can you tell me how we’ve determined that these folks (a) possess the concept of normativity *in our sense* and (b) use it without disallowing blame in the case of normative permission? If I was inclined to think that conceptual analysis were efficacious here, it strikes me as plausible to say that as a matter of translation we would hold that their concept of normativity is somewhat different than ours.

    Now, you asked for some examples of how the a posteriori investigation would work. Here I didn’t mean empirical investigation—I mean a posteriori of substantive *moral* investigation. Given this, we would translate “ishnoral” as “immoral” if, for instance, we see them claiming “ishnoral!” in, say, cases where one person doesn’t respect another’s rationality (if that’s what we think the demands of morality consist in), or where they fail to have sufficient regard for the happiness of others, and so forth, rather than when they enter a museum, make a face, and say “ishnoral” at a picture of dogs playing poker (we’d translate that as ugly) or when someone decides to invest all of their money in Trump University (we’d translate that as imprudent, say).

    Leaving all this aside, however, I do wish that I would have said more about why I’m skeptical that conceptual analysis gets us much of anywhere when it comes to understanding the boundaries of the moral domain, and I think it’s totally fair game for Doug to push on that.

  16. Hi Dale,

    Thanks for these responses. I’ll try to get to some of the other points later. But, for now, just two quick things.

    (1) You ask: “why should it be incumbent on someone who believes that x is a poor conceptual analysis of y to give an alternative conceptual analysis of x (or be generally skeptical that some conceptual analysis could be found)?” The answer, I believe, is because it is rarely sufficient to show that an interesting philosophical view has some putative cost. We find that almost every interesting philosophical view has some costs associated with it. So to establish an interesting philosophical view is plausible or implausible we need to compare its costs with those of the alternative views. Now, in the example that you give where someone proposes a conceptual analysis of “car” in which car means “manmade flying artifice,” I think that it is sufficient to show that the cost of this view is that virtually everyone is conceptually confused. But this is sufficient only because we have good reason for thinking that other conceptual analyses will not have such significant costs. But my thought is that the putative costs that you argue that my conceptual analysis has is not like the cost of this analysis of “car.” It is not so great that we can be confident that the alternatives will be less costly. And so I think that it’s a mistake to dismiss it before we see what the alternatives are and what costs they may have.

    (2) You also ask: “Can you tell me how we’ve determined that these folks (a) possess the concept of normativity *in our sense* and (b) use it without disallowing blame in the case of normative permission?” So I think that the concept of normatively impermissible (in Parfit calls the reason-involving as opposed to the rule-following sense) is such that in the absence of a suitable excuse a person who freely and knowledgeably does something normatively impermissible will be appropriately subject to reactive attitudes but, if it’s not also immoral, the relevant reactive attitudes will be along the lines of attitudes such as shame as opposed to attitudes such as guilt.

  17. Hi Doug –

    Let me just say at the moment, while I continue to mull the “ishnoral” case, that what you say in (1) is very helpful, and I agree now that the “car” example was too dismissive.

  18. Dale, I’ve been reading Ch. 2 tonight (without reading Ch. 1, which may be where some of my confusion comes from), and I’m stuck on the following point. On p. 57 you say that MCC is only plausible if we presuppose NCC. But it seems to me that most people who accept MCC would in fact reject NCC, on the grounds that there are many situations in which one is not blameworthy for irrationality. In general, as Darwall notes, I’m not blameworthy for getting the answer to a math problem wrong. Nor, in general, am I blameworthy for failing to act prudently. Blame–in the sense of a reactive attitude like indignation, as opposed to mere criticism–only seems to us to be apt in a proper subset of the cases of normative failure.

  19. Hi Dale,

    Sorry for this incredibly late response! I think part of what I say in Chapter One would likely address this, but the basic idea is that I wouldn’t identify the notion of “normativity” with “irrationality” as we typically understand in, e.g., prudence or math and so forth. I understand normativity as, broadly, “how one ought to act”. And so I think it’s plausible to say that one is blameworthy for immorality only if one is presuming that one ought to conform to moral standards. That’s basically the idea.

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