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SLACRR program

St. Louis Annual Conference on Reason and Rationality
UM-St. Louis
May 23-25, 2010
Moonrise Hotel
The Department of Philosophy at UM-St. Louis is pleased to announce the first St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality (SLACRR), which will take place May 23-25, 2010.  Information about the conference is available on our website:  

Our keynote address will be given by Michael Bratman, and we'll have talks by Mark Schroeder, Agnes Callard, David McNaughton & Piers Rawling, Michael Titelbaum, Ruth Chang, Anton Ford, Eric Marcus, Stephen Kearns & Daniel Star, Garrett Cullity and Paul Weirich. 
There is no fee to attend SLACRR, but since space is limited, we ask that you register, which you can do simply by emailing John Brunero or Eric Wiland at

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University Ethics Requirements

My university is supposed to certify to the NSF that all university graduate students (undergraduate and postdoctoral researchers too) have had training in the responsible and ethical conduct of research.  I'm curious whether other philosophy departments offer a general course in Research Ethics for such reasons. It seems to me as though it is a good way to make Philosophy central to the mission of the University.  I'd appreciate hearing about your experiences and advice.

Secondly and relatedly, I also wonder how many secular colleges require all students to take a course in ethics in order to earn their undergraduate degree.  I know that plenty of Catholic colleges have such a rule, but what about other kinds of colleges?

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John Brunero and I are organizing an annual workshop on Reasons and Rationality to be held at the University of Missouri – St. Louis.   This will take place right after your spring semester is over, and right before your summer vacation begins.  I hope some PEA Soupers can come!

St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality

The first St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality (SLACRR, pronounced (slăk΄ r)) will take place May 23-25, 2010 at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.  The conference is designed to provide a forum for new work on practical and theoretical reason, broadly construed.  Please submit an abstract of 500-1000 words by December 31, 2009 to (In writing your abstract, please bear in mind that full papers should suitable for a 30 minute presentation.) We are also interested in finding commentators for papers, so please let us know if you would have an interest in commenting.   
The Conference will include papers in ethics, epistemology, and other areas of philosophy that deal with reasons, reasoning, or rationality.  For instance, we would be interested in papers exploring such questions as:

• What is the relation between reasons for actions and reasons for beliefs?
• What are the sources of our reasons for belief?
• How are features of one's psychology (desires, intentions, etc.) relevant to reasons?  
• What is the relation between reasons and what we ought to do (or believe)?
• What is the relation between reasons and value?
• Are the requirements of practical and theoretical rationality normative?  
• What is the relation between individual rationality and collective rationality?

Of course, this is just a small sample of questions; we hope to include a wide variety of papers on the Conference Program that deal in some way with reasons, reasoning or rationality.   Further questions can also be directed to either John Brunero ( or Eric Wiland (

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Passing the buck right back where it started

Some hope to cash out claims about goodness in terms of claims about
reasons to respond.  One such account is the Buck Passing Account of
Value (BPV), which says that to be valuable is to have other properties
that provide
reasons to take up an attitude in favor of it.  I am thinking about the
merits and originality of an objection to BPV.  Consider the following
claim BR:

(BR)  One can have a reason to take up some attitude, a reason not to
take up that same attitude, and one of these reasons is better than the

BR is overwhelming plausible.  But BR uses evaluative terms: it says that some reason is better than another reason.  So, BR uses evaluative language.  Can BPV be reconciled with BR? 

It can if we can express the thought BR expresses by substituting some
nonevaluative term for "better".  We might be tempted to go with
"stronger".  But we are not talking about explanatory reasons here; we
are talking about justifying reasons.  So "stronger" is at best merely
metaphorical.   It won't do.

We might be tempted to rely on reasons-talk again.  To say that reason
A is better than reason B, it might be suggested, is to say that we
have reason to do what reason A recommends rather than what reason B
recommends.  Let's call this reason about reasons a meta-reason
Will this solve the problem?  I don't think so.  Meta-reasons
themselves can be better or worse than other meta-reasons.  To escape
this regress, we would need a reason that itself is not better or worse
than other reasons.  I don't relish the taste of that bullet. 
Alternatively, we could embrace the infinite regress.  Yuk.

Instead, it seems better to reject BPV.

I'll delete this post if it merely rehearses a well-known (but unknown to me) objection.

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Enjoying immorality for its own sake.

I feel certain someone has already discussed the following problem, but I'm frustrated that I don't remember who and where.  Anyway:

Suppose there is some action whose consequences, it appears, are on balance slightly bad.  (Perhaps a boy steals a candy bar from a store.)   It seems possible for there to be an omniscient person who enjoys immoral things
for their own sake.  It also seems possible that this person is a consequentialist.  Suppose she reads about this theft in the neighborhood newspaper.  She enjoys this immorality.  It's also plausible that her enjoyment of immoral things is
good.  But because one consequence of this theft is that she enjoys reading about it, the total consequences of his theft are now, on balance, good.  But then she no longer believes that his action is immoral.  So she doesn't enjoy it.  So, his theft does not have on balance good consequences.  So his action is slightly bad………..

This pattern can oscillate infinitely.

What's going on here?  It appears as though there is some kind of conflict between 1) enjoying immorality for its own sake, 2) believing in consequentialism, 3) believing enjoyment is good, 4) being omniscient.  (I'm not even sure that #4 is necessary to generate the oscillation, but it certainly helps.)

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Moral Fictionalism and Mixed Arguments

In his wonderful MORAL FICTIONALISM, which I’ve just happily read, Mark Kalderon defends a very interesting metaethical view. Kalderon holds two positions that are not usually conjoined. But I am not sure they can both be coherently held, although I don’t know whether I can articulate my worries very clearly.


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Practical Gettier Cases

For a very long time, many philosophers thought that knowledge is justified true belief. But Gettier pointed out how one can have justified true belief and yet lack knowledge.

For a very long time, many philosophers have thought that performing a virtuous action is performing the right action for the right reason. Here I wish to point out how considerations analogous to those that Gettier identified show how one could perform the right action for the right reason, and yet not perform a virtuous action.


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