My local library fines its patrons ten cents per overdue book per day. They will let you continue to borrow books as long as your fine balance is less than $10. As an academic, I sort of think of library fines as a cost of doing business, and I frequently carry a balance in library fines of a few dollars. (To be clear: I mostly incur these fines on books taken out for pleasure reading. What I mean is that I don’t have a moralistic attitude about my library fines.) Since there are no interest charges or time limits, I can carry such a balance for months on end. I’m following the rules, not cheating anyone, and I have never felt bad about my habit of being a few bucks in debt to the library.
Supererogatory actions are those which are (1) morally meritorious or praiseworthy, but (2) not the fulfillment of a moral obligation or duty. I was having a conversation about this with a colleague today and upon reflection, it seems to me that both clauses in the definition are vague. This means that whether an action is supererogatory is sometimes vague, possibly for more than one reason. I am curious if others share my intuitions/diagnosis about this.
Does moral responsibility require the ability to do otherwise? For example, must one have been able to refrain from an evil deed if one is to be appropriately blamed for it? The answer turns on the truth of a familiar principle:
(PAP) If S is blameworthy for doing X, S must have been able to do otherwise than X.
The traditional view is that (PAP) is true; Frankfurt argued that it was false, with a form of example which is still widely discussed. I’m going to argue for Frankfurt’s conclusion in a way that has nothing to do with Frankfurt-style examples. I’d be interested in feedback.
Blaming (or punishing) someone for failing to live up to a moral standard is a special case of a more general phenomenon. There are many cases where there is some kind of requirement, someone fails to live up to it, and negative consequences are imposed as a result. It is instructive to look at how we view “couldn’t have done otherwise” in these other cases.
A conference announcment / call for papers that PeaSoupers might want to know about: see here for the official flyer.
The goal of this conference is to bring together scholars working in moral and political philosophy, social epistemology, philosophy of science, and related areas to reflect broadly on the relationships between science, knowledge, and democracy. We aim to explore questions such as the following. In what ways should we be seeking to foster democratic influences on science, and why? Can we unpack the concept of objectivity (whether in the scientific or the political domain) more fruitfully by shifting from an individual to a social level of analysis? What is the nature of “lay expertise,” and what are its implications for pursuing public participation in scientific research and policy making? Do various forms of “epistemic injustice” detract from scientific knowledge or political decision making? What are the implications of political theory for thinking about how to democratize science and to integrate scientific knowledge into policy making? Does governmental involvement in and funding of scientific research pose special challenges to traditional epistemic and moral justifications for democracy?
PeaSoupers may be interested to read a series of essays sponsored by the Templeton Foundation on the question, "Does Moral Action Depend on Reasoning?" Al Mele, Joshua Greene, and Christine Korsgaard contribute, as well as several other philosophy-ish intellectuals, neuroscientists, etc.
teach their small children the myth of Santa Claus: that a magical being who lives at the North
Pole brings presents on Christmas Eve.
Secondary aspects of the myth are that whether one receives presents is
a function of one’s behavior, and that you can communicate with Santa about
your preferences. Not only parents, but
retail establishments and (I have recently discovered) public schools collude
in perpetuating this myth among children of a certain age.
the Santa myth has at least these moral reasons against it: