Over the past few years, an interesting development in experimental philosophy has been work on the “ought implies can” principle (OIC) in commonsense morality. Several research teams have investigated whether patterns in commonsense moral judgment are consistent with a commitment to OIC, understood as a conceptual entailment from having a moral responsibility to being able to fulfill it. Across a variety of contexts and testing procedures, the principal finding has been very consistent: people are definitely willing to attribute moral responsibilities to agents unable to fulfill them. Based on these findings, I and others have concluded that there is no conceptual entailment from “ought” to “can.” But there is a lingering question. If there is no conceptual entailment, then what is the source of the intuitive link, which many theorists seem to sense, between “ought” and “can”? A new paper might provide at least part of the answer.
I communcate with lots of academics regularly, as I'm sure most readers of this blog do. This is not surprising. But what I do find surprising is how frequently academics simply do not respond to, or even acknowledge, communications from professional colleagues. This includes communications of the following sorts: invitations to give a talk, invitations to contribute a paper, invitations to review a paper, messages sharing a copy of published work that engages their views, messages sharing in-progress work that engages their views, and messages asking specific questions about their own published work. (The list is not exhaustive.)
I have funding to support two graduate students to work with me on
SSHRC-funded projects: one on the norms of assertion and related
issues in epistemology, the philosophy of language and value theory;
the other an experimental philosophical approach to issues in speech
act theory. Interested parties should apply to the philosophy graduate
program at the University of Waterloo (http://philosophy.uwaterloo.ca/
graduate/admission.html). Your application should make clear which
project you’re interested in, and any qualifications that make you an
especially good candidate to work on the project.
The contemporary debate over the constitutive norms of assertion, as well as related debates about the norms of belief and action, and the nature of epistemic value, deal with deep and important questions about the nature of normativity, especially constitutive normativity, about value, and about whether there really is an essential distinction between epistemic evaluation on the one hand, and practical rationality or ethical evaluation on the other. Some of these questions might be broadly categorized under the familiar heading 'ethics of belief', but that really doesn't do justice to the breadth of issues at stake.
For the most part, participants to these debates work in epistemology, philosophy of language and, to a lesser extent, social philosophy. Moreoever, I've been informed by more than one editor of more than one journal devoted to ethics (broadly understood) that work on these issues just isn't a good fit for their journal or audience.
I'm curious why this is so. Is it just an accident? Have the debates just not had quite enough time to percolate through various subdiscplinary borders? Do ethicists just not view these questions as genuinely ethical questions? Or are they viewed as ethical, but somehow derivative or secondary to other, more long-standing debates in the ethics literature?