By In Ideas, Practical Rationality Comments (13)

Expected Regrets

Whenever I have had a major life decision to make, it has always struck me as of central – indeed, definitive – importance to think about whether I would regret my decision, if things turned out in one way rather than another.  But I find this a bit puzzling.  I’m going to try out one way of saying why.


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By In Featured Philosophers, Metaethics, Normative Ethics Comments (31)

Open for Questions…?

It’s an unexpected honor to be included in this series along
with greats like Tom Hurka, Tim Scanlon, Sally Haslanger, Elizabeth Anderson, Nomy
Arpaly, and David Enoch, so let me start by thanking Dale and
the Daves for including me.  This summer,
between moving house and trying to enjoy some time with my daughter, who just
had her first birthday, I’m trying to spend some time reflecting on my work so
far, and how it fits together.  So I
thought that the best way to open this discussion would be to say something
general, and then open up the discussion to questions on any topic whatsoever.


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By In Academia, News and Events, The Profession Comments (14)

JESP Discussion Notes – new editor

As many of you know, for approximately the last four years the Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy has been publishing shorter discussion notes. Starting this month, I will be taking over as editor for the discussion notes section on JESP, taking over from Julia Driver.


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By In News and Events, Normative Ethics, Practical Rationality Comments Off on CFP: Reasons of Love, Leuven

CFP: Reasons of Love, Leuven


Reasons of Love
International Conference
Institute of Philosophy, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven (Belgium)
30 May-1 June 2011

This conference’s title is ambiguous on purpose. The relationship between
love and reasons for action is highly interesting and complicated. It is
not clear how love is related to reasons. Love might be a response to
certain normative reasons, since it seems fitting to love certain objects.
However, love also seems to create reasons and not to be a response to
certain appropriate reasons. Love’s relationship to morality is also
complex. It is not clear how the normative reasons for acting morally are
related to the reasons of love. It is sometimes argued that love is not a
virtue because the reasons for acting morally are not the same as the
reasons for acting lovingly. But the notion of ‘unprincipled virtue’ seems
to make room for love as a motive of morally praiseworthy actions.

This conference seeks to provide an opportunity to discuss these issues.
Related questions are the following: Do ‘the reasons of love’ constitute a
genuine, distinctive category of reasons?  Are different kinds of love
related to different kinds of reasons? What are the requirements of love,
as opposed to the requirements of duty? Are love’s reasons rational or non-
rational? Can love require to act immorally? If so, are love’s
requirements more or less important than those of morality? Is an action
out of love more praiseworthy than an action done out of a sense of duty?
Are there normative reasons for acting lovingly and to what extent do they
justify partiality? How are we to understand ‘acting lovingly’?

Keynote speakers:
Diane Jeske (Iowa), Michael Smith (Princeton) and R. Jay Wallace (Berkeley)


We invite abstract submissions on any issue related to the main topic as
stated above.  Graduate students are encouraged to participate.

The deadline for submission is December 1, 2010. Notification of
acceptance will be sent by January 20, 2011. Abstracts of 1500-2000 words
should be sent to  and

At the conference 40 minute slots will be available for presentation,
followed by 20 minutes of discussion.

A selection of papers will be submitted to Philosophical Explorations for

Conference organizers:
Esther Kroeker, Katrien Schaubroeck, Stefaan E. Cuypers, Willem Lemmens

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By In Metaethics, Practical Rationality Comments (26)

Reasons not to intend

The distinction between the 'right' and 'wrong' kind of reasons is taken to play at least three important roles: 'right' kind but not 'wrong' kinds of reasons contribute to standards of correctness, and in the case of reasons for attitudes, 'right' kind but not 'wrong' kinds of reasons can serve to make attitudes rational, and exhibit at least a strong asymmetry, in that it is at least substantially easier to believe or intend for the 'right' kinds of reasons, if not outright impossible to believe or intend for the 'wrong' kind.

Toxin-puzzle style considerations often lead philosophers to endorse the following thesis:

R is a RK-reason to intend to do A iff R is a reason to do A. 

This is because it seems difficult, if not impossible to intend to drink the toxin directly for the reason that so intending will result in a reward, and moreover that believing that so intending will result in a reward doesn't make intending to drink it rational, but only makes acting to get oneself to have that intention rational – corresponding to at least two of the earmarks of a 'wrong'-kind reason.

Proponents of the so-called 'state-given/object-given' distinction appear to go further than this, and claim that all RK-reasons which bear on intention are reasons for or against the object of that intention.


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By In Metaethics, Moral Psychology Comments (33)

a problem for (some) hybrid theories

According to some (but not all) ‘hybrid’ metaethical theories, moral sentences like ‘stealing is wrong’ express both beliefs and desires, but different beliefs for different speakers.  I think Paul Edwards was a forebear of this position, but it has recently been defended by Stephen Barker and Michael Ridge.

I understand these kinds of views to work something as follows: every speaker is assumed to have some property, P, such that she disapproves of P-actions.  Then, for any given speaker, S, who disapproves of P-actions, ‘Stealing is wrong’ expresses the belief that stealing is P, and expresses disapproval of P-actions. 


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By In Metaethics Comments (23)

Parfit on Normative Irreducibility

Derek Parfit has recently circulated an argument against what he calls Non-Analytical Naturalism, which he understands as the thesis that normative truths are reducible to natural truths.  He begins by stipulating that he will use ‘normative’ as an abbreviation for ‘irreducibly normative’:

When some normative word cannot be analyzed or defined in non-normative terms, we can call this word, and the concept it expresses, irreducibly normative.  That is what I shall mean by ‘normative’…

His central argument then appears to be that Non-Analytic Naturalism is (by definition) inconsistent with normativity, and hence false. 


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