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By In Announcements, Featured Philosophers Comments Off on A New Year of Featured Philosophers

A New Year of Featured Philosophers

Happy New Year!  I am happy to announce that we will have a regular series of Featured Philosophers this spring, and that we will be continue to broaden our line up to include junior professors and graduate students.

The first two posters this year will be Reid Blackman, who is an Assistant Professor at Colgate, and David Beglin, who is a finishing graduate student at UC – Riverside.  Reid’s post on role-based reasons and the problems they cause for reasons-internalists will go up tomorrow, so please stop by then and join the conversation!

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By In Featured Philosophers, Normative Ethics, Uncategorized, Value Theory Comments (40)

Sophisticated Theories of Welfare (by Featured Philosopher Eden Lin)

In this post, I want to raise a problem for a kind of theory of welfare that has recently been on the rise. I will argue that because theories of this kind are false of newborn infants, we should think that they are also false of us.

Theories of welfare differ with respect to the amount of cognitive or psychological sophistication that they require on the part of the subjects to which they are meant to apply. If hedonism is the correct theory of your welfare, then a particular thing is basically good for you—good for you in the most fundamental, non-derivative way—if and only if and because it is a pleasure experienced by you. Thus, if hedonism is true of you, then the capacity for pleasure is the only capacity that you must possess to be positive in welfare. If desire satisfactionism is the correct theory of your welfare, then a particular thing is basically good for you if and only if and because it is the obtaining object of one of your desires. Thus, if this theory is true of you, then the capacity to have desires is the only capacity that you must possess to be positive in welfare. Since these two capacities are relatively simple, we can adopt the convenient (but potentially misleading) convention of calling these theories simple theories.

By contrast, if the correct theory of your welfare is a sophisticated theory, then a particular thing is basically good for you only if you are related to it in a way that involves a fair amount of cognitive or psychological sophistication. Consider a view on which a particular is basically good for you if and only if and because it is the obtaining object of one of your valuing attitudes, and on which valuing something requires (among other things) believing that it is good. If this view is true of you, then in order to be positive in welfare, you need to have a fairly sophisticated capacity: the capacity to value things, which partly consists in the capacity to have evaluative beliefs. As I read them, a number of philosophers have proposed sophisticated theories—including Donald Bruckner, Dale Dorsey, Connie Rosati, Valerie Tiberius, Wayne Sumner, and Benjamin Yelle.

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By In Announcements, Featured Philosophers Comments Off on Featured Philosopher and Comments Update

Featured Philosopher and Comments Update

Our first Featured Philosopher of the new WordPress era begins tomorrow: Eden Lin (of Ohio St.) will post something on well-being, and we encourage you to read it and join in the conversation.

And speaking of which, there’s now no requirement to log-in to comment on any posts. We realized that the log-in requirement had been deterring some people from commenting, so that’s gone (unless it’s abused and spammed back into existence). So comment away!

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More than Words Can Say: On Inarticulacy and Normative Commitment (by Kyla Ebels-Duggan)

In The Possibility of Altruism Thomas Nagel introduces a distinction between motivated and unmotivated desires that has since become standard in discussions of action theory and moral psychology.  But what, exactly, are these categories?  Many uses of the term, arguably including Nagel’s own, treat a desire as unmotivated if one has no reason for it.  So conceived, unmotivated desires are mere urges, whims or unintelligible dispositions.  It would be out of place to ask an agent to justify these states in the same way that it would be out of place to demand reasons for a headache.  But Nagel introduces the idea differently, calling a desire unmotivated if one does not reason to it, that is does not engage in explicit practical reasoning resulting in the motivation to act.

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Explaining Blame and Forgiveness (by Featured Philosopher Miranda Fricker)

I am pleased to introduce the next PEA Soup Featured Philosopher, Miranda Fricker.  Profesor Fricker is currently the Director of the Mind Association, the author of the insightful and very influential book, Epistemic Injustice, and she is posting today about her next book project.  Please feel free to add comments or questions below!

Thanks for inviting me to contribute! I’d like to put forward one or two of the main lines of thought for a book project I’m working on—Explaining Blame and Forgiveness. My main point will be about the surprisingly close relation between two apparently very different kinds of forgiveness; but first I need to say something about philosophical method, and to summarise a view of blame that I’ve put forward elsewhere.[1]

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Virtue and Right Revisited (by Featured Philosopher, Robert N. Johnson)

Some time ago I argued that a problem with a certain sort of virtue ethics might not be fixable (in “Virtue and Right”). The banner ‘virtue ethics’ covers a variety of views united by not much more than the thought that ethics is in some way or other best approached through the idea of good character and virtue. My arguments set aside many of those views, especially those that, while giving pride of place to virtue, adopt a ‘no theory’ or ‘anti-theory’ stance toward the right. If you are anti-theory, then my train didn’t leave the station. Indeed, perhaps the best version of virtue ethics is one that turns its back on a theory of the right. But the sorts of views I was interested in thinking about were those that aspire to such a theory in order to create an alternative to deontological or consequentialist theories of right action.

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Second-Personal Attitudes of the Heart (by Featured Philosopher, Steve Darwall)

Over the last decade, I have been developing an interconnected set of claims and arguments concerning the second-personal character of central moral phenomena.  My focus has been the deontic moral notions of obligation, duty, right, wrong, rights, and so on, which I have argued are distinguished by their conceptual connection to accountability and to the Strawsonian reactive attitudes through which we hold one another and ourselves answerable (Strawson, “Freedom and Resentment”).  Two central tenets are, first, that it is a conceptual truth that an act is wrong if, and only if, it is an act of a kind that it would blameworthy to perform without excuse.  (Since all other deontic notions can be defined in terms of wrongness (and wronging), this means that all deontic ideas are tied to blameworthiness.)  Second, blame is a reactive attitude that implicitly addresses a demand to its object, presupposes the authority to do so, and bids for its object to acknowledge this authority and hold himself accountable for his action.  It is the implicit element of address that makes reactive attitudes second personal (or, as Strawson says, “interpersonal”).  Reactive attitudes are felt from a presupposed perspective of relationship (better, relating) to their objects.

More recently, I have begun to do some work on a group of reactive attitudes that have the same second-personal, reciprocation-seeking structure, but that are unlike accountability-seeking deontic reactive attitudes like blame, resentment, and guilt.

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