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By In Ideas, Moral Psychology Comments (3)

Both Humeans and Kantians about Motivation are Wrong

Both Hume and Kant advocated extreme and implausible views of motivation; the same is also true of many of their contemporary followers. The truth about motivation lies in between these two extremes.
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By In Character, Ideas, Moral Psychology, Moral Responsibility Comments (3)

Contempt and the Objective Stance

In an interesting piece in the NYT’s The Stone this morning, Karen Stohr (Georgetown) discussed the nature of contempt as it pertains to Trump and his recent protesters. She claims that contempt is different from anger, insofar as contempt is global, targeting the whole agent. “If I express anger toward you, I am engaging with you. If I express contempt toward you, I am dismissing you.”

She then draws from P.F. Strawson’s “Freedom and Resentment” to suggest that, while anger represents what we are susceptible to as part of interpersonal relationships and the participant stance, contempt moves us to the objective stance. From the participant stance, we see one another as accountable, and we “regard them as fellow moral agents.” From the objective stance, we view others as objects to be “managed or handled,” in Strawson’s words. One of Stohr’s points, then, is that contempt “functions by shifting the targeted person from a participant relationship to an objective relationship. It aims to alter someone’s status by diminishing their agency.” She then argues that contempt in the public sphere is perilous, especially for those not in power or marginalized in various ways. Only those in power can benefit, as only they are able make good on their dismissiveness by pushing the vulnerable even more to the margins. We need to maintain mutual respect, she thinks, and so push public contempt back into the closet.

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By In Ideas, Normative Ethics, Practical reasons, Value Theory Comments (5)

Panspermia

I have a test case that I’d like to get responses to, one that tests a certain kind of utilitarian intuition, mixed however, with an interesting conflating factor.
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By In Featured Authors, Ideas, Political Philosophy Comments Off on New Book Forum: Republic of Equals (Guest Post by Alan Thomas)

New Book Forum: Republic of Equals (Guest Post by Alan Thomas)

[What follows is a post by Alan Thomas, presenting a central argument from his new book Republic of Equals (OUP), available here. Please feel free to join in on the discussion. Alan is from the UK, so don’t be thrown off by his alarmingly different spellings of “defense,” “characterized,” and “nationalized.”]

 

Republic of Equals: Pre-distribution and Property-Owning Democracy is the first book length defence of property owning democracy as part of a tradition of egalitarianism that could reasonably be called wealth, or asset, based (as opposed to income based). (Thomas, 2017) Asset based egalitarianism is not some exotic breed of egalitarianism with which we are familiar only at the level of theory: from Land Grant universities to the federal underwriting of educational loans, from the sale of nationalised industries back to the private sector at an undervalued price to spread share ownership; from the sale of public housing stock into the private sector to the current policy of quantitative easing; in all these cases, asset based policies have had a pervasive and deep impact on inequality. (Atkinson, 2015; Hockett, 2017) However, as a perusal of this list shows, these asset based policies have typically worsened, and not ameliorated, the extensive inequality that has come to characterise the affluent societies of the West in the period from 1970 to the present day. The argument of Republic of Equals is that egalitarians need to reverse this trend and formulate a normative basis for a set of policies that move beyond the orthodox resources of the redistributively funded welfare state.

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By In Featured Philosophers, Ideas, Metaethics, Practical reasons Comments (41)

Roles Ground Reasons; so Internalism is False (by Reid Blackman)

Hi everyone, and thanks to PEA Soup for providing this forum and inviting me to contribute.

1. The Issue

Standard theories on normative reasons rarely mention roles* and their attendant reasons and obligations, and when roles are mentioned, they are accorded derivative normative significance.  The particulars of the theories vary wildly, but the general picture they give is as follows: while there are standards for what constitutes a good parent (and a good doctor, friend, citizen, and so on), these standards are not normative, where ‘normative’ means or entails ‘reason-giving’. The standards of a role ground reasons for its members – the standards become normative – only if some other, more foundational, normative conditions are met. So occupying a role need play no important role in a theory of practical reason. But here, I offer arguments in support of the following thesis.

Role Thesis: By virtue of occupying a role, and by that alone, one has reason to do that which is conducive to achieving the ends of that role and obligations to refrain from doing that which defies the ends of that role.

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By In Ideas, Moral Psychology, Normative Ethics, Value Theory Comments (3)

Madame Bovary’s Predicament

In this little exercise in analytic existentialism, I’m going to contrast two kinds of stories we can live through, and suggest that the transition from one to the other is both something most of us will experience and a major challenge for finding our lives meaningful. In the sphere of personal relationships, the first kind of story is exemplified by Jane Austen’s novels (among many others), and the second by the setup of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (among others). I’ll label them Adventure and Service, respectively. Though we’re at least culturally conditioned to prefer the first, there is meaning to be found in both – but perhaps only on condition that we succeed in each of them.
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By In Ideas, Moral Psychology Comments (20)

What Does it Mean to ‘Normalize’ Trump?

With Donald Trump now president-elect, many people are concerned that something truly precious and fundamental is under threat. Though Americans disagree about many things, we traditionally had a shared national sense of the bounds of normal behavior and a seemingly entrenched understanding that certain kinds of behavior fell completely outside those bounds. There is now a widespread fear that Trump’s recent actions will be ‘normalized’ and that our shared understanding of the normal will then be lost.

I think that this fear is getting at something of deep importance, and it is therefore worth taking a moment to think philosophically about what is at stake here. What exactly does it mean to see certain behavior as normal?

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