By In Ideas, Uncategorized Comments (4)

Black Radical Liberalism (by Charles Mills)

It is my pleasure to share this post written by Featured Philosopher Charles Mills.  Professor Mills is the John Evans Professor of Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at Northwestern University, and is well know for his influential and insightful work in oppositional political theory.  His post today is on Black Radical Liberalism.


BLACK RADICAL LIBERALISM (and why it isn’t an oxymoron)

“Black radical liberalism” is my attempt to reconstruct from different and usually counterposed bodies of political thought what I see as the most promising candidate for an emancipatory African American political theory. So I am less concerned with the question of whether any African American political theorists actually self-consciously identified what they were doing under this designation than with the question of whether it stands up to criticism as a plausible way forward.


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By In Ideas, Metaethics Comments (57)

Non-Natural Normative Properties and the Principle of Parsimony

Disclaimer: This is way outside of my wheelhouse. So the chances that this is just misguided are great. But it’s my month to post and I’m answering the editor’s (Half-Assed) Plea for Half-Assedness.

Many moral skeptics appeal to the following metaphysical thesis in supporting their view:

  • Metaphysical Naturalism (NAT) – There are only natural properties.

And ethical non-naturalists are committed to the following metaphysical thesis:

  • Metaphysical Plurality Thesis (PLU) – In addition to natural properties, there are non-natural properties.

Now, many think that NAT is more plausible than PLU on the grounds of parsimony. I think that this is a mistake.


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By In Ideas, Metaethics Comments (4)

Normative Necessity and Normative Knowledge

I hope Ralph won’t mind if I piggyback on his post, but I’m just getting started on a paper that’s partly about normative necessity, and I thought I’d get the old juices flowing with some PEA Soup discussion. (Plus it’s February and my name starts with a D!)


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By In Ideas, Metaethics Comments (2)

Is normative necessity distinct from metaphysical necessity?

In “Varieties of Necessity” (in Gendler and Hawthorne, Conceivability and Possibility, Oxford 2002), Kit Fine argued that we need to recognize that certain normative truths are in a sense necessary, and that the kind of necessity in question is sui generis, rather than being a special case of metaphysical necessity.

I shall not dispute Fine’s argument for the conclusion that there are normative necessities. However, I shall dispute his argument for the conclusion that these normative necessities are sui generis. On the contrary, as I shall argue, Fine does not give us a compelling reason to deny that normative necessity is a species of metaphysical necessity.


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By In Applied Ethics, Ideas, Moral Psychology Comments (8)

The Truth about Lying

Lying is an important social and moral category. We react negatively to liars and their lies. But what is it to lie? The standard view in philosophy and social science is that a lie is a dishonest assertion. This view goes all the way back to at least the 4th century, when Augustine wrote, “He may say a true thing and yet lie, if he thinks it to be false and utters it for true.” On this view, lying is a purely psychological act: it does not require your assertion to be objectively false, only that you believe it is false.

About two years ago, my son Angelo came across an expression of the standard view of lying. He wondered whether it fit the ordinary concept of lying. (You might be able to imagine the sort of dinnertime conversations that could lead a twelve-year-old to become curious on this point.) In particular, Angelo was interested in whether, on the ordinary view, lying was a purely psychological act. So we conducted some behavioral experiments to find out.


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By In Ideas, Metaethics Comments (18)

Normative Beliefs and Epistemic Norms

As a part of a paper I am working on (very early stages and so the rest will be very sketchy), I would like to argue that different epistemic norms govern normative beliefs and other beliefs with ordinary, purely naturalist contents. By epistemic norms I mean norms that describe what type of evidence and defeaters are canonically relevant for when you can hold the beliefs in question with warrant. It seems to me that there is an interesting asymmetry between the evidence and defeaters that are relevant for holding normative beliefs with warrant and the ones that are relevant for other beliefs with ordinary, purely naturalist contents. I’ll briefly explain this asymmetry below. I would like some help from the readers of this blog with regards to questions about whether this asymmetry is plausible, whether these norms could be different in some other ways and especially whether there is any literature I could draw from.


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By In Ideas Comments (17)

Ordinary Language or Just Ordinary English?

This is related to the Finlay thread, but I thought it might raise more general questions.

One of the most famous sets of normative statements in Western culture would be the Ten Commandments. These were written in a language that simply does not have a word that behaves like ‘ought’. To say things that in English would invite ‘ought’ you use “needs to”, “must” or “has the obligation to” or, for non-normative use, “is supposed to”. No “shalt” either, by the way. When God forbid lying he takes the future form of “lie” in the second person and puts “not” in front of it. The whole auxiliary verb thing is alien to Hebrew, with the possible exception of “be”.

I am a big fan of appeal to ordinary language and a big fan of hair splitting, but I fear – for my own sake too – that if you mix together hefty doses of both, you might end up with findings that hang on the specifics of the language you (or your research subjects) speak.

More specifically: to say that a certain philosophical position is only ever held as a result of a linguistic mixup sounds weird to me if people can hold the very same position who speak a language that does not allow a parallel mixup to happen.

I am asking this from a position of ignorance of the relevant literature, but… Any thoughts?

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