By In Discussions, Ethics Discussions at PEA Soup, Metaethics Comments (10)

Ethics Discussion at PEA Soup: Paulina Sliwa’s “Moral Understanding as Knowing Right from Wrong,” with a critical précis by Kieran Setiya

Welcome to what we expect will be a very interesting and productive discussion of Paulina Sliwa‘s “Moral Understanding as Knowing Right from Wrong.” The paper is published in the most recent edition of Ethics and is available through open access here. Kieran Setiya has kindly agreed to contribute a critical précis, and it appears immediately below. Please join in the discussion!


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By In Action Theory, Ideas, Metaethics, Practical Rationality, Practical reasons, Reasons and rationality, Value Theory Comments (4)

Decisive Reasons and Rational Supererogation

I have a roughly formulated and half-baked inquiry:

Suppose that rationality endorses maximizing utility, but there is room for rational supererogation, and so it is sometimes rationally permissible to drink a coffee even if doing so does not maximize utility.

Would you say that there is no decisive reason against drinking the coffee because, although drinking the coffee is rationally inferior to another available option, it is still rationally permissible?  Or would you say that, because drinking the coffee is rationally inferior to another available option, there is decisive reason against drinking the coffee even though drinking it is rationally permissible?

I am attracted to a usage of decisive reason according to which the consideration that C pinpoints a decisive reason against A’s X-ing if and only if, because C, A should not X.  Given this usage, there is no decisive reason against drinking the coffee (from the point of view of rationality) because, although drinking the coffee is rationally inferior to another available option, drinking the coffee is still rationally permissible and so it is not true that one should not drink the coffee.  I wonder if folks would balk at this implication and see usages with this implication as thereby counter-intuitive.

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By In Metaethics, Normative Ethics, Uncategorized Comments (6)

Favorite readings on: Subjectivism

Hoping folks will share with the group their favorite papers on the topic of subjectivism. Perhaps people might add what level they think the paper is most appropriate for (grad seminar, undergrad intro, etc.). A short explanation of what the paper says or what makes it great might be useful as well.

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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 Call For Papers, Metaethics Comments Off on CFP: Representation and Evaluation

CFP: Representation and Evaluation

The Canadian Journal of Philosophy hereby calls for papers on the topic “Representation and Evaluation” for a special volume edited by Matt Bedke and Stefan Sciaraffa. The volume provides an occasion to explore the role of representation in theories of meaning and mind with special attention to the implications this has for metaethical, or more broadly metanormative, theory. As such, we welcome fresh assessments of the representational purport (or lack thereof) of normative language and thought (e.g., assertions and thoughts concerning oughts, reasons, values, justification and the like). The due date is June 15, 2017. Submission guidelines are below the fold.


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By In Metaethics, News and Events, Normative Ethics Comments Off on New Methods of Ethics 2 Programme

New Methods of Ethics 2 Programme

HERE and below is the programme for the second New Methods of Ethics conference, which will be held here at the University of Birmingham on the 4th and the 5th of January 2017. The conference is free and open to all, but please book a place by emailing me ( as there are limited places available. Also, thanks for all of those who attended the first conference few weeks ago. (more…)

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By In Ideas, Metaethics, Moral Responsibility, Practical reasons Comments (13)

Cruel Jokes & Insult Comics

I’ve been interested recently in the ways in which norms from some domains impinge on norms from other domains. To that end, I’ve been writing about cruel jokes, wherein the funny and the moral intersect. I don’t at all deny that some cruel jokes are funny; I’ve been known to be amused by many. But there are some cruel jokes that, somehow in virtue of the cruelty, just aren’t jokes. The example I’ve been using is from Stephen King’s book (and/or Brian De Palma’s great film) Carrie. Carrie is raised by a rather terrifying fundamentalist mother, and she is so ignorant about her sexuality that she doesn’t realize what’s happening when she gets her first period in the shower at school. Her classmates tease her relentlessly, and the most cruel among them devise a prank: They make Carrie think she’s the prom queen, and as she’s standing up on stage, soaking in the applause, they dump a bucket of pig’s blood on her. They all find this absolutely hilarious…until Carrie gets a little irritated (for the rest, read the damn book!).


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