With this post we are starting a new feature at PEA Soup: Author replies to book reviews published in Ethics. Our inaugural discussion is between Chrisoula Andreou (Utah) and Justin Snedegar (St. Andrews). Chrisoula reviews Justin’s new book, Contrastive Reasons (OUP, 2017) here. Justin Snedegar’s reply follows below.
Thanks first of all to the Daves for the opportunity to continue the discussion here. And thanks most of all to Chrisoula for her excellent review of my book. Her questions and objections have given me the chance to think harder about some central issues that didn’t receive all the attention they deserved in the book. In particular, she’s made clear that there are important questions about the nature of the objectives the promotion of which I appeal to in my contrastive analyses of reasons. I used a desire to remain neutral between competing views of these objectives as an excuse for not discussing them much, but this neutrality was about relatively substantive questions about whether the objectives were desires, values, etc. Chrisoula’s objections show that there are questions about structural or formal features of objectives and of the promotion relation which are crucial for my theory, and indeed for many theories of reasons.
Call for Abstracts
May 20-22, 2018, Moonrise Hotel, St. Louis, MO
Keynote Speaker: Mark van Roojen (Nebraska)
SLACRR provides a forum for new work on practical and theoretical reason, broadly construed. Please submit an anonymized abstract of 750-1500 words by January 15, 2018 to SLACRR@gmail.com. In writing your abstract, please bear in mind that full papers should be suitable for a 30 minute presentation. Please attach your abstract as a pdf file, the name of which should be based upon the title of your abstract. (In other words, don’t name your file FILE.pdf or ABSTRACT.pdf)
Papers accepted this year will be eligible for publication in a special issue of Res Philosophica on the topic of reasons and rationality to be published in the first half of 2019. Furthermore, one essay published in the issue will receive a $3,000 prize for best paper. Authors of accepted papers may, but need not, submit their paper to this special issue. Submissions of full papers for the issue will be due August 31, 2018, and will be blind reviewed. Questions regarding the special issue of Res Philosophica can be directed to the editor, Joe Salerno, at email@example.com
Much is made these days of ideological bubbles and commitment cocoons (OK, I made up that one), in which people stick to their beliefs regardless of any “evidence” or “reasoning” otherwise. But, let’s admit it, it’s hard to change your mind about something you’ve been committed to solely based on your assessment of reasons. This is true even for — perhaps especially for — professional philosophers.
It might be worth hearing, then, about your true conversion stories and the role contrary reasons played for you: What moral/political view were you committed to — perhaps even published about — that you abandoned solely in the face of good reasons otherwise? Were the reasons available to you all along and you just saw them in a newly salient light, or were they new reasons to you? Have you “backslid”? Have you gone on to publish on the contrary view? (See my conversion story below the fold.)
St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality 2017
May 21-23, 2017
Keynote: Kieran Setiya (MIT)
There’s a longstanding dispute about whether psychopaths are morally responsible. For our purposes, just stipulate that psychopaths are blind to moral reasons, that is, they lack moral, or normative, competence. There’s not much disagreement on this point (for psychopaths who score very highly on the Hare Checklist). The disagreement, instead, is over whether normative competence is necessary for moral responsibility. Suppose a psychopath sees that hitting you with a baseball bat will cause you pain, but he does it anyway because it’s fun. So, it’s thought, he judges hitting you to be worth doing, and he also judges that your interests don’t matter. Isn’t that sufficient to ground apt moral blame, and so sufficient for his being morally responsible?
Or so a school of thought goes (represented by Tim Scanlon, Angela Smith, Matt Talbert, and Pamela Hieronymi). What matters is that the psychopath at least has the rational capacity to form judgments of worth, i.e., make evaluative judgments of reasons. If he does, then it doesn’t matter if he’s blind to one subset of reasons; he’s still blameworthy for judging that the bad thing is worth doing and judging that other considerations don’t matter.
I want to try out an argument against this stance and see what you think.