Reasons and rationality
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By In Ideas, Normative Ethics, Political Philosophy, Practical reasons, Reasons and rationality Comments (8)

Conversion Stories

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.)

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By In News and Events, Practical Rationality, Practical reasons, Reasons and rationality Comments Off on SLACRR 2017 Program

SLACRR 2017 Program

St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality 2017

May 21-23, 2017

Keynote: Kieran Setiya (MIT)

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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 Ideas, Moral Psychology, Normative Ethics, Reasons and rationality Comments (15)

Can psychopaths make judgments of worth?

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.

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By In Ideas, Metaethics, Practical Rationality, Reasons and rationality Comments (7)

Objective and subjective akrasia

Suppose that there is both an objective ‘ought’ and a subjective ‘ought’. Which of these two kinds of ‘ought’ figures in the anti-akrasia principle that it is irrational to do something at the same time as believing that one ought not to do it?

There is a simple of way of understanding the relation between the objective and the subjective ‘ought’ on which the answer to this question is: Both! It is irrational to do something at the same time as believing that one objectively ought not to do it; and it is also irrational to do something at the same time as believing that one subjectively ought not to do it.

(Note: The original version of this post contained a terrible mistake, which was pointed out by Doug Portmore and Jamie Dreier in their comments below. This is an amended version, without the mistake.)

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By In Call For Papers, Practical Rationality, Practical reasons, Reasons and rationality Comments Off on SLACRR 2016 Program

SLACRR 2016 Program

Registering for the St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality is free and easy: http://www.umsl.edu/~slacrr/registration.html

 

SLACRR 2016 Program

All talks are in the Moonrise Hotel.


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