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By In Featured Philosophers, Metaethics, Value Theory Comments (23)

Expressivism without Minimalism

By Tristram McPherson

It is a striking fact that many of the most recently influential expressivists (e.g. Simon Blackburn, Allan Gibbard, Mark Timmons) have embraced minimalist accounts of words such as ‘truth,’ ‘fact,’ and ‘property.’ And others have argued that embracing minimalism is indispensable for the expressivist. In this post, I argue that expressivists can and should resist the idea that they are forced to embrace minimalism.

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By In Discussions, Normative Ethics, P&PA Discussions, Value Theory Comments (24)

Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion at PEA Soup: Theron Pummer’s “Whether and Where to Give” with a critical précis by Johann Frick

Welcome to what we expect to be an engaging and productive discussion of Theron Pummer‘s “Whether and Where to Give.” The paper appears in the Winter 2016 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs, and it is available through open access here. Our conversation begins below with a critical précis by Johann Frick. Please join in the discussion!

Précis by Johann Frick:

It is a pleasure to kick off our discussion of Theron Pummer’s excellent and thought-provoking article “Whether and Where to Give” (Philosophy & Public Affairs, 2016). I will begin with a brief synopsis of some of Theron’s main claims, followed by some critical comments and questions.

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By In Discussions, P&PA Discussions, Value Theory Comments Off on Upcoming Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion at PEA Soup: Theron Pummer’s “Whether and Where to Give” with a critical précis by Johann Frick

Upcoming Philosophy and Public Affairs Discussion at PEA Soup: Theron Pummer’s “Whether and Where to Give” with a critical précis by Johann Frick

We are pleased to announce our new discussion series based on recent articles from Philosophy and Public Affairs. Our first article for discussion will be Theron Pummer‘s “Whether and Where to Give,” available here. Here is the paper’s central thesis to whet your appetite:

The main claim I will argue for here is that in many cases it would be wrong of you to give a sum of money to charities that do less good than others you could have given to instead, even if it would not have been wrong of you not to give the money to any charity at all. … What makes my main claim particularly interesting is that it is inconsistent with what appears to be a fairly common assumption in the ethics of giving, according to which if it is not wrong of you to keep some sum of money for yourself, then it is likewise not wrong of you to donate it to any particular charity you choose. Roughly: if it is up to you whether to donate the money, it is also up to you where to donate the money. I will challenge this common assumption.

Johann Frick will start our conversation with a critical précis on April 7. Please join us for what we expect to be a lively and engaging discussion of the ethics of charitable giving.

 

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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, 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 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, Normative Ethics, Value Theory Comments (5)

Does the Shape of an Outcome Matter?

I am interested in knowing whether consequentialists have thought and whether they should think that the shape of an outcome matters when it comes to how good the given outcome of an action or a policy is. Before we get to this question, I want to first motivate this thought with the obvious analogy of an individual’s life. (more…)

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