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.

(more…)

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By In JMP Discussions Comments Off on Upcoming Journal of Moral Philosophy Discussion, March 13th: Molly Gardner’s “On the Strength of the Reason Against Harming,” with a critical précis by Fiona Woollard

Upcoming Journal of Moral Philosophy Discussion, March 13th: Molly Gardner’s “On the Strength of the Reason Against Harming,” with a critical précis by Fiona Woollard

We are excited to announce our first Journal of Moral Philosophy discussion, which will take place on Monday March 13th. We will be discussing Molly Gardner‘s paper “On the Strength of the Reason Against Harming.” The Journal of Moral Philosophy made the paper available for free here until March 21st. Fiona Woollard will provide a critical précis. Please join the discussion!

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By In Normative Ethics, Uncategorized Comments (2)

Favorite papers on: Perfectionism or Neo-Aristotealian Ethics

Hoping folks will share with the group their favorite papers on the topic of Perfectionism or Neo-Aristotelian Ethics. 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 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 Applied Ethics, The Profession, Uncategorized Comments Off on Thoughts on Divesting from For-Profit Prisons

Thoughts on Divesting from For-Profit Prisons

Considerations in favor of supporting such divestment and advice about how to get started here.

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By In Favorite Papers, Normative Ethics Comments (5)

Favorite papers on: Kantian Ethics

Hoping folks will share with the group their favorite papers on the topic of Kantian ethics. 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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