When teaching ethics courses, I often spend some time with students going over some of the relevant social psychological literature. Studies like the Milgram experimients, the Asch conformity experiments, and Zimbardo's Stanford Prison Experiment are nice ways to show students, well, just how mean and stupid people can be. It's a nice way of showing the importance of ethical learning, but also the insufficiency of mere ethical knowledge in producing ethical behavior.
Turns out, however, that one of my favorite examples is a myth. Kitty Genovese, we all know, was attacked three times over the course of more than a half an hour, all in an alley in the sight of 38 witnesses, none of whom did as much as lift up the phone to call for help. A powerful indictment of humanity, and strong evidence of what psychologists have called the "bystander effect," right?
I’m supposed to be writing a review of
Kieran Setiya’s book, Reasons
without Rationalism (Harvard UP, 2007). Even though
I disagreed with a lot of what he says (well, I'm an opinionated philosopher, so I would, wouldn't I?), I found it a wonderful and
In this post, I want to raise some problems
for a central principle that lies behind much of Setiya’s argument. (I’m sure
that PEA Soupers’ comments will help me with my review.) This is the principle
that he calls Reasons (p. 12):
Reasons: The fact that p is a
reason for A to φ just in case A has a collection of psychological
states, C, such that the disposition
to be moved to φ by C-and-the-belief-that-p is a good disposition of practical
thought, and C contains no false
I think this principle has the following
British Society for Ethical Theory Annual Conference 2008
University of Edinburgh 14 – 16 July 2008
1. Carla Bagnoli (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee): Practical Reflection and Agential Authority 2. Campbell Brown (University of Edinburgh): The Composition of Reasons 3. Krister Bykvist and Jonas Olson (Jesus College and Brasenose College, University of Oxford): Expressivism and Certitude 4. William Dunaway (University of Southern California): Minimalist Semantics and the Problem of Creeping Minimalism 5. Barbara Herman (UCLA): TBA 6. Ulrike Heuer (University of Leeds): Wrongness and Reasons 7. Martin Peterson (University of Cambridge): The Asymmetry Argument 8. Wlodek Rabinowicz (Lund University): TBA 9. Mark Schroeder (University of Southern California): Holism, Weight and Undercutting 10. Alan Strudler (University of Pennsylvania): The Distinctive Wrong in Lying 11. Jonathan Way (University of Californian Santa Barbara): Defending the Wide-Scope Approach to Instrumental Reason
CONFERENCE WEBSITE http://www.philosophy.ed.ac.uk/ethicaltheory/ NB. BSET’s own website is currently out of action as we are moving to a new web host. We hope to fix this soon. Meantime all info on this Edinburgh conference will be at the Edinburgh website.
Pricing information and a booking form will be posted at the conference website shortly.
Conference Organiser: Elinor Mason Conference Assistants: Ana Barandalla Ajona, Liz Ellis, Mog Stapleton Conference Editors: Elinor Mason, David McCarthy, Mike Ridge. Please send any inquiries about the conference to the Organizer: Elinor.Mason@ed.ac.uk
The British Society for Ethical Theory would like to thank the above for their help. We would also like to thank to thank the Mind Association and the University of Edinburgh for their generous support of this conference as well as all those who have assisted us by refereeing submitted papers.
Folks who work on oppression often distinguish oppression attributable to individuals from oppression attributable to institutions. Thus, there's a lot of discussion about institutional racism or sexism, say, as well as discussion of systematic or structural racism or sexism. Here's a quick question: anyone have any thoughts on the nature of the relation between the institutional, the systematic, and the structural? Are these terms just being used as synonyms, at least in the relevant literature? I have a vague feeling that it is possible to have non-systematic and non-structural institutions, but (since the relevant systems and structures are all social systems and structures, I presume), I'm not sure that there are any non-institutional (social) structures or (social) systems. Any thoughts?