The Department of Philosophy at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln is hosting a conference on Practical Reason and Metaethics to be held April 22-23, 2016. The invited speakers on the conference program are:
Michael Bratman (Stanford)
Stephen Darwall (Yale)
Sarah McGrath (Princeton)
Sigrún Svavarsdóttir (Tufts)
Call for Papers: Four additional papers will be selected though an anonymous review of submissions. For each paper selected, the conference will contribute up to $800 to cover the travel and accommodations of the authors. Submissions are due December 1, 2015. More info below the fold.
As one of the final outputs of the Character Project at Wake Forest University (www.thecharacterproject.com), we have produced a number of new videos featuring researchers in philosophy, theology, and psychology.
One set of videos is from our final conference in May, 2015. Speakers include Neil Levy, Valerie Tiberius, Gopal Sreenivasan, Tanya Chartrand and Korrina Duffy, William Fleeson, Dan Batson, Christian Miller, Andrea Glenn, Daryl Cameron, and Jen Wright and Thomas Nadelhoffer. See http://www.thecharacterproject.com/videos.php?y=2015
Hi everyone. I've started a blog to workshop some ideas connected to my manuscript-in-progress, which I'm currently calling Normlessness and Nihilism. I'm at the very early stages of writing, and would very much welcome your comments and suggestions. My plan is to write 1-2 posts per week. The blog is HERE.
Many of you are probably familiar with the story of Phineas Gage. He was widely regarded as a kind and generous man, but he suffered from a freak accident during his work on a railroad, and the result was that a railroad spike ended up entering his brain. After the accident was over, the person who remained was not a kind or generous man. He was impulsive, callous, and clearly lacked all of the moral virtues that Phineas had previously shown.
Now, let's consider this case as a problem of personal identity. In particular, let's ask yourself whether the following sentence is correct:
The original man named Phineas does not exist anymore; the man after the accident is a different person.
Many people have the intuition that this sentence is correct. It might seem, then, that our intuitions conform to an approach to personal identity that emphasizes psychological similarity. Since the man after the accident is not sufficiently similar to the original Phineas, we conclude that they are not the same person.
In a new paper in Analysis, Kevin Tobia make an incisive criticism of this interpretation. As he points out, it is indeed the case that the man after the accident is dissimilar in certain respects from the original Phineas, but there is also another quite salient fact about him. Specifically, he is morally worse than the original Phineas. That is, it is not just that he differs psychologically in some way; he specifically differs by lacking some of the original Phineas's moral virtues. Might that be the explanation of our intuitions here?
Morality is not exclusively deontic. There are, after all, many things that are morally good to do though not required, or morally bad though not forbidden. However, a deontic conception has gotten a grip on the contemporary conception of interpersonal morality, or morality insofar as it has to do with proper relations between persons in virtue of their personality. One presently popular conception of interpersonal morality runs along these lines: Interpersonal morality consists in obligations or duties that are incumbent on all persons; to have a duty is to be accountable to somebody. If I am accountable to somebody, then she has standing or authority to demand my compliance; and to exercise this authority is to be disposed to respond to noncompliance with Strawsonian reactive attitudes and practices expressive of them.
In the last chapter of my book, How We Hope, I identified a common interpersonal attitude that eludes deontic characterization: disappointment in a person, or feeling let down by a person. I proposed that holding people to demands is only one mode of interpersonal relation, and that placing hope in people is another. Demanding involves a disposition to the central Strawsonian reactive attitudes of resentment, indignation, and guilt (and perhaps contempt and shame, which I will come in a bit); placing hope involves a disposition to disappointment (and perhaps some positive interpersonal feelings like gratitude and admiration, which I will also come to later).
Consider the question “Can regret be appropriate even apart from any belief that one’s choice was misguided or irrational if a monistic theory of the good is true?” According to the relevant notion of regret, regretting is to be understood, roughly, as mourning the loss of a forgone good. This notion of regret leaves room for the possibility that there may be cases of rational regret that do not involve the agent seeing her prior choice as in some way misguided. It is commonly held that this can easily occur when there is a plurality of distinct kinds of goods at stake. More controversial is the suggestion (which can be found in Hurka’s work) that this can also easily occur when there is only one distinct kind of good at stake. According to Hurka (“Monism, Pluralism, and Rational Regret”), goods with different “intrinsic properties” can be distinct “in the way that matters for rational regret” without being goods of distinct kinds, and so monistic theories of the good can accommodate “rational regret” as well as pluralistic theories. But it might be, and indeed has been, argued (by, in particular, Stocker (Plural and Conflicting Values)) that, insofar as different intrinsic properties can be distinct in the way that matters for rational regret, we can think of the different properties as tied to different values, and so we do not have a case of rational ‘monistic’ regret. And here we seem to reach a stalemate grounded in what seems to be something like a terminological issue, namely whether to count a theory of the good that takes say, pleasure, as the only good as monistic, if it also allows for distinct kinds of pleasure that make room for rational regret. I am trying to develop a position that gets beyond this stalemate, but am now wondering whether my characterization of stalemate seems fair or if there is a better interpretation of the dynamic of the debate that makes the dispute seem more substantial.
Lying is an important social and moral category. We react negatively to liars and their lies. But what is it to lie? The standard view in philosophy and social science is that a lie is a dishonest assertion. This view goes all the way back to at least the 4th century, when Augustine wrote, “He may say a true thing and yet lie, if he thinks it to be false and utters it for true.” On this view, lying is a purely psychological act: it does not require your assertion to be objectively false, only that you believe it is false.
About two years ago, my son Angelo came across an expression of the standard view of lying. He wondered whether it fit the ordinary concept of lying. (You might be able to imagine the sort of dinnertime conversations that could lead a twelve-year-old to become curious on this point.) In particular, Angelo was interested in whether, on the ordinary view, lying was a purely psychological act. So we conducted some behavioral experiments to find out.
The organizers of the first annual Theistic Ethics Workshop encourage abstract submissions for our inaugural meeting at the Graylyn Conference Center (www.graylyn.com) on the campus of Wake Forest University. The workshop will be held on October 8-10, 2015, and details can be found here:
The Character Project at Wake Forest University (http://thecharacterproject.com/) is pleased to announce five new videos by researchers in philosophy, psychology, and theology describing their latest work on character as part of our "In Character" series. In philosophy specifically, Professors Jessica Wolfendale and Matthew Talbert discuss situationism, moral responsibility, and war crimes. Professors Nathan King and Kristoffer Ahlstrom-Vij discuss several important issues in virtue epistemology.