Warren Quinn’s puzzle of the self-torturer is supposed to show that cyclic preferences can be rational, and that, in cases where they are, rationality can require resoluteness so that the agent does not end up with an alternative that is worse than the one with which s/he started.
As Quinn makes explicit, his concern is with instrumental rationality. It is thus natural to interpret Quinn’s use of “worse” as “worse, relative to the agent’s preferences.” But how is “X is worse than Y, relative to the agent’s preferences” to be understood when X and Y are part of a preference cycle?
I'm pleased to announce a call for abstracts for the next St. Louis Conference on Reasons and Rationality, sponsored by UMSL and Washington University. Many PEA Soupers have participated the past four years.
I'm pleased to announce a call for abstracts for the next St. Louis Conference on Reasons and Rationality, sponsored by UMSL and Washington University. Many PEA Soupers have participated the past three years.
May 19 – 21, 2013 Moonrise Hotel in St Louis, MO
Keynote Speaker: Michael Smith (Princeton)
St. Louis Annual Conference on Reasons and Rationality (SLACRR) provides a forum for new work on practical and theoretical reason, broadly construed. Please submit an abstract of 750-1500 words by December 31, 2012 to SLACRR (at) gmail.com. In writing your abstract, please bear in mind that full papers should suitable for a 30 minute presentation.
What to Submit
SLACRR includes papers in ethics, epistemology, and other areas of philosophy that deal with reasons, reasoning, or rationality. For instance, we would be interested in papers exploring such questions as:
• What is the relation between reasons for actions and reasons for beliefs? • What are the sources of our reasons for belief? • How are features of one’s psychology relevant to reasons? • What is the relation between reasons and what we ought to do or believe? • What is the relation between reasons and value? • Are the requirements of practical and theoretical rationality normative? • What is the relation between individual rationality and collective rationality?
For more information, see http://www.umsl.edu/~slacrr/
It is fairly common to give a conditional analysis of an option, e.g.:
(CAO) Performing an act X at a future time t1 is an option for a subject S at the present time t0 if and only if S would perform X at t1 if S were to intend (to try, to decide, or to choose) at t0 to perform X at t1.
I know that there are a host of problems with such conditional analyses, but let’s set those aside for the moment, for I want to address what seems to be an unappreciated worry concerning the possibility of indeterminism.
Well, not quite. The survey showed that about one-third of the respondents shared my intuition that I (qua subject of the example) have no reason to purchase ITEM and that about two-thirds of respondents have the contrary intuition that I do have a reason to purchase ITEM. This doesn’t show that I’m wrong, but it does show that my intuition is not widely shared.
Now, here’s why this is important. In his excellent paper “Parfit’s Case against Subjectivism,” David Sobel argues that subjectivists – those who think that an agent’s reasons for action are all ultimately determined by the contingent pro and con attitudes that she would have under some procedurally specified conditions – can accept Parfit’s claim that we have current reasons to do what will prevent us from suffering future agony regardless of whether or not we have any current pro attitudes towards our avoiding future agony. Sobel argues that subjectivists will claim that anyone who will be in future agony will, in the future, necessarily have a future desire (when in agony) to get out of agony and so will, when in agony, have a reason to get out of agony. And he argues that, by appealing to this fact and what he calls the Reasons Transfer Principle, the subjectivist can hold not only that anyone who will be in future agony will have a future reason to get out of agony, but also that those who can avoid future agony have a present reason to avoid future agony. According to Sobel, the Reasons Transfer Principle (RTP) says: “If one will later have a reason to get O, then one now has a reason to facilitate the later getting of O.”
Assume that my performing x would have beneficial effect, B1, providing me with an additional +19 utiles on Wednesday. Assume that my performing y would have detrimental effect, D1, providing me with an additional -10 utiles on Thursday. And assume that my performing z would have detrimental effect, D2, providing me with an additional -10 utiles on Friday. Lastly, assume that these are the only effects of these actions and that the timing of the effects is irrelevant.
Now, I think that many would say that the fact that my performing x would have beneficial effect B1 constitutes a reason for me to perform x. But, of course, my performing x&y&z (the conjunctive act) also has beneficial effect B1. So do I likewise have a reason to perform x&y&z? My intuition is that I have no reason at all to perform the conjunctive act x&y&z. Of course, those who want to claim that I do have some reason to perform x&y&z can cite the fact that the reason that I have to perform x&y&z is outweighed (although just barely) by the reasons that I have to refrain from performing x&y&z. But to my mind that’s not enough. Again, I’m inclined to deny that I have any reason at all to perform x&y&z.