Welcome to our first Oxford Studies discussion, on John Brunero's "Cognitivism about Practical Rationality" (in OSME 9). The essay is available through this link for a few months, courtesy of OUP. Kieran Setiya has kindly contributed a commentary, below the fold. Please join us!
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.
I'm pleased to announce a call for abstracts for the next St. Louis Conference on Reasons and Rationality, sponsored by UMSL, Washington University, and Saint Louis University. Many PEA Soupers have participated the past five years.
This post will be difficult to write as I’ll have to reign in my frustrations (I was thinking of calling this ‘Must Do Better’ or ‘All Souls Night, Part II’…). I’ve been reading Katarzyna de Lazari-Radek’s and Peter Singer’s The Point of View of the Universe – Sidgwick & Contemporary Ethics. Chapter 2 (sections 2–4) of this book contains a ‘Parfit-inspired’ criticism of expressivism and Blackburn, which I find quite upsetting. It makes me feel sad for Simon Blackburn (he really must get tired of objections like this) and it also makes me wonder about OUP’s editorial processes (I don’t see how this section could pass a peer-reviewed journal). In any case, here I want to start from a very basic distinction and then go through quickly some of the fairly outrageous claims de Lazari-Radek and Singer make about expressivism.
2014 Conference – November 6-9, 2014 Practical Reason, Moral Judgment and Moral Sense, Sensibility and Sentiment in the Moral Life
Call For Abstracts
The 2014 Tennessee Value and Agency “TVA” Conference will take place November 6-9, 2014, on the University of Tennessee Campus, 1210 McClung Tower. The conference will focus on (rethinking) the relationships between practical reason, moral judgment and moral sense, sensibility and sentiment in the moral life, with an eye toward bringing structure and clarity to the aims and ambitions of current work in moral psychology and moral theory. Keynote speakers will be Amelie Rorty (Tufts) and Talbot Brewer (UVA).
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?
It is an interesting fact about many of our most important choices, such as the choice of what kind of education to pursue, whether and whom to marry, and whether to have children – for short, life choices – that they transform us in ways we can’t fully anticipate, so that the person who lives with the consequences of the choice won’t be quite the same as the person who makes the choice. Recently, L.A. Paul has argued in a stimulating paper that the existence of such transformative experiences causes serious trouble for rational decision-making. I’ll grant here that her argument is more or less successful to the extent that the phenomenal quality of our experiences is central to the value of a choice or preference among options.