The rightness and wrongness of actions fits on a continuous scale. This fits the way we evaluate actions chosen among a diverse range of options, even though English speakers don’t use the words “righter” and “wronger”. I outline and defend a version of scalar consequentialism, according to which rightness is a matter of degree, determined by how good the consequences are. Linguistic resources are available to let us truly describe actions simply as right. Some deontological theories face problems in accounting (...) for degrees of rightness, as they don't invoke continuous parameters among the right-making features of action. (shrink)
This book defends the Humean Theory of Motivation, according to which desire drives all action and practical reasoning. -/- Desire motivates us to pursue its object. It makes thoughts of its object pleasant. It focuses attention on its object. Its effects are amplified by vivid representations of its object. These aspects of desire explain why motivation usually accompanies moral belief, how intentions shape our plans, how we exercise willpower, what human selves are, how action can express emotion, why we procrastinate, (...) and how we daydream. The Humean Theory also suggests a new account of moral judgment that upholds objectivity while understanding moral concepts in terms of our feelings. (shrink)
This essay defends a strong version of the Humean theory of motivation on which desire is necessary both for motivation and for reasoning that changes our desires. Those who hold that moral judgments are beliefs with intrinsic motivational force need to oppose this view, and many of them have proposed counterexamples to it. Using a novel account of desire, this essay handles the proposed counterexamples in a way that shows the superiority of the Humean theory. The essay addresses the classic (...) objection that the Humean theory cannot explain the feeling of obligation, Stephen Darwall's example of motivationally potent reasoning that is not based on preexisting desires, Thomas Scanlon's criticism that the Humean theory fails to account for the structure and phenomenology of deliberation, and the phenomenon of akrasia as discussed by John Searle. In each case a Humean account explains the data at least as thoroughly as opposing views can, while fitting within a simpler total account of how we deliberate and act. (shrink)
I argue that one intends that ϕ if one has a desire that ϕ and an appropriately related means-end belief. Opponents, including Setiya and Bratman, charge that this view can't explain three things. First, intentional action is accompanied by knowledge of what we are doing. Second, we can choose our reasons for action. Third, forming an intention settles a deliberative question about what to do, disposing us to cease deliberating about it. I show how the desire- belief view can explain (...) why these phenomena occur when they occur, and why they don't when they don't. (shrink)
Propositionalism is the view that the contents of intentional attitudes have a propositional structure. Objectualism opposes propositionalism in allowing the contents of these attitudes to be ordinary objects or properties. Philosophers including Talbot Brewer, Paul Thagard, Michelle Montague, and Alex Grzankowski attack propositionalism about such attitudes as desire, liking, and fearing. This article defends propositionalism, mainly on grounds that it better supports psychological explanations.
This chapter considers the nature of imagination and belief, exploring how deeply these two states of mind differ. It first addresses a range of cognitive and motivational differences between imagination and belief which suggest that they're fundamentally different states of mind. Then it addresses imaginative immersion, delusions, and the different norms we apply to the two mental states, which some theorists regard as providing support for a more unified picture of imagination and belief.
Some philosophers (including Urmson, Humberstone, Shah, and Velleman) hold that believing that p distinctively involves applying a norm according to which the truth of p is a criterion for the success or correctness of the attitude. On this view, imagining and assuming differ from believing in that no such norm is applied. I argue against this view with counterexamples showing that applying the norm of truth is neither necessary nor sufficient for distinguishing believing from imagining and assuming. Then I argue (...) that the different functional properties of these mental states are enough to distinguish them, and that norm-application doesn't help us draw the functional distinctions. (shrink)
We present Backward Clock, an original counterexample to Robert Nozick’s truth-tracking analysis of propositional knowledge, which works differently from other putative counterexamples and avoids objections to which they are vulnerable. We then argue that four ways of analysing knowledge in terms of safety, including Duncan Pritchard’s, cannot withstand Backward Clock either.
Ethical reductionism is the best version of naturalistic moral realism. Reductionists regard moral properties as identical to properties appearing in successful scientific theories. Nonreductionists, including many of the Cornell Realists, argue that moral properties instead supervene on scientific properties without identity. I respond to two arguments for nonreductionism. First, nonreductionists argue that the multiple realizability of moral properties defeats reductionism. Multiple realizability can be addressed in ethics by identifying moral properties uniquely or disjunctively with properties of the special sciences. Second, (...) nonreductionists argue that irreducible moral properties explain empirical phenomena, just as irreducible special-science properties do. But since irreducible moral properties don't successfully explain additional regularities, they run the risk of being pseudoscientific properties. Reductionism has all the benefits of nonreductionism, while also being more secure against anti-realist objections because of its ontological simplicity. (shrink)
I argue that if David Lewis’ modal realism is true, modal realists from different possible worlds can fall in love with each other. I offer a method for uniquely picking out possible people who are in love with us and not with our counterparts. Impossible lovers and trans-world love letters are considered. Anticipating objections, I argue that we can stand in the right kinds of relations to merely possible people to be in love with them and that ending a trans-world (...) relationship to start a relationship with an actual person isn't cruel to one's otherworldly lover. (shrink)
We explore how one might respond emotionally to the eternal recurrence. Zarathustra himself serves as our central case study. First we clarify the idea of eternal recurrence and its role in Nietzsche’s philosophy, explaining why the eternal recurrence has the emotional consequences Nietzsche describes when he first introduces the idea in The Gay Science. Then we describe Zarathustra’s emotional journey from horror at the eternal recurrence to loving it, in the sections from “On Great Events” to “The Seven Seals, or: (...) The Yes and Amen Song.”. (shrink)
I present a novel objection to fine-tuning arguments for God's existence: the metaphysical possibility of different psychophysical laws allows any values of the physical constants to support intelligent life forms, like protons and electrons that are in love.
Nietzsche holds that one should believe what best promotes life, and he also accepts the correspondence theory of truth. I’ll call this conjunction of views Nietzschean pragmatism. This article provides textual evidence for attributing this pragmatist position to Nietzsche and explains how his broader metaethical views led him to it.The following section introduces Nietzschean pragmatism, discussing how Nietzsche expresses it in BGE, and distinguishing it from William James’s pragmatism about truth. The second section explains how Nietzsche’s skepticism about values that (...) can’t be grounded in individual passion attracted him to this kind of pragmatism. The third section explores an early application of Nietzschean... (shrink)
Christine Korsgaard argues that Humean views of both action and rationality jointly imply the impossibility of irrational action, allowing us only to perform actions that we deem rational. Humeans can answer Korsgaard’s objection if their views of action and rationality measure agents’ actual desires differently. What determines what the agent does are the motivational forces that desires produce in the agent at the moment when she decides to act, as these cause action. What determines what it is rational to do (...) should be the agent’s dispositional desire strengths, as our normative intuitions respond to these. (shrink)
Nietzsche takes moral judgments to be false beliefs, and encourages us to pursue subjective nonmoral value arising from our passions. His view that strong and unified passions make one virtuous is mathematically derivable from this subjectivism and a conceptual analysis of virtue, explaining his evaluations of character and the nature of the Overman.
Epistemic akrasia can be rational. I consider a lonely pragmatist who believes that her imaginary friend doesn’t exist, and also believes on pragmatic grounds that she should believe in him. She rationally believes that her imaginary friend doesn’t exist, rationally follows various sources of evidence to the view that she should believe in him to end her loneliness, and rationally holds these attitudes simultaneously. Evidentialism suggests that her ambivalent epistemic state is rational, as considerations grounded in the value of truth (...) justify her beliefs. (shrink)
I argue that the Doctrine of Double Effect is accepted because of unreliable processes of belief-formation, making it unacceptably likely to be mistaken. We accept the doctrine because we more vividly imagine intended consequences of our actions than merely foreseen ones, making our aversions to the intended harms more violent, and making us judge that producing the intended harms is morally worse. This explanation fits psychological evidence from Schnall and others, and recent neuroscientific research from Greene, Klein, Kahane, and Schaich (...) Borg. It explains Mikhail and Hauser’s “universal moral grammar” and an interesting phenomenon about Double Effect cases noted by Bennett. When unequally vivid representations determine our decisions, we typically misjudge the merits of our options and make mistakes. So if Double Effect is a product of unequal vividness, it is likely to be mistaken. This argument, I claim, fits Berker’s specifications for good empirically grounded arguments in ethics. (shrink)
Pietro Gori dedicates Nietzsche’s Pragmatism “To the wanderers and Good Europeans,” and Anglophone wanderers into Sarah de Sanctis’s translation will indeed find good European Nietzsche scholarship. The table of contents is a helpful map of the book, with five chapters consisting of twenty-eight sections on a sequence of philosophical and interpretive topics. Perspectival thought, addressed in the subtitle, is the explicit topic of the third chapter. Pragmatism, mentioned in the title, is the explicit topic of the fifth and final chapter. (...) While both topics also are discussed in many other places, the overall focus is on Nietzsche’s views of epistemology and truth.The first chapter discusses Nietzsche’s views of... (shrink)
I defend hedonism about moral value by first presenting an argument for moral skepticism, and then showing that phenomenal introspection gives us a unique way to defeat the skeptical argument and establish pleasure's goodness.
ABSTRACTMohan Matthen's ‘The Pleasure of Art’ considers a rich variety of psychological phenomena surrounding our experience of pleasure in aesthetic appreciation. I explain many of these phenomena in terms of desire. Often my explanations support and complement Matthen's account; but sometimes I account for the same phenomena in terms of different causal structures than he invokes, seeking a more unified psychological theory.
This essay explains why partisanship is justified in contemporary America and environments with similar voting systems and coalition structures. It explains how political parties operate, how helping a party succeed can be a goal of genuine ethical significance, and how trusting one party while mistrusting another can be a reliable route to true belief about important political issues.
John McDowell claims that virtuous people recognize moral reasons using a perceptual capacity that doesn't include desire. I show that the phenomena he cites are better explained if desire makes us see considerations favoring its satisfaction as reasons. The salience of moral considerations to the virtuous, like the salience of food to the hungry, exemplifies the emotional and attentional effects of desire. I offer a desire-based account of how we can follow uncodifiable rules of common-sense morality and how some reasons (...) can be silenced in deliberation. I conclude by arguing that animals can be virtuous by having the right desires. (shrink)
Nietzsche and Hume agree that desire drives all human action and practical reasoning. This shared view helps them appreciate continuities between human and animal motivation and sets them against a long tradition of rationalist rivals including Kant and Plato. In responding to Kant, Nietzsche further developed the Humean views that Kant himself was responding to. Kantians like Christine Korsgaard argue that reflective endorsement and rejection of options presented by desire demonstrates reason’s ability to independently drive reasoning and action. In Daybreak (...) 109, Nietzsche provides a simpler Humean explanation: reflective endorsement and rejection involve reflecting on one desire from the viewpoint of another, with desire as the only motivational force. This explains the attentional and hedonic phenomenology of reflective endorsement without ascribing any motivational force to rational processes independent of desire. (shrink)
Justin Remhof defends a constructivist interpretation of Nietzsche’s view regarding the metaphysics of material objects. First, I describe an attractive feature of Remhof’s interpretation. Since Nietzsche seems to be a constructivist about whatever sort of value he accepts, a constructivist account of objects would fit into a nicely unified overall metaphysical theory. Second, I explore various options for developing the constructivist view of objects. Depending on how Nietzsche understood concepts, and whose concepts he saw as giving rise to objects, he (...) could’ve had a variety of different constructivist accounts. (shrink)