As a preliminary to the justification of equal opportunity, we require a few words on the concept. An opportunity is a chance to attain some goal or obtain some benefit. More precisely, it is the lack of some obstacle or obstacles to the attainment of some goal or benefit. Opportunities are equal in some specified or understood sense when persons face roughly the same obstacles or obstacles of roughly the same difficulty of some specified or understood sort. In different contexts (...) we might have different sorts of benefits or obstacles in mind. But in the current social context, and in the context of this discussion, we refer to educational and occupational opportunities, chances to attain the benefits of higher education and of socially and economically desirable positions, benefits assumed to be desired by many or most individuals, other things being equal. And we generally divide obstacles into two broad classes: those imposed by the social system or by other persons in the society, for example, the hardships of life in the lower economic classes or barriers from prejudices based on race, sex, or ethnic background; and those imposed by natural disabilities, for example, low intelligence or lack of talents. The initial question is whether a moral society is obligated to create equality in opportunities in the senses just defined. I shall assume here initially that there is some such obligation on the part of society or the state, although I shall specify its nature and limits more precisely below. With the exception of certain libertarians, almost everyone, liberal and conservative alike, agrees in this assumption. (shrink)
Most people believe that science arose as a natural end-product of our innate intelligence and curiosity, as an inevitable stage in human intellectual development. But physicist and educator Alan Cromer disputes this belief. Cromer argues that science is not the natural unfolding of human potential, but the invention of a particular culture, Greece, in a particular historical period. Indeed, far from being natural, scientific thinking goes so far against the grain of conventional human thought that if it hadn't been (...) discovered in Greece, it might not have been discovered at all. In Uncommon Sense, Alan Cromer develops the argument that science represents a radically new and different way of thinking. Using Piaget's stages of intellectual development, he shows that conventional thinking remains mired in subjective, "egocentric" ways of looking at the world--most people even today still believe in astrology, ESP, UFOs, ghosts and other paranormal phenomena--a mode of thought that science has outgrown. He provides a fascinating explanation of why science began in Greece, contrasting the Greek practice of debate to the Judaic reliance on prophets for acquiring knowledge. Other factors, such as a maritime economy and wandering scholars (both of which prevented parochialism) and an essentially literary religion not dominated by priests, also promoted in Greece an objective, analytical way of thinking not found elsewhere in the ancient world. He examines India and China and explains why science could not develop in either country. In China, for instance, astronomy served only the state, and the private study of astronomy was forbidden. Cromer also provides a perceptive account of science in Renaissance Europe and of figures such as Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton. Along the way, Cromer touches on many intriguing topics, arguing, for instance, that much of science is essential complete; there are no new elements yet to be discovered. He debunks the vaunted SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) project, which costs taxpayers millions each year, showing that physical limits--such as the melting point of metal--put an absolute limit on the speed of space travel, making trips to even the nearest star all but impossible. Finally, Cromer discusses the deplorable state of science education in America and suggests several provocative innovations to improve high school education, including a radical proposal to give all students an intensive eighth and ninth year program, eliminating the last two years of high school. Uncommon Sense is an illuminating look at science, filled with provocative observations. Whether challenging Thomas Kuhn's theory of scientific revolutions, or extolling the virtues of Euclid's Elements, Alan Cromer is always insightful, outspoken, and refreshingly original. (shrink)
When physicist Alan Sokal recently submitted an article to the postmodernist journal Social Text, the periodical's editors were happy to publish it--for here was a respected scientist offering support for the journal's view that science is a subjective, socially constructed discipline. But as Sokal himself soon revealed in Lingua Franca magazine, the essay was a spectacular hoax--filled with scientific gibberish anyone with a basic knowledge of physics should have caught--and the academic world suddenly awoke to the vast gap that (...) has opened between the scientific community and their mould-be critics. But the truth is that not only postmodern critics but Americans in general have a weak grasp on scientific principles and facts. In Connected Knowledge, physicist Alan Cromer offers a way to bridge the chasm, with a lively, lucid account of scientific thinking and a provocative new agenda for American education. Science, Cromer argues, is anything but common sense: It requires a particular habit of mind that does not come naturally. For example, something as simple as buoyancy can only be explained through Archimedes' principle--that a body in a fluid is subject to an upward force equal to the weight of fluid it displaces--yet few scientists could arrive at this ancient concept by trial and error. School children, however, are often given a ball and a tank of water, and asked to explain buoyancy any way they can. Today's de emphasis on teaching pupils necessary facts and principles, he argues, "far from empowering them, makes them slaves of their own subjective opinions." This movement in education, known as Constructivism, has close ties to postmodern critics (such as the editors of Social Text) who question the objectivity of science, and with it the existence of an objective reality. Cromer offers a ringing defense of the knowability of the world, both as an objective reality and as a finite landscape of discovery. The advance of scientific knowledge, he argues, is not unlike the mapping of the continents; at this point, we have found them all. He shows how the advent of quantum mechanics, rather than making knowledge less certain, actually offers a more precise understanding of the behavior of atoms and electrons. Turning from philosophy to education, he argues that instead of allowing students to flounder, however creatively, schools should follow a progressive curriculum that returns theoretical knowledge to the classroom. Connected Knowledge, however, goes much farther. As a discipline that insists upon connecting theory with measurable reality, physical science offers a new direction for reforming the social sciences. Cromer also shows how some of the hottest issues in public policy--including the debates over special education and group variations in I.Q., can be resolved through clear, hard headed thinking. For example, he argues for use of the G.E.D. as a national educational standard, with a new "politics of intelligence" to guide the distribution of school resources. Always forthright and articulate, Alan Cromer offers a startling new vision for integrating science, philosophy, and education. (shrink)
This remarkably clear and comprehensive account of empirical knowledge will be valuable to all students of epistemology and philosophy. The author begins from an explanationist analysis of knowing—a belief counts as knowledge if, and only if, its truth enters into the best explanation for its being held. Defending common sense and scientific realism within the explanationist framework, Alan Goldman provides a new foundational approach to justification. The view that emerges is broadly empiricist, counteracting the recently dominant trend that rejects (...) that framework entirely. Topics treated include the Gettier problem, the nature of explanation and inductive inference, the justification of foundations for knowledge in terms of inference to the best explanation, the possibility of realist interpretations of contemporary science, reference, and the relations between empirical psychology and epistemology. Professor Goldman defends the need for a foundational theory of justification and presents a version that refutes standard criticisms of that doctrine. His defense of realism takes into account contemporary advances in semantics and philosophy of science. It attempts to clarify the kinds of skeptical argument the philosopher must take seriously, without succumbing to them. While recent epistemology has tended to dismiss the traditional foundational approach, it has not provided a suitable alternative. Goldman breaks new ground by adapting that approach within his explanationist, inductive theory. (shrink)
This books examines the fundamental values and principles of conduct in the professions, focusing specifically on four areas: law, politics, medicine and business. One central question unifies its inquiry into the different professions: should the principles for judging the actions of professionals be the same as those used to judge private individuals, or do these professions require special moral principles to guide their conduct. The author considers arguments deriving from the underlying institutional goals of each profession in turn.
Life's Values offers new analyses of the nature of pleasure, happiness, well-being, and meaning in life. Recognizing how individuals have different priorities, Goldman explains what is of ultimate value in our lives and argues that making our desires rational - relevantly informed of what it's like to satisfy them - maximizes well-being.
To say that an object is beautiful or ugly is seemingly to refer to a property of the object. But it is also to express a positive or negative response to it, a set of aesthetic values, and to suggest that others ought to respond in the same way. Such judg- ments are descriptive, expressive, and normative or prescriptive at once. These multiple features are captured well by Humean accounts that analyze the judgments as ascribing relational properties. To say that (...) an object is beautiful is to say, in part, that it is such as to elicit a response expressing pleasure in certain observers. The observers in question must not be ignorant, biased, insensitive, or of poor taste, and they must not base their evaluations on aesthetically irrelevant properties of the objects they judge. The reference to the object's "being such . . ." captures the objective side of the relation; refer- ence to the pleasurable response captures the expressive function of these judgments; and the ideal properties of the observers suggest that others ought to judge in the same way. (shrink)
The teaching of the ethical implications of scientific advances in science courses for undergraduates has significant advantages for both science and non-science majors. The article describes three courses taught by the author as examples of the concept, and examines the disadvantages as well as the advantages. A significant advantage of this approach is that many students take the courses primarily because of the ethical component who would not otherwise take science. A disadvantage is less time in the course for the (...) science; arguably, this is outweighed by the greater retention of the science when it is put into context. (shrink)
Originally published in 1988, this book discusses if moral knowledge exists, and if so, if it is similar to other forms of knowledge. This book approaches the issues from both historical and contemporary perspectives and in order to determine whether there is a real property of rightness, looks to the ethical theories of Hobbes, Hume and Kant. This historical analysis leads to a systematic comparison of three theories of the nature of ethics: realism, emotivism and coherentism. The nature of coherence (...) is explained using legal reasoning as a model. Moral reasoning is compared and contrasted with reasoning both in science and law, showing how ethics differs from science and empirical disciplines. (shrink)
Part I. Philosophy of novels. 1. Introduction: philosophical content and literary value -- 2. Interpreting novels -- 3. The sun also rises: incompatible interpretations -- 4. The appeal of the mystery -- Part II. Philosophy in novels. 5. Moral development in Pride and prejudice -- 6. Huckleberry Finn and moral motivation -- 7. What we learn about rules from The cider house rules -- 8. Nostromo and the fragility of the self.
Robert Nozick argued that we would not plug into his machine that could give us any experiences we chose. More recently Richard Kraut has argued that it would be prudentially rational to plug into the machine, since only experiences count for personal welfare. I argue that both are wrong, that either choice can be rational or not, depending on the central desires of the subjects choosing. This claim is supported by the empirical evidence, which shows an almost even split between (...) those who would enter and those who would not. If we interpret those on both sides as making rational choices to maximize their personal well-being, and if such rational choice tends to enhance well-being, then the experience machine thought experiment supports neither experientialism nor its denial, but instead a rational desire satisfaction account of personal well-being. Unlike objective list and perfectionist accounts, the desire satisfaction account of well-being easily accommodates rational choices on both sides, depending on the motivational sets of the choosers. (shrink)
Let p be an odd prime. A method is described which given a structure M of finite similarity type produces a nilpotent group of class 2 and exponent p which is in the same stability class as M. Theorem. There are nilpotent groups of class 2 and exponent p in all stability classes. Theorem. The problem of characterizing a stability class is equivalent to characterizing the (nilpotent, class 2, exponent p) groups in that class.
This paper criticizes the account of desire defended by Nomy Arpaly and Timothy Schroeder in their recent book, In Praise of Desire. It contrasts their account with one that I favor, a cluster analysis listing various criteria that are together sufficient for having paradigm desires, but none of which is necessary or sufficient for desiring. I argue that their account fails to state necessary or sufficient conditions, that it is explanatorily weaker than the cluster account, that it fails to provide (...) a neat reduction of desires to neurophysical terms, and that in any case such a reduction is not required for the preservation of the concept of desire in mature psychology. Implications are drawn for the broader debate between reductionists, eliminativists, and defenders of folk psychological concepts. (shrink)
Peter Kivy and Noël Carroll advocate a narrow view of aesthetic experience according to which it consists mainly in attention to formal properties. Excluded are cognitive and moral properties. I defend the broader view that includes the latter properties. I argue first that cognition and moral assessment can be inseparable in experience from grasp of form and expressiveness. Second, Kivy and Carroll must extend the notion of form itself beyond ordinary usage to accommodate acknowledged aesthetic experience. Third, the broad view (...) has a more impressive historical lineage than the narrow view. Fourth, aesthetic experience is appreciation of aesthetic value, and the latter is more plausibly analyzed in a broad way. (shrink)
This paper defends strong internalism about reasons, the view that reasons must relate to pre-existing motivational states, from several kinds of counterexamples, supposed desire independent reasons, that have been proposed. A central distinction drawn is that between there being a reason and an agent's having a reason. For an agent to have an F reason, she must be F-minded. Reasons, as what motivate us, are states of affairs and not themselves desires or motivational states, but they must connect to existing (...) motivational states. It has been claimed that rationality itself requires us to recognize certain reasons independent of our desires, that we acquire new desires by learning what is valuable, by acquiring desire-independent reasons to pursue certain values. It is claimed also that prudential and moral reasons are desire independent. By offering an account of rationality as coherence, by appealing to broader concerns as opposed to specific desires, and by appealing to the distinction noted above, the paper exposes weaknesses in recent arguments for desire independent reasons by Millgram, Smith, Korsgaard, and Searle. the reasons they propose can be interpreted as internal (not desire independent) or dismissed as nonexistent. (shrink)
Criteria for a successful theory of punishment include first, that it specify a reasonable limit to punishments in particular cases, and second, that it allow benefits to outweigh costs in a penal institution.It is argued that traditional utilitarian and retributive theories fail to satisfy both criteria, and that they cannot be coherently combined so as to do so. Retributivism specifies a reasonable limit in its demand that punishment equal crime, but this limit fails to allow benefits to outweigh costs of (...) punishing. Utilitarians demand the latter but cannot guarantee the former. Combinations continue to violate one requirement or the other. (shrink)
Genuine rules cannot capture our intuitive moral judgments because, if usable, they mention only a limited number of factors as relevant to decisions. But morally relevant factors are both numerous and unpredictable in the ways they interact to change priorities among them. Particularists have pointed this out, but their account of moral judgment is also inadequate, leaving no room for genuine reasoning or argument. Reasons must be general even if not universal. Particularists can insist that our judgments be reflective, unbiased, (...) informed, and sensitive, requiring a background of experiences that expand sympathy and empathy for others. But beyond this, our judgments must be coherent. This requirement provides a way to reason to the correct answer to a controversial issue—the answer most coherent with or body of settled judgments. Rawls' account of coherence in terms of reflective equilibrium, where we adjust particular judgments to match rules and adjust rules to match judgments, is rejected since rules have no independent force. Instead, the central requirement is that we not judge cases differently without being able to cite a morally relevant difference between them. Such differences must make a difference else-where as well, although they need not do so universally. Factors cannot be relevant in only one context because they reflect values that must recur to be maintained. The method of moral reasoning based on this requirement is specified as follows: first, the specification of competing values or interests in the problematic case; second, the location of paradigm cases in which these competing values are prioritized, making sure that these settled judgments are reflective, informed, and sensitive; third, the search for relevant differences between the settled and problematic cases or the location of alternative, more closely analogous paradigms. The paper ends with an illustration of the method applied to the issue of doctor assisted suicide. (shrink)
Rules proliferate; some are kept with a bureaucratic stringency bordering on the absurd, while others are manipulated and ignored in ways that injure our sense of justice. Under what conditions should we make exceptions to rules, and when should they be followed despite particular circumstances? The two dominant models in the literature on rules are the particularist account and that which sees the application of rules as normative. Taking a position that falls between these two extremes, Alan Goldman provides (...) a systematic framework to clarify when we need to follow rules in our moral, legal and prudential decisions, and when we ought not to do so. The book distinguishes among various types of rules; it illuminates concepts such as integrity, self-interest and self-deception; and finally, it provides an account of ordinary moral reasoning without rules. This book will be of great interest to advanced students and professionals working in philosophy, law, decision theory and the social sciences. (shrink)