What does it mean to be a morally good person? It can be tempting to think that it is simply a matter of performing certain actions and avoiding others. And yet there is much more to moral character than our outward actions. We expect a good person to not only behave in certain ways but also to experience the world in certain ways within.
The contemporary discussion of modesty has focused on whether or not modest people are accurate about their own good qualities. This essay argues that this way of framing the debate is unhelpful and offers examples to show that neither ignorance nor accuracy about the good qualities related to oneself is necessary for modesty. It then offers an attention-based account, claiming that what is necessary for modesty is to direct one’s attention in certain ways. By analyzing modesty in this way, we (...) can best explain the distinct features of modesty, keep much of what is intuitive in contemporary accounts, and better understand why modesty is a virtue at all. (shrink)
This article discusses conceptions of modesty and humility and their key features. It gives a brief historical overview of debates about whether or not they’re really virtues at all. It also discusses theories of modesty and humility that root them in the presence or absence of particular beliefs, emotions, desires, and attention. it also discusses related phenomena in epistemology: rational limits on self-ascription of error, attitudes to disagreement, and openness to alternative views.
Many of us, even on our happiest days, struggle to quiet the constant buzz of anxiety in the background of our minds. All kinds of worries--worries about losing people and things, worries about how we seem to others--keep us from peace of mind. Distracted or misled by our preoccupations, misconceptions, and, most of all, our obsession with ourselves, we don't see the world clearly--we don't see the world as it really is. In our search for happiness and the good life, (...) this is the main problem. But luckily there is a solution, and on the path to understanding it, we can make use of the rich and varied teachings that have developed over centuries of Buddhist thought. With clarity and compassion, NicolasBommarito explores the central elements of centuries of Buddhist philosophy and practice, explaining how they can improve your life and teach you to live without fear. Mining important texts and lessons for practical guidance, he provides a friendly guide to the very practical goals that underpin Buddhist philosophy. After laying out the basic ideas, Bommarito walks readers through a wide range of techniques and practices we can adopt to mend ingrained habits. Rare for its exploration of both the philosophy that motivates Buddhism and its practical applications, this is a compassionate guide to leading a good life that anyone can follow. (shrink)
The picture of moral development defended by followers of Aristotle takes moral cultivation to be like playing a harp; one gets to be good by actually spending time playing a real instrument. On this view, we cultivate a virtue by doing the actions associated with that virtue. I argue that this picture is inadequate and must be supplemented by imaginative techniques. One can, and sometimes must, cultivate virtue without actually performing the associated actions. Drawing on strands in Buddhist philosophy, I (...) explain several methods of moral development that rely on imagination and visualization rather than overt action. These techniques are essential in cases where cultivating virtue the way one practices the harp is impossible. In particular, I focus on single-event virtues, first-time virtuous acts, and morally dangerous situations. (shrink)
It’s natural to think of acts of solidarity as being public acts that aim at good outcomes, particularly at social change. I argue that not all acts of solidarity fit this mold - acts of what I call ‘private solidarity’ are not public and do not aim at producing social change. After describing paradigmatic cases of private solidarity, I defend an account of why such acts are themselves morally virtuous and what role they can have in moral development.
In his famous text the Bodhicaryāvatāra, the 8th century Buddhist philosopher Śāntideva argues that anger towards people who harm us is never justified. The usual reading of this argument rests on drawing similarities between harms caused by persons and those caused by non-persons. After laying out my own interpretation of Śāntideva's reasoning, I offer some objections to Śāntideva's claim about the similarity between animate and inanimate causes of harm inspired by contemporary philosophical literature in the West. Following this, I argue (...) that by reading Śāntideva's argument as practical advice rather than as a philosophical claim about rational coherence, his argument can still have important insights even for those who reject his philosophical reasoning. (shrink)
I offer a Buddhist-inspired account of how patience can count as a moral virtue, arguing that virtuous patience involves having a perspective on the place of our own desires and values among others and a sense of their relative importance.
Bimal Krishna Matilal (1935-1991) was a Harvard-educated Indian philosopher best known for his contributions to logic, but who also wrote on wide variety of topics, including metaethics. Unfortunately, the latter contributions have been overlooked. Engaging with Anglo-American figures such as Gilbert Harman and Bernard Williams, Matilal defends a view he dubs ‘pluralism.’ In defending this view he draws on a wide range of classical Indian sources: the Bhagavad-Gītā, Buddhist thinkers like Nāgārjuna, and classical Jaina concepts. This pluralist position is somewhere (...) between relativism and absolutist realism. Unlike the relativist, he argues that there is a genuinely universal morality; unlike the absolutist, he argues that there are multiple, but often conflicting and incommensurable, moral frameworks and ideals. This paper will explain his objections to relativism, as well as flesh out his suggestive remarks about his own pluralistic account. (shrink)
I defend an account of when and why anger is morally virtuous or vicious. Anger often manifests what we care about; a sports fan gets angry when her favorite team loses because she cares about the team doing well. Anger, I argue, is made morally virtuous or vicious by the underlying care or concern. Anger is virtuous when it manifests moral concern and vicious when it manifests moral indifference or ill will. In defending this view, I reject two common views (...) about anger and moral character. First, I respond to several arguments that attempt to show that all anger is vicious. Then I respond to the view that some anger is required to be a virtuous person. Anger, on my view, can be morally virtuous but is not a necessary condition for being a virtuous person. This best accommodates not only morally irrelevant failures to get angry but also allows for emotional variation among virtuous people. (shrink)
A translation and analysis of a short ethical treatise written in Tibet in the late 18th or early 19th century. The Khache Phalu includes references to both Buddhist and Islamic thought in providing ethical and spiritual advice. The analysis gives an overview of the secondary literature in both Tibetan and English that is accessible to non-specialists and defends the claim that many passages are deliberately ambiguous. The translation was done with Tenzin Norbu Nangsal and also includes the full Tibetan text.
A review of NicolasBommarito's book, "Inner Virtue", which argues persuasively that our "inner states" - emotions, pleasures, attentional habits - can be virtuous if they manifest what he calls our "moral concerns".
Bommarito raises many interesting questions about the nature of moral virtue and vice, and it establishes inner virtue as an interesting and worthwhile topic. His book will motivate readers to debate the merits of various general accounts and, even though it does not offer a compelling argument for the manifest care account, it establishes that account as an option worthy of further discussion and development. I want to emphasize that the book contains numerous interesting discussions of specific inner virtues (...) and vices, including ones commended by Buddhist and Confucian philosophers. Moral philosophers in general, and especially ones working on virtue theory, are sure to benefit from it. (shrink)
A scholarly edition of Nicolas Malebranche's Treatise on Nature and Grace by Patrick Riley. The edition presents an authoritative text, together with an introduction, commentary notes, and scholarly apparatus.
To generations of lawyers, H. L. A. Hart is known as the twentieth century's greatest legal philosopher. Whilst his scholarship revolutionized the study of law, as a social commentator he gave intellectual impetus to the liberalizing of society in the 1960s. But behind his public success, Hart struggled with demons. His Jewish background, ambivalent sexuality, and unconventional marriage all fuelled his psychological complexity; allegations of espionage, though immediately quashed, nearly destroyed him. Nicola Lacey s biography explores the forces that shaped (...) an extraordinary life. (shrink)
In order to describe the logic of morality, "contractualist" philosophers have studied how individuals behave when they choose to follow their moral intuitions. These individuals, contractualists note, often act as if they have bargained and thus reached an agreement with others about how to distribute the benefits and burdens of mutual cooperation. Using this observation, such philosophers argue that the purpose of morality is to maximize the benefits of human interaction. The resulting "contract" analogy is both insightful and puzzling. On (...) one hand, it captures the pattern of moral intuitions, thus answering questions about human cooperation: why do humans cooperate? Why should the distribution of benefits be proportionate to each person's contribution? Why should the punishment be proportionate to the crime? Why should the rights be proportionate to the duties? On the other hand, the analogy provides a mere as-if explanation for human cooperation, saying that cooperation is "as if" people have passed a contract-but since they didn't, why should it be so? To evolutionary thinkers, the puzzle of the missing contract is immediately reminiscent of the puzzle of the missing "designer" of life-forms, a puzzle that Darwin's theory of natural selection essentially resolved. Evolutionary and contractualist theory originally intersected at the work of philosophers John Rawls and David Gauthier, who argued that moral judgments are based on a sense of fairness that has been naturally selected. In this book, Nicolas Baumard further explores the theory that morality was originally an adaptation to the biological market of cooperation, an arena in which individuals competed to be selected for cooperative interactions. In this environment, Baumard suggests, the best strategy was to treat others with impartiality and to share the costs and benefits of cooperation in a fair way, so that those who offered less than others were left out of cooperation while those who offered more were exploited by their partners. It is with this evolutionary approach that Baumard ultimately accounts for the specific structure of human morality. (shrink)
Einstein’s razor, a corollary of Ockham’s razor, is often paraphrased as follows: make everything as simple as possible, but not simpler. This rule of thumb describes the challenge that designers of a legal system face—to craft simple laws that produce desired ends, but not to pursue simplicity so far as to undermine those ends. Complexity, simplicity’s inverse, taxes cognition and increases the likelihood of suboptimal decisions. In addition, unnecessary legal complexity can drive a misallocation of human capital toward comprehending and (...) complying with legal rules and away from other productive ends. While many scholars have offered descriptive accounts or theoretical models of legal complexity, most empirical research to date has been limited to simple measures of size, such as the number of pages in a bill. No extant research rigorously applies a meaningful model to real data. As a consequence, we have no reliable means to determine whether a new bill, regulation, order, or precedent substantially effects legal complexity. In this paper, we begin to address this need by developing a proposed empirical framework for measuring relative legal complexity. This framework is based on “knowledge acquisition”, an approach at the intersection of psychology and computer science, which can take into account the structure, language, and interdependence of law. We then demonstrate the descriptive value of this framework by applying it to the U.S. Code’s Titles, scoring and ranking them by their relative complexity. We measure various features of a title including its structural size, the net flow of its intra-title citations and its linguistic entropy. Our framework is flexible, intuitive, and transparent, and we offer this approach as a first step in developing a practical methodology for assessing legal complexity. (shrink)
This paper explores the work of Nicolas Rashevsky, a Russian émigré theoretical physicist who developed a program in "mathematical biophysics" at the University of Chicago during the 1930s. Stressing the complexity of many biological phenomena, Rashevsky argued that the methods of theoretical physics -- namely mathematics -- were needed to "simplify" complex biological processes such as cell division and nerve conduction. A maverick of sorts, Rashevsky was a conspicuous figure in the biological community during the 1930s and early 1940s: (...) he participated in several Cold Spring Harbor symposia and received several years of funding from the Rockefeller Foundation. However, in contrast to many other physicists who moved into biology, Rashevsky's work was almost entirely theoretical, and he eventually faced resistance to his mathematical methods. Through an examination of the conceptual, institutional, and scientific context of Rashevsky's work, this paper seeks to understand some of the reasons behind this resistance. (shrink)
L'anthropologie de Nicolas Berdiaeff est une formidable protestation face à la déshumanisation. Nicolas Berdiaeff, philosophe russe de confession orthodoxe, a vécu la chute du tsarisme et la révolution russe. Expulsé de son pays, en 1922, pour des raisons idéologiques, il passera le reste de sa vie en France, à Clamart, près de Paris. Sa vie et sa compréhension de l'être humain sont étroitement liées. C'est à juste raison que Pierre Aubert les suit sans les séparer : il commence (...) par une présentation de la vie de Berdiaeff et décrit la genèse de sa vie spirituelle. Il dessine le cadre philosophique de sa pensée et l'influence de Dostoïevski sur sa vision de l'homme. Il expose enfin l'anthropologie issue de cette somme de vécu et de références intellectuelles et spirituelles. Pierre Aubert insiste sur l'intérêt actuel d'un penseur chrétien confronté à l'athéisme, car c'est dans ce contexte que Berdiaeff redéploie le dessein de Dieu concernant l'être humain. Il valorise le thème biblique de l'homme créé à l'image de Dieu, convaincu qu'il est que nous sommes des êtres non seulement physiques mais aussi spirituels. Réagissant contre l'éclatement consécutif à la modernité, il décrit l'être humain dans sa complexité et son désir d'unité, et souligne sa spécificité comme personne. Selon Berdiaeff, la dépersonnalisation de l'être humain est la conséquence de la non-reconnaissance de sa relation et de sa parenté avec Dieu. L'incarnation de Dieu en Jésus Christ l'amène enfin à méditer sur le mystère de la divino-humanité comme humanisation de l'être humain. Avec Pierre Aubert, on découvre ou redécouvre avec bonheur la belle figure de penseur et de témoin que fut Nicolas Berdiaeff. (shrink)
This paper demonstrates the central role of the Socratic elenchus in the Sophist. In the first part, I defend the position that the Stranger describes the Socratic elenchus in the sixth division of the Sophist. In the second part, I show that the Socratic elenchus is actually used when the Stranger scrutinizes the accounts of being put forward by his predecessors. In the final part, I explain the function of the Socratic elenchus in the argument of the dialogue. By contrast (...) with standard scholarly interpretations, this way of reading the text provides all the puzzles about being (241c4–251a4) with a definite function in the dialogue. It also reveals that Plato’s methodology includes a plurality of method and is more continuous than what is often believed. (shrink)
This paper offers a framework for consciousness of internal reality. Recent PET experiments are reviewed, showing partial overlap of cortical activation during self-produced actions and actions observed from other people. This overlap suggests that representations for actions may be shared by several individuals, a situation which creates a potential problem for correctly attributing an action to its agent. The neural conditions for correct agency judgments are thus assigned a key role in self/other distinction and self-consciousness. A series of behavioral experiments (...) that demonstrate, in normal subjects, the poor monitoring of action-related signals and the difficulty in recognizing self-produced actions are described. In patients presenting delusions, this difficulty dramatically increases and actions become systematically misattributed. These results point to schizophrenia and related disorders as a paradigmatic alteration of a ''Who?'' system for self-consciousness. (shrink)
In recent years much research has been undertaken regarding the feasibility of the human uterine transplant as a treatment for absolute uterine factor infertility. Should it reach clinical application this procedure would allow such individuals what is often a much-desired opportunity to become not only social mothers, or genetic and social mothers but mothers in a social, genetic and gestational sense. Like many experimental transplantation procedures such as face, hand, corneal and larynx transplants, UTx as a therapeutic option falls firmly (...) into the camp of the quality of life transplant, undertaken with the aim, not to save a life, but to enrich one. However, unlike most of these novel procedures – where one would be unlikely to find a willing living donor or an ethics committee that would sanction such a donation – the organs to be transplanted in UTx are potentially available from both living and deceased donors. In this article, in the light of the recent nine-case research trial in Sweden which used uteri obtained from living donors, and the assertions on the part of a number of other research teams currently preparing trials that they will only be using deceased donors, I explore the question of whether, in the case of UTx, there exist compelling moral reasons to prefer the use of deceased donors despite the benefits that may be associated with the use of organs obtained from the living. (shrink)
ABSTRACT John Rawls proposed two criteria for the delimitation of acceptable inequalities. The universal gain principle requires inequalities to be beneficial for all, and the difference principle requires them to be beneficial for the least advantaged. These principles are commonly believed to have originated in Rawls’s work, but they were both clearly expressed in the writings of Nicolas de Condorcet. Contrary to Rawls, Condorcet did not imbed them in the framework of a social contract, but instead sought their foundations (...) in natural rights. Whereas Rawls recommends us to find out what social arrangements rational reasoners would choose in a hypothetical pre-social situation, Condorcet proposes that we ask the underprivileged in our society whether or not they consider themselves to benefit from the prevailing social and economic inequalities. Thus, Condorcet’s original version of the difference principle puts social inequalities to a different test than its latter-day, hypothetical version. (shrink)
For decades, liberal democracy has been extolled as the best system of governance to have emerged out of the long experience of history. Today, such a confident assertion is far from self-evident. Democracy, in crisis across the West, must prove itself. In the West today, the authors argue, we no longer live in "industrial democracies," but "consumer democracies" in which the governing ethos has ended up drowning households and governments in debt and resulted in paralyzing partisanship. In contrast, the long-term (...) focus of the decisive and unified leadership of China is boldly moving its nation into the future. But China also faces challenges arising from its meteoric rise. Its burgeoning middle class will increasingly demand more participation, accountability of government, curbing corruption and the rule of law. As the 21st Century unfolds, both of these core systems of the global order must contend with the same reality: a genuinely multi-polar world where no single power dominates and in which societies themselves are becoming increasingly diverse. The authors argue that a new system of "intelligent governance" is required to meet these new challenges. To cope, the authors argue that both East and West can benefit by adapting each other's best practices. Examining this in relation to widely varying political and cultural contexts, the authors quip that while China must lighten up, the US must tighten up. This highly timely volume is both a conceptual and practical guide of impressive scope to the challenges of good governance as the world continues to undergo profound transformation in the coming decades. (shrink)
Husserl’s official account of essence is modal. It is also, I submit, incompatible with the role that essence is supposed to play, especially relative to necessity, in his overall philosophy. In the Husserlian framework, essence should rather be treated as a non-modal notion. The point, while not generally acknowledged, has been made before ; yet the arguments given for it, though perhaps sound, are not Husserlian. In this paper I present a thoroughly Husserlian argument for that claim, as well as (...) a Husserlian essentialist account of necessity. I also discuss the role of grounding within the account. (shrink)
Has the time come to put to bed the concept of a harm threshold when discussing the ethics of reproductive decision making and the legal limits that should be placed upon it? In this commentary, we defend the claim that there exist good moral reasons, despite the conclusions of the non-identity problem, based on the interests of those we might create, to refrain from bringing to birth individuals whose lives are often described in the philosophical literature as ‘less than worth (...) living’. (shrink)
What makes someone responsible for a crime and therefore liable to punishment under the criminal law? Modern lawyers will quickly and easily point to the criminal law's requirement of concurrent actus reus and mens rea, doctrines of the criminal law which ensure that someone will only be found criminally responsible if they have committed criminal conduct while possessing capacities of understanding, awareness, and self-control at the time of offense. Any notion of criminal responsibility based on the character of the offender, (...) meaning an implication of criminality based on reputation or the assumed disposition of the person, would seem to today's criminal lawyer a relic of the 18th Century. In this volume, Nicola Lacey demonstrates that the practice of character-based patterns of attribution was not laid to rest in 18th Century criminal law, but is alive and well in contemporary English criminal responsibility-attribution. Building upon the analysis of criminal responsibility in her previous book, Women, Crime, and Character, Lacey investigates the changing nature of criminal responsibility in English law from the mid-18th Century to the early 21st Century. Through a combined philosophical, historical, and socio-legal approach, this volume evidences how the theory behind criminal responsibility has shifted over time. The character and outcome responsibility which dominated criminal law in the 18th Century diminished in ideological importance in the following two centuries, when the idea of responsibility as founded in capacity was gradually established as the core of criminal law. Lacey traces the historical trajectory of responsibility into the 21st Century, arguing that ideas of character responsibility and the discourse of responsibility as founded in risk are enjoying a renaissance in the modern criminal law. These ideas of criminal responsibility are explored through an examination of the institutions through which they are produced, interpreted and executed; the interests which have shaped both doctrines and institutions; and the substantive social functions which criminal law and punishment have been expected to perform at different points in history. (shrink)