I explore two accounts of properties within a dispositional essentialist (or causal powers) framework, the pure powers view and the powerful qualities view. I ﬁrst attempt to clarify precisely what the pure powers view is, and then raise objections to it. I then present the powerful qualities view and, in order to avoid a common misconception, oﬀer a restatement of it that I shall call the truthmaker view. I end by brieﬂy defending the truthmaker view against objections.
Possible worlds, concrete or abstract as you like, are irrelevant to the truthmakers for modality—or so I shall argue in this paper. First, I present the neo-Humean picture of modality, and explain why those who accept it deny a common sense view of modality. Second, I present what I take to be the most pressing objection to the neo-Humean account, one that, I argue, applies equally well to any theory that grounds modality in possible worlds. Third, I present an alternative, (...) properties-based theory of modality and explore several specific ways to flesh the general proposal out, including my favored version, the powers theory. And, fourth, I offer a powers semantics for counterfactuals that each version of the properties-based theory of modality can accept, mutatis mutandis. Together with a definition of possibility and necessity in terms of counterfactuals, the powers semantics of counterfactuals generates a semantics for modality that appeals to causal powers and not possible worlds. (shrink)
Are there key respects in which character and character defects are voluntary? Can agents with serious vices be rational agents? Jonathan Jacobs answers in the affirmative. Moral character is shaped through voluntary habits, including the ways we habituate ourselves, Jacobs believes. Just as individuals can voluntarily lead unhappy lives without making unhappiness an end, so can they degrade their ethical characters through voluntary action that does not have establishment of vice as its end. Choosing Character presents an account of ethical (...) disability, expanding the domain of responsibility and explicating the role of character in ethical cognition. Jacobs contends that agents become ethically disabled voluntarily when their habits impair their ability to properly appreciate ethical considerations. Such agents are rational, responsible individuals who are yet incapable of virtuous action. The view develops and modifies Aristotelian claims concerning the fixity of character. Jacobs' interpretation is developed in contrast to the overlooked work of Maimonides, who also used Aristotelian resources but argued for the possibility of character change. The notion of ethical disability has profound ramifications for ethics and for current debates about blame and punishment. (shrink)
We use concepts of causal powers and their relatives-dispositions, capacities, and abilities-to describe the world around us, both in everyday life and in scientific practice. This volume presents new work on the nature of causal powers, and their connections with other phenomena within metaphysics, philosophy of science, and philosophy of mind.
We explain the thesis that human mental states are ontologically emergent aspects of a fundamentally biological organism. We then explore the consequences of this thesis for the identity of a human person over time. As these consequences are not obviously independent of one's general ontology of objects and their properties, we consider four such accounts: transcendent universals, kind-Aristotelianism, immanent universals, and tropes. We suggest there are reasons for emergentists to favor the latter two accounts. We then argue that within such (...) ontologies, emergentism about properties pushes one to the stronger claim that there are emergent individuals, though not individuals which are dual to person's bodies—substance emergentism, but not substance dualism. (shrink)
Freedom and moral responsibility have one foot in the practical realm of human affairs and the other in the esoteric realm of fundamental metaphysics—or so we believe. This has been denied, especially in the metaphysics-bashing era occupying the first two-thirds or so of the twentieth century, traces of which linger in the present day. But the reasons for this denial seem to us quite implausible. Certainly, the argument for the general bankruptcy of metaphysics has been soundly discredited. Arguments from Strawson (...) and others that our moral practices are too deeply embedded in human life to rest on anything as tenuous as a metaphysical doctrine far from the thoughts of ordinary people would seem to prove too much: we can easily imagine fantastic scenarios far from the thoughts of ordinary people—involving, say, alien manipulation or massive deception—that, if true, would clearly undermine claims to freedom and responsibility. For still other philosophers, the separation of the moral life from (some) metaphysical issues is prescriptive, not descriptive: it is a recommendation that we revise ordinary moral thought by severing its allegedly problematic links to metaphysics. (Some philosophers appear to hover undecided between such a prescriptive project and a Strawsonian descriptive claim.) We suspect that the prospects of retaining the binding force of ordinary moral thought, were such a reconceived moral practice widely embraced, are bleak. A transition to something closer to moral nihilism seems at least as likely. In any case, our interest here is in descriptive metaphysics, not revisionary. -/- To say as we do that freedom and moral responsibility have a partly metaphysical character is not to suggest that they can be had only if some highly specific version of a particular metaphysical framework is correct. Instead, we suggest in what follows, it is a broadly neo-Humean metaphysics that is not hospitable to freedom (for reasons distinctive to the metaphysics), while a broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is. But we also think (and it is the main aim of our paper to show) that different versions of the neo- Aristotelian metaphysics lead to rather different metaphysical accounts of free and responsible action. Specifically, we will argue that (1) the most satisfactory account of human freedom within the broadly neo-Aristotelian metaphysics is agent-causal, but that (2) two different versions of the general metaphysics will lead to important differences in the agent-causal account of freedom. Adjust the details of your general metaphysics, and the details of your account of freedom are transformed in significant ways. Action theory cannot properly be pursued in isolation from general metaphysics. (shrink)
We present an original emergent individuals view of human persons, on which persons are substantial biological unities that exemplify metaphysically emergent mental states. We argue that this view allows for a coherent model of identity-preserving resurrection from the dead consistent with orthodox Christian doctrine, one that improves upon alternatives accounts recently proposed by a number of authors. Our model is a variant of the “falling elevator” model advanced by Dean Zimmerman that, unlike Zimmerman’s, does not require a closest continuer account (...) of personal identity. We end by raising some remaining theological concerns. (shrink)
D. M. Armstrong famously claims that deterministic laws of nature are contingent relations between universals and that his account can also be straightforwardly extended to irreducibly probabilistic laws of nature. For the most part, philosophers have neglected to scrutinize Armstrong’s account of probabilistic laws. This is surprising precisely because his own claims about probabilistic laws make it unclear just what he takes them to be. We offer three interpretations of what Armstrong-style probabilistic laws are, and argue that all three interpretations (...) are incompatible either with some feature of Armstrong’s broader metaphysics or with essential features of his account of laws (or both). (shrink)
Though foreign—and perhaps shocking—to many in the west, the doctrine of theosis is central in the theology and practice of Eastern Orthodoxy. Theosis is “the ultimate goal of human existence”1 and indeed is “a way of summing up the purpose of creation”:2 That God will unite himself to all of creation with humanity at the focal point. What are human persons, that they might be united to God? That is the question I explore in this paper. In particular, I explore (...) an account of human nature inspired by an Eastern Orthodox conception of theosis. In section 1, I present a theological vision of theosis in the Eastern Church. In section 2, I oﬀer an interpretation of what it might mean for human nature to become deformed by the fall and transformed by the Incarnation. Then, in section 3, I present an (admittedly speculative) account of human nature, based on a robustly metaphysical reading of an Orthodox conception of theosis. On that account—to overly simplify things, and postponing important qualiﬁcations—we might say that a human being is the union of soul and body with God. Finally, given that account of human nature, I oﬀer in section 3 some brief reﬂections on the prospects of a scientiﬁc anthropology. (shrink)
Causal powers, say, an electron’s power to repel other electrons, are had in virtue of having properties. Electrons repel other electrons because they are negatively charged. One’s views about causal powers are shaped by—and shape—one’s views concerning properties, causation, laws of nature and modality. It is no surprise, then, that views about the nature of causal powers are generally embedded into larger, more systematic, metaphysical pictures of the world. This dissertation is an exploration of three systematic metaphysics, Neo-Humeanism, Nomicism and (...) Neo-Aristotelianism. I raise problems for the first two and defend the third. A defense of a systematic metaphysics, I take it, involves appealing to pre-theoretical commitments or intuitions, and theoretical issues such as simplicity or explanatory power. While I think that Neo-Aristotelianism is the most intuitive of the available general metaphysical pictures of the world, these kinds of intuitions do not settle the matter. The most widely held of the alternative pictures, Neo-Humeanism, is accepted in great part because of its theoretical power. In contrast, a systematic Neo-Aristotelian metaphysic is, at best, nascent. The way forward for the Neo-Aristotelian, therefore, is a contribution to an ongoing research program, generating Neo-Aristotelian views of modality, causation and laws of nature from the Neo-Aristotelian understanding of causal powers. The central argument of this dissertation is that such views are defensible, and so the Neo-Aristotelian metaphysic ought to be accepted. (shrink)
Maimonides uses Aristotelian philosophical idiom to articulate his moral philosophy, but there are fundamental differences between his and Aristotle’s conceptions of moral psychology and the nature of the moral agent. The Maimonidean conception of volition and its role in repentance and ethical self-correction are quite un-Aristotelian. The relation between this capacity to alter one’s character and the accessibility of ethical requirements given in the Law is explored. This relation helps explain why for Maimonides practical wisdom is not recognized as a (...) virtue, and why ethical perfection is achievable even by those long-established in ethically unsound dispositions. The power of will to “restore the soul” when character is disordered is a significant departure from Aristotelian philosophical anthropology. (shrink)
This article identifies a common intellectual project of the disciplines that constitute the Humanities. It does not define the humanities but characterizes some of the main features of the distinctive and essential kind of learning uniquely attainable by their study. The humanities enable us to attain an understanding of normativity in the broadest sense; humanistic study leads to a textured, penetrating comprehension of diverse valuative matters and concerns. Moreover, study in the humanities enables us to recognize and appreciate valuative realism (...) . This is the view that valuative matters are appropriate objects of comprehension and that values are not simply projected in an expressivist or subjectivist manner. Valuative realism does not depend upon, and should not be assimilated into, knowledge that emulates the methods of the sciences. Humane studies develop a genuine understanding of diverse kinds of significance and educate people in the concepts and discourse to articulate it. (shrink)
This book begins with a critique of moral relativism and proceeds to develop a realist account of practical wisdom. The central claims are that there are objective moral facts and that knowledge of these facts can be action-guiding. The justification for these claims involves explaining the role of imagination in moral judgment and action and also showing how a realist approach to morality enables us to better account for immorality, revealing it to involve ignorance, error or falsification. The book concludes (...) with an analysis of how the character of social relations is crucial to the formation of self-conceptions and the development of moral knowledge and moral imagination. (shrink)
A study of fundamental issues in metaethics and in moral psychology, surveying important approaches with an emphasis on the disputed status of moral value and the roles of cognition and sensibility. Coverage of the issues includes discussion of significant thinkers from antiquity to the present.
The main claim in this paper is that because organisms have teleological constitutions, the reduction of biology to physical science is not possible. It is argued that the teleology of organisms is intrinsic and not merely projected onto them. Many organic phenomena are end-oriented and reference to ends is necessary for explaining them. Accounts in terms of functions or goals are appropriate to organic parts and processes. siis is because ends as systemic requirements for survival and health have explanatory significance (...) with respect to the processes that contribute to and constitute them. Reductionism cannot accommodate this sort of higher-level to lower-level explanation and so cannot account for why lower-level phenomena are as they are. Reductionism, it is claimed, is ultimately descriptive and not explanatory because it cannot regard teleological requirements as themselves basic. In seeking to explain them away it forfeits explanatory power. (shrink)
A study of the ways Maimonides and Aquinas both borrow from Aristotle and depart from him, in regard to the issue of forgiveness. The paper explicates moral-psychological issues and normative issues, connecting them to the perfectionism of the philosophical anthropology shared by the three thinkers. The theistic commitments of Maimonides and Aquinas ground important departures from Aristotle regarding the possibility of moral change and regarding moral relations between persons.
In this paper, my central aim is to defend the Powers Theory of causation, according to which causation is the exercise of a power (or manifestation of a disposition). I will do so by, first, presenting a recent version of the Powers Theory, that of Mumford (Forthcoming). Second, I will raise an objection to Mumford’s account. Third, I will offer a revised version that avoids the objection. And, fourth, I will end by briefly comparing the proposed Powers Theory with the (...) Neo-Humean, counterfactual theory. (shrink)
The article explores an intersection of moral psychology and political principles regarding criminal sanction. A liberal state cannot require that persons acquire certain states of character or lead certain specific kinds of lives; it cannot require virtue. Moreover, it would be wrong for the state to punish offenders in ways that damage their capacities for agency, and in ways that encourage vice. In the U.S. the terms and conditions of punishment often have deleterious effects on agential capacities, undermining the ability (...) to reintegrate in civil society. Prison experience is often antithetical to maintaining or acquiring the dispositions of prudence, accountability, trust, and trustworthiness needed for participation in civil society, raising significant questions concerning the legitimacy of punishment. (shrink)
A detailed study of the moral philosophy of medieval Jewish thinkers Saadia Gaon, Bahya ibn Pakuda, and Moses Maimonides. Jon Jacobs emphasizes their distinctive contributions, emphasises the shared rational emphasis of their approach to Torah, and draws out resonances with contemporary moral philosophy.
An explication of the Maimonidean view that tradition--even when anchored in revelation---can be a mode of access to rationally justified moral requirements. The discussion focuses on the mutually reinforcing roles of enlarging understanding on the one hand, and engagement in practice on the other. Deepened understanding of the 'reasons for the commandments' can motivate commitment to practice, which in turn can aid in deepening understanding.
This book offers an introduction to the philosophical issues of criminal justice ethics in a way suitable for students of criminology and criminal justice. It links philosophical concepts with empirical research in criminology and introduces criminal justice ethics, in the context of political and legal order.
Jacobs introduces the issues, language, concepts and positions central to ethical theorizing. Entries range from antiquity to the present and basic to advance. Cross-referencing allows readers to explore topics in depth. Items explain complex issues of normative ethics, metaethics and moral psychology in non-technical language.
A collection of ten new papers by ten authors, exploring respects in which there are Judaic sources for important (and often contested) Western moral and political ideas and ideals. It focuses on distinctively Judaic roots of the so-called 'Judeo-Christian tradition.'.
A collection of new papers by ten philosophers exploring relations between conceptions of natural law and theism, ranging from Plato to the early modern period. Rather than defending a a specific view of natural law, the papers explicate the complex texture of the relations between the diverse conceptions of natural law and diverse conceptions of theism and its significance for moral and political thought.
Discusses the respects in which religiously grounded considerations can have an appropriate---even important--role in the public and political discourse of a liberal polity. Examines the role tradition can have in enabling people to attain a reasoned justification for moral ideas and ideals, i.e., tradition is not always an impediment to universally valid or objective considerations. Also, discusses respects in which modern liberalism owes an important debt to religious ideas.
Jonathan Jacobs examines the injustice of incarceration in the U.S. and U.K., both during incarceration and upon release into civil society. Situated at the intersection of criminology and political philosophy, Jacobs's focus is on moral reasoning, and he argues that the current state of incarceration is antithetical to the project of liberal democracy, as it strips incarcerated people of their agency. He advocates for reforms through a renewed commitment to the values and principles of liberal democracy and proposes a retributivist (...) conception of sanction to reform the criminal justice system and emphasizes the importance of proportionality. (shrink)
The enormous financial cost of criminal justice has motivated increased scrutiny and recognition of the need for constructive change, but what of the ethical costs of current practices and policies? Moreover, if we seriously value the principles of liberal democracy then there is no question that the ethics of criminal justice are everybody’s business, concerns for the entire society. _The Routledge Handbook of Criminal Justice Ethics_ brings together international scholars to explore the most significant ethical issues throughout their many areas (...) of expertise, anchoring their discussions in the empirical realities of the issues faced rather than applying moral theory at a distance. Contributions from philosophers, legal scholars, criminologists and psychologists bring a fresh and interdisciplinary approach to the field. The _Handbook _is divided into three parts: Part I addresses the core issues concerning criminal sanction, the moral and political aspects of the justification of punishment, and the relationship between law and morality. Part II examines criminalization and criminal liability, and the assumptions and attitudes shaping those aspects of contemporary criminal justice. Part III evaluates current policies and practices of criminal procedure, exploring the roles of police, prosecutors, judges, and juries and suggesting directions for revising how criminal justice is achieved. Throughout, scholars seek pathways for change and suggest new solutions to address the central concerns of criminal justice ethics. This book is an ideal resource for upper-undergraduate and postgraduate students taking courses in criminal justice ethics, criminology, and criminal justice theory, and also for students of philosophy interested in punishment, law and society, and law and ethics. (shrink)
As pop naturalists tell it, free will is incompatible with naturalism. And apparently many scientists agree. Philosopher Daniel Dennett reports, for example, that he has “learned from discussions with a variety of scientists…[that] free will, in their view, is obviously incompatible with naturalism, with determinism, and very likely incoherent against any background, so they cheerfully insist that of course they don’t have free will” (2013, 47). Many philosophers, however, disagree (e.g., Mele 2014; Nahmias 2014; Vargas 2014), since compatibilist forms of (...) free will seem amendable to purely naturalist underwriting. There is nevertheless, among philosophers, a near consensus on this: naturalism is certainly incompatible with libertarian free will. We aim to show in this paper that free will is not incompatible with naturalism. Even the purportedly “spooky” – or “colossally whackadoodle”2 – libertarian form of free will known as agent causation can be situated within a naturalistic metaphysical framework. Neither of us, though, is a naturalist,3 and you know what they say about enemies bearing gifts. Still, our goal in this chapter is to offer a framework for an agent‐causal account of free will that naturalists should be able to accept. (shrink)
It is only for persons that the question, “How shall I live?” arises, and it arises inevitably, even if in an inarticulate and unreflective manner. Persons must deliberate, decide, plan, and schedule their actions. Openness with respect to ends confronts them, and they must structure and direct their lives by determining what sort of career to trace out, even if it proves to be a career of routine or unambitious undertakings. Circumstances can constrain and compel, and the openness persons confront (...) can be closed off by external factors. But it is intrinsic to the nature of persons that the exercise of capacities for thought and action may be directed this way or that. There are perhaps nonpersons whose activity is to be explained with reference to beliefs and desires. But even if they act in an end-directed way, they do not experience openness with respect to ends and do not order and orient their life histories by deliberative considerations. (shrink)
There are several reasonable conceptions of liberalism. A liberal polity can survive a measure of disagreement over just what constitutes liberalism. In part, this is because of the way a liberal order makes possible a dynamic, heterogeneous civil society and how that, in turn, can supply participants with reasons to support a liberal political order. Despite the different conceptions of justice associated with different conceptions of liberalism, there are reasons to distinguish the normative focus of criminal justice from other aspects (...) of justice in a liberal polity. Given the fundamental commitments of liberalism?of whatever variant?there are reasons for criminal justice not to be assimilated to wider conceptions of justice overall. Such assimilation risks undermining some of liberalism's distinctive commitments concerning the standing of individuals as voluntary, responsible agents. Criminal justice is not independent of other aspects of justice but has a distinct focus in a liberal polity. (shrink)
A great deal is compressed into this passage; pleasure is associated in important ways with our nature; it has a crucial role in moral education; we can be pleased and displeased correctly or incorrectly, and this has a place in making character; and pleasure is something that matters all through a human life. Some of the themes are introduced and discussed at earlier places in the Ethics; some receive fuller treatment in book 10. The idea that some things are naturally (...) pleasant and that the virtuous find pleasure in the correct things first occurrs in book 1. The centrality of pleasure to Aristotle's ethical inquiry is perhaps not obvious right away, but it is unmistakable when the Ethics is considered as a whole. Its relation to good is fundamental. (shrink)