This article argues that existing approaches to programming ethical AI fail to resolve a serious moral-semantic trilemma, generating interpretations of ethical requirements that are either too semantically strict, too semantically flexible, or overly unpredictable. This paper then illustrates the trilemma utilizing a recently proposed ‘general ethical dilemma analyzer,’ GenEth. Finally, it uses empirical evidence to argue that human beings resolve the semantic trilemma using general cognitive and motivational processes involving ‘mental time-travel,’ whereby we simulate different possible pasts and futures. I (...) demonstrate how mental time-travel psychology leads us to resolve the semantic trilemma through a six-step process of interpersonal negotiation and renegotiation, and then conclude by showing how comparative advantages in processing power would plausibly cause AI to use similar processes to solve the semantic trilemma more reliably than we do, leading AI to make better moral-semantic choices than humans do by our very own lights. (shrink)
Theorists have long debated whether John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness can be extended to nonideal (i.e. unjust) social and political conditions, and if so, what the proper way of extending it is. This paper argues that in order to properly extend justice as fairness to nonideal conditions, Rawls’ most famous innovation – the original position – must be reconceived in the form of a “nonideal original position.” I begin by providing a new analysis of the ideal/nonideal theory distinction (...) within Rawls’ theoretical framework. I then systematically construct a nonideal original position, showing that although its parties must have Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations as background aims, the parties should be entirely free to weigh those aims against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions. Next, I show that the parties ought to aim to secure for themselves a special class of nonideal primary goods: all-purpose goods similar to Rawls’ original primary goods, but which in this case are all-purpose goods individuals might use to (A) promote Rawlsian ideals under nonideal conditions, (B) weigh Rawls’ principles of ideal justice and priority relations against whatever burdens and benefits they might face under nonideal conditions, and (C) effectively pursue their most favored weighting thereof. I then defend a provisional list of nonideal primary goods which include opportunities to participate effectively in equitable and inclusive grassroots reform movements guided by a series of substantive aims. Finally, I briefly speculate on how the parties to the nonideal original position might deliberate to principles of nonideal justice for distributing nonideal primary goods, suggesting that those goods should be distributed in proportion to unjust disadvantage. (shrink)
This paper shows that several live philosophical and scientific hypotheses – including the holographic principle and multiverse theory in quantum physics, and eternalism and mind-body dualism in philosophy – jointly imply an audacious new theory of free will. This new theory, "Libertarian Compatibilism", holds that the physical world is an eternally existing array of two-dimensional information – a vast number of possible pasts, presents, and futures – and the mind a nonphysical entity or set of properties that "read" that physical (...) information off to subjective conscious awareness (in much the same way that a song written on an ordinary compact-disc is only played when read by an outside medium, i.e. a CD-player). According to this theory, every possible physical “timeline” in the multiverse may be fully physically deterministic or physically-causally closed but each person’s consciousness still entirely free to choose, ex nihilo, outside of the physical order, which physically-closed timeline is experienced by conscious observers. Although Libertarian Compatibilism is admittedly fantastic, I show that it not only follows from several live scientific and philosophical hypotheses, I also show that it (A) is a far more explanatorily powerful model of quantum mechanics than more traditional interpretations (e.g. the Copenhagen, Everett, and Bohmian interpretations), (B) makes determinate, testable empirical predictions in quantum theory, and finally, (C) predicts and explains the very existence of a number of philosophical debates and positions in the philosophy of mind, time, personal identity, and free will. First, I show that whereas traditional interpretations of quantum mechanics are all philosophically problematic and roughly as ontologically “extravagant” as Libertarian Compatibilism – in that they all posit “unseen” processes – Libertarian Compatibilism is nearly identical in structure to the only working simulation that human beings have ever constructed capable of reproducing (and so explaining) every general feature of quantum mechanics we perceive: namely, massive-multiplayer-online-roleplaying videogames (or MMORPGs). Although I am not the first to suggest that our world is akin to a computer simulation, I show that existing MMORPGs (online simulations we have already created) actually reproduce every general feature of quantum mechanics within their simulated-world reference-frames. Second, I show that existing MMORPGs also replicate (and so explain) many philosophical problems we face in the philosophy of mind, time, personal identity, and free will – all while conforming to the Libertarian Compatibilist model of reality. -/- I conclude, as such, that as fantastic and metaphysically extravagant as Libertarian Compatibilism may initially seem, it may well be true. It explains a number of features of our reality that no other physical or metaphysical theory does. (shrink)
Various theorists contend that we may live in a computer simulation. David Chalmers in turn argues that the simulation hypothesis is a metaphysical hypothesis about the nature of our reality, rather than a sceptical scenario. We use recent work on consciousness to motivate new doubts about both sets of arguments. First, we argue that if either panpsychism or panqualityism is true, then the only way to live in a simulation may be as brains-in-vats, in which case it is unlikely that (...) we live in a simulation. We then argue that if panpsychism or panqualityism is true, then viable simulation hypotheses are substantially sceptical scenarios. We conclude that the nature of consciousness has wide-ranging implications for simulation arguments. (shrink)
Alex Byrne contends that women are (simply) adult human females, claiming that this thesis has considerably greater initial appeal than the justified true belief (JTB) theory of knowledge. This paper refutes Byrne’s thesis in the same way the JTB theory of knowledge is widely thought to have been refuted: through simple counterexamples. Lessons are drawn. One lesson is that women need not be human. A second lesson is that biology and physical phenotypes are both irrelevant to whether someone is a (...) woman, and indeed, female in a gendered sense. A third lesson is that trans women, cis women, alien women, and robot women are all women because to be a woman is to be an adult gendered female. This paper does not purport to settle complex normative questions of ethics or justice, including whether the ordinary meaning of “woman” ought to be retained or changed—though I do note plausible implications for these debates. This paper does purport to settle what the ordinary meaning of “woman” is, and in that regard contribute to important conceptual ground-clearing regarding what constitutes an ameliorative or revisionary definition of “woman.”. (shrink)
In a widely discussed forthcoming article, “What you can't expect when you're expecting,” L. A. Paul challenges culturally and philosophically traditional views about how to rationally make major life-decisions, most specifically the decision of whether to have children. The present paper argues that because major life-decisions are transformative, the only rational way to approach them is to become resilient people: people who do not “over-plan” their lives or expect their lives to play out “according to plan”—people who understand that beyond (...) a certain limit, life cannot be rationally planned and must be accepted as it comes. I show that this focus on resilience—on self-mastery—stands in direct opposition to culturally dominant attitudes toward decision-making, which focus not on the self-mastery but on control and mastery over one's surroundings. In short, I argue that if Paul's general point about transformative experiences is correct, it follows that we rationally ought to adopt a very different approach to life choices, self-development, and the moral education of our children than currently-dominant cultural norms and practices suggest. (shrink)
This book outlines a unified theory of prudence and morality that merges a wide variety of findings in behavioral neuroscience with philosophically sophisticated normative theorizing. Chapter 1 lays out the emerging behavioral neuroscience of prudence and morality. Chapter 2 then outlines a new theory of prudence as fairness to oneself across time. Chapter 3 then derives a revised version of my 2016 moral theory--Rightness as Fairness--from this theory of prudence, showing how the theory of prudence defends Rightness as Fairness against (...) various critiques and unifies prudence, morality, and justice. Chapter 4 then argues that this theory explains a variety of normative philosophical and empirical neuroscientific phenomena better than alternatives. Finally, Chapter 5 responds to potential objections and explores future research avenues. (shrink)
This study examined correlations between moral value judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), and participant scores on the Short-D3 “Dark Triad” Personality Inventory—a measure of three related “dark and socially destructive” personality traits: Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy. Five hundred sixty-seven participants (302 male, 257 female, 2 transgendered; median age 28) were recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk and Yale Experiment Month web advertisements. Different responses to MIS items were initially hypothesized to be “conservative” or “liberal” in line with (...) traditional public divides. Our demographic data confirmed all of these hypothesized categorizations. We then tested two broad, exploratory hypotheses: (H1) the hypothesis that there would be “many” significant correlations between conservative MIS judgments and the Dark Triad, and (H2) the hypothesis that there would be no significant correlations between liberal MIS judgments and Machiavellianism or Psychopathy, but “some” significant correlations between liberal MIS judgments and Narcissism. Because our hypotheses were exploratory and we ran a large number of statistical tests (62 total), we utilized a Bonferroni Correction to set a very high threshold for significance (p = .0008). Our results broadly supported our two hypotheses. We found eleven significant correlations between conservative MIS judgments and the Dark Triad—all at significance level of p < .00001—but no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and liberal MIS judgments. We believe that these results raise provocative moral questions about the personality bases of moral judgments. In particular, we propose that because the Short-D3 measures three “dark and antisocial” personality traits, our results raise some prima facie worries about the moral justification of some conservative moral judgments. (shrink)
Liberalism is often claimed to be at odds with feminism and critical race theory (CRT). This article argues, to the contrary, that Rawlsian liberalism supports the central commitments of both. Section 1 argues that Rawlsian liberalism supports intersectional feminism. Section 2 argues that the same is true of CRT. Section 3 then uses Young’s ‘Five Faces of Oppression’—a classic work widely utilized in feminism and CRT to understand and contest many varieties of oppression—to illustrate how Rawlsian liberalism supports diverse feminist (...) and CRT projects, and why it may be critical to achieve solidarity between feminism, CRT, and Rawlsian liberalism. Finally, Section 4 responds to five objections. (shrink)
This article argues that diverse theorists have reasons to theorize about fairness in nonideal conditions, including theorists who reject fairness in ideal theory. It then develops a new all-purpose model of ‘nonideal fairness.’ §1 argues that fairness is central to nonideal theory across diverse ideological and methodological frameworks. §2 then argues that ‘nonideal fairness’ is best modeled by a nonideal original position adaptable to different nonideal conditions and background normative frameworks (including anti-Rawlsian ones). §3 then argues that the parties to (...) the model have grounds to seek a variety of remedial social, legal, cultural, and economic ‘nonideal primary goods’ for combating injustice, as well as grounds to distribute these goods in an equitable and inclusive manner. Finally, I illustrate how the model indexes the nonideal primary goods it justifies to different nonideal contexts and background normative frameworks, illustrating why diverse theorists should find the model and its output principles attractive. (shrink)
This book argues that moral philosophy should be based on seven scientific principles of theory selection. It then argues that a new moral theory—Rightness as Fairness—satisfies those principles more successfully than existing theories. Chapter 1 explicates the seven principles of theory-selection, arguing that moral philosophy must conform to them to be truth-apt. Chapter 2 argues those principles jointly support founding moral philosophy in known facts of empirical moral psychology: specifically, our capacities for mental time-travel and modal imagination. Chapter 2 then (...) shows that these capacities present human decisionmakers with a problem of diachronic rationality that includes but generalizes beyond, L.A. Paul’s problem of transformative experience: a problem that I call “the problem of possible future selves.” Chapter 3 then argues that a new principle of rationality—the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative—is the only rational solution to this problem, as it requires our present and future selves to forge and uphold a recursive, bi-directional contract with each another given mutual recognition of the problem. Chapter 4 then shows that the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative has three identical formulations analogous but superior to Immanuel Kant’s various formulations of his ‘categorical imperative.’ Chapter 5 shows that these unified formulas jointly entail a particular test of moral principles: a Moral Original Position similar to John Rawls’ famous ‘original position’, but which avoids a variety of problems with Rawls' model. Chapter 6 then shows that the Moral Original Position generates Four Principles of Fairness, which can then be combined into a single principle of moral rightness: Rightness as Fairness. This new conception of rightness is shown to reconcile four dominant moral frameworks (deontology, consequentialism, virtue ethics, and contractualism), as well as entail a new method of moral decisionmaking for applied ethics: a method of “principled fair negotiation” according to which applied ethical issues cannot be wholly resolved through principled debate, but must instead be resolved by actual negotiation and compromise. This method is then argued to generate novel, nuanced analyses of a variety of applied moral issues, including trolley cases, torture, and the ethical treatment of nonhuman animals. Chapter 7 then shows that Rightness as Fairness reconciles three leading political frameworks—libertarianism, egalitarianism, and communitarianism—showing how all three embody legitimate moral ideals that can, and should, be fairly negotiated against each other to settle the scope, and nature, of domestic, international, and global justice on an ongoing, iterated basis. Finally, Chapter 8 argues that Rightness as Fairness satisfies all seven of the principles of theory-selected defended in Chapter 1 more successfully than rival theories. (shrink)
School boosters are tax-exempt organizations that engage in fundraising efforts to provide public schools with supplementary resources. This paper argues that prevailing forms of school boosting are defeasibly unjust. Section 1 shows that inequalities in public education funding in the United States violate John Rawls’s two principles of domestic justice. Section 2 argues that prevailing forms of school boosting exacerbate and plausibly perpetuate these injustices. Section 3 then contends that boosting thereby defeasibly violates Rawlsian principles of nonideal theory for rectifying (...) injustice. Thus, boosting should be presumptively either made illegal or substantially reformed. Finally, Section 4 responds to potential objections. (shrink)
In my 2013 article, “A New Theory of Free Will”, I argued that several serious hypotheses in philosophy and modern physics jointly entail that our reality is structurally identical to a peer-to-peer (P2P) networked computer simulation. The present paper outlines how quantum phenomena emerge naturally from the computational structure of a P2P simulation. §1 explains the P2P Hypothesis. §2 then sketches how the structure of any P2P simulation realizes quantum superposition and wave-function collapse (§2.1.), quantum indeterminacy (§2.2.), wave-particle duality (§2.3.), (...) and quantum entanglement (§2.4.). Finally, §3 argues that although this is by no means a philosophical proof that our reality is a P2P simulation, it provides ample reasons to investigate the hypothesis further using the methods of computer science, physics, philosophy, and mathematics. (shrink)
Chapter 1 of this book argued that moral philosophy should be based on seven principles of theory selection adapted from the sciences. Chapter 2 argued that these principles support basing normative moral philosophy on a particular problem of diachronic instrumental rationality: the ‘problem of possible future selves.’ Chapter 3 argued that a new moral principle, the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative, is the rational solution to this problem. Chapter 4 argued that the Categorical-Instrumental Imperative has three equivalent formulations akin to but superior to (...) Kant’s formulations of the Categorical Imperative. Chapter 5 argued that my principle’s three formulations make it rational to adopt a Moral Original Position to derive moral principles. The present chapter derives Four Principles of Fairness from the Moral Original Position--principles of coercion minimization, mutual assistance, fair negotiation, and virtue—and unifies them into a single principle of rightness: Rightness as Fairness. Finally, this chapter argues that Rightness as Fairness entails a novel approach to applied ethics called ‘principled fair negotiation’, illustrating how the theory provides a plausible new framework for addressing applied cases including lying, suicide, trolleys, torture, distribution of scarce resources, poverty, and the ethical treatment of animals. (shrink)
An overview of my work arguing that peer-to-peer computer networking (the Peer-to-Peer Simulation Hypothesis) may be the best explanation of quantum phenomena and a number of perennial philosophical problems.
In a recent study appearing in Neuroethics, I reported observing 11 significant correlations between the “Dark Triad” personality traits – Machiavellianism, Narcissism, and Psychopathy – and “conservative” judgments on a 17-item Moral Intuition Survey. Surprisingly, I observed no significant correlations between the Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments. In order to determine whether these results were an artifact of the particular issues I selected, I ran a follow-up study testing the Dark Triad against conservative and liberal judgments on 15 additional moral (...) issues. The new issues examined include illegal immigration, abortion, the teaching of “intelligent design” in public schools, the use of waterboarding and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” in the war on terrorism, laws defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, and environmentalism. 1154 participants (680 male, 472 female; median age 29), recruited online through Amazon Mechanical Turk, completed three surveys: a 15-item Moral Intuition Survey (MIS), the 28-item Short Dark Triad personality inventory, and a five-item demographic survey. The results strongly reinforce my earlier findings. Twenty-two significant correlations were observed between “conservative” judgments and the Dark Triad (all of which were significant past a Bonferonni-corrected significance threshold of p = .0008), compared to seven significant correlations between Dark Triad and “liberal” judgments (only one of which was significant past p = .0008). This article concludes by developing a novel research proposal for determining whether the results of my two studies are “bad news” for conservatives or liberals. (shrink)
This chapter derives and refines a novel normative moral theory and descriptive theory of moral psychology--Rightness as Fairness--from the theory of prudence defended in Chapter 2. It briefly summarizes Chapter 2’s finding that prudent agents typically internalize ‘moral risk-aversion’. It then outlines how this prudential psychology leads prudent agents to want to know how to act in ways they will not regret in morally salient cases, as well as to regard moral actions as the only types of actions that satisfy (...) this prudential interest. It then uses these findings to defend a new derivation of my (2016) theory of morality, Rightness as Fairness, showing how the derivation successfully defends Rightness as Fairness against a variety of objections. The chapter also details how this book’s theory helps to substantiate the claim that Rightness as Fairness unifies a variety of competing moral frameworks: deontology, consequentialism, contractualism, and virtue ethics. Finally, the chapter shows how Chapter 2’s theory of prudence entails some revisions to Rightness as Fairness, including the adoption of a series of Rawlsian original positions to settle moral and social-political issues under ideal and nonideal circumstances—thus entailing a unified normative and descriptive psychological framework for prudence, morality, and justice. (shrink)
This article argues that if panpsychism is true, then there are grounds for thinking that digitally-based artificial intelligence may be incapable of having coherent macrophenomenal conscious experiences. Section 1 briefly surveys research indicating that neural function and phenomenal consciousness may be both analog in nature. We show that physical and phenomenal magnitudes—such as rates of neural firing and the phenomenally experienced loudness of sounds—appear to covary monotonically with the physical stimuli they represent, forming the basis for an analog relationship between (...) the three. Section 2 then argues that if this is true and micropsychism—the panpsychist view that phenomenal consciousness or its precursors exist at a microphysical level of reality—is also true, then human brains must somehow manipulate fundamental microphysical-phenomenal magnitudes in an analog manner that renders them phenomenally coherent at a macro level. However, Sect. 3 argues that because digital computation abstracts away from microphysical-phenomenal magnitudes—representing cognitive functions non-monotonically in terms of digits—digital computation may be inherently incapable of realizing coherent macroconscious experience. Thus, if panpsychism is true, digital AI may be incapable of achieving phenomenal coherence. Finally, Sect. 4 briefly examines our argument’s implications for Tononi’s Integrated Information Theory theory of consciousness, which we contend may need to be supplanted by a theory of macroconsciousness as analog microphysical-phenomenal information integration. (shrink)
This article argues that philosophers and laypeople commonly conceptualize moral truths or justified moral beliefs as discoverable through intuition, argument, or some other purely cognitive or affective process. It then contends that three empirically well-supported theories all predict that this ‘Discovery Model’ of morality plays a substantial role in causing social polarization. The same three theories are then used to argue that an alternative ‘Negotiation Model’ of morality—according to which moral truths are not discovered but instead created by actively negotiating (...) compromises—promises to reduce polarization by fostering a progressive willingness to ‘work across the aisle’ to settle moral issues cooperatively. This article then examines potential methods for normatively evaluating polarization, arguing there are prima facie reasons to favor the Negotiation Model over the Discovery Model based on their hypothesized effects on polarization. Finally, I outline avenues for further empirical and philosophical research. (shrink)
Human rights theory and practice have long been stuck in a rut. Although disagreement is the norm in philosophy and social-political practice, the sheer depth and breadth of disagreement about human rights is truly unusual. Human rights theorists and practitioners disagree – wildly in many cases – over just about every issue: what human rights are, what they are for, how many of them there are, how they are justified, what human interests or capacities they are supposed to protect, what (...) they require of persons and institutions, etc. Disagreement about human rights is so profound, in fact, that several prominent theorists have remarked that the very concept of a “human right” appears nearly criterionless. In my 2012 article, “Reconceptualizing Human Rights”, I diagnosed the root cause of these problems. Theorists and practitioners have falsely supposed that the concept of “human right” picks out a single, unified class of moral entitlements. However, the concept actually refers to two fundamentally different types of moral entitlements: (A) international human rights, which are universal human moral entitlements to coercive international protections, and (B) domestic human rights, which are universal human moral entitlements to coercive domestic protections. Accordingly, I argue, an adequate “theory of human rights” must be a dual theory. The present paper provides the first such theory. First, I show that almost every justificatory ground given for “human rights” in the literature – such as the notion of a “minimally decent human life”, “urgent human interests”, and “human needs” – faces at least one of two fatal problems. Second, I show that after some revisions, James Griffin’s conception of “personhood” provides a compelling justificatory ground for international human rights. Third, I show that the account entails that there are very few international human rights – far fewer than existing human rights theories and practices suggest. Fourth, I show that there are reasons to find my very short list of international human rights compelling: “human rights justifications” for coercive international and foreign policy actions over the past several decades have consistently overstepped what can be morally justified, and my account reveals precisely how existing human rights theories and practices have failed to adequately grapple with these moral hazards. Finally, I outline an account of domestic human rights which fits well with many existing human rights beliefs and practices, vindicating those beliefs and practices, but only at a domestic level. (shrink)
This paper demonstrates something that Kant notoriously claimed to be possible, but which Kant scholars today widely believe to be impossible: unification of all three formulations of the Categorical Imperative. Part 1 of this paper tells a broad-brush story of how I understand Kant’s theory of practical reason and morality, showing how the three formulations of the Categorical Imperative appear to be unified. Part 2 then provides clear textual support for each premise in the argument for my interpretation.
Michael Huemer argues that cross-cultural convergence toward liberal moral values is evidence of objective moral progress, and by extension, evidence for moral realism. Nathan Cofnas claims to debunk Huemer’s argument by contending that convergence toward liberal moral values can be better explained by ‘two related non-truth-tracking processes’: self-interest and its long-term tendency to result in social conditions conducive to greater empathy. This article argues that although Cofnas successfully debunks Huemer’s convergence argument for one influential form of moral realism – Robust (...) Moral Realism, which holds that moral facts are non-natural, stance-independent normative facts – Cofnas’s debunking argument broadly supports a second type of moral realism: Enlightened Self-Interest Realism, the view that moral facts are reducible to stance-dependent requirements of instrumental (‘means-end’) rationality. Finally, this article argues that insofar as different Enlightened Self-Interest Realist theories make specific predictions about the intra- and inter-personal mechanisms behind moral convergence toward liberalism, empirical observations of cross-cultural convergence can provide independent support for Enlightened Self-Interest Realism. I conclude that this is an important mark in favor of Enlightened Self-Interest Realism over Robust Moral Realism. (shrink)
To what extent are authors morally culpable for harms caused by their published work? Can authors be culpable even if their ideas are misused, perhaps because they failed to take precautions to prevent harmful misinterpretations? Might authors be culpable even if they do take precautions—if, for example, they publish ideas that others can be reasonably expected to put to harmful uses, precautions notwithstanding? Although complete answers to these questions depend upon controversial views about the right to free speech, this paper (...) argues that five notions from philosophy of law and legal practice—liability, burden of proof, legal causation, mens rea, and reasoning by precedent—can be adapted to provide an attractive moral framework for determining whether an author’s work causes harm, whether and how culpable the author is for causing such harm, steps authors may take to immunize themselves from culpability, and how to responsibly develop new rules for publishing ethics. (shrink)
In Ethics for a Broken World : Imagining Philosophy after Catastrophe, Tim Mulgan applies a number of influential moral and political theories to a “broken world ”: a world of environmental catastrophe in which resources are insufficient to meet everyone’s basic needs. This paper shows that John Rawls’ conception of justice as fairness has very different implications for a broken world than Mulgan suggests it does. §1 briefly summarizes Rawls’ conception of justice, including how Rawls uses a hypothetical model – (...) the “original position” – to argue for principles of justice. §2 explains how Mulgan uses a variation of Rawls’ original position – a broken original position – to argue that justice as fairness requires a “fair survival lottery” in a broken world. §3 shows that the parties to a broken original position have reasons not to agree to such a survival lottery. §4 then shows that Mulgan’s argument hangs upon a false assumption: that there are no viable options to adopt in a broken world besides some kind of survival lottery. Finally, §5 shows that the parties to a broken original position would instead rationally agree to a scheme of equal rights and opportunities to earn or forfeit shares of scarce resources on the basis of each person’s comparative contribution to human survival. (shrink)
This paper defends several highly revisionary theses about human rights. Section 1 shows that the phrase 'human rights' refers to two distinct types of moral claims. Sections 2 and 3 argue that several longstanding problems in human rights theory and practice can be solved if, and only if, the concept of a human right is replaced by two more exact concepts: (A) International human rights, which are moral claims sufficient to warrant coercive domestic and international social protection; and (B) Domestic (...) human rights, which are moral claims sufficient to warrant coercive domestic social protection but only non-coercive international action. Section 3 then argues that because coercion is central to both types of human rights, and coercion is a matter of justice, the traditional view of human rights -- that they are normative entitlements prior to and independent of substantive theories of justice -- is incorrect. Human rights must instead be seen as emerging from substantive theories of domestic and international justice. Finally, Section 4 uses this reconceptualization to show that only a few very minimal claims about international human rights are presently warranted. Because international human rights are rights of international justice, but theorists of international justice disagree widely about the demands of international justice, much more research on international justice is needed -- and much greater agreement about international justice should be reached -- before anything more than a very minimal list of international human rights can be justified. (shrink)
David. J. Chalmers examines eleven possible solutions to the meta-problem of consciousness, ‘the problem of explaining why we think that there is a problem of consciousness.’ The present paper argues that Chalmers overlooks an explanation that he has otherwise taken seriously, and which a number of philosophers, physicists, and computer scientists have taken seriously as well: the hypothesis that we are living in a computer simulation. This paper argues that a particular version of the simulation hypothesis is at least as (...) good of a solution to the meta-problem of consciousness as many explanations Chalmers considers, and may even be a better one—as it may be the best solution to a much broader meta-philosophical problem: the ‘meta-problem of everything’, the problem of explaining why our world has the quantum-mechanical, relativistic, and philosophical features it does. (shrink)
This commentary contends that Larry May’s Hobbesian argument for limitations on sovereignty and lawmaking in Limiting Leviathan does not succeed. First, I show that Hobbes begins with a plausible instrumental theory of normativity. Second, I show that Hobbes then attempts, unsuccessfully—by his own lights—to defend a kind of non-instrumental, moral normativity. Thus, I contend, in order to successfully “limit the Leviathan” of the state, the Hobbesian must provide a sound instrumental argument in favor of the sovereign limiting their actions and (...) lawmaking. But, I argue, neither Hobbes nor May provides such an argument. (shrink)
This dissertation defends a “non-ideal theory” of justice: a systematic theory of how to respond justly to injustice. Chapter 1 argues that contemporary political philosophy lacks a non-ideal theory of justice, and defends a variation of John Rawls’ famous original position – a Non-Ideal Original Position – as a method with which to construct such a theory. Chapter 1 then uses the Non-Ideal Original Position to argue for a Fundamental Principle of Non-Ideal Theory: a principle that requires injustices to be (...) dealt with in whichever way will best satisfy the preferences of all relevant individuals, provided those individuals are all rational, adequately informed, broadly moral, and accept the correct “ideal theory” of fully just conditions. Chapter 2 then argues for the Principle of Application – an epistemic principle that represents the Fundamental Principle’s satisfaction conditions in terms of the aims of actual or hypothetical reformist groups. Chapters 3-5 then use these two principles to argue for substantive views regarding global/international justice. Chapter 3 argues that the two principles establish a higher-order human right for all other human rights to promoted and protected in accordance with the two principles of non-ideal theory. Chapter 4 argues that the two principles defeasibly require the international community to tolerate unjust societies, provided those societies respect the most basic rights of individuals. Finally, Chapter 5 argues that the two principles imply a duty of the international community to ameliorate the most severe forms of global poverty, as well as a duty to pursue “fair trade” in international economics. (shrink)
Due to a production error, two block-quotations were originally omitted from the final publication. These passages have been corrected in the web-version on the journal’s website (DOI: 10.1111/phil.12282), but cannot be corrected in the print/PDF version. Readers of the PDF version, please note the two corrections herein.
The Duhem-Quine thesis famously holds that a single hypothesis cannot be confirmed or disconfirmed in isolation, but instead only in conjunction with other background hypotheses. This article argues that this has important and underappreciated implications for metaethics. Section 1 argues that if one begins metaethics firmly wedded to a naturalistic worldview—due (e.g.) to methodological/epistemic considerations—then normativity will appear to be reducible to a set of social-psycho-semantic behaviors that I call the ‘normative stance.’ Contra Hume and Bedke (2012), I argue that (...) the normative stance provides semantically-grounded entailments from natural truths to normative truths, reducing the latter to the former. Specifically, the normative stance explains the truth-conditions, truth-values, and truth-makers of normative propositions in terms of socially grounded cognitive-behavioral rules and other natural facts, thus explaining how there can be bona fide normative facts and properties in a wholly naturalistic world. I then show that the normative stance explains the apparent stance-independence and non-naturalness of normative reasons, intrinsic value, and categoricity of moral reasons as ‘user-illusions’ generated by people having strong psycho-social propensities—rooted in evolution and social cooperation—to take these normative stances. Section 2 then argues that while the normative stance may appear to naturalists to successfully explain normativity, it will not appeal to those who come to metaethics with different background commitments. I conclude that naturalists should take the normative stance to be a promising metaethical theory of normativity, and that whether it is a true theory of normativity is something that can only be ascertained by determining which background hypotheses—naturalistic or otherwise—we should have when doing metaethics. (shrink)
Jason Brennan argues that people are morally obligated not to vote badly, where voting badly is voting “without sufficient reason” for harmful or unjust policies or candidates. His argument is: (1) One has an obligation not to engage in collectively harmful activities when refraining from such activities does not impose significant personal costs. (2) Voting badly is to engage in a collectively harmful activity, while abstaining imposes low personal costs. (3) Therefore, one should not vote badly. This paper shows that (...) Brennan never adequately clarifies (1) and that, on every plausible clarification, (2) is false. (shrink)
This paper argues that virtue ethics and prevailing epistemic norms in moral and political philosophy more generally both support a new kind of empirically-informed moral-virtue epistemology, or “experimental ethics” – an epistemology according to which disputed normative premises in moral and political philosophy should be epistemically evaluated on the basis of empirically-observed relationships they bear to morally admirable and morally repugnant psycho-behavioral traits, as defined by cross-cultural, cross-historical, and cross-debate agreement on the moral valence of particular traits and behaviors.
Peer review is often taken to be the main form of quality control on academic research. Usually journals carry this out. However, parts of maths and physics appear to have a parallel, crowd-sourced model of peer review, where papers are posted on the arXiv to be publicly discussed. In this paper we argue that crowd-sourced peer review is likely to do better than journal-solicited peer review at sorting papers by quality. Our argument rests on two key claims. First, crowd-sourced peer (...) review will lead on average to more reviewers per paper than journal-solicited peer review. Second, due to the wisdom of the crowds, more reviewers will tend to make better judgments than fewer. We make the second claim precise by looking at the Condorcet Jury Theorem as well as two related jury theorems developed specifically to apply to peer review. (shrink)
The dominant theory of the evolution of moral cognition across a variety of fields is that moral cognition is a biological adaptation to foster social cooperation. This chapter argues, to the contrary, that moral cognition is likely an evolutionary exaptation: a form of cognition where neurobiological capacities selected for in our evolutionary history for a variety of different reasons—many unrelated to social cooperation—were put to a new, prosocial use after the fact through individual rationality, learning, and the development and transmission (...) of social norms. This chapter begins with a brief overview of the emerging behavioral neuroscience of moral cognition. It then outlines a novel theory of moral cognition that I have previously argued explains these findings better than alternatives. Finally, it shows how the evidence for this theory of moral cognition and human evolutionary history together suggest that moral cognition is likely not a biological adaptation. Instead, like reading sheet music or riding a bicycle, moral cognition is something that individuals learn to do—in this case, in response to sociocultural norms created in our ancestral history and passed down through the ages to enable cooperative living. (shrink)
Allen Buchanan has argued that a widely defended view of the nature of the state – the view that the state is a discretionary association for the mutual advantage of its members – must be rejected because it cannot adequately account for moral requirements of humanitarian intervention. This paper argues that Buchanan’s objection is unsuccessful,and moreover, that discretionary association theories can preserve an important distinction that Buchanan’s alternative approach to political legitimacy cannot: the distinction between “internal” legitimacy (a state’s ability (...) to morally justify itself to its own members) and “external” legitimacy (a state’s ability to morally justify itself to humanity more broadly). (shrink)
This chapter argues there are many hints in the dialogue, plot, and physics of the first season of Westworld that the events in the show do not take place within a theme park, but rather in a virtual reality (VR) world that people "visit" to escape the "real world." The philosophical implications I draw are several. First, to be simulated is to be real: simulated worlds are every bit as real as "the real world", and simulated people (hosts) are every (...) bit as real as "real" ones. Second, failure to appreciate this equivalence is already leading us to treat our simulated creations (artificially intelligent agents, videogame characters, etc.) in the same kinds of morally deplorable ways that humans in Westworld treat theirs. (shrink)
In his recent article in Philosophy and Public Affairs, 'The Paradox of Voting and Ethics of Political Representation', Alexander A. Guerrero argues it is rational to vote because each voter should want candidates they support to have the strongest public mandate possible if elected to office, and because every vote contributes to that mandate. The present paper argues that two of Guerrero's premises require correction, and that when those premises are corrected several provocative but compelling conclusions follow about the rationality (...) of voting and duties of elected officials: (A) Voting is typically rational for the members of a political party’s base; (B) Voting is often (but not always) irrational for “swing” voters (i.e. independent voters who are not affiliated with any political party, as well as “undecided” voters who are considering voting across party lines); and (C) Elected officials have a moral duty to respond to changing levels of popular support once in office, as indicated by properly monitored and corroborated public opinion polls of constituents, functioning more as delegates the lower their level of popular support. Finally, I suggest that the last of these conclusions has wide-ranging implications for political ethics. I illustrate these implications by focusing on the questions -- under debate in the 2016 US Presidential election cycle -- of whether a sitting President has a moral duty to nominate or not nominate a new Supreme Court justice during his or her final year in office, and similarly, whether US Senators have a moral duty to obstruct, or not obstruct, confirmation of the President’s eventual nominee. (shrink)
The standard philosophical analysis of counterfactual conditionals—the Lewis-Stalnaker analysis—analyzes the truth-conditions of counterfactuals in terms of nearby possible worlds. This paper demonstrates that this analysis is false. §1 shows that it is a serious epistemic and metaphysical possibility that our “world” is a massive computer simulation, and that if the Lewis-Stalnaker analysis of counterfactuals is correct, then it should extend seamlessly to the case that our world is a computer simulation, in the form of a possible-simulation semantics. §2 then shows, (...) however, that a Lewis-Stalnaker-style possible-simulation semantics clearly fails as an analysis of the truth-conditions of counterfactuals in two types of simulated worlds: Humean Simulations and Necessitarian simulations. §3 then considers and answers several objections to the argument. Finally, §4 draws several skeptical, but compelling lessons about counterfactuals from the argument. (shrink)
The subjective features of conscious mental processes--as opposed to their physical causes and effects--cannot be captured by the purified form of thought suitable for dealing with the physical world that underlies appearances.".