The rationality of means-end reasoning is the bedrock of the Humean account of practical reasons. But the normativity of such reasoning can not be taken for granted. I consider and reject the idea that the normativity of instrumental reasoning can be explained – either in terms of its being constitutive of the very notion of having an end, or solely in terms of instrumental considerations. I argue that the instrumental principle is itself a brute norm, and that this is consistent (...) with a Humean account of practical reasons. (shrink)
Daniel Kahneman and his colleagues have made an interesting discovery about people's preferences. In several experiments, subjects underwent two separate ordeals of pain, identical except that one ended with an added amount of diminishing pain. When asked to evaluate these episodes after experiencing both, subjects generally preferred the longer episode--even though it had a greater objective quantity of pain. These data raise an ethical question about whether to respect such preferences when acting on another's behalf. John Broome thinks that it (...) is wrong to add extra pain in order to satisfy a person's preference for a better ending. His explanation for this intuition is that pain is intrinsically bad. I argue against this explanation, and raise several doubts about the moral intuition Broome endorses. In doing so, I offer alternate interpretations of Kahneman's data, and show that these each yield different values which are relevant to the ethical question. (shrink)
Are there plausible synchronic constraints on how a subject thinks of herself extended over time? At first glance, Bas van Fraassen’s principle of Reflection seems to prescribe the sort of epistemic authority one’s future self should be taken by one to have over one’s current epistemic states. (The gist of this principle is that I should now believe what I’m convinced I will believe tomorrow.) There has been a general consensus that, as a principle concerning epistemic authority, Reflection does not (...) apply to epistemically non-ideal agents. I agree with this, but argue here that it misses the point of Reflection. Rather than an epistemic principle concerning reasons for belief, Reflection concerns the semantics of belief avowal. I present a non-factual interpretation of Reflection, argue that the principle provides a constraint on the ways in which one can reflectively endorse one’s future epistemic self, and say something about the logic governing such an interpretation. (shrink)
Philosophical accounts of altruism that purport to explain helping behavior are vulnerable to empirical falsification. John Campbell argues that the Good Samaritan study adds to a growing body of evidence that helping behavior is not best explained by appeal to altruism, thus jeopardizing those accounts. I propose that philosophical accounts of altruism can be empirically challenged only if it is shown that altruistic motivations are undermined by normative conflict in the agent, and that the relevant studies do not provide this (...) sort of evidence. Non-normative, purely causal, psychological factors would be empirically relevant only if the notion of altruism is broadened to include the requirement that one recognize certain situations as calling for altruism. But even in that case, the relevant studies are not designed in such a way that could threaten philosophical theories of altruism. (shrink)
One of the most important problems of twentieth century analytic philosophy concern the place of the mind – and in particular, of consciousness and intentionality – in a physical universe. Brian Loar’s essays in the philosophy of mind in this volume include his major contributions in this area. His central concern was how to understand consciousness and intentionality from the subjective perspective, and especially, how to understand subjectivity in a physical universe. He was committed to the reality and reliability of (...) the subjective perspective; and he found that subjective phenomena like intentionality and consciousness are, in a certain sense, ineliminable and irreducible to objective ones. At the same time he believed that intentionality and consciousness are grounded in the physical. One of his great contributions was showing how to reconcile these two positions by being a conceptual and explanatory anti-reductionist about both consciousness and intentionality but a metaphysical reductionist nonetheless. He had a deep commitment to both physicalism and to the reality and significance of the subjective point of view. (shrink)
One of the most important problems of modern philosophy concerns the place of subjectivity in a purely physical universe. Brian Loar was a major contributor to the discussion of this problem for over four decades. This volume brings together his most important and influential essays in the philosophy of language and of mind.
On a Humean account, a person's reasons for action are determined by her desires---in the broadest sense of 'desires', that is, noncognitive pro-attitudes. In four essays, I defend this account against several prominent objections. The first essay addresses the concern that the Humean cannot account for rationalizing reasons . The next three essays concern justifying reasons : reasons for action that are more fully normative than those that merely make action intelligible. Instrumental reasons, prudential reasons, and intrinsic reasons are three (...) different sorts of reasons to which an agent can appeal in justifying her action. ;Each essay focuses on a specific attack against the Humean account. In the second essay I argue that the normatively of instrumental reasons is brute ; and that, contrary to the received view, this is compatible with Humeanism. In the third essay I consider prudential reasons and defend the Humean claim that all and only present concerns provide normative reasons for action. In the final essay I address the fundamental question considerations of deliberative relevance: what makes certain desires and considerations relevant to a specific decision-making context, that is, what puts them among a person's present active reasons. ;In addition to defending a broadly Humean account of practical reasons, I am concerned to expand the components of a plausible form of Humeanism. Specifically, I argue that desires alone are not always sufficient to ground an agent's reasons, and that affective states are sometimes also necessary. I call this view "thick Humeanism". In essays one and four especially, I urge that a central place be given to affective states in determining practical reasons. I also invoke recent studies in cognitive psychology to support my claims about the role of the emotions in practical deliberation. (shrink)