In this paper, we argue for a particular informative and unified analysis of normative reasons. According to this analysis, a fact F is a reason to act in a certain way just in case it is evidence that one ought to act in that way. Similarly, F is a reason to believe a certain proposition just in case it is evidence for the truth of this proposition. Putting the relatively uncontroversial claim about reasons for belief to one side, we present (...) several arguments in favor of our analysis of reasons for action. We then turn to consider a series of objections to the analysis. We conclude that there are good reasons to accept the analysis and that the objections do not succeed. (shrink)
This paper is a response to two sets of published criticisms of the 'Reasons as Evidence’ thesis concerning normative reasons, proposed and defended in earlier papers. According to this thesis, a fact is a normative reason for an agent to Φ just in case this fact is evidence that this agent ought to Φ. John Broome and John Brunero have presented a number of challenging criticisms of this thesis which focus, for the most part, on problems that it appears to (...) confront when it comes to the topic of the weighing of reasons. Our paper responds to all of the criticisms that these critics have provided, shedding fresh light on this interesting topic in the process. (shrink)
Alfred Mele’s zygote argument for incompatibilism is based on a case involving an agent in a deterministic world whose entire life is planned by someone else. Mele’s contention is that Ernie (the agent) is unfree and that normal determined agents are relevantly similar to him with regards to free will. In this paper, I examine four different ways of understanding this argument and then criticize each interpretation. I then extend my criticism to manipulation arguments in general. I conclude that the (...) zygote argument is no threat to compatibilism. (shrink)
LeMans’s gontological argument aims to prove the non-existence of God on the basis that it is possible to conceive of a being that is greater than any actual thing. If God were actual, then it would be possible to conceive of something greater than God. As this is not possible, God does not exist.
Why might someone consider the answer to the titular question to be trivial? Perhaps because she has read some mereology and understands that mereologists distinguish between parthood on the one hand and proper parthood on the other. She understands that, at least when talking in the language of mereology, a thing is necessarily not a proper part of itself, but is necessarily a part of itself. Whether the English word “part” expresses parthood or proper parthood does not seem too important, (...) seeing as either can be taken as primitive and one defined in terms of the other. Thus, whether something is part of itself or not is indeed a trivial matter of definition. If by “part” one means parthood, everything is part of itself. If by “part” one means proper parthood, nothing is part of itself. (shrink)
We can find in the passages that set out the Master Argument a precursor to the paradox of knowability. That paradox shows that if all truths are knowable, all truths are known. Similarly, Berkeley might be read as proposing that if all sensible objects are (distinctly) conceivable, then all sensible objects are conceived.
It is commonly held that no one can be morally responsible for a necessary truth. In this paper, I will provide various examples that cast doubt on this idea. I also show that one popular argument for the incompatibility of moral responsibility and determinism (van Inwagen’s Direct Argument) fails given my examples.
Situationism is, roughly, the thesis that normatively irrelevant environmental factors have a great impact on our behaviour without our being aware of this influence. Surprisingly, there has been little work done on the connection between situationism and moral luck. Given that it is often a matter of luck what situations we find ourselves in, and that we are greatly influenced by the circumstances we face, it seems also to be a matter of luck whether we are blameworthy or praiseworthy for (...) our actions in those circumstances. We argue that such situationist moral luck, as a variety of circumstantial moral luck, exemplifies a distinct and interesting type of moral luck. Further, there is a case to be made that situationist moral luck is perhaps more worrying than some other well-discussed cases of moral luck. (shrink)
ABSTRACT A version of Meno’s paradox applies to intellectualism about knowledge-how. If one does not know that p, one does not know that w is a way of working out that p. According to intellectualists, the latter such knowledge constitutes knowledge how to work out that p. One thus knows how to work out that p only if one already knows that p. But if this is right, nobody can work anything out.
Situations are powerful: the evidence from experimental social psychology suggests that agents are hugely influenced by the situations they find themselves in, often without their knowing it. In our paper, we evaluate how situational factors affect our reasons-responsiveness, as conceived of by John Fischer and Mark Ravizza, and, through this, how they also affect moral responsibility. We argue that the situationist experiments suggest that situational factors impair, among other things, our moderate reasons-responsiveness, which is plausibly required for moral responsibility. However, (...) even though we argue that situational factors lower the degree of our reasons-responsiveness, we propose that agents remain moderately reasons-responsive to the degree required for moral responsibility. Nonetheless, those affected by situational factors are arguably less morally responsible than those who are not subject to similar situational factors. We further evaluate an understanding of reasons-responsiveness which relativizes reasons-responsiveness to agents’ circumstances. We argue that the situationist data do not warrant this kind of divergence from Fischer’s and Ravizza’s account. We conclude by discussing what situationist experiments tell us about our relationship to non-reasons. (shrink)
The paper challenges Williamson’s safety based explanation for why we cannot know the cut-off point of vague expressions. We assume throughout (most of) the paper that Williamson is correct in saying that vague expressions have sharp cut-off points, but we argue that Williamson’s explanation for why we do not and cannot know these cut-off points is unsatisfactory. -/- In sect 2 we present Williamson's position in some detail. In particular, we note that Williamson's explanation relies on taking a particular safety (...) principle ('Meta-linguistic belief safety' or 'MBS') as a necessary condition on knowledge. In section 3, we show that even if MBS were a necessary condition on knowledge, that would not be sufficient to show that we cannot know the cut-off points of vague expressions. In section 4, we present our main case against Williamson's explanation: we argue that MBS is not a necessary condition on knowledge, by presenting a series of cases where one's belief violates MBS but nevertheless constitutes knowledge. In section 5, we present and respond to an objection to our view. And in section 6, we briefly discuss the possible directions a theory of vagueness can take, if our objection to Williamson's theory is taken on board. (shrink)
Certain aspects of our situations often influence us in significant and negative ways, without our knowledge (call this claim “situationism”). One possible explanation of their influence is that they affect our abilities. In this paper, we address two main questions. Do these situational factors rid us of our abilities to act on our sufficient reasons? Do situational factors make it more difficult for us to exercise our abilities to act for sufficient reasons? We argue for the answer ‘sometimes’ to both (...) these questions. We then explore the consequences of this view for moral responsibility. (shrink)
The view that it is possible for someone to think at a time without existing at that time is not only perfectly coherent but in harmony with an attractive externalist view of the mental. Furthermore, it offers plausible solutions to various puzzles of personal identity.
1. IntroductionSuch is the depth and breadth of Peter van Inwagen’s philosophical output, one must pick and choose which topics to cover when editing a book exploring the philosophical themes touched upon in his work. In Being, Freedom and Method,1 John Keller has brought together several excellent philosophers to explore four such themes – being, freedom, method, and God (the last of which doesn’t make it into the title of the book, perhaps because doing so would violate the rule that (...) the title of a work of analytic philosophy must list exactly three things). Keller does a fine job of covering many of the topics that have interested van Inwagen over the years, but he cannot cover them all (I am most sad to see no substantive treatment of van Inwagen’s work on composition and mereology). Van Inwagen, in his afterword, also finds it necessary to pick and choose which papers he responds to – he addresses only seven of the sixteen papers in the book. I too must pick and choose. In what follows, I shall briefly describe the contents of the book, then make more substantive comments on some of the papers (those about which I think I have something interesting to say). (shrink)
A pair of compatibilists, John Fischer (2012: ch. 6; n.d.) and Manuel Vargas (2012) have responded to a problem about luck that Alfred Mele (2005, 2006) posed for incompatibilist believers in free will and moral responsibility. They offer assistance to libertarians - at least on this front. In this paper, we assess their responses and explain why what they offer is inadequate for libertarian purposes.
I set out and explore an argument for God's existence based on the idea that the possibility of God requires the existence of God as a ground. After setting this argument out, I compare it to other arguments for God, concentrating on an argument from Descartes's Third Meditation. I then address various objections and conclude by setting out a non-theistic version of the argument.
Self-control is a fundamental part of what it is to be a human being. It poses important philosophical and psychological questions about the nature of belief, motivation, judgment, and decision making. More immediately, failures of self-control can have high costs, resulting in ill-health, loss of relationships, and even violence and death, whereas strong self-control is also often associated with having a virtuous character. What exactly is self-control? If we lose control can we still be free? Can we be held responsible (...) for loss of self-control? -/- In this thorough and clearly written introduction to the philosophy of self-control, the authors examine and assess the following topics and questions: • The importance of self-control • What is self-control? • Self-control and the law of desire • Mechanisms of self-control • How is it possible to lose self-control? • Blameworthiness and (the loss of) self-control • Externalist self-control • Pathologies of self-control. -/- Combining philosophical analysis with surveys of the latest psychological research, and including chapter summaries, suggestions for further reading, and a glossary of key terms, Self-Control is essential reading for students of philosophy of mind and psychology, moral psychology, free will, and ethics. It will also be of interest to those in related fields such as psychology and cognitive science. (shrink)