If A is better than B and B is better than C, then A is better than C, right? Larry Temkin and Stuart Rachels say: No! Betterness is nontransitive, they claim. In this paper, I discuss the central type of argument advanced by Temkin and Rachels for this radical idea, and argue that, given this view very likely has sceptical implications for practical reason, we would do well to identify alternative responses. I propose one such response, which employs the idea (...) that rational agents might regard some options as incommensurate in value, and will reasonably employ a heuristic of status quo maintenance to avoid suboptimal choices from incommensurate goods. (shrink)
This paper develops two ideas with respect to dispositional properties: (1) Adapting a suggestion of Sungho Choi, it appears the conceptual distinction between dispositional and categorical properties can be drawn in terms of susceptibility to finks and antidotes. Dispositional, but not categorical properties, are not susceptible to intrinsic finks, nor are they remediable by intrinsic antidotes. (2) If correct, this suggests the possibility that some dispositions—those which lack any causal basis—may be insusceptible to any fink or antidote. Since finks and (...) antidotes are a major obstacle to a conditional analysis of dispositions, these dispositions that are unfinkable may be successfully analysed by the conditional analysis of dispositions. This result is of importance for those who think that the fundamental properties might be dispositions which lack any distinct causal basis, because it suggests that these properties, if they exist, can be analysed by simple conditionals and that they will not be subject to ceteris paribus laws. (shrink)
This paper discusses the prospects of a dispositional solution to the Kripke–Wittgenstein rule-following puzzle. Recent attempts to employ dispositional approaches to this puzzle have appealed to the ideas of finks and antidotes—interfering dispositions and conditions—to explain why the rule-following disposition is not always manifested. We argue that this approach fails: agents cannot be supposed to have straightforward dispositions to follow a rule which are in some fashion masked by other, contrary dispositions of the agent, because in all cases, at least (...) some of the interfering dispositions are both relatively permanent and intrinsic to the agent. The presence of these intrinsic and relatively permanent states renders the ascription of a rule-following disposition to the agent false. (shrink)
The spectrum argument purports to show that the better-than relation is not transitive, and consequently that orthodox value theory is built on dubious foundations. The argument works by constructing a sequence of increasingly less painful but more drawn-out experiences, such that each experience in the spectrum is worse than the previous one, yet the final experience is better than the experience with which the spectrum began. Hence the betterness relation admits cycles, threatening either transitivity or asymmetry of the relation. This (...) paper examines recent attempts to block the spectrum argument, using the idea that it is a mistake to affirm that every experience in the spectrum is worse than its predecessor: an alternative hypothesis is that adjacent experiences may be incommensurable in value, or that due to vagueness in the underlying concepts, it is indeterminate which is better. While these attempts formally succeed as responses to the spectrum argument, they have additional, as yet unacknowledged costs that are significant. In order to effectively block the argument in its most typical form, in which the first element is radically inferior to the last, it is necessary to suppose that the incommensurability is particularly acute: what might be called radical incommensurability. We explain these costs, and draw some general lessons about the plausibility of the available options for those who wish to save orthodox axiology from the spectrum argument. (shrink)
The most familiar philosophical conception of objective chance renders determinism incompatible with non-trivial chances. This conception – associated in particular with the work of David Lewis – is not a good fit with our use of the word ‘chance’ and its cognates in ordinary discourse. In this paper we show how a generalized framework for chance can reconcile determinism with non-trivial chances, and provide for a more charitable interpretation of ordinary chance-talk. According to our proposal, variation in an admissible ‘evidence (...) base’ generates a spectrum of different chance functions. Successive coarse-grainings of the evidence base generates a partial ordering of chance functions, with finer trumping coarser if known. We suggest that chance-attributions in ordinary discourse express different chance functions in different contexts, and we sketch a potential contextual mechanism for making particular chance functions salient. The mechanism involves the idea that admissible evidence is available evidence: propositions that could be known. A consequence is that attributions of objective chances inherit the relatively familiar context-sensitivity associated with the modal ‘could’. We show how this context-dependency undermines certain arguments for the incompatibility of chance with determinism. (shrink)
Orthodox decision theory gives no advice to agents who hold two goods to be incommensurate in value because such agents will have incomplete preferences. According to standard treatments, rationality requires complete preferences, so such agents are irrational. Experience shows, however, that incomplete preferences are ubiquitous in ordinary life. In this paper, we aim to do two things: (1) show that there is a good case for revising decision theory so as to allow it to apply non-vacuously to agents with incomplete (...) preferences, and (2) to identify one substantive criterion that any such non-standard decision theory must obey. Our criterion, Competitiveness, is a weaker version of a dominance principle. Despite its modesty, Competitiveness is incompatible with prospectism, a recently developed decision theory for agents with incomplete preferences. We spend the final part of the paper showing why Competitiveness should be retained, and prospectism rejected. (shrink)
We present a theory of honor violence as a form of costly signaling. Two types of honor violence are identified: revenge and purification. Both types are amenable to a signaling analysis whereby the violent behavior is a signal that can be used by out-groups to draw inferences about the nature of the signaling group, thereby helping to solve perennial problems of social cooperation: deterrence and assurance. The analysis shows that apparently gratuitous acts of violence can be part of a system (...) of norms that are Pareto superior to alternatives without such signals. For societies that lack mechanisms of governance to deter aggression or to enforce contracts, norms of honor can be a rational means of achieving these functions. The theory also suggests that cultures can become trapped in inefficient equilibria owing to path-dependent phenomena. In other words, costly signals of honor may continue to be sent even when they are no longer providing useful information. (shrink)
The essentially comparative conception of value entails that the value of a state of affairs does not depend solely upon features intrinsic to the state of affairs, but also upon extrinsic features, such as the set of feasible alternatives. It has been argued that this conception of value gives us reason to abandon the transitivity of the better than relation. This paper shows that the support for intransitivity derived from this conception of value is very limited. On its most plausible (...) interpretations, it merely provides a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for intransitivity. It is further argued that the essentially comparative conception of value appears to support a disjunctive conclusion: there is incommensurability of value or betterness is not transitive. Of these two alternatives, incommensurability is preferable, because it is far less threatening to our other axiological commitments. (shrink)
In recent decades, the analysis of causal relations has become a topic of central importance in analytic philosophy. More recently, dispositional properties have also become objects of intense study. Both of these phenomena appear to be intimately related to counterfactual conditionals and other modal phenomena such as objective chance, but little work has been done to directly relate them. This collection contains ten essays by scholars working in both metaphysics and in philosophy of science, examining the relation between dispositional and (...) causal concepts. (shrink)
Contents: 1. The concept of chance; 2. The classical picture; 3. Ways the world might be; 4. Possibilities of thought; 5. Chance in phase space; 6. Possibilist theories of chance; 7. Actualist theories of chance; 8. Anti-realist theories of chance; 9. Chance in quantum physics; 10. Chance in branching worlds; 11. Time and evidence; 12. Debunking chance.
Michael Smith has resisted Harry Frankfurt's claim that moral responsibility does not require the ability to have done otherwise. He does this by claiming that, in Frankfurt cases, the ability to do otherwise is indeed present, but is a disposition that has been `finked' or masked by other factors. We suggest that, while Smith's account appears to work for some classic Frankfurt cases, it does not work for all. In particular, Smith cannot explain cases, such as the Willing Addict, where (...) the Frankfurt devise - e.g. the addiction - is intrinsic to the agent. (shrink)
This paper presents an attempt to integrate theories of causal processes—of the kind developed by Wesley Salmon and Phil Dowe—into a theory of causal models using Bayesian networks. We suggest that arcs in causal models must correspond to possible causal processes. Moreover, we suggest that when processes are rendered physically impossible by what occurs on distinct paths, the original model must be restricted by removing the relevant arc. These two techniques suffice to explain cases of late preëmption and other cases (...) that have proved problematic for causal models. (shrink)
The human faculty of moral judgment is not well suited to address problems, like climate change, that are global in scope and remote in time. Advocates of ‘moral bioenhancement’ have proposed that we should investigate the use of medical technologies to make human beings more trusting and altruistic, and hence more willing to cooperate in efforts to mitigate the impacts of climate change. We survey recent accounts of the proximate and ultimate causes of human cooperation in order to assess the (...) prospects for bioenhancement. We identify a number of issues that are likely to be significant obstacles to effective bioenhancement, as well as areas for future research. (shrink)
Objective chance and morality are rarely discussed together. In this paper, I argue that there is a surprising similarity in the epistemic standing of our beliefs about both objective chance and objective morality. The key similarity is that both of these sorts of belief are undermined -- in a limited, but important way -- by plausible genealogical accounts of the concepts that feature in these beliefs. The paper presents a brief account of Richard Joyce's evolutionary hypothesis of the genealogy of (...) morality, and refines the debunking argument which he consequently mounts against moral beliefs. The evolutionary hypothesis in question suggests that we could easily have failed to believe that moral judgments have a peculiarly categorical force. This aspect of our moral belief, then, is unreliable. The paper then turns to chance, and presents a more speculative hypothesis about the cultural evolution of ideas about chance, as a peculiarly physical and objective form of probability. It is argued that, in the same way that our beliefs about morality could easily have lacked the commitment to inescapable force, our beliefs about chance could easily have lacked various idiosyncratic commitments. By a similar argument then, these aspects of our chance beliefs are unreliable. In the final section of the paper, I review some recent objections to genealogical debunking arguments, due to Roger White and Guy Kahane, showing how the form of argument developed in this paper is immune to these criticisms. (shrink)
Humean metaphysics is characterized by a rejection of necessary connections between distinct existences. Dispositionalists claim that there are basic causal powers. The existence of such properties is widely held to be incompatible with the Humean rejection of necessary connections. In this paper I present a novel theory of causal powers that vindicates the dispositionalist claim that causal powers are basic, without embracing brute necessary connections. The key assumptions of the theory are that there are natural types of causal processes, and (...) that manifestations of powers are identified with certain kinds of causal processes. From these assumptions, the modal features of powers are explained in terms of internal relations between powers themselves and the process-types in which powers are manifested. (shrink)
Necessitarian accounts of the laws of nature meet an apparent difficulty: for them, counterlegal conditionals, despite appearing to be substantive, seem to come out as vacuous. I argue that the necessitarian may use the presuppositions of counterlegal discourse to explain this. If the typical presupposition that necessitarianism is false is made explicit in counterlegal utterances, we obtain sentences such as 'If it turns out that the laws of nature are contingent, then if the laws had been otherwise, then such and (...) such would have been the case', which are non-vacuous and very often true. This goes a long way towards resolving the difficulty for necessitarianism. (shrink)
D. M. Armstrong has objected that the Dispositionalist theory of laws and properties is modally inverted, for it entails that properties are constituted by relations to non-actual possibilia. I contend that, if this objection succeeds against Dispositionalism, then Armstrong's nomic necessitation relation is also modally inverted. This shows that at least one of Armstrong's reasons for preferring a nomic necessitation theory is specious.
In this paper we present an account of practical rationality and weakness of will in terms of rational capacities. We show how our account rectifies various shortcomings in Michael Smith's related theory. In particular, our account is capable of accommodating cases of weak-willed behaviour that are not `akratic', or otherwise contrary to the agent's better judgement. Our account differs from Smith's primarily by incorporating resolve: a third rational capacity for resolute maintenance of one's intentions. We discuss further two ways to (...) explain the importance of resolve to practical rationality: one based on Richard Holton's recent work, and an alternative, non-consequentialist account. (shrink)
Mass vaccination has been a successful public health strategy for many contagious diseases. The immunity of the vaccinated also protects others who cannot be safely or effectively vaccinated—including infants and the immunosuppressed. When vaccination rates fall, diseases like measles can rapidly resurge in a population. Those who cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons are at the highest risk of severe disease and death. They thus may bear the burden of others' freedom to opt out of vaccination. It is often asked (...) whether it is legitimate for states to adopt and enforce mandatory universal vaccination. Yet this neglects a related question: are those who opt out, where it is permitted, morally responsible when others are harmed or die as a result of their decision? In this article, we argue that individuals who opt out of vaccination are morally responsible for resultant harms to others. Using measles as our main example, we demonstrate the ways in which opting out of vaccination can result in a significant risk of harm and death to others, especially infants and the immunosuppressed. We argue that imposing these risks without good justification is blameworthy and examine ways of reaching a coherent understanding of individual moral responsibility for harms in the context of the collective action required for disease transmission. Finally, we consider several objections to this view, provide counterarguments and suggest morally permissible alternatives to mandatory universal vaccination including controlled infection, self-imposed social isolation and financial penalties for refusal to vaccinate. (shrink)
This paper examines the idea that there might be natural kinds of causal processes, with characteristic diachronic structure, in much the same way that various chemical elements form natural kinds, with characteristic synchronic structure. This claim -- if compatible with empirical science -- has the potential to shed light on a metaphysics of essentially dispositional properties, championed by writers such as Bird and Ellis.
Just war theory is a difficult, even paradoxical, philosophical topic. It is not just that warfare involves large-scale, organised, deliberate killing, and hence might seem the very paradigm of immorality. The just war tradition sharply divorces the question of whether or not it is permissible to resort to war – the question of jus ad bellum – from the question of how and against whom one may inflict harm once at war – the question of jus in bello. As Michael (...) Walzer notes,1 this separation of jus in bello from jus ad bellum means that we can meaningfully talk of an unjust war being fought justly, and vice versa: soldiers defending against aggression might nevertheless be criminals for the way in which they do it; while soldiers prosecuting an aggressive war, provided they fight it in the right way, are without culpability. This paper will draw upon the morality of individual self-defence to explain certain important features of the traditional jus in bello: the permissibility of killing, even by soldiers who lack justice on their side; the principles that govern surrender and the taking of prisoners of war; and the principle of discrimination between soldiers and civilians. Our explanation will not leave all aspects of the jus in bello undisturbed: it has consequences that are revisionary in at least some respects, this being the upshot of trying to explain the jus in bello in individualist terms. Partly because of such consequences, approaching the morality of war in individualist terms is neither straightforward nor uncontroversial.2 But we are prepared to accept.. (shrink)
Marc Lange objects to scientific essentialists that they can give no better account of the counterfactual invariance of laws than Humeans. While conceding this point succeeds ad hominem against some essentialists, I show that it does not undermine essentialism in general. Moreover, Lange's alternative account of the relation between laws and counterfactuals is - with minor modification - compatible with essentialism.
David McCarthy has recently suggested that our compensation and liability practices may be interpreted as reflecting a fundamental norm to hold people liable for imposing risk of harm on others. Independently, closely related ideas have been criticised by Stephen R. Perry and Arthur Ripstein as incompatible with central features of negligence law. We aim to show that these objections are unsuccessful against McCarthy’s Risk–liability theory, and that such an approach is a promising means both for understanding the moral basis of (...) liability for negligence and for reasoning about possible reforms of the institution of negligence law. (shrink)
Nations are understood to have a right to go to war, not only in defense of individual rights, but in defense of their own political standing in a given territory. This paper argues that the political defensive privilege cannot be satisfactorily explained, either on liberal cosmopolitan grounds or on pluralistic grounds. In particular, it is argued that pluralistic accounts require giving implausibly strong weight to the value of political communities, overwhelming the standing of individuals. Liberal cosmopolitans, it is argued, underestimate (...) the difficulties in disentangling a state’s role in upholding or threatening individual interests from its role in providing the social context that shapes and determines those very interests. The paper proposes an alternative theory, “prosaic statism”, which shares the individualistic assumptions of liberal cosmopolitanism, but avoids a form of fundamentalism about human rights, and is therefore less likely to recommend humanitarian intervention in non-liberal states. (shrink)
Alex Voorhoeve and Marc Fleurbaey have developed a novel theory of distributive ethics, which incorporates a concern for inequality in both outcomes and life chances. This article demonstrates that their attempt to measure life chances is problematic for two reasons. First, it cannot be generalized to variable population cases without inheriting the problems of average utilitarianism. Second, it does not consistently respect the very ideas that were used to motivate the proposal.
What difference does it make to matters of value, for a desire satisfactionist, if a given desire is *absent*, rather than *present*? I argue that it is most plausible to hold that the state in which a given desire is satisfied is, other things being equal, incommensurate with the state in which that desire does not exist at all. In addition to illustrating the internal attractions of the view, I demonstrate that this idea has attractive implications for population ethics. Finally, (...) I show that the view is not subject to John Broome's `greedy neutrality' worry. (shrink)
Should the norms of honor cultures be classified as a variety of morality? In this paper, we address this question by considering various empirical bases on which norms can be taxonomically organised. This question is of interest both as an exercise in philosophy of social science, and for its potential implications in meta-ethical debates. Using recent data from anthropology and evolutionary game theory, we argue that the most productive classification emphasizes the strategic role that moral norms play in generating assurance (...) and stabilizing cooperation. Because honor norms have a similar functional role, this account entails honor norms are indeed a variety of moral norm. We also propose an explanation of why honor norms occur in a relatively unified, phenotypically distinctive cluster, thereby explaining why it is tempting to regard them as taxonomically distinct. (shrink)
We know that Homo sapiens will not exist forever. Given this, how should our species end? What are the reasons, if any, to delay our extinction? In this paper, I show that the pre-eminent reasons which favour prolonging the existence of the species are partial: they will arise from the particular attachments and projects of the final few generations. While there may also be impartial reasons to prolong the species, these reasons are liable, with time, to reverse their valence: we (...) can be reasonably confident that they will ultimately recommend hastening the demise of the species. Consequently, it is likely that our descendants will eventually face a difficult -- possibly tragic -- conflict, between partial duties that recommend living on, and an impartial duty to extinguish the species. (shrink)
Sacred value attitudes involve a distinctive profile of norm psychology: an absolutist prohibition on transgressing the value, combined with outrage at even hypothetical transgressions. This article considers three mechanisms by which such attitudes may be adaptive, and relates them to central theories regarding the evolution of religion. The first, “deterrence” mechanism functions to dissuade coercive expropriation of valuable resources. This mechanism explains the existence of sacred value attitudes prior to the development of religion and also explains analogues of sacred value (...) in non-human species. The two remaining mechanisms, “assurance” and “coalitional,” are more likely to have been involved in the cultural evolution of specifically religious behavior. In the assurance mechanism, sacred value attitudes increase the cost of ideological commitments, making them more reliable as signals of a cooperative disposition. In the coalitional mechanism, sacred value attitudes make it dangerous for third parties to dissent from a social norm, and thus discourage competitor ideologies. While both these mechanisms are compatible with major accounts of the evolution of religion, different theories suggest a greater or lesser emphasis on one mechanism or the other. (shrink)
Peer Instruction is a simple and effective technique you can use to make lectures more interactive, more engaging, and more effective learning experiences. Although well known in science and mathematics, the technique appears to be little known in the humanities. In this paper, we explain how Peer Instruction can be applied in philosophy lectures. We report the results from our own experience of using Peer Instruction in undergraduate courses in philosophy, formal logic, and critical thinking. We have consistently found it (...) to be a highly effective method of improving the lecture experience for both students and the lecturer. (shrink)
Why should we typically act in accordance with our resolutions when faced with the temptation to do otherwise? A much-maligned view suggests that we should do so because resolutions themselves provide us with reasons for action. We defend a version of this view, on which resolutions provide second-order reasons. This account avoids the objections typically taken to be fatal for the view that resolutions are reasons, including the prominent bootstrapping objections.
This chapter argues that, because humanitarian intervention typically involves the military of one state attempting to overthrow another state ’s government, it gives rise to different moral questions from simple cases of interpersonal defensive violence. State sovereignty not only protects institutions within a society that contribute to the satisfaction of individuals’ interests and that cannot be easily restored once overthrown; it also plays a role in the constitution of those interests, which cannot be assumed to be invariant across different forms (...) of social life. As a result, humanitarian intervention will frequently give rise to incommensurability between the pre-intervention and post-intervention states of affairs. The reasons against violating sovereignty, together with reasons for conservativism in action that arise in circumstances of incommensurable value, mean that the threshold for the moral permissibility of humanitarian intervention is high. The chapter concludes by outlining how humanitarian intervention might be internationalized, making it easier to justify. (shrink)
This paper examines and contrasts two closely related evolutionary explanations in human behaviour: signalling theory, and the theory of Credibility Enhancing Displays. Both have been proposed to explain costly, dangerous, or otherwise ‘extravagant’ social behaviours, especially in the context of religious belief and practice, and each have spawned significant lines of empirical research. However, the relationship between these two theoretical frameworks is unclear, and research which engages both of them is largely absent. In this paper we seek to address this (...) gap at the theoretical level, examining the core differences between the two approaches and prospects and conditions for future empirical testing. We clarify the dynamical and mechanistic bases of signalling and CREDs as explanatory models and contrast the previous uses to which they have been put in the human sciences. Because of idiosyncrasies regarding those uses, several commonly supposed differences and comparative advantages are actually misleading and not in fact generalisable. We also show that signalling and CREDs theories as explanatory models are not interchangeable, because of deep structural differences. As we illustrate, the proposed causal networks of each theory are distinct, with important differences in the endogeneity of various phenomena within each model and their explanatory targets. As a result, they can be seen as complementary rather than in competition. We conclude by surveying the current state of the literature and identifying the differential predictions which could underpin more comprehensive empirical comparison in future research. (shrink)
Is a Nozickian theory of rights compatible with a no-fault motor insurance scheme? I say, Yes. The argument turns on an explication of the basis on which a Nozickian justifies the prohibition of merely risky activities.
We present a probabilistic extension to active path analyses of token causation. The extension uses the generalized notion of intervention presented in : we allow an intervention to set any probability distribution over the intervention variables, not just a single value. The resulting account can handle a wide range of examples. We do not claim the account is complete --- only that it fills an obvious gap in previous active-path approaches. It still succumbs to recent counterexamples by Hiddleston, because it (...) does not explicitly consider causal processes. We claim three benefits: a detailed comparison of three active-path approaches, a probabilistic extension for each, and an algorithmic formulation. (shrink)
This thesis examines the relationship between dispositional properties (such as solubility and fragility) and causation. It is argued that dispositions are best explained in terms of causal processes. The resulting explanation avoids violating Humean strictures that prohibit necessary connections between distinct existences. It also gives rise to a novel account of the distinction between dispositional and categorical properties.