Nullified non-consent

In DEMOCRATIC AUTHORITY, David Estlund rightly points out that non-consent, as well as consent, can change the landscape of permissions and obligations.  If you ask to touch me (his case) and I say “No,” then you are not permitted touch me.  This could change a default prior condition in which, say, each is allowed to touch each other in a certain way.  However, he also claims that “[if] there were some conditions that nullified non-consent, the result would be morally equivalent to consent” (i.e., in my terms the landscape of permissions and obligations would be the same in the two cases) [p. 9].  But why think this?  This seems more likely to be true:  antecedent conditions of permission and obligation still hold.  This is the same as for nullifying conditions for consent:  if I consent to give you my car under the conditions of your threatening my life (nullifying condition for the agreement) then whatever permissions and obligations that were there prior remain (probably you are not permitted to use my car).  If this is right, then Estlund’s nifty “symmetry” argument for normative consent generating authority does not work.  It does not work to start with only the intuitive notions that consent can generate authority, that non-consent as well as consent has the relevant sort of “moral power,” and that if one then both should have moral-power-nullifying conditions.  This shortcut argument failing, the “long cut” of giving and explanatory account of why non-consent that one is morally obligated to consent to can generate authority (and under what conditions) seems unavoidable if we want a strong argument for obligatory non-consent generating authority.

Is authority based on reasons to obey or reasons to agree to obey?

The plane has crashed.  People are seriously injured, but you are not.  A stewardess, directing things, barks an order at you, “Go get the first aid kit from the overhead compartment!”.  Intuitively, you are obligated to follow her order, due to her issuing it, even if it is not the best order she could have made (maybe the first order of business should have been finding water or finding the radio to call for help).  In other words, something about the situation gives her authority over you (and the other passengers).    Continue reading

Estlund (and Brennan) on inherently fair procedure

Procedures can be fair, but not due to tending to produce results that are fair.  If two reasonable people are not agreed on who should get the last turkey sandwich, it would be fair to flip a coin to decide who gets the sandwich.  But this would not be because there is some “fair owner” of the sandwich that coin-flipping tends to get right. Similarly, it seems that democratic procedure is an inherently fair way to decide issues of state governance.

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The downsides of Brennan’s verbally consequentialist standard

In the first chapter of AGAINST DEMOCRACY, “Hobbits and Hooligans,” Jason Brennan (JB) endorses the idea, from John Stuart Mill, that we should institute whatever form of government produces the “best results” [p. 1-2].  He lists the following among the important good results that a government might produce: (a) respecting liberal rights, (b) promoting economic growth and (c) promoting intellectual and moral virtue among the citizenry.

Because he includes [a], JB is clearly thinking of consequences or outcomes or results in a very broad way that includes adherence to deontic constraints or requirements.  Though at one very general level this is all fine and well, part of the evaluative picture here is supposed to be that some form of government other than democracy might turn out to be best.  This picture makes sense if we are examining results or consequences narrowly construed (such that adherence to deontic constraints does not count as an outcome). It also makes sense if we suppose that democracy is merely a way of discovering, formulating and enforcing liberal rights (say, on some Lockean conception). Continue reading

on moral grandstanding (the fruits of some reading and discussion)

In “Moral Grandstanding,” Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke defend the following account of moral grandstanding (MG):

(1) to MG is to participate in moral discourse out of the desire to be regarded by others as moral (with the desire for moral recognition or recognition desire (RD) being strong enough that, if one were not to be recognized as moral, one would be disappointed; and one acts from this desire via the proper conventionally-determined sort of “grandstanding expression”).   Continue reading

normativity as a type of functional capacity in motivation (the case of having reason to be instrumentally rational)

We might think of normativity as something like our functional capacity to solve the problem of maintaining sufficient moment-to-moment motivation in order to effectively pursue goals and comply with norms (using ‘norm’ here in a descriptive sense that might be associated with either standards/rules of functional operation or social expectation/accountability). Continue reading

free will, part two

In the first part, I argued that non-determined events need not be random (where ‘random’ means that there is no causal explanation of why this rather than that alternative possibility is or would be realized given the fully-specified initial conditions).  I conceded, for the sake of argument at least, that if intentional action (choice, decision) were

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free will, part one

Calling all philosophers!  [Cue Rodin’s The Thinker searchlight-figure cutting through the Gotham night.]

Suppose that C, as a brutely probabilistic matter, has a 50% chance of causing/producing E1 and an equal chance of causing/producing E2.  Now suppose that condition K causes the E1-as-against-E2 probability to shift, say, to 80/20.  And suppose that, with condition K holding, E1 happens. Continue reading

normative judgment internalism & motivational functionalism (redux)

David and I seem to agree that, for at least certain sorts of normative beliefs or judgments, a kind of moderate internalism is true.  For example, Bri’s judgment that she ought to tie her shoe (her belief that this is what she has most reason to do presently or what she has compelling reason to do presently) tends, as a non-accidental matter, to produce in her the intention to tie her shoe. Continue reading