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

Continue reading

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


Thoughts such as ‘It would be wrong for me to PHI’ and ‘You would be wrong in PHI-ing’ seem to be special in that, in addition to having an essential cognitive function as ordinary beliefs do, they seem to have an essential motivating function as well.  (And we might say similar things about other bits of moral thought or moral thought in general, but I’ll focus on ‘wrong’ here.)  So, in this sort of way, the concept ‘wrong’ appears to be essentially motivating as well as essentially descriptive or cognitive.

Continue reading

Is Knowledge metaphysically (or conceptually) prior to belief?

Coming out soon, J. Adam Carter, Emma C. Gordon and Benjamin Jarvis have an anthology on the “knowledge first” approach to epistemology and mind (based on the work of Timothy Williamson in his Knowledge and Its Limits).  (Maybe the volume is already is out, but I could not find it on the interwebs.)  Their introductory essay contains some clear and insightful explanatory summary of various knowledge-first theses (including what they take to be the central one) and discusses a central motivation for the knowledge-first approach (and what they take to be its central thesis).  Here is that essay:

And here are some excerpts/summary from this text and some commentary from me (in bold).  

(If there is a theme to my recent philosophical commentary here at PoT, it is the importance, in many cases, of understanding how things function (or what their function is) in order to understand better what they are.)

Continue reading