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.

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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.)

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Some thoughts on coercion and the moral requirement not to coerce others

[The following is loosely inspired by a compare-and-contrast re-reading of Scanlon’s material on coercion in his Moral Dimensions (p. 74, 78, 108-111) and Michael Huemer’s initial discussion of coercion – in his stipulative sense that simply means exercising or threatening to exercise physical violence or control over another person – in his The Problem of Political Authority (pp. 9-10).]

 1.  One might coerce someone by doing things that impact or interfere with their exercise of their agency in a ways that are never permissible.  One might also coerce someone by doing things that impact or interfere with their exercise of their agency in ways that are permissible if the patient consents – but they have not consented (and in the right circumstances like having full information and with the conditions of consent or non-consent not themselves being coercive).  Both sorts of coercion presuppose antecedent moral requirements, moral requirements not to do specific things that negatively impact the ability of others to exercise their agency.  So the requirement not to coerce would seem to be a generalization over particular ways of interfering with the agency of others that are of these two types (absolutely forbidden, forbidden unless the patient consents).

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Haidt, TRM, chs. 9 & 10

In chs. 9 and 10, Haidt begins his defense of his third principle of empirical moral psychology:

(III) Morality binds and blinds.

The other two (with my interpolations), already defended in the book, are:

(I) Intuitions come first [in moral thinking] strategic reasoning [to moral conclusions] second

(II) There’s more to morality [moral thinking] than harm and fairness.

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Admirability (etc.): reasons and getting fitting attitudes right (PEA Soup discussion of Gert’s recent article)

It is fitting or appropriate to admire the admirable (and similarly, it is fitting to value the valuable).  According the the fitting attitudes account (FA) of an action or person being admirable, admirability is nothing more than fittingness to be admired.  And according to the reasons account of an attitude being fitting (RFA), an attitude being fitting is nothing more than the balance of reasons (of the right sort) favoring having the attitude toward the object.  This gives rise the the “wrong kind of reason” problem:  we need to say which reasons are the right reasons for admiring to make for admirability because a person or action is not rendered admirable by, say, my threatening her (or God threatening everyone) should she (or any given person) fail to admire, say, children torturing cats.  Nor are these sorts of reasons relevant to it being admirable to help someone in need at some significant expense to oneself (e.g.).  

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Another issue from Derek’s TCJ, Part 1

1.1(3) (part 1, para. 1, line 3 of Derek Bowman’s “The Circumstances of Justice” 

We owe (or are due) things from each other and there are general principles (of justice) that specify just what it is that we owe to each other.  That the verb here is ‘specify’ suggests a normative, explanatory role:  the general principles explain why each of us owes it to each other to refrain from PHI-ing, but not to refrain from PSI-ing (or perhaps why each of us owes it to each other to refrain from PHI-ing in certain circumstances but not others).  However, one of several to-me controversial things that Rawls’ characterization of justice suggests is that these general principles do not do this work, but rather some slightly different work – the work of justifying the adoption (perhaps the public adoption) of a prescriptive norm (or a nested set of prescriptive norms with a certain structure).  That might go something like this:  each of us is to refrain from PHI-ing with respect to each other person (and all of us is to stand ready to enforce the prescription to refrain from PHI-ing by demanding that potential rule-breakers don’t break the rule and by punishing actual rule-breakers).  On this second way in which the general principles might work, they do something like specify conclusive reasons to construct a particular social practice.   Continue reading

Haidt, The Righteous Mind, ch5&ch6


5.1  WEIRD people (Western, Educated, Industrialized, Rich, Democratic people) are statistical outliers in the group of humans – and therefore bad samples for generalizing about the group of humans.  They are perhaps most obviously outliers in that, at least in cases not involving other-harming or unfair action, they resist inferring from feelings of disgust upon considering a social situation to that situation being morally bad or involving someone doing something morally wrong.  For example, they are much less inclined to say that someone having sex with a chicken carcass and then eating it is (universally, morally) wrong.  Similarly for other “harmless taboo” cases.  Therefore, good empirical moral psychology should not sample only WEIRDos (e.g., university students in the United States – hard to get much WEIRDer). Continue reading