Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy
University of Southern California
About: Journal of Ethics & Social Philosophy is an academic journal published by University of Southern California. The journal publishes majorly in the area(s): Epistemology & Normative. It has an ISSN identifier of 1559-3061. It is also open access. Over the lifetime, 360 publications have been published receiving 2495 citations. The journal is also known as: JESP & Journal of ethics and social philosophy.
TL;DR: This article argued that there is no distinct form of instrumental reasoning or of instrumental rationality, and argued that instrumental reasons are not reasons to take the means to our ends, and that there are no distinct forms of instrumental rationalism.
Abstract: The paper distinguishes between instrumental reasons and instrumental rationality. It argues that instrumental reasons are not reasons to take the means to our ends. It further argues that there is no distinct form of instrumental reasoning or of instrumental rationality. In part the argument proceeds through a sympathetic examination of suggestions made by M. Bratman, J. Broome, and J. Wallace, though the accounts of instrumental rationality offered by the last two are criticised.
TL;DR: The authors reconstructs what they take to be the central evolutionary debunking argument that underlies recent critiques of moral realism and argues that many of our highly presumptively warranted moral beliefs are immune to evolutionary influence and so can be used to assess and eventually resuscitate the epistemic merits of those that have been subject to such influence.
Abstract: This paper reconstructs what I take to be the central evolutionary debunking argument that underlies recent critiques of moral realism. The argument claims that given the extent of evolutionary influence on our moral faculties, and assuming the truth of moral realism, it would be a massive coincidence were our moral faculties reliable ones. Given this coincidence, any presumptive warrant enjoyed by our moral beliefs is defeated. So if moral realism is true, then we can have no warranted moral beliefs, and hence no moral knowledge. In response, I first develop what is perhaps the most natural reply on behalf of realism – namely, that many of our highly presumptively warranted moral beliefs are immune to evolutionary influence and so can be used to assess and eventually resuscitate the epistemic merits of those that have been subject to such influence. I then identify five distinct ways in which the charge of massive coincidence has been understood and defended. I argue that each interpretation is subject to serious worries. If I am right, these putative defeaters are themselves subject to defeat. Thus many of our moral beliefs continue to be highly warranted, even if moral realism is true.
TL;DR: A distinction between attributability and self-disclosure can be found in this article, where the authors argue that the former is superior to the latter, because it alone can accommodate the relatively stringent epistemic conditions that any adequate theory of moral responsibility must recognize, and it alone allows to accommodate the intuitively powerful distinction between bad agents and blameworthy agents.
Abstract: ACCOUNTS OF MORAL responsibility come in two main flavors. There are accounts that hold that an agent is responsible for something (an act, omission, attitude, and so on) just in case that agent has--directly or indirectly--chosen that thing, and there are accounts that hold that an agent is responsible for something just in case that thing is appropriately attributable to her. Each kind of account explains many cases well, and each captures a great many of our pretheoretical intuitions about responsibility; each also yields, occasionally, somewhat counterintuitive results. Call these accounts volitionist and attributionist accounts of moral responsibility. Attributionism has a number of distinguished and able defenders. However, I shall argue, it is wrong: Volitionism is superior, because it alone can accommodate the relatively stringent epistemic conditions that any adequate theory of moral responsibility must recognize, and it alone can accommodate the intuitively powerful distinction between bad agents and blameworthy agents. Before outlining the contending accounts of moral responsibility, let me say a few words about what they are accounts of. In order to avoid the twin risks of begging the question against either account or simply talking past one another, we need a shared notion of moral responsibility. A fully adequate definition must await the development of a complete theory of moral responsibility, but the following condition upon such a theory will serve to guide our quest: To say that an agent is morally responsible (for an act, omission or attitude) is to say that the Strawsonian reactive attitudes are justified in relation to her with regard to that act, omission or attitude (Strawson 1962). That is, it is appropriate for observers to have certain attitudes in relation to her and her act, especially the attitudes, partly cognitive and partly constituted by emotion, of praise and blame. (1) It is a further question whether it would be appropriate to punish or reward the agent for her act, or even whether it would be appropriate to express the judgment. It may be that the expression of the reactive attitudes is justified under stronger, or merely different, conditions than those under which it is appropriate merely to have them, and it is with the latter that we are here exclusively concerned. (2) Attributionist and Volitionist Accounts of Moral Responsibility In a well-known paper, Gary Watson (2004b) distinguishes what he calls the two faces of responsibility. The first, which he calls the aretaic or attributability aspect of responsibility, is intimately linked to a self-disclosure view of moral responsibility. Someone is responsible, in this sense, if her action is expressive of who she is and where she stands on questions of value. The second face of responsibility Watson calls the accountability aspect. Watson argues that someone is accountable for an action if sanctions (or benefits; from now I shall concentrate on the negative case) are fairly applied to them as a consequence of it. We have defined moral responsibility in such manner as to exclude the question of the appropriateness of sanctions. That issue aside, Watson's distinction seems to map neatly onto the distinction between responsibility as understood by attributionism and responsibility as understood by volitionism. Whereas an act is attributable to an agent if it is expressive of who she is, agents are accountable for actions only if they had a reasonable opportunity directly or indirectly to avoid infringing the standards for the violation of which they are held responsible (Watson, 2004b: 276). Agents are able directly to avoid such an infringement if they are able to conform their acts to the relevant standard; they are able indirectly to avoid infringement if they were able to avoid being held to that standard at all. Thus, agents can be responsible for their failed actions in the absence of a capacity to conform to the relevant standard just in case they could have avoided the requirement in the first place--for instance, someone who accepts the role of a doctor, knowing what kinds of skills are required to occupy it competently, is not excused responsibility for harming her patients on the grounds that she lacked the skill to do better, so long as she had the opportunity to avoid accepting the role. …
TL;DR: In this article, the authors consider the question of whether what an agent ought to do depends on the perspective of the agent's perspective, or is it perspective independent, and they refer to this concept by using the word "ought" without qualification for the sake of convenience.
Abstract: I MAGINE A DOCTOR WHO IS FACED with a patient's disease that she knows will lead to death unless treated shortly. (1) Two possible treatments are available: A and B. After careful consideration of the available evidence, the doctor concludes that treatment A will cure the patient, and B will kill him. Unbeknownst to her, however, in fact treatment B is the cure, while A will lead to the patient's death. What ought the doctor to do: give A or give B? Let us call facts about a person's beliefs, knowledge or evidence facts about that person's perspective. We may then ask more generally: Does what an agent ought to do depend on the agent's perspective, or is it perspective independent? Objectivists about "ought," such as G. E. Moore and J. J. Thomson, claim that "ought" is independent of the agent's perspective. (2) Hence, they would hold that the doctor ought to give treatment B--the one that in fact cures the patient. Perspectivists like H. A. Prichard and W. D. Ross, on the other hand, believe that "ought" depends on the perspective of the agent--a view that is sometimes spelled out in terms of the agent's actual beliefs, and sometimes in terms of the evidence available to the agent. (3) Both of these versions of perspectivism hold that the doctor ought to give A, not B. Others again try to solve the puzzle by distinguishing different senses of "ought." (4) According to them, all that we can say is that the doctor ought to give A, relative to her perspective, and that she ought to give B, relative to all the facts. I am willing to concede that it might be useful to speak of what an agent ought to do relative to certain considerations, and that different qualified notions of "ought" might be important in their own right. Nevertheless, I believe that there is a substantial question at issue between objectivists and perspectivists when it comes to what might be called the "overall ought" of practical deliberation. This is the concept involved in the deliberative question, "What ought I to do?" (or "What should I do?") and deliberative conclusions of the form, "I ought to [phi])" (or "I should [phi]"). (I take "ought" and "should" to be equivalent, but for simplicity's sake, I will mostly use "ought" in what follows.) Practical conclusions of this sort are supposed to guide rational decision-making and action directly. In other words, the "ought" at issue is the one that is appealed to in the common idea that it is irrational, or akratic, not to intend what one believes one ought to do. (5) Now, in order to make a rational decision guided by a belief that one ought to do something, one needs a univocal concept of "ought" that figures in such beliefs. It is perfectly consistent to believe, "I ought to [phi]), relative to X," and, "I ought not to [phi]), relative to Y," but one cannot rationally intend both to [phi] and not to [phi]). There must be one sense of "ought," the belief in which is the relevant one for decision-making. We need to be able to judge, "I ought to [phi], full stop." At any rate, this is what I shall assume in the following discussion. The concept that is (inter alia) used in such deliberative conclusions is sometimes called the "practical ought." (6) I think it is natural to consider the practical "ought" as the central, unqualified sense of "ought" and regard all other "oughts" as qualified senses. (7) This claim, however, will not function as a substantial assumption of the argument. This paper is about the question of whether the practical "ought" depends on perspective, and I will refer to this concept by using the word "ought" without qualification only for the sake of convenience. Against this background, we can understand objectivists and perspectivists as disagreeing about the question as to which of the qualified senses of "ought" that are relativized to a certain body of propositions (such as the body of all true propositions, all believed propositions or the propositions that constitute the agent's evidence) provides the correct truth conditions for the practical "ought": Objectivism: A ought to [phi] if, and only if, A ought to [phi] relative to all facts. …
TL;DR: The authors argue that the moral error theory implies that there are no epistemic reasons for belief, and that this is bad news for the error theory since no one knows that there is a thought when they are thinking, and no one know that they do not know everything.
Abstract: In this paper I defend what I call the argument from epistemic reasons against the moral error theory. I argue that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief and that this is bad news for the moral error theory since, if there are no epistemic reasons for belief, no one knows anything. If no one knows anything, then no one knows that there is thought when they are thinking, and no one knows that they do not know everything. And it could not be the case that we do not know that there is thought when we believe that there is thought and that we do not know that we do not know everything. I address several objections to the claim that the moral error theory entails that there are no epistemic reasons for belief. It might seem that arguing against the error theory on the grounds that it entails that no one knows anything is just providing a Moorean argument against the moral error theory. I show that even if my argument against the error theory is indeed a Moorean one, it avoids Streumer's, McPherson's and Olson's objections to previous Moorean arguments against the error theory and is a more powerful argument against the error theory than Moore's argument against external world skepticism is against external world skepticism.