Recent Department Publications

 BOOKS

Bound: Essay On Free Will And Responsibility

Shaun Nichols

The problem of free will arises from ordinary, commonsense reflection. Shaun Nichols examines these ordinary attitudes from a naturalistic perspective. He offers a psychological account of the origins of the problem of free will. According to his account the problem arises because of two naturally emerging ways of thinking about ourselves and the world, one of which makes determinism plausible while the other makes determinism implausible. Although contemporary cognitive science does not settle whether choices are determined, Nichols argues that our belief in indeterminist choice is grounded in faulty inference and should be regarded as unjustified. However, even if our belief in indeterminist choice is false, it's a further substantive question whether that means that free will doesn't exist. Nichols argues that, because of the flexibility of reference, there is no single answer to whether free will exists. In some contexts, it will be true to say 'free will exists'; in other contexts, it will be false to say that. With this substantive background in place, Bound promotes a pragmatic approach to prescriptive issues. In some contexts, the prevailing practical considerations suggest that we should deny the existence of free will and moral responsibility; in other contexts the practical considerations suggest that we should affirm free will and moral responsibility. This allows for the possibility that in some contexts, it is morally apt to exact retributive punishment; in other contexts, it can be apt to take up the exonerating attitude of hard incompatibilism. 

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015

 

Reason Value And Respect: Kantian Themes From The Philosophy Of Thomas E. Hill Jr

Robert N. Johnson and Mark Timmons, eds.

In thirteen specially written essays, leading philosophers explore Kantian themes in moral and political philosophy that are prominent in the work of Thomas E. Hill, Jr. The first three essays focus on respect and self-respect.; the second three on practical reason and public reason. The third section covers a set of topics in social and political philosophy, including Kantian perspectives on homicide and animals. The final set of essays discuss duty, volition, and complicity in ethics. In conclusion Hill offers an overview of his work and responses to the preceding essays.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2015

 

Humean Moral Pluralism

Michael B. Gill

Moral pluralism is the view that there are different ultimate moral reasons for action, that those different reasons can sometimes come into conflict with each other, and that there exist no invariable ordering principles that tell us how to resolve such conflicts. If moral pluralism is true, we will at times have to act on moral decisions for which we can give no fully principled justification. Humeanism is the view that our moral judgments are based on our sentiments, that reason alone could not have given rise to our moral judgments, and that there are no mind-independent moral properties for our moral judgments to track. In this book, Gill shows that the combination of these two views produces a more accurate account of our moral experiences than the monistic, rationalist, and non-naturalist alternatives. He elucidates the historical origins of the Humean pluralist position in the works of David Hume, Adam Smith, and their eighteenth century contemporaries, and explains how recent work in moral psychology has advanced this position. And he argues for the position's superiority to the non-naturalist pluralism of W. D. Ross and the monism of Kantianism and consequentialism. The pluralist account of the content of morality has been traditionally perceived as belonging with non-naturalist intuitionism. The Humean sentimentalist account of morality has been traditionally perceived as not belonging with any view of morality's content at all. Humean Moral Pluralism explodes both those perceptions. It shows that pluralism and Humeanism belong together, and that they make a philosophically powerful couple.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2014

 

Kant On Practical Justification

Mark Timmons and Sorin Baiasu

This volume of new essays provides a comprehensive and structured examination of Kantian accounts of practical justification. This examination serves as a starting point for a focused investigation of the Kantian approach to justification in practical disciplines (ethics, legal and political philosophy or philosophy of religion). The recent growth of literature on this subject is not surprising given that Kant's approach seems so promising: he claims to be able to justify unconditional normative claims without recourse to assumptions, views or doctrines, which are not in their turn justifiable. Within the context of modern pluralism, this is exactly what the field needs: an approach which can demonstrably show why certain normative claims are valid, and why the grounds of these claims are valid in their turn, and why the freedom to question them should not be stifled. Although this has been a growth area in philosophy, no systematic and sustained study of the topic of practical justification in Kantian philosophy has been undertaken so far.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2013

 

Conversation And Responsibility

Michael McKenna

In this book Michael McKenna advances a new theory of moral responsibility, one that builds upon the work of P. F. Strawson. As McKenna demonstrates, moral responsibility can be explained on analogy with a conversation. The relation between a morally responsible agent and those who hold her morally responsible is similar to the relation between a speaker and her audience. A responsible agent's actions are bearers of meaning--agent meaning--just as a speaker's utterances are bearers of speaker meaning. Agent meaning is a function of the moral quality of the will with which the agent acts. Those who hold an agent morally responsible for what she does do so by responding to her as if in a conversation. By responding with certain morally reactive attitudes, such as resentment or indignation, they thereby communicate their regard for the meaning taken to be revealed in that agent's actions. It is then open for the agent held responsible to respond to those holding her responsible by offering an apology, a justification, an excuse, or some other response, thereby extending the evolving conversational exchange.

The conversational theory of moral responsibility that McKenna develops here accepts two features of Strawson's theory: that moral responsibility is essentially interpersonal--so that being responsible must be understood by reference to the nature of holding responsible--and that the moral emotions are central to holding responsible. While upholding these two aspects of Strawson's theory, McKenna's theory rejects a further Strawsonian thesis, which is that holding morally responsible is more fundamental or basic than being morally responsible. On the conversational theory, the conditions for holding responsible are dependent on the nature of the agent who is responsible. So holding responsible cannot be more basic than being responsible. Nevertheless, the nature of the agent who is morally responsible is to be understood in terms of sensitivity to those who would make moral demands of her, thereby holding her responsible. Being responsible is therefore also dependent on holding responsible. Thus, neither being nor holding morally responsible is more basic than the other. They are mutually dependent.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

 

Happiness For Humans

Daniel C. Russell

In Happiness for Humans, Daniel C. Russell takes a fresh look at happiness from a practical perspective: the perspective of someone trying to solve the wonderful problem of how to give himself a good life. From this perspective, "happiness" is the name of a solution to that problem for practical deliberation. Russell's approach to happiness falls within a tradition that reaches back to ancient Greek and Roman philosophers--a tradition now called "eudaimonism." Beginning with Aristotle's seminal discussion of the role of happiness in practical reasoning, Russell asks what sort of good happiness would have to be in order to play the role in our practical economies that it actually does play. Looking at happiness from this perspective, Russell argues that happiness is a life of activity, with three main features: it is acting for the sake of ends we can live for, and living for them wisely; it is fulfilling for us, both as humans and as unique individuals; and it is inextricable from our connections with the particular persons, pursuits, and places that make us who we are. By returning to this ancient perspective on happiness, Russell finds new directions for contemporary thought about the good lives we want for ourselves.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

 

Intelligent Virtue

Julia Annas

Intelligent Virtue presents a distinctive new account of virtue and happiness as central ethical ideas. Annas argues that exercising a virtue involves practical reasoning of a kind which can illuminatingly be compared to the kind of reasoning we find in someone exercising a practical skill. Rather than asking at the start how virtues relate to rules, principles, maximizing, or a final end, we should look at the way in which the acquisition and exercise of virtue can be seen to be in many ways like the acquisition and exercise of more mundane activities, such as farming, building or playing the piano. This helps us to see virtue as part of an agent's happiness or flourishing, and as constituting (wholly, or in part) that happiness. We are offered a better understanding of the relation between virtue as an ideal and virtue in everyday life, and the relation between being virtuous and doing the right thing.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011

The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom and Morality in a Diverse and Bounded World

Gerald Gaus

Drawing on the tools of game theory, social choice theory, experimental psychology, and evolutionary theory, Gerald Gaus advances a revised account of public reason liberalism, showing how a free society can secure a moral equilibrium that is endorsed by all, and how a just state respects, and develops, such an equilibrium. 

Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011

 

 

  

The Epistemological Spectrum: At the Interface of Cognitive Science and Conceptual Analysis

David K. Henderson and Terence Horgan

David Henderson and Terence Horgan set out a broad new approach to epistemology, which they see as a mixed discipline, having both a priori and empirical elements. They defend the roles of a priori reflection and conceptual analysis in philosophy, but their revisionary account of these philosophical methods allows them a subtle but essential empirical dimension. They espouse a dual-perspective position which they call iceberg epistemology, respecting the important differences between epistemic processes that are consciously accessible and those that are not. Reflecting on epistemic justification, they introduce the notion of transglobal reliability as the mark of the cognitive processes that are suitable for humans. Which cognitive processes these are depends on contingent facts about human cognitive capacities, and these cannot be known a priori.

Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011

 

 

PAPERS

Healey, Richard.  "Reduction and Emergence in Bose-Einstein Condensates," Foundations of Physics 41 (2011) : 1007–1030.

Pincione, Guido.  "The Constitution of Nondomination," Social Philosophy and Policy 28, 1 (2011): 261-89.

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