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1. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Nicolas Medrano, Manuel A. Yepes Editors' Introduction
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2. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Robert Kane Free Will, Complexity, Dynamical Systems, and All That Jazz
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Over the past half century, I have been developing and defending a libertarian view of free will that is incompatible with determinism. In the past decade, I have made changes to this view in response to the large critical literature that has developed around it since the publication of my book The Significance of Free Will (Oxford University Press, 1996). This paper describes and defends some of the more significant of these new aspects of my view. Section 1 describes the problem of free will as conceived traditionally and in modern times, as well as the various competing positions on it (compatibilist, libertarian, skeptical, and so forth). In section 2 I concede to compatibilists that there are many meanings of freedom, and that many of them could exist in a thoroughly determined world. But there is one kind of traditional freedom, I argue, that could not exist in a thoroughly determined world—freedom of will. Sections 3 and 4 explain what this freedom of will requires and why it is important. Sections 5–11 then discuss and answer many arguments that have been made against the possibility of such a free will requiring indeterminism.
3. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Manuel Vargas What Is the Free Will Debate Even About?
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A satisfactory construal of the subject matter of free will debates must allow for disagreements along two axes. First, it must allow for the possibility of higher order disagreements, or disagreements about what concepts, phenomena, or practices an account of free will is supposed to capture or explain. Second, it must allow for the fact of variation in the extent to which theories are bound by antecedent pre-philosophical thought, talk, and practices. A promising way of accommodating these two thoughts is to treat free will in broadly functionalist terms. On the account proposed here, free will is a power that makes sense of everyday responsibility practices. This construal is not widely shared, but it allows for the possibility that we might have false beliefs about the nature of free will, while still making sense of central philosophical debates about free will.
4. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
John Martin Fischer Moral Responsibility Skepticism and Semiretributivism
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Moral responsibility skepticism has traditionally been dismissed as a nonstarter, but because of the important work of Derk Pereboom, Gregg Caruso, and others, it has become increasingly influential. I lay out this doctrine, and I subject it to critical scrutiny. I argue that the metaphysical arguments about free will do not yield the result that we do not deserve (in a “basic” sense) the attitudes and actions definitive of moral responsibility. Further, I argue that skepticism leaves out crucial components of our considered views about moral responsibility, making it seriously problematic.
5. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Gregg D. Caruso Why We Should Reject Semiretributivism and Be Skeptics about Basic Desert Moral Responsibility: A Reply to John Martin Fischer
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John Martin Fischer has recently critiqued the skeptical view that no one is ever morally responsible for their actions in the basic desert sense and has defended a view he calls semiretributivism. This paper responds to Fischer’s concerns about the skeptical perspective, especially those regarding victims’ rights, and further explains why we should reject his semiretributivism. After briefly summarizing the Pereboom/Caruso view and Fischer’s objections to it, the paper argues that Fischer’s defense of basic desert moral responsibility is too weak to justify the kind of retributive blame and punishment he wishes to preserve. It then turns to the issue of victims’ rights and argues that Fischer is mistaken that victims want retribution above all else, and that the public health-quarantine model is better able to deal with the concerns of victims. It concludes by offering two additional objections to Fischer’s semiretributivism.
6. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Alfred R. Mele Revisiting Neuroscientific Skepticism about Free Will
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Benefiting from recent work in neuroscience, this paper rebuts a pair of neuroscience-based arguments for the non-existence of free will. Well-known neuroscientific experiments that have often been cited in support of skepticism about free will are critically examined. Various problems are identified with attempts to use their findings to support the claim that free will is an illusion. It is argued on scientific grounds that certain assumptions made in these skeptical arguments are unjustified—namely, assumptions about the times at which decisions are made and the times at which the point of no re­turn for the making of a decision is reached. It is argued as well that alleged findings about decisions of the kind featured in these experiments—arbitrary decisions made in the absence of conscious reasoning about what to do—fail to support certain crucial claims about non-arbitrary decisions made after careful deliberation. The paper also examines a fallback position for skeptics about free will. Some scientific skeptics about free will contend that free will, by definition, depends on the existence of immaterial souls. Survey-style studies that bring free will down to earth are brought to bear on this contention.
7. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Patricia Greenspan Freedom and Responsibility
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Many authors treat freedom and responsibility as interchangeable and simply apply conclusions about responsibility to freedom. This paper argues that the two are distinct, thus allowing for a “semi-compatibilist” view, on which responsibility but not freedom (in the sense of freedom to do otherwise) is compatible with determinism. It thereby avoids the implausible features of recent compatibilist accounts of freedom without alternative possibilities—as if one could make oneself free just by accepting the limitations on one’s choice. In particular, the paper puts forth two main arguments that responsibility does not imply freedom: an argument from “the stakes,” meaning what is at stake in a given action, or how seriously wrong it is, as affecting responsibility more than freedom, and an argument from temporal standpoint, that responsibility is often assessed from a standpoint farther back in time, when the agent could have taken steps to prevent being unfree later, whereas freedom is typically assessed at the time of action. These arguments are applied to the well-known case of Robert Alton Harris as in Watson (1988), in contrast to a Watsonian account of psychopaths as lacking moral responsibility because of “moral blindness.” Instead, what makes responsibility moral is the reasons for our blame, not necessarily what motivates the agent we take to be blameworthy.
8. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Mark Balaguer Strawson, Ordinary Language, and the Priority of Holding Responsible over Being Responsible
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It is often held that P. F. Strawson endorsed a radical and groundbreaking priority thesis according to which holding someone morally responsible is prior to (or more fundamental than) being morally responsible. I do three things in this paper. First, I argue for a novel interpretation of Strawson according to which he did not endorse a priority thesis that is radical or groundbreaking or original; instead, Strawson’s “priority thesis” is just a consequence of his view that the meanings of our words are determined by our usage and intentions and practices concerning those words. Second, I argue against the radical priority thesis that is often (erroneously) attributed to Strawson. Third, I argue that while Strawson’s view does not involve a radical priority thesis, it does imply that debates about the nature of moral responsibility (and many other debates about normative ethics, metaethics, and conceptual analysis) are trivial in a certain sense.
9. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Peter van Inwagen, Emily Dial, Olivia Pasquerella An Interview with Peter van Inwagen
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book review
10. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 30
Katherine Cassese David Edmonds, Parfit: A Philosopher and His Mission to Save Morality
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11. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Nathan Beaucage, Polina Whitehouse Editors' Introduction
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12. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Bryan G. Norton Environmental Philosophy at the Edges of Science
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While environmental ethics has flourished and contributed to the discussion of environmental policy, other areas of philosophy (epistemology, for example), have been less in evidence in these discussions. In this paper, we explore a role for these neglected areas: they are best viewed as meta-level discussions of the conceptual and linguistic problems that arise as scientists develop models at the edges of scientific fields relevant to our understanding of environmental problems and possible solutions. The relevant fields, which might differ depending on the specific environmental problem being addressed, can be thought of as a collection of “philosophies of ____” where the blank stands for one of the relevant disciplines, such as biology, ecology, or economics. We eschew the typical arguments regarding which models are correct in favor of a pragmatic/pluralistic approach to understanding scientific models. This pragmatic approach softens interdisciplinary conflicts as Rudolf Carnap’s Principle of Tolerance (linguistic conventionalism) urges an experimental approach to developing linguistic frameworks for differing situations. This approach is illustrated by an examination of the models proposed by ecologists and economists.
13. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Michael Marder Is a Philosophy of Nature Still Tenable?
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This article contemplates the possibility of a philosophy of nature in and for the twenty-first century. Following an examination of the contemporary critiques of the concept of nature, I propose an alternative approach, inspired by Heraclitus and Friedrich Schelling, according to which nature is not an archaic category, but something yet to come, to be invented and reinvented. At the same time, I argue that the irreducible futurity of nature needs to be set in the context of the current global destruction of ecosystems, which indicates the exhaustion of the fecundity and self-renewal that are at the core of the future-oriented conception of nature as an activity. Hence, whatever is yet to come as far as nature is concerned ought to be anticipated in light of what I call “finite finitude,” implying an ethics that is distinct from the ideologies of infinite renewability.
14. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Elisa Aaltola Platonic Love of Nonhuman Nature and Animals
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Some philosophers have argued that love has moral-psychological power, as it can motivate one to appreciate the existence of others and to offer care for them. This appears evident in the context of our relations with nonhuman animals and nature: love can motivate one to think of them as morally considerable. But what is love? The paper at hand investigates one classic philosophical definition of love and applies it to our relationship with other animals and nature. This definition is the quality view of love, i.e., Platonic love, which, I argue, facilitates deeper moral concern for nonhuman animals and things.
15. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Simon P. James Against Relational Value
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In some environmental circles, talk of relational values is very much in fashion. It is said that we must think in terms of such values if we are to understand how such things as canyons, mangroves, and coral reefs matter to people. But that is bad advice. Appeals to relational values are typically misleading in several respects. Granted, those who make such appeals often do so in order to make the important point that some values are neither intrinsic nor instrumental in form, but that point can be made more clearly by referring to other concepts, such as that of constitutive value. To this objection, some may respond that appeals to relational value are nonetheless useful. However, as things stand, their usefulness remains unproven.
16. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Serenella Iovino Politics and Ecology among Calvino’s Trees: An Exercise in Narrative Scholarship and the Environmental Humanities
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This article examines one of Italo Calvino’s most beloved novels, (1957), contextualizing it in its landscape and exploring the multifaceted strands of its environmental creativity. Unsuspected paths of political ecology, environmental history, and even biosemiotics and plant neurophysiology will emerge, thus showing the timeliness and clairvoyance of his books vis-à-vis our planetary crises. Written in a seminarrative form, this piece is an invitation to read literary works not only along with their landscapes, but their landscapes, and to consider the potential of more-than-human stories for the shaping of our ethical-environmental imagination.
17. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Marion Hourdequin Intergenerational Ethics, Moral Ambivalence, and Climate Change
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Global climate change raises critical issues of intergenerational ethics. One of these issues involves what Stephen Gardiner calls intergenera­tional buck-passing (IGBP)—a pattern through which each generation does little to address climate change and instead passes the problem along to the next, progressively amplifying the climate crisis over time. My goal in this paper to explore two key questions: (1) What is at the root of intergenera­tional buck-passing? and (2) What changes might help to disrupt it? To an­swer these questions, I argue that we need to understand and address the role of moral ambivalence in reinforcing the status quo and creating friction that impedes climate action. Confronting moral ambivalence may enable more thoughtful and just responses to climate change that support intergenerational solidarity and mutual flourishing.
18. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Daniel M. Haybron In Lieu of an Environmental Ethic: Beauty, Good Lives, and the Preservation of Nature
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This paper argues that a specifically environmental ethic is neither needed nor perhaps desirable for effecting the change in values for which many environmentalists have rightly called. Rather, familiar values such as beauty and excellence, and especially an outlook that regards those values as central aspects of a good life, may be all that is needed. The requisite ethic of appreciation is already embedded to some degree in a wide range of cultures, so no radical shift in values is called for, nor convergence on a tendentious moral framework. But this outlook meets with skepticism from the dominant public ethos, as embodied for instance in mainstream economics. While this paper does not offer a full-blooded defense of an aesthetic grounding for environmental concern, it does suggest that the skepticism about such a grounding is considerably overblown.
19. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
J. Baird Callicott, Nathan Beaucage, Noemi Iten An Interview with J. Baird Callicott
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20. The Harvard Review of Philosophy: Volume > 29
Holmes Rolston III, Sam Lebenson, Justin Wong An Interview with Holmes Rolston III
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