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101. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Susan Stark Ordinary Virtue
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A body of psychological data casts doubt on the idea of character traits. As a result, some conclude that situations determine action. This view, situationism, undercuts our conception of the individual as responsible for actions. Moreover, the situationist argues that virtue theories, because they emphasize character, are most vulnerable to this attack. At its extreme, situationists hold that there are no character traits of the sort virtue theory requires. I argue, however, that the virtue theorist can answer this critique. Their response elucidates the ordinary process of moral development and reveals that the human good is partly constituted by social context. The situationist, mistaken about the virtues, makes an important point: situations have a substantial bearing on our abilities to be morally good and to flourish. But accepting this need not undermine the virtue theorist’s view because human beings can learn to be sensitive to morally salient aspects of situations.
102. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Andrew M. Bailey You Are an Animal
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According to the doctrine of animalism, we are animals in the primary and non-derivative sense. In this article, I introduce and defend a novel argument for the view.
103. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Benjamin Mitchell-Yellin Deep Reflection: In Defense of Korsgaard's Orthodox Kantianism
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This article defends the Kantian moral theory developed by Christine Korsgaard against the charge that it does not establish that immorality is always irrational because moral obligations are inescapable and overriding. My aim is to show that two versions of a well-known criticism of the view fail for the same reason. They do not recognize the role of inadequate reflection in accounting for immoral actions and, consequently, they do not fully appreciate the commitments that come with accepting the supposed structure of human psychology that is bedrock to the view. I argue, first, that G. A. Cohen makes too much of the difference between Korsgaard and Kant on the source of moral norms and that we can appeal to what she says about practical reason in an early paper of hers in order to handle his Mafioso case. Next, I take up J. David Velleman’s more recent treatment of Korsgaard’s view in response to Cohen’s Mafioso case. I show that Velleman’s argument that her view is concessive conflates his own view of human agency with Korsgaard’s practical identity theory. My hope is that this discussion shows how Korsgaard’s view can be made to work as an orthodox Kantianism.
104. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
T. Ryan Byerly, Meghan Byerly The Special Value of Others-Centeredness
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Suppose you confront a situation in which you can either promote a good for yourself or a good for someone else, but not both. The present paper argues that it is valuable for your conduct in such circumstances to be regulated by a character trait the possession of which constitutes one way of having one’s life be centered upon others as opposed to centered upon oneself. The trait in question, which we shall call “others-centeredness,” is a disposition to promote goods of others rather than one’s own goods when the values of these goods are equal or incommensurable. We argue that possessing this trait makes one more likely to maximize total value, because in addition to promoting the goods of the other, this trait also promotes goods of interpersonal union. We explain why this conclusion is significant, and we defend our argument for it against several objections.
105. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Linda Radzik Gossip and Social Punishment
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Is gossip ever appropriate as a response to other people’s misdeeds or character flaws? Gossip is arguably the most common means through which communities hold people responsible for their vices and transgressions. Yet, gossiping itself is traditionally considered wrong. This essay develops an account of social punishment in order to ask whether gossip can serve as a legitimate means of enforcing moral norms. In the end, however, I argue that gossip is most likely to be permissible where it resembles punishment as little as possible.
106. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Leigh C. Vicens Objective Probabilities of Free Choice
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Many proponents of libertarian freedom assume that the free choices we might make have particular objective probabilities of occurring. In this paper, I examine two common motivations for positing such probabilities: first, to account for the phenomenal character of decision-making, in which our reasons seem to have particular strengths to incline us to act, and second, to naturalize the role of reasons in influencing our decisions, such that they have a place in the causal order as we know it. I argue, however, that neither introspective reflection nor the metaphysics of causation gives us reason for thinking there are such particular objective probabilities of our free choices.
107. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Joseph Stenberg "Considerandum Est Quid Sit Beatitudo": Aquinas on What Happiness Really Is
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Aquinas may seem profligate in defining ‘happiness’ (beatitudo). He says, “by the name ‘happiness’ is understood the ultimate perfection of a rational or of an intellectual nature” (ST Ia q.62 a.1 co.). He also says, “‘happiness’ names the attainment of the ultimate end” (ST IaIIae q.2 pro.). He further says the following “definition of happiness” is “good and adequate”: “Happy is the one who has all that he desires” (ST IaIIae q.5 a.8 ad 3). So which expresses what happiness really is? Which gives us the quid est of happiness? In this essay, I argue that his quid est definition of happiness is put in terms of “the attainment of the ultimate end.” I further argue that, once that definition is properly understood, it becomes clear that Aquinas thinks happiness just is intimately knowing and enjoying God. I close by focusing on one downstream interpretive effect that this interpretation could plausibly have; it may influence our understanding of the relationship between virtue and happiness in Aquinas.
108. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Saja Parvizian Generosity, the Cogito, and the Fourth Meditation
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The standard interpretation of Descartes’s ethics maintains that virtue presupposes knowledge of metaphysics and the sciences. Lisa Shapiro, however, has argued that the meditator acquires the virtue of generosity in the Fourth Meditation, and that generosity contributes to her metaphysical achievements. Descartes’s ethics and metaphysics, then, must be intertwined. This view has been gaining traction in the recent literature. Omri Boehm, for example, has argued that generosity is foundational to the cogito. In this paper, I offer a close reading of Cartesian generosity, arguing that the meditator cannot acquire generosity in the Second or Fourth Meditation.
109. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Travis Dumsday Lowe's Unorthodox Dispositionalism
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The deep differences between E. J. Lowe’s ontology of dispositions and that maintained by other prominent dispositionalists have received relatively little attention in the existing literature on his work. Here I lay out some of these differences, along the way attempting to clarify whether Lowe’s ontology can properly be termed ‘dispositionalist.’ I then argue that the unique features of his ontology allow it to avoid some well-known worries facing standard dispositionalism, while at the same time opening his view to novel objections. My overall aim here is neither to defend nor attack Lowe’s theory, but rather to assess some of its pros and cons and to consider its sometimes surprising implications (implications not always drawn out explicitly by Lowe).
110. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
David Sanson Worlds Enough for Junk
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A cap is something that is not a proper part. A junky thing is something that is not part of any cap. Can there be junky things? The view that possible worlds are concrete cosmoi suggests not: every possibility involves the existence of a cosmos, and that cosmos is a cap. But this can be overcome by allowing that some parts of a cosmos may collectively represent a complete possibility. The resulting view helps cast light on some important features of the Modal Realist’s attitude toward modality.
111. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Thomas M. Ward John Buridan and Thomas Aquinas on Hylomorphism and the Beginning of Life
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This paper examines some of the metaphysical assumptions behind Aquinas’s denials that a human rational soul unites with matter at conception and that a human rational soul is capable of developing and arranging the organic parts of an embryo. The paper argues that Buridan does not share these assumptions and holds that a soul is capable of developing and arranging organic parts. It argues that, given hylomorphism about the nature of organisms, including human beings, Buridan’s view is philosophically superior to Aquinas’s in several respects. Finally, the paper poses an apparent inconsistency between several of Buridan’s texts on this topic and attempts to show that the inconsistency is merely apparent.
112. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Timothy Pawl, Mark K. Spencer Christologically Inspired, Empirically Motivated Hylomorphism
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In this paper we present the standard Thomistic view concerning substances and their parts. We then note some objections to that view. Afterwards, we present Aquinas’s Christology, then draw an analogy between the relation that holds between the Second Person and the assumed human nature, on the one hand, and the relation that holds between a substance whole and its substance parts, on the other. We then show how the analogy, which St. Thomas himself drew at points, is useful for providing a theory that answers the objections that the standard Thomistic view faces. Finally we answer objections to our approach. We conclude that there is a hylomorphic theory, founded on an analogy from Aquinas’s Christology, that fits well with the empirical data concerning substance parts, on which some complete created material substances have other complete created material substances as parts.
113. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
John Macias John Finnis and Alasdair MacIntyre on Our Knowledge of the Precepts of Natural Law
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Alasdair MacIntyre asks, if all individuals are in fact potential authorities of natural law and agree on its fundamentals, how can we explain manifest moral disagreement? Contemporary Thomistic natural law theorists have not attempted to address this particular issue to a significant degree. MacIntyre, taking this large-scale rejection seriously, focuses on the communal factors that allow individuals to recognize their need for and commitment to Thomistic natural law. By doing so, he attempts to give reasons for why we should expect natural law to be widely denied in contemporary society. In this paper, I argue that MacIntyre’s approach to natural law is capable of accounting for the seemingly paradoxical claim that these per se nota first principles of natural law might suffer apparent widespread rejection. Moreover, I will argue that MacIntyre’s account is also capable of explaining why we should actually expect such rejection to occur.
114. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Daniel A. Wilkenfeld Modeling Authenticity
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In this paper, we explore the link between understanding and transformative decisions. Paul (2014) suggests that one important aspect of making some decisions is that we make them not just on the basis of what data from other people tell us, but based on our own acquaintance with how the decision affects us. In this paper, we draw out a parallel between the sort of reasoning that Paul argues is required for authentic decision making and the sort of epistemic grasp of a subject matter that is required for understanding. The central claim of this paper is that one’s ability to make a decision authentically is proportional to one’s ability to model what it is like to have the possible resultant experience. We endorse a broad notion according to which one can model something by thinking about relevantly similar things.
115. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Timothy O'Connor Probability and Freedom: A Reply to Vicens
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I have argued elsewhere that human free action is governed by objective probabilities. This view, I suggested, is strongly supported by our experience of motivated decision-making and by our having emerged from probabilistically-governed physical causes. Leigh Vicens (2016) criticizes these arguments. She also argues that an account of human freedom as probabilisticallyunstructured indeterminacy is less vulnerable to challenges to the plausibility of libertarian views of freedom. In this article, I explain why I am not persuaded by Vicens’s arguments.
116. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Elizabeth Barnes Reply to Guy Kahane and Julian Savulescu
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Guy Kahane and Julian Savulescu respond to my paper “Valuing Disability, Causing Disability” by arguing that my assessment of objections to the mere-difference view of disability is unconvincing and fails to explain their conviction that it is impermissible to cause disability. In reply, I argue that their response misconstrues, somewhat radically, both what I say in my paper and the commitments of the mere-difference view more generally. It also fails to adequately appreciate the unique epistemic factors present in philosophical discussions of disability.
117. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 1
Rebecca Chan Religious Experience, Voluntarist Reasons, and the Transformative Experience Puzzle
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Transformative experiences are epistemically and personally transformative: prior to having the experience, agents cannot predict the value of the experience and cannot anticipate how it will change their core values and preferences. Paul (2014, 2015) argues that these experiences pose a puzzle for standard decision-making procedures because values cannot be assigned to outcomes involving transformative experience. Responding philosophers are quick to point out that decision procedures are built to handle uncertainty, including the uncertainty generated by transformative experience. My paper enters here and contributes two points. First, religious experiences are transformative experiences that are especially resistant to these responses. Second, a procedure that appeals to voluntarist reasons—reasons arising from an act of the will—can allow an agent to rationally decide to undergo or avoid an outcome involving transformative experience. Combining these two points results in some interesting implications with respect to practical aspects of religion.
118. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 2
Shen-yi Liao Imaginative Resistance, Narrative Engagement, Genre
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Imaginative resistance refers to a phenomenon in which people resist engaging in particular prompted imaginative activities. On one influential diagnosis of imaginative resistance, the systematic difficulties are due to these particular propositions’ discordance with real-world norms. This essay argues that this influential diagnosis is too simple. While imagination is indeed by default constrained by real-world norms during narrative engagement, it can be freed with the power of genre conventions and expectations.
119. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 2
Meg Wallace Saving Mental Fictionalism from Cognitive Collapse
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Mental fictionalism maintains that: (1) folk psychology is a false theory, but (2) we should nonetheless keep using it, because it is useful, convenient, or otherwise beneficial to do so. We should (or do) treat folk psychology as a useful fiction—false, but valuable. Yet some argue that mental fictionalism is incoherent: if a mental fictionalist rejects folk psychology then she cannot appeal to fictions in an effort to keep folk psychological discourse around, because fictions presuppose the legitimacy of folk psychology. Call this the Argument from Cognitive Collapse. In this paper, I defend several different mental fictionalist views against cognitive collapse.
120. Res Philosophica: Volume > 93 > Issue: 2
Chris Tillman The Matter of Serial Fiction
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Recent work on the problem of truth in serial fiction has focused on the semantics of certain sentences used to talk about serial fictions, as in Ross Cameron’s (2012) “How to Be a Nominalist and a Fictional Realist” and Andrew McGonigal’s (2013) “Truth, Relativism, and Serial Fiction,” or semantic properties of works themselves, as in Ben Caplan’s (2014) “Serial Fiction, Continued.” Here I argue that these proposed solutions are mistaken, and, more importantly, that the general approach to the problem is mistaken: the problem of truth in serial fiction is an instance of the problem of change. Fictions can undergo change, much like you and me in certain respects. As a result, what is true in or according to them changes as well.