Center for Ethics in Society
“Practice Views Revisited”
DATE: Thu 11 February 2016
PLACE: G-160, Bilkent University, Ankara
Thomas Scanlon and others have argued that ‘practice views’ give
the wrong kind of reasons for moral duties, which shows up in the fact
that they identify the wrong addressees of these duties. The reason
why I must not break my promise to you, for instance, should lie in
the harm that this does to you—rather than in the harm that it does to
the practice of promising or to our community. I demonstrate that the
wrong reason objection indeed applies to some practice views, notably
rule-conquentialism and (Hobbes’) contractarianism. Drawing on ideas
by Elizabeth Anscombe, however, I offer an alternative understanding of
the role of the practice in ethical justifications.
According to “conventionalist” or “practice views,” at least some moral
duties exist within social practices, and these practices play an important
role in justifying the respective duties. Among others, the theories of Hobbes,
Gauthier, Hooker and Rawls are commonly classified as practice views.
Thomas Scanlon has levelled a formidable and widely used objection against
practice views: They give the wrong reasons for our duties, which shows up
in the fact that they identify the wrong addressees. The reason why I must
not break my promise to you, for instance, should lie in the harm that this
does to you—rather than in the harm it does to the practice of promising or
to all the participants in that practice.
I grant that Scanlon’s objection applies to the mentioned theories. But I offer
a surprising diagnosis: (i) I argue that the conventionalism of these theories
is superficial. (ii) I show that the objection applies to them precisely because
they are not genuinely conventionalist and that (iii) any genuinely conventionalist
theory gives the correct reasons and identifies the correct addressees of our duties.
As a last step, (iv) I outline one such theory, using the understanding of the practice
in moral justifications that I find in Elizabeth Anscombe’s work. (v) My particular
proposal has an interesting application to rights: It enables us to be conventionalists
about rights without being cultural relativists about rights.
Talk at Bilkent by Ulf Hlobil (Pittsburgh): “Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference”
Department of Philosophy
University of Pittsburgh
“Do It! But Don’t Listen to Me!: Moral Testimony and Practical Inference”
DATE: Wed 10 February 2016
PLACE: G-160, Bilkent University, Ankara
What, if anything, is wrong with acting on moral beliefs that we accept
merely on the say-so of others? Why could it be problematic to act on a
moral belief that we take to be true without understanding why it is true?
I defend a qualified and novel version of what is called “pessimism” in
the controversy over pure moral testimony. I argue that we can rationally
come to hold the premises of moral reasoning through testimony, but that
moral testimony is problematic in cases where the agent lacks the ability
to make the correct practical inference. The problem is that inferential
abilities cannot be shared via testimony. The role that moral testimony
can play in our moral lives is therefore limited. My account gives the
correct verdicts for common examples in the literature on moral testimony.
It, moreover, incorporates many of the optimists’ insights and is more
general and informative than rival accounts.
2nd International Symposium on Brain and Cognitive Science, April 19, Sunday, 2015, ODTU (METU), Ankara.
ISBCS 2015, the 2nd International Symposium on Brain and Cognitive Science,
is going to be held in April 19, Sunday, 2015, at ODTU (METU), Ankara.
ISBCS wants to be a gathering in Turkey for cogsci researchers worldwide, and for cogsci researchers in Turkey. Read the rest of this entry »
Daily Nous hosts a post and a discussion thread, titled Philosophers from Poverty, on the topic of class or socio-economic status as a form of disadvantage in academic philosophy. To my knowledge, the internet has not been flooded so far by discussions, projects, calls to arms, campaigns, etc. related to this form of disadvantage. For all I know, this thread might well be a first.
Naturally, when a blog post is about topic X, readers are supposed to comment about topic X. Some reader might well say: “Ok, ok, X, but please don’t forget about Y when you discuss about X”. This is OK and non-controversial when the topic X is, say, the Many-Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics, and Y is the Copenhagen Interpretation. When, however, the topic is some form of social/cultural/political group disadvantage, and the corollary of discrimination and bias based on that, one needs to be a little more careful when putting forward a comment like the one above: “Ok, ok, X, but please don’t forget about Y when you discuss about X”. The reason is that people who are likely to read and comment on the thread are precisely people who likely suffer as a result of that disadvantage, and they might feel hurt or sidelined by such a comment.