Archive for the ‘Moral psychology’ Category
Talk at Bogazici: Richmond Campbell (Dalhousie) “Pragmatic Naturalism and Moral Objectivity” (14/05/2013)
Richmond Campbell (Dalhousie)
“Pragmatic Naturalism and Moral Objectivity”
Tuesday, TB130, 5-7pm. Everyone welcome.
ABSTRACT: In Kitcher’s “pragmatic naturalism” moral evolution contains only pragmatically motivated moral changes in response to practical difficulties in social life. No moral truths or facts exist that could serve as an “external” measure for moral progress. We propose a psychologically realistic conception of moral objectivity consistent with this pragmatic naturalism yet alive to the familiar sense that moral progress has an objective basis that transcends convention and consensus in moral opinion, even when these are products of serious, extended, and collaborative reflection.
There has been, in recent years, a surge of interest in the development of Platonic moral psychology between Plato’s middle and late periods. Much has been written – especially since Bobonich’s influential Plato’s Utopia Recast (2002) – on whether, and in what ways, Plato’s thoughts on moral psychology evolved after he wrote the Republic. A prominent aspect of this subject is the development of Plato’s views on the cognitive and conceptual capacities of the non-rational parts of the tripartite soul. A key question in this context is whether the non-rational parts of the soul are capable of holding beliefs (doxai) in the proper sense, and whether Plato changed his mind on this matter. An emerging view, with noteworthy proponents (such as Lorenz 2006 and Stalley 2007), is that in the Republic, Plato took the non-rational parts of the soul to have such limited cognitive and conceptual capacities that they cannot, strictly speaking, hold beliefs, even though Plato seems to suggest otherwise in various passages. This reading constitutes a rejection of the traditional interpretation of the tripartite soul in the Republic as consisting of agent-like parts. Concerning Plato’s later works, however, there seems to be a general agreement, by scholars on both sides of the debate about the Republic. On this widely held view, in later works such as the Phaedrus, Timaeus and Theaetetus, it is unambiguous that only the rational part of the soul is capable of holding beliefs. Accordingly, the non-rational parts of the soul are, at this point, devoid of any cognitive and conceptual resources, so much so that they are incapable of forming not only beliefs but desires as well. The non-rational parts are thus emptied of content, and the story is of how Plato comes to see them as useless entities, as a result of which he eventually abandons the tripartite theory of soul.
In a recent paper* I argue against not only the emerging view about the Republic, but also the consensus about the later works: (i) Plato does not, in the Republic, deny or cast doubt on the capacity of the non-rational parts of the soul to hold beliefs. The attempts to explain away the evidence for the non-rational parts’ capacity for holding beliefs are unconvincing, and yield uncharitable readings of Plato’s text; and more controversially, (ii) Plato does not, in the later works mentioned, deny the capacity of the non-rational parts to hold beliefs. Due to limited space, I focus in that paper on the Phaedrus, leaving aside the Timaeus and the Theaetetus. I argue that the passages in the Phaedrus cited as evidence for this denial do not, in fact, provide the purported support. It therefore appears that Plato’s tripartite theory of the soul did not, at least in the Phaedrus, deny the capacity of the non-rational parts for holding beliefs. I continue to work on this topic – which I find fascinating – and expect to reach similar results in the Timaeus and the Theaetetus. It seems to me that in those dialogues as well, the textual evidence fails to support the dumbed-down conception of the non-rational parts of the soul. If this is right, that the tripartite theory did not undergo a gradual demotion of the non-rational parts should also shed light on the important question whether Plato came to abandon the tripartite theory in his late works.
Comments are welcome.
* “Plato on the Capacity for Beliefs”, presented at the 35th Annual Workshop in Ancient Philosophy, The University of Texas at Austin, March 2012.
The program is now up for the Philosophy in Assos summer event. For those of you who have never been before, this is one of the nicest events on the Turkish philosophical calendar.
Assos is a very small seaside village and is a natural venue for philosophy events as Aristotle lived there for many years. The events (organised every year by Örsan Öymen) are really good philosophically, and lots of fun.
This years speakers are: Fulvia De Luise (University of Trento), Stephen Leighton (Queen’s University), Pascal Engel (University of Geneva), Amy Schmitter (University of Alberta), Simon Blackburn (University of Cambridge), Kevin Mulligan (University of Geneva) and Toni Ronnow-Rasmussen (Lund University).
Further information can be found here. The program is below the fold:
The Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders is the official classification manual developed for use in clinical, educational, and research settings; it is published by the American Psychiatric Association (APA) and is regularly revised. The fifth edition (DSM-5) is expected to appear in May 2013. In the DSM’s current edition (DSM-IV), feelings of sadness and associated symptoms (e.g., insomnia, poor appetite, and weight loss), following the death of a loved one are excluded from the criteria for a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but a cautionary clause states that if these symptoms continue beyond two months and impair the individual’s psychological, social and occupational functioning, she may be given an MDD diagnosis.
The DSM-5 Working Group for the Mood Disorders has recently proposed the removal of the bereavement exclusion from the diagnostic criteria for a Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), arguing that the available evidence does not support distinguishing bereavement from other stressors that underlie MDD.
This proposal has led to a controversial debate on the advantages and disadvantages of distinguishing between the cases that involve individuals who develop major depression in response to bereavement and those who develop depression following other severe stressors. For instance, Allen Frances, the lead editor of DSM-IV, is concerned that removing the bereavement exclusion will result in over-diagnosing and over-treating non-pathological grief by labelling it MDD.