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Abstract

Moral virtue is, for Aristotle, a state to which an agent’s motivation is central. For anyone interested in Aristotle’s account of moral development this invites reflection on two questions: how is it that virtuous motivational dispositions are established? And what contribution do the moral learner’s existing motivational states make to the success of her habituation? I argue that views which demand that the learner act with virtuous motives if she is to acquire virtuous dispositions misconstrue the nature and structure of the habituation process, but also obscure Aristotle’s crucial insight that the very practice of virtuous actions affords a certain discovery and can be transformative of an agent’s motivational states. Drawing attention, in Aristotle’s account, to an asymmetry between the agential perspective and the observation of others, I consider what the agential perspective affords the learner, and offer a novel interpretation of the role a learner’s existing motives play in her habituation.

Abstract

Prevailing interpretations of Aristotle’s use of syllogistic language outside the Organon hold that he offers a single, comprehensive theory of the practical syllogism spanning his ethical and biological works. These comprehensive theories of the practical syllogism are plausible neither philosophically nor as interpretations of Aristotle. I argue for a multivocal account of the practical syllogism that distinguishes (1) Aristotle’s use of syllogistic language to explain aspects of his account of animal motion in MA from (2) his use of syllogistic language to explain aspects of his account of the distinctive practical cognition of the phronimos in EN. I offer a novel account of the role of syllogistic language in ethics, arguing that it elucidates a nuanced account of universals and particulars in ethics according to which acting virtuously requires an understanding of underlying universal values and a capacity to relate them to concrete, particular features of our circumstances.

Abstract

In this paper, I give an explanation and defense of Kant’s claim that we cannot comprehend how freedom is possible. I argue that this is a significant point that has been underappreciated in the secondary literature. My conclusion has a variety of implications both for Kant scholars and for those interested in Kantian ideas more generally. Most notably, if Kant is right that there are principled reasons why freedom is beyond our comprehension, then this would release his ethical views from an undesirable explanatory burden. It would be a boon for Kantians if they could ground their lofty claims about the unique, elevated status of rational agency without committing to an implausible view of libertarian freedom. I also suggest that there are certain debates concerning moral motivation and transcendental idealism that might have to change in response to Kant’s claims about the incomprehensibility of freedom.

Abstract

Kant’s Refutation targets what he calls the problematic idealist. This is understood by the mainstream of Kantian scholarship as the global skeptic that Descartes briefly adumbrated in his first Meditation. The widespread view in the literature is that the fate of the Refutation is tied to its success as an argument against this Cartesian global skepticism. This consensus is what I want to question in this paper. I argue that Kant’s opponent – the problematic idealist – is not the Cartesian global skeptic, but rather what I prefer to call here the Cartesian problematic external-world idealist. According to Cartesian global skepticism we cannot know whether our commonsensical beliefs are true until we rule out the skeptical hypotheses are false. In contrast, the Cartesian external-world idealist sees as problematic the assumption that the underlying nature of outer things of which we have ideas is mind-independent rather than caused by our own thinking being. My aim here is to disentangle Cartesian global skepticism from Cartesian problematic external-word idealism and show that, if measured against global skepticism, Kant’s Refutation is doomed to fail; while against problematic idealism, it is at least a promising argument.

Abstract

Many commentators have accused Aquinas of committing either a formal or an informal fallacy in his Third Way argument. I believe it is possible to revise the Third Way argument so as to avoid such errors. I here present a revision of the first part of the Third Way that is (a) immune to the objections most commonly raised against it, (b) consonant with the basic tenets of Thomism, and (c) plausible from a contemporary point of view.

Abstract

Kant considers eudaimonism as his main opponent and he assumes that his ethics is the only viable alternative to eudaimonism. He does not explicitly address theories differing from both eudaimonism and from his own. I argue that whilst Kant and Act-Consequentialists advocate different normative principles, their positions share the important abstract feature that they establish what is to be done from a rational principle and not based on what is in the self-interest of the respective agent, as Kant thinks eudaimonism does. Act-Consequentialism is thus closer to Kant’s ethics than is often assumed. I will demonstrate and vindicate this point with a new interpretation of the Fact of Reason. This reading also establishes that the notion of a Fact of Reason is less contentious than many of Kant’s critics believe. We should not expect that the Fact establishes Kantianism. Instead, the Fact is only supposed to count against a specific competing view of morality, namely, eudaimonism. Act-Consequentialists can accept the Fact as well.

Abstract

The Stoics’ way of presenting principles – the active and the passive – is ambiguous because they say that principles are two while also suggesting that they are inseparable and thus interdependent. This ambiguity cannot be resolved in favour of one or the other side of the dilemma, as is shown by analysis of two possible models of the relations among principles – a causal and a categories-based model. This ambiguity is rather a necessary consequence of the Stoic view of principles and should be compared to the ambiguity of Plato’s concept of “principles” in the Timaeus. Plato’s Receptacle is in a similar relation to other constitutive elements of his cosmogonical account as are the two Stoic principles, each to the other. In particular, the relation between the Receptacle and qualities in it is to be seen as a systematic parallel to the relation of the Stoic principles (and probably also its historical model). The concluding claim is that Plato and the Stoics advance a similar kind of dualism which should be called such, despite its ambiguity. The ambiguity in both systems is due to the need to see the principles in such a relation as would reveal their dependence, and thus secure the basic unity of the cosmos.