Volume 19 (2019)
Kenneth L. Pearce
June 2019, vol. 19, no. 21, pp. 1-25
William King's De Origine Mali (1702) contains an interesting, sophisticated, and original account of free will. King finds 'necessitarian' theories of freedom, such as those advocated by Hobbes and Locke, inadequate, but argues that standard versions of libertarianism commit one to the claim that free will is a faculty for going wrong. On such views, free will is something we would be better off without. King argues that both problems can be avoided by holding that we confer value on objects by valuing them. Such a view secures sourcehood and alternative possibilities while denying that free will is simply a capacity to choose contrary to our best judgment. This theory escapes all of the objections levelled against it by Leibniz and also has interesting consequences for ethics: although constructed within a eudaimonist framework, King's theory gives rise to a very strong moral requirement of respect for individual self-determination.
June 2019, vol. 19, no. 20, pp. 1-14
The aim of this paper is to argue that our non-first-personal ways of thinking of ourselves – those we would naturally express in language without using first person pronouns – are just as important to our agency as our indexical ways of thinking of ourselves. They are just important in different ways. Specifically, I argue that a thinker who is systematically excluded from these non-first-personal modes of self-directed thought would be excluded from participation in some of the domains of agency we value most as part of a full human life: the domains of agency associated with our social identities.
June 2019, vol. 19, no. 19, pp. 1-22
It is a commonplace in philosophy of action that there is and must be teleologically basic action: something done on an occasion without doing it by means of doing anything else. It is widely believed that basic actions are exercises of skill. As the source of the need for basic action is the structure of practical reasoning, this yields a conception of skill and practical reasoning as complementary but mutually exclusive. On this view, practical reasoning and complex intentional action depend on skill and basic action, but the latter pair are not themselves rationally structured: the movements a basic action comprises are not intentional actions, and they are not structured as means to an end. However, Michael Thompson and Douglas Lavin have argued that action that bears no inner rational structure is not intentional action at all, and that therefore there can be no such thing as basic action. In this paper, I argue that their critique shows that standard conceptions of basic action are indeed untenable, but not that we can do without an alternative. I develop an alternative conception of skill and basic action on which their basicness is not to be equated with simplicity: like deliberation and non-basic action, they are teleologically complex, but their complexity takes a different form. On this view, skill contrasts with deliberation—not because it is not a manifestation of practical reason, but because the two are specifically different manifestations of practical reason.
June 2019, vol. 19, no. 18, pp. 1-25
The lesson to be learned from the paradoxical St. Petersburg game and Pascal’s Mugging is that there are situations where expected utility maximizers will needlessly end up (with high probability) poor and on death’s door, and hence we should not be expected utility maximizers. Instead, when it comes to decision-making, for possibilities that have very small probabilities of occurring, we should discount those probabilities down to zero, regardless of the utilities associated with those possibilities.