Volume 20 (2020)
June 2020, vol. 20, no. 20, pp. 1-26
Absolutism is the view that some actions are forbidden, no matter how much good they could bring about. An absolutist would forbid intentionally killing an innocent person, no matter how many other innocents you could save by doing so. Jackson & Smith (2006), Huemer (2010), and Isaacs (2014) argue that absolutism has special problems handling cases where it is not certain whether your actions violate the prohibition. I show that there is no special problem for absolutism. Absolutists can handle risky cases in a principled way. First, absolutists need to identify a point of moral certainty: if an action is sufficiently likely to violate an absolute prohibition, it can be treated as if it will. Second, they need to identify a point of hope: if an action is sufficiently unlikely to violate a prohibition, it can be treated as if it won't. From there, absolutists can generate an expected value function. Whatever problems absolutism has, they do not arise from risk. I prove three theorems concerning the existence and uniqueness of expected value representations for absolutism. I also defend the theory against the objections that it violates agglomeration principles, fails in the long run, and sacrifices the motivations for absolutism.
Elliot Samuel Paul
June 2020, vol. 20, no. 19, pp. 1-28
Clear and distinct perception is the centerpiece of Descartes’s philosophy — it is the source of all certainty — but what does he mean by ‘clear’ and ‘distinct’? According to the prevailing approach, what it means for a perception to be clear is that its content has a certain objective property, like truth. I argue instead that clarity is a subjective, phenomenal quality whereby a content is presented as true to the perceiving subject. In the special case of completely clear intellectual perception, what is presented as true must be true. Further, I argue that the other perceptual qualities that Descartes identifies — obscurity, confusion, and distinctness — are all defined in terms of clarity. Of particular note is the fact that distinctness is not a positive feature to be added to clarity: a distinct perception is just a completely clear perception.
Robert Weston Siscoe
June 2020, vol. 20, no. 18, pp. 1-20
The Stoic understanding of virtue is often taken to be a non-starter. Many of the Stoic claims about virtue -- that virtue requires moral perfection and that all who are not fully virtuous are vicious -- are thought to be completely out of step with our commonsense notion of virtue, making the Stoic account more of an historical oddity than a seriously defended view. Despite many voices to the contrary, I argue that there is a way of making sense of these Stoic claims. Recent work in linguistics has shown that there is a distinction between relative and absolute gradable adjectives, with the absolute variety only applying to perfect exemplars. In this paper, I show that taking virtue terms to be absolute gradable adjectives -- and thus that they apply only to those who are fully virtuous -- is one way to make sense of the Stoic view. I also show how interpreting virtue-theoretic adjectives as absolute gradable adjectives makes it possible to defend Stoicism against its most common objections, demonstrating how the Stoic account of virtue might once again be a player in the contemporary landscape of virtue theorizing.
Clinton Castro and Adam K. Pham
June 2020, vol. 20, no. 17, pp. 1-13
A growing amount of media is paid for by its consumers through their very consumption of it. Typically, this new media is web-based and paid for by advertising. It includes the services offered by Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and YouTube. We offer an ethical assessment of the attention economy, the market where attention is exchanged for new media. We argue that the assessment has ethical implications for how the attention economy should be regulated. To conduct the assessment, we employ two heuristics for evaluating markets. One is the “harm” criterion, which relates to whether the market tends to engender extremely harmful outcomes for individuals or society as a whole. The other is the “agency” criterion, which relates not to the outcomes of the market, but rather, to whether it somehow reflects or has its source in weakened agency. We argue that the attention economy animates concerns with respect to both criteria and that new media should be subject to the same sort of regulation as other harmful, addictive products.