Volume 18 (2018)

    Kant on Strict Right

    Ben Laurence

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 04, pp. 1-22

    For Kant right and ethics are two formally distinct departments of a single morality of reason and freedom. Unlike ethics, right involves an authorization to coerce, and this coercion serves as a pathological incentive. I argue that for Kant the distinctive character of right flows from the fact that juridical obligation has a different relational structure than ethical obligation. I argue that this relational structure explains the connection of right to coercion, and also explains how a categorical imperative can be known a priori to issue in both a pathological and non-pathological incentive. Thus the justification of coercion and its special role as incentive are rooted in the relational character of juridical obligations, and so ultimately in categorical imperatives of reason. Since this pathological incentive has a moral basis in the structure of juridical obligations, and so ultimately in a representation of moral laws, I argue that Kant’s discussion of the juridical incentive of coercion is more continuous with his main discussion of moral incentives in the Critique of Practical Reason than it might at first appear. I illustrate the consequences of this reading by discussing the propensity to injustice, as Kant understands it, and the unique way in which the juridical incentive undermines it.

    Gruesome Freedom: The Moral Limits of Non-Constraint

    John Lawless

    February 2018, vol. 18, no. 03, pp. 1-19

    Many philosophers conceive of freedom as non-interference. Such conceptions unify two core commitments. First, they associate freedom with non-constraint. And second, they take seriously a distinction between the interpersonal and the non-personal. As a result, they focus our attention exclusively (or at least, disproportionately) on constraints attributable to other people’s choices – that is, on interference. I argue that these commitments manifest two distinct concerns: first, for a wide range of options; and second, for other people’s respect. However, construing freedom as non-interference unifies these concerns in a way that does justice to neither. In particular, it focuses our attention on phenomena that are at best tangential, and at worst hostile, to our interest in respect. If we wish to preserve the distinctive significance of the interpersonal, we would be better served by a conception of freedom that focuses immediately on what I call "the social conditions of respect."

    Exploring a New Argument for Synchronic Chance

    Katrina Elliott

    January 2018, vol. 18, no. 02, pp. 1-18

    A synchronic probability is the probability at a time that an outcome occurs at that very time. Common sense invokes synchronic probabilities with values between 0 and 1 (e.g., the probability right now that the top card of this deck is presently the ace of spades is 1/52), as do scientific theories such as classical statistical mechanics. Recently, philosophers have argued about whether any synchronic probabilities are best interpreted as objective chances. I add to this debate an underappreciated reason we might have to believe in synchronic chance; it might turn out that the best interpretation of our common sense and scientific theories is one in which the macrophysical properties of physical systems are partly determined by synchronic chance distributions over microphysical properties of those systems. Additionally, I argue against the common charge that synchronic probability fails to satisfy various platitudes about chance—most notably Lewis’s (1986) Principal Principle.

    I Ought, Therefore I Can Obey

    Peter B. M. Vranas

    January 2018, vol. 18, no. 01, pp. 1-36

    According to typical ought-implies-can principles, if you have an obligation to vaccinate me tomorrow, then you can vaccinate me tomorrow. Such principles are uninformative about conditional obligations: what if you only have an obligation to vaccinate me tomorrow if you synthesize a vaccine today? Then maybe you cannot vaccinate me tomorrow (e.g., because you cannot synthesize a vaccine); what you can do instead, I propose, is make it the case that the conditional obligation is not violated (i.e., that you do not both synthesize a vaccine today and fail to vaccinate me tomorrow). More generally, I propose the ought-implies-can-obey principle: an agent has an obligation only at times at which the agent can obey the obligation (i.e., can make it the case that the obligation is not violated). I also propose another principle, which captures the idea that ‘ought’ implies ‘can avoid’. I defend both principles mainly by arguing that they help explain why agents lose (i.e., stop having) obligations, including conditional ones.