Volume 21 (2021)

    Imagining the Actual

    Daniel Munro

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 17, pp. 1-21

    This paper investigates a capacity I call actuality-oriented imagining, by which we use sensory imagination in a way that's directed at representing the actual world. I argue that this kind of imagining is distinct from other, similar mental states in virtue of its distinctive content determination and success conditions. Actuality-oriented imagining is thus a distinctive cognitive capacity in its own right. Thinking about this capacity reveals that we should resist an intuitive tendency to think of the imagination’s primary function or default mode as representing the non-actual or the fictional. Instead, the imagination is a cognitive faculty that often puts us in touch with the way things are in reality.

    Kantian Moral Psychology and Human Weakness

    Jessica Tizzard

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 16, pp. 1-28

    Immanuel Kant’s notion of weakness or frailty warrants more attention, for it reveals much about his theory of motivation and general metaphysics of mind. As the first and least severe of the three grades of evil, frailty captures those cases where an agent fails to act on their avowed recognition that the moral law is the only legitimate determining ground of the will. The possibility of such cases raises many important questions that have yet to be settled by interpreters. Most importantly, should we account for the failures of weakness by appealing to the activity of reason or sensibility? I will discuss this question in light of a tendency to adopt an overly dualistic reading of Kant’s moral psychology. Focusing on Kant’s remarks on weakness from the Religion and the Metaphysics of Morals, I argue that we should understand weakness as arising from the unique difficulties of sense-dependent judgment, rather than from self-deception, flagging commitment, or overwhelming desire. The resulting account offers a unified moral psychology capable of accommodating the many features of weakness that are difficult to reconcile on other readings.

    The Paralysis Argument

    Andreas Mogensen and William MacAskill

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 15, pp. 1-17

    Many everyday actions have major but unforeseeable long-term consequences. Some argue that this fact poses a serious problem for consequentialist moral theories. We argue that the problem for non-consequentialists is greater still. Standard non-consequentialist constraints on doing harm combined with the long-run impacts of everyday actions entail, absurdly, that we should try to do as little as possible. We call this the Paralysis Argument. After laying out the argument, we consider and respond to a number of objections. We then suggest what we believe is the most promising response: to accept, in practice, a highly demanding morality of beneficence with a long-term focus.

    Mill's Social Epistemic Rationale for the Freedom to Dispute Scientific Knowledge: Why We Must Put Up with Flat-Earthers

    Ava Thomas Wright

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 14, pp. 1-14

    Why must we respect others’ rights to dispute scientific knowledge such as that the Earth is round, or that humans evolved, or that anthropogenic greenhouse gases are warming the Earth? In this paper, I argue that in On Liberty Mill defends the freedom to dispute scientific knowledge by appeal to a novel social epistemic rationale for free speech that has been unduly neglected by Mill scholars. Mill distinguishes two kinds of epistemic warrant for scientific knowledge: 1) the positive, direct evidentiary warrant that scientific experts construct for their knowledge by applying the methods Mill had set out in his A System of Logic, Ratiocinative and Inductive, and 2) a social testimonial warrant that the non-expert “public” has for what Mill refers to as their “rational[ly] assur[ed]” beliefs on scientific subjects (Liberty, 18: 246). Mill does not argue that scientific claims can never be proven true with complete practical certainty to scientific experts, nor does he argue that scientists must engage in free debate with critics such as flat-earthers in order to fully understand the grounds of their scientific knowledge. Instead, Mill argues that in the absence of the freedom to dispute scientific knowledge, non-experts cannot establish that scientific experts are credible sources of testimonial knowledge. To establish the credibility of scientific expert speakers, non-expert audiences must have a rational assurance, Mill argues, that experts have satisfactory answers to objections that might undermine the positive, direct evidentiary proof of scientific knowledge. But since non-experts cannot distinguish objections that undermine such expert proof from objections that do not, censorship of any objection — even the irrelevant objections of literal or figurative flat-earthers — will prevent non-experts from determining whether scientific expert speakers are credible. Hence, while censoring irrelevant objections would not undermine the positive, direct evidentiary warrant that scientific experts have for their knowledge, doing so would destroy the non-expert, social testimonial warrant for that knowledge. The asymmetry between how expert scientific speakers and non-expert audiences warrant their scientific knowledge is what both generates and necessitates Mill’s social epistemic rationale for the “absolute” freedom to dispute it.

    The Negation of Self in Indian Buddhist Philosophy

    Sean M. Smith

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 13, pp. 1-23

    The not-self teaching is one of the defining doctrines of Buddhist philosophical thought. It states that no phenomenon is an abiding self. The not-self doctrine is central to discussions in contemporary Buddhist philosophy and to how Buddhism understood itself in relation to its Brahmanical opponents in classical Indian philosophy. In the Pāli suttas, the Buddha is presented as making statements that seem to entail that there is no self. At the same time, in these texts, the Buddha is never presented as saying explicitly that there is no self. Indeed, in the one discourse in which he is asked point blank whether there is a self, he refuses to answer (SN IV, 400). Thus, the suttas present us with a fundamental philosophical and interpretive problem: if the Buddha denies the existence of the self, why does he not state this denial explicitly? This paper resolves the problem by explaining why and how the Buddha can argue in a way that entails metaphysical anti-realism about the self while also refusing to state explicitly that there is no self.

    Conversational Eliciture

    Jonathan Cohen and Andrew Kehler

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 12, pp. 1-26

    The sentence "The boss fired the employee who is always late" invites the defeasible inference that the speaker is attempting to convey that the lateness caused the firing (cf. The boss fired the employee who is from Philadelphia, which does not invite an analogous inference). We argue that such inferences cannot be understood in terms of familiar approaches to extrasemantic enrichment such as implicature, impliciture, explicature, or species of local enrichment already in the literature. Rather, we propose that they arise from more basic cognitive strategies, grounded in processes of coherence establishment, that thinkers use to make sense of the world. Attention to such cases provides a richer and more varied landscape of extrasemantic enrichment than has been appreciated to date.

    Kant on Plants: Self-Activity, Representations, and the Analogy with Life

    Tyke Nunez

    June 2021, vol. 21, no. 11, pp. 1-30

    Do plants represent, according to Kant? This question is closely connected to whether Kant held plants are alive, because he explains life in terms of the faculty to act on one’s own representations. He also explains life as having an immaterial principle of self-motion and as a body’s interaction with a supersensible soul. I argue that because of the way plants move themselves, Kant is committed to their being alive, to their having a supersensible ground of their self-activity, and to their having desires (although these are not conscious). This has important ramifications for Kant’s teleology and philosophy of mind.

    Coming Soon

    Attitude and Social Rules, or Why It's Okay to Slurp Your Soup

    Jeffrey Kaplan

    A Problem About Preference

    Anthony S. Gillies