Volume 19 (2019)
November 2019, vol. 19, no. 49, pp. 1-19
Moods are sometimes claimed to constitute an exception to the rule that mental phenomena are intentional (in the sense of representing something). In reaction, some philosophers have argued that moods are in fact intentional, but exhibit a special and unusual kind of intentionality: They represent the world as a whole, or everything indiscriminately, rather than some more specific object(s). In this paper, I present a problem for extant versions of this idea, then propose a revision that solves the problem but also entrains an important change in our understanding of the nature of moods—and indeed of the nature of mind. What emerges is an intentionalist account that emphasizes the role of attitude rather than content in determining the character of moods.
Cameron Domenico Kirk-Giannini
November 2019, vol. 19, no. 48, pp. 1-28
Recent work on the semantics and pragmatics of slurs has explored a variety of ways of explaining their potential to derogate, with the most popular family of approaches appealing to either: (i), the doxastic or evaluative attitudes or commitments expressed by — or (ii), the propositions concerning such attitudes or commitments semantically or pragmatically communicated by — the speakers who use them. I begin by arguing that no such speaker-oriented approach can be correct. I then propose an alternative treatment of slurs, according to which they are semantically associated with both descriptive and directive content. On the view I defend, when speakers use slurs, they simultaneously propose to add an at-issue proposition to the conversational common ground and issue a not-at-issue directive to their interlocutors to adopt a derogatory perspective toward members of the targeted group. This proposal both avoids the problems faced by other accounts and opens up a novel way of thinking about the phenomenon of appropriation.
John J. Callanan
November 2019, vol. 19, no. 47, pp. 1-22
Towards the conclusion of the First Section of the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals, Kant describes a process whereby a subject can undergo a kind of moral corruption. This process, which he calls a “natural dialectic”, can cause one to undermine one’s own or¬dinary grasp of the demands of morality. Kant also claims that this natural dialectic is the basis of the need for moral philosophy itself, since first-order moral reasoning is insufficient to protect against it. I show that this passage is closely related to another in the First Section, one where Kant warns against the threat of “misology”, or the hatred of reason. I argue that both these passages must be read as engaging with specific claims from Rousseau’s writings. Uncovering the historical context and rhetorical function of Kant’s account of moral self-deception can re-orient the reader to his ambitions for the Groundwork itself.
October 2019, vol. 19, no. 46, pp. 1-18
In this paper, I examine a heretofore ignored critic of Descartes on the heterogeneity problem: Anton Wilhelm Amo. Looking at Amo’s critique of Descartes reveals a very clear case of a thinker who attempts to offer a causal system that is not a solution to the mind-body problem, but rather that transcends it. The focus of my discussion is Amo’s 1734 dissertation: The Apathy [ἀπάθεια] of the Human Mind or The Absence of Sensation and the Faculty of Sense in the Human Mind and their Presence in our Organic and Living Body. Amo’s discussion of the interaction, or lack thereof, of the mind and body hinges on the essential feature he identifies for the human mind—apathy, that is, impassivity. In this work, Amo engages explicitly with Descartes’s writing, which allows us to more precisely see the nature of his agreement and disagreement with the Cartesian metaphysics of mind. I proceed by treating Amo’s five stated criteria for spirit-hood which, in turn, reveal the kinds of causal connections that are possible for embodied spirits on his view. My aim is threefold: (1) To lay out what I take to be Amo’s view of and arguments for the five criteria he takes to be required for a substance to be spirit. (2) To locate Amo’s agreement and disagreement with Descartes. (3) To suggest that Amo’s view on mind-body interaction involves a kind of occasional causation.
David O. Brink
October 2019, vol. 19, no. 45, pp. 1-28
Perfectionism is an underexplored tradition, perhaps because of doubts about the grounds, content, and implications of perfectionist ideals. Aristotle, J.S. Mill, and T.H. Green are normative perfectionists, grounding perfectionist ideals in a normative conception of human nature involving personality or agency. This essay explores the prospects of normative perfectionism by examining Kant’s criticisms of the perfectionist tradition. First, Kant claims that the perfectionist can generate only hypothetical, not categorical, imperatives. But insofar as the normative perfectionist appeals to the normative category of personality or agency, rather than a biological category of humanity, it can represent perfectionist demands as categorical imperatives. Second, Kant accepts a moral asymmetry in which we aim at our own perfection but at the happiness, rather than the perfection, of others. However, the importance of autonomy in normative perfection explains why the perfectionist should recognize a self/other asymmetry. Indeed, when we see how the normative perfectionist can answer Kant’s criticisms while respecting Kant’s own claims about the connection between rational nature and moral requirements, we can see the basis for a normative perfectionist interpretation of Kant’s own ethical theory. Insofar as Kantians and normative perfectionists both base ethical demands on an appeal to rational nature, they face a common worry that the appeal to rational nature is empty or incomplete. Normative perfectionists have more and less concessive responses to this worry, providing perfectionist explanations of various apparently non-perfectionist goods. Even if we end up being pluralists about the good, perfectionist elements play an important role. Finally, because the normative perfectionist, like the Kantian, grounds its ideals and requirements in a conception of persons as rational agents, it provides a promising account of the rational authority of perfectionist demands. This comparison of normative perfectionist and Kantian essentials gives us reason to take the normative perfectionist tradition seriously.