Saturday, March 26, 2005
What do internalists believe anyway?
In an unfinished post that's still languishing in the draft queue, I described moral internalism as follows:
Moral internalism is the metaethical view that moral theory is first and foremost concerned with the project of providing an account of internalist reasons for moral behavior. Internalist reasons, on this understanding, are considerations which are psychologically available to the agent and which are understood by the agent to bear on the question of what action is to be done. Importantly, this means that any consideration which is an internalist reason is such that the consideration has some degree of motivational force for the agent. That is, part of what is meant in saying that the agent understands a reason is that the agent is moved to act by the consideration embodied in the reason.
In articulating this conception of moral internalism, I mean to be saying that moral internalism is committed to the claim that the psychological availability and motivational efficacy of a consideration is a necessary condition of that consideration's being a reason for the agent. For reasons which will become apparent, I will call this view weak internalism.
There is room, it should be clear, for the possibility that a consideration might be psychologically available and motivating in the relevant sense and yet not be a reason. For example, if it were a bit warmer I might have a desire to walk down to Dairy Queen for an ice cream cone, and this desire would have at least some motivational force. In such a case the necessary conditions for having a reason would be met, and yet it is at least plausible to say that meeting these conditions is not sufficient for the ascription of a reason. Or, if this is not persuasive, consider a case which is logically equivalent: if someone offends me, I might have a desire to assault them, perhaps a very strong desire. This desire will have at least some motivational force, and yet it seems quite plausible say that I have no reason to commit an assault.
Some people have a temptation here to say that I do have a reason, but that other reasons for other actions are stronger. I don't deny that there are cases which work in that way, but I mean to be saying something different. While it is possible for someone to deliberate about whether or not to bash a disrespectful interlocutor upside the head, this isn't what always happens. In many cases the urge occurs but is immediately dismissed -- the agent is aware of the desire, but doesn't think that the desire has any bearing on her choice of actions. In such a case it isn't as if the violent desire was trumped by pacifistic or prudential reasons. It simply wasn't in the running.
The availability of such cases indicates that we sometimes enter into motivationally animate psychological states without having reasons. A fortiori, something beyond motivational force and psychological access is required in order to have a reason. Hence, weak internalism does not state a sufficient condition for having a reason.
What, then, would stating such a sufficient condition look like? Consider this passage from Bernard Williams' postscript to his "Internal and External Reasons" paper:
The formulation of the internalist position which I now prefer is: A has reason to F only if there is a sound deliberative route from A's subjective motivational set (which I label "S," as in the original article) to A's F-ing. Whether this is a sufficient condition of A's having a reason to F is a question which I have left aside; the essence of the internalist position is that it is a necessary condition.
In this passage Williams seems to be endorsing weak internalism while remaining agnostic as to what further might be needed. He does, however, provide some indication of how this further condition might be filled out by suggesting that having a reason is tied to the availability of 'a sound deliberative route.' In some other work, and in particular in Williams' reply to an objection posed by John McDowell, Williams has articulated this requirement in a way which some have taken to hint at an endorsement of a stronger form of internalism. In that reply, Williams' central point was that the notion of a sound deliberative route couldn't be explicated by appeal to the notion of an ideal deliberator, but, rather, that soundness depended on the route conforming the the deliberative standards accepted by the agent herself.
It is worth noting that the criticism Williams offers of McDowell requires nothing stronger than weak internalism. The problem with appealing to the ideal deliberator is that the normative standards which such a deliberator employs cannot be part of a non-ideal agent's subjective motivational set. As such, those normative standards fail to satisfy the necessary condition posited by weak internalism.
That said, interpreters like Evan Tiffany take Williams to be saying something stronger. They take him to be denying that rational criticism can ever be licensed by an external standard. On this view, the problem with the ideal deliberator lies in the fact that the standards such a deliberator employs are independent of the particular agent's moral psychology. Put another way, the claim is that the necessary condition lying at the center of the internalist position means that the sufficiency condition, whatever it comes to, cannot appeal to standards that are external to the agent's subjective motivational set. Call this position strong internalism.
To see clearly what is at stake between weak and strong internalism, it may help to consider a non-ideal case. So, we might imagine a community of agents who share a number of practices, one of which they call science. Science, broadly construed, is a practice concerned with discovering predictive hypotheses about the external world. This process of discovery, it has been discovered, is greatly facilitated if certain inferential standards are followed. For example, progress in science is furthered by adherance to the rule that correllation does not imply causation.
Now, suppose that there is a member of this community, we'll call him Vik, who claims (a) that he is engaged in the practice of science; and (b) that correllation implies causation. Suppose further that Vik asserts a predictive hypothesis H which, Vik further asserts, is licensed by various correllations he has noticed. Lastly, suppose that some other member of the community objects and says to Vik, "Science gives you no reason to believe H."
The dispute between Vik and his interlocutor has to do with which inferences are legitimate for a person engaged in the practice of science. The interlocultor appeals to norms which are publicly accepted as belonging to the practice and says to Vik that since he has violated those norms he doesn't have the reasons that he takes himself to have. In making this objection, the interlocutor denies that Vik's own commitment to b is sufficient grounds for Vik to assert that he has a reason to accept H.
If weak internalism is accepted, then this analysis of the exchange might possibly be right. That is, it might be that Vik fails to have a reason because he fails to properly apply the norms of the practice of science. If, on the other hand, strong internalism is right, then the interlocultor's objection is badly off the track. According to strong internalism, it is enough for Vik to have a reason if he has properly followed a deliberative route which he accepts and which originates in his subjective motivational set. Since these conditions have been satisfied, the strong internalist will maintain that Vik does, in fact, have a reason to believe H.
This is enough, I think, to make clear the distinction between strong and weak internalism. However, a few words are in order to distinguish weak internalism from externalism. Externalism, as I have written before, is the view that there are robust external reasons. Williams has characterized externalism with regard to some action F as the view that for an agent to have a reason to F, "F-ing will have to be an action that an agent could rationally decide to do as a result of deliberation whatever his S might be." Weak internalism is compatible with the truth of the claim that there are actions F such that any agent, regardless of her S, will decide as a result of deliberation that she has reason to F. Weak internalism denies, however, that the truth of that claim is either a necessary or a sufficient condition for the agent's having a reason to F. It is not a necessary condition because a particular agent may have reasons which could not be arrived at from just any subjective motivational set. It is not a sufficient condition because the availability of such a deliberative route will not guarantee that the route is followed by a given agent.
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Rationalism and internalism
Korsgaard, I'm quite sure, would dispute this characterization, and it does seem to rest on a significant misreading. She does not maintain, as Tiffany apparently believes, that an agent must regard her particular practical identity as being 'grounded in an identity simply as a human being.' Korsgaard's view is rather that one ought to regard one's practical identity in this way, and that one will just in case one has engaged in a sufficiently thorough process of rational deliberation. Korsgaard is an internalist, then, because she thinks that one doesn't have reasons deriving from the so-called standpoint of humanity unless one has arrived at and endorsed this standpoint through one's own self-directed deliberation. Put another way, one doesn't have such reasons unless one has internal reasons.
That said, Tiffany does seem to be responding to a tension that really is present in any attempt to reconcile rationalism with internalism. The difficulty arises because rationalism is committed, in some sense, to the notion of a rational order which is independent of the judgements of particular agents. This rational order is, obviously, external to the agent and, also obviously, serves as a standard by which the judgments of agents may be evaluated. As such, a commitment to rationalism seems to imply a commitment to the notion that there are robust external reasons for action.
One way Kantian constructivists like Korsgaard seek to avoid this result is by denying that these purported external reasons really are reasons before they are endorsed. Another move, and I don't quite know where Korsgaard stands on this point, is to deny that there is an external rational order as such. There are, rather, certain deliberative procedures the outcome of which is significantly open.
The first move, it seems to me, doesn't do much damage to the view that there are robust external reasons. This is for the simple reason that we can acknowledge Korsgaard's point while saying that the agent ought, in a strong sense, to make just those judgements which accord with the external standard.
The second move, on the other hand, doesn't seem to get the kind of universality that rationalists demand. That is, if deliberation is open then there's no reason to suppose that everyone will, given enough deliberation, arrive at the same judgments about moral obligations. For myself, I'm happy to give up on the universality of morality, but this isn't a result that philosophers like Korsgaard are going to find acceptable.
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
n. 1. A full, rich outpouring of harmonious sound. 2. The entire range of an instrument or voice. 3. Either of the two principle stops on a pipe organ. 4. The interval of an octave. 5. Complete concord, harmony, or agreement. 6. A rule or scale employed by makers of musical instruments in tuning. 7. A tuning fork.
v. 1. To resound sonorously (trans. and intr.) 2. intr. To maintain accord with.
Don't call it an interlude
1. Yoni Cohen, Yocohoops/Foxsports.com: 430 (1,270)
2. CBS.SportsLine.com users: 420 (1,300)
3. NCAA Selection Committee: 400 (1,360)
4. Kyle Veltrop, Sporting News: 400 (1,240)
5. Tim Brando, Sporting News/CBS: 400 (1,160)
6. Tony Mejia, CBS.SportsLine.com: 400 (1,120)
7. Seth Davis, Sports Illustrated/CBS: 400 (920)
8. Stewart Mandel, Sports Illustrated: 390 (1,310)
9. Grant Wahl, Sports Illustrated: 390 (1,070)
9. Sports Illustrated: 390 (1,070)
11. King Kaufman, Salon: 380 (1,100)
12. John Salley, Fox Sports: 350 (910)
13. Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News: 350 (750)
14. Luke Winn, Sports Illustrated: 340 (860)
14. Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated: 340 (860)
16. Buster, Coin Flip the Magazine: 240 (720)
The parenthetical number is total possible points. Yoni and I, you'll note, are doing quite well. My total possible is a sky high 1390, but I'm counting on Louiville to beat Washington and Utah to beat both Kentucky and Duke. We shall see what we shall see.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Using King Kaufman's scoring algorhithm I've got 250 points, which is okay, but I've lost three sweet sixteen teams (Kansas, Syracuse, and 'Bama). King's system, by the way, assigns 10 points for a first round pick, 20 for a second, 40 for the sweet sixteen, 80 for elite eight, 120 for final four, and 160 for picking the champion correctly. It's worth using because King is tracking about a dozen media outlets - and the NCAA selection committee - which provides grounds for comparison.
Other first round misses: UAB over LSU, Texas Tech over UCLA, and West Virginia over Creighton. I always pick Creighton, but should have known better this year. UAB was a real surprise. As for the Texas Tech game.......that's a tough pick to explain. I guess I thought that UCLA had too much talent and that Bobby Knight tends to beat more talented teams the second or third time he plays them rather than the first.
Today I'll be rooting for Gonzaga, Pacific, Utah, Boston College, Illinois, Arizona, Wake Forest, and Kentucky. Utah would be a minor upset, but I'm counting on Andrew Bogut to be the second coming of Danny Manning and to pull the Running Utes into the final four. Pacific would be a major upset, but I think there's reason to be optimistic. Washington is overrated and small, Pacific is underrated and big.
For the record, my other crazy final four pick is Louisville. I've got North Carolina and Illinois in the championship game, with Illinois winning. That's a homer pick, obviously, but Illinois is pretty darn good.
Monday, March 14, 2005
- The thought behind the conjecture is that the criteria for the evaluation of scientific theories can also be applied to philosophical theories.
- The truth of the conjecture would seem to depend on there being some other theory with comparable explanatory power.
- The truth of the conjecture is compatible with their being elements of Kant's theory which ought to be preserved.
- The truth of the conjecture would legitimate my ongoing project of not reading The Critique of Pure Reason
Monday, March 07, 2005
Today's featured homonym
Gar2 tr. v. [Middle English geren, from Old Norse gera, to make] To cause or compel.