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Res Philosophica

Volume 92
The 11th Robert J. Henle Conference

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Displaying: 1-20 of 40 documents


winner of the 2015 res philosophica essay prize
1. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Adam C. Pelser Respect for Human Dignity as an Emotion and Virtue
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Although it does not appear on many traditional lists of the virtues, respect for human dignity is an important virtue in its own right that is characterized as much by emotions as by other mental states and actions. The virtue of respect for human dignity essentially involves the dispositions to feel the emotion of respect for the dignity of others and an emotional sense of one’s own dignity. As exemplified by Nelson Mandela, this virtue also involves a keen perceptual sensitivity to humiliating and degrading treatment, along with dispositions to protest, correct, and prevent such treatment. The person with the virtue of respect for human dignity also will be disposed to feel indignation toward willful violations of human dignity, compassion for those whose dignity is violated, and various positive emotions in response to victories for human dignity. Although this virtue closely resembles other, more widely recognized, virtues, such as justice and love, it nevertheless is appropriate to treat respect for human dignity as a distinct virtue, as well as an emotion.
2. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Susan Stark Ordinary Virtue
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A body of psychological data casts doubt on the idea of character traits. As a result, some conclude that situations determine action. This view, situationism, undercuts our conception of the individual as responsible for actions. Moreover, the situationist argues that virtue theories, because they emphasize character, are most vulnerable to this attack. At its extreme, situationists hold that there are no character traits of the sort virtue theory requires. I argue, however, that the virtue theorist can answer this critique. Their response elucidates the ordinary process of moral development and reveals that the human good is partly constituted by social context. The situationist, mistaken about the virtues, makes an important point: situations have a substantial bearing on our abilities to be morally good and to flourish. But accepting this need not undermine the virtue theorist’s view because human beings can learn to be sensitive to morally salient aspects of situations.
3. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
James Sias Being Good and Feeling Well
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This paper attempts to clarify the relation between moral virtue and the emotions, but with an ulterior motive: I want an account of this relation that is not only plausible on its own, but also, one that helps to explain when, and how, our emotions might contribute to the justification of moral beliefs formed on their basis.
4. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Kristján Kristjánsson Grief: An Aristotelian Justification of an Emotional Virtue
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This article has three interrelated aims. The first is to analyze the concept of grief; the second is to argue for the putative rationality of grief (against Donald Gustafson’s contention to the contrary); and the third is to offer a moral justification of grief along broadly Aristotelian lines as an intrinsically valuable trait of character—a virtue. With regard to this third and ultimate aim, I argue not only that grief plays an unappreciated positive role in our moral experiences but flesh out a case for what exactly that positive moral role is. More precisely, I argue that grief is best justified as an Aristotelian desert-based emotional trait, incorporating two distinct desert-motivated desires, one specifically directed at the memory of the dead person as deserving of homage, the other more cosmically focusing on the general undeservingness of good people passing away. The argument goes against the grain of most previous instrumental justifications of grief and palpably violates David Konstan’s contention that grief involves “no reference to desert.”
5. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Rebecca Konyndyk DeYoung The Roots of Despair
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This paper is an exploration of the Thomistic vice of despair, one of two vices opposed to the theological virtue of hope. Aquinas’s conception of despair as a vice, and a theological vice in particular, distances him from contemporary use of the term “despair” to describe an emotional state. His account nonetheless yields a compelling psychological portrait of moral degeneration, which I explain via despair’s link to its “root,” the capital vice of sloth. Cases in which sloth and its offspring vices progress into full-fledged despair raise interesting issues about whether and how despair might be remediable. I conclude by considering puzzles regarding despair’s disordered effects on the intellect and will and weighing three possible means of remedying it.
6. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
W. Scott Cleveland The Emotions of Courageous Activity
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An apparent paradox concerning courageous activity is that it seems to require both fear and fearlessness—on the one hand, mastering one’s fear, and, on the other, eliminating fear. I resolve the paradox by isolating three phases of courageous activity: the initial response to the situation, the choice of courageous action, and the execution of courageous action. I argue that there is an emotion that is proper to each of these phases and that each emotion positively contributes to the performance of courageous activity in each of its phases. More specifically, I argue that fear, hope, and daring are necessary for complete courageous activity. My model of courageous activity explains why courage is a virtue that requires excellent emotion dispositions and resolves the paradox concerning the apparent need for both fear and fearlessness. Fear is required in the first phase and fearless daring in the third phase of courageous activity.
7. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Robert C. Roberts The Normative and the Empirical in the Study of Gratitude
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Recent empirical work on the virtue of gratitude raises questions about the limits of that research and its methods to address normative questions about gratitude. I distinguish two kinds of norms for the emotion of gratitude—norms of genuineness and norms of excellence. I examine two kinds of empirical studies that aim to establish or contribute to the norms for gratitude: a so-called “prototype” approach, and a narrative vignettes approach, finding the latter far superior, and suggest various refinements that might improve accuracy. The main emotion types, of which gratitude is an example, have a conceptual structure that must be reflected in any normative analysis, and is far better reflected in the vignettes approach. Ultimately, however, formulation of norms of genuineness and of virtue must come from one or another tradition of careful reflection and debate about such concepts as gratitude; and the representatives of such traditions are philosophers and theologians.
8. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Lauren Ware Erotic Virtue
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This paper defends an account of how erotic love works to develop virtue. It is argued that love drives moral development by holding the creation of virtue in the individual as the emotion’s intentional object. After analyzing the distinction between passive and active accounts of the object of love, this paper demonstrates that a Platonic virtue-ethical understanding of erotic love—far from being consumed with ascetic contemplation—offers a positive treatment of emotion’s role in the attainment and social practice of virtue.
9. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Vida Yao Boredom and the Divided Mind
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On one predominant conception of virtue, the virtuous agent is, among other things, wholehearted in doing what she believes best. I challenge this condition by exploring the connections between the emotion of boredom and the states of continence and incontinence. An easily bored person is susceptible to these forms of inner disharmony because of two familiar characteristics of boredom: that we are often bored by what it is that we know would be best to do, and that occurrent states of boredom tend to give rise to positive interest in performing actions that we know would be bad to do. Moreover, while a susceptibility to boredom can indicate a lack of attentiveness, or be evidence of a vice such as ingratitude, it is in others inseparable from a number of positive qualities of character, such as perspicacity, liveliness, and certain forms of intelligence. Given this, we should reject wholeheartedness as a condition on the virtues, and recognize those possessed by more divided minds as well.
10. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Kevin Patrick Tobia Wonder and Value
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Wonder’s significance is a recurrent theme in the history of philosophy. In the Theaetetus, Plato’s Socrates claims that philosophy begins in wonder (thaumazein).Aristotle echoes these sentiments in his Metaphysics; it is wonder and astonishment that first led us to philosophize. Philosophers from the Ancients through Wittgenstein discuss wonder, yet scant recent attention has been given to developing a general systematic account of emotional wonder. I develop an account of emotional wonder and defend its connection with apparent or seeming value. Recently, several philosophers invoke wonder to back non-eudaimonistic value judgments. I introduce methods to incorporate these judgments into a eudaimonistic moral framework. On the analysis presented, wonder requires its object to seem valuable, but whether the object is in fact valuable remains an open question. Wonder enraptures us with objects that might be of true or merely illusory value, grounded either in our own well-being or in non-eudaimonistic value.
11. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 4
Michael Slote The Emotional Justification of Democracy
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Most political philosophers see rationally recognized human rights as justifying universal suffrage. But sentimentalism can develop its own justification for democracy. It is uncaring for rulers to deny people the vote out of a desire to retain power and privilege; and when rulers in Asia argue that Asian societies don’t need democracy because of the “natural deference” of Asian people, their argument is no more persuasive than patriarchal arguments for the natural deference of women. But a positive argument for democracy emerges from Abraham Maslow’s idea that all humans have a deep desire for the esteem of others. Denying people the right to vote expresses a low opinion of them, and this goes deeply against our desire for esteem. Even though democratic societies may lose out on various economic opportunities because of the electorate’s unwillingness to make certain sacrifices, they provide a form of esteem that is for emotional reasons much more important to us humans.
12. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
Elizabeth S. Radcliffe Strength of Mind and the Calm and Violent Passions
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Hume’s distinction between the calm and violent passions is one whose boundaries are not entirely clear. However, it is crucial to understanding his motivational theory and to identifying an unusual virtue he calls “strength of mind,” the motivational prevalence of the calm passions over the violent. In this paper, I investigate the parameters of these passions and consider the constitution of strength of mind and why Hume regards it as an admirable trait. These are provocative issues for two reasons. First, it seems as though one might exhibit the prevalence of calm over violent passions, even if the prevailing calm passions are vicious traits of character. Second, the natural virtues for Hume are non-moral motives that garner approval for the effects they tend to produce. But strength of mind is unique in that it is not defined in terms of a particular motive, but in terms of the causal force (strength) of any number of motives in competition with others.
13. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
Katharina Paxman The Movement of Feeling and the Genesis of Character in Hume
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This paper is concerned with the question of how affect, or feeling, moves through and ultimately shapes the Humean mental landscape, with particular focus on the question of how this constantly changing geography of feeling results in the kind of enduring dispositions and tendencies necessary for the existence of character, an essential component of Hume’s moral philosophy. Section 1 looks at the concept of ‘attending emotion’ and outlines two important principles of mind Hume introduces in Book II of the Treatise: the Principle of Attending Emotion, and the Principle of Affective Conversion. Section 2 explores the origin of enduring tendency and disposition by considering the calm and violent passions in conjunction with these principles. The paper concludes with some preliminary suggestions of how, on this picture, an individual might come to take an active hand in shaping her own character.
14. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
Glen Pettigrove Re-Conceiving Character: The Social Ontology of Humean Virtue
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Most twenty-first century ethicists conceive of character as a stable, enduring state that is internal to the agent who possesses it. This paper argues that writers in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries did not share this conception: as they conceived of it, character is fragile and has a social ontology. The paper goes on to show that Hume’s conception of character was more like his contemporaries than like ours. It concludes with a look at the significance of such a conception for current debates about the place of character in ethics.
15. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
Yumiko Inukai The World of the Vulgar and the Ignorant: Hume and Nagarjuna on the Substantiality and Independence of Objects
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There are remarkable parallels between Hume and Nagarjuna in their denial of substantiality and independence in objects and their subsequent attitude toward our ordinary world. Acknowledging a deep-rooted human tendency to take objects as independent entities, they both argue that there is nothing intrinsic in those objects that make them unitary and independent, and that those characters are, strictly speaking, merely fictitious, mental constructs. They nonetheless affirm the existence of our ordinary world as real. Although their main purposes of the philosophical inquiry are different (epistemological for Hume, and soteriological for Nagarjuna), their accounts of the nature of our world allow us to accept it in the way we ordinarily believe with the deeper understanding of it. It is only in this world where we think, act, and interact with others that an epistemology grounded in human sentiment and experience (for Hume) or humans liberation (for Nagarjuna) is possible.
16. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
Helen De Cruz The Relevance of Hume's Natural History of Religion for Cognitive Science of Religion
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Hume was a cognitive scientist of religion avant la lettre. His Natural History of Religion (1757 [2007]) locates the origins of religion in human nature. This paper explores similarities between some of his ideas and the cognitive science of religion, the multidisciplinary study of the psychological origins of religious beliefs. It also considers Hume’s distinction between two questions about religion: its foundation in reason (the domain of natural theology and philosophy of religion) and its origin in human nature (the domain of cognitive science of religion).
17. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
P. J. E. Kail Religion and Its Natural History
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This paper discusses the role of Hume’s “Natural History of Religion” (NHR) in his campaign against the rational acceptability of religious belief by discussing and rebutting some objections have been lodged to my previous presentations of my reading of the NHR. In earlier work I argued that the causal account of religious belief offered therein, if accepted as the best account, rationally destabilizes that belief. By this, I mean that acknowledging that the account is the best of the belief provides a reason to suspend the belief unless and until some further epistemic justification is given for that belief. As such, the account leaves those who think that the belief can be given some epistemic justification unmoved, but has a particular force against the fideist who holds that justification is not required. In this paper I show in more detail than in previous work its relevance to a particular form of fideism, and rebut objections to my reading offered by Jennifer Marušic.
18. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
A. E. Pitson "More Affected than Real": Hume and Religious Belief
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Hume’s remark that “the conviction of religionists, in all ages, is more affected than real” is considered in relation to various monotheistic beliefs against the background of his account of belief more generally. The issue arises as to what Hume means by characterizing the assent associated with religious belief as an operation between disbelief and conviction. According to Hume, the obscurity of the ideas involved in the religious convictions of the “vulgar” prevents them from achieving the force and vivacity characteristic of belief. As for philosophers, their idea of God encounters the problem of evil and the question of whether it is possible for the deity to possess moral virtues. Even the ascription to God of natural attributes takes us beyond what may meaningfully be imagined. Finally, the philosophical idea of God as a principle of order provides a form of theistic belief that is only verbally different from atheism.
19. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 3
Stanley Tweyman Belief, Morality, and Reasoning in Hume's Philosophy
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Although Hume insists that belief does not involve a separate impression, select scholars have argued that, as Hume’s thoughts on belief developed, he either was moving toward, or adopted, the impression of reflection view of belief. In my paper, I attempt to show that neither of these views is correct. As well, I argue that there is a role for distinctions of reason in belief, which is similar to the role played by distinctions of reason in Hume’s moral theory, at the point where Hume shows how we form a disinterested standpoint when making moral judgements. In the last part of my paper, I show that Hume develops “Of Scepticism with Regard to Reason” to confirm the force and vivacity view of belief, and to show that force and vivacity has application even with regard to intuitive and demonstrative reasoning.
20. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
L. A. Paul What You Can’t Expect When You’re Expecting
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It seems natural to choose whether to have a child by reflecting on what it would be like to actually have a child. I argue that this natural approach fails. If you choose to become a parent, and your choice is based on projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. If you choose to remain childless, and your choice is based upon projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. This suggests we should reject our ordinary conception of how to make this life-changing decision, and raises general questions about how to rationally approach important life choices.