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81. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Jennifer Carr Epistemic Expansions
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Epistemic transformations—changes in one’s space of entertainable possibilities—are sometimes rational, sometimes irrational. Epistemology should take seriously the possibility of rationally evaluable epistemic transformations. Epistemic decision theory compares belief states in terms of epistemic value. But it’s standardly restricted to belief states that don’t differ in their conceptual resources. I argue that epistemic decision theory should be expanded to make belief states with differing conceptual resources comparable. I characterize some possible constraints on epistemic utility functions. Traditionally, it’s been assumed that the epistemic utility of a total belief state determines the epistemic utility of individual (partial) beliefs in a simple, intuitive way. Naive generalizations of extant accounts generate a kind of repugnant conclusion. I characterize some possible alternatives, reflecting different epistemic norms.
82. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Rachael Briggs Transformative Experience and Interpersonal Utility Comparisons
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I consider an old problem for preference satisfaction theories of wellbeing: that they have trouble answering questions about interpersonal comparisons, such as whether I am better off than you are, or whether a particular policy benefits me more than it benefits you. I argue that a similar problem arises for intrapersonal comparisons in cases of transformative experience. I survey possible solutions to the problem, and point out some subtle disanalogies between the problem involving interpersonal comparisons and the problem involving transformative experience.
83. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Elizabeth Barnes Social Identities and Transformative Experience
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In this paper, I argue that whether, how, and to what extent an experience is transformative is often highly contingent. I then further argue that sometimes social conditions are a major factor in whether a certain type of experience is often or typically transformative. Sometimes social conditions make it easy for a type of experience to be transformative, and sometimes they make it hard for a type of experience to be transformative. This, I claim, can sometimes be a matter of social justice: social conditions can make transformativeness too easy or too hard, in a way that harms people.
84. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Dana Sarah Howard Transforming Others: On the Limits of "You'll Be Glad I Did It" Reasoning
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We often find ourselves in situations in which it is up to us to make decisions on behalf of others. How can we determine whether such decisions are morally justified, especially if those decisions may change who it is these others end up becoming? In this paper, I will evaluate one plausible kind of justification that may tempt us: we may want to justify our decision by appealing to the likelihood that the other person will be glad we made that specific choice down the line. Although it is tempting, I ultimately argue that we should reject this sort of appeal as a plausible justification for the moral permissibility of our vicarious decisions. This is because the decisions that we make on behalf of another may affect the interests and values that that person will hold in the future. As I will show, this complicates the justificatory relationship between present decisions and future attitudes, since the latter can depend on the former.
85. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Ruth Chang Transformative Choices
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This paper proposes a way to understand transformative choices, choices that change ‘who you are.’ First, it distinguishes two broad models of transformative choice: 1) ‘event-based’ transformative choices in which some event—perhaps an experience—downstream from a choice transforms you, and 2) ‘choice-based’ transformative choices in which the choice itself—and not something downstream from the choice—transforms you. Transformative choices are of interest primarily because they purport to pose a challenge to standard approaches to rational choice. An examination of the event-based transformative choices of L. A. Paul and Edna Ullman-Margalit, however, suggests that event-based transformative choices don’t raise any difficulties for standard approaches to rational choice. An account of choice-based transformative choices—and what it is to be transformed—is then proposed. Transformative choices so understood not only capture paradigmatic cases of transformative choice but also point the way to a different way of thinking about rational choice and agency.
86. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
John Collins Neophobia
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L. A. Paul argues that epistemically transformative choice poses a special problem for standard theories of decision: when values of outcomes cannot be known in advance, deliberation cannot even get started. A standard response to this is to represent ignorance of the nature of an experience as uncertainty about its utility. Assign subjective probabilities over the range of possible utilities it may have, and an expected utility for the outcome can be figured despite the agent’s ignorance of its nature. But this response to Paul’s challenge seems inadequate. Decision theory should leave conceptual room for rational neophobia. A decision theory like Isaac Levi’s, which allows for indeterminacy in utility, might accomodate the phenomenon. Levi’s discussion of indeterminate utility has focused on examples of risk aversion like the Allais problem and on situations in which there are conflicts of value. Cases of unknowable value arising in transformative choice problems might be handled similarly.
87. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Rachel McKinnon Trans*formative Experiences
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What happens when we consider transformative experiences from the perspective of gender transitions? In this paper I suggest that at least two insights emerge. First, trans* persons’ experiences of gender transitions show some limitations to L. A. Paul’s (2015) decision theoretic account of transformative decisions. This will involve exploring some of the phenomenology of coming to know that one is trans, and in coming to decide to transition. Second, what epistemological effects are there to undergoing a transformative experience? By connecting some experiences of gender transitions to feminist standpoint epistemology, I argue that radical changes in one’s identity and social location also radically affects one’s access to knowledge in ways not widely appreciated in contemporary epistemology.
88. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Nathaniel Sharadin How You Can Reasonably Form Expectations When You're Expecting
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L. A. Paul has argued that an ordinary, natural way of making a decision—by reflecting on the phenomenal character of the experiences one will have as a result of that decision—cannot yield rational decision in certain cases. Paul’s argument turns on the (in principle) epistemically inaccessible phenomenal character of certain experiences. In this paper I argue that, even granting Paul a range of assumptions, her argument doesn’t work to establish its conclusion. This is because, as I argue, the phenomenal character of an experience supervenes on epistemically accessible facts about its non-phenomenal character plus what the deciding agent is like. Because there are principles that link the non-phenomenal character of experiences (together with what a particular agent is like) to the phenomenal character of experiences, agents can reasonably form expectations about the valence of the phenomenal character of the experiences that they are deciding whether to undergo. These reasonable expectations are, I argue, enough to make the ordinary, natural way of making a decision yield rational decision.
89. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Muhammad Velji Change Your Look, Change Your Luck: Religious Self-Transformation and Brute Luck Egalitarianism
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My intention in this paper is to reframe the practice of veiling as an embodied practice of self-development and self-transformation. I argue that practices like these cannot be handled by the choice/chance distinction relied on by those who would restrict religious minority accommodations. Embodied self-transformation necessarily means a change in personal identity and this means the religious believer cannot know if they will need religious accommodation when they begin their journey of piety. Even some luck egalitarians would find leaning exclusively on preference and choice to find who should be burdened with paying the full costs of certain choices in one’s life too morally harsh to be justifiable. I end by briefly illustrating an alternative way to think about religious accommodation that does not rely on the choice/chance distinction.
90. Res Philosophica: Volume > 92 > Issue: 2
Ryan Kemp The Self-Transformation Puzzle: On the Possibility of Radical Self-Transformation
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In this paper, I argue that cases of radical selftransformation (cases in which an agent willfully changes a foundational element of their motivational structure) constitute an important philosophical puzzle. Though our inclination to hold people responsible for such changes suggests that we regard radical transformation as (in some sense) self-determined, it is difficult to conceive how a transformation that extends to the heart of an agent’s practical life can be attributed to the agent at all. While I contend that the best way to solve this puzzle is to deny that radical transformations are in fact self-determined, many maintain the opposite. The defense of my thesis involves showing how the conditions that must be met in order to coherently attribute transformation to an agent are not satisfied in cases of radical transformation. Radical transformation is, thus, something that happens to an agent, not something that is done by her.
91. 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.
92. 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.
93. 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.
94. 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.
95. 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.
96. 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.
97. 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.
98. 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).
99. 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.”
100. 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.