Presentation on theme: "I OUGHT, THEREFORE I CAN Peter B. M. Vranas University of Wisconsin-Madison Talk at Illinois State University, 2 April 2010."— Presentation transcript:
I OUGHT, THEREFORE I CAN Peter B. M. Vranas University of Wisconsin-Madison Talk at Illinois State University, 2 April 2010
OVERVIEW Part 1 FORMULATING OIC Part 2 AN ARGUMENT FOR OIC Part 3 SIX OBJECTIONS TO OIC
FORMULATING OIC Ê 'Ought': objective, pro tanto obligation. Ë 'Can': ability plus opportunity. Ì 'Implies': conceptual entailment. Relate obligations at a time with abilities and opportunities at the same time. OIC: By virtue of conceptual necessity, if an agent at a time has an objective, pro tanto obligation to do something, then the agent at that time has both the ability and the opportunity to do the thing.
PART 2 Part 1 FORMULATING OIC Part 2 AN ARGUMENT FOR OIC Part 3 SIX OBJECTIONS TO OIC
AN ARGUMENT FOR OIC (P1) If an agent has an obligation to , then the agent has a reason to . (P2) If an agent has a reason to , then -ing is a potential action of the agent. (P3) If -ing is a potential action of an agent, then the agent can . __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (OIC) If an agent has an obligation to , then the agent can .
PART 3 Part 1 FORMULATING OIC Part 2 AN ARGUMENT FOR OIC Part 3 SIX OBJECTIONS TO OIC
OBJECTION 1: YOU OUGHT TO FEEL "I know you hate her, but you ought to feel grateful to her: she saved your son's life." Reply: OIC is about obligations to do (to make yourself feel). "You ought to feel grateful" may: Ê Ascribe a feasible obligation: to try to make yourself feel grateful right now, or to gradually replace hatred with gratitude. Ë Ascribe no obligation, but blame you for being ungrateful, or stating it would be good if you felt grateful (ought to be, not to do).
OBJECTION 2: YOU NO LONGER CAN Case 1: A student idles her time away and becomes unable to turn in a paper by 9am. Case 2: A man boards a plane to NY at 8:30am and becomes unable to marry a woman at 9am. Case 3: A debtor is robbed at 8:58am and be- comes unable to repay a loan to a bank by 9am. Position 1 (anti-OIC): At 8:59am the student still has an obligation to turn in a paper by 9am. Position 2 (pro-OIC): At 8:59am the student no longer has an obligation to turn in a paper.
COMMON GROUND: OBLIGATIONS HAVE LIFETIMES l Sooner or later, the obligation expires: At 10am the student no longer has an obligation to turn in a paper by 9am. l So the question is not whether the obligation expires, but rather when it does: Position 1 (anti-OIC): The obligation expires at 9am, after the inability sets in. Position 2 (pro-OIC): The obligation expires before 9am, when the inability sets in.
WHY WOULD THE OBLIGATION EXPIRE AT 9AM? l Because 9am is in its content. Reply: It expires at 8am if the student turns in a paper at 8am. l Because at 9am it becomes impossible to fulfill. Reply: Before 9am it becomes practically impossible to fulfill. At 8:59am there are only exotic possibilities in which the obligation is fulfilled. l In sum: We need a demarcation line, and it is more plausible to draw it in terms of practical rather than strict impossibility.
THE RARE BOOK EXAMPLE l You have promised to return to Joe his copy of a rare book by 9am, but you cannot: it is in China. l At 8am you have an obligation to give Joe your copy of the book by 9am. l So if at 8am you also had the obligation to give Joe his copy by 9am, then at 8am you would have both obligations—but you don't. l So at 8am you no longer have the original obligation.
TWO RESPONSES Response 1: Why do you now have an obligation to apologize if you now no longer have an obligation to turn in a paper? My reply: Because you are blameworthy for having violated another obligation earlier on. Response 2: OIC has the consequence that one can get rid of unwanted obligations. My reply: This consequence is true; e.g., killing the teacher. OIC does not allow one to get rid of unwanted obligations without residue.
OBJECTION 3: ADDICTIVE BEHAVIORS The objection: Kleptomaniacs have an oblig- ation to refrain from stealing, but they cannot. My reply: Strictly speaking they can refrain, since they regularly do refrain. A response: One can conceive of a kleptomaniac who cannot refrain from stealing. My reply: Such kleptomaniacs would have no obligation to refrain from stealing. A rejoinder: They would still have a reason to refrain, so they falsify P2. Why?
ABILITY-INDEPENDENT THEORIES OF REASONS (Q1) Everyone has a reason to do whatever would be good for her. (Q2) Someone cannot do something that would be good for her. _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (Q3) Someone cannot do something she has a reason to do. My reply: Q1 is false. You have no reason to dis- prove a theorem even if it would be good for you. A response: Q1 is coherent, so P2 is false. My reply: ( Q1)&Q2 does not entail Q3. One needs Q1&Q2, but Q2 is false.
OBJECTION 4: OIC VERSUS IS/OUGHT (I/O*) No valid argument has a moral conclusion and consistent nonmoral premises. l Subject to counterexamples, so modify: (I/O) No valid argument has a singular moral conclusion and consistent nonmoral premises. l If OIC is true and R3 is a moral claim, then I/O is false because this argument is valid: (R1) S has a moral obligation to S can . (R2) S cannot . _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (R3) S has no moral obligation to .
REPLY TO OBJECTION 4: OILP VERSUS IS/OUGHT (R1) S has a moral obligation to (S ’s). (R2) ~ (S ’s). _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (R3) S has no moral obligation to . So: (1) If I/O contradicts OIC, then I/O contra- dicts OILP (ought-implies-logically-possible). But: (2) If I/O contradicts OILP, then I/O should be rejected. Thus: (3) If I/O contradicts OIC, then I/O should be rejected.
A : AGAINST OILP A RESPONSE: AGAINST OILP (1) ((S has an atc obligation to & S has an atc obligation to ) S has an atc obligation to & ) (2) (S has an atc obligation to & S has an atc obligation to ~ ). _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (3) (S has an atc obligation to &~ ) My reply: (2) is false because an agent cannot have two distinct all-things-considered (as opposed to pro tanto) obligations.
OBJECTION 5: OIC VERSUS DETERMINISM (S1) (S has an obligation to S can ) (S2) (S can S ’s). _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (S3) (S has an obligation to S ’s) l S1 is OIC. S2 is true if hard determinism is possible. Paul Saka (2000) argues that S3 is false because its negation follows from S4: (S4) (Every murderer has an obligation to refrain from murdering but does not refrain) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (~S3) (S has an obligation to & ~(S ’s))
REPLY TO OBJECTION 5 (S4) (Every murderer has an obligation to refrain from murdering but does not refrain) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (~S3) (S has an obligation to & ~(S ’s)) Ê The inference from S4 to ~S3 relies on the assumption that necessarily some agent is a murderer. But this assumption is false. Ë S3 is true: It is conceptually possible that only perfect agents exist, who always fulfill their obligations.
OBJECTION 6: OIC VERSUS PAP (T1) (S is morally blameworthy for -ing t(at t, S has a moral obligation to ~ )) (T2) t(at t, S has a moral obligation to ~ at t, S can ~ ) _________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (T3) (S is morally blameworthy for -ing t(at t, S can ~ )) l T2 follows from OIC. T3 is a special case of PAP (the Principle of Alternate Possibilities) and is subject to “Frankfurt-type examples”.
REPLY TO OBJECTION 6: AGAINST T1 l T1 is false because: (T4) An agent who inexcusably violates a subjective moral obligation is morally blameworthy for doing so even if she violates no objective moral obligation. l T4 avoids common counterexamples: A demon makes you strangle your neighbor’s canary. A Nazi mercifully spares the life of a Jewish child.
A RESPONSE: FRANKFURT-TYPE EXAMPLES l You kill your aunt to inherit her, but a “coun- terfactual intervener” was monitoring your brain and would have made you decide to kill her if your brain waves had not shown that you were going to decide on your own to kill her. l So you cannot avoid killing her; but you have a moral obligation to avoid killing her, so OIC is false. l This is a direct counterexample to OIC, without relying on T1.
REPLY TO THE RESPONSE l You have no moral obligation to avoid killing your aunt. A factor which deprives you of an ability (e.g., a leg injury) can also deprive you of an obligation (e.g., to rescue someone). l Rejoinder: The leg injury is actual, but the counterfactual intervener does not actually intervene. l My reply: The presence of the intervener actually deprives you of the ability to avoid killing. Cf. sharks in water.