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Methodological naturalism and the identity of practical reasons Marko Jurjako University of Rijeka.

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Presentation on theme: "Methodological naturalism and the identity of practical reasons Marko Jurjako University of Rijeka."— Presentation transcript:

1 Methodological naturalism and the identity of practical reasons Marko Jurjako University of Rijeka

2 Structure of the talk The role of methodological naturalism 1.Theories of practical reasons 2.Identity of reasons (norms of rationality) 3.Explaining normative intuitions

3 Philosophical naturalism Two kinds of philosophical naturalism 1.Metaphysical naturalism It is “concerned with the contents of reality, asserting that reality has no place for ‘supernatural’ or other ‘spooky’ kinds of entity.” (Papineau 2007) 1.1 Moral naturalists “concentrate on finding the place of value and obligation in the world of facts as revealed by science.” (Harman 2000, 79)

4 2. Methodological naturalism: “[M]ethodological component is concerned with the ways of investigating reality, and claims some kind of general authority for the scientific method. [...] Methodological naturalists see philosophy and science as engaged in essentially the same enterprise, pursuing similar ends and using similar methods. Methodological anti-naturalists see philosophy as disjoint from science, with distinct ends and methods.” (Papineau 2007)

5 Why methodological naturalism? Platitudes about science: science is the most successful human enterprise for explaining the natural phenomena … professional necessity: “It is not possible to step far into the ethics literature without stubbing one’s toe on empirical claims. (…) There are just too many places where answers to important ethical questions require— and have very often presupposed—answers to empirical questions. “(Doris & Stich 2010, 112)

6 Ontological constraint Naturalistic constraints make certain robust forms of normative realism implausible A Darwinian Dilemma for a Normative Realist (Street 2006)

7 Theories of practical reasons 1.Dispositional-functional theory – X has a reason to  if and only if there is a sound or rational deliberative route from X’s current mental states to X’s  -ing (see e.g. Wedgwood 2011, 180; Williams 1981; 1995) – an agent (…) has a reason to Φ in C, if and only if, if she were fully rational, she would desire that she Φs in C.” (Smith 2004, 20)

8 Theories of practical reasons 2. Reasons as normative explanations – Reason for you to  is an explanation why you ought to  (Broome 2004, 35) 3. Reasons as evidence – Necessarily, a fact F is a reason for an agent A to φ iff F is evidence that A ought to φ (where φ is either a belief or an action) [Kearns & Star 2009, 216] 4. Reason as a primitive concept – Reason is a fact that counts in favor of holding some attitude … (Parfit 2011, Scanlon 1998, Skorupski 2010)

9 Methodological naturalism favors dispositional theories of reasons practical reasons determine choice  rational choice theory, decision theory …  C={p i  Bp i }, D={p i  Vp i },  (C,D)= D* David Lewis, Michael Smith … reflections on decision theory

10 Methodological naturalism favors dispositional theories of reasons practical reasons determine choice  rational choice theory, decision theory …  C={p i  Bp i }, D={p i  Vp i },  (C,D)= D* David Lewis, Michael Smith … reflections on decision theory

11 Dispositional theories Reasons are determined by the norms that govern agent’s responses to certain facts rational norms: core norms that every rational agent will obey

12 Which norms are rational norms? How to answer that question? Are there some substantive reasons that will be shared by all rational agents? Are moral reasons those reasons?

13 Identity of reasons (norms of rationality) Universality of practical reasons - every possible rational being will have some reason to obey substantive requirements e.g. moral rules Relativity of practical reasons – practical reasons are contingent on values, preferences, personal projects, … of a deliberating subject (Harman 2000, Williams 1981)

14 Moral demands and practical reasons ‘’To say that there is a moral law that ‘applies to everyone’ is, I hereby stipulate, to say that everyone has sufficient reasons to follow that law.’’ (Harman, 2000, 84)

15 Moral relativism ‘’Moral relativism denies that there are universal basic moral demands, and says different people are subject to different basic moral demands depending on the social customs, practices, conventions, values, and principles that they accept.’’ (Harman 2000, 85)

16 Harman’s naturalism Different approaches for doing moral philosophy can be differentiated by their attitude towards science (Harman 2000, 79). Moral naturalists “concentrate on finding the place of value and obligation in the world of facts as revealed by science.” (ibid.)

17 Basic structure of the argument Moral absolutism (MA)  everyone has a sufficient reason to obey certain basic moral demands (SR) Methodological naturalism (MN)  ~(SR) ∴ ~(MA & MN)

18 Harman’s argument Proposed moral requirement: there is a basic moral prohibition on causing harm or injury to other people First Premise: “if a person does not intend to do something and that is not because he or she has failed in some empirically discoverable way to reason to a decision to do that thing then according to the naturalist the person cannot have a sufficient reason to do that thing.” (Harman 2000, 86) -inattention, lack of time, failure to consider or appreciate certain arguments, ignorance of certain available evidence, an error in reasoning, some sort of irrationality or unreasonableness, or weakness of will

19 Second Premise: “there are people, such as certain professional criminals, who do not act in accordance with an alleged requirement not to harm or injure others, where this is not due to any of these failings.” (Harman 2000, 87) Conclusion: moral absolutism is false if naturalistic characterization of reasons is taken for granted

20 First premise: structure of reasons Person A has sufficient reason to Φ iff there is warranted reasoning that person A could perform that would lead A to decide to do Φ (Harman 2000, 86) Naturalistic constraint: – if A fails to respond to a reason that she has then there must be some empirical explanation of that failure – if A does not intend to do Φ and that is not because of some empirically discoverable failure then A does not have a reason to Φ

21 Second premise description of a type of person that is not irrational (at least not in any empirically discoverable way) but does not respond to moral requirements If premise 2 is true then not everyone has a sufficient reason to obey the same basic (moral) requirements Therefore, naturalistic constraint favors relativity of practical reasons

22 Undermining the argument M. Smith (2012) – Naturalistic constraint is not relevant for the argument Person A has sufficient reason to do Φ iff there is warranted reasoning that person A could perform that would lead A to decide to do Φ

23 Undermining the argument M. Smith (2012) – Naturalistic constraint is not relevant for the argument Person A has sufficient reason to do Φ iff there is warranted reasoning that person A could perform that would lead A to decide to do Φ What constitutes warranted reasoning? What are the principles of warranted reasoning?

24 Principles of rationality MEANS-ENDS+ – rationality requires one to possess true and evidentially well- supported beliefs, and complete and transitive preferences UNIVERSALIZATION+ – Kant’s Formula of Humanity REASONS+ – intrinsic nature of harm and injury provide any rational being with a reason to desire not to be harmed and injured and not to harm or injure anyone else

25 Examples Principles of rationality – Reason requires (RR) ME: RR(If someone has an intrinsic desire that p and a belief that he can bring about p by bringing about q, then he has an instrumental desire that he brings about q) UNI: RR(If someone has an intrinsic desire that p, then either p itself is suitably universal, or satisfying the desire that p is consistent with satisfying desires whose contents are themselves suitably universal) INT: RR(People desire not to be harmed or injured and not to harm and injure others) [cf. Smith 2009]

26 How to determine the correct principles of rationality? Michael Smith validity of rational principles is decided on a priori grounds (2012, ) “[A] characterization of rationality and reasonableness will follow from a spelling out of everything that we can know a priori about belief and desire.” (239) “[N]aturalism is thereby shown to be completely irrelevant to the issue that divides them [absolutists] from their relativist opponents. What divides them is what we can say a priori about belief and desire. This is what relativists and absolutists really disagree about.” (240)

27 Full-blown naturalism Methodological naturalism “[M]ethodological component is concerned with the ways of investigating reality, and claims some kind of general authority for the scientific method. [...] Methodological naturalists see philosophy and science as engaged in essentially the same enterprise, pursuing similar ends and using similar methods.” (Papineau 2007) proper characterization of rationality defers to the scientific concept of rationality – reasoning sanctioned by our best scientific theories (Colyvan 2009), concept of rationality that is used in science …

28 Principles of rationality in science Instrumental and epistemic rationality (decision theory, game theory, probability theory)  MEANS-ENDS+ “Reason is wholly instrumental. It cannot tell us where to go; at best it can tell us how to get there. It is a gun for hire that can be employed in the service of any goals we have, good or bad.” (Simon 1983, 7-8, in Over 2004, 5)

29 Rationality and mechanisms To do list Functional specification of an agent (norms of rationality) Figure adapted from Hendricks (2006, 138)

30 Contingency of reasons Contingent reasons Norms of rationality

31 3. Normative intuitions We have many intuitions about reasons that cannot be captured by instrumental conception of rationality – intuitively many intrinsic desires and goals seem irrational

32 Devotion to counting blades of grass seems irrational

33 future Tuesday indifference

34 agreeing to experience great amount of pain later in order to avoid little pain now … (Parfit 2011)

35 Programmatic response There are no mind-independent normative facts that provide reasons for action – our normative intuitions are shaped and influenced by evolutionary (and cultural) history (Street 2008) These intuitions indicate situations that decrease fitness, and expose preferences that do not track fitness resources (Sterelny 2012) Interesting research question is why we have intuitions and deliver judgments about reasons of third-parties (persons) who do not affect our well-being (fitness or even utility) directly?

36 References Broome, J. (2004). ''Reasons.'’ In Reason and Value: Themes from the Moral Philosophy of Joseph Raz, J. Wallace, M. Smith, S. Scheffler i P. Pettit, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 28–55. Colyvan, (2009). Naturalizing Normativity. In Conceptual Analysis and Philosophical Naturalism, D. Braddon- Mitchell and R. Nola (eds.), A Bradford book, Cambridge: MIT Press, Doris, J., M. & Stich, S., P. (2012). As a Matter of Fact: Empirical Perspectives on Ethics. Chapter 11 in Stephen Stich's Collected Papers, Volume 2: Knowledge, Rationality, and Morality. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Harman, G. (2000). Is There a Single True Morality. in his Explaining Value and Other Essays in Moral Philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon Press, Hendricks, V., F. (2006). Mainstream and Formal Epistemology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Kearns, S. & Star, D. (2009). "Reasons as Evidence." Oxford Studies in Metaethics 4, Parfit, D. (2011). On What Matters, vol. 1 & 2. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Railton, P. (1986). Moral Realism. The Philosophical Review, 95(2): Over, D. (2004). Rationality and the Normative/Descriptive Distinction. In Blackwell Handbook of Judgment and Decision Making, D. J. Koehler and N. Harvey (eds.), Oxford: Blackwell Publishing, Scanlon, T., M. (1998). What We Owe to Each Other, Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. Simon, H. A. (1983) Reason in Human Affairs. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. Skorupski, J. (2010). The Domain of Reasons. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Smith, M.(2009). Desires, Values, Reasons, and the Dualism of Practical Reason. Ratio 22(1): Smith, M. (2012). Naturalism, absolutism, relativism. In Ethical Naturalism: Current Debates, S. Nuccetelli and G. Seay (eds.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Sterelny, K. (2012). From fitness to utility. In Evolution and Rationality, S. Okasha & K. Binmore (eds.) Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Street, S. (2006). A Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value. Philosophical Studies 127, no. 1: Street, S. (2008). Constructivism about practical reasons. In Oxford Studies in Metaethics 3, R. Shafer-Landau (ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press, Williams, B. (1981). Internal and External Reasons. In his Moral Luck,

37 Objection naturalistic conception of rationality does not really address the questions that are of great importance to us, questions that are connected to our intuitive conception of reasons, i.e. what we intuitively think we have reasons to do (cf. Smith 2012, ). the case of professional criminal  what would be the purpose of our blaming and holding responsible some person that rationally does not care about what morality demands?  would not this position just make any set of consistent preferences equally valuable and not amenable to rational criticism?

38 1. Answer we can make a difference between kinds of reasons – moral, epistemic, aesthetic, rational reasons, etc. so, one can have a moral reason to do something and be morally responsible for acting in that way however, failing to comply with the moral demand will not imply rational failure

39 2. Answer the purpose of our activity of blaming and holding responsible will depend on what we want or what goals we actually find valuable if we want to reap the benefits of living in an ordered society we have to endorse some moral rules to regulate our interactions - from this perspective practice of blaming and holding responsible has a definite purpose However, as naturalists we cannot claim that every rational agent has an a priori reason to care about or to be committed to a full cooperation in some community and to obey its norms

40 Possible replies MA  SR MN  ~(SR) Railton (1986) Smith (2012)

41 Ambiguity how to interpret ‘moral demands apply to everyone’ every actual human being every possible human being every possible rational being  M. Smith

42 Objection Why should we rely on current scientific practice? That is what it means to be a methodological naturalist – current practice has a default authority

43 Objection The argument that relies on methodological naturalism is circular For example, the concept of instrumental rationality comes from a particular philosophical theory of rationality  to argue that science gives it some legitimation constitutes a sort of confirmation bias Hence the authority of science cannot settle the philosophical question which principles of rationality are valid

44 Answer Instrumental concept of rationality has explanatory and predictive value cognitive science – explaining and predicting behavior and cognitive processes economy – explaining and predicting the behavior of the market social sciences – explaining the evolution of cooperation and social dynamics so, confirmation comes from the successes of the paradigms that use the concept of rationality Plus – naturalism does not give support to the claim that there are intrinsic values or purposes in the nature

45 Psychopathy Check list-revised Factor1 Interpersonal 1. Glibness/Superficial charm 2. Grandiose sense of self-worth 4. Pathological lying 5. Conning/Manipulative Affective 6. Lack of remorse or guilt 7. Shallow affect 8. Callous/Lack of empathy 16. Failure to accept responsibility Factor2 Lifestyle 3. Need for stimulation 9. Parasitic lifestyle 13. Lack of realistic, long-term goals 14. Impulsivity 15. Irresponsibility Antisocial 10. Poor behavioral controls 12. Early behavioral problems 18. Juvenile delinquency 19. Revocation of conditional release 20. Criminal versatility


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