Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

Stable Actualism and Asymmetries of Regret

Jack Spencer has a cool new paper, 'The Procreative Asymmetry and the Impossibility of Elusive Permission' (forthcoming in Phil Studies).  I found reading it to be really helpful for clarifying my thoughts on the procreative asymmetry.Back in 'Rethinking the Asymmetry' (CJP, 2017), I argued for two main claims: (i) we have reason to bring good lives into existence, whereas "strong asymmetry" intuitions to the contrary can be explained away; and (ii) the intuition that we should prioritize existing lives is better accommodated by a form of modest partiality towards the (antecedently) actual than by Roberts' Variabilism (or any other strong-asymmetry-implying view).  To avoid incorrectly permitting miserable lives to be brought into existence, I argued, actualist partiality should be supplemented with a principle proscribing the predictably regrettable.To illustrate (borrowing the evocative names from Jack's examples), suppose that Joy will be happy if created, and Misery will be miserable if created.  We can coherently discount Joy's interest in coming to exist, without this consequently generating new grounds for regret (though if we happen to bring her into existence, we may subsequently be extra-happy about this). By contrast, if we create Misery due to discounting her interest in non-existence, her new status as actual undermines the very basis for our prior discounting.  Our decision, in this case, is predictably regrettable, in a way [More]

89 - Is Morality All About Cooperation?

What are the origins and dynamics of human morality? Is morality, at root, an attempt to solve basic problems of cooperation? What implications does this have for the future? In this episode, I chat to Dr Oliver Scott Curry about these questions. We discuss, in particular, his theory of morality as cooperation (MAC). Dr Curry is Research Director for Kindlab, at He is also a Research Affiliate at the School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford, and a Research Associate at the Centre for Philosophy of Natural and Social Science, at the London School of Economics. He received his PhD from LSE in 2005. Oliver’s academic research investigates the nature, content and structure of human morality. He tackles such questions as: What is morality? How did morality evolve? What psychological mechanisms underpin moral judgments? How are moral values best measured? And how does morality vary across cultures? To answer these questions, he employs a range of techniques from philosophy, experimental and social psychology and comparative anthropology. You can download the episode here or listen below. You can also subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify and other podcasting services (the RSS feed is here).  #mc_embed_signup{background:#fff; clear:left; font:14px Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; } /* Add your own MailChimp form style overrides in your site stylesheet or in this style block. We recommend moving [More]

Drunk Drivers & Mass Shooters

In response to the latest mass shooting, Democrats have proposed gun control legislation. Republican Senator John Kennedy replied with the witticism that “We do not need more gun control. We need more idiot control.” He then endeavored to make an argument by analogy to counter arguments for gun control. In this argument, Kennedy asserted that [More]

Philo of Larissa

[Revised entry by Charles Brittain and Peter Osorio on March 25, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Philo (159/8 - 84/3 BCE) was the last known head of Plato's Academy during its skeptical phase. Under his leadership, the Academics abandoned the radical skepticism of Arcesilaus and Carneades (who professed to live without rationally warranted beliefs) in favor of a form of mitigated skepticism allowing for provisional beliefs that did not claim certainty. But Philo himself seems to have gone a step further in his controversial "Roman Books", where he rejected the Stoic definition of knowledge on which [More]