Top News, Articles, and Interviews in Philosophy

The Limits of Defective Character Solutions

In some cases, our intuition that an act is "wrong" may be better explained in terms of the action's revealing a defect of character (e.g. standard counterexamples to consequentialism involving the reckless performance of expectably-bad actions that could only prove optimal by unknowable fluke).  But this philosophical maneuver requires care.  A good test for its prima facie viability is to "naturalize" the case so that the outcome results from purely natural causes, without any agential intervention.  We can then ask: is this is an overall undesirable outcome?  If so, then that would -- contra the character strategy -- suffice to provide objective reasons for an agent not to act so as to bring about that bad outcome.  But if not, i.e. if the outcome itself -- absent any agency -- seems unobjectionable, then it's at least prima facie natural to expect that the act of producing that fine outcome should likewise qualify as unobjectionable.  If our intuitions rebel against an agent performing such an act, we may do better to look to the agent, rather than to the act, as being the true source of the problem.With this diagnostic test in mind, Ben Bramble's 'The Defective Character Solution to the Non-Identity Problem' (forthcoming in J Phil) looks problematic.  Ben argues that "the actions in non-identity cases are wrong just when and because they result from, or reflect in those who have performed them, a morally [More]

Shakespeare and the sciences of emotion

What role should literature have in the interdisciplinary study of emotion? The dominant answer today seems to be “not much.” Scholars of literature of course write about emotion; but fundamental questions about what emotion is and how it works belong elsewhere: to psychology, cognitive science, neurophysiology, philosophy of mind. In Shakespeare’s time the picture was different. What the period called “passions” were material for ethics and for that part of natural philosophy dealing with the soul; but it was rhetoric that offered the most extensive accounts of the passions.       Related StoriesAdapting Shakespeare: shattering stereotypes of Asian women onstage and onscreenWhy did evolution create conscious states of mind?Where have you gone, Jimmy Gatz? Roman Catholic haunting in American literary [More]


[Revised entry by Tom Christiano and Sameer Bajaj on July 7, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Normative democratic theory deals with the moral foundations of democracy and democratic institutions, as well as the moral duties of democratic representatives and citizens. It is distinct from descriptive and explanatory democratic theory, which aim to describe and explain how democracy and democratic institutions function. Normative democracy theory aims to provide an account of when and why democracy is morally desirable as well as moral principles for guiding the design of democratic institutions and the actions of citizens [More]