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Murdoch, Iris, , . The Darkness of Practical Reason
1998, in Existentialists and Mystics: Writings on Philosophy and Literature. Allen Lane/the Penguin Press, 193-202
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Added by: Anne-Marie McCallion, Contributed by:

Introduction: In his book, Freedom of the Individual, Stuart Hampshire argues as follows. In human beings (as opposed to things) power a function of will and will is a function of desire. Some desires are “thought-dependent” in that they depend on statable beliefs which, if they altered,- would alter the desires, and so such desires cannot be defined by purely behavioural criteria, since the subject’s conception of what he wants is constitutive of the wanting. We do not discover our thought-dependent desires inductively, by observation, we formulate them in the light of our beliefs. We have the experience of being convinced by evidence and of changing our beliefs and so willing differently, and there seems to be no set of sufficient conditions outside our thinking which could explain this situation equally well. […] I wish to make an entry into Professor Hampshire’s argument at the point where he dismisses the doctrine of the transcendent will.

Comment: This text offers an advanced-level criticism of Stuart Hampshire’s account of practical reason, it would be suitable for courses on the philosophy of action, philosophy of mind or philosophy of psychology. Since this text is very short, it would be best utilised as a supplement to Stuart Hampshire’s Thought and Action as knowledge of Hampshire’s account is necessary in order to follow this text. It could also be useful for facilitating/incorporating discussions of the imagination into any of the aforementioned potential courses.

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Nida-Rümelin, Martine, , . Freedom and the Phenomenology of Agency
2018, Erkenntnis 83 (1):61-87.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Nora Heinzelmann

Abstract: Free action and microphysical determination are incompatible but this is so only in virtue of a genuine conflict between microphysical determination with any active behavior. I introduce active behavior as the veridicality condition of agentive experiences and of perceptual experiences and argue that these veridicality conditions are fulfilled in many everyday cases of human and non-human behavior and that they imply the incompatibility of active behavior with microphysical determination. The main purpose of the paper is to show that the view proposed about active behavior leads to a natural compromise between libertarianism and compatibilism, which avoids the flaws of both positions while preserving their central insights.

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O’Neill, Onora, , . Vindicating reason
1992, In Paul Guyer (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Kant. Cambridge University Press. pp. 280–308.
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by:

Abstract: Whatever else a critique of reason attempts, it must surely criticize reason. Further, if it is not to point toward nihilism, a critique of reason cannot have only a negative or destructive outcome, but must vindicate at least some standards or principles as authorities on which thinking and doing may rely, and by which they may (in part) be judged. Critics of ‘the Enlightenment project’ from Pascal to Horkheimer to contemporary communitarians and postmodernists, detect its Achilles’ heel in arrant failure to vindicate the supposed standards of reason that are so confidently used to criticize, attack, and destroy other authorities, including church, state, and tradition. If the authority of reason is bogus, why should such reasoned criticism have any weight?
Suspicions about reason can be put innumerable ways. However, one battery of criticisms is particularly threatening, because it targets the very possibility of devising anything that could count as a vindication of reason. This line of attack is sometimes formulated as a trilemma. Any supposed vindication of the principles of reason would have to establish the authority of certain fundamental constraints on thinking or acting. However, this could only be done in one of three ways. A supposed vindication could appeal to the presumed principles of reason that it aims to vindicate – but would then be circular, so fail as vindication. Alternatively, it might be based on other starting points – but then the supposed principles of reason would lack reasoned vindication, so could not themselves bequeath unblemished pedigrees.

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Olberding, Amy, , . Confucius’ Complaints and the Analects’ Account of the Good Life
2013, Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 12 (4):417-440.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Ian James Kidd

Abstract: The Analects appears to offer two bodies of testimony regarding the felt, experiential qualities of leading a life of virtue. In its ostensible record of Confucius’ more abstract and reflective claims, the text appears to suggest that virtue has considerable power to afford joy and insulate from sorrow. In the text’s inclusion of Confucius’ less studied and apparently more spontaneous remarks, however, he appears sometimes to complain of the life he leads, to feel its sorrows, and to possess some despair. Where we attend to both of these elements of the text, a tension emerges. In this essay, I consider how Confucius’ complaints appear to complicate any clean conclusion that Confucius wins a good life, particularly where we attend to important pre-theoretical sensibilities regarding what a ‘good life’ ought to include and how it ought to feel for the one who leads it.

Comment: A rich text that explains the role of complaints – and, more broadly, disappointment, regret, and sadness – in the moral life. Especially good for challenging the idea that the moral life will insulate a person from such negative affects. Also points out the tendency of some moral philosophers to downplay certain aspects of human beings when constructing their ideals.

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Olsaretti, Serena, , . The Concept of Voluntariness – A Reply
2008, Journal of Political Philosophy 16(1): 165-188.
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Added by: Carl Fox, Contributed by:

Abstract: In his paper on ‘The Concept of Voluntariness’, Ben Colburn helpfully takes up the task of developing my view about the sense of voluntariness that is relevant for judgments of substantive responsibility, or judgments about individuals’ liability to pick up some costs of their choices. On my view, a necessary condition for holding people responsible for their choices is that those choices be voluntary in the sense that they are not made because there is no acceptable alternative, where the standard for the acceptability of options is an objective standard of well-being. […] Colburn’s first point is entirely well-taken. By way of endorsing it, I ask whether we are justified in taking some but not all kinds of beliefs to affect the voluntariness of choice, as his elaboration of my view suggests. However, I find Colburn’s second point less convincing, and argue that we should allow for the moral character of options to affect the voluntariness of choice.

Comment: Short debate article responding to some criticisms of Olsaretti’s account of voluntariness made by Ben Colburn and probably best read in conjunction with Colburn’s article. Does a good job of responding to the criticisms and explaining her account. Good further reading for teaching about voluntariness and autonomy.

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Paul, L. A., , . What You Can’t Expect When You’re Expecting
2015, Res Philosophica 92 (2):1-23 (2015)
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: It seems natural to choose whether to have a child by reflecting on what it would be like to actually have a child. I argue that this natural approach fails. If you choose to become a parent, and your choice is based on projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. If you choose to remain childless, and your choice is based upon projections about what you think it would be like for you to have a child, your choice is not rational. This suggests we should reject our ordinary conception of how to make this life-changing decision, and raises general questions about how to rationally approach important life choices.

Comment: Good to use as a shorter introductory reading to L.A. Paul’s work and how to make decisions about life choices. It could be used in a module on decision making, or imagination.

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Piper, Adrian M. S., , . Rationality and the Structure of the Self, Volume I: The Humean Conception
2008, APRA Foundation Berlin.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Adrian M. S. Piper

Publisher’s Note: The Humean conception of the self consists in the belief-desire model of motivation and the utility-maximizing model of rationality. This conception has dominated Western thought in philosophy and the social sciences ever since Hobbes’ initial formulation in Leviathan and Hume’s elaboration in the Treatise of Human Nature. Bentham, Freud, Ramsey, Skinner, Allais, von Neumann and Morgenstern and others have added further refinements that have brought it to a high degree of formal sophistication. Late twentieth century moral philosophers such as Rawls, Brandt, Frankfurt, Nagel and Williams have taken it for granted, and have made use of it to supply metaethical foundations for a wide variety of normative moral theories. But the Humean conception of the self also leads to seemingly insoluble problems about moral motivation, rational final ends, and moral justification. Can it be made to work?

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Roskies, Adina L., , . Neuroscientific challenges to free will and responsibility
2006, Trends in Cognitive Sciences 10(9): 419-423.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Abstract: Recent developments in neuroscience raise the worry that understanding how brains cause behavior will undermine our views about free will and, consequently, about moral responsibility. The potential ethical consequences of such a result are sweeping. I provide three reasons to think that these worries seemingly inspired by neuroscience are misplaced. First, problems for common-sense notions of freedom exist independently of neuroscientific advances. Second, neuroscience is not in a position to undermine our intuitive notions. Third, recent empirical studies suggest that even if people do misconstrue neuroscientific results as relevant to our notion of freedom, our judgments of moral responsibility will remain largely unaffected. These considerations suggest that neuroethical concerns about challenges to our conception of freedom are misguided.

Comment: Roskies offers an overview of the debate, providing useful glossary of positions related to it together with a graph representing the relations between them. This can be particularly useful when explaining the differences between the metaphysical, epistemic and ethical claims made in this debate.

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Sartorio, Carolina, , . Causation and Free Will
2016, Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Jingbo Hu

Publisher’s Note: Carolina Sartorio argues that only the actual causes of our behaviour matter to our freedom. The key, she claims, lies in a correct understanding of the role played by causation in a view of that kind. Causation has some important features that make it a responsibility-grounding relation, and this contributes to the success of the view. Also, when agents act freely, the actual causes are richer than they appear to be at first sight; in particular, they reflect the agents’ sensitivity to reasons, where this includes both the existence of actual reasons and the absence of other reasons. So acting freely requires more causes and quite complex causes, as opposed to fewer causes and simpler causes, and is compatible with those causes being deterministic. The book connects two different debates, the one on causation and the one on the problem of free will, in new and illuminating ways.

Comment: This book provides an interesting compatibilist theory for free will and moral responsibility. Chapter One can be used as an introductory material about the Frankfurt-style cases as well as the motivations for compatibilism. Chapter Four can be used as an auxiliary reading for Fischer and Ravizza’s reasons-responsiveness theory for it points out some problem of their theory and provides an alternative proposal.

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Sherman, Nancy, , . The Fabric of Character: Aristotle’s Theory of Virtue
1989, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: John Baldari, Contributed by:

Publisher: Most traditional accounts of Aristotle’s theory of ethical education neglect its cognitive aspects. This book asserts that, in Aristotle’s view, excellence of character comprises both the sentiments and practical reason. Sherman focuses particularly on four aspects of practical reason as they relate to character: moral perception, choicemaking, collaboration, and the development of those capacities in moral education. Throughout the book, she is sensitive to contemporary moral debates, and indicates the extent to which Aristotle’s account of practical reason provides an alternative to theories of impartial reason.

Comment: This book is useful for ethics curriculum that focus on virtue or Aristotelian focused ethics courses.

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Steward, Helen, , . A Metaphysics for Freedom
2012, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Publisher’s note: A metaphysics for freedom argues that determinism is incompatible with agency itself–not only the special human variety of agency, but also powers which can be accorded to animal agents. It offers a distinctive, non-dualistic version of libertarianism, rooted in a conception of what biological forms of organisation might make possible in the way of freedom.

Comment: Specific chapters (e.g. 1 and 4) would be useful for an advanced philosophy of mind/action course, but also it could be really nice to read the whole book in a dedicated Masters course – reading and discussing one chapter per seminar. Chapter 1 is especially useful because it outlines Steward’s position, ‘agency incompatibilism’ which it could be useful to have students discuss and compare with classical compatibilism and incompatibilism. Chapter 4 is also a great one to use because it discusses animal agency – this could perhaps come towards the end of an intermediate philosophy of mind course – once students have already learned something about agency when considered in relation to humans.

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Steward, Helen, , . Agency Incompatibilism and Divine Agency
2015, European Journal for Philosophy of Religion 7(3): 67-78.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: In this paper, I consider whether an argument for compatibilism about free will and determinism might be developed from the thought that God’s agency seems consistent with the rational determination of at least some divine actions by the True and the Good. I attempt to develop such an argument and then consider how to respond to it from the point of view of my own position, which I call Agency Incompatibilism. I argue that a crucial premise in the argument is ambiguous and offer responses to the argument on behalf of the Agency Incompatibilist, on each of the two disambiguations.

Comment: This article could be used in a number of ways: (i) in a course on the metaphysics of freedom – after all, even if one is an atheist, it’s interesting to examine one’s metaphysics of freedom when applied to the divine domain, and this paper does so in a way that also presents a fascinating version of incompatibilism; (ii) in a Philosophy of Religion course element on divine freedom (iii) as a secondary reading relating to both of the above.

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Steward, Helen, , . Processes, Continuants, and Individuals
2013, Mind 122 (487):fzt080
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett

Abstract: The paper considers and opposes the view that processes are best thought of as continuants, to be differentiated from events mainly by way of the fact that the latter, but not the former, are entities with temporal parts. The motivation for the investigation, though, is not so much the defeat of what is, in any case, a rather implausible claim, as the vindication of some of the ideas and intuitions that the claim is made in order to defend — and the grounding of those ideas and intuitions in a more plausible metaphysics than is provided by the continuant view. It is argued that in addition to a distinction between events (conceived of as count-quantified) and processes (conceived of as mass-quantified) there is room and need for a third category, that of the individual process, which can be illuminatingly compared with the idea of a substance. Individual processes indeed share important metaphysical features with substantial continuants, but they do not lack temporal parts. Instead, it is argued that individual processes share with substantial continuants an important property I call ‘modal robustness in virtue of form’. The paper explains what this property is, and further suggests that the category of individual process, thus understood, might be of considerable value to the philosophy of action.

Comment: An important contribution to the debate on processes and events which should be central reading in a metaphysics course dealing with those issues. Steward argues against Stout’s view of processes, so this paper should be taught alongside his ‘Processes’ (1997). Steward also deals with methodological issues in metaphysics and involves a nice elucidation of Wiggins’s Conceptual Realism so can be taught as an example of that view. This paper could easily be taught in a senior year metaphysics course.

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Steward, Helen, , . The Ontology of Mind: Events, Processes, and States
2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: This book puts forward a radical critique of the foundations of contemporary philosophy of mind, arguing that it relies too heavily on insecure assumptions about the nature of some of the sorts of mental entities it postulates: the nature of events, processes, and states. The book offers an investigation of these three categories, clarifying the distinction between them, and argues specifically that the assumption that states can be treated as particular, event-like entities has been a huge and serious mistake. The book argues that the category of token state should be rejected, and develops an alternative way of understanding those varieties of causal explanation which have sometimes been thought to require an ontology of token states for their elucidation. The book contends that many current theories of mind are rendered unintelligible once it is seen how these explanations really work. A number of prominent features of contemporary philosophy of mind token identity theories, the functionalists conception of causal role, a common form of argument for eliminative materialism, and the structure of the debate about the efficacy of mental content are impugned by the book’s arguments. The book concludes that the modern mind-body problem needs to be substantially rethought.

Comment: The aim of this book is to argue that issues in metaphysics – in particular issues about the nature of states and causation – have a significant impact in philosophy of mind.The book has three parts and each part can be used for different purposes for courses on metaphysics or philosophy of mind. The first part constitutes an attack to three highly influential theories of events (the views of Jaegwon Kim, Jonathan Bennett and Lawrence Lombard) and a defence of the view that events are “proper particulars”. This part can be used as the main or secondary reading material in an upper-level course on metaphysics on topics of events. The second part defends the view that states are fundamentally different from events, which can be used for teaching on metaphysical theories of states or causal relation. The third part critically examines positions in philosophy of mind – in particular arguments for token-identity, epiphenomenalism, and eliminativism – need reconsideration. This part can be used as further reading materials on debates about those positions in philosophy of mind.

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Steward, Helen, , . The Truth in Compatibilism and the Truth of Libertarianism
2009, Philosophical Explorations 12 (2):167 – 179.
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by: Will Hornett

Abstract: The paper offers the outlines of a response to the often-made suggestion that it is impossible to see how indeterminism could possibly provide us with anything that we might want in the way of freedom, anything that could really amount to control, as opposed merely to an openness in the flow of reality that would constitute the injection of chance, or randomness, into the unfolding of the processes which underlie our activity. It is suggested that the best first move for the libertarian is to make a number of important concessions to the compatibilist. It should be conceded, in particular, that certain sorts of alternative possibilities are neither truly available to real, worldly agents nor required in order that those agents act freely; and it should be admitted also that it is the compatibilist who tends to give the most plausible sorts of analyses of many of the ‘can’ and ‘could have’ statements which seem to need to be assertible of those agents we regard as free. But these concessions do not bring compatibilism itself in their wake. The most promising version of libertarianism, it is argued, is based on the idea that agency itself (and not merely some special instances of it which we might designate with the honorific appellation ‘free’) is inconsistent with determinism. This version of libertarianism, it is claimed, can avoid the objection that indeterminism is as difficult to square with true agential control as determinism can sometimes seem to be.

Comment: Steward’s paper is an innovative response to a classic problem for libertarianism in the free will debate. It should be taught in any Free Will module which deals with libertarianism and luck.

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