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Allen, Anita L., , . Mental Disorders and the “System of Judgmental Responsibility”
2010, Boston University Law Review 90: 621-640.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Diversifying SyllabiThesis: Those affected by mental disorders whose actions are episodically influenced by their disorder are often overlooked by philosophers of moral and ethical responsibility. Allen gives us reasons for thinking it is inappropriate to either:

a) “summarily exclude people with mental problems out of the universe of moral agents, reducing them to the status of rocks, trees, animals, and infants”
b) “include the group on the false assumption that their moral lives are precisely like the paradigmatic moral lives of the epistemically-sound and well-regulated people never personally touched by a mental condition”

We must explore a revised approach to moral and ethical responsibility and obligation for this group.

Comment: This text is useful in teaching in two main contexts: (1) in discussing ethical issues related to mental disorders; and (2) to provide a challenging case in classes on blame and responsibility. The text can be also used in the context of the free will and determinism debate, and as a further reading in classes on moral agency.

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Barnes, Elizabeth, , Ross Cameron. The Open Future: Bivalence, Determinism, and Ontology
2009, Philosophical Studies 146(2): 291-309.
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Abstract: In this paper we aim to disentangle the thesis that the future is open from theses that often get associated or even conflated with it. In particular, we argue that the open future thesis is compatible with both the unrestricted principle of bivalence and determinism with respect to the laws of nature. We also argue that whether or not the future (and indeed the past) is open has no consequences as to the existence of (past and) future ontology.

Comment: This text might seem to be advanced because of the many issues it handles, but it's written so clearly that I think it could (if taught in detail as a core text) be suitable for an intermediate metaphysics class. In particular, the class could be split into three groups, with each group tasked with researching one of bivalence, determinism and eternalism, and explaining i) how they are alleged to conflict with the open future, and ii) how Barnes and Cameron argue that they aren't in fact in conflict with the thesis that the future is open.

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Briggs, Ray, , . The Metaphysics of Chance
2010, Philosophy Compass 5(11): 938-952.
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Added by: Emily Paul, Contributed by:

Abstract: This article surveys several interrelated issues in the metaphysics of chance. First, what is the relationship between the probabilities associated with types of trials (for instance, the chance that a twenty?eight?year old develops diabetes before age thirty) and the probabilities associated with individual token trials (for instance, the chance that I develop diabetes before age thirty)? Second, which features of the the world fix the chances: are there objective chances at all, and if so, are there non?chancy facts on which they supervene? Third, can chance be reconciled with determinism, and if so, how?

Comment: A nice introduction to the Metaphysics of Chance, suitable for an intermediate metaphysics course. Could also be a good bridge into a determinism or decision theory course element. Requires prior knowledge of some concepts e.g. token/type distinction and supervenience - but could also be a good way to learn what these are. Alternatively, a particular section of the article could be set (e.g. the final section on whether chance can be reconciled with determinism).

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Churchland, Patricia, , . The impact of Neuroscience on Philosophy
2008, Neuron 60, November 6
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Diversifying SyllabiChurchland claims that experimental science has gradually (and rightfully and successfully) replaced philosophical investigations of the world, and suggests that the time has come for philosophy of mind and moral philosophy to “cede” to experimental science. She claims that conceptual analysis has been undermined by “a torrent of neuro­psychological results” that contradict folk psychology (i.e. intuition). Thus, self­respecting philosophers of mind have begun to engage with experimental science. Moral philosophers have not yet realized that their field is going in the same direction, and that their stories are about to be superceded by a “naturalistic framework for looking at human morality and decision making” (409). She gives some examples from animal studies bearing on social behaviour and organization like monogamy, trust and cooperation, social attachment, group cooperation or amalgamation. One central point is that moral rules play only a partial role, if at all, in the “brain’s decision” when faced with “constraint­satisfaction problems” (410).

Comment: This text offers a perfect way to address the common reservations regarding the validity and usefullness of philosophy in the age of neuroscience among the students. It clearly distinguishes between the questions which can and cannot be answered empirically, and shows how the aims of philosophy and neuroscience differ. As the text is very approachable, it can easily be used even outside of a philosophy class; in more focused ethics or philosophy of mind classes it might be best accompanied by more specialised texts.

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Du Châtelet, Emilie, , . On Freedom
2020, Online Translation by Julia Jorati, with the help of Julie Roy; based on “Sur la liberté,” in Oeuvres complètes de Voltaire, vol. 14, edited by William H. Barber, 484–502. Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 1989.
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Abstract: The question of freedom is the most interesting question we could examine, since one can say that all of morality depends on this single question. Something so interesting justifies departing from my subject a little bit in order to enter this discussion, and to put here in front of the reader’s eyes the main objections that people make against freedom, so that he can judge for himself their soundness.

Comment: This is an English translation of Emilie Du Châtelet's "Sur la liberté." This 18th century text discusses freedom of the will, determinism, and divine foreknowledge.

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Haji, Ishtiyaque, , . Moral appraisability: puzzles, proposals, and perplexities
1998, New York: Oxford University Press.
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Back matter: This book explores the epistemic or knowledge requirement of moral responsibility. Haji argues that an agent can be blamed (or praised) only if the agent harbors a belief that the action in question is wrong (or right or obligatory). Defending the importance of an “authenticity” condition when evaluating moral responsibility, Haji holds that one cannot be morally responsible for an action unless the action issues from sources (like desires or beliefs) that are truly the agent’s own. Engaging crucial arguments in moral theory to elaborate his views on moral responsibility, Haji addresses as well fascinating, underexamined topics such as assigning blame across an intercultural gap and the relevance of unconscious or dream thoughts when evaluating responsibility.

Comment: Chapter 3 is particularly useful in teaching about moral responsibility, free will and determinism. Chapter 12 provides an interesting discussion of relations between blameworthiness and cultural determination.

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Wolf, Susan, , . Asymmetrical freedom
1980, Journal of Philosophy 77(3): 151-166.
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Diversifying Syllabi: Thesis: interesting and sophisticated position compatibilist position in the debate about free will and determinism. Slogan: To be free is to be determined by the Good. The claim is that if we do the right thing for the right reasons, then we are free – in the sense that is required by moral responsibility – even if we are determined. But if we do the wrong thing, then we are free and morally responsible only if we are not determined (i.e. if we could have done otherwise).

Comment: This text offers an interesting discussion of the issue of free will and determinism, and its relation to moral responsibility. It is best used in teaching metaphysics and moral philosophy classes on those topics. It offers some review of the debate, but is not general enough to be used as an introduction. It can also be used in more specific classes in ethics, focusing on moral luck or blameworthiness.

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