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Buchak, Lara, , . Risk and Rationality
2013, Oxford: Oxford University Press.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Publisher’s Note: Lara Buchak sets out a new account of rational decision-making in the face of risk. She argues that the orthodox view is too narrow, and suggests an alternative, more permissive theory: one that allows individuals to pay attention to the worst-case or best-case scenario, and vindicates the ordinary decision-maker.

Comment: This book argues for an alternative account of ideal rationality as opposed to the orthodox view in terms of expected utility theory. Buchak manages to explain the technical details of her theory in such a non-technical way that any student of philosophy will be able to follow her discussion. The book moreover contains very interesting passages on what we might call “the philosophy of decision theory”, such as metaphysical and epistemological issues concerning utilities and probabilities. This makes it a good teaching material for courses on decision theory and philosophy of action.

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Chakravartty, Anjan, , . Six degrees of speculation: metaphysics in empirical contexts
2007, B. Monton (ed.) Images of Empiricism: Essays on Science and Stances, with a Reply From Bas C. Van Fraassen. New York, NY, USA: Oxford University Press. pp. 183-208
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by: Matthew Watts

Abstract: This chapter argues that the distinction between empiricism and metaphysics is not as clear as van Fraassen would like to believe. Almost all inquiry is metaphysical to a degree, including van Fraassen’s stance empiricism. Van Fraassen does not make a strong case against metaphysics, since the argument against metaphysics has to happen at the level of meta-stances — the level where one decides which stance to endorse. The chapter maintains that utilizing van Fraassen’s own conception of rationality, metaphysicians are rational. Empiricists should not reject all metaphysics, but just the sort of metaphysics which goes well beyond the empirical contexts that most interest them.

Comment: This text is useful discussions pertaining to metaphysics and its useful for empiricists
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Hills, Alison, , . Is ethics rationally required?
2004, Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 47(1): 1-19.
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Added by: Graham Bex-Priestley, Contributed by:

Abstract: Sidgwick argued that utilitarianism was not rationally required because it could not be shown that a utilitarian theory of practical reason was better justified than a rival egoist theory of practical reason: there is a ‘dualism of practical reason’ between utilitarianism and egoism. In this paper, it is demonstrated that the dualism argument also applies to Kant’s moral theory, the moral law. A prudential theory that is parallel to the moral law is devised, and it is argued that the moral law is no better justified than this prudential theory. So the moral law is not rationally required. It is suggested that the dualism argument is a completely general argument that ethics cannot be rationally required.

Comment: This is a good and fairly accessible argument that casts doubt on the project of deriving morality from reason. It can be used alongside Kantian approaches to metaethics or reasons constituvism.

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Hsin-wen, Lee, , . Does the death penalty only deter ‘rational’ people?
2018, Delaware State News
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Added by: Clotilde Torregrossa, Contributed by: Hsin-Wen Lee

Abstract: I argue that the death penalty has only limited deterrent effect. It cannot deter three types of offenders: (1) those who do not fear death; (2) those who are not rational and cannot take into consideration the consequences of their actions; (3) those who are confident that they won’t be caught. Thus, in order to deter potential murderers, we must consider new ways to deter these three types of offenders.

Comment: The article is written for for a general audience. It considers the deterrence argument in favor of the death penalty. It should be useful for GE courses that cover the topic of the death penalty.

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Ivanova, Milena, , Paternotte, Cedric. Theory Choice, Good Sense and Social Consensus
2013, Erkenntnis 78 (5):1109-1132.
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Added by: Chris Blake-Turner, Contributed by: Milena Ivanova

Abstract: There has been a significant interest in the recent literature in developing a solution to the problem of theory choice which is both normative and descriptive, but agent-based rather than rule-based, originating from Pierre Duhem’s notion of ‘good sense’. In this paper we present the properties Duhem attributes to good sense in different contexts, before examining its current reconstructions advanced in the literature and their limitations. We propose an alternative account of good sense, seen as promoting social consensus in science, and show that it is superior to its rivals in two respects: it is more faithful to Duhemian good sense, and it cashes out the effect that virtues have on scientific progress. We then defend the social consensus account against objections that highlight the positive role of diversity and division of labour in science

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Jenkins, Carrie, , . Entitlement and rationality
2007, Synthese 157 (1): 25-45.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Abstract: This paper takes the form of a critical discussion of Crispin Wright’s notion of entitlement of cognitive project. I examine various strategies for defending the claim that entitlement can make acceptance of a proposition epistemically rational, including one which appeals to epistemic consequentialism. Ultimately, I argue, none of these strategies is successful, but the attempt to isolate points of disagreement with Wright issues in some positive proposals as to how an epistemic consequentialist should characterize epistemic rationality.

Comment: This paper critically examines Wright’s notion of entitlement, therefore it is natural to use it as a further disucssion material on Wright’s paper (On epistemic entitlement: Warrant for nothing (and foundations for free?), 2004). Suitable for a senior undergraduate course on epistemology for topics on entitlement and epistemic rationality.

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Kelly, Erin, , McPherson, Lionel. On tolerating the unreasonable
2001, Journal of Political Philosophy 9(1): 38–55.
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Added by: Simon Fokt, Contributed by:

Diversifying Syllabi: Justice requires us to acknowledge the claims of morally or philosophically unreasonable persons, as long as they are politically reasonable; such people must be tolerated and considered part of the social contract. Toleration as wide public justification is the proper response to the pluralism characteristic of modern democratic societies.

Comment: This text is useful as a commentary or response to the debate about (un)reasonableness and legitimacy sparked by Rawls. More specifically, it offers a distinction between political and philosophical reasonableness, which the authors use to argue against interpreting or developing Rawls’s political liberalism in a less tolerant direction. The section on Barbara Herman’s ‘Pluralism and the Community of Moral Judgment’ helpfully distils a major faultline within liberal political philosophy.

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Nelkin, Dana, , . The lottery paradox, knowledge and rationality
2000, Philosophical Review: 109 (3): 373-409.
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Added by: Jie Gao, Contributed by:

Summary: The knowledge version of the paradox arises because it appears that we know our lottery ticket (which is not relevantly different from any other) will lose, but we know that one of the tickets sold will win. The rationality version of the paradox arises because it appears that it is rational to believe of each single ticket in, say, a million-ticket lottery that it will not win, and that it is simultaneously rational to believe that one such ticket will win. It seems, then, that we are committed to attributing two rational beliefs to a single agent at a single time, beliefs that, together with a few background assumptions, are inconsistent and can be seen by the agent to be so. This has seemed to many to be a paradoxical result: an agent in possession of two rational beliefs that she sees to be inconsistent. In my paper, I offer a novel solution to the paradox in both its rationality and knowledge versions that emphasizes a special feature of the lottery case, namely, the statistical nature of the evidence available to the agent. On my view, it is neither true that one knows nor that it is rational to believe that a particular ticket will lose. While this might seem surprising at first, it has a natural explanation and lacks the serious disadvantages of competing solutions.

Comment: The lottery paradox is one of the most central paradox in epistemology and philosophy of probability. Nelkin’s paper is a milestone in the literature on this topic after which discussions on the lottery paradox flourish. It is thus a must-have introductory paper on the lottery paradox for teachings on paradoxes of belief, justification theory, rationality, etc.

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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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Ryan, Sharon, , . What is Wisdom?
1999, Philosophical Studies, 93: 119-139
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Introduction: What is wisdom? Remarkably few contemporary analytic philosophers have proposed an answer to this ancient question. I think the question is interesting and deserves some careful attention. In this paper, I will present and evaluate several analyses of wisdom. I will then defend my own analysis of wisdom.

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Ryan, Sharon, , . Wisdom, Knowlegde and Rationality
2012, Acta Analytica, 27(2): 99-112.
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Added by: Giada Fratantonio, Contributed by:

Abstract: After surveying the strengths and weaknesses of several well-known approaches to wisdom, I argue for a new theory of wisdom that focuses on being epistemically, practically, and morally rational. My theory of wisdom, The Deep Rationality Theory of Wisdom, claims that a wise person is a person who is rational and who is deeply committed to increasing his or her level of rationality. This theory is a departure from theories of wisdom that demand practical and/or theoretical knowledge. The Deep Rationality Theory salvages all that is attractive, and avoids all that is problematic, about theories of wisdom that require wise people to be knowledgeable.

Comment: Very good as background reading on the topic of wisdom, particulary in the first ha;f of the paper where the author offers a good overview of the main theories of wisdom that could be classified into three categories: i) the ones focusing on epistemic humility, ii) the ones focusing on acquisition of knowledge, iii) the ones focusin on well living.

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Spaulding, Shannon, , . Imagination, Desire, and Rationality
2015, Journal of Philosophy 112 (9):457-476 (2015)
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Added by: Andrea Blomqvist, Contributed by:

Abstract: We often have affective responses to fictional events. We feel afraid for Desdemona when Othello approaches her in a murderous rage. We feel disgust toward Iago for orchestrating this tragic event. What mental architecture could explain these affective responses? In this paper I consider the claim that the best explanation of our affective responses to fiction involves imaginative desires. Some theorists argue that accounts that do not invoke imaginative desires imply that consumers of fiction have irrational desires. I argue that there are serious worries about imaginative desires that warrant skepticism about the adequacy of the account. Moreover, it is quite difficult to articulate general principles of rationality for desires, and even according to the most plausible of these possible principles, desires about fiction are not irrational.

Comment: This would function well as a required reading in a week on why we have emotional reactions to fiction, probably in a course for senior undergraduate students. It is suitable for a philosophy of fiction module.

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Tshivhase, Mpho, , . Personhood
2020, In: Imafidon, E. (ed.) Handbook of African Philosophy of Difference. Cham: Springer, 347-360
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Added by: Björn Freter, Contributed by: Björn Freter

Abstract: Certain descriptions of personhood imbue an individual with a particular kind of moral status. There are different person-making capacities that are generally laid out as central to the idea of personhood. Some of the person-making capacities are what people generally refer to as the grounding of certain normative requirements that enable us to respond to individuals as entities with a moral status. Herein personhood is a matter of certain capacities that create one’s moral status. These descriptions of personhood bring about a specific structure of identification that has implications for moral accountability. In this paper I aim to interpret the person-making capacities and argue that they can, in some sense, be limiting, and this may be the case in relation to women as a gender group whose personhood has not always been fairly recognized. I will argue that a view of personhood whose person-making capacities exclude a gender group can have negative implications, and I will explore two implications that I think have this negative attitude. On the one hand, a conception of personhood, especially in the descriptive sense that prioritizes rationality and free will above all else, could imply that women, by virtue of lacking such capacities, are not to be considered as individuals with a moral status, wherein society cannot hold them accountable for their actions, nor would they be able to hold others morally accountable. On the other hand, and this second implication relates to difference in the sense of uniqueness, which is grounded on personhood – if women are denied the status of a person, then they would also be excluded from exploring their uniqueness qua radical difference.

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