Location: Ross South 421
Thursday (April 23rd)
9:30-10:00 Coffee and registration
10:00-10:50 Fermin Fulda (University of Toronto): An Ecological Account of Natural Action
What is it to explain an action? An action is something done (caused) by an agent for a reason. The explanation of an action must thus identify both its cause and the reason for its occurrence. However, each of the two standard accounts, the causal and the teleological theory of action, vindicate one aspect at the expense of the other, but neither provides a complete account thus generating a dilemma between eliminativism and primitivism. I argue that while the first horn is predicated on the assumption that reasons are individuated exclusively by their causal-role, the second horn is predicated on the assumption that reasons are individuated exclusively by their normative-role. To avoid this dilemma I offer in outline an alternative approach, the ecological theory of action, according to which reasons are individuated by the ecological-role an action plays within an agent’s system of goals, affordances and repertoire.
Commentary: Brandon Fenton (York University)
11:10-12:00 Nicole Dular (Syracuse University): Still Confused: Normative Language and Moral Indifference
One of the central problems in metaethics concerns whether the normative can be reduced to the non-normative. One reductive strategy is to give a metaphysical analysis of normative facts by means of a semantic analysis of normative language. In this paper, I look to one recent promising account of such a strategy proposed by Stephen Finlay. Finlay argues that his account has advantages over other semantic reductive accounts like expressivism. I argue that by looking to non-cooperative contexts, Finlay’s theory is unable to accommodate and explain the linguistic data concerning some of the most quintessential features of moral discourse, thus failing to close central metaphysical questions in metaethics. Granting Finlay’s claim that his account is the only viable semantic reductive account, it is doubtful whether any such reductive account will succeed, providing further support to the view that the normative cannot be substantively reduced to the non-normative.
Commentary: Olivia Sultanescu (York University)
13:00-13:50 Samuel Dishaw (Université de Montréal): A Conjecture in Assessing Reductionism about Moral Values
Commentary: Benjamin Winokur (York University)
14:10-15:00 Jessy Giroux (University of Toronto): Intra-normative Reductionism: Reducing the Deontic to the Evaluative
In this presentation, I defend a form of “intra-normative reductionism”, which is the project of unifying the normative domain by reducing one category of normative concepts to another. The most popular contemporary form of intra-normative reductionism is the fitting-attitude or buck-passing account of value, which reduces the evaluative domain to the deontic domain. I propose a new way of unifying the normative domain by arguing that the concepts that concern “obligation” should be defined in terms of negative evaluative concepts: what is obligatory is what is bad not to do; what is prohibited is what is bad to do; what is permissible is what is not bad to do. I present two main arguments to support this thesis, and I respond to a series of objections.
Commentary: Olivia Schuman (York University)
15:30-17:30 Keynote speaker: Terence Cuneo (University of Vermont): Destabilizing the Error Theory
Friday (April 24th)
9:30-10:00 Coffee and registration
10:00-10:50 William Bredeson (Simon Fraser University): External Reasons and Pragmatic Value
The debate over internal and external reasons concerns what sort of reasons an agent can have for acting. The Humean camp says that only the satisfaction of an agent’s desire (an internal reason) counts; the Kantian camp says that a moral, rational, or otherwise intersubjective consideration (external reason) could also count. I want to examine this debate from the pragmatic perspective of giving and accepting reasons. From this perspective, the utterance of a reasons statement is more convoluted than a straightforward statement of an agent’s mental state. This opens up argumentative possibilities for both sides. Humeans can make a deflationary play and claim that external reasons statements really aim to accomplish some practical task; Kantians can use common-sense intuitions about external reasons statements to vindicate their position and shift the burden of proof onto the Humeans. It is important to consider both reasons statements’ alethic and pragmatic value.
Commentary: Alexander Leferman (York University)
11:10-12:00 Amy K Flowerree (Northwestern University): On the Ontological Significance of Reasons
In the debate over the ontological status of reasons, a plausible theory is challenged to thread a Charybdis and Scylla: First, the theory must be able to explain the robust role that reasons play in our practical lives; second, the theory must be fit within a sensible ontology. TM Scanlon proposes just such an attractive metaphysics of reasons. Scanlon is committed to two central claims:
(1) Reasons are ontologically and conceptually primitive; and
(2) Whether a reason exists can only be settled by appealing to the standards and procedures of its proper domain.
In this paper, I argue that (1) and (2) are in tension with each other, and any attempt to resolve the tension results in a view that Scanlon would reject.
Commentary: Stéphane Savoie (York University)
13:00-13:50 Nicholas Laskowski (University of Southern California): The Knowledge Argument in Philosophy of Mind and Metaethics
Over the course of the last three decades since it was first put forward, Frank Jackson’s (1982, 1986) knowledge argument against physicalism about phenomenal consciousness has had an enormous influence in the philosophy of mind. Recently, Helen and Richard Yetter-Chappell (2012) argue that naturalists about morality in metaethics have to face up to an analogous challenge. I argue that, despite appearances, no such argument even gets off the ground in metaethics, because the adequacy conditions on the case that motivates the so-called moral knowledge argument are jointly unstable. This result shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, since substantive differences between the subject matters of phenomenal consciousness and morality are such that we can’t copy-and-paste the explanatory agenda in the philosophy of mind into metaethics, and vice versa.
Commentary: David Rocheleau-Houle (York University)
14:10-15:00 Caleb Lee (University of Calgary): The Normative Pressure one Feels to Believe in a Certain Way is not the Result of one Conceiving of their Attitude as a Belief
I argue that the felt force associated with the norms of belief cannot be accounted for by the influential view that beliefs are essentially governed by certain norms.
Commentary: Joshua Mugg (York University)
15:30-17:30 Keynote speaker: Claudine Verheggen (York University): From Semantic Non-Reductionism to Semantic Normativity