Olsaretti, Serena, and . The Concept of Voluntariness – A Reply

2008, Journal of Political Philosophy 16(1): 165-188.

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.

Steward, Helen, and . The Ontology of Mind: Events, Processes, and States

2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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.