Baron, Marcia, and . A Kantian Take on the Supererogatory

2016, Journal of Applied Philosophy 33 (4):347-362

Abstract: This article presents a Kantian alternative to the mainstream approach in ethics concerning the phenomena that are widely thought to require a category of the supererogatory. My view is that the phenomena do not require this category of imperfect duties. Elsewhere I have written on Kant on this topic; here I shift my focus away from interpretive issues and consider the pros and cons of the Kantian approach. What background assumptions would lean one to favour the Kantian approach and what sorts would lean one to favour the mainstream approach? I also consider the possibility that in institutional contexts, there is a need for the category of the supererogatory. Here, it seems, we do need to know what we really have to do and what is beyond the call of duty; in this context, however, duty is not the Kantian moral notion, but rather is pegged to particular roles, or to the needs of the institution or group or club of which one is a member. But even here, I argue, the notion of the supererogatory is not crucial.

Comment: Provocactive paper that challenges the need for a special category of supererogatory actions. Would make a good specialised reading on this topic, or a good further reading for a module addressing Kantian moral theory or moral obligation more generally.

Ginsborg, Hannah, and . Aesthetic Judgment and Perceptual Normativity

2006, Inquiry 49(5): 403-437.

Abstract: I draw a connection between the question, raised by Hume and Kant, of how aesthetic judgments can claim universal agreement, and the question, raised in recent discussions of nonconceptual content, of how concepts can be acquired on the basis of experience. Developing an idea suggested by Kant’s linkage of aesthetic judgment with the capacity for empirical conceptualization, I propose that both questions can be resolved by appealing to the idea of “perceptual normativity”. Perceptual experience, on this proposal, involves the awareness of its own appropriateness with respect to the object perceived, where this appropriateness is more primitive than truth or veridicality. This means that a subject can take herself to be perceiving an object as she (and anyone else) ought to perceive it, without first recognizing the object as falling under a corresponding concept. I motivate the proposal through a criticism of Peacocke’s account of concept-acquisition, which, I argue, rests on a confusion between the notion of a way something is perceived, and that of a way it is perceived as being. Whereas Peacocke’s account of concept-acquisition depends on an illicit slide between these two notions, the notion of perceptual normativity allows a legitimate transition between them: if someone’s perceiving something a certain way involves her taking it that she ought to perceive it that way, then she perceives the thing as being a certain way, so that the corresponding concept is available to her in perceptual experience.

Comment: This paper will mainly be of relevance in relation to the antinomy or paradox of taste, a problem famously examined by Hume and Kant. It may also be of use in relation to topics in the Philosophy of Perception or Epistemology, or in teaching on Kant's Critique of Judgment. Ginsbourg presents a very thorough discussion of the notion that perceptions make concepts available by involving implicit claims to their own appropriateness; she uses this idea to make an interesting and plausible contribution to the debate regarding the antinomy of taste.

Hills, Alison, and . Is ethics rationally required?

2004, Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 47(1): 1-19.

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.

Hursthourse, Rosalind, and . On Virtue Ethics

2000, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Back Matter: Virtue ethics is perhaps the most important development within late twentieth-century moral philosophy. Rosalind Hursthouse, who has made notable contributions to this development, now presents a full exposition and defence of her neo-Aristotelian version of virtue ethics. She shows how virtue ethics can provide guidance for action, illuminate moral dilemmas, and bring out the moral significance of the emotions. Deliberately avoiding a combative stance, she finds less disagreement between Kantian and neo-Aristotelian approaches than is usual, and she offers the first account from a virtue ethics perspective of acting ‘from a sense of duty’. She considers the question which character traits are virtues, and explores how answers to this question can be justified by appeal to facts about human nature. Written in a clear, engaging style which makes it accessible to non-specialists, On Virtue Ethics will appeal to anyone with an interest in moral philosophy.

Comment: The Introduction provides an excellent overview of virtue ethics and its relations with other moral theories. It makes for a perfect main reading for units on virtue ethics in general ethics modules. Chapter 4 offers a valuable discussion of deontology, and other chapters are best used as further reading, or as main readings in modules devoted fully to virtue ethics.

Massimi, Michela, and . Pauli’s Exclusion Principle: The origin and validation of a scientific principle

2005, Cambridge University Press.

Publisher’s Note: There is hardly another principle in physics with wider scope of applicability and more far-reaching consequences than Pauli’s exclusion principle. This book explores the principle’s origin in the atomic spectroscopy of the early 1920s, its subsequent embedding into quantum mechanics, and later experimental validation with the development of quantum chromodynamics. The reconstruction of this crucial historic episode provides an excellent foil to reconsider Kuhn’s view on incommensurability. The author defends the prospective rationality of the revolutionary transition from the old to the new quantum theory around 1925 by focusing on the way Pauli’s principle emerged as a phenomenological rule ‘deduced’ from some anomalous phenomena and theoretical assumptions of the old quantum theory. The subsequent process of validation is historically reconstructed and analysed within the framework of ‘dynamic Kantianism’

Comment: In principle, I would recommend the book for postgraduates specialized on the topic; although in terms of difficulty, an undergraduate wouldn't have any problem to understand it. The book is also useful for anyone interested in the development of quantum physics during the 20th century.

Massimi, Michela, and . Philosophy and the sciences after Kant

2009, Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 84(65): 275.

Summary: In this article Massimi discusses the important role that history and philosophy of science plays or ought to play within philosophy. The aim of the paper is to offer a historical reconstruction and a possible diagnosis of why the long marriage between philosophy and the sciences was eventually wrong after Kant. Massimi examines Kant’s view on philosophy and the sciences, from his early scientific writings to the development of critical philosophy and the pressing epistemological he felt the need to address in response to the sciences of his time.

Comment: Really useful as an historical overview of the relation between history and philosophy of science and mainstream philosophy. It is also useful for introducing students to Kant's philosophy of science. It is an easy reading recommended for undergraduates.

O'Neill, Onora, and . Autonomy: The Emperor’s New Clothes

2003, Aristotelian Society Supplementary Volume 77(1): 1-20.

Abstract: Conceptions of individual autonomy and of rational autonomy have played large parts in twentieth century moral philosophy, yet it is hard to see how either could be basic to morality. Kant’s conception of autonomy is radically different. He predicated autonomy neither of individual selves nor of processes of choosing, but of principles of action. Principles of action are Kantianly autonomous only if they are law-like in form and could be universal in scope; they are heteronomous if, although law-like in form, they cannot have universal scope. Puzzles about claims linking morality, reason and autonomy are greatly reduced by recognising the distinctiveness of Kantian autonomy

Comment: Offers a clear overview of different approaches to autonomy and provides a useful exegesis of Kant's own conception, which is vigorously distinguished from both 'personal' and 'rational' autonomy. Would be a good specialised reading or further reading if teaching either on autonomy in general, or Kant's theory of morality.