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The function of morality

Philosophical Studies 174 (5):1127-1144 (2017)

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  1. Prospects for pure procedural moral progress.Benedict Lane - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Issues of methodology are central to the philosophy of moral progress. However, the idea that effective moral methodology, as well as being instrumental to progress, might also constitute progress has not been adequately explored. This paper will critically assess the merits of this idea – what I call ‘pure proceduralism about moral progress’ – taking Philip Kitcher's recent theory of ‘democratic contractualism’ (2021) as a test case. An epistemology of pure procedural moral progress will be sketched: namely, a naturalised epistemology (...)
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  • The Practical Origins of Ideas: Genealogy as Conceptual Reverse-Engineering (Open Access).Matthieu Queloz - 2021 - Oxford: Oxford University Press.
    Why did such highly abstract ideas as truth, knowledge, or justice become so important to us? What was the point of coming to think in these terms? This book presents a philosophical method designed to answer such questions: the method of pragmatic genealogy. Pragmatic genealogies are partly fictional, partly historical narratives exploring what might have driven us to develop certain ideas in order to discover what these do for us. The book uncovers an under-appreciated tradition of pragmatic genealogy which cuts (...)
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  • A Genealogy of Emancipatory Values.Nick Smyth - 2020 - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy 1.
    Analytic moral philosophers have generally failed to engage in any substantial way with the cultural history of morality. This is a shame, because a genealogy of morals can help us accomplish two important tasks. First, a genealogy can form the basis of an epistemological project, one that seeks to establish the epistemic status of our beliefs or values. Second, a genealogy can provide us with functional understanding, since a history of our beliefs, values or institutions can reveal some inherent dynamic (...)
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  • Morality as an Evolutionary Exaptation.Marcus Arvan - 2021 - In Johan De Smedt & Helen De Cruz (eds.), Empirically Engaged Evolutionary Ethics. Synthese Library. Springer - Synthese Library. pp. 89-109.
    The dominant theory of the evolution of moral cognition across a variety of fields is that moral cognition is a biological adaptation to foster social cooperation. This chapter argues, to the contrary, that moral cognition is likely an evolutionary exaptation: a form of cognition where neurobiological capacities selected for in our evolutionary history for a variety of different reasons—many unrelated to social cooperation—were put to a new, prosocial use after the fact through individual rationality, learning, and the development and transmission (...)
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  • Decolonizing the demarcation of the ethical.Joseph Len Miller - 2020 - Philosophical Studies 177 (2):337-352.
    The question of what distinguishes moral problems from other problems is important to the study of the evolution and functioning of morality. Many researchers concerned with this topic have assumed, either implicitly or explicitly, that all moral problems are problems of cooperation. This assumption offers a response to the moral demarcation problem by identifying a necessary condition of moral problems. Characterizing moral problems as problems of cooperation is a popular response to this issue – especially among researchers empirically studying the (...)
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  • A Practice-based Account of The Truth Norm of Belief.Xintong Wei - forthcoming - Episteme:1-21.
    It is a platitude that belief is subject to a standard of correctness: a belief is correct if and only if it is true. But not all standards of correctness are authoritative or binding. Some standards of correctness may be arbitrary, unjustified or outrightly wrong. Given this, one challenge to proponents of the truth norm of belief, is to answer what Korsgaard (1996) calls ‘the normative question’. Is the truth norm of belief authoritative or binding regarding what one ought to (...)
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  • Genealogical Solutions to the Problem of Critical Distance: Political Theory, Contextualism and the Case of Punishment in Transitional Scenarios.Francesco Testini - 2022 - Res Publica 28 (2):271-301.
    In this paper, I argue that one approach to normative political theory, namely contextualism, can benefit from a specific kind of historical inquiry, namely genealogy, because the latter provides a solution to a deep-seated problem for the former. This problem consists in a lack of critical distance and originates from the justificatory role that contextualist approaches attribute to contextual facts. I compare two approaches to genealogical reconstruction, namely the historiographical method pioneered by Foucault and the hybrid method of pragmatic genealogy (...)
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  • How Far Can Genealogies Affect the Space of Reasons? Vindication, Justification and Excuses.Francesco Testini - forthcoming - Inquiry: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Philosophy.
    Pragmatic vindicatory genealogies provide both a cause and a rationale and can thus affect the space of reasons. But how far is the space of reasons affected by this kind of genealogical argument? What normative and evaluative implications do these arguments have? In this paper, I unpack this issue into three different sub-questions and explain what kinds of reasons they provide, for whom are these reasons, and for what. In relation to this final sub-question I argue, most importantly, that these (...)
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  • Moral recognition for workplace offenses underlies the punitive responses of managers: A functional theoretical approach to morality and punishment.Matthew L. Stanley, Christopher B. Neck & Christopher P. Neck - 2023 - Ethics and Behavior 33 (6):505-528.
    There is considerable variability across people in their punitive responses to employee offenses in the workplace. We attempt to explain this variability by positing a novel antecedent of punishment: moral recognition. We find consistent evidence that identifying moral considerations and implications for workplace offenses predicts punitive responses toward employees who commit those offenses. Drawing on functional theoretical accounts of morality and punishment, we posit that people are motivated to punish others to the extent that they believe a moral offense has (...)
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  • Purity and Practical Reason: On Pragmatic Genealogy.Nicholas Smyth - 2023 - Ergo: An Open Access Journal of Philosophy 10 (37):1057-1081.
    Pragmatic Genealogy involves constructing fictional, quasi-historical models in order to discover what might explain and justify our concepts, ideas or practices. It arguably originated with Hume, but its most prominent practitioners are Edward Craig, Bernard Williams and Mathieu Queloz. Its defenders allege that the method allows us to understand “what the concept does for us, what its role in our life might be” (Craig, 1990), and that this in turn can ground practical reasons to preserve or further a conceptual practice. (...)
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  • How Genealogies Can Affect the Space of Reasons.Matthieu Queloz - 2020 - Synthese 197 (5):2005-2027.
    Can genealogical explanations affect the space of reasons? Those who think so commonly face two objections. The first objection maintains that attempts to derive reasons from claims about the genesis of something commit the genetic fallacy—they conflate genesis and justification. One way for genealogies to side-step this objection is to focus on the functional origins of practices—to show that, given certain facts about us and our environment, certain conceptual practices are rational because apt responses. But this invites a second objection, (...)
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  • What is (Neo-)Pragmatists’ Function?Sebastian Köhler - 2023 - Australasian Journal of Philosophy 101 (3):653-669.
    Functions play an important role in neo-pragmatism. This paper advances neo-pragmatism’s prospects by investigating how functions are to be understood on this account. It argues that prominent ways of understanding functions do not suit neo-pragmatists’ meta-semantic commitments or their preferred methodology. It then presents an account that fits both, based on Laura and François Schroeter’s theory of rationalizing self-interpretation. On this account, a term’s function is what it allows us to do that makes our tradition with the term rational.
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  • The Intransparency of Political Legitimacy.Matthias Brinkmann - 2023 - Philosophers' Imprint 23.
    Some moral value is transparent just in case an agent with average mental capacities can feasibly come to know whether some entity does, or does not, possess that value. In this paper, I consider whether legitimacy—that is, the property of exercises of political power to be permissible—is transparent. Implicit in much theorising about legitimacy is the idea that it is. I will offer two counter-arguments. First, injustice can defeat legitimacy, and injustice can be intransparent. Second, legitimacy can play a critical (...)
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  • Regressive De-Moralization.David A. Borman - 2023 - Radical Philosophy Review 26 (2):179-203.
    As Allen Buchanan and Russell Powell have observed, de-moralization—the retreat of normative regulation from specific areas of human life—represents an under-theorized component of the study of moral change. However, Buchanan and Powell, like Philip Kitcher, focus exclusively on instances of de-moralization that they regard as morally progressive. Indeed, the existing literature on moral change is almost silent on the matter of moral regression, and doubly so on the matter of regressive de-moralization. This paper attempts to define and defend a particular, (...)
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  • Bargaining and descriptive content: prospects for a teleosemantic ethics.Karl Bergman - 2021 - Biology and Philosophy 36 (5):1-23.
    Teleosemantics is the view that mental content depends on etiological function. Moral adaptationism is the view that human morality is an evolved adaptation. Jointly, these two views offer new venues for naturalist metaethics. Several authors have seen, in the conjunction of these views, the promise of assigning naturalistically respectable descriptive content to moral judgments. One such author is Neil Sinclair, who has offered a blueprint for how to conduct teleosemantic metaethics with the help of moral adaptationism. In this paper, I (...)
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  • Metaethics for Neo-Pragmatists: A Pragmatic Account of Linguistic Meaning for Moral Vocabulary.Thomas Wilk - 2019 - Dissertation, Johns Hopkins University
    In this dissertation, I aim to develop and defend a novel, pragmatist approach to foundational questions about meaning, especially the meaning of deontic moral vocabulary. Drawing from expressivists and inferentialists, I argue that meaning is best explained by the various kinds of norms that govern the use of a vocabulary. Along with inferential norms, I argue we must extend our account to discursive norms that govern normative statuses required to felicitously utter certain speech-acts—norms of authority—and the transitions in normative statuses (...)
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  • Communities of Judgment : Towards a Teleosemantic Theory of Moral Thought and Discourse.Karl Bergman - 2019 - Dissertation, Uppsala University
    This thesis offers a teleosemantic account of moral discourse and judgment. It develops a number of views about the function and content of moral judgments and the nature of moral discourse based on Ruth Millikan’s theory of intentional content and the functions of intentional attitudes. Non-cognitivists in meta-ethics have argued that moral judgments are more akin to desires and other motivational attitudes than to descriptive beliefs. I argue that teleosemantics allows us to assign descriptive content to motivational attitudes and hence (...)
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  • Review of The Social Psychology of Morality. [REVIEW]Michael Klenk - 2016 - Metapsychology Online 20 (48):1-8.
    If you put chimpanzees from different communities together you can expect mayhem - they are not keen on treating each other nicely. There is closely related species of apes, however, whose members have countless encounters with unrelated specimen on a daily basis and yet almost all get through the day in one piece - that species is us, homo sapiens. But what makes us get along, most of the time? Morality as such is, perhaps surprisingly, not a mainstream research topic (...)
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