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Jason Kawall
Colgate University
  1. On the Moral Epistemology of Ideal Observer Theories.Jason Kawall - 2006 - Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 9 (3):359-374.
    : In this paper I attempt to defuse a set of epistemic worries commonly raised against ideal observer theories. The worries arise because of the omniscience often attributed to ideal observers – how can we, as finite humans, ever have access to the moral judgements or reactions of omniscient beings? I argue that many of the same concerns arise with respect to other moral theories (and that these concerns do not in fact reveal genuine flaws in any of these theories), (...)
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  2. Virtue Theory, Ideal Observers, and the Supererogatory.Jason Kawall - 2009 - Philosophical Studies 146 (2):179-96.
    I argue that recent virtue theories (including those of Hursthouse, Slote, and Swanton) face important initial difficulties in accommodating the supererogatory. In particular, I consider several potential characterizations of the supererogatory modeled upon these familiar virtue theories (and their accounts of rightness) and argue that they fail to provide an adequate account of supererogation. In the second half of the paper I sketch an alternative virtue-based characterization of supererogation, one that is grounded in the attitudes of virtuous ideal observers, and (...)
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  3. Reverence for Life as a Viable Environmental Virtue.Jason Kawall - 2003 - Environmental Ethics 25 (4):339-358.
    There have been several recent defenses of biocentric individualism, the position that all living beings have at least some moral standing, simply insofar as they are alive. I develop a virtue-based version of biocentric individualism, focusing on a virtue of reverence for life. In so doing, I attempt to show that such a virtuebased approach allows us to avoid common objections to biocentric individualism, based on its supposed impracticability (or, on the other hand, its emptiness).
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  4. The Experience Machine and Mental State Theories of Well-Being.Jason Kawall - 1999 - Journal of Value Inquiry 33 (3):381-387.
    It is argued that Nozick's experience machine thought experiment does not pose a particular difficulty for mental state theories of well-being. While the example shows that we value many things beyond our mental states, this simply reflects the fact that we value more than our own well-being. Nor is a mental state theorist forced to make the dubious claim that we maintain these other values simply as a means to desirable mental states. Valuing more than our mental states is compatible (...)
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  5. Friendship and Epistemic Norms.Jason Kawall - 2013 - Philosophical Studies 165 (2):349-370.
    Simon Keller and Sarah Stroud have both argued that the demands of being a good friend can conflict with the demands of standard epistemic norms. Intuitively, good friends will tend to seek favorable interpretations of their friends’ behaviors, interpretations that they would not apply to strangers; as such they seem prone to form unjustified beliefs. I argue that there is no such clash of norms. In particular, I argue that friendship does not require us to form beliefs about our friends (...)
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  6. In Defense of the Primacy of the Virtues.Jason Kawall - 2009 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 3 (2):1-21.
    In this paper I respond to a set of basic objections often raised against those virtue theories in ethics which maintain that moral properties such rightness and goodness (and their corresponding concepts) are to be explained and understood in terms of the virtues or the virtuous. The objections all rest on a strongly-held intuition that the virtues (and the virtuous) simply must be derivative in some way from either right actions or good states of affairs. My goal is to articulate (...)
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  7. Autonomy, Agency, and the Value of Enduring Beliefs.Jason Kawall - 2010 - Canadian Journal of Philosophy 40 (1):pp. 107-129.
    My central thesis is that philosophers considering questions of epistemic value ought to devote greater attention to the enduring nature of beliefs. I begin by arguing that a commonly drawn analogy between beliefs and actions is flawed in important respects, and that a better, more fruitful analogue for belief would be desire, or a similarly enduring state of an agent. With this in hand, I argue that treating beliefs as enduring, constitutive states of agents allows us to capture the importance (...)
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  8. Other–Regarding Epistemic Virtues.Jason Kawall - 2002 - Ratio 15 (3):257–275.
    Epistemologists often assume that an agent’s epistemic goal is simply to acquire as much knowledge as possible for herself. Drawing on an analogy with ethics and other practices, I argue that being situated in an epistemic community introduces a range of epistemic virtues (and goals) which fall outside of those typically recognized by both individualistic and social epistemologists. Candidate virtues include such traits as honesty, integrity (including an unwillingness to misuse one’s status as an expert), patience, and creativity. We can (...)
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  9. Virtue Theory and Ideal Observers.Jason Kawall - 2002 - Philosophical Studies 109 (3):197 - 222.
    Virtue theorists in ethics often embrace the following characterizationof right action: An action is right iff a virtuous agent would performthat action in like circumstances. Zagzebski offers a parallel virtue-basedaccount of epistemically justified belief. Such proposals are severely flawedbecause virtuous agents in adverse circumstances, or through lack ofknowledge can perform poorly. I propose an alternative virtue-based accountaccording to which an action is right (a belief is justified) for an agentin a given situation iff an unimpaired, fully-informed virtuous observerwould deem the (...)
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  10. Moral Realism and Arbitrariness.Jason Kawall - 2005 - Southern Journal of Philosophy 43 (1):109-129.
    In this paper I argue (i) that choosing to abide by realist moral norms would be as arbitrary as choosing to abide by the mere preferences of a God (a difficulty akin to the Euthyphro dilemma raised for divine command theorists); in both cases we would lack reason to prefer these standards to alternative codes of conduct. I further develop this general line of thought by arguing in particular (ii) that we would lack any noncircular justification to concern ourselves with (...)
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  11.  70
    Self-Regarding Supererogatory Actions.Jason Kawall - 2003 - Journal of Social Philosophy 34 (3):487–498.
    Many philosophers, in discussing supererogation, maintain that supererogatory actions must be done for the benefit of others. In this paper I argue that there can be instances of self-regarding supererogatory actions. That is, there are cases in which the primary (or sole) intended beneficiary of a supererogatory action is the agent herself, and she need not be acting out of a concern for morality or moral rules. In such cases the agent still acts suitably 'beyond the call of duty', and (...)
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  12. Promising and Supererogation.Jason Kawall - 2005 - Philosophia 32 (1-4):389-398.
    A paradox involving promises to perform supererogatory actions is developed. Several attempts to resolve the problem, focusing in particular on changing our understanding of supererogatory actions, are explored. It is concluded that none of the proposed solutions are viable; the problem lies in promises with certain contents, not in our understanding of supererogation.
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  13. On Behalf of Biocentric Individualism: A Response to Victoria Davion.Jason Kawall - 2008 - Environmental Ethics 30 (1):69-88.
    Victoria Davion in “Itch Scratching, Patio Building, and Pesky Flies: Biocentric Individualism Revisited” takes biocentric individualism to task, focusing in particular on my paper, “Reverence for Life as a Viable Environmental Virtue.” Davion levels a wide-range of criticisms, and concludes that we humans would be better off putting biocentric individualism aside to focus on more important issues and positions. Worries raised by Davion can be defended by elaborating on the position laid out in the original paper, including a background normative (...)
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  14. The Epistemic Demands of Environmental Virtue.Jason Kawall - 2010 - Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics 23 (1-2):109-28.
    To lead an environmentally virtuous life requires information—about morality, environmental issues, the impacts of our actions and commitments, our options for alternatives, and so on. On the other hand, we are finite beings with limited time and resources. We cannot feasibly investigate all of our options, and all environmental issues (let alone moral issues, more broadly). In this paper I attempt to provide initial steps towards addressing the epistemic demands of environmental virtue. In the first half of the paper I (...)
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  15. Future Harms and Current Offspring.Jason Kawall - 2011 - Ethics, Policy and Environment 14 (1):23-26.
    By providing an explicit estimate of the harms caused by personal greenhouse gas emissions, John Nolt (in his “How Harmful are the Average American’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions?”) hopes to undermine tendencies to downplay these emissions and their impacts on global climate change. He estimates that an average American would be responsible for one two-billionth of the suffering or death of two billion people (over 1000 years). He treats this as equivalent to being responsible for the suffering or death of one (...)
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  16.  9
    Harry G. Frankfurt, The Reasons of Love. [REVIEW]Jason Kawall - 2004 - Philosophy in Review 24 (5):322-324.
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  17. Rethinking Greed.Jason Kawall - 2012 - In Allen Thompson Jeremy Bendik-Keymer (ed.), Human Adaptation to Climate Change: Human Virtues of the Future. The MIT Press. pp. 223-39.
    In this paper I attempt to clarify the nature of the vice of greed, focusing on what can be called “modest greed”. Agents who are modestly greedy do not long for material goods or wealth with intense desires. Rather, they have quite modest desires, but ones whose satisfaction they pursue excessively relative to other goods. Greed - including modest greed - emerges as a particularly troubling and problematic vice.
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  18. On Promising to Supererogate: A Response to Heyd.Jason Kawall - 2006 - Philosophia 34 (2):153-156.
    In my “Promising and Supererogation” I argue that one cannot fulfill promises to perform supererogatory actions (such as “I hereby promise to perform one supererogatory action every month”). In a response to my paper, David Heyd argues that there is an alternative solution to the problem I raise. While I agree with much that Heyd says about the examples he discusses, his proposed solution involves a crucial alteration of the problem; his proposed solution does not solve the problem I present.
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  19. Moral Response-Dependence, Ideal Observers, and the Motive of Duty: Responding to Zangwill.Jason Kawall - 2004 - Erkenntnis 60 (3):357-369.
    Moral response-dependent metaethical theories characterize moral properties in terms of the reactions of certain classes of individuals. Nick Zangwill has argued that such theories are flawed: they are unable to accommodate the motive of duty. That is, they are unable to provide a suitable reason for anyone to perform morally right actions simply because they are morally right. I argue that Zangwill ignores significant differences between various approvals, and various individuals, and that moral response-dependent theories can accommodate the motive of (...)
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  20.  8
    Thomas L. Carson, Value and the Good Life. [REVIEW]Jason Kawall - 2002 - Philosophy in Review 22 (4):260-262.
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  21. Grounded Knowledge, Place and Epistemic Virtue.Jason Kawall - 2005 - Ethics, Place and Environment 8 (3):361 – 371.
    A response to Christopher Preston's book "Grounding Knowledge" (2003). I first argue that Preston’s work strongly suggests that epistemologists would do well to re-examine and pay greater attention to ‘knowledge how’. Second, I briefly consider several of Preston’s proposals (concerning the importance of place to our cognitive lives) through the lens of contemporary virtue epistemology and suggest how Preston’s work might inform and shape theorizing in this area. Finally, I turn to a set of potential questions for Preston, focusing in (...)
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  22. On Complacency.Jason Kawall - 2006 - American Philosophical Quarterly 43 (4):343-55.
    This paper begins by drawing attention to inadequacies in common characterizations of the vice of complacency. An alternative account is presented that avoids these flaws. The distinctive nature of complacency is then clarified by contrasting it with related vices, including apathy, resignation, akrasia, excessive pride, and hypocrisy.
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  23.  7
    John Cottingham, On the Meaning of Life. [REVIEW]Jason Kawall - 2004 - Philosophy in Review 24 (1):22-24.
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  24.  73
    Qualified Agent and Agent-Based Virtue Ethics and the Problems of Right Action.Jason Kawall - 2014 - In Stan van Hooft & Nafsika Athanassoulis (eds.), The Handbook of Virtue Ethics. Acumen Publishing.
    An on-going question for virtue ethics is whether it stands as a truly distinctive approach to ethics. In particular, there has been much discussion of whether virtue ethics can provide a viable understanding of right action, one that is a genuine rival to familiar consequentialist and deontological accounts. In this chapter I examine two prominent approaches to virtue ethics, (i) qualified agent and (ii) agent-based virtue ethics, and consider whether either can provide an adequate account of right action. I begin (...)
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  25.  37
    Ronald Sandler and Philip Cafaro, Environmental Virtue Ethics. [REVIEW]Jason Kawall - 2006 - Environmental Ethics 28 (4):429-32.
    A short review of "Environmental Virtue Ethics" (2005), a collection edited by Ronald Sandler and Philip Cafaro.
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  26.  39
    Meaningful Lives, Ideal Observers, and Views From Nowhere.Jason Kawall - 2012 - Journal of Philosophical Research 37:73-97.
    In recent discussions of whether our lives are or can be meaningful, appeals are often made to such things as “a view from nowhere,” or “the viewpoint of the universe.” In this paper I attempt to make sense of what it might mean for a being to possess such a perspective, and argue that common appeals to such perspectives are inadequately developed; crucially, they do not adequately account for the character of the beings taken to possess these viewpoints. In the (...)
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  27.  70
    Is (Merely) Stalking Sentient Animals Morally Wrong?Jason Kawall - 2000 - Journal of Applied Philosophy 17 (2):195–204.
    Such activities as tracking, watching, and photographing animals are frequently presented as morally superior alternatives to hunting, but could they themselves be morally problematic? In this paper I argue that, despite certain differences from the stalking of humans, a strong case can be made for the prima facie wrongness of stalking sentient animals. The chief harm of stalking is the fear and altered patterns of behavior which it forces upon its victims.
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  28.  9
    Bernard E. Rollin, The Unheeded Cry: Animal Consciousness, Animal Pain, and Science Reviewed By. [REVIEW]Jason Kawall - 1999 - Philosophy in Review 19 (4):281-282.
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  29.  34
    Inner Diversity.Jason Kawall - 2001 - Philosophy in the Contemporary World 8 (2):27-35.
    I propose a modified virtue ethics, grounded in an analogy between ecosystems and human personalities. I suggest that we understand ourselves as possessing changing systems of inter-related sub personalities with different virtues, and view our characters as flexible and evolving.
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  30.  29
    Russ Shafer-Landau, Moral Realism. [REVIEW]Jason Kawall - 2005 - Review of Metaphysics 59 (1):204-205.
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