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Nicholas Southwood
Australian National University
  1. Does “Ought” Imply “Feasible”?Nicholas Southwood - 2016 - Philosophy and Public Affairs 44 (1):7-45.
    Many of us feel internally conflicted in the face of certain normative claims that make infeasible demands: say, normative claims that demand that agents do what, given deeply entrenched objectionable character traits, they cannot bring themselves to do. On the one hand, such claims may seem false on account of demanding the infeasible, and insisting otherwise may seem to amount to objectionable unworldliness – to chasing “pies in the sky.” On the other hand, such claims may seem true in spite (...)
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  2. "Actual" Does Not Imply "Feasible".Nicholas Southwood & David Wiens - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (11):3037-3060.
    The familiar complaint that some ambitious proposal is infeasible naturally invites the following response: Once upon a time, the abolition of slavery and the enfranchisement of women seemed infeasible, yet these things were actually achieved. Presumably, then, many of those things that seem infeasible in our own time may well be achieved too and, thus, turn out to have been perfectly feasible after all. The Appeal to History, as we call it, is a bad argument. It is not true that (...)
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  3. Constructivism About Reasons.Nicholas Southwood - 2018 - In D. Star (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reasons and Normativity. Oxford University Press.
    Given constructivism’s enduring popularity and appeal, it is perhaps something of a surprise that there remains considerable uncertainty among many philosophers about what constructivism is even supposed to be. My aim in this article is to make some progress on the question of how constructivism should be understood. I begin by saying something about what kind of theory constructivism is supposed to be. Next, I consider and reject both the standard proceduralist characterization of constructivism and also Sharon Street’s ingenious standpoint (...)
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  4. “The Thing To Do” Implies “Can”.Nicholas Southwood - 2016 - Noûs 50 (1):61-72.
    A familiar complaint against the principle that “ought” implies “can” is that it seems that agents can intentionally make it the case that they cannot perform acts that they nonetheless ought to perform. I propose a related principle that I call the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can.” I argue that the principle that “the thing to do” implies “can” is implied by important but underappreciated truths about practical reason, and that it is not vulnerable to the familiar (...)
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  5. What Is Special About Human Rights?Christian Barry & Nicholas Southwood - 2011 - Ethics and International Affairs 25 (3):369-83.
    Despite the prevalence of human rights discourse, the very idea or concept of a human right remains obscure. In particular, it is unclear what is supposed to be special or distinctive about human rights. In this paper, we consider two recent attempts to answer this challenge, James Griffin’s “personhood account” and Charles Beitz’s “practice-based account”, and argue that neither is entirely satisfactory. We then conclude with a suggestion for what a more adequate account might look like – what we call (...)
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  6. Norms and Conventions.Nicholas Southwood & Lina Eriksson - 2011 - Philosophical Explorations 14 (2):195 - 217.
    What is the relation between norms (in the sense of ?socially accepted rules?) and conventions? A number of philosophers have suggested that there is some kind of conceptual or constitutive relation between them. Some hold that conventions are or entail special kinds of norms (the ?conventions-as-norms thesis?). Others hold that at least some norms are or entail special kinds of conventions (the ?norms-as-conventions thesis?). We argue that both theses are false. Norms and conventions are crucially different conceptually and functionally in (...)
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  7. The Feasibility Issue.Nicholas Southwood - 2018 - Philosophy Compass 13 (8):e12509.
    It is commonly taken for granted that questions of feasibility are highly relevant to our normative thinking – and perhaps especially our normative thinking about politics. But what exactly does this preoccupation with feasibility amount to, and in what forms if any is it warranted? This article aims to provide a critical introduction to, and clearer characterization of, the feasibility issue. I begin by discussing the question of how feasibility is to be understood. I then turn to the question of (...)
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  8.  70
    Feasibility as a Constraint on ‘Ought All-Things-Considered’, But Not on ‘Ought as a Matter of Justice’?Nicholas Southwood - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (276):598-616.
    It is natural and relatively common to suppose that feasibility is a constraint on what we ought to do all-things-considered but not a constraint on what we ought to do as a matter of justice. I show that the combination of these claims entails an implausible picture of the relation between feasibility and desirability given an attractive understanding of the relation between what we ought to do as a matter of justice and what we ought to do all-things-considered.
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  9. Democracy as a Modally Demanding Value.Nicholas Southwood - 2013 - Noûs 47 (2):504-521.
    Imperialism seems to be deeply antithetical to democracy. Yet, at least one form of imperialism – what I call “hands-off imperialism" – seems to be perfectly compatible with the kind of self-governance commonly thought to be the hallmark of democracy. The solution to this puzzle is to recognize that democracy involves more than self-governance. Rather, it involves what I call self-rule. Self-rule is an example of what Philip Pettit has called a modally demanding value. Modally demanding values are, roughly, values (...)
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  10. Promises and Trust.Daniel Friedrich & Nicholas Southwood - 2011 - In Hanoch Sheinman (ed.), Promises and Agreements: Philosophical Essays. Oxford University Press.
    In this article we develop and defend what we call the “Trust View” of promissory obligation, according to which making a promise involves inviting another individual to trust one to do something. In inviting her trust, and having the invitation accepted (or at least not rejected), one incurs an obligation to her not to betray the trust that one has invited. The distinctive wrong involved in breaking a promise is a matter of violating this obligation. We begin by explicating the (...)
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  11.  26
    How to Cancel the Knobe Effect: The Role of Sufficiently Strong Moral Censure.Matthew Lindauer & Nicholas Southwood - forthcoming - American Philosophical Quarterly.
    Empirical support is offered for the claim that the original Knobe effect, whereby our intentional action ascriptions exhibit certain asymmetries in light of our moral attitudes, can be successfully cancelled. This is predicted by the view that the Knobe effect can be explained in purely pragmatic terms (Adams and Steadman 2004a, 2004b, 2007). However, previous cancelling studies (Adams and Steadman 2007; Nichols and Ulatowski 2007) have failed to identify evidence of cancellability. The key to the successful cancelling strategy presented here (...)
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  12. Contractualism and Radical Pluralism.Nicholas Southwood - 2019 - Journal of Moral Philosophy 16 (2):225-238.
    Abstract: How should contractualists seek to accommodate and respond to the existence of radical pluralism within contemporary liberal states? Ryan Muldoon has recently argued that a) the dominant Kantian liberal model of contractualism is hopelessly ill equipped to do so but that b) there is a particular kind of Hobbesian contractualism that can do much better. I raise some problems concerning the capacity of Muldoonian contractualism to respond appropriately to the problem of radical pluralism. I then propose a very different (...)
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  13. Contractualism for Us As We Are.Nicholas Southwood - forthcoming - Philosophy and Phenomenological Research.
    A difficult problem for contractualists is how to provide an interpretation of the contractual situation that is both subject to appropriately stringent constraints and yet also appropriately sensitive to certain features of us as we actually are. My suggestion is that we should embrace a model of contractualism that is structurally analogous to the “advice model” of the ideal observer theory famously proposed by Michael Smith (1994; 1995). An advice model of contractualism is appealing since it promises to deliver a (...)
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  14. Ability and Volitional Incapacity.Nicholas Southwood & Pablo Gilabert - 2016 - Journal of Ethics and Social Philosophy 10 (3):1-8.
    The conditional analysis of ability faces familiar counterexamples involving cases of volitional incapacity. An interesting response to the problem of volitional incapacity is to try to explain away the responses elicited by such counterexamples by distinguishing between what we are able to do and what we are able to bring ourselves to do. We argue that this error-theoretic response fails. Either it succeeds in solving the problem of volitional incapacity at the cost of making the conditional analysis vulnerable to obvious (...)
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  15. Laws as Conventional Norms.Nicholas Southwood - forthcoming - In D. Plunkett, S. Shapiro & K. Toh (eds.), Legal Norms, Ethical Norms: New Essays on Meta-Ethics and Jurisprudence. Oxfprd University Press.
    A persistent worry concerning conventionalist accounts of law is that such accounts are ill equipped to account for law’s special normativity. I offer a particular kind of conventionalist account that is based on the practice-dependent account of conventional norms I have offered elsewhere and consider whether it is vulnerable to the Normativity Objection. I argue that it isn’t. It can account for all the ways in which law can justly claim to be normative. While there are ways of being normative (...)
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  16. The Motivation Question.Nicholas Southwood - 2016 - Philosophical Studies 173 (12):3413-3430.
    How does it happen that our beliefs about what we ought to do cause us to intend to do what we believe we ought to do? This is what John Broome calls the "motivation question." Broome’s answer to the motivation question is that we can bring ourselves, by our own efforts, to intend to do what we believe we ought to do by exercising a special agential capacity: the capacity to engage in what he calls enkratic reasoning. My aim is (...)
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  17. Constructivism and the Normativity of Practical Reason.Nicholas Southwood - 2018 - In K. Jones & F. Schroeter (eds.), The Many Moral Rationalisms. Oxford University Press.
    Constructivists hold that truths about practical reasons are to be explained in terms of truths about the correct exercise of practical reason (rather than vice versa). But what is the normative status of the correctness-defining standards of practical reason? The problem is that constructivism appears to presuppose the truth of two theses that seem hard to reconcile. First, for constructivism to be remotely plausible, the relevant standards must be genuinely (and not merely formally or minimally) normative. Second, to avoid circularity, (...)
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  18. Republican Justice.Nicholas Southwood - 2015 - Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy 18 (6):669-678.
    I raise three objections to Pettit’s republican account of justice: 1) that it fails to account adequately for the role of certain values such as substantive fairness; 2) that it represents an uncomfortable hybrid of egalitarianism and sufficientarianism; and 3) that it fails Pettit’s own “eyeball test”. I then conclude in a more constructive vein, speculating about the kind of account of justice it is supposed to be and suggesting that, construed a certain way, it may have resources for answering (...)
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