Wednesday, August 13, 2008


I've returned from RoME and can say that it was maybe the most enjoyable conference experience I've ever had. Learned tons, met many fantastic folks, caught up with other fantastic folks that I haven't seen in years, and drank beer. Sayre-McCord gave a nice talk on moral dilemmas. I'm not yet sure what to think about 'real' dilemmas, but part of me hopes that morality doesn't vindicate this sentiment:
"Now if somebody wants to sue us, they have an option to sue, but I'm fairly certain that a judge will see it the way the way the citizens see it here," Mayor James Valley said. "The citizens deserve peace, that some infringement on constitutional rights is OK and we have not violated anything as far as the Constitution."

(Not that I'm not sympathetic to the chief's plight, mind you, but I'd rather hope the Constitution feels violated when constitutional rights are infringed and hope also that when this happens we appreciate that we have a choice to make.)

I thought that the session on detachment went pretty well. It's a damn complicated set of issues to deal with, but I'm now more convinced than ever that the wide-scoper's story will play an important part in dealing with these issues. I'm also somewhat inclined to think that some of the points made about pragmatic implicature in Mark's paper are correct. I don't yet see that it's wrong to combine bits and pieces from his view and mine. Whatever we say about this sort of thing, I hope it's not this. If Mustard intends to kill Green knowing that battering him with the candlestick is the necessary means but doesn't adopt those means as his, what's wrong with him in our eyes isn't that he's not hitting enough people with candlesticks.

The poster session went well, too. I chatted with a few folks, but didn't manage to chat with others about their posters as I was tied to my table.

Each of the talks I attended were pretty darn good. Unsurprisingly, Norcross' commentary on Smilansky's paper was the most entertaining. (I'm not yet entirely sure it's a fair reading of Kant to say that Kant thought people ought to kill themselves before they masturbate, but I'd not be surprised if his attitudes were close to something like this.) I learned from Heathwood that the cost of adopting a philosophical theory is that you should be willing to get pissed on from time to time. I enjoyed Kelly Sorensen's defense of "moral dualism" immensely, but I thought Pekka Vayrynen, Dale Dorsey, David Shoemaker, and Doug Portmore gave fantastic talks.

There was something odd about the conference. There was no posturing, no ego, people seemed to take questions and objections as real opportunities for discussion, and people seemed to raise questions and offer objections in the same spirit. Was it the elevation? The hordes of hippies? The topical nature of the conference? I have no idea, but I'm dying to go again next year. So, please, don't send papers. I want to be on the program.


Errol Lord said...

(1), (2) and (3) seem compatible to me:

(1) What's wrong with Mustard is that he's not intending to hit Green with candlesticks.

(2) Mustard would be doing something wrong if he intended to hit Green with candlesticks.

(3) Mustard objectively ought not to intend to hit Green with candlesticks.

You obviously don't offer an argument here, but it sounds to me like you're implicating that either (2) or (3) is incompatible with (1). And since (2) and (3) seem to be obviously true, (1) must be false. But that is too fast I think.

Clayton said...

I'm interested in the 'force' intuition that's supposed to be trouble for the wide-scopers. In judging that he's irrational, (I say) we think that he's a way he oughtn't be. I don't think _we_ judge that he's a way he oughtn't be for not intending to adopt the means necessary to his intended end. I think we judge that he's a way he oughtn't be in virtue of his incoherence.

Clayton said...

Sorry, as a second point, could you say more about how to combine (1) and (3)? If we as outsiders judge (3), wouldn't we be disinclined to accept (1) as well? I suppose that depends on whether you think the 'ought' is understood in its all things considered sense or whether it corresponds to some merely prima facie 'ought'. However, I don't think it's true that outside observers think that there's even so much as a prima facie reason for Mustard to adopt the means necessary for his intended end or the means necessary for bringing about what an agent judges he ought to.

Errol Lord said...

I'm not sure what you mean by the 'force' intuition.

But let me point out that if the wide-scope view is correct, then (1')-(3') will be true in the following good case. Ketchup knows that he ought to choose envelope one and he knows that a necessary means to choosing envelope one is intending to choose envelope one. But instead of intending to choose envelope one, he instead ceases to believe that he ought to choose envelope one.

(1') What's right about Ketchup is that he doesn't have the following set of attitudes: [believe that he ought to choose envelope one, believe that a necessary means to choosing envelope one is intending to choose envelope one].

(2') Mustard would be doing something right if he intended to choose envelope one.

(3') Mustard objectively ought to intend to choose envelope one.

If (1') is compatible with (2') and (3'), then why isn't (1) compatible with (2) and (3)?

I have something to say about the second comment, but it will have to wait for now.

Errol Lord said...

Ooops, obviously 'Mustard' should be replaced by 'Ketchup' in (2') and (3').

Errol Lord said...

If we as outsiders judge (3), wouldn't we be disinclined to accept (1) as well?

We oughtn't be inclined to judge (3) and to judge that the thing that's wrong with Mustard by not intending to hit Green with candlesticks is the same type of thing that's wrong with him if he does intend to hit Green with candlesticks. Mustard subjectively ought to intend to hit Green. So he is doing something subjectively wrong when he fails to do this.

But this is just the statement of the view. There is a separate issue as to whether subjective oughts are normative. I think they are. Here is an impressionistic reason to think so. Consider how we give advice. Suppose you are Mustard's beneficent advisor, and you come to know that he intends to kill Green and believes that hitting him with candlesticks is a necessary means to this end. If you're a good advisor, you are going to advise Mustard to give up his intention to kill Green. The obvious reason why, of course, is that there are weighty reasons not to kill Green. But I don't think that's enough to explain the urgency the advisor would feel to get Mustard to give up her intention. This is because we recognize that correct deliberation has a certain structure, and given Mustard's attitudes, he ought to form an intention to hit Green with candlesticks. Since we know this is bad--i.e. not supported by the weight of objective reasons--there is certain type of felt urgency. I think that the best way to capture this urgency is by making the requirements narrow-scope.

N.B. That was very shaky; and I'm not very happy with it. But I'll put it out there all the same.