•  15
    Two Arguments for Emotivism and a Methodological Moral
    Russell: The Journal of Bertrand Russell Studies 39 5-35. 2020.
    In 1913 Russell gave up on the Moorean good. But since naturalism was not an option, that left two alternatives: the error theory and non-cognitivism. Despite a brief flirtation with the error theory Russell preferred the non-cognitivist option, developing a form of emotivism according to which to say that something is good is to express the desire that everyone should desire it. But why emotivism rather than the error theory? Because emotivism sorts better with Russell’s Fundamental Principle t…Read more
  • Patrick Stokes has argued that although many conspiracy theories are true, we should reject the policy of particularism (that is, the policy of investigating conspiracy theories if they are plausible and believing them if that is what the evidence suggests) and should instead adopt a policy of principled skepticism, subjecting conspiracy theories – or at least the kinds of theories that are generally derided as such – to much higher epistemic standards than their non-conspiratorial rivals, and …Read more
  •  490
    Gerhard Schurz, The Is-Ought Problem: An Investigation in Philosophical Logic
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 79 (4): 578-579. 2001.
    Book Information The Is-Ought Problem: An Investigation in Philosophical Logic. By Gerhard Schurz. Kluwer. Dordrecht. 1997. Pp. x + 332. £92.25.
  •  12
    Hume on Is and Ought
    Philosophy Now 83 18-20. 2011.
  •  4
    Dostoyevsky's Critique of the West (review)
    Philosophy and Literature 12 (1): 133-135. 1988.
  •  193
    Russell's moral philosophy
    Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2007.
    A 27000 word survey of Russell’s ethics for the SEP. I argue that Russell was a meta-ethicist of some significance. In the course of his long philosophical career, he canvassed most of the meta-ethical options that have dominated debate in the Twentieth and Twenty-First Centuries — naturalism, non-naturalism, emotivism and the error-theory (anticipating Stevenson and Ayer on the one hand and Mackie on the other), and even, to some extent, subjectivism and relativism. And though none of his theor…Read more
  •  739
    Logic and the autonomy of ethics
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 67 (2). 1989.
    My first paper on the Is/Ought issue. The young Arthur Prior endorsed the Autonomy of Ethics, in the form of Hume’s No-Ought-From-Is (NOFI) but the later Prior developed a seemingly devastating counter-argument. I defend Prior's earlier logical thesis (albeit in a modified form) against his later self. However it is important to distinguish between three versions of the Autonomy of Ethics: Ontological, Semantic and Ontological. Ontological Autonomy is the thesis that moral judgments, to be true…Read more
  •  303
    This includes a methodological meditation (in blank verse) on the history of philosophy as a contribution to philosophy (rather than as a contribution to history) plus a conspectus of the issues surrounding Hume, the Motivation Argument and the Slavery of Reason Thesis. However I am posting it here mainly because it contains a novel restatement of the Argument from Queerness. Big Thesis: the Slavery of Reason Thesis (via the Motivation Argument) provides no support for non-cognitivism or emoti…Read more
  •  451
    Hume, motivation and “the moral problem”
    Rivista di Storia Della Filosofia 62 (3): 199-221. 2007.
    Hume is widely regarded as the grandfather of emotivism and indeed of non-cognitivism in general. For the chief argument for emotivism - the Argument from Motivation - is derived from him. In my opinion Hume was not an emotivist or proto-emotivist but a moral realist in the modern ‘response-dependent’ style. But my interest in this paper is not the historical Hume but the Hume of legend since the legendary Hume is one of the most influential philosophers of the present age. According to Micha…Read more
  •  455
    A 'Sensible Knave'? Hume, Jane Austen and Mr Elliot
    Intellectual History Review 22 (3): 465-480. 2012.
    This paper deals with what I take to be one woman’s literary response to a philosophical problem. The woman is Jane Austen, the problem is the rationality of Hume’s ‘sensible knave’, and Austen’s response is to deepen the problem. Despite his enthusiasm for virtue, Hume reluctantly concedes in the EPM that injustice can be a rational strategy for ‘sensible knaves’, intelligent but selfish agents who feel no aversion towards thoughts of villainy or baseness. Austen agrees, but adds that ABSENT CO…Read more
  •  341
    Frank Snare had a puzzle. Noncognitivism implies No-Ought-From-Is but No- Ought-From-Is does not imply non-cognitivism. How then can we derive non-cognitivism from No-Ought-From-Is? Via an abductive argument. If we combine non-cognitivism with the conservativeness of logic (the idea that in a valid argument the conclusion is contained in the premises), this implies No-Ought-From-Is. Hence if No-Ought-From-Is is true, we can arrive at non-cognitivism via an inference to the best explanation. Wit…Read more
  •  2923
    Milgram, Method and Morality
    with Grant R. Gillet
    Journal of Applied Philosophy 13 (3): 233-250. 1996.
    Milgram’s experiments, subjects were induced to inflict what they believed to be electric shocks in obedience to a man in a white coat. This suggests that many of us can be persuaded to torture, and perhaps kill, another person simply on the say-so of an authority figure. But the experiments have been attacked on methodological, moral and methodologico-moral grounds. Patten argues that the subjects probably were not taken in by the charade; Bok argues that lies should not be used in research…Read more
  •  19
    The Philosophers' Magazine 53 52-54. 2011.
  •  236
    Review of G.E.Moore’s Ethical Theory by Brian Hutchinson (review)
    International Philosophical Quarterly 543-547. 2004.
    The history of philosophy can be seen either as a contribution to history or a contribution to philosophy or perhaps as a bit of both. Hutchinson fail on both counts. The book is bad: bad in itself (since it quite definitely ought not to be) and bad as a companion to Principia (since it sets students a bad example of slapdash, lazy and pretentious philosophizing and would tend to put them off reading Moore). As a conscientious reviewer I ploughed through every page and I have to say that I rese…Read more
  •  1775
    Conspiracy theories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic ‘oughts’ that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. I argue that the policy of systematically doubting or disbelieving conspiracy theories would be both a political disaster and the epistemic equivalen…Read more
  •  531
    Identifying Goodness
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 90 (1). 2012.
    The paper reconstructs Moore's Open Question Argument (OQA) and discusses its rise and fall. There are three basic objections to the OQA: Geach's point, that Moore presupposes that ?good? is a predicative adjective (whereas it is in fact attributive); Lewy's point, that it leads straight to the Paradox of Analysis; and Durrant's point that even if 'good' is not synonymous with any naturalistic predicate, goodness might be synthetically identical with a naturalistic property. As against Geach, I …Read more
  •  3102
    Conspiracy Theories and the Conventional Wisdom
    Episteme 4 (2): 219-232. 2007.
    Abstract Conspiracy theories should be neither believed nor investigated - that is the conventional wisdom. I argue that it is sometimes permissible both to investigate and to believe. Hence this is a dispute in the ethics of belief. I defend epistemic “oughts” that apply in the first instance to belief-forming strategies that are partly under our control. But the beliefforming strategy of not believing conspiracy theories would be a political disaster and the epistemic equivalent of selfmutilat…Read more
  •  272
    Annette Baier (1929–2012)
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 91 (1). 2013.
    No abstract
  •  2
    _Russell on Ethics_ presents a coherent and comprehensive collection of Russell's ethical writings, drawing on a wide range of his publications on ethical concerns, many of which have been difficult to access by students and general readers. Charles Pigden provides an accessible introduction to the papers, situating them within the field of ethics as a whole and detailed annotations on the papers themselves, analysing their arguments and exploring their relevance to current concerns. _Russell on…Read more
  •  139
    Review of The Social and Political Thought of Bertrand Russell by Philip Ironside (review)
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 75 (2): 257-259. 1997.
    I take a dim view of this absurdly overpraised book, marred as it is is by errors of fact, interpretation and method and surprisingly uniformed (as it appears to be) about Russian history. It shows what can go wrong with Skinnerite intellectual history in the hands of somebody less gifted than Skinner himself.
  • LOVIBOND, S.: "Realism and Imagination in Ethics" (review)
    Australasian Journal of Philosophy 62 (n/a): 315. 1984.
  •  149
    I argue 1) That in his celebrated Is/Ought passage, Hume employs ‘deduction’ in the strict sense, according to which if a conclusion B is justly or evidently deduced from a set of premises A, A cannot be true and B false, or B false and the premises A true. 2) That Hume was following the common custom of his times which sometimes employed ‘deduction’ in a strict sense to denote inferences in which, in the words of Dr Watts’ Logick, ‘the premises, according to the reason of things, do really con…Read more
  •  651
    Analytic Philosophy (Alternative title 'Analytic Atheism?')
    In Stephen Bullivant & Michael Ruse (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Atheism, Oxford University Press. pp. 307-319. 2013.
    Most analytic philosophers are atheists, but is there a deep connection between analytic philosophy and atheism? The paper argues a) that the founding fathers of analytic philosophy were mostly teenage atheists before they became philosophers; b) that analytic philosophy was invented partly because it was realized that the God-substitute provided by the previously fashionable philosophy - Absolute Idealism – could not cut the spiritual mustard; c) that analytic philosophy developed an unhea…Read more
  •  203
    Hume on Is and Ought (edited book)
    Palgrave-Macmillan. 2010.
    It ‘seems altogether inconceivable', says Hume, that this ‘new relation' ought ‘can be a deduction' from others ‘which are entirely different from it' The idea that you can't derive an Ought from an Is, moral conclusions from non-moral premises, has proved enormously influential. But what did Hume mean by this famous dictum? Was he correct? How does it fit in with the rest of his philosophy? And what does this suggest about the nature of moral judgements? This collection, the first on this topic…Read more
  •  37
    The Analytic Tradition in Philosophy is an excellent successor to an excellent book : It is a fine an example of the necromantic style in the history of philosophy where the object of the exercise is to resurrect the mighty dead in order to get into an argument with them, either because we think them importantly right or instructively wrong. However what was a pardonable a simplification and a reasonable omission in the earlier book has now metamorphosed into a sin of omission and an oversimplif…Read more