• Practical Reasons and Moral "Ought"
    Oxford Studies in Metaethics 2 172-199. 2007.
  •  22
    The Evaluative Content of Emotion
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 85 75-86. 2019.
    The content of emotion sometimes seems to be conflated with its object, but we can distinguish between content and object on the model of Fregean sense versus reference. Fear, for instance, refers to something the subject of fear is afraid of and represents that object of fear as dangerous, so that the emotion can be said to have evaluative content. Here I attempt to clarify and defend my view of emotional discomfort or other affect as what does the evaluating. Some current accounts of the unple…Read more
  •  1
    P.S. Greenspan uses the treatment of moral dilemmas as the basis for an alternative view of the structure of ethics and its relation to human psychology. In its treatment of the role of emotion in ethics the argument of the book outlines a new way of packing motivational force into moral meaning that allows for a socially based version of moral realism.
  •  121
    Impulse and self-reflection: Frankfurtian responsibility versus free will (review)
    The Journal of Ethics 3 (4): 325-341. 1999.
    Harry Frankfurt''s early work makes an important distinction between moral responsibility and free will. Frankfurt begins by focusing on the notion of responsibility, as supplying counterexamples to the principle of alternative possibilities; he then turns to an apparently independent account of free will, in terms of his well-known hierarchy of desires. But the two notions seem to reestablish contact in Frankfurt''s later discussion of issues and cases. The present article sets up a putative Fr…Read more
  •  11
    Emotions and Reasons: An Inquiry into Emotional Justification
    Philosophy and Phenomenological Research 51 (3): 716-719. 1991.
  •  251
    Behavior control and freedom of action
    Philosophical Review 87 (April): 225-40. 1978.
  • Practical Reasons and Moral "
    In Russ Shafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics: Volume Ii, Clarendon Press. 2007.
  •  32
    Moral responses and moral theory: Socially-based externalist ethics (review)
    The Journal of Ethics 2 (2): 103-122. 1998.
    The paper outlines a view called social (or two-level) response-dependency as an addition to standard alternatives in metaethics that allows for a position intermediate between standard versions of internalism and externalism on the question of motivational force. Instead of taking psychological responses as either directly supplying the content of ethics (as on emotivist or sentimentalist accounts) or as irrelevant to its content (as in classical versions of Kantian or utilitarian ethics), the …Read more
  •  171
    Genes, electrotransmitters, and free will
    In Patricia S. Greenspan, David Wasserman & Robert Wachbroit (eds.), Genetics and Criminal Behavior: Methods, Meanings, and Morals, Cambridge University Press. 2001.
    There seems to be evidence of a genetic component in criminal behavior. It is widely agreed not to be "deterministic"--by which discussions outside philosophy seem to mean that by itself it is not sufficient to determine behavior. Environmental factors make a decisive difference--for that matter, there are nongenetic biological factors--in whether and how genetic.
  •  17
    The language of evolutionary biology and psychology is built on concepts applicable in the first instance to individual strategic rationality but extended to the level of genetic explanation. Current discussions of mental disorders as evolutionary adaptations would apply that extended language back to the individual level, with potentially problematic moral/political implications as well as possibilities of confusion. This paper focuses on one particularly problematic area: the explanation of wo…Read more
  •  59
  •  104
    Philosophy of action: 5 questions
    In J. H. Aguilar & A. A. Buckareff (eds.), Philosophy of action: 5 questions, Automatic Press/vip. 2000.
    Like many people, I was initially attracted to free will issues – at first embracing hard determinism, as part of a general rejection of doctrines associated with religion, though exposure to Kant’s views in my first philosophy course made me begin to consider nonreligious grounds for an indeterminist conception of free action. Of course, Kant also takes belief in God and immortality as presupposed by moral agency, but I was never much moved by those arguments. On free will, though, I thought se…Read more
  •  51
    Identificatory love
    Philosophical Studies 50 (3). 1986.
  •  2
    Guilt as an Identificatory Mechanism
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 74 (1): 46-59. 1993.
  •  47
    VII. Emotions, Rationality, and Mind/Body1: Patricia Greenspan
    Royal Institute of Philosophy Supplement 52 113-125. 2003.
    There are now quite a number of popular or semi-popular works urging rejection of the old opposition between rationality and emotion. They present evidence or theoretical arguments that favour a reconception of emotions as providing an indispensable basis for practical rationality. Perhaps the most influential is neuroanatomist Antonio Damasio's Descartes' Error, which argues from cases of brain lesion and other neurological causes of emotional deficit that some sort of emotional ‘marking,’ of m…Read more
  •  92
    The role of emotions in ethics is often taken by philosophers and others as antithetical to rationality. On the most basic level (in undergraduate philosophy exams and elsewhere), stating an opinion in the form "I feel that p" can be a way of sidestepping the demand for reasons. But emotions can sometimes also be seen as supplying reasons for moral judgment to the extent that they involve evaluations--and a way of communicating them across different moral perspectives.
  •  72
    Resting content: Sensible satisficing?
    American Philosophical Quarterly 46 (4). 2009.
    Suppose I am now making plans for next summer’s vacation. I can spend a week in Rome or on the Riviera, but not both. Either choice would be excellent, but after weighing various pros and cons, I decide that for my purposes Rome would be better. If I am rational, then, I must choose Rome. It is an assumption of standard decision theory that rationality requires maximizing: trying to get the maximum amount of whatever form of value we are after (usually construed as “utility”). An alternative has…Read more
  •  246
    An imperfect duty such as the duty to aid those in need is supposed to leave leeway for choice as to how to satisfy it, but if our reason for a certain way of satisfying it is our strongest, that leeway would seem to be eliminated. This paper defends a conception of practical reasons designed to preserve it, without slighting the binding force of moral requirements, though it allows us to discount certain moral reasons. Only reasons that offer criticism of alternatives can yield requirements, bu…Read more
  •  28
    The language of evolutionary biology and psychology is built on concepts applicable in the first instance to individual strategic rationality but extended to the level of genetic explanation. Current discussions of mental disorders as evolutionary adaptations would apply that extended language back to the individual level, with potentially problematic moral/political implications as well as possibilities of confusion. This paper focuses on one particularly problematic area: the explanation of wo…Read more
  •  197
    Free will and the genome project
    Philosophy and Public Affairs 22 (1): 31-43. 1993.
    Popular and scientific accounts of the U.S. Human Genome Project often express concern about the implications of the project for the philosophic question of free will and responsibility. However, on its standard construal within philosophy, the question of free will versus determinism poses no special problems in relation to genetic research. The paper identifies a variant version of the free will question, free will versus internal constraint, that might well pose a threat to notions of individ…Read more
  •  15
    Emotions as evaluations
    Pacific Philosophical Quarterly 62 (2): 158-169. 1981.
  •  10
    Twentieth Century Ethics
    with Roger N. Hancock
    Philosophical Review 85 (3): 394. 1976.
  •  222
    Practical reasoning and emotion
    In Alfred R. Mele & Piers Rawling (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Rationality, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2004.
    The category of emotions covers a disputed territory, but clear examples include fear, anger, joy, pride, sadness, disgust, shame, contempt and the like. Such states are commonly thought of as antithetical to reason, disorienting and distorting practical thought. However, there is also a sense in which emotions are factors in practical reasoning, understood broadly as reasoning that issues in action. At the very least emotions can function as "enabling" causes of rational decision-making (despit…Read more
  •  134
    Learning emotions and ethics
    In Peter Goldie (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Emotion, Oxford University Press. 2010.
    Innate emotional bases of ethics have been proposed by authors in evolutionary psychology, following Darwin and his sources in eighteenth-century moral philosophy. Philosophers often tend to view such theories as irrelevant to, or even as tending to undermine, the project of moral philosophy. But the importance of emotions to early moral learning gives them a role to play in determining the content of morality. I argue, first, that research on neural circuits indicates that the basic elements or…Read more