•  513
    I was led to this clarificatory job initially by some puzzlement from a philosopher's standpoint about just why free will questions should come up particularly in connection with the genome project, as opposed to the many other scientific research programs that presuppose determinism. The philosophic concept of determinism involves explanation of all events, including human action, by prior causal factors--so that whether or not human behavior has a genetic basis, it ultimately gets traced back …Read more
  •  272
    In Emotions and Reasons, Patricia Greenspan offers an evaluative theory of emotion that assigns emotion a role of its own in the justification of action. She analyzes emotions as states of object-directed affect with evaluative propositional content possibly falling short of belief and held in mind by generalized comfort or discomfort
  •  251
    Behavior control and freedom of action
    Philosophical Review 87 (April): 225-40. 1978.
  •  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
  •  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
  •  204
    Emotions, rationality, and mind-body
    In Robert C. Solomon (ed.), Thinking About Feeling: Contemporary Philosophers on Emotions, Oxford University Press. pp. 113-125. 2004.
    This paper attempts to connect recent cross-disciplinary treatments of the cognitive or rational significance of emotions with work in contemporary philosophy identifying an evaluative propositional content of emotions. An emphasis on the perspectival nature of emotional evaluations allows for a notion of emotional rationality that does not seem to be available on alternative accounts
  •  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
  •  185
    Responsible psychopaths
    Philosophical Psychology 16 (3). 2003.
    Psychopaths are agents who lack the normal capacity to feel moral emotions (e.g. guilt based on empathy with the victims of their actions). Evidence for attributing psychopathy at least in some cases to genetic or early childhood causes suggests that psychopaths lack free will. However, the paper defends a sense in which psychopaths still may be construed as responsible for their actions, even if their degree of responsibility is less than that of normal agents. Responsibility is understood in S…Read more
  •  183
    Practical Reasons and Moral 'Ought'
    In Russell Schafer-Landau (ed.), Oxford Studies in Metaethics, vol. II, Clarendon Press. pp. 172-194. 2007.
    Morality is a source of reasons for action, what philosophers call practical reasons. Kantians say that it ‘gives’ reasons to everyone. We can even think of moral requirements as amounting to particularly strong or stringent reasons, in an effort to demystify deontological views like Kant’s, with its insistence on inescapable or ‘binding’ moral requirements or ‘oughts.’¹ When we say that someone morally ought not to harm others, perhaps all we are saying is that he has a certain kind of reason n…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.
  •  164
    Craving the Right: Emotions and Moral Reasons
    In Carla Bagnoli (ed.), Morality and the Emotions, Oxford University Press. pp. 39. 2011.
    I first began working on emotions as a project in philosophy of action, without particular reference to moral philosophy. My thought was that emotions have a distinctive role to play in rationality that tends to be underappreciated by philosophers. Bringing this out was meant to counter a widespread tendency to treat emotions as “blind” causes of action (for the general picture, see Greenspan 2009.) Instead, I thought that emotions could be seen as providing reasons. I took their significance as…Read more
  •  150
    Moral dilemmas and guilt
    Philosophical Studies 43 (1). 1983.
    I use a version of the case in "sophie's choice" as an example of the strongest sort of dilemma, With all options seriously wrong, And no permissible way of choosing one of them. This is worse, I argue, Than a choice between conflicting obligations, Where the agent has an overriding obligation "to choose", And does nothing wrong, Once the choice is made, By ignoring one of his prior obligations. Here, "contra" marcus, Guilt seems inappropriate
  •  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
  •  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
  •  105
    The Problem with Manipulation
    American Philosophical Quarterly 40 (2): 155-64. 2003.
    There is a well-known scene from The Adventures of Tom Sawyer that illustrates what might be considered benign manipulation: Tom has the job of whitewashing a fence but would rather spend the time with friends. By feigning enthusiasm for the job he manages to get his friends to hang around and do it for him. They even pay to do it - with various little items that he later trades for..
  •  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
  •  104
    Current treatments of practical rationality understand reasons as considerations counting in favor of or against some practical option, treating the positive and the negative case as symmetrical. Typically the focus is on examples of positive reasons. However, I want to shift the spotlight to negative reasons, as making a tighter or more direct link to rationality — and ultimately to morality, which is what much of the current interest in reasons is meant to clarify. Recognizing a positive/negat…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
  •  72
    Responsible Psychopaths Revisited
    The Journal of Ethics 20 (1-3): 265-278. 2016.
    This paper updates, modifies, and extends an account of psychopaths’ responsibility and blameworthiness that depends on behavioral control rather than moral knowledge. Philosophers mainly focus on whether psychopaths can be said to grasp moral rules as such, whereas it seems to be important to their blameworthiness that typical psychopaths are hampered by impulsivity and other barriers to exercising self-control. I begin by discussing an atypical case, for contrast, of a young man who was diagno…Read more
  •  59
  •  51
    Identificatory love
    Philosophical Studies 50 (3). 1986.
  •  48
    • But this rests on the debatable view that understanding a moral reason implies being motivated to conform to it. Psychopaths do seem to have at least a “rote” or emotionally shallow understanding that their acts are wrong
  •  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
  •  47
    Confabulating the Truth: In Defense of “Defensive” Moral Reasoning
    The Journal of Ethics 19 (2): 105-123. 2015.
    Empirically minded philosophers have raised questions about judgments and theories based on moral intuitions such as Rawls’s method of reflective equilibrium. But they work from the notion of intuitions assumed in empirical work, according to which intuitions are immediate assessments, as in psychologist Jonathan Haidt’s definition. Haidt himself regards such intuitions as an appropriate basis for moral judgment, arguing that normal agents do not reason prior to forming a judgment and afterwards…Read more
  •  43
    Emotions, reasons, and 'self-involvement'
    Philosophical Studies 38 (2). 1980.
  •  39
    Wiggins on historical inevitability and incompatibilism
    Philosophical Studies 29 (April): 235-247. 1976.