Positive and Negative Self-Control
with Juan Pablo Bermúdez, Alfonso Anaya, Gabriela Fernández, and Diego Rodríguez
We argue that the philosophical and psychological literature on self-control has adopted an overly narrow conception of self-control which puts too heavy an emphasis on impulse suppression or resistance of temptations. Our strategy is to pay close attention to an overlooked kind of self-control problem: apathy, i.e. the inability to act in accordance with one’s commitments that is not due to an overpowering wayward motivation, but rather to a lack of motivation. While apathy is acknowledged in the literature as a self-control problem, we believe that its theoretical significance remains under-appreciated. We argue that cases of apathy highlight important aspects of the nature of self-control which have often been sidelined. These cases show that overcoming temptation is neither necessary nor sufficient for successful self-control. This leads to a reinterpretation of what mastery over motivation may consist in, which we believe will be helpful in clarifying where the value of self-control lies.
Fairness and Excuse
Moral responsibility requires that an agent to have a fair opportunity to avoid wrongdoing. This idea is commonplace across jurisprudence literature, philosophical theorizing about responsibility, and everyday our responsibility practices. However, despite the rich literature on fair opportunity views of responsibility, there has been surprisingly little work on what it actually means for an opportunity to be fair. Some authors seem to take it for granted that we all know what it takes for an opportunity to be fair, whereas others intentionally avoid committing to an answer. But unless we identify what it is for an opportunity to be fair, we will not always be able to determine whether someone is morally responsible for her behavior or not. This paper offers an account of fairness within the context of fair opportunity views of responsibility. I then examine how we ought to apply this account to the real world in order to determine what kinds of circumstances ought to count as excusing.
Self-Deception Without the Desire to Believe
This paper defends a motivationist account of self-deception against a certain kind of objection often waged against Alfred Mele’s influential motivationist account. Mele’s account identifies a set of jointly-sufficient conditions for a person to be self-deceived, but critics argue that Mele-style accounts are over-inclusive in what they identify as self-deception. In response to this problem, authors such as Dana Nelkin and Eric Funkhouser defend a slightly different approach: the Desire to Believe account of self-deception. However, I argue that Mele’s more inclusive account is both more theoretically useful and maps better onto everyday intuitions about self-deception. To do this, I use theoretical and experimental evidence to defend two claims. First, I argue that Desire to Believe accounts fail to sort some central cases of self-deception as not self-deception. Second, I defend Mele’s account from the critique that it is over-inclusive. Although authors like Nelkin have used particular counterexamples to show Mele’s conception of self-deception is too broad, my empirical evidence brings the strength of those counterexamples into question. In addition to challenging the Desire to Believe account, I argue that this evidence further undermines the intentionalist project, thus giving us a novel reason to prefer the motivationist picture of self-deception.
Breaking the Tension in Self-Deception
with David Rose
A common objection to motivationist accounts of self-deception is that they are unable to explain the cognitive tension between the truth and the self-deceptive belief that seems inherent to self-deception. Motivationists themselves have largely accepted the terms of this “tension challenge.” They have repeatedly attempted to work tension into their respective motivationist frameworks and judged it to be a crucial fault when an account cannot adequately do so. In this paper, we argue that the tension challenge is fundamentally misguided: tension is not a necessary component of self-deception. To show this, we constructed five test cases where a protagonist appears to be self-deceived despite lacking tension. In every test case, people overwhelmingly agreed that there was no tension. Yet, judgments that the protagonist was self-deceived exceeded 90% in every case. Our findings thus undermine the claim that tension is necessary for self-deception. In light of our results, we argue that motivationism is better equipped than alternatives to capture the concept of self-deception.
Moral Authority in Autobiographical Narrative
The presence of an underlying moral narrative is one of the most prevalent elements of the autobiographical genre. And, it seems prima facie plausible that the author will always have ultimate moral authority over her own autobiographical narrative. One source of this plausibility, for example, comes from the author’s unique epistemic position with regard to her own life’s story. However, I argue that there is no inherent right to moral authority over one’s own narrative. Rather, this pro tanto moral authority stems from a more general right to autonomy—specifically, the sort of autonomy advanced by Andrea Westlund (2015).
Confirmed Agnosticism and Manipulation
Derk Pereboom argues that his four-case manipulation argument provides good evidence for an incompatibilist conclusion about moral responsibility. Michael McKenna, on the other hand, claims that it is rational to maintain an agnostic, compatibilist-friendly intuition across each of Pereboom’s cases. In this paper, I take a closer look at the initial attitudes that it would be rational to maintain in response to Pereboom’s cases. I argue that it is not ultimately rational for the reader to maintain McKenna’s intuition across each of Pereboom’s cases if that reader is also committed to compatibilism. In doing so, I believe that two points should become clear: first, that there is a wider range of reasonable initial attitudes to these cases than Pereboom himself acknowledges; second, that these additional initial attitudes are favorable for incompatibilism.