By In Ideas, Normative Ethics, Practical reasons, Value Theory Comments (4)


I have a test case that I’d like to get responses to, one that tests a certain kind of utilitarian intuition, mixed however, with an interesting conflating factor.

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By In Featured Authors, Ideas, Political Philosophy Comments (0)

New Book Forum: Republic of Equals (Guest Post by Alan Thomas)

[What follows is a post by Alan Thomas, presenting a central argument from his new book Republic of Equals (OUP), available here. Please feel free to join in on the discussion. Alan is from the UK, so don’t be thrown off by his alarmingly different spellings of “defense,” “characterized,” and “nationalized.”]


Republic of Equals: Pre-distribution and Property-Owning Democracy is the first book length defence of property owning democracy as part of a tradition of egalitarianism that could reasonably be called wealth, or asset, based (as opposed to income based). (Thomas, 2017) Asset based egalitarianism is not some exotic breed of egalitarianism with which we are familiar only at the level of theory: from Land Grant universities to the federal underwriting of educational loans, from the sale of nationalised industries back to the private sector at an undervalued price to spread share ownership; from the sale of public housing stock into the private sector to the current policy of quantitative easing; in all these cases, asset based policies have had a pervasive and deep impact on inequality. (Atkinson, 2015; Hockett, 2017) However, as a perusal of this list shows, these asset based policies have typically worsened, and not ameliorated, the extensive inequality that has come to characterise the affluent societies of the West in the period from 1970 to the present day. The argument of Republic of Equals is that egalitarians need to reverse this trend and formulate a normative basis for a set of policies that move beyond the orthodox resources of the redistributively funded welfare state.


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By In Featured Philosophers, Ideas, Metaethics, Practical reasons Comments (41)

Roles Ground Reasons; so Internalism is False (by Reid Blackman)

Hi everyone, and thanks to PEA Soup for providing this forum and inviting me to contribute.

1. The Issue

Standard theories on normative reasons rarely mention roles* and their attendant reasons and obligations, and when roles are mentioned, they are accorded derivative normative significance.  The particulars of the theories vary wildly, but the general picture they give is as follows: while there are standards for what constitutes a good parent (and a good doctor, friend, citizen, and so on), these standards are not normative, where ‘normative’ means or entails ‘reason-giving’. The standards of a role ground reasons for its members – the standards become normative – only if some other, more foundational, normative conditions are met. So occupying a role need play no important role in a theory of practical reason. But here, I offer arguments in support of the following thesis.

Role Thesis: By virtue of occupying a role, and by that alone, one has reason to do that which is conducive to achieving the ends of that role and obligations to refrain from doing that which defies the ends of that role.


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By In Announcements, Featured Philosophers Comments (0)

A New Year of Featured Philosophers

Happy New Year!  I am happy to announce that we will have a regular series of Featured Philosophers this spring, and that we will be continue to broaden our line up to include junior professors and graduate students.

The first two posters this year will be Reid Blackman, who is an Assistant Professor at Colgate, and David Beglin, who is a finishing graduate student at UC – Riverside.  Reid’s post on role-based reasons and the problems they cause for reasons-internalists will go up tomorrow, so please stop by then and join the conversation!

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By In Announcements, Featured Authors Comments (0)

Upcoming Features (including Featured Authors)

We wanted to tip you off — and remind you — about a few features upcoming at the Soup in the new year. First, Brad Cokelet has lined up a couple of Featured Philosophers in January he’ll tell you about soon. We also plan to have several journal discussions in the coming year, including from EthicsPhilosophy, Politics, and EconomicsPhilosophy & Public Affairs, and the Oxford Studies series.

We want to remind you of the First Annual PEA Soup Awards. There are numerous awards available, including best posts (for our official contributors), but also best comments (for anyone), and even for posts written elsewhere. We hope that in this New Year these will provide some more incentive to increase regular content on the blog.

Finally, we are introducing yet another new feature (the Soup cannot be stopped, it can only be contained!). We know that many of you are writing books in moral philosophy (which, of course, includes political philosophy, agency and responsibility, moral psychology, etc.), and we’d love to help you draw attention to those books when they’re out (or about to be out). To that end, our new Featured Authors series invites those with new books being published to write posts discussing a main argument in that book that we can then discuss. Authors can link to the book — likely causing a huge spike in sales and the crashing of the website — and authors will also be providing another source of discussion for PEA Soup. Mutual backscratching. If you thus have a book just out or forthcoming you’d like to talk about on the Soup, therefore, please let either of the Davids (Shoemaker or Sobel) know, and we’ll set it up. THIS INVITATION IS NOT RESTRICTED TO OFFICIAL PEA SOUP CONTRIBUTORS! It goes out to all of those in our audience who are working in the field.

Our first featured author will be Victor Tadros, whose new book Wrongs and Crimes has just been published by OUP. His discussion will occur the first week of February.

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By In Announcements Comments (13)

The Death of Derek Parfit

“When I believed the Non-Reductionist View, I also cared more about my inevitable death. After my death, there will [be] no one living who will be me. I can now redescribe this fact. Though there will later be many experiences, none of these experiences will be connected to my present experiences by chains of such direct connections ….  My death will break the more direct relations between my present experiences and future experiences, but it will not break various other relations. This is all there is to the fact that there will be no one living who will be me. Now that I have seen this, my death seems to me less bad…. When I review the arguments for this belief, and reconvince myself, this for a while stuns my natural concern for the future…. Thinking hard about these arguments removes the glass wall between me and others. And, as I have said, I care less about my death. … Can this matter all that much?” (R&P, 281-82)

These are of course the words of Derek Parfit, in Reasons and Persons. Parfit, who died last night, was, in the estimation of many us, perhaps the greatest moral philosopher in our midst. Regardless of whether his death mattered to him, in the end, it matters to the rest of us quite a bit, and it casts a pall on the start of this New Year.

Many of us were deeply influenced by his powerful and broad writings. Others will have tales of his generosity, kindness, and gentleness. We welcome all such stories and remembrances below.



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By In Ideas, Moral Psychology, Normative Ethics, Value Theory Comments (3)

Madame Bovary’s Predicament

In this little exercise in analytic existentialism, I’m going to contrast two kinds of stories we can live through, and suggest that the transition from one to the other is both something most of us will experience and a major challenge for finding our lives meaningful. In the sphere of personal relationships, the first kind of story is exemplified by Jane Austen’s novels (among many others), and the second by the setup of Flaubert’s Madame Bovary (among others). I’ll label them Adventure and Service, respectively. Though we’re at least culturally conditioned to prefer the first, there is meaning to be found in both – but perhaps only on condition that we succeed in each of them.

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