Monday, September 14, 2009

Scanlon's Locke Lectures 2009 (audio)

Earlier this year, professor Thomas M. Scanlon (Harvard University) held the Locke Lectures 2009 at Oxford University, entitled

Being Realistic about Reasons

You can hear his five lectures here:

Lecture 1: Introduction (mp3)
Lecture 2: Normativity and Metaphysics (mp3)
Lecture 3: Motivation and the Appeal of Expressivism (mp3)
Lecture 4: Epistemological Problems (mp3)
Lecture 5: Normative Structure (mp3)


"The idea that there are irreducibly normative truths about reasons for action, which we can discover by thinking carefully about reasons in the usual way, has been thought to be subject to three kinds of objections: metaphysical, epistemological, and motivational or, as I would prefer to say, practical. Metaphysical objections claim that a belief in irreducibly normative truths would commit us to facts or entities that would be metaphysically odd—incompatible, it is sometimes said, with a scientific view of the world. Epistemological objections maintain that if there were such truths we would have not way of knowing what they are: we could “get in touch with” them only through some strange kind of intuition. Practical objections maintain that if conclusions about what we have reason to do were simply beliefs in a kind of fact, they could not have the practical significance that reasons are commonly supposed to have. This is often put by saying that beliefs alone cannot motivate an agent to act, but it is better put as the claim that beliefs cannot explain action, or make acting rational or irrational in the way that accepting conclusions about reasons is normally thought to do.

I will argue that all of these objections are mistaken. The idea that there are truths about are reasons for action does face serious problems. But these are normative problems—problems internal to the normative domain, whose solutions, if there are such, must themselves be normative."

Thomas Scanlon's latest book is "Moral Dimensions" (Harvard University Press, 2008).

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