Wednesday, August 29, 2018
Joshua May's Reply
I have received a reply to my previous post from Joshua May, the author of Regard for Reason in the Moral Mind. I post it here in its entirety:
Thank you for sharing this with me and for engaging with the book. From what I can tell, you describe my views accurately and charitably, which I greatly appreciate.
I think you rightly draw out that since my view isn't an extreme caricatured rationalism, my defense of the independence of reason does ultimately depend quite a bit on my anti-Humeanism. But I agree with you that the empirical research is unfortunately not very useful for settling that debate. In that part of the book, I'm largely just on defense, arguing that we don't have any empirical reason to accept Humeanism. But I certainly don't want to claim that only anti-Humeanism is empirically defensible. (Sinhababu in particular does an admirable job.)
It's interesting that you bring up Darwall's Roberta case, because I had written about it but decided to cut it from the book. Partly that's because I don't know how helpful it is to focus on a single hypothetical case. What's going on with Roberta? Well, it's Darwall's fictional case; it's kind of up to him! Of course, if he describes Roberta as having no relevant antecedent desire, then Humeans will say that's either conceptually or empirically impossible. Anti-Humeans will say otherwise. The debate doesn't advance much.
The alternative tack I take is to think more about cases of that sort and empirical research on how moral beliefs motivate generally. Here Chapter 7 is key. There I argue that we have overwhelming empirical evidence that people's moral (more broadly, normative) beliefs play a pervasive role in motivating behavior. Now, Humeans will then have to posit an antecedent desire, but not just any one. They have to posit one in such cases that links up with the moral beliefs. If the moral belief plays a motivational role, then it looks like they have to attribute an antecedent desire to be moral. I don't think that's a terrible result, but it's one they often want to avoid.
At any rate, as I say, I'm ultimately more on the defensive when it comes to my anti-Humeanism. I'm happy if I can resist the apparent consensus that only Humeanism is empirically defensible.