Freedom, Reason and a Quantifier-Shift Fallacy
Charles R. Pigden (University of Otago)

October 12, 2022, 4:00pm - 6:00pm
Center of International Philosophy, Beijing Normal University at Zhuhai



Beijing Normal University

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Center of International Philosophy International Speaker Series

Date: October 12th, 2022 - 4pm China Standard Time

Speaker: Associate Professor Charles Pigden (University of Otago, New Zealand)

Title: Freedom, Reason and a Quantifier-Shift Fallacy

Abstract: The central argument of Kant’s Groundwork can be construed as a response to a problem that arises out of the dialectic between the British sentimentalists and their rationalist opponents. The problem is that given a supposed conceptual truth about the nature of the moral facts (to which both the British rationalists the later ‘critical’ Kant subscribed) they are all menaced by the error theory unless they can show that human beings (and rational agents generally) can be motivated to do the right thing on the basis of reason alone. The thesis is that the basic moral facts, if any, would have to be both accessible to reason and necessarily (but defeasibly) motivating to any conceivable rational agent whatever, in virtue of that agent’s rationality. The problem is how to vindicate the existence of such facts against the Slavery of Reason Thesis without resorting to brute necessities. My claim is that Kant’s ingenious attempt to do so fails because of a quantifier-shift fallacy.

Bio: Charles Pigden is originally British but did his doctorate at La Trobe University, Melbourne, Australia. Since 1988 he has  taught at the University of Otago, Dunedin, New Zealand. He has published on a wide variety of topics from the Philosophy of Mathematics and the metaphysics of truthmakers to the novels of Jane Austen. However, he is principally known for his work on Bertrand Russell (especially Russell's ethics), on the Philosophy of Conspiracy Theories, and on Is, Ought and the Naturalistic Fallacy.   Relevantly perhaps, he is the co-author of the SEP entry on Imre Lakatos, was a political activist for fourteen years, and has been an avid reader of history since about the age of eight.

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