Category Archives: Philosophy

Moral Judgement and Persistent Disagreement

L. Jaffro (2019). Jugement moral et désaccord persistant. Archives de philosophie, 82(2), 233-253.

The aim is to clarify the conditions of real disagreement in the epistemology of moral judgements. It would seem that moral subjectivists can deal with disagreement more easily than realists. The former can refer disagreement to the diversity of individual or social preferences that evaluations express. The latter have difficulties to account for it in contexts where the informational conditions of an evaluation are met. The paper defends a third approach, attentive to the epistemology of evaluation, which puts the emphasis on how moral value judgements are essentially dependent on reasons. In morality as in other areas, judging is, among other things, assuming responsibility for a verdict that is susceptible of being justified.

Harmonic and Disharmonic Views of Trust

L. Jaffro (2018). Harmonic and Disharmonic Views of Trust. Rivista di estetica, 68(2), 11-26.

This paper, at the crossroads of practical and epistemological questions, puts forward a non-standard approach to the study of a set of trust phenomena (trust, trustworthiness, distrust, self-trust, self-distrust) and their interconnectedness. Two paradigmatic approaches to trust – harmonic and disharmonic – are unpacked and shown to be complementary. In contexts where the harmonic view applies, trust phenomena are mutually reinforcing. When the disharmonic view is appropriate, instead, they counterbalance one another. An analysis of Augustine’s De fide rerum quae non videntur helps introducing the former. Each view carries its own conception of the role of institutions in trust. For the harmonic approach, institutions are contexts that reinforce trust silently, whereas for the disharmonic view they are salient objects of trust. The need for an over-arching articulation of these limited views is further highlighted by appeal to another distinction, between background and decision-based forms of trust. This paves the way to what is here termed a metaharmonic theory of trust, a theory sensitive to the difference between the contexts where trust phenomena reinforce or counterbalance one another.

Forgiveness and Weak Agency

L. Jaffro (2019). Forgiveness and Weak Agency. Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 118(1), 107-125.

Forgiveness involves a process, not an isolated act or decision. The initial step lies within the voluntary control of the forgiver. The immediate outcome of the commitment to forgive is the formation of a new context that modifies some of the circumstances for the forgiver as well as for the wrongdoer. Further consequences, notably changes in the forgiver’s desires and feelings, cannot be brought about directly. A sound account of forgiveness should focus on its intertemporal structure and highlight the relation between the initial commitment and the subsequent process.

Online Interactions and the Concept of Trust

L. Jaffro (2018). Interactions en ligne et concept de confiance. In M. Doueihi and J. Domenicucci, La confiance à l’ère numérique. Paris: Berger Levrault & éditions Rue d’Ulm, 33-62.

The chapter discusses the challenges of applying the concept of trust in the context of online interactions, and proceeds as follows: After an introductory section that combines methodological considerations with the presentation of the concept of practical trust, a second section defends the thesis that a form of trust, systemic trust, distinct from trust as a bet, is a major issue in online interactions;  systemic trust is closely linked to epistemic trust. The final section shows how this analysis may shed new light on barriers to online trust and some practical as well as theoretical problems.

Practical Irrationality and Anticipatory Self-Command

L. Jaffro (2016). Irrationalité pratique et contrôle de soi par anticipation. Philonsorbonne, 10, 131-152.

What could an ethics for weak agents look like? The weakness envisaged here is not contingent, but constitutional. If we assume that practical irrationality, understood as the consequence of a gap between evaluation and motivation, is a background condition and not a pathological exception, several traditional questions of moral philosophy arise in a new light: (a) What is the use of the ‘better self’ perspective in moral life? In what sense is the self multiple? (b) What techniques can agents who do not have a high degree of self-command mobilize? (c) How can freedom, autonomy and the role of voluntary commitments be conceived under this pessimistic assumption?

Are Moral Reasons Response-Dependent?

L. Jaffro, Are Moral Reasons Response-Dependent? (2015). Philinq—Philosophical Inquiries (ETS), 3(2), 17-34.

Some moral realists draw on the analogy between colours and values in order to claim that ‘desirability’ is a quality to which agents are sensitive under ideal conditions. The paper sets out objections to Michael Smith’s view that moral reasons are response-dependent and that they constitute the kind of reasons which would motivate ideal agents. The agent’s response to what appears to him or her morally desirable or morally mandatory is not a response in the same sense that our perception of a colour is a response to a disposition in the object to produce that perception. For a responsible agent appreciates values and reasons in the light of a plurality of moral considerations.

Common Sense, Pragmatic Inconsistency, and the Possibility of Scepticism. Contra Reid

L. Jaffro (2010). Rétorsion du sens commun et possibilité du scepticisme. Contre Reid. In M. Cohen-Halimi and H. L’Heuillet, Comment peut-on être sceptique ?. Paris: Honoré Champion, 93-116.

This essays aims at assessing the ad hominem argument from common sense used by Thomas Reid, particularly against David Hume, and claims that the argument does not prove that scepticism is impossible. Attention is drawn to two difficulties in Reid’s attack against the sceptic. The first difficulty lies in Reid’s joint use of two  different conceptions of common sense: an intuitionist conception that equates common sense with a set of primitive intuitions and ‘first principles’ evident by themselves; a pragmatic conception that sees in common sense a sensitivity to norms, most often implicit, of practice and communication. In the pragmatic conception, a second difficulty lies in the tacit identification between two dialectical arguments that can be called, following Perelman’s ‘new rhetoric’, the argument from direct inconsistency and the pragmatic argument (pointing out indirect inconsistency). The last section draws on John Mackie’s logical analysis of various forms of alleged self-refutation to criticise the ad hominem argument against the sceptic.

‘Scientific Persecution’ and the Argument from Common Sense

L. Jaffro (2009). L’argument du sens commun et la ‘persécution des scientifiques’. Philosophiques. Revue de la Société de philosophie du Québec, 36(1), 131-147.

Drawing mainly on An Essay on Philosophical Method (1933) and on The New Leviathan (1942), this paper sets out R. G. Collingwood’s main arguments against G. E. Moore’s appeal to common sense. According to The New Leviathan, the recourse to common sense as a safeguard against scepticism or idealism leads to ‘scientific persecution’ and ‘obscurantism’. That view might be considered as excessive. However, after a close examination of the structure of the argument from common sense, Collingwood’s critique appears to be relevant. This does not prevent him from using the notion of common sense, understood as a set of basic beliefs. There is no contradiction here, provided that we distinguish the notion of common sense from the argument from common sense.

The Objects of Education: What Ontology?

L. Jaffro (2007). Les objets de l’éducation : quelle ontologie? Revue de métaphysique et de morale, 56(4), 429-448.

The paper deals with the ontological status of the objects of education and takes a realistic stance on this issue. A typology that stresses differences between various kinds of skills and objects is outlined. The author argues that the objects of education, though not identical to the objects of knowledge, depend on them, so that learning processes must not be construed in a subjectivist or skeptical way. This ontological standpoint casts light on the significance of taste and sensitivity in the context of education.

From Hermeneutics to Common Sense. Stanley Rosen on Precomprehension

L. Jaffro (2006). From Hermeneutics to Common Sense. Stanley Rosen on Precomprehension ». In N. Ranasinghe (ed.), Logos and Eros. Essays Honoring Stanley Rosen. South Bend, Ind: St Augustine Press, 36-49.

The chapter defends Stanley Rosen’s claim that hermeneutics presupposes pre-theoretical reason, and analyses the nature of that presupposition. Insofar as they do not use it as a criterion, philosophers are right when they recognize that they must needs necessarily draw on common sense as the medium of mutual understanding and criticism.