How to distinguish public and non-public reasons?

Jaffro, L. (2020). Comment distinguer raisons publiques et raisons non publiques? The Tocqueville Review., 41(1), 41-53.

The paper discusses the distinction between two kinds of reasons, public and non-public, which plays a major role in the way John Rawls sought to respond to communitarian criticisms, and which Catherine Audard revisits to advocate a political philosophy that confronts what she calls cultural fragmentation. Should public reasons be conceived as being of an argumentative nature, quite different from that of non-public reasons? Or should we consider that the difference is primarily between their objects, and contrast the adoption of a policy or line of conduct with beliefs and valuations that may also respond to reasons?

James Dalrymple, 1st Viscount Stair, on Legal Normativity

Jaffro, L. (2020). James Dalrymple, Viscount Stair, on Legal Normativity. In A. Broadie (ed.), Scottish Philosophy in the Seventeenth Century, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 140-157.

The chapter concentrates on Stair’s understanding of laws, whether human-made or divine. Scots law is a particular application of a rational legislation, which ultimately rests upon God’s perfections. However, positive law cannot be entirely derived from natural law, mainly because of the Fall and also for pragmatic reasons. One important aspect of Stair’s contribution to legal and moral philosophy is his distinction between conventional and obediential obligations (from the will of God only), and his account of the principle of ‘engagement’ at work in conventional obligations. Also, Stair’s view that a promise is binding per se, without acceptance by the promisee, deserves attention.

Why Thomas Reid Matters to the Epistemology of the Social Sciences

L. Jaffro & V. França Freitas (2019). Why Thomas Reid Matters to the Epistemology of the Social Sciences. The Philosophical Quarterly, 70(279), 282-301.

Little attention has been paid to the fact that Thomas Reid’s epistemology applies to ‘political reasoning’ as well as to various operations of the mind. Reid was interested in identifying the ‘first principles’ of political science as he did with other domains of human knowledge. This raises the question of the extent to which the study of human action falls within the competence of ‘common sense’. Our aim is to reconstruct and assess Reid’s epistemology of the sciences of social action and to determine how it connects with the fundamental tenets of his general epistemology. In the first part, we portray Reid as a methodological individualist and focus on the status of the first principles of political reasoning. The second part examines Reid’s viHistory of philosophyews on the explanatory power of the principles of human action. Finally, we draw a parallel between Reid’s epistemology and the methodology of Weberian sociology.

Passing the Buck on Values: Parfit and Reasons Fundamentalism

Jaffro, L. (2019). Passing the Buck on Values: Parfit and Reasons Fundamentalism. Revue de Métaphysique et de Morale, 102(2). 

Derek Parfit borrows from T.M. Scanlon his reasons fundamentalism—that is, the idea that the role that defenders of value realism assign to values should be reassigned to reasons. If we follow Parfit in distinguishing between reasons as normative facts and the normatively important facts that give these reasons, a question inevitably arises: How can facts provide reasons? Are reasons to be understood as supervening on natural facts, or as grounded on nonevaluative properties? Or should we understand this relationship differently? Addressing some of the gaps in Parfit’s work on the metaphysics of morality, this paper tackles the issue from an epistemological rather than an ontological point of view.

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.

Locke and Port Royal on Affirmation, Negation, and Other ‘Postures of the Mind’

L. Jaffro (2018). Locke and Port Royal on Affirmation, Negation, and Other ‘Postures of the Mind’. In M. Pécharman and P. Hamou (eds), Locke and Cartesian Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 172-185.

The chapter claims that in order to understand Locke’s doctrine of assent, his philosophy of mind needs to be seen in conjunction with his philosophy of language, which in turn gains from being compared with Port-Royal’s logic and grammar. It points out two conflicting facts in Locke’s account of affirmation and negation in the Essay. First, Locke entrusts affirmation and negation with the task of signifying both the assertion by which we manifest our assent to a proposition and the junction or separation of the ideas constituting the proposition. The other fact is that Locke accepts a great variety of ways of considering a proposition. This diversity of ‘postures’ is poorly expressed by the limited number of syncategorematic terms, ‘particles’. The first fact fosters a one-act view of the assent we give to propositions. The second opens the way to a multiple-act view.

Forgiveness and Weak Agency

L. Jaffro (2018). 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 (eds), 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.

Psychological and Political Balances: The Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s Reading of James Harrington

L. Jaffro (2018). Psychological and Political Balances: The Third Earl of Shaftesbury’s Reading of James Harrington. In P. Müller (ed.), Shaping Enlightenment Politics. The Social and Political Impact of the First and Third Earls of Shaftesbury. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang, 149-162.

The chapter investigates why James Harrington’s vocabulary, especially that of ‘balance’ and of ‘interest’, pervades Shaftesbury’s psychological discourse in Characteristicks. It turns out that the Earl’s discreet use of Harrington was not simply a conniving glance at fellow Old Whigs, unhappy with the conversion of Country to Tory, but that it included broader concerns in terms of a philosophical as well as political agenda. Shaftesbury was sensitive to the way in which Harrington revived the ancient analogy between political constitution and the human soul, constitutional balance and psychological temper, thus reconnecting the question of political justice with that of justice in the individual.

The Passions and Actions of Laughter in Shaftesbury and Hutcheson

L. Jaffro (2017). The Passions and Actions of Laughter in Shaftesbury and Hutcheson. In A. Cohen and R. Stern (eds.), Thinking About the Emotions. A Philosophical History. Mind Association Occasional Series, Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2017, 130-149.

The third Earl of Shaftesbury and Francis Hutcheson considered laughter as a passion in its own right. The hilarious response is not reducible, as Hobbes believed, to the facial expression of the sudden awareness of our own superiority. Ridicule is however an important kind of laughter; it is also an action, part of a strategy against the seriousness of fanaticism. Shaftesbury gives much importance to the politics of laughter and to the caustic power of ridicule, but also to the capacity to laugh at one’s laughter, which is crucial to what he calls good humour. Hutcheson and Shaftesbury interestingly disagree on the question of how to regulate laughter and limit its abuse.