[SydPhil] Seminar at Macquarie University, Friday 19th of October, with Nicholas Southwood

Paul Formosa pc.formosa at gmail.com
Tue Oct 16 10:03:07 AEDT 2012

The Department of Philosophy at Macquarie University is hosting a 
seminar this Friday, the 19^th of October, from 1:30-3:30pm, in Bld. 
W6A, room 127. The presenter will be Dr Nicholas Southwood, from ANU. 
The title and abstract are below and everyone is welcome to attend.

Title: 'The Feasibility Requirement'.

/Abstract/: The 'Feasibility Requirement', as I shall call it, holds 
that normative claims about politics, or at least a special class of 
normative claims about politics, must, in order to be valid, not make 
infeasible demands. This idea is appealing inasmuch as it provides a 
principled basis for saying why certain otherwise attractive normative 
claims about politics (e.g. that New Zealand ought to eradicate all 
social inequalities, or that Saudi Arabia ought to be become a robust 
deliberative democracy) nonetheless seem to be somehow mistaken. Yet, 
there is also something disturbing about the Feasibility Requirement. 
The problem is that it licenses inferences from claims about the 
infeasibility of states of affairs to the negation of normative claims, 
irrespective of what explains /why/ the states of affairs are 
infeasible. This seems especially problematic in cases where the 
explanation for why a given state of affairs is infeasible is simply 
that the members of the society to which the normative claim applies 
happen to have deeply /reprehensible attitudes/. Under these 
circumstances, to infer the negation of the relevant normative claim 
from the fact that the state of affairs in infeasible seems to amount to 
letting the society off the hook too easily. Call this 'the Problem of 
Reprehensible Attitudes'. My aim in this paper is to offer a new 
response to the Problem of Reprehensible Attitudes. Some philosophers 
have suggested that we should construe feasibility in an undemanding way 
such that virtually all states of affairs count as feasible. Others have 
suggested that we should interpret the Feasibility Requirement as a 
constraint on the all-things-considered ought (rather than more narrowly 
as a constraint on claims about justice or morality, say). I suggest 
instead that we interpret the Feasibility Requirement as a constraint on 
a distinctive class of normative claims - what I shall call 'claims 
about what to do'. Claims about what to do are made true by claims about 
the correct answer to the question of what to do, which, following 
Pamela Hieronymi, I suggest is crucially different from the question of 
what we ought to do. I argue that the Feasibility Requirement, thus 
construed, is not vulnerable to the Problem of Reprehensible Attitudes.



Dr Paul Formosa
ARC DECRA Research Fellow
Department of Philosophy
Macquarie University, NSW 2109, Australia
E: Paul.Formosa at mq.edu.au <mailto:Paul.Formosa at mq.edu.au>

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