Language and Truth. Philosophy and Religious Discourse PDF Stampa E-mail

Vol 37, No 1 (2017)

Cover Teoria 37, 1 (2017)

Questo fascicolo di «Teoria» ha origine da un convegno internazionale che si è svolto il 30 giugno e l’1 luglio 2016 presso l’Università di Pisa, e che ha visto la partecipazione di alcuni dei più importanti studiosi del rapporto tra filosofia e religioni, con particolare riferimento alle tre religioni monoteistiche principali. La riflessione si è concentrata sul tema del linguaggio religioso, sulle varie forme in cui esso si articola, sul modo in cui la tradizione filosofica, con il suo specifico approccio, è in grado di tradurre – o non piuttosto di tradire – le molteplici espressioni dell’esperienza religiosa. Il convegno ha rappresentato il punto d’arrivo del progetto PRA (Progetti di Ricerca di Ateneo) 2016, dedicato ad approfondire lo stesso tema e finanziato dall’Università di Pisa. «Teoria», che nel passato ha già ospitato altri contributi su questi argomenti, volentieri ne pubblica i risultati.

This issue of «Teoria» originates from a international conference held on 30 June and 1 July 2016 at the University of Pisa. This conference was attended by some of the most important scholars of the relationship between philosophy and religions, with particular reference to the three main monotheistic religions. Reflection was focused on the theme of religious language, on the various forms in which it is articulated, and on the way in which the philosophical tradition, with its specific approach, is able to interpret – rather than betray – the multiple expressions of religious experience. This conference was the culmination of the 2016 “PRA” (Progetti di Ricerca di Ateneo) university research projects, dedicated to this same theme and funded by the University of Pisa. «Teoria», which has already hosted other contributions on these themes in the past, is delighted to publish the results.

Pierluigi Barrotta, Adriano Fabris


  • On the Automaticity and Ethics of Belief
    Recently, philosophers have appealed to empirical studies to argue that whenever we think about a proposition p, we automatically believe p. Levy and Mandelbaum have gone further and claimed that the automaticity of believing has implications for the ethics of belief in that it creates epistemic obligations for those who know about their automatic belief acquisition. I use theoretical considerations and psychological findings to raise doubts about the empirical case for the view that we automatically believe what we think. Furthermore, I contend that even if we set these doubts aside, Levy and Mandelbaum’s argument to the effect that the automaticity of believing creates epistemic obligations remains unconvincing.
  • What Neuroscience Will Tell Us About Moral Responsibility
    The essay is a reflection on determinism, moral and legal responsibility and punishment from the perspective of neuroscience. The author argues that compatibilist free will gives us everything we need to be morally responsible and allows us to maintain a moderately retributivist line of thinking.
  • Responsibility and Control in a Neuroethical Perspective
    Folk ethical theories presupposed by prevailing moral theories and current legal systems tend to identify a close link between responsibility and conscious control. They generally claim that we can hold an agent responsible for outcomes of actions over which s/he exercises a certain degree of conscious control. In the last few decades, however, cognitive neuroscience has offered evidence about unconscious control processes and self-deceptive attributions of control, the so-called Frail Control Hypothesis. This hypothesis threatens the common notion of responsibility itself. I will consider possible solutions to the neuroscientific threat and discuss objections to all of them. Then, I will provide some suggestions for building a neuroethical account of responsibility that unifies the benefits of the different solutions but takes their limitations into consideration.
  • Responsibility and the Relevance of Alternative Future Possibilities
    In the past decade, philosophical and psychological research on people’s beliefs about free will and responsibility has skyrocketed. For the most part, these vignette-based studies have exclusively focused on participants’ judgments of the causal history of the events leading up to an agent’s action and considerations about what the agent could have done differently in the past. However, recent evidence suggests that, when judging whether or not an individual is responsible for a certain action – even in concrete, emotionally laden and fully deterministic scenarios – considerations about alternative future possibilities may become relevant. This paper reviews this evidence and suggests a way of interpreting the nature of these effects as well as some consequences for experimental philosophy and psychology of free will and responsibility going forward.
  • Emotions and Morality: is Cognitive Science a Recipe for Ethical Relativism?
    Discussing Jesse Prinz’s views on metaethics, the author argues (1) that, as far as epistemic emotionism is concerned, this account does not demonstrate that the right order of causation proceed in all cases from emotions to judgments; does not disprove the possibility of dispassionate judgments; has no persuasive explanation of the distinction between moral and conventional rules; cannot account for autistic morality; and 2) that, as far as metaphysical emotionism is concerned, this account offers a much too deflationary account of moral disagreement. The latter can be best understood within an objectivistic account of the facts (including pro-attitudes such as emotions and sentiments) that provide the best reasons for action.
  • Category Matters: The Interlocking Epistemic and Moral Costs of Implicit Bias
    In this paper I reject the claim – made both by Tamar Szabo Gendler in On the Epistemic Costs of Implicit Bias and Jennifer Saul in Scepticism and Implicit Bias – that in order to be epistemically and morally responsible, social categories should not influence our evaluations of individuals or subsequent actions. I will provide evidence against the claim by denying its empirical plausibility, emphasizing the epistemic and moral benefits that may come from social categories, and reconceptualizing the inclusion of base-rate information. Throughout the paper I will emphasize the unique interlocking of epistemic and moral considerations that are relevant to implicit bias, bias mitigation, and responsibility. It is my hope that this analysis lays the groundwork for an account of the right ways social categories can affect our judgments, i.e. the ways in which such influence may improve our epistemic and moral situations rather than degrade them.
  • Premise / Premessa

    Premise – both in English and Italian – to this issue.

    Open Access PDF. Abstract not available.

  • Social Justice, Individualism, and Cooperation: Integrating Political Philosophy and Cognitive Sciences
    The authors explore the contribution that this literature can offer to the field of political philosophy. In particular, the authors argue that, in order to make the reflection on social justice more reliable and effective, political philosophers must take into account the anthropological model emerging from what cognitive sciences tell us about self-assertiveness, egoism, competition, pro-sociality, cooperation and altruism.
  • Biology, Ethics and Moral Reflection
    In recent years moral philosophers have increasingly paid attention to the development of scientific researches about the functioning of moral mind. Placed into the framework of Darwinian evolutionary theory the cognitive science of morality aims at discovering the core mechanisms of the moral faculties and the evolutionary path that produced them. The intertwinement of cognitive science and philosophical ethics has led to a new understanding of metaethics. Embedding cognitive science in such an investigation switches the focus from the more traditional analysis of the language of morals to the functioning of moral mind. Whereas the contribution of such empirical researches to metaethics is clear and considerable, the role of cognitive science with regard to normative ethics is much more difficult and obscure. Even if the fact/value separation ought to be intended in a soft and non dogmatic way, the normative “use” of empirical findings about human moral minds is a puzzling and slippery task. Rather than being a direct source of norms and values, the understanding of moral psychology carried out by cognitive science contributes to the task of moral reflection insofar as it is a form of self-understanding. Part of the practice of moral reflection – that is critically weighing up and evaluating one’s own habits, attitudes and moral responses – is the understanding of one’s own nature, both as a specific individual and as a member of the human species. My aim will be to discuss whether the cognitive science of morality could be regarded as a modern answer to the ancient exhortation “know thyself” and, therefore, whether advancements in such science could lead to moral progress.
  • Lockean Persons, Self-Narratives, and Eudaimonia
    In this article we explore the ethical import of a naturalistic form of narrative constructivism that distances itself from both the non-naturalistic and antirealist strands in theorizing on the self. Our criticism builds on William James’ theory of the self. Against this Jamesian backdrop, the claim that we constitute ourselves as morally responsible agents (as “Lockean persons”) by forming and using autobiographical narratives is combined with the realist claim that the narrative self is not an idle wheel but a layer of personality that serves as a causal center of gravity in the history of the human psychobiological system. This alliance between narrative constructivism and self-realism takes shape in the context of a tradition of thought that views the synthesis of the various strata of personality as the highest developmental point of the selfing process – a viewpoint that aligns with an ethic that hinges on the idea of eudaimonia: the discovery and actualization of our unique potentials and talents.
  • The Ethical Convenience of Non-Neutrality in Medical Encounters: Argumentative Instruments for Healthcare Providers
    Many scholars have shown the relevance of communication as an instrument of care by arguing that the quality of the doctor-patient relationship – also based on the quality of verbal communication – affects the engagement and outcomes of patients. This understanding of such therapeutic role of communication paves the way to a re-consideration of ethical questions in clinical contexts: if communication is a therapeutic instrument, then healthcare providers need to be able to properly use it. Our main aim in this contribution is to argue that it is possible and desirable to adopt and manage non-neutral communication strategies to safeguard patients’ freedom and autonomy in making decisions. More specifically, we use a pragmatic-argumentative model of verbal communication to deal with the topic of neutrality. Analyzing a case study from the context of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART), we underline the highly ethical relevance of this medical context and stress the importance of an appropriate use of argumentative and communicative strategies to protect patients’ values and decisions.
  • Neurolaw and Punishment: a Naturalistic and Humanitarian View, and its Overlooked Perils
    Neurolaw is the approach that attempts to apply recent progress in neuroscience to the classical conceptions of law, often with the aim of pushing legal institutions (especially in criminal law) to be more in line with scientific knowledge. It is essentially a process of naturalization of the law, which also applies to punishment, its aims, its methods of implementation and its justification.

    A relevant line of naturalization of criminal law relies on developments in neuroscience so as to try to prove that (if not always, at least most times) our actions are not free according to the classic definition of freedom – where the agent is capable of knowingly, voluntarily and consciously undertaking a course of action by choosing between alternatives. According to the proponents of this view, one cannot but follow the logical sequence deriving from the experimental data, which leads to the unavoidable pragmatic conclusion of choosing a consequentialistic kind of law and punishment.

    Consequentialist punishment is deemed to be more humane because it is not afflictive and is only targeted to protect society. But the fact that the charged person is regarded as more mad than bad, so to speak, turns her into a sort of “broken machine”, with the risk of legitimizing preventive treatments or ones of indefinite duration. The objections to this approach are therefore related to the gaps of knowledge we still have, to the risks of “political” abuse, and to the Strawsonian line of thought for which we cannot treat our fellow human beings as broken machines to be repaired, depriving them of their nature of free and rational agents (except in exceptional and rare cases). I suggest a more nuanced assessment of these possible developments and defend a moderate form of retributivism.

  • “Publicity”, Privacy and Social Media. The Role of Ethics Above and Beyond the Law
    Nowadays social media play an increasingly important role in the relationship between ethics and the law. They have raised new issues regarding the concepts of both “publicity” (in the etymological sense of “making public”), and privacy. The limits of both the law and of deontology are becoming more and more evident, in this arena of the relations, which are established through the social media. This aspect implies the need for ethical reflection, focusing on the motivation that leads users to convey certain information – in primis the desire for a spectacularization of one’s life – as well as on the possible principles that may help guide informed choices. Among these would appear fundamental a reference to the concept of ‘responsible freedom’, and hence to the possible consequences which may arise as a result of certain choices, consequences both for oneself and other individuals, on social media as well as in our off-line day-to-day lives.