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Anger and Forgiveness"Are You There Alone?"10 Good Questions about Life and DeathA Casebook of Ethical Challenges in NeuropsychologyA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to BioethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Companion to Muslim EthicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Critique of the Moral Defense of VegetarianismA Decent LifeA Delicate BalanceA Fragile LifeA Life for a LifeA Life-Centered Approach to BioethicsA Matter of SecurityA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Mirror Is for ReflectionA Natural History of Human MoralityA Philosophical DiseaseA Practical Guide to Clinical Ethics ConsultingA Question of TrustA Sentimentalist Theory of the MindA Short Stay in SwitzerlandA Tapestry of ValuesA Very Bad WizardA World Without ValuesAction and ResponsibilityAction Theory, Rationality and CompulsionActs of ConscienceAddiction and ResponsibilityAddiction NeuroethicsAdvance Directives in Mental HealthAfter HarmAftermathAgainst AutonomyAgainst BioethicsAgainst HealthAgainst MarriageAgainst 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Controversies in Values and ScienceCutting to the CoreCyborg CitizenDamaged IdentitiesDeaf Identities in the MakingDeath Is That Man Taking NamesDebating ProcreationDebating Same-Sex MarriageDecision Making, Personhood and DementiaDecoding the Ethics CodeDefining DifferenceDefining Right and Wrong in Brain ScienceDefining the Beginning and End of LifeDelusions of GenderDementiaDemocracy in What State?Demons of the Modern WorldDescriptions and PrescriptionsDesert and VirtueDesire, Practical Reason, and the GoodDestructive Trends in Mental HealthDeveloping the VirtuesDid My Neurons Make Me Do It?Difference and IdentityDigital HemlockDigital SoulDignityDignityDisability BioethicsDisability, Difference, DiscriminationDiscrimination against the Mentally IllDisordered Personalities and CrimeDisorders of VolitionDisorientation and Moral LifeDivided Minds and Successive SelvesDoes Feminism Discriminate against Men?Does Torture Work?Doing HarmDouble Standards in Medical Research in Developing CountriesDown GirlDrugs and JusticeDuty and the BeastDworkin and His CriticsDying in the Twenty-First CenturyEarly WarningEconomics and Youth ViolenceEmbodied RhetoricsEmerging Conceptual, Ethical and Policy Issues in BionanotechnologyEmotional ReasonEmotions in the Moral LifeEmotions in the Moral LifeEmpathyEmpathy and Moral DevelopmentEmpathy and MoralityEmpirical Ethics in PsychiatryEncountering NatureEncountering the Sacred in PsychotherapyEngendering International HealthEnhancing EvolutionEnhancing Human CapacitiesEnoughEros and the GoodErotic InnocenceErotic MoralityEssays on Derek Parfit's On What MattersEssays on Free Will and Moral ResponsibilityEthical Choices in Contemporary MedicineEthical Conflicts in PsychologyEthical Dilemmas in PediatricsEthical Issues in Behavioral ResearchEthical Issues in Dementia CareEthical Issues in Forensic Mental Health ResearchEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEthical LifeEthical Reasoning for Mental Health ProfessionalsEthical TheoryEthical WillsEthically Challenged ProfessionsEthicsEthicsEthicsEthics and AnimalsEthics and ScienceEthics and the A PrioriEthics and the Discovery of the UnconsciousEthics and the Metaphysics of MedicineEthics at the CinemaEthics at the End of LifeEthics Beyond the LimitsEthics Case Book of the American Psychoanalytic AssociationEthics Done RightEthics ExpertiseEthics for EveryoneEthics for PsychologistsEthics for the New MillenniumEthics in CyberspaceEthics in Everyday PlacesEthics in Health CareEthics In Health Services ManagementEthics in Mental Health ResearchEthics in PracticeEthics in PsychiatryEthics in PsychologyEthics in Psychotherapy and CounselingEthics of PsychiatryEthics without OntologyEthics, Culture, and PsychiatryEthics, Sexual Orientation, and Choices about ChildrenEvaluating the Science and Ethics of Research on HumansEvilEvilEvil GenesEvil in Modern ThoughtEvil in Modern ThoughtEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolved MoralityExperiments in EthicsExploding the Gene MythExploiting ChildhoodFacing Human SufferingFact and ValueFacts and ValuesFaking ItFalse-Memory Creation in Children and AdultsFat ShameFatal FreedomFellow CreaturesFellow-Feeling and the Moral LifeFeminism and Its DiscontentsFeminist Ethics and Social and Political PhilosophyFeminist TheoryFinal ExamFirst Do No HarmFirst, Do No HarmFlashpointFlesh WoundsForced to CareForgivenessForgivenessForgiveness and LoveForgiveness and ReconciliationForgiveness and RetributionForgiveness is Really StrangeFoucault and the Government of DisabilityFoundational Issues in Human Brain MappingFoundations of Forensic Mental Health AssessmentFree WillFree Will And Moral ResponsibilityFree Will and Reactive AttitudesFree Will, Agency, and Meaning in LifeFree?Freedom and ValueFreedom vs. InterventionFriendshipFrom Darwin to HitlerFrom Disgust to HumanityFrom Enlightenment to ReceptivityFrom Morality to Mental HealthFrom Silence to VoiceFrom Valuing to ValueFrontiers of JusticeGender in the MirrorGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenocide's AftermathGetting RealGluttonyGood WorkGoodness & AdviceGreedGroups in ConflictGrowing Up GirlGut FeminismHabilitation, Health, and AgencyHandbook for Health Care Ethics CommitteesHandbook of BioethicsHandbook of Children's RightsHandbook of PsychopathyHappinessHappiness and the Good LifeHappiness Is OverratedHard FeelingsHard LuckHardwired BehaviorHarmful ThoughtsHeal & ForgiveHealing PsychiatryHealth Care Ethics for PsychologistsHeterosyncraciesHistorical and Philosophical Perspectives on Biomedical EthicsHoly WarHookedHookedHow Can I Be Trusted?How Fascism WorksHow Propaganda WorksHow to Do Things with Pornography How to Make Opportunity EqualHow Universities Can Help Create a Wiser WorldHow We HopeHow We Think About DementiaHuman BondingHuman Dignity and Assisted DeathHuman Dignity and Assisted DeathHuman EnhancementHuman GoodnessHuman Identity and BioethicsHuman TrialsHumanism, What's That?Humanitarian ReasonHumanityHumanizing MadnessI am Not Sick I Don't Need Help!I Was WrongIdentifying Hyperactive ChildrenIf That Ever Happens to MeImproving Nature?In Defense of FloggingIn Defense of SinIn Love With LifeIn Our Own ImageIn the FamilyIn the Land of the DeafIn the Name of IdentityIn the Wake of 9/11In Two MindsInclusive EthicsInformed Consent in Medical ResearchInnovation in Medical TechnologyInside Assisted LivingInside EthicsIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIntensive CareInto the Gray ZoneIs Human Nature Obsolete?Is Long-Term Therapy Unethical?Is There a Duty to Die?Is There an Ethicist in the House?Issues in Philosophical CounselingJudging Children As ChildrenJust a DogJust BabiesJust CareJustice for ChildrenJustice for HedgehogsJustice in RobesJustice, Luck, and KnowledgeJustifiable ConductKant on Moral AutonomyKant's Theory of VirtueKids of CharacterKilling McVeighLack of CharacterLack of CharacterLaw and the BrainLearning About School ViolenceLearning from Baby PLeaving YouLectures on the History of Political PhilosophyLegal and Ethical Aspects of HealthcareLegal Aspects of Mental CapacityLegal ConceptionsLegal InsanityLegalizing ProstitutionLet Them Eat ProzacLevelling the Playing FieldLiberal Education in a Knowledge SocietyLiberal EugenicsLife After FaithLife at the BottomLife's ValuesLife, Sex, and IdeasListening to the WhispersLiving ProfessionalismLosing Matt ShepardLostLuckyMad in AmericaMad PrideMadhouseMaking Another World PossibleMaking Babies, Making FamiliesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of Freedom and ResponsibilityMalignantMasculinity Studies and Feminist TheoryMeaning and Moral OrderMeaning in LifeMeaning in Life and Why It MattersMeans, Ends, and PersonsMeans, Ends, and PersonsMedical Enhancement and PosthumanityMedical Research for HireMedicalized MasculinitiesMedically Assisted DeathMeditations for the HumanistMelancholia and MoralismMental Health Professionals, Minorities and the PoorMental Illness, Medicine and LawMerit, Meaning, and Human BondageMetaethical SubjectivismMill's UtilitarianismMind FieldsMind WarsMind WarsModern Theories of JusticeModernity and TechnologyMoney ShotMonsterMoral Acquaintances and Moral DecisionsMoral BrainsMoral ClarityMoral CultivationMoral Development and RealityMoral Dilemmas in Real LifeMoral DimensionsMoral EntanglementsMoral FailureMoral LiteracyMoral MachinesMoral MindsMoral OriginsMoral Panics, Sex PanicsMoral ParticularismMoral PerceptionMoral PsychologyMoral Psychology: Volume IVMoral RealismMoral RelativismMoral RepairMoral Responsibility and Alternative PossibilitiesMoral Status and Human LifeMoral StealthMoral Theory at the MoviesMoral TribesMoral Value and Human DiversityMoral, Immoral, AmoralMoralismMorality and Self-InterestMorality in a Natural WorldMorality, Moral Luck and ResponsibilityMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMorals, Rights and Practice in the Human ServicesMore Than HumanMotive and RightnessMovies and the Moral Adventure of LifeMurder in the InnMy Body PoliticMy Brain Made Me Do ItMy Sister's KeeperMy Sister's KeeperMy WayNakedNano-Bio-EthicsNarrative MedicineNarrative ProsthesisNatural Ethical FactsNatural-Born CybogsNaturalized BioethicsNeither Bad nor MadNeoconservatismNeonatal BioethicsNeurobiology and the Development of Human MoralityNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNeuroethicsNew Takes in Film-PhilosophyNew Waves in EthicsNew Waves in MetaethicsNietzsche on Ethics and PoliticsNo Child Left DifferentNo Impact ManNormative EthicsNormativityNothing about us, without us!Oath BetrayedOf War and LawOn AnimalsOn ApologyOn Being AuthenticOn EvilOn Human RightsOn The Stigma Of Mental IllnessOn the TakeOn Virtue EthicsOn What MattersOn What We Owe to Each OtherOne ChildOne Nation Under TherapyOne World NowOne World NowOur Bodies, Whose Property?Our Bodies, Whose Property?Our Daily MedsOur Faithfulness to the PastOur Posthuman FutureOut of EdenOut of Its MindOut of the ShadowsOverdosed AmericaOxford Handbook of Psychiatric EthicsOxford Studies in Normative EthicsOxford Studies in Normative Ethics, Volume 7Oxford Textbook of Philosophy of PsychiatryPassionate DeliberationPatient Autonomy and the Ethics of ResponsibilityPC, M.D.Perfecting VirtuePersonal AutonomyPersonal Autonomy in SocietyPersonal Identity and EthicsPersonalities on the PlatePersonhood and Health CarePersons, Humanity, and the Definition of DeathPerspectives On Health And Human RightsPharmaceutical FreedomPharmacracyPharmageddonPhilosophy and This Actual WorldPhilosophy of BiologyPhilosophy of Technology: The Technological ConditionPhysician-Assisted DyingPicturing DisabilityPilgrim at Tinker CreekPlaying God?Playing God?Political EmotionsPornlandPowerful MedicinesPractical Autonomy and BioethicsPractical EthicsPractical Ethics for PsychologistsPractical RulesPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic BioethicsPragmatic NeuroethicsPraise and BlamePreferences and Well-BeingPrimates and PhilosophersPro-Life, Pro-ChoiceProcreation and ParenthoodProfits Before People?Progress in BioethicsProperty in the BodyProzac As a Way of LifeProzac on the CouchPsychiatric Aspects of Justification, Excuse and Mitigation in Anglo-American Criminal Law Psychiatric EthicsPsychiatry and EmpirePsychological Concepts and Biological PsychiatryPsychology and Consumer CulturePsychology and LawPsychotropic Drug Prescriber's Survival GuidePublic Health LawPublic Health Law and EthicsPublic PhilosophyPunishing the Mentally IllPunishmentPursuits of WisdomPutting Morality Back Into PoliticsPutting on VirtueQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRaceRadical HopeRadical VirtuesRape Is RapeRe-creating MedicineRe-Engineering Philosophy for Limited BeingsReason's GriefReasonably ViciousReckoning With HomelessnessReconceiving Medical EthicsRecovery from SchizophreniaRedefining RapeRedesigning HumansReducing the Stigma of Mental IllnessReflections on Ethics and 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and the Good Life?TestimonyText and Materials on International Human RightsThe Moral Psychology of AngerThe Age of CulpabilityThe Age of CulpabilityThe Aims of Higher EducationThe Almost MoonThe Altruistic BrainThe American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Forensic PsychiatryThe Animal ManifestoThe Animals' AgendaThe Art of LivingThe Autonomy of MoralityThe Beloved SelfThe Best Things in LifeThe Big FixThe Bioethics ReaderThe Biology and Psychology of Moral AgencyThe Blackwell Guide to Medical EthicsThe Body SilentThe BondThe Book of LifeThe Burden of SympathyThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Cambridge Textbook of BioethicsThe Case against Assisted SuicideThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case Against PunishmentThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of Terri SchiavoThe Challenge of Human RightsThe Character GapThe Code for Global EthicsThe Colonization Of Psychic SpaceThe Commercialization of Intimate LifeThe Common ThreadThe Connected SelfThe Constitution of AgencyThe Cow with Ear Tag #1389The Creation of PsychopharmacologyThe Criminal BrainThe Decency WarsThe Difficult-to-Treat Psychiatric PatientThe Disability PendulumThe Disability Rights Movement: From Charity to ConfrontationThe Domain of ReasonsThe Double-Edged HelixThe Duty to ProtectThe Emotional Construction of MoralsThe End of Ethics in a Technological SocietyThe End of Stigma?The Essentials of New York Mental Health LawThe Ethical BrainThe Ethical Dimensions of the Biological and Health SciencesThe Ethics of BioethicsThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human EnhancementThe Ethics of ParenthoodThe Ethics of SightseeingThe Ethics of the FamilyThe Ethics of the Family in SenecaThe Ethics of the LieThe Ethics of TransplantsThe Ethics of WarThe Ethics ToolkitThe Evolution of Mental Health LawThe Evolution of MoralityThe FamilyThe Fat Studies ReaderThe Forgiveness ProjectThe Forgotten CreedThe Form of Practical KnowledgeThe Fountain of YouthThe Freedom ParadoxThe Future of Assisted Suicide and EuthanasiaThe Future of Human NatureThe Good BookThe Good LifeThe Great BetrayalThe Handbook of Disability StudiesThe Healing VirtuesThe High Price of MaterialismThe History of Human RightsThe HorizonThe Idea of JusticeThe Ideal of NatureThe Illusion of Freedom and EqualityThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Importance of Being UnderstoodThe Insanity OffenseThe Joy of SecularismThe Language PoliceThe Last Normal ChildThe Last UtopiaThe Limits of MedicineThe LobotomistThe Love CureThe Lucifer EffectThe Manual of EpictetusThe Mark of ShameThe Meaning of Life and the Great PhilosophersThe Meaning of NiceThe Medicalization of SocietyThe Merck DruggernautThe Mind Has MountainsThe Minority BodyThe Modern Art of DyingThe Modern SavageThe Moral ArcThe Moral BrainThe Moral Demands of MemoryThe Moral FoolThe Moral MindThe Moral Psychology HandbookThe Moral Psychology of DisgustThe Moral Psychology of ForgivenessThe Moral Punishment Instinct The 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LifeThe Right Road to Radical FreedomThe Right to be LovedThe Right to Be ParentsThe Righteous MindThe Root of All EvilThe Routledge Companion to Virtue EthicsThe Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of Animal MindsThe Routledge Handbook of Philosophy of EmpathyThe Rules of InsanityThe Second SexismThe Second-Person StandpointThe Silent World of Doctor and PatientThe Sleep of ReasonThe Social Psychology of Good and EvilThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Social Psychology of MoralityThe Speed of DarkThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story of Cruel and UnusualThe Story WithinThe Stubborn System of Moral ResponsibilityThe Suicide TouristThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Therapy of DesireThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Trauma of Psychological TortureThe Triple HelixThe Trolley Problem MysteriesThe Trouble with DiversityThe Truth About the Drug CompaniesThe Ugly LawsThe Varieties of Religious ExperienceThe Virtue of Defiance and Psychiatric EngagementThe Virtues of FreedomThe Virtues of HappinessThe Virtuous Life in Greek EthicsThe Virtuous PsychiatristThe Voice of Breast Cancer in Medicine and BioethicsThe War Against BoysThe War for Children's MindsThe Whole ChildThe Woman RacketThe Worldwide Practice of TortureTherapy with ChildrenThieves of VirtueThree Generations, No ImbecilesTimes of Triumph, Times of DoubtTolerance Among The VirtuesTolerance and the Ethical LifeTolerationToxic PsychiatryTrauma, Truth and ReconciliationTreatment Kind and FairTrusting on the EdgeTry to RememberUltimate JudgementUnborn in the USA: Inside the War on AbortionUndermining ScienceUnderstanding AbortionUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding EmotionsUnderstanding EvilUnderstanding Kant's EthicsUnderstanding Moral ObligationUnderstanding Physician-Pharmaceutical Industry InteractionsUnderstanding TerrorismUnderstanding the GenomeUnderstanding the Stigma of Mental IllnessUnderstanding Treatment Without ConsentUnhingedUnprincipled VirtueUnsanctifying Human Life: Essays on EthicsUnspeakable Acts, Ordinary PeopleUp in FlamesUpheavals of ThoughtUsers and Abusers of PsychiatryValue-Free Science?Values and Psychiatric DiagnosisValues in ConflictVegetarianismViolence and Mental DisorderVirtue EthicsVirtue, Rules, and JusticeVirtue, Vice, and PersonalityVirtues and Their VicesVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsVulnerability, Autonomy, and Applied EthicsWar Against the WeakWar, Torture and TerrorismWarrior's DishonourWeaknessWelfare and Rational CareWhat are you staring at?What Genes Can't DoWhat Have We DoneWhat Is a Human?What Is Good and WhyWhat Is Good and WhyWhat Is the Good Life?What Price Better Health?What Should I Do?What We Owe to Each OtherWhat Would Aristotle Do?What's Good on TVWhat's Normal?What's Wrong with Children's RightsWhat's Wrong with Homosexuality?What's Wrong With Morality?When Is Discrimination Wrong?Who Holds the Moral High Ground?Who Owns YouWho Qualifies for Rights?Whose America?Whose View of Life?Why Animals MatterWhy Animals MatterWhy Does Inequality Matter?Why Honor MattersWhy I Burned My Book and Other Essays on DisabilityWhy Not Kill Them All?Why Punish? How Much?Why Some Things Should Not Be for SaleWisdom, Intuition and EthicsWithout ConscienceWomen and Borderline Personality DisorderWomen and MadnessWondergenesWould You Kill the Fat Man?Wrestling with Behavioral GeneticsWriting About PatientsYou Must Be DreamingYour Genetic DestinyYour Inner FishYouth Offending and Youth Justice Yuck!
As the title suggests, this eagerly anticipated new record of seventeen previously released pieces divides into two parts (of roughly equal length), the first dealing with issues in moral psychology and the second with meta-ethical questions
Needless to say this thematically arranged single-volume anthology is not exhaustive. Inconspicuous by its absence, for example, is Smith's most famous (and arguably also his most influential) article The Humean Theory of Motivation (from Mind, 1987). One might be forgiven for thinking that this is the result of Smith (or the publishing house) undertaking to compile a Best of collection, rather than a Greatest Hits. However a simpler and far more plausible explanation lies in the fact that the piece has since already reappeared in numerous compilations as well as (in an extended remix) in chapter 4 of his earlier title, the 1994 hit book The Moral Problem. Moreover, the essays here date from 1988 to 2003 and may thus be thought to represent the post HTM Smith (i.e. from around the period when he first came to be known as 'Dr. Smith').Included are his two duets with Jeanette Kennett, but for the philosopher's joint work with Frank Jackson and Philip Petit, readers must look to the trio's astounding release of instrumental ensemble pieces and duets (on some of which Smith is the lead vocalist), Minds, Morality, and Explanation: Selected Collaborations (Clarendon Press: 2004), .
Professor Smith's complete solo output as a speaker/paper-writer consists of over eighty single articles released over thirty years (from 1977 to 2007), several b-sides (chiefly reviews from his 'Monash years'), one long player (the aforementioned The Moral Problem), various entries and editorials, and dozens of unreleased presentations including the already legendary spiritual 'Is That All There Is?', available as a bootleg PDF but best heard live (2005 tour). Fans of the professor's earlier, shorter work - such as the inspirational single 'Did Socrates Kill Himself Intentionally?' (from Philosophy 55, 1980) and the passionate follow-up 'Actions, Attempts and Internal Events' (from Analysis 43, 1983), both published when he was still known as 'Mr. Smith', will have to hold on to their dusty journals and photocopies and hope that a retrospective box set awaits. Until then - or the next single - they must make do with this volume's liner notes which consist of the autobiographical 'Preface', the retrospective (but also introspective, and at times confessional) 'Introduction', and the anonymous 'Index', three minor pieces of work of which only the middle one stands out.
Let me now briefly introduce the seventeen pieces collected here, though I shall not be able to address them all properly. (Smith experts may wish to skip this section and move swiftly to my critical analysis of tracks 7-9, further below.) Side A kick-starts with mid-late period 'Internal Reasons', inspired by the Bernard Williams' classic 'Internal and External Reasons'. This piece defends Williams' view that normative reasons are internal but replaces his relativist model of reasons with the non-relativist 'advice theory' (based on the notion of idealized desires) which fans will remember from The Moral Problem. It's a neat move, though it's exact value depends on whether the test of time will show Williams' original point to have been anything more than a glorified attempt to cash out the standard 'ought implies can' principle. Next up is the melancholic 'The Incoherence Argument', provoked by something Shafer-Landau once wrote. This blues finds Smith crying out with great conviction that his 1994 defense of the view that we are all motivated by our moral beliefs (on pain of being irrational) has been wronged and misunderstood. In 'Philosophy and Commonsense: The Case of Weakness of Will' and the nostalgic ballad 'Frog and Toad Lose Control' Smith lightens the mood as he teams up with rising star Jeanette Kennett. Together they pledge that their version of internalism about normative reasons has the distinct advantage of being able to allow for weakness of will without entering into the counterintuitive kinds of elaborate technical maneuvers made by Davidson and his sort. By the end of the piece there is no doubt that they are clearly in control of their game. This sets the stage nicely for 'A Theory of Freedom and Responsibility', a thirty-page epic, in which Smith promises the reader that 'freedom is not a power of arbitrary significance', and the throwaway 'Rational Capacities' which sees Smith conjuring up possible worlds in which weak and reckless women fail to believe and desire correctly. All is not doom and gloom however as the possibility of such worlds implies that in the actual world these women have the capacity to get things right.
The last three numbers (7-9) in Side A form a glorious Humean Trilogy about belief and desire on which I wish to focus on in some detail, as its themes raise some interesting questions. In 'On Humeans, Anti-Humeans, and Motivation' Smith finds himself under the influence of Davidson, screaming out that motivating reasons really do consist of belief-desire pairs where these are further understood as psychological states. In the major tour de force 'The Possibility of Philosophy of Action' he persuades the reader that the availability of such a Humean story is presupposed by every commonsense explanation of action, and that this is so because intentional action is teleological in nature (Smith officially remains neutral on whether this pair causes the action). From this he infers that no matter how we choose to explain action, the agent's motivating reasons for action will always be those beliefs and desires of the agent in virtue of which all the explanations hold.
Critic Jonathan Dancy has pointed out that this inference appears to have the counterintuitive consequence that we can never act for the reasons which tell us how we should act (I phrase the objection this way because Smith denies that all good reasons are normative reasons, which he understands as facts about what we would desire to do if we were fully rational, see essay 1 above). 'Indeed it seems to entail that our reasons for action are never the considerations upon which we act, for the latter are not psychological states (and are rarely even facts about them). Unphased by such thoughts, the Professor strikes back in his underrated 'Humeanism, Psychologism and the Normative Story' with the conviction that motivating reasons must (by definition, perhaps) be capable of explaining action, where this is further understood as explaining why (the event that was) the action in question occurred (see below). For while the considerations we act upon are capable of rendering our action intelligible (i.e. of demonstrating why it might have occurred) it would seem that they cannot explain why it actually occurred. A more Humean way of putting this point is to say that while any number of facts can provide a possible explanation of action, these cannot alone determine what the actual explanation was. Suppose, for example, that Smith found an autographed copy of Bob Dylan's album 'Desire' and handed it in to the police because it is worth a lot of money. The fact that it has a high monetary value cannot alone explain the course of action of Smith's handing it in to the police, for the same fact is equally capable of rendering intelligible the course of action of his deciding to keep it. Unless we are given some information about his beliefs and desires (e.g. he want to get rich but believe that the safest way of doing this is to hand the album to the law and hopefully claim a reward), Smith would insist that the fact that the album was worth a lot of money (viz. the consideration Smith acted upon) cannot alone explain either (possible) action. He thus concludes that the possibility of action explanation presupposes the availability of a Humean, all-too-Humean story.
If one assumes that the multiply ambiguous phase 'explaining an action' means (at least in this context) 'explaining why a course of action occurred' then the Humean suggestion would make very good sense (though this reviewer did wonder whether the Smith's explanantia of choice should not be facts about the agent's psychology, rather than her so-called psychological states). By contrast, on such an assumption Dancy's alternative would have the intolerable implication that the reasons for which we act do not explain why we act. However these suppositions all rest on a conflation between actions understood as things we do and actions understood as the events of our doing such things. Smith follows Davidson once again, this time in thinking that action explanation is be concerned with the occurrence of the event(s) while repeatedly alternating between talk of action being 'an event' and action being 'what an agent does whenever he acts' while taking. Yet the reasons for which we act are not reasons why (let alone for which) events occur. So it is possible to agree with Dancy about reasons for doing things and Smith about the explanation of the events of our doing things. The confusion was perhaps partly due to the very concept of a 'motivating reason' for action, which may well be incoherent: on the one hand, it is not events that are motivated but people, and we may further agree with Dancy that any kind of reason for action is not a reason for an event (or indeed a thing done) but a reason for which somebody acted. On the other hand, motivation appears to be a causal notion, and it seems equally (if not more) right to say that we are motivated by our beliefs and desires as it is to say that we are motivated by certain considerations.
Side B sets off with the populist 'Moral Realism', an instant classic which first appeared in the 2000 superstar compilation The Blackwell Guide to Moral Theory and must not be confused with the similarly titled 'Realism' (written by Smith over a decade earlier for the equally superb Blackwell Companion to Ethics). While both pieces tackle the same theme, the later one enters into far more depth, attacking not just nihilism but also minimalism about Truth, as well as non-naturalism. So when Smith next asks 'Does the Evaluative Supervene on the Natural?', the reader can predict what answer he is going to give, though perhaps not the novel argument he here presents for it (in response to a new objection).
The same theme is touched upon again in track twelve - the funky 'Objectivity and Moral Experience', though this time Smith finds himself temporarily defending Mackie's error theory against a response by McDowell which he deems to be inadequate. 'In Defence of The Moral Problem', a minor-key attack on the press which does just what it says on the tin, is perhaps best understood if the reader has the original reviews by 'thin men' Brink, Copp, and Sayre-McCord at hand. Tracks fourteen and fifteen, the self-explanatory 'Exploring the Implications of the Dispositional Theory of Value' and the confessional 'Internalism's Wheel' both find the professor temporarily questioning his cognitive and motivation internalism before once more finding fleeting comfort in the tentative embrace of the dispositional theory, while idealized desire cognitivism is defended more rigorously in the fast-paced 'Evaluation, Uncertainty, and Motivation'. Finally, the volume ends with the title track 'Ethics and the a Priori: A Modern Parable', an upbeat piece containing an inspired dialogue between Cog and Noncog which puts two human faces (not unlike those of Michael Smith and fellow naturalist Simon Blackburn) to the main issues that have given the entire collection its lively tone and high-quality pitch, and ends on an amicable note.
So this is it, apologetic in places, thoughtful throughout, Ethics and the A Priori is a great tribute to Smith's consistent high standard, and will no doubt give both fans and critics alike much to think about. It is essential reading for anyone seriously interested in philosophical psychology and/or moral philosophy, and a great place to start if one is a newcomer to Smith's work. Unlike other artists (whose choruses are more memorable than their verses,) Smith proves to be a skilled master at his craft, as well as an excellent editor of his own work (the conceptual threads which run through the book do a wonderful job of helping the reader understand how Smith takes the main areas of his research to link up). Not even an expressivist will be able to say 'boo' to this volume.
© 2007 Constantine Sandis
Constantine Sandis, Ph.D., Oxford Brookes University