“Kant’s Theory of Motivation,” forthcoming!

“Kant’s Theory of Motivation: A Hybrid Approach” is forthcoming in Review of Metaphysics.

To vindicate morality against skeptical doubts, Kant must show how that thought ‘I ought to act morally’ can move one to act morally. ‘Affectivist’ interpretations of Kant hold that agents are moved to act by feelings, while ‘intellectualists’ appeal to cognition alone. To overcome the significant objections besetting each view, I develop a hybrid theory of motivation. My central claim is that Kant is a special kind of motivational internalist: agents, he believes, are moved to act by a feeling of intellectual pleasure that originates in acts of free choice. This account improves the prospects of Kant’s justification of morality.


Capitalism vs. capital punishment

Arkansas is attempting to carry out seven executions this month, a pace that has no precedent in the post-Gregg era. That would be noteworthy enough, but the McKesson Corporation, 5th on the list of Fortune 500 companies, has convinced a judge to issue a restraining order barring the state from using the drugs it procured from McKesson in those executions. This effectively puts the death penalty on hiatus in Arkansas, because its drugs are expiring this month — hence the hurried pace — and because the vecuronium bromide it bought from McKesson is an essential part of Arkansas’ execution cocktail. McKesson explicitly asserts that Arkansas bought the drugs under false pretenses, and that it tried to buy them back. Arkansas refused. McKesson argued for the restraining order on the basis of concerns for its reputation and its fiscal well-being.

via the NYT

Racism in wrongful murder convictions

A new report by the National Registry of Exonerations confirms that wrongful conviction rates are higher for blacks than whites. 40 percent of those convicted of murder, but 50 percent of those wrongfully convicted are black. More tellingly, while only 15 percent of murders committed by blacks target whites, 31 percent of the wrongful convictions of blacks were for murders of whites. In addition, wrongfully convicted blacks spend an average of three more years in prison than wrongfully convicted whites.

via the NYT


Dylann Roof sentenced to death

Not a huge surprise. I suspect that Roof will join the pantheon of murderers (along with Ted Bundy, Timothy McVeigh, etc.) who are trotted out in a particular kind of argument favoring the retention of the death penalty. According to this argument, we should retain execution as a tool for punishing the very worst of the worst, who Matthew Kramer calls “defilingly evil offenders.” Advocates of this view can remain quite skeptical about the imposition of capital punishment in the vast majority of cases. They can also insist that it is permissible to execute defilingly evil offenders only when there is overwhelming evidence of their guilt. As such, this vindication of capital punishment poses a strong challenge to the abolitionist. A challenge that I eagerly take up in my book 🙂

Update: it’s already happening.

The death penalty is not nearing its end, redux

The NYT has another editorial on the collapse of the death penalty. Although the editors note that California, Oklahoma, and Nebraska voted to retain the death penalty, they contend that the overall trend is “toward growing discomfort with state-sanctioned killing.” This is true to a certain extent, insofar as a majority of American disapprove of the punishment. However, as is the case in presidential elections (and just as lamentably), majorities do not decide much of anything. Since capital punishment is quite popular in the few jurisdictions in which it is practiced, abolition will be a nationwide phenomenon only when SCOTUS says so. And since Breyer is the only justice to call the constitutionality of execution into question, that day is likely a long way off.