Alexander Carty

I’m a PhD candidate in philosophy at McGill. I work primarily on normative ethics, metaethics, and the philosophy of emotion. My GRIN project is based on the first chapter of my dissertation.

According to many theories of practical rationality, akratic actions are paradigm cases of failures in reasons-responsiveness. Akratic agents act against the judgment that they have decisive reasons for, or against, some course of action. Several recent theories of practical rationality deny that akratic actions are necessarily substantively irrational. Proponents of this view focus on cases of “inverse” akrasia that involve emotions. A case in point is Huck Finn: based on feelings of compassion and sympathy, Huck helps Jim escape captivity as a slave, despite judging that doing so is wrong. Drawing on her own Perceptual Theory of emotion, Christine Tappolet has developed a novel argument for thinking that inverse akrasia isn’t necessarily substantively irrational. Huck’s compassion and sympathy, she argues, help him recognize emotion-based reasons that tell against turning Jim in—reasons that are overlooked by his all-things-considered judgment. This is what Tappolet calls the Agential Virtue Account.

Critics say the Agential Virtue Account fails to explain crucial desiderata regarding the intentionality and rationality of inverse akrasia. It has an incomplete model of the emotional dispositions (or “agential virtues”) that help agents recognize the reasons according to which they act at the time of inversely akratic actions, or recognize certain epistemic reasons to distrust their emotions. Furthermore, it remains unclear how in particular cases inversely akratic agents gain proper control over their emotions by intentionally deciding whether to give preference to their better judgment or their emotions when these two “reason-tracking” subsystems are in conflict. Drawing on Peter Goldie’s notion of “narrative thinking,” I develop a version of the Agential Virtue Account that accounts for these two desiderata.

Publications:

  1. (with Neil Campbell) “Avoiding Strawson’s Crude Opposition: How to Straddle the Participant and Objective Stances.” Forthcoming at Acta Analytica. Link: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12136-023-00552-5.

Link to website: https://alexandercarty.weebly.com