A connectionist system that is capable of learning about the spatial structure of a simple world is used for the purposes of synthetic epistemology: the creation and analysis of artiﬁcial systems in order to clarify philosophical issues that arise in the explanation of how agents, both natural and artiﬁcial, represent the world. In this case, the issues to be clariﬁed focus on the content of representational states that exist prior to a fully objective understanding of a spatial domain. In particular, (...) the criticisms of (Chrisley, 1993) that were raised in (Holland, 1994) are addressed: how can we determine that a system’s spatial representations are more objective than before? And under what conditions (tasks, training regimes, environments) do such increases in objectivity occur? After analysing the results of experiments that attempt to shed light on these questions, the study concludes by comparing and contrasting this work with related research. (shrink)
John Burgess (Burgess, 2004) combines plural logic and a new version of the idea of limitation of size to give an elegant motivation of the axioms of ZFC set theory. His proposal is meant to improve on earlier work by Paul Bernays in two ways. I argue that both attempted improvements fail.
Clinical research is a necessity if effective and safe treatments are to be developed. However, this may well include the need for research that is best described as ‘invasive’ in that it may be associated with some discomfort or inconvenience. Limitations in the undertaking of invasive research involving people with intellectual disabilities (ID) are perhaps related to anxieties within the academic community and among ethics committees; however, the consequence of this neglect is that innovative treatments specific to people with ID (...) may not be developed. Such concerns are likely to continue while there is limited published knowledge regarding the actual experiences of people with ID who have participated in invasive clinical research. As part of a pilot study trialling the novel use of a surgically inserted device to curb overeating in people with Prader–Willi syndrome (PWS) we have investigated the experience of research through semistructured qualitative interviews involving three participants and their carers. Thematic analysis revealed that the adults with PWS and their family carers rated their participation positively, seeing it as a rewarding and enriching experience. This brief report discusses findings from our interview data in order to highlight strategies which may ensure that research is acceptable to participants, meets the necessary ethical standards and is able to achieve the aims set out by the researchers. To our knowledge, this is the first study to record experiences directly from people with PWS and their carers regarding their involvement in invasive clinical research. (shrink)
In response to Robin Attfield, I am inclined, still, (a) to claim that the concept of value cannot do the kind of comparative work that he asks it to do; (b) to doubt that the value of our world can be founded on the flourishing to be found there; and (c) to believe that there is enough in the world to be glad about even if it does not contain a preponderance of value. In response to John Cottingham, (a) I (...) wonder whether denying the contingency of our moral impulses is compatible with the acceptance of Darwinian theory; (b) I distinguish between the primacy and the objectivity of moral truth; and (c) I draw attention to an apparently worrying implication of the belief that moral truth is 'objective'. (shrink)
Since agriculture constitutes what is probably humankind’s most extensive and prolonged engagement with the natural world, the scant attention paid to it in much of the environmental ethics literature represents something of a paradox. This paper is an attempt to address that paradox. First we offer some explanations for this neglect, tracing it to some key features of environmental ethics as it is currently practised. Then we identify some hopeful signs that things are changing in a direction that is more (...) conducive to the inclusion of the issues raised by agriculture. Finally we offer a synthesis of these hopeful signs, incorporating a suggestion as to what it is that they all have in common. (shrink)
It has often been thought, and has recently been argued, that one of the most profound impacts of Darwin's theory of evolution is the threat that it poses to the very possibility of living a meaningful, and therefore worthwhile, life. Three attempts to ground the possibility of a meaningful life are considered. The first two are compatible with an exclusively Darwinian worldview. One is based on the belief that Darwinian evolution is, in some sense, progressive; the other is based on (...) the belief that the natural world is a thing of value and hence, that our lives are lived in the presence of value. The third is based on a belief in providence, and holds that we must transcend the exclusively Darwinian worldview if we are to find meaning. All three are, for different reasons, rejected. The conclusion reached is that, contrary to what has often been thought and recently argued, the impact of Darwin's theory is precisely to liberate us to lead the most meaningful of lives. (shrink)
In the UK, current policies and services for people with mental disorders, including those with intellectual disabilities (ID), presume that these men and women can, do, and should, make decisions for themselves. The new Mental Capacity Act (England and Wales) 2005 (MCA) sets this presumption into statute, and codifies how decisions relating to health and welfare should be made for those adults judged unable to make one or more such decisions autonomously. The MCA uses a procedural checklist to guide this (...) process of substitute decision-making. The personal experiences of providing direct support to seven men and women with ID living in residential care, however, showed that substitute decision-making took two forms, depending on the type of decision to be made. The first process, ‘strategic substitute decision-making’, paralleled the MCA’s legal and ethical framework, whilst the second process, ‘relational substitute decision-making’, was markedly different from these statutory procedures. In this setting, ‘relational substitute decision-making’ underpinned everyday personal and social interventions connected with residents’ daily living, and was situated within a framework of interpersonal and interdependent care relationships. The implications of these findings for residential services and the implementation of the MCA are discussed. (shrink)
According to the presumption of atheism, we are to presume disbelief unless agnosticism or theism can be adequately defended. In this paper I will defend the presumption of atheism against a popular objection made by Thomas Morris and elucidate an insuperable difficulty for any attempt to argue for a presumption of agnosticism.
A central characteristic of people with Prader-Willi Syndrome (PWS) is an apparent insatiable appetite leading to severe overeating and the potential for marked obesity and associated serious health problems and premature death. This behaviour may be due to the effects of the genetic defect resulting from the chromosome 15 abnormalities associated with the syndrome. We examine the ethical and legal dilemmas that can arise in the care of people with PWS. A tension exists between a genetic deterministic perspective and that (...) of individual choice. We conclude that the determination of the capacity of a person with PWS to make decisions about his/her eating behaviour and to control that behaviour is of particular importance in resolving this dilemma. If the person is found to lack capacity, the common law principles of acting in a person's "best interests" using the "least restrictive alternative" may be helpful. Allowing serious weight gain in the absence of careful consideration of these issues is an abdication of responsibility. (shrink)
It is unclear what we should make of a policy designed to eradicate' genetically based handicap, and in particular whether it constitutes discrimination against people with a genetic handicap. After brief reference to the legal position, four arguments are examined which purport to justify differential treatment of handicapped lives either before conception or before birth: the argument from genetic error', the argument from parental responsibility, the argument from social consequences and the argument from impersonal harm. Weaknesses are detected in each (...) of these arguments, and the conclusion is drawn that, although differential treatment of handicapped lives is sometimes justified, there are some circumstances in which it does amount to discrimination. (shrink)
The question discussed is whether the conditions for knowledge laid down by externalist or causal theories of knowledge render knowledge claims secure from scepticism of the cartesian kind. a simple account of such conditions encourages an affirmative answer. but such an account proves inadequate and some of the conditions of an adequate account are sketched. once these conditions are introduced, it is argued, knowledge claims appear as open as ever to sceptical challenge. however it is also seen how modest knowledge (...) claims may be upheld, and the conclusion reached is that the type of theory discussed allows us to compromise with scepticism rather than to capitulate. (shrink)
"theaetetus" of the thesis that knowledge is sense-perception. After a brief defence of plato's handling of this thesis it is shown how the argument can, by the addition of one premiss, be rendered valid. A strong form of the 'proper objects' doctrine of perception is revealed as a crucial premiss. An implication of the argument is seen to be that perception in itself is unable to found an ordered and coherent picture of the world. A similar point, it is argued, (...) lies behind certain passages in the central books of the "republic". A tentative conclusion is that in the "theaetetus" plato retains and indeed sharpens the views about the sensible world which he expresses in the "republic". (shrink)