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 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)
This paper discusses the viability of a virtue-based approach to bioethics. Virtue ethics is clearly appropriate to addressing issues of professional character and conduct. But another major remit of bioethics is to evaluate the ethics of biomedical procedures in order to recommend regulatory policy. How appropriate is the virtue ethics approach to fulfilling this remit? The first part of this paper characterizes the methodology problem in bioethics in terms of diversity, and shows that virtue ethics does not simply restate this (...) problem in its own terms. However, fatal objections to the way the virtue ethics approach is typically taken in bioethics literature are presented in the second section of the paper. In the third part, a virtue-based approach to bioethics that avoids the shortcomings of the typical one is introduced and shown to be prima facie plausible. The upshot is an inviting new direction for research into bioethics' methodology. (shrink)
Nursing ethics centres on how nurses ought to respond to the moral situations that arise in their professional contexts. Nursing ethicists invoke normative approaches from moral philosophy. Specifically, it is increasingly common for nursing ethicists to apply virtue ethics to moral problems encountered by nurses. The point of this article is to argue for scepticism about this approach. First, the research question is motivated by showing that requirements on nurses such as to be kind, do not suffice to establish virtue (...) ethics in nursing because normative rivals (such as utilitarians) can say as much; and the teleology distinctive of virtue ethics does not transpose to a professional context, such as nursing. Next, scepticism is argued for by responding to various attempts to secure a role for virtue ethics in nursing. The upshot is that virtue ethics is best left where it belongs – in personal moral life, not professional ethics – and nursing ethics is best done by taking other approaches. (shrink)
What is death? The question is of wide-ranging practical importance because we need to be able to distinguish the living from the dead in order to treat both appropriately; specifically, the permissibility of retrieving vital organs for transplantation depends upon the potential donor's ontological status. There is a well-established and influential biological definition of death as irreversible breakdown in the functioning of the organism as a whole, but it continues to elicit disquiet and rejoinders. The central claims of this paper (...) are that the best way to address the question as to what death is, is to attend closely to our ordinary concept of death; doing so reveals that, whilst our ordinary understanding accommodates the biological definition, it also includes the thought that, for someone who has died, there will never again be anything it is like to be that person. Support for these claims is provided, and their academic and practical implications traced. The important practical implication is that we are left in quandary as to whether certain potential organ donors — for example, anencephalic babies and the permanently vegetative — are dead, a quandary that has serious implications for the relevance of the dead donor rule in transplant ethics. (shrink)
ALTHOUGH THE IDEA OF A VIOLATION OF NATURAL LAW IS NOT NECESSARILY INVOLVED IN THE IDEA OF THE MIRACULOUS, THERE IS "ONE KIND" OF MIRACLE WHICH SEEMS TO INVOLVE IT. HUME’S DISCUSSION OF THE EVIDENCE FOR MIRACLES RELATES TO THIS KIND AND IS INTERPRETABLE AS AN ARGUMENT AGAINST ITS POSSIBILITY. ALSO THERE IS AN ARGUMENT THAT THE EXPRESSION "VIOLATION OF NATURAL LAW" SIGNIFIES A CONFUSION IN WHICH THE IDEAS OF NATURAL LAW AND LEGAL LAW COLLAPSE INTO EACH OTHER. NEITHER OF (...) THESE ARGUMENTS IS EFFICACIOUS. FURTHERMORE, THE CONTENTION THAT THERE CAN BE NO SUCH THING AS ESTABLISHING THE "ABSENCE" OF A NATURAL CAUSE IS OPEN TO OBJECTION. HOWEVER, TO BE CONCEIVED AS A VIOLATION OF NATURAL LAW, A MIRACLE MUST BE THOUGHT OF AS AN OCCURRENCE WHICH IS BOTH EMPIRICALLY CERTAIN AND CONCEPTUALLY IMPOSSIBLE--WHICH OUGHT TO MAKE THE NOTION RIDICULOUS. AND YET IT NEED NOT. (shrink)
I argue that we need not accept Quine's holistic conception of mathematics and empirical science. Specifically, I argue that we should reject Quine's holism for two reasons. One, his argument for this position fails to appreciate that the revision of the mathematics employed in scientific theories is often related to an expansion of the possibilities of describing the empirical world, and that this reveals that mathematics serves as a kind of rational framework for empirical theorizing. Two, this holistic conception does (...) not clearly demarcate pure mathematics from applied mathematics. In arguing against Quine, I present a formal account of applied mathematics in which the mathematics employed in an empirical theory plays a role that is analogous to the epistemological role Kant assigned synthetic a priori propositions. According to this account, it is possible to insulate pure mathematics from empirical falsification, and there is a sense in which applied mathematics can also be labeled as a priori. (shrink)
It is argued that awareness of the distinction between dynamical and variational symmetries is crucial to understanding the significance of Noether's 1918 work. Specific attention is paid, by way of a number of striking examples, to Noether's first theorem, which establishes a correlation between dynamical symmetries and conservation principles.
This paper offers a reading of Heidegger''s 1931 lectures on Aristotle''s Metaphysics, Theta 1-3 that relates that discussion to Heidegger''s later work on The Question Concerning Technology and then, more briefly, to contemporary philosophical discussions of ecological issues. This reading is intended to open the possibility of using Heidegger''s re-interpretation of Aristotle as a source within the Western European tradition for understanding our relationship to the natural world in a way that could provide the philosophical tools for addressing ecological problems (...) more adequately and effectively. (shrink)
Evaluating public health measures is one of the central tasks in public health ethics. Some public health measures incur the charge that they are paternalistic in an objectionable way. In a recent intriguing contribution to this journal, Thomas Nys responds to this complaint by setting out three challenges to be met if the charge is to be made good. The first challenge is that putatively objectionable public health measures in fact preserve autonomy; the second is that autonomy is not undermined (...) by measures that are the upshot of democratic processes; the third is that it is a mistake to charge measures intended to benefit others with being objectionably paternalistic. Nys's explicit aim in presenting these challenges is not to show that the charge of paternalism in public health is never sound, but to stimulate further discussion. My paper takes up this invitation by responding to each of the challenges Nys presents, including discussing where they fail and identifying which succeed. (shrink)
This paper argues against the continued practice of Confucian familism, even in its moderate form, in East Asian hospitals. According to moderate familism, a physician acting in concert with the patient's family may withhold diagnostic information from the patient, and may give it to the patient's family members without her prior approval. There are two main approaches to defend moderate familism: one argues that it can uphold patient's autonomy and protect her best interests; the other appeals to cultural relativism by (...) construing the principle of ‘family autonomy’ to be incommensurable with that of individual autonomy. We respond to the first approach by explaining how the familist arguments either depend on some unreasonable assumptions or simply fail to articulate. The critique of the second approach is based on our recent survey showing that there is no dichotomy of relevant values between the East and the West: we believe that the result can effectively block the familist's reliance on certain traditional or cultural values to explain their resistance to the incorporation of pluralist values. Despite our disagreement with familism, we consider the Eastern emphasis on the family to be conducive to the communication between patient, family members and medical personnel, which is indispensible to the patient's well being and autonomy. We conclude that respect for patient autonomy is perfectly consistent with the involvement of the family in making medical decision as long as the family plays a merely consultant role. (shrink)
Over sixty years ago, Kenneth Craik noted that, if an organism (or an artificial agent) carried 'a small-scale model of external reality and of its own possible actions within its head', it could use the model to behave intelligently. This paper argues that the possible actions might best be represented by interactions between a model of reality and a model of the agent, and that, in such an arrangement, the internal model of the agent might be a transparent model of (...) the sort recently discussed by Metzinger, and so might offer a useful analogue of a conscious entity. The CRONOS project has built a robot functionally similar to a human that has been provided with an internal model of itself and of the world to be used in the way suggested by Craik; when the system is completed, it will be possible to study its operation from the perspective not only of artificial intelligence, but also of machine consciousness. (shrink)
Internal global symmetries exist for the free non-relativistic Schrodinger particle, whose associated Noether charges---the space integrals of the wavefunction and the wavefunction multiplied by the spatial coordinate---are exhibited. Analogous symmetries in classical electromagnetism are also demonstrated.
: This essay examines the increasing commodification of the body with respect to tissues, gametes, and embryos. Such commodification contributes to a diminishing sense of human personhood on an individual level, even as it erodes commitments to human flourishing at the societal level. After the case for social harm resulting from the increasing commodification of the body is made, the question becomes whether that harm is best remedied by following any of three approaches by which government traditionally seeks to promote (...) the flourishing of its citizens. The author concludes that it is not, and that what is needed is a pragmatic and somewhat casuistic approach to the regulation of contested commodities--that which legal scholar Margaret Jane Radin calls "incomplete commodification.". (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to illustrate four properties of the non-relativistic limits of relativistic theories: (a) that a massless relativistic field may have a meaningful non-relativistic limit, (b) that a relativistic field may have more than one non-relativistic limit, (c) that coupled relativistic systems may be ''more relativistic'' than their uncoupled counterparts, and (d) that the properties of the non-relativistic limit of a dynamical equation may differ from those obtained when the limiting equation is based directly on exact (...) Galilean kinematics. These properties are demonstrated through an examination of the non-relativistic limit of the familiar equations of first-quantized QED, i.e., the Dirac and Maxwell equations. The conditions under which each set of equations admits non-relativistic limits are given, particular attention being given to a gauge-invariant formulation of the limiting process especially as it applies to the electromagnetic potentials. The difference between the properties of a limiting theory and an exactly Galilean covariant theory based on the same dynamical equation is demonstrated by examination of the Pauli equation. (shrink)
: This paper addresses the question of whether Derrida's "hauntology," as developed in Specters of Marx and related texts, can be anything more than yet another repetition of a specifically male preoccupation with the Father inscribed on the bodies of women, in this case the always absent daughter. A careful reading suggests that Derrida, and playwright fathers of daughters such as Shakespeare and August Wilson, may be aware of the paradoxes of their situation.
"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)
This paper reconsiders Marcuse's Eros and Civilization from the perspective of Gayle Rubin's classic article "The Traffic in Women." The primary goals of this comparison are to investigate the social and psychological mechanisms that perpetuate the archaic sex/gender system Rubin describes under current conditions of post-industrial capitalism; to open possible new avenues of analysis and liberatory praxis based on these authors' applications of Marxist insights to cultural interpretations of Freud's writings; and to make clearer the role sexual repression continues to (...) play in all forms of oppression, even in a public world seemingly saturated with sex. (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)