The standard behavioral index for human consciousness is the ability to report events with accuracy. While this method is routinely used for scientific and medical applications in humans, it is not easy to generalize to other species. Brain evidence may lend itself more easily to comparative testing. Human consciousness involves widespread, relatively fast low-amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical core of the brain, driven by current tasks and conditions. These features have also been found in other mammals, which suggests that consciousness (...) is a major biological adaptation in mammals. We suggest more than a dozen additional properties of human consciousness that may be used to test comparative predictions. Such homologies are necessarily more remote in non-mammals, which do not share the thalamocortical complex. However, as we learn more we may be able to make “deeper” predictions that apply to some birds, reptiles, large-brained invertebrates, and perhaps other species. (shrink)
Neural Darwinism (ND) is a large scale selectionist theory of brain development and function that has been hypothesized to relate to consciousness. According to ND, consciousness is entailed by reentrant interactions among neuronal populations in the thalamocortical system (the ‘dynamic core’). These interactions, which permit high-order discriminations among possible core states, confer selective advantages on organisms possessing them by linking current perceptual events to a past history of value-dependent learning. Here, we assess the consistency of ND with 16 widely recognized (...) properties of consciousness, both physiological (for example, consciousness is associated with widespread, relatively fast, low amplitude interactions in the thalamocortical system), and phenomenal (for example, consciousness involves the existence of a private flow of events available only to the experiencing subject). While no theory accounts fully for all of these properties at present, we find that ND and its recent extensions fare well. (shrink)
The resurgent science of consciousness has been accompanied by a recent emphasis on the problem of measurement. Having dependable measures of consciousness is essential both for mapping experimental evidence to theory and for designing perspicuous experiments. Here, we review a series of behavioural and brain-based measures, assessing their ability to track graded consciousness and clarifying how they relate to each other by showing what theories are presupposed by each. We identify possible and actual conflicts among measures that can stimulate new (...) experiments, and we conclude that measures must prove themselves by iteratively building knowledge in the context of theoretical frameworks. Advances in measuring consciousness have implications for basic cognitive neuroscience, for comparative studies of consciousness and for clinical applications. (shrink)
The metacognitive stance of Smith et al. (2003) risks ignoring sensory consciousness. Although Smith et al. rightly caution against the tendency to preserve the uniqueness of the human mind at all costs, their reasoned stance is undermined by a selective association of consciousness with high-level cognitive operations. Neurobiological evidence may offer a more general, and hence more inclusive, basis for the systematic study of animal consciousness.
In this essay we develop and argue for the adoption of a more comprehensive model of research ethics than is included within current conceptions of responsible conduct of research (RCR). We argue that our model, which we label the ethical dimensions of scientific research (EDSR), is a more comprehensive approach to encouraging ethically responsible scientific research compared to the currently typically adopted approach in RCR training. This essay focuses on developing a pedagogical approach that enables scientists to better understand and (...) appreciate one important component of this model, what we call intrinsic ethics . Intrinsic ethical issues arise when values and ethical assumptions are embedded within scientific findings and analytical methods. Through a close examination of a case study and its application in teaching, namely, evaluation of climate change integrated assessment models, this paper develops a method and case for including intrinsic ethics within research ethics training to provide scientists with a comprehensive understanding and appreciation of the critical role of values and ethical choices in the production of research outcomes. (shrink)
The significance of animals in research cannot be over-emphasized. The use of animals for research and training in research centres, hospitals and schools is progressively increasing. Advances in biotechnology to improve animal productivity require animal research. Drugs being developed and new interventions or therapies being invented for cure and palliation of all sorts of animal diseases and conditions need to be tested in animals for their safety and efficacy at some stages of their development. Drugs and interventions for human use (...) pass through a similar development process and must be tested pre-clinically in laboratory animals before clinical trials in humans can be conducted. Therefore, animals are important players in research processes which directly and indirectly benefit animals and humans. However, questions remain as to whether these uses of animals consider the best interests of animals themselves. Various research and training institutions in Tanzania have established some guidelines on animal use, including establishing animal ethics committees. However, most institutions have not established oversight committees. In institutions where there may be guidelines and policies, there are no responsible committees or units to directly oversee if and how these guidelines and policies are enforced; thus, implementation becomes difficult or impossible. This paper endeavours to raise some issues associated with the responsible use of animals in research and training in Tanzania and highlights suggestions for improvement of deficiencies that exist in order to bridge the gap between what ought to be practised and what is practised. (shrink)
This commentary considers Merker's mesodiencephalic proposal in relation to quantitative measures of neural dynamics suggested to be relevant to consciousness. I suggest that even if critical neural mechanisms turn out to be subcortical, the functional utility of consciousness will depend on the rich conscious contents generated by continuous interaction of such mechanisms with a thalamocortical envelope. (Published Online May 1 2007).
In their comment on Sandberg, Timmermans, Overgaard, and Cleeremans (2010), Dienes and Seth argue that increased sensitivity of the Perceptual Awareness Scale (PAS) is a consequence of the scale being less exclusive rather than more exhaustive. According to Dienes and Seth, this is because PAS may measure some conscious content, though not necessarily relevant conscious content, ‘‘If one saw a square but was only aware of seeing a flash of something, then one has not consciously seen a square.” (...) In this reply, we claim that there is a difference between conscious visual experience, which may be partial, and the resulting conscious content, which is conceptual. Whereas PAS measures the first, confidence judgments and post-decision wagering measure the second. (shrink)
This new edition brings together the English translation of the renowned Plato scholar and translator, Seth Benardete, with two illuminating commentaries on it: Benardete's "On Plato's Symposium" and Allan Bloom's provocative essay, "The ...
The Laws was Plato's last work, his longest, and one of his most difficult. In contrast to the Republic, which presents an abstract ideal not intended for any actual community, the Laws seems to provide practical guidelines for the establishment and maintenance of political order in the real world. With this book, the distinguished classicist Seth Benardete offers an insightful analysis and commentary on this rich and complex dialogue. Each of the chapters corresponds to one of the twelve books (...) of the Laws, illuminating the major themes and arguments, which have to do with theology, the soul, justice, and education. The Greek word for law, "nomos," also means musical tune. Bernardete shows how music--in the broadest sense, including drama, epic poetry, and even puppetry--mediates between reason and the city in Plato's philosophy of law. Most broadly, however, Benardete here uncovers the concealed ontological dimension of the Laws, explaining why it is concealed and how it comes to light. In establishing the coherence and underlying organization of Plato's last dialogue, Benardete makes a significant contribution to Platonic studies. (shrink)
This volume brings together Seth Benardete's studies of Hesiod's Theogony, Homer's Iliad, and Greek tragedy, of eleven Platonic dialogues, and Aristotle's Metaphysics. These essays, some never before published, others difficult to find, span four decades of his work and document its impressive range. Benardete's philosophic reading of the poets and his poetic reading of the philosophers share a common ground that makes this collection a whole. The key, suggested by his reflections on Leo Strauss in the last piece, lies (...) in the question of how to read Plato. Benardete's way is characterized not just by careful attention to the literary form that separates doctrine from dialogue, and speeches from deed rather, by following the dynamic of these differences, he uncovers the argument that belongs to the dialogue as a whole. The "turnaround" such an argument undergoes bears consequences for understanding the dialogue as radical as the conversion of the philosopher in Plato's image of the cave. Benardete's original interpretations are the fruits of this discovery of the "argument of the action.". (shrink)
Philosophy as criticism of categories, by A. Seth.--The relation of philosophy to science, by R. B. Haldane and J. S. Haldane.--Logic as the science of knowledge, by B. Bosanquet.--The historical method, by W. R. Sorley.--The rationality of history, by D. G. Ritchie.--The philosophy of art, W. P. Ker.--The social organism, by H. Jones.--The struggle for existence, by J. Bonar.--Pessimism and the religious consciousness, by T. B. Kilpatrick.
Epistemic modal operators give rise to something very like, but also very unlike, Moore's paradox. I set out the puzzling phenomena, explain why a standard relational semantics for these operators cannot handle them, and recommend an alternative semantics. A pragmatics appropriate to the semantics is developed and interactions between the semantics, the pragmatics, and the definition of consequence are investigated. The semantics is then extended to probability operators. Some problems and prospects for probabilistic representations of content and context are explored.
Peter van Inwagen contends that free will is a mystery. Here I present an argument in the spirit of van Inwagen's. According to the Assimilation Argument, libertarians cannot plausibly distinguish causally undetermined actions, the ones they take to be exercises of free will, from overtly randomized outcomes of the sort nobody would count as exercises of free will. I contend that the Assimilation Argument improves on related arguments in locating the crucial issues between van Inwagen and libertarians who hope to (...) demystify free will, while avoiding objections these arguments have faced. (shrink)
In his seminal essay “Freedom and Resentment,” Strawson drew attention to the role of such emotions as resentment, moral indignation, and guilt in our moral and personal lives. According to Strawson, these reactive attitudes are at once constitutive of moral blame and inseparable from ordinary interpersonal relationships. On this basis, he concluded that relinquishing moral blame isn’t a real possibility for us, given our commitment to personal relationships. If well founded, this conclusion puts the traditional free-will debate in a new (...) light. In particular, in so far as incompatibilists believe that we can or should forgo moral blame if determinism is true, their stance may seem out of touch with our emotional reality. Here I examine Strawson’s claim that the reactive attitudes are inseparable from ordinary interpersonal relationships. Strawson says surprisingly little to support this intriguing claim, and thus far no argument for it has emerged in the literature. My aim is to remedy this. Specifically, I set out an argument for a suitably formulated version of the inseparability claim, an argument that appeals to the relationship between the reactive attitudes and other elements of our emotional lives. I then show how this argument helps to answer an important recent challenge to Strawson’s position. If I am right, there is good reason to doubt that the reforms envisaged by some incompatibilists, reforms to our blame-related practices, are a real possibility for us. (shrink)
In the context of his highly influential defence of compatibilism, P. F. Strawson 1962 introduced the terms "reactive attitude" and "objective attitude" to the free-will lexicon. He argued, in effect, that relinquishing such reactive attitudes as resentment and moral indignation isn't a real possibility for us, since doing so would commit us to exclusive objectivity, a stance incompatible with ordinary interpersonal relationships. While most commentators have challenged Strawson's link between personal relationships and the reactive attitudes, Tamler Sommers 2007 has taken (...) up Strawson's claim that exclusive objectivity would preclude meaningful relationships. Here I set out a defence of this claim by identifying a kind of interpersonal caring that is plausibly both required for such relationships and excluded by the objective attitude. I then argue that this defence helps to support Strawson's more controversial claim about personal relationships and the reactive attitudes. (shrink)
Seth Yalcin has pointed out some puzzling facts about the behaviour of epistemic modals in certain embedded contexts. For example, conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and it might not be raining, …’ sound unacceptable, unlike conditionals that begin ‘If it is raining and I don’t know it, …’. These facts pose a prima facie problem for an orthodox treatment of epistemic modals, according to which they express propositions about the knowledge of some contextually specified individual or group. (...) This paper develops an explanation of the puzzling facts about embedding within an orthodox framework, using broadly Gricean resources. (shrink)
This is a study in the meaning of natural language probability operators, sentential operators such as probably and likely. We ask what sort of formal structure is required to model the logic and semantics of these operators. Along the way we investigate their deep connections to indicative conditionals and epistemic modals, probe their scalar structure, observe their sensitivity to contex- tually salient contrasts, and explore some of their scopal idiosyncrasies.
I develop a new argument for an expressivist account of epistemic modals, which starts from a puzzle about epistemic modals which Seth Yalcin recently presented. I reject Yalcin's own solution to the puzzle, and give a better explanation based on expressivism concerning epistemic modals. I also address two alleged problems for expressivism: do embeddings of epistemic modals pose a serious threat to expressivism, and how can expressivism account for disagreements about statements containing epistemic modals?
In this paper, I examine a new line of response to Frankfurt’s challenge to the traditional association of moral responsibility with the ability to do otherwise. According to this response, Frankfurt’s counterexample strategy fails, not in light of the conditions for moral responsibility per se, but in view of the conditions for action. Specifically, it is claimed, a piece of behavior counts as an action only if it is within the agent’s power to avoid performing it. In so far as (...) Frankfurt’s challenge presupposes that actions can be unavoidable, this view of action seems to bring his challenge up short. Helen Steward and Maria Alvarez have independently proposed versions of this response. Here I argue that this response is unavailable to Frankfurt’s incompatibilist opponents. This becomes evident when we put this question to its proponents: “Are actions that originate deterministically ipso facto unavoidable?” If they answer “yes,” they encounter one horn of a dilemma. If they answer “no,” they encounter the other horn. Since no one has a clearer stake in meeting Frankfurt’s challenge than these theorists do, it is significant that the Steward-Alvarez response is unavailable to them. (shrink)
In this paper, I explore a new approach to the problem of determinism and moral responsibility. This approach involves asking when someone has a compelling claim to exemption against other members of the moral community. I argue that it is sometimes fair to reject such claims, even when the agent doesn’t deserve, in the sense of basic desert, to be blamed for her conduct. In particular, when an agent’s conduct reveals that her commitment to comply with the standards of the (...) moral community is deficient, and when her demand for exemption further exemplifies this deficiency, she cannot complain of unfair treatment if her demand is rejected. To support this contention, I argue that we are sometimes justified in rejecting otherwise valid moral appeals on the grounds that they are cynically motivated, especially when an agent merely seeks to exploit our commitment to comply with reasonable interpersonal standards. An advantage of this approach is that it affords compatibilists a middle path, allowing them to defend our practice of blaming on non-consequentialist grounds of fairness, even as they acknowledge the force of arguments for incompatibilism about basic desert. (shrink)
When I tell you that it’s raining, I describe a way the world is—viz., rainy. I say something whose truth turns on how things are with the weather in the world. Likewise when I tell you that the weatherman thinks that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I say turns on how things are with the weatherman’s state of mind in the world. Likewise when I tell you that I think that it’s raining. Here the truth of what I (...) say turns on how things are with my state of mind in the world. (shrink)
This paper defends a counterexample to Modus Tollens, and uses it to draw some conclusions about the logic and semantics of indicative conditionals and probability operators in natural language. Along the way we investigate some of the interactions of these expressions with 'knows', and we call into question the thesis that all knowledge ascriptions have truth-conditions.
In ‘Epistemic Modals’ (2007), Seth Yalcin proposes Stalnaker-style semantics for epistemic possibility. He is inspired by John MacFarlane’s ingenious defence of relativism, in which claims of epistemic possibility are made rigidly from the perspective of the assessor’s actual stock of information (rather than from the speaker’s knowledge base or that of his audience or community). The innovations of MacFarlane and Yalcin independently reinforce the modal collapse espoused by Jaakko Hintikka in his 1962 epistemic logic (which relied on the implausible (...) KK principle and heavy idealizations). I respond to this new challenge with fresh objections to the underlying S4 equivalence: p p . I also propose counter-analyses of the intriguing data which Yalcin cites in support of his new semantics. A key collateral motivation for this defence of irredundant iterations is to ward off a threat to higher order vagueness. (shrink)
Here I motivate and defend a new counterexample to logical (or non-causal) versions of the direct argument for responsibility-determinism incompatibilism. Such versions purport to establish incompatibilism via an inference principle to the effect that non-responsibility transfers along relations of logical consequence, including those that hold between earlier and later states of a deterministic world. Unlike previous counterexamples, this case doesn't depend on preemptive overdetermination; nor can it be blocked with a simple modification of the inference principle. In defending this counterexample, (...) I show that van Inwagen's technical notion of being partly responsible for a state of affairs, which figures in his statement of the principle, is problematic. (shrink)
...I defend the uncompromising position against both Kane’s compromise source position and the traditional, “leeway” view. In sections 1 and 2, I take up Kane’s argument that uncompromising source incompatibilists go too far in their rejection of avoidability. In seeing where this argument goes wrong, we will also see why the compromise position is untenable…With the field thus narrowed, I turn to the leeway camp. Here the source incompatibilist’s task is to show that the ultimacy rationale for incompatibilism holds its (...) own against its more familiar and better-understood predecessor. In section 3, a significant gap in existing expositions is addressed. So far, source incompatibilists have not adequately explained or defended their premise that no one is the ultimate source of her actions under determinism… When this gap is closed, however, another looms larger. The second gap concerns the source incompatibilist’s other premise: that moral responsibility requires ultimate sourcehood… In light of this worry, source incompatibilists need a more direct answer than they have so far provided to the question, “Why does moral responsibility require ultimate sourcehood?” I present such an answer in Section 4…. (shrink)
I don’t propose to harp on the question of whether MacFarlane has the data right. Let us just assume, for the sake of argument, that he does. Let us further assume that his interpretation of the data is correct—i.e., that these judgments are assessments of the the whole clause and not simply of the prejacent. Granting all this—maybe a lot—we need a semantics for epistemic modals that will make sense of the judgments in this case, and in relevantly similar cases. (...) Mac- Farlane argues that contextualism about epistemic modals cannot make sense of the judgments. His central worry is that it can only get the truth-value judgments of speakers right by making the truth-conditions of epistemic modal claims outrageously strong—too strong to be assertable in cases where they are, in fact, assertable. We might call it the contextualist’s dilemma: either our semantics systematically fails to capture the truth-value judgments that people actually make, or it captures these judgments but turns users of epistemic modal sentences into irrational asserters. (shrink)