Top-down dynamical models of cognitive processes, such as the one presented by Thelen et al., are important pieces in understanding the development of cognitive abilities in humans and biological organisms. Unlike standard symbolic computational approaches to cognition, such dynamical models offer the hope that they can be connected with more bottom-up, neurologically inspired dynamical models to provide a complete view of cognition at all levels. We raise some questions about the details of their simulation and about potential limitations of (...) top-down dynamical models. (shrink)
The debate of nativisim versus empiricism is over the relative importance of evolutionary versus ontogenetic mechanisms. This is mostly seen today as a false dichotomy. The synthesis of these positions provides a modern viewpoint of grounded category formation. This combined view places equal importance on feedback between these levels in guiding development, and is more appropriately compared to culturalist positions.
There has recently been a reappraisal of value in UK construction and calls from a wide range of influential individuals, professional institutions and government bodies for the industry to exceed stakeholders’ expectations and develop integrated teams that can deliver world class products and services. As such value is certainly topical, but the importance of values as a separate but related concept is less well understood. Most construction firms have well-defined and well-articulated values, expressed in annual reports and on websites; however, (...) the lack of rigorous and structured approaches published within construction management research and the practical, unsupported advice on construction institution websites may indicate a shortfall in the approaches used. This article reviews and compares the content and␣structure of some of the most widely used values approaches, and discusses their application within the construction sector. One of the most advanced and empirically tested theories of human values is appraised, and subsequently adopted as a suitable approach to eliciting and defining shared organisational values. Three studies within six construction organisations demonstrate the potential application of this individually grounded approach to reveal and align the relative values priorities of individuals and organisations to understand the strength of their similarity and difference. The results of these case studies show that this new universal values structure can be used along with more qualitative elicitation techniques to understand organisational cultures. (shrink)
In this essay I take issue with Derek Parfit's reductionist account of personal identity.Parfit is concerned to respond to what he sees as flaws in the conception of the role of 'person' in self-interest theories. He attempts to show that the notion of a person as something over and above a totality of mental and physical states and events (in his words, a 'further fact'), is empty, and so, our ethical concerns must be based on something other than this. (...) My objections centre around the claim that Parfit employs an impoverished conception of 'life'. Parfit misconceives the connection between 'I' and one's body, and, so, despite his rejection of a metaphysical conception of 'self', remains within the logic of Cartesianism. What Parfit and other reductionists call an 'impersonal' perspective, I shall call the third-person perspective: a perspective which one in general may take. Against Parfit I shall offer a more complex conception of 'self' through the concept of 'bodily perspective'. I emphasize the irreducible ambiguities of human embodiment in order to show the presuppositions and the limitations of Parfit's view. Of interest is the conception of time and the model of continuity that is appropriate to an embodied subject's life. I employ Paul Ricoeur's concept of 'human time' to argue that the reflective character of human experience demands a model of temporality and continuity that differs significantly from the one Parfit employs. (shrink)
If I understand him correctly, Derek Parfit’s views place us, philosophically speaking, in a very small box. According to Parfit, normativity is an irreducible non-natural property that is independent of the human mind. That is to say, there are normative truths - truths about what we ought to do and to want, or about reasons for doing and wanting things. The truths in question are synthetic a priori truths, and accessible to us only by some sort of rational intuition. (...) Parfit supposes that if we are to preserve the irreducibility of the normative, this is just about all we can say, at least until we bring in some actual intuitions to supply the story with some content. (shrink)
For nearly a generation, Derek Parfit's arguments in his 1984 book Reasons and Persons have shaped debates about our moral responsibilities to future people. Struggling to accommodate Parfit's insights, philosophers and bioethicists have minimized or accentuated obligations to the future in ways that defy ordinary moral intuitions. In this issue, Robert Sparrow develops the troubling implications of the views of two leading theorists whose work favoring human genetic enhancement is influenced by Parfit. Sparrow believes they return us to the (...) horrors of early twentieth-century eugenics. But the real problem may be a purely theoretical one: the unfortunate influence of Parfit.This is no place to review all of .. (shrink)
In Essays on Derek Parfit's On What Matters, seven leading moral philosophers offer critical evaluations of the central ideas presented in a greatly anticipated new work by world-renowned moral philosopher Derek Parfit. Presents critical assessments of what promises to be one of the key moral philosophy texts of our time Features essays by a team of leading philosophers including Princeton's Michael Smith, one of the world's leading meta-ethicists Addresses Parfit's central thesis - that the main ethical theories can (...) agree on what matters - as well as his defense of moral realism. (shrink)
Jerrold Levinson maintains that he is a realist about aesthetic properties. This paper considers his positive arguments for such a view. An argument from Roger Scruton, that aesthetic realism would entail the absurd claim that many aesthetic predicates were ambiguous, is also considered and it is argued that Levinson is in no worse position with respect to this argument than anyone else. However, Levinson cannot account for the phenomenon of aesthetic autonomy: namely, that we cannot be put in a position (...) to make an aesthetic judgement by testimony alone. Finally, Levinson's views on the ontology of aesthetic properties are considered and found wanting. (shrink)
This paper is a response to Derek Attridge's review of my book Radical Atheism: Derrida and the Time of Life, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2008. Attridge's review was published in Derrida Today Vol. 2, Issue 2 (2009), pp. 271–281, the arguments of which have also been incorporated in Attridge's recent book Reading and Responsibility, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2010.
Wittgenstein (1993), Derek Jarman’s biopic of the Austrian-born Cambridge philosopher is a fascinating – if perplexing – film. In equal measure aesthetic and didactic, its status is ambiguous, and not only because didacticism in the philosophy of art is often assumed to diminish aesthetic value. Nothing, however, of the film’s aesthetic is depreciated by the intention to instruct. Even if the objective was to teach, the film is also highly aestheticised. Composed of a series of richly theatrical set-pieces, Jarman’s (...) film aspires to a painterly aesthetic. This paper examines the aesthetic and epistemic dimensions of Wittgenstein . The consensus among professional philosophers is that the film, while idiosyncratic and stylised, nevertheless says something important about Wittgenstein’s philosophy. It is as if he has used the project to innovate ways of translating Wittgenstein’s philosophy to aesthetic form. The resultant representational strategies are best understood with reference to the picture theory developed in Wittgenstein’s early philosophy. In the Tractatus Logico - Philosophicus (1922) Wittgenstein characterised the proposition as an articulation of elements that, by virtue of shared logical form, corresponds to the disposition of objects in a possible fact. Under Jarman’s direction, cinematic tableaux are transformed into propositions in the Wittgensteinian sense. In this film, therefore, Jarman has refined his cinematic process into what, following the picture theory, I have called tractarian montage. It is because the philosophy is embedded in the film as a structural component of its form (and not just presented didactically) that Wittgenstein seems oddly right to Wittgensteinian viewers. The aesthetic and epistemic consequences that result from Jarman’s approach are precisely what make the film philosophically interesting – indeed they provide a valuable opportunity to reflect not only on the development of Wittgenstein’s philosophy but also, uniquely, on the relationship between his philosophy and his life. (shrink)
Shankman holds that Derek Freeman “trashed” Margaret Mead’s reputation as a public intellectual by portraying her as a naïve and gullible anthropologist who perpetrated a serious error about adolescence in American Samoa. Shankman concedes that Mead’s Coming of Age in Samoa was factually in error but argues that her reputation in anthropology did not rest on it but rather on her extensive works on other societies. Ostensibly about Samoa, her book was rather a critique of American society and should (...) be judged as such. It is unjust that its factual errors undermine her status as a public intellectual. Fieldwork method and the lingering influence of inductivism are shown to underlie the controversy. (shrink)
In this paper, I compare John Locke’s “memory theory” of personal identity and Memento (directed by Christopher Nolan). I argue that the plot of Memento is ambiguous, in that the main character (Leonard Shelby, played by Guy Pearce) seems to have two histories. As such, Memento is but a series of puzzle cases that intend to illustrate that, although our memories may not be chronologically related to one another, and may even be fused with the memories of other persons, those (...) memories still constitute personal identity. Just as Derek Parfit argues, perhaps there is no personal identity as such, since only survival (in some degree) matters to us. In Memento, Leonard Shelby is not identity to his former self, but survives to some extent. (shrink)
In Reasons and Persons, Derek Parfit cannot find a theory of well-being that solves the Non-Identity Problem, the Repugnant Conclusion, the Absurd Conclusion, and all forms of the Mere Addition Paradox. I describe a “Quasi-Maximizing” theory that solves them. This theory includes (i) the denial that being better than is transitive and (ii) the “Conflation Principle,” according to which alternative B is hedonically better than alternative C if it would be better for someone to have all the B-experiences. (i) (...) entails that Quasi-Maximization is not a maximizing theory, but (ii) ensures that its evaluations will often coincide with such theories. (shrink)
This is a book that challenges the current orthodoxy, both in the philosophy of mind and in the cognitive sciences, that thinking (construed broadly to include perceiving, imagining, remembering, etc.) is a mental process in the head. Such a view has been largely taken for granted since the demise of behaviorism in the 1960s, and it underpins both the representational and computational theories of mind, including their connectionist and dynamicist variants. While the orthodoxy has been rejected in recent years by (...) a motley collection of e-theorists—externalists, embodiers, embedders, and extended minders—Melser’s view is quite distinct from such views. For Melser, rather than thinking being a process that begins in the head but extends beyond it (as most e-theorists hold), it is a personal-level activity, something that a person does through her actions. Since Melser views such activities as being disjoint from natural processes, thinking is not a natural process at all, the sort of thing that we might study scientifically. Thus, thinking is a personal action that calls for a different kind of study, one that draws on empathy, interpretation, and hermeneutics. That is the view defended at the core of the book (chh.1-7), and if it makes it sound like a very old-fashioned book, that’s because it is. Melser’s antecedents are philosophers such as Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin, and Stuart Hampshire, both in style and in content. Apart from Melser’s heavy reliance on selective parts of developmental psychology, there is minimal discussion of substantive work in contemporary cognitive science. That is what might be expected from an author whose view is that whatever it is cognitive scientists are doing, it is not (much to their surprise, no doubt) the investigation of thinking. As I will try to show in a moment, however, the central argument of the book could have been strengthened by more direct engagement with such empirical work. (shrink)
Has Derek Parfit modified his views on personal identity in light of Quassim Cassam’s neo-Kantian argument that to experience the world as objective, we must think of ourselves as enduring subjects of experience? Both parties suggest there is no longer a serious dispute between them. I retrace the path that led to this truce, and contend that the debate remains open. Parfit’s recent work reveals a re-formulation of his ostensibly abandoned claim that there could be impersonal descriptions of reality. (...) I show why Parfit still needs this claim, and how it conflicts with the neo-Kantian view. (shrink)
The Interpersonal Addition Theorem, due to John Broome, states that, given certain seemingly innocuous assumptions, the overall utility of an uncertain prospect can be represented as the sum of its individual (expected) utilities. Given ‘Bernoulli's hypothesis’ according to which individual utility coincides with individual welfare, this result appears to be incompatible with the Priority View. On that view, due to Derek Parfit, the benefits to the worse off should count for more, in the overall evaluation, than the comparable benefits (...) to the better off. Pace Broome, the paper argues that prioritarians should meet this challenge not by denying Bernoulli's hypothesis, but by rejecting one of the basic assumptions behind the addition theorem: that a prospect is better overall if it is better for everyone. This conclusion follows if one interprets the priority weights that are imposed by prioritarians as relevant only to moral, but not to prudential, evaluations of prospects. (shrink)
Can it be better or worse for a person to be than not to be, that is, can it be better or worse to exist than not to exist at all? This old 'existential question' has been raised anew in contemporary moral philosophy. There are roughly two reasons for this renewed interest. Firstly, traditional so-called “impersonal” ethical theories, such as utilitarianism, have counter-intuitive implications in regard to questions concerning procreation and our moral duties to future, not yet existing people. Secondly, (...) it has seemed evident to many that an outcome can only be better than another if it is better for someone, and that only moral theories that are in this sense “person affecting” can be correct. The implications of this Person Affecting Restriction will differ radically, however, depending on which answer one gives to the existential question. Melinda Roberts (2003) and Matthew Adler (2009) have defended an affirmative answer to the existential question using an assumption that one can asribe a zero level of wellbeing to a person in a world in which that person doesn't exist. Contrariwise, Derek Parfit (1984), John Broome (1999), and others have worried that if we take a person’s life to be better for her than non-existence, then we would have to conclude that it would have been worse for her if she did not exist, which is absurd: Nothing would have been worse or better for a person if she had not existed. The paper suggests that an affirmative answer to the existential question can avoid such absurdities: One can claim that, say, it is better for a person to exist than not to exist, without implying that it would have been worse for a person if she had not existed or that her level of wellbeing would then have been lower. (shrink)
How does the concept of a person affect our beliefs about ourselves and the world? In an intriguing recent addition to his established Reductionist view of personal identity, Derek Parfit speculates that there could be beings who do not possess the concept of a person. Where we talk and think about persons, selves, subjects, or agents, they talk and think about sequences of thoughts and experiences related to a particular brain and body. Nevertheless their knowledge and experience of the (...) world is unaffected, in that it is largely like our own. It is their view of ‘themselves’ that is different (and superior) to ours. My paper critically assesses this ‘impersonal beings’ hypothesis through an examination of Parfit’s construal of the concept of a person. I argue that Parfit’s understanding of the concept of a person undermines his impersonal beings hypothesis. (shrink)
The quality of a life is typically understood as a function of the actual goods and bads in it, that is, its actual value. Likewise, the value of a population is typically taken to be a function of the actual value of the lives in it. We introduce an alternative understanding of life quality: adjusted value. A life’s adjusted value is a function of its actual value and its ideal value (the best value it could have had). The concept of (...) adjusted value is useful for at least three reasons. First, it fits our judgments about how well lives are going. Second, it allows us to avoid what we call False Equivalence, an error related to the non-identity problem. Third, when we use adjusted value as an input for calculating the value of a population, we can avoid two puzzles that Derek Parfit calls the “Repugnant Conclusion” and the “Mere Addition Paradox.”. (shrink)
Philosophy sometimes has the reputation of dealing with matters outside the realm of ‘everyday life’, and trading in ideas that float free from anything beyond the armchair in which we sit contemplating them. In this paper, I discuss a standard armchair-branch of philosophy – personal identity theory – and the real-life effects it either has had or has apparently failed to have upon two philosophers: David Hume and Derek Parfit. Both arrive at similar and quite radical beliefs about personal (...) identity. And both have documented the difficulty of sustaining these beliefs in their day-to-day lives. For those considering embarking upon philosophical study – whether formally or not – this last point may seem discouraging, reinforcing a picture of a discipline that even on the admission of its own practitioners has little impact on everyday life or concerns. I will explore these two philosophers’ views on personal identity in some detail, and outline the conflicts which they claim to exist between their philosophical and non-philosophical thinking. I will go on to propose that these conflicts do not in fact reinforce an opposition between everyday life and philosophy. (shrink)
According to the predominant view within contemporary philosophy of psychiatry, mental disorders involve essentially personal and societal values, and thus, the concept of mental disorder cannot, even in principle, be elucidated in a thoroughly objective manner. Several arguments have been adduced in support of this impossibility thesis. My critical examination of two master arguments advanced to this effect by Derek Bolton and Jerome Wakefield, respectively, raises serious doubts about their soundness. Furthermore, I articulate an alternative, thoroughly objective, though in (...) part normative, framework for the elucidation of the concept of mental disorder. The concepts of mental dysfunction and impairment of basic psychological capacities to satisfy one’s basic needs are the building blocks of this framework. I provide an argument for the objective harmfulness of genuine mental disorders as patterns of mental dysfunctions with objectively negative biotic values, as well as a formally correct definition of the concept of mental disorder. Contrary to the received view, this objective framework allows for the possibility of genuine mental disorders due to adverse social conditions, as well as for quasi-universal mental disorders. I conclude that overall, the project of providing an objective account of the concept of mental disorder is far from impossible, and moreover, that it is, at least in principle, feasible. (shrink)
There is no shortage of testimony to literature's puzzling, unsettling, intoxicating, affecting, delighting powers. Nor has there been a shortage of attempts to define literature as a concept, a body of texts or a cultural practice. However, no definition has been able to pin down the peculiarity of literature or to chart our experience of the literary. In this volume, Derek Attridge ask us to confront with him the resistance to definition in order to explore afresh the singularity of (...) literature. In seeking new purchase on the elusive "literary", the author finds himself reflecting upon the history of Western art as a practice and as an institution. At its heart he finds a closely linked trinity of crucial issues: innovation or invention , the uniqueness or singularity of the artwork and, underlying these, the concept of otherness or alterity. Calling for a type of reading that does justice to these aspects of the literary work, he explores literature as event or performance and brilliantly retheorizes its place in the realm of the ethical. The author acknowledges the impossibility of definition and rather offers us an account of his particular "living-through" of the literary in the terms above and invites us to share with him the insights it might offer. The insights in this case are invaluable, as we are offered not only an original framework within which to consider texts, but a clear case for the ethical value of the literary institution to a culture. Never losing sight of the pleasures and potency of our experience of literature, The Singularity of Literature is itself a delight to read. Returning to arguments begun in his influential volume Peculiar Language , Derek Attridge here energizes discussion of the literary by forever shifting the terms of debate and offering new perspectives on questions that haunt every reader. (shrink)
In his discussion of normative concepts in the first part of On What Matters ( 2011 , On What Matters , vol. 1. New York: Oxford University Press), Parfit holds that apart from the ‘ought’ of decisive reason, there are other senses of ‘ought’ which do not imply any reasons. This claim poses a dilemma for his ‘reason-involving conception’ of normativity: either Parfit has to conclude that non-reason-implying ‘oughts’ are not normative. Or else he is forced to accept that normativity (...) needs only to involve ‘apparent reasons’ – a certain kind of hypothetical truths about reasons. I argue that both of these options are inacceptable. In the course of the discussion, I present a general objection to ‘apparent reason accounts’ of the normativity of rationality as advocated not only by Parfit, but also by Schroeder (2009) and Way (2009). (shrink)
We argue that Parfit's "Triviality Objection" against some naturalistic views of normativity is not compelling. We think that once one accepts, as one should, that identity statements can be informative in virtue of their pragmatics and not only in virtue of their semantics, Parfit's case against naturalism can be overcome.
DEREK PARFIT is senior research fellow at All Souls College, Oxford. He regularly teaches there and is also afŠliated with New York University and Harvard. He was educated at Oxford and was a Harkness Fellow at Columbia and Harvard. He has been a visiting professor at Princeton, Temple, Rice, and the University of Colorado at Boulder, and is a fellow of the British Academy and of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has made major contributions to our (...) understanding of personal identity, philosophy of the mind, and ethics, and he is thought to be one of the most important moral philosophers of the past century. His many academic articles include “Personal Identity” (1971), “Overpopulation and the Quality of Life” (1986), “The Unimportance of Identity” (1995), and “Equality and Priority” (1997). Rationality and Morality and Rediscovering Reasons are forthcoming from Oxford University Press. His book Reasons and Persons (1984) has been described by Alan Ryan of The Sunday Times as “something close to a work of genius.”. (shrink)
The effects of mental disorder are apparent and pervasive, in suffering, loss of freedom and life opportunities, negative impacts on education, work satisfaction and productivity, complications in law, institutions of healthcare, and more. With a new edition of the 'bible' of psychiatric diagnosis - the DSM - under developmental, it is timely to take a step back and re-evalutate exactly how we diagnose and define mental disorder. This new book by Derek Bolton tackles the problems involved in the definition (...) and boundaries of mental disorder. It addresses two main questions regarding mental illness. Firstly, what is the basis of the standards or norms by which we judge that a person has a mental disorder - that the person's mind is not working as it should, that their mental functioning is abnormal? Controversies about these questions have been dominated by the contrast between norms that are medical, scientific or natural, on the one hand, and social norms on the other. The norms that define mental disorder seem to belong to psychiatry, to be medical and scientific, but are they really social norms, hijacked and disguised by the medical profession? Secondly, what is the validity of the distinction between mental disorder and order, between abnormal and normal mental functioning? To what extent, notwithstanding appearances, does mental disorder involve meaningful reactions and problem-solving? These responses may be to normal problems of living, or to not so normal problems - to severe psycho-social challenges. Is there after all order in mental disorder? With the closing of asylums and the appearance of care in the community, mental disorder is now in our midst. While attempts have been made to define clearly a concept of mental disorder that is truly medical as opposed to social, there is increasing evidence that such a distinction is unviable - there is no clear line between what is normal in the population and what is abnormal. 'What is Mental Disorder?' reviews these various crucial developments and their profound impact for the concept and its boundaries in a provocative and timely book. (shrink)
In this paper I shall argue that if the Parfitian psychological criterion or theory of personal identity is true, then a good case can be made out to show that the psychological theorist should accept the view I call “psychological sequentialism”. This is the view that a causal connection is not necessary for what matters in survival, as long as certain other conditions are met. I argue this by way of Parfit’s own principle that what matters in survival cannot depend (...) upon a trivial fact. (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we honor (...) Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the “neutralist” ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick’s most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
Ethicists and economists commonly assume that if A is all things considered better than B, and B is all things considered better than C, then A is all things considered better than C. Call this principle Transitivity. Although it has great conceptual, intuitive, and empirical appeal, I argue against it. Larry S. Temkin explains how three types of ethical principle, which cannot be dismissed a priori, threaten Transitivity: (a) principles implying that in some cases different factors are relevant to comparing (...) A to C than to comparing A to B or B to C; (b) principles of limited scope; (c) principles implying that morally relevant differences in degree can amount to differences in kind. My counterexamples employ a principle of type (c): pleasures and pains enormously different in intensity differ in kind. Temkin has also endorsed this type of counterexample, using arguments based on earlier drafts of this paper. (shrink)
What behavior is rational? It’s rational to act ethically, some think. Others endorse instrumentalism — it is rational to pursue one’s goals. Still others say that acting rationally always involves promoting one’s self-interest. Many philosophers have given each of these answers. But these answers don’t really conflict; they aren’t vying to describe some shared concept or to solve some mutually acknowledged problem. In so far as this is debated, it is a pseudo-debate. The different uses of ‘rational action’ differ merely (...) in meaning. I shall defend the following claims: ‘rational behavior’ is used in ethical, prudential, and instrumental ways (section 1); these uses of ‘rational behavior’ are distinct (section 2); they do not represent competing theories of rational behavior (section 3); we should stop using ‘rational behavior’ ethically and prudentially, but we may continue its instrumental use (section 4). (shrink)
A set of arguments shows that either the Repugnant Conclusion and its variants are true or the better-than relation isn't transitive. Which is it? This is the most important question in population ethics. The answer will point the way to Parfit's elusive Theory X.
On What Matters is a major work in moral philosophy. It is the long-awaited follow-up to Derek Parfit's 1984 book Reasons and Persons, one of the landmarks of twentieth-century philosophy. In this first volume Parfit presents a powerful new treatment of reasons and rationality, and a critical examination of three systematic moral theories -- Kant's ethics, contractualism, and consequentialism -- leading to his own ground-breaking synthetic conclusion. Along the way he discusses a wide range of moral issues, such as (...) the significance of consent, treating people as a means rather than an end, and free will and responsibility. On What Matters is already the most-discussed work in moral philosophy: its publication is likely to establish it as a modern classic which everyone working on moral philosophy will have to read, and which many others will turn to for stimulation and illumination. (shrink)
I argue that rule consequentialism sometimes requires us to act in ways that we lack sufficient reason to act. And this presents a dilemma for Parfit. Either Parfit should concede that we should reject rule consequentialism (and, hence, Triple Theory, which implies it) despite the putatively strong reasons that he believes we have for accepting the view or he should deny that morality has the importance he attributes to it. For if morality is such that we sometimes have decisive reason (...) to act wrongly, then what we should be concerned with, practically speaking, is not with the morality of our actions, but with whether our actions are supported by sufficient reasons. We could, then, for all intents and purposes just ignore morality and focus on what we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. So if my arguments are cogent, they show that Parfit’s Triple Theory is either false or relatively unimportant in that we can, for all intents and purposes, simply ignore its requirements and just do whatever it is that we have sufficient reason to do, all things considered. (shrink)
Scientists often make surprising claims about things that no one can observe. In physics, chemistry, and molecular biology, scientists can at least experiment on those unobservable entities, but what about researchers in fields such as paleobiology and geology who study prehistory, where no such experimentation is possible? Do scientists discover facts about the distant past or do they, in some sense, make prehistory? Derek Turner argues that this problem has surprising and important consequences for the scientific realism debate. His (...) discussion covers some of the main positions in current philosophy of science - realism, social constructivism, empiricism, and the natural ontological attitude - and shows how they relate to issues in paleobiology and geology. His original and thought-provoking book will be of wide interest to philosophers and scientists alike. (shrink)
John Finnis, religion and public reasons. Collected essays: volume V Content Type Journal Article Category Book Review Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11153-012-9346-5 Authors Derek S. Jeffreys, University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, 2420 Nicolet Drive, Green Bay, WI 54311, USA Journal International Journal for Philosophy of Religion Online ISSN 1572-8684 Print ISSN 0020-7047.
Is a painful experience less bad for you if you will not remember it? Do you have less reason to fear it? These questions bear on how we think about medical procedures and surgeries that use an anesthesia regimen that leaves patients conscious – and potentially in pain – but results in complete ‘drug-induced amnesia’ after the fact. I argue that drug-induced amnesia does not render a painful medical procedure a less fitting object of fear, and thus the prospect of (...) amnesia does not give patients a reason not to fear it. I expose three mistakes in reasoning that might explain our tendency to view pain or discomfort as less fearful in virtue of expected amnesia: a mistaken view of personal identity; a mistaken view of the target of anticipation; and a mistaken method of incorporating past evidence into calculations about future experiences. Ultimately my argument has implications for whether particular procedures are justified and how medical professionals should speak with anxious patients about the prospect of drug-induced amnesia. (shrink)
To understand what is happening in the brain in the moment you decide, at will, to summon to consciousness a passage of Mozart's music, or decide to take a deep breath, is like trying to "catch a phantom by the tail". Consciousness remains that most elusive of all human phenomena - one so mysterious, one that even our highly developed knowledge of brain function can only partly explain. This book is unique in tracing the origins of consciousness. It takes the (...) investigation back many years in an attempt to uncover just how consciousness might have first emerged. -/- Consciousness did not develop suddenly in humans - it evolved gradually. In 'The Primordial Emotions', Derek Denton, a world renowned expert on animal instinct and a leader in integrative physiology, investigates the evolution of consciousness. Central to the book is the idea that the primal emotions - elements of instinctive behaviour - were the first dawning of consciousness. Throughout he examines instinctive behaviours, such as hunger for air, hunger for minerals, thirst, and pain, arguing that the emotions elicited from these behaviours and desire for gratification culminated in the first conscious states. To develop the theory he looks at behaviour at different levels of the evolutionary tree, for example of octopuses, fish, snakes, birds, and elephants. Coupled with findings from neuroimaging studies, and the viewpoints on consciousness from some of the key figures in philosophy and neuroscience, the book presents an accessible and groundbreaking new look at the problem of consciousness. (shrink)
On What Matters is a major work in moral philosophy. It is the long-awaited follow-up to Derek Parfit's 1984 book Reasons and Persons, one of the landmarks of twentieth-century philosophy. Parfit now presents a powerful new treatment of reasons, rationality, and normativity, and a critical examination of three systematic moral theories - Kant's ethics, contractualism, and consequentialism - leading to his own ground-breaking synthetic conclusion. Along the way he discusses a wide range of moral issues, such as the significance (...) of consent, treating people as a means rather than an end, and free will and responsibility. On What Matters is already the most-discussed work in moral philosophy: its publication is likely to establish it as a modern classic which everyone working on moral philosophy will have to read, and which many others will turn to for stimulation and illumination. (shrink)
This is a difficult choice on any view. To make it a test for the value of equality, I want to suppose that the case has the following feature: the gain to the first child of moving to the suburb is substantially greater than the gain to the second child of moving to the city.
Challenging, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity, Parfit claims that we have a false view about our own nature. It is often rational to act against our own best interersts, he argues, and most of us have moral views that are self-defeating. We often act wrongly, although we know there will be no one with serious grounds for complaint, and when we consider future generations it is very hard to avoid conclusions (...) that most of us will find very disturbing. (shrink)
When we have a normative reason, and we act for that reason, it becomes our motivating reason. But we can have either kind of reason without having the other. Thus, if I jump into the canal, my motivating reason was provided by my belief; but I had no normative reason to jump. I merely thought I did. And, if I failed to notice that the canal was frozen, I had a reason not to jump that, because it was unknown to (...) me, did not motivate me. Though we can have normative reasons without being motivated, and vice versa, such reasons are closely related to our motivation. There are, however, very different views about what this relation is. This disagreement raises wider questions about what normative reasons are, and about which reasons there are. After sketching some of these views, I shall discuss some arguments by Williams, and then say where, in my opinion, the truth lies. [...] I [will] suggest why, as I believe, we should be non-reductive normative realists, and should regard all reasons as external. (shrink)