Some people feel distressed reflecting on human extinction. Some people even claim that our efforts and lives would be empty and pointless if humanity becomes extinct, even if this will not occur for millions of years. In this essay, I will attempt to demonstrate that this claim is false. The desire for long-lastingness or quasi-immortality is often unwittingly adopted as a standard for judging whether our efforts are significant. If we accomplish our goals and then later in life conclude (...) that these accomplishments were of no significance, then this is a sign that the desire for long-lastingness has crept into our standards. By recognizing this, and refraining from adopting an unreasonable standard to judge whether our efforts are significant, it will be to our advantage. Then, when we look back on life from an external perspective that encompasses times after humanity has become extinct, we will not conclude that our efforts amounted to nothing. Rather, we will conclude that many people made significant accomplishments that made their lives and the lives of other people better than they would have been if their goals had never been pursued. (shrink)
This collection of new essays aims to address some of the most perplexing issues arising from death and dying, as well as the moral status of persons and animals. Leading scholars, including Peter Singer and Gerald Dworkin, investigate diverse topics such as animal rights, vegetarianism, lethal injection, abortion and euthanasia.
In this paper, I present a sample spiritual exercise—a contemporary form of the written practice that ancient philosophers used to shape their characters. The exercise, which develops the ancient practice of the examination of conscience, is on the sixth mass extinction and seeks to understand why the extinction appears as a moral wrong. It concludes by finding a vice in the moral character of the author and the author’s society. From a methodological standpoint, the purpose of spiritual exercises (...) is to create a habit of thoughtfulness in the writer , and by way of teaching, to suggest one to the reader. Such a habit is important, at least, because virtue is a habit. In other words, there can be no learning of virtue itself without habituation into it. Accordingly, I frame the sample spiritual exercise with a deliberately controversial objection to contemporary academic virtue ethics and with a justification for why the spiritual exercise is important for taking virtue ethically. And I end the paper with some further remarks explaining the form of the exercise and its relevance to doing philosophy. In this way, the paper makes and illustrates a methodological point about virtue ethics based on a meta-ethical assumption about virtue as a habit, and it does this by focusing on a pressing environmental problem in the twenty-first century. (shrink)
In English, as in many other languages, male-gendered pronouns are sometimes used to refer not only to men, but to individuals whose gender is unknown or unspecified, to human beings in general (as in ―mankind‖) and sometimes even to females (as when the casual ―Hey guys‖ is spoken to a group of women). These so-called he/man or masculine generics have come under fire in recent decades for being sexist, even archaic, and positively harmful to women and girls; and advocates of (...) gender-neutral (or nonsexist) language have put forward serious efforts to discourage their use. Have they been successful, and to what extent? In this paper, I review some of the main arguments in favor of abolishing sexist male generics. I then present three studies tracking the use of he/man terminology in academic, popular, and personal discourse over the past several decades. I show that the use of these terms has fallen dramatically in recent years, while nonsexist alternatives have gradually taken their place. We may be paying witness to the early stages of the ultimate extinction of masculine generics. (shrink)
In this century a number of events could extinguish humanity. The probability of these events may be very low, but the expected value of preventing them could be high, as it represents the value of all future human lives. We review the challenges to studying human extinction risks and, by way of example, estimate the cost effectiveness of preventing extinction-level asteroid impacts.
Environmentalists often recount tales of recent extinctions in the form of an allegory of human moral failings. But such allegories install an instrumental relation to the past’s inhabitants, using them to carry moralistic messages. Taking the passenger pigeon as a case in point, I argue for a different, ethical relation to the past’s inhabitants that conserves something of the wonder and “strangeness of the Other.” What Walter Benjamin refers to as the “redemptive moment” sparks a recognition of the Other that (...) allows us to engage in heartfelt mourning for them, rather than falling into the repetitive self-absorption characteristic of Freudian melancholy. This redemptive moment changes forever our relations to the world around us. (shrink)
Neuropsychological studies on hemineglect and extinction show that “neglected” or “extinguished” stimuli can access a semantic level. However, processing of these stimuli is usually not accomplished at the same level as non-neglected stimuli. These data are compatible with Perruchet & Vinter's hypothesis of the importance of consciousness in the construction of representations and knowledge.
It has been claimed that the recent wave of neuroscientific research into the physiological underpinnings of our moral intuitions has normative implications. In particular, it has been claimed that this research discredits our deontological intuitions about cases, without discrediting our consequentialist intuitions about cases. In this paper I demur. I argue that such attempts to extract normative conclusions from neuroscientific research face a fundamental dilemma: either they focus on the emotional or evolved nature of the psychological processes underlying deontological intuitions, (...) in which case the arguments rely on a blatantly fallacious inference, or they appeal to the (alleged) moral irrelevance of the factors to which deontological intuitions respond, in which case the neuroscientific results end up playing no role in the overall argument. (shrink)
It has long been thought that certain key bioethical views depend heavily on work in personal identity theory, regarding questions of either our essence or the conditions of our numerical identity across time. In this paper I argue to the contrary, that personal identity is actually not significant at all in this arena. Specifically, I explore three topics where considerations of identity are thought to be essential – abortion, definition of death, and advance directives – and I show in each (...) case that the significant work is being done by a relation other than identity. (shrink)
The universe that surrounds us is vast, and we are so very small. When we reflect on the vastness of the universe, our humdrum cosmic location, and the inevitable future demise of humanity, our lives can seem utterly insignificant. Many philosophers assume that such worries about our significance reflect a banal metaethical confusion. They dismiss the very idea of cosmic significance. This, I argue, is a mistake. Worries about cosmic insignificance do not express metaethical worries about objectivity or nihilism, (...) and we can make good sense of the idea of cosmic significance and its absence. It is also possible to explain why the vastness of the universe makes us feel insignificant. This impression does turn out to be mistaken, but not for the reasons typically assumed. In fact, we might be of immense cosmic significance—though we cannot, at this point, tell whether this is the case. (shrink)
It is argued that none of the speaker's referential intentions accompanying his utterance of a demonstrative are semantically significant but rather the associated demonstration (or some other source of salience). It is constitutive of the speaker's having the specifically referential intention - held by Kent Bach to be semantically significant - that the speaker is taking, and relying upon, his accompanying gesture (or some other source of salience) as semantically significant, making it the case that this intention is not even (...) partly semantically significant. The same is then shown to hold for the speaker's remaining referential intentions: his intention aimed at a perceived object, believed by David Kaplan to be semantically significant, as well as the intention to refer to the object that he has in mind. (shrink)
For some time, philosophers have sought a more satisfactory understanding of the mysteries of morality through a close analysis of its assumed kinship with practical rationality, via the psychological capacity of choice. It is the view in the present paper that no such understanding is possible by these means. The significance of morality has nothing to do with choice.
Common sense supports the idea that we can have morally significantreasons for giving priority to the interests of persons for whom wehave special concern. Yet there is a real question about the natureof such reasons. Many people seem to believe that there are biologicalor metaphysical special relations, such as family, race, religion orpersonal identity, which are in themselves morally important and thussupply reasons for special concern. I maintain that there are nogrounds for accepting this. What matters morally, I argue, is (...) thesubstance of personal or wider social relationships. My ``substantivist''account of the source of morally salient reasons for special concernis positioned between nonreductionist and strong voluntarist views ofspecial responsibilities. Substantivism is more plausible than theseviews and has important implications for how we approach morallyweighing personal versus impartial reasons. (shrink)
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Here is one good way of looking at the problem of consciousness: (Saul Steinbergâ€™s New Yorker cover). If this is the metaphorical truth about consciousness, what is the literal truth? What is going on in the world, (largely in this chapâ€™s brain, presumably) that makes it the case that this gorgeous metaphor is so apt?
John Leslie's Doomsday argument uses the frequency interpretation of probability to argue that the end of the universe is closer than we might have thought. Oh well - all the worse for the frequency interpretation.
Psychogenic depersonalization is an altered mental state consisting of an unusual discontinuity in the phenomenological perception of personal being; the individual is engulfed by feelings of unreality, self-detachment and unfamiliarity in which the self is felt to lack subjective perspective and the intuitive feeling of personal embodiment. A new sub-feature of depersonalization is delineated. 'Prosthesis' consists in the thought that the thinker is a 'mere thing'. It is a subjectively realized sense of the specific and objective 'thingness' of the particular (...) object thought about. I show that prosthesis is an important cognitive feature of depersonalization, and may be psychologically connected with the tendency of depersonalized individuals to report 'philosophical' types of thinking. Indeed, several philosophical issues concerning the identity of the self appear to have been enhanced by prosthesis experiences. Thus, far more efficient than William James's experimental attempts to uncover philosophical truths under the influence of nitrous oxide intoxication, prosthesis may be a safe and recommended experience for philosophers. The history of depersonalization theories is presented from Krishaber to Freud, and the main approaches to prosthesis criticized. Finally, a fresh approach to psychogenic depersonalization is outlined on the basis of certain cognitive similarities with visual agnosia. This paper may be understood as continuing the Jamesian tradition 'experimental abnormal psychology', that is, of examining extraordinary mental states with an eye to their philosophical implications. (shrink)
David Benatar claims that everyone was seriously harmed by coming into existence. To spare future persons from this suffering, we should cease having children, Benatar argues, with the result that humanity would gradually go extinct. Benatar’s claim of universal serious harm is baseless. Each year, an estimated 94% of children born throughout the world do not have a serious birth defect. Furthermore, studies show that most people do not experience chronic pain. Although nearly everyone experiences acute pain and discomforts, such (...) as thirst, these experiences have instrumental value. For example, when a person picks up a hot object, in response to the pain, the person releases the object, thereby preventing serious harm. The standard that Benatar uses to evaluate the quality of our lives is arbitrary, as I will demonstrate. His proposal that we phase humanity out of existence by ceasing to have children is misguided and an overreaction to the problem of human suffering. The ‘threshold conception of harm’, which is a targeted approach for preventing future persons from suffering, is a more sensible approach. (shrink)
This article provides the foundation for a new predictive theory of animal learning that is based upon a simple logical model. The knowledge of experimental subjects at a given time is described using logical equations. These logical equations are then used to predict a subject’s response when presented with a known or a previously unknown situation. This new theory suc- cessfully anticipates phenomena that existing theories predict, as well as phenomena that they cannot. It provides a theoretical account for phenomena (...) that are beyond the domain of existing models, such as extinction and the detection of novelty, from which “external inhibition” can be explained. Examples of the methods applied to make predictions are given using previously published results. The present theory proposes a new way to envision the minimal functions of the nervous system, and provides possible new insights into the way that brains ultimately create and use knowledge about the world. (shrink)
Conservation Biologists have found that demographic stochasticity causes the mean time to extinction to increase exponentially with population size. This has proved helpful in analyses determining extinction times and characterizing the pathway to extinction. The aim of this investigation is to explore the possible interactions between environmental/demographic noises and the scaling effect of the mean population size with its variance, which is expected to follow Taylor’s power law relationship. We showed that the combined effects of environmental/demographic noises (...) and the scaling of population size variability interact with the population dynamics and affect the mean time to extinction. (shrink)
A common worry about the genetic engineering of human beings is that it will reduce human genetic diversity, creating a biological monoculture that could not only increase our susceptibility to disease but also hasten the extinction of our species. Thus far, however, the evolutionary implications of human genetic modification remain largely unexplored. In this paper, I consider whether the widespread use of genetic engineering technology is likely to narrow the present range of genetic variation, and if so, whether this (...) would in fact lead to the evolutionary harms that some authors envision. By examining the nature of biological variation and its relation to population immunity and evolvability, I show that not only will genetic engineering have a negligible impact on human genetic diversity, but also that it will be more likely to ensure rather than undermine the health and longevity of the human species. (shrink)
The future of humanity is often viewed as a topic for idle speculation. Yet our beliefs and assumptions on this subject matter shape decisions in both our personal lives and public policy – decisions that have very real and sometimes unfortunate consequences. It is therefore practically important to try to develop a realistic mode of futuristic thought about big picture questions for humanity. This paper sketches an overview of some recent attempts in this direction, and it offers a brief discussion (...) of four families of scenarios for humanity’s future: extinction, recurrent collapse, plateau, and posthumanity. (shrink)
This essay in the comparative metaphysic of nothingness begins by pondering why Leibniz thought of the converse question as the preeminent one. In Eastern philosophical thought, like the numeral 'zero' (śūnya) that Indian mathematicians first discovered, nothingness as non-being looms large and serves as the first quiver on the imponderables they seem to have encountered (e.g., 'In the beginning was neither non-being nor being: what was there, bottomless deep?' RgVeda X.129). The concept of non-being and its permutations of nothing, negation, (...) nullity, etc., receive more sophisticated treatment in the works of grammarians, ritual hermeneuticians, logicians, and their dialectical adversaries variously across Jaina and Buddhist schools. The present analysis follows the function of negation/the negative copula, nãn, and dialetheia in grammar and logic, then moves onto ontologies of non-existence and extinction and further suggestive tropes that tend to arrest rather than affirm the inexorable being-there of something. After a discussion of interests in being (existence), non-being and nothingness in contemporary metaphysics, the article examines Heidegger’s extensive treatment of nothingness in his 1929 inaugural Freiburg lecture, 'Was ist Metaphysik?', published later as 'What is Metaphysics?' The essay however distances itself from any pretensions toward a doctrine of Metaphysical Nihilism. (shrink)
Writing in 1992, biologist E. O. Wilson prophesied, "Here is the means to end the great extinction spasm. The next century will, I believe, be the era of restoration in ecology." 2 This statement has become the rallying cry for advocates of ecological restoration, an emerging international environmental movement focused on the renewal of damaged or destroyed ecosystems. 3 The benefits promised by ecological restoration are manifold. In addition to its primary ecological goals of replenished biodiversity and improved ecosystem (...) functioning, restoration fosters intimate, participatory kinds of community between practitioners and their local environments. 4 Moreover, the idea that we can .. (shrink)
The author interprets the emergence of the manorial-serf economy in Central Europe on the basis of the concept of the cascadeness of historical process. The course of development in the XVIth century Central Europe relied on many insignificant factors which their joint influence gradually outweighed the impact of developmental regularities according to which societies in Central and Western Europe evolved from the XIth to circa the XVIth centuries. Factors that appear in the cascade of European differentiation are divided by the (...) author into its core, i.e., a set of factors which operated in each of the societies under study, i.e., Polish, Bohemian and Hungarian societies, and specific factors responsible for the development of each of those Central European societies. (shrink)
In this article I explore, from a philosophical perspective, what the responsibility for biodiversity means. Biodiversity is a peculiar thing because it consists of the variety of life in its all manifestations, that is, in all its forms, levels and combinations. Variation is a main characteristic of life on earth. Because of its vastness a collective has not only a right but also a duty to take responsibility for biodiversity conservation, and furthermore it has a prima facie duty to implement (...) those measures the accomplishment of this requires. This includes the appropriate legislative and policy means. My argument for collective responsibility is mainly based on contrafactual reasoning, that is, if a collective takes no responsibility for the conservation of biodiversity, then no one takes responsibility. Providing that species extinction is something we definitely want to avoid, collective responsibility is well founded. (shrink)
The recent explosion in advancements of communications technologies poses interesting challenges to courts and theorists interested in developing proper regulations. Continuing the traditional technology-based approach to press regulation risks preventing the newest technologies from filly serving the democratic dialogue. As the press has evolved into an institution and as advances in communication tend toward private rather than public interaction, we must assist community formation and face-to-face interaction, which proved vital to the success ofthe Constitution itself. Unless these new technologies are (...) regulated accordingly, comrnunity and face-to-face interaction risk extinction. (shrink)
The appearance of nuclear weapons suddenly made the extinction of humanity a distinct possibility. In view of this obverse side of scientific progress, attitudes toward science in the general population became ambivalent, at times bordering on hostility. It is argued that to a great extent the scientists themselves are responsible for the tarnished image of science. Accordingly they should restore science to its role of furthering human welfare and, above all, as a source of enlightenment. In our age enlightenment (...) entails emancipating humanity from superstitions generated by the cooptation of science in the service of power. (shrink)
In "The Insignificance of Personal Identity to Bioethics," David Shoemaker argues that, contrary to common opinion, considerations of personal identity have no relevance to certain important debates in bioethics. My aim is to show that Shoemaker is mistaken concerning the relevance of personal identity to the abortion debate -– in particular, to Don Marquis’ well-known anti-abortion argument.
A significant proportion of conservationists' work is directed towards efforts to save disappearing species. This relies upon the belief that species extinction is undesirable. When justifications are offered for this belief, they very often rest upon the assumption that extinction brought about by humans is different in kind from other forms of extinction. This paper examines this assumption and reveals that there is indeed good reason to suppose current anthropogenic extinctions to be different in kind from extinctions (...) brought about at other times or by other factors. Having considered – and rejected – quantity and rate of extinction as useful distinguishing factors, four alternative arguments are offered, each identifying a way in which anthropogenic extinction is significantly different from other forms of extinction, even mass extinction: (1) Humans are a different kind of natural cause from other causes of extinction; (2) Extinctions brought about by humans are uniquely persistent; (3) Anthropogenic extinctions are effectively random whereas past mass extinctions are rule-bound; (4) The impact of the current anthropogenic extinction event differs from the impact of other extinction events of the past, such that future recovery may not follow past patterns. Together, these four arguments suggest that the present-day extinction event brought about by humans may be unprecedented and that we cannot clearly extrapolate from past to present recovery from extinctions. Although insufficient as justification for the claim that present-day extinctions are undesirable, the arguments provide some ammunition for conservationists' conviction that species extinction – in which humans play an accelerating role – ought to be prevented. (shrink)
The status of population genetics has become hotly debated among biologists and philosophers of biology. Many seem to view population genetics as relatively unchanged since the Modern Synthesis and have argued that subjects such as development were left out of the Synthesis. Some have called for an extended evolutionary synthesis or for recognizing the insignificance of population genetics. Yet others such as Michael Lynch have defended population genetics, declaring "nothing in evolution makes sense except in the light of population (...) genetics" (a twist on Dobzhansky's famous slogan that "nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution"). Missing from this discussion is the use of population genetics to shed light on ecology and vice versa, beginning in the 1940s and continuing until the present day. I highlight some of that history through an overview of traditions such as ecological genetics and population biology, followed by a slightly more in-depth look at a contemporary study of the endangered California Tiger Salamander. I argue that population genetics is a powerful and useful tool that continues to be used and modified, even if it isn't required for all evolutionary explanations or doesn't incorporate all the causal factors of evolution. (shrink)
In Creative Evolution, Bergson argues that life, the so-called inner becoming of things, does not develop linearly, in accordance with a geometrical, formal model. For Bergson as for classical science, matter occupies a plane of immanence defined by natural laws. But he maintains that affection is not part of that plane of immanence and that it needs new kind of scientific description. For Deleuze, affection does belong to the plane of immanence whose parts are exterior to one another, according to (...) classical natural laws. Out of this may be cut the closed, mechanical world with its immobile sections that Bergson attributes to cinematographic knowledge. Thus, in place of a science of creative evolution, Deleuze has substituted external relations, blocs of becoming and ultimately, a theory of extinction. (shrink)
The efficiency of engineering applied to civilian projects sometimes threatens to run away with the social agenda, but in military applications, engineering often adds a devastating sleekness to the inevitable destruction of life. The relative crudeness of terrorism (e.g., 9/11) leaves a stark after-image, which belies the comparative insignificance of random (as opposed to orchestrated) belligerence. Just as engineering dwarfs the bricolage of vernacular design—moving us past the appreciation of brush-strokes, so to speak—the scale of engineered destruction makes it (...) difficult to focus on the charred remains of individual lives. Engineers need to guard against the inappropriate military subsumption of their effort. Fortunately, the ethics of warfare has been an ongoing topic of discussion for millennia. This paper will examine the university core class I’ve developed (The Moral Dimensions of Technology) to meet accreditation requirements in engineering ethics, and the discussion with engineering and non-engineering students focused by the life of electrical engineer Vannevar Bush, with selected readings in moral philosophy from the Dao de Jing, Lao Tze, Cicero, Aurelius Augustinus, Kant, Annette Baier, Peter Singer, Elizabeth Anscombe, Philippa Foot, and Judith Thomson. (shrink)
As conservation biology has developed as a distinct discipline from ecology, conservation guidelines based on ecological theory have been largely cast aside in favor of theory-independent decision procedures for designing conservation reserves. I argue that this transition has failed to advance the field toward its aim of preserving biodiversity. The abandonment of island biogeography theory in favor of complementarity-based algorithms is a case in point. In what follows, I consider the four central objections raised against island biogeographic conservation guidelines, arguing (...) that they fail to undermine the credibility of this framework as a conservation tool. At best, these objections call for a more careful application of this framework to conservation problems, not its wholesale abandonment. At the same time, complementarily-based algorithms are biased in favor of networks of small reserves containing non-overlapping species. These conditions threaten to promote inbreeding depression, genetic drift and other factors that increase a population’s risk of extinction. Therefore, recent developments in the field of conservation biology have arguably not contributed to its ultimate aim of preserving the maximum amount of biodiversity in the long run. (shrink)
Victor Klemperer, German philologist and Professor at the University of Dresden, bears testimony to his survival during the Nazi years in his Diaries (1933–1945). Progressively excluded from all social life because of his Jewish religion, Klemperer is forced to recognize himself as a non-subject by the end of the war, calling himself “Nobody” in reference to Ulysses with Polyphemus, the Cyclops. Our article aims to show the mental — cognitive and corporal — process underlying this recognition. Our study will explore (...) the two-pronged thrust of this process: faced with the inexorable destruction of his self, Klemperer has to acknowledge the limits of his analytical capacities. But this extreme experience will enable him to create somatic knowledge destined to recognize what he calls “thought of extinction”. To conclude, we show how this reasoning is based upon action language which consists in naming the body. (shrink)
The lynchpin perhaps even the very foundation of free market environmentalism is the tragedy of the commons. If we do not have private property rights in land, endangered animal species, fish, trees, etc., then there will be a real danger, as the left wing environmentalists charge, of extinction of these [...].
The image of legong—sumptuously costumed girl dancers crowned with frangipanis—is the face of Balinese culture. Yet it is only one of twenty dance/drama genres and prominent in only some centers. Legong, a secular court dance, has often been (and still is) in danger of extinction. Balinese are now less interested in legong than ever before and musicians prefer to play other kinds of music.
The history of ideas normally invoked by animal liberationists and their opponents cannot account for our basic wildlife protection attitudes, which actually developed out of the worldwide species?classification project begun by Linnaeus in the eighteenth century. These attitudes, formed in terms of a pre?evolutionary and pre?ecological belief in fixed and immutable species, were weakened to some degree by the rise of evolutionary theory and ecological science, since evolution provides a mechanism for the replacement of extinct species and depicts extinction (...) as natural, and ecology teaches that ecosystems naturally adjust when species are lost. Wildlife protection attitudes are preservationist in so far as they are concerned with the preservation of species and conservationist in so far as they are concerned with the lives of individual animals and populations. From all perspectives except that of animal liberation, wild animals are predominantly viewed in terms of instrumental value: as a means to the continuation of species, the maintenance of healthy ecosystems, and for various other anthropocentric purposes. These various perspectives fit together within an aesthetic conception of wildlife which is strongly Platonic. From an aesthetic standpoint, wild animals, as exemplications of various species, are more analogous to mass?produced toys, admired for their design or structure, than the natural equivalent of original works of art admired for their own sakes. (shrink)
This paper examines visual representation from a distinctive, interdisciplinary perspective that draws on ethics, visual studies and critical race theory. Suggests ways to clarify complex issues of representational ethics in marketing communications and marketing representations, suggesting an analysis that makes identity creation central to societal marketing concerns. Analyzes representations of the exotic Other in disparate marketing campaigns, drawing upon tourist promotions, advertisements, and mundane objects in material culture. Moreover, music is an important force in marketing communication: visual representations in music (...) promotions are also explored as data for inquiry. Offers an alternative to phenomenologically based approaches in marketing and consumer research scholarship that use consumer responses to generate data. Contributes additional insight into societal marketing and places global marketing processes within the intersection of ethics, aesthetics and representation. (shrink)
Noam Chomsky's Poverty of the Stimulus Argument is one of the most famous and controversial arguments in the study of language and the mind. Though widely endorsed by linguists, the argument has met with much resistance in philosophy. Unfortunately, philosophical critics have often failed to fully appreciate the power of the argument. In this paper, we provide a systematic presentation of the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument, clarifying its structure, content, and evidential base. We defend the argument against a variety (...) of philosophical criticisms, new and old, and argue that the Poverty of the Stimulus Argument continues to deserve its guiding role in the study of language and the mind. (shrink)
David Lewis's book 'On the Plurality of Worlds' mounts an extended defense of the thesis of modal realism, that the world we inhabit the entire cosmos of which we are a part is but one of a vast plurality of worlds, or cosmoi, all causally and spatiotemporally isolated from one another. The purpose of this article is to provide an accessible summary of the main positions and arguments in Lewis's book.
The book is an extended study of the problem of consciousness. After setting up the problem, I argue that reductive explanation of consciousness is impossible (alas!), and that if one takes consciousness seriously, one has to go beyond a strict materialist framework. In the second half of the book, I move toward a positive theory of consciousness with fundamental laws linking the physical and the experiential in a systematic way. Finally, I use the ideas and arguments developed earlier to defend (...) a form of strong artificial intelligence and to analyze some problems in the foundations of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
The “ethics of belief” refers to a cluster of questions at the intersection of epistemology, philosophy of mind, psychology, and ethics. The central question in the debate is whether there are norms of some sort governing our habits of belief formation, belief maintenance, and belief relinquishment. Is it ever or always morally wrong (or epistemically irrational, or imprudent) to hold a belief on insufficient evidence? Is it ever or always morally right (or epistemically rational, or prudent) to believe on the (...) basis of sufficient evidence, or to withhold belief in the perceived absence of it? Is it ever or always obligatory to seek out all available epistemic evidence for a belief? Are there some ways of obtaining evidence that are themselves immoral or imprudent? -/- . (shrink)
The goals of this paper are two-fold: I wish to clarify the Aristotelian conception of the law of non-contradiction as a metaphysical rather than a semantic or logical principle, and to defend the truth of the principle in this sense. First I will explain what it in fact means that the law of non-contradiction is a metaphysical principle. The core idea is that the law of non-contradiction is a general principle derived from how things are in the world. For example, (...) there are certain constraints as to what kind of properties an object can have, and especially: some of these properties are mutually exclusive. Given this characterisation, I will advance to examine what kind of challenges the law of non-contradiction faces; the main opponent here is Graham Priest. I will consider these challenges and conclude that they do not threaten the truth of the law of non-contradiction understood as a metaphysical principle. (shrink)
The existence of evil and suffering in our world seems to pose a serious challenge to belief in the existence of a perfect God. If God were all-knowing, it seems that God would know about all of the horrible things that happen in our world. If God were all-powerful, God would be able to do something about all of the evil and suffering. Furthermore, if God were morally perfect, then surely God would want to do something about it. And yet (...) we find that our world is filled with countless instances of evil and suffering. These facts about evil and suffering seem to conflict with the orthodox theist claim that there exists a perfectly good God. The challenged posed by this apparent conflict has come to be known as the problem of evil. (shrink)
I attempt to rebut the following standard objections against cultural relativism: 1. It is self-defeating for a cultural relativist to take the principle of tolerance as absolute; 2. There are universal moral rules, contrary to what cultural relativism claims; 3. If cultural relativism were true, Hitler’s genocidal actions would be right, social reformers would be wrong to go against their own culture, moral progress would be impossible, and an atrocious crime could be made moral by forming a culture which approves (...) of it; 4. Cultural relativism is silent about how large a group must be in order to be a culture, and which culture we should follow when we belong to two cultures with conflicting moralities. (shrink)
This paper provides an account of Kant's categories of freedom, explaining how they fit together and what role they are supposed to play. My interpretation places particular emphasis on the structural features that the table of the categories of freedom shares with the table of judgements and the table of categories laid out by Kant in the Critique of Pure Reason. In this way we can identify two interpretative constraints, namely (i) that the categories falling under each heading must form (...) a synthetic unity whereby the third one derives from the combination of the other two. and (ii) that the first two categories falling under each heading must be morally undetermined and sensibly conditioned, while the third category is sensibly unconditioned and determined only by the moral law. (shrink)
This is a constructive response to a 2008 article by Kok-Chor Tan. It outlines a version of democratic egalitarianism to complement, rather than compete against, luck egalitarianism. The concepts of autonomy and domination are used to elaborate democratic equality, and I suggest a broadening in the understandings of distributive justice; of why distributive justice matters; and of the concepts of grounding and substantive principles (in relation to distributive justice).
Hume thought that if you believed in powers, you believed in necessary connections in nature. He was then able to argue that there were none such because anything could follow anything else. But Hume wrong-footed his opponents. A power does not necessitate its manifestations: rather, it disposes towards them in a way that is less than necessary but more than purely contingent. -/- In this paper a dispositional theory of causation is offered. Causes dispose towards their effects and often produce (...) them. But a set of causes, even though they may succeed in producing an effect, cannot necessitate it since the effect could have been counteracted by some additional power. This would require a separation of our concepts of causal production and causal necessitation. The most conspicuous cases of causation are those where powers accumulate and pass a requisite threshold for an effect to occur. -/- We develop a model for representing powers as constituent vectors within an n-dimensional quality space, where composition of causes appears as vector addition. Even our resultant vector, however, has to be understood as having dispositional force only. This model throws new light on causal modality and cases of prevention, causation by absence and probabilistic causation. (shrink)
Mathematics plays an inordinate role in the work of many of famous Western philosophers, from the time of Plato, through Husserl and Wittgenstein, and even to the present. Why? This paper points to the experience of learning or making mathematics, with an emphasis on proof. It distinguishes two sources of the perennial impact of mathematics on philosophy. They are classified as Ancient and Enlightenment. Plato is emblematic of the former, and Kant of the latter. The Ancient fascination arises from the (...) sense that mathematics explores something ‘out there’. This is illustrated by recent discussions by distinguished contemporary mathematicians. The Enlightenment strand often uses Kant's argot: ‘absolute necessity’, ‘apodictic certainty’ and ‘a priori’ judgement or knowledge. The experience of being compelled by proof, the sense that something must be true, that a result is certain, generates the philosophy. It also creates the illusion that mathematics is certain. Kant's leading question, ‘How is pure mathematics possible?’, is easily misunderstood because the modern distinction between pure and applied is an artefact of the 19th century. As Russell put it, the issue is to explain ‘the apparent power of anticipating facts about things of which we have no experience’. More generally the question is, how is it that pure mathematics is so rich in applications? Some six types of application are distinguished, each of which engenders its own philosophical problems which are descendants of the Enlightenment, and which differ from those descended from the Ancient strand. (shrink)
The formula of universal law (FUL) is a natural starting point for philosophers interested in a Kantian perspective on the morality of abortion. I argue, however, that FUL does not yield much in the way of promising or substantive conclusions regarding the morality of abortion. I first reveal how two philosophers' (Hare's and Gensler's) attempts to use Kantian considerations of universality and prescriptivity fail to provide analyses of abortion that are either compelling or true to Kant=s understanding of FUL. I (...) then turn to some recent interpretations of Kant=s FUL contradiction in conception (CC) and contradiction in will (CW) tests. I argue that none of the interpretations of the CC testBincluding the practical interpretation favored by KorsgaardBdoes much to reveal moral problems with maxims of abortion. The CW test (as developed by Herman) is more helpful. Nevertheless, I argue that neither by considering abortion maxims as a subset of maxims of convenience killing, nor by considering such maxims as maxims of refusing to aid, can the CW test generate a general prohibition of abortion. At best, the CW test illuminates the abortion issue because by forcing us to think about how killing a fetus differs from killing other human beings, what attitudes we may reasonably have toward a fetus, and whether Kant's moral theory must be amended to do justice to the problem of abortion. But to pursue these questions, we must look beyond FUL; Kant’s formula of humanity and doctrine of virtue may well have more to offer. (shrink)
According to Arthur Danto, post-modern or post-historical art began when artists like Andy Warhol collapsed the Modern distinction between art and everyday life by bringing “the everyday” into the artworld. I begin by pointing out that there is another way to collapse this distinction: bring art out of the artworld and into everyday life. An especially effective way of doing this to make street art, which, I argue, is art whose meaning depends on its use of the street. I defend (...) this definition and show how it handles graffiti and public art. (shrink)
J.L. Mackie’s version of the logical problem of evil is a failure, as even he came to recognize. Contrary to current mythology, however, its failure was not established by Alvin Plantinga’s Free Will Defense. That’s because a defense is successful only if it is not reasonable to refrain from believing any of the claims that constitute it, but it is reasonable to refrain from believing the central claim of Plantinga’s Free Will Defense, namely the claim that, possibly, every essence suffers (...) from transworld depravity. (shrink)
Abstract: Introspection reveals that one is frequently conscious of some form of inner speech, which may appear either in a condensed or expanded form. It has been claimed that this speech reflects the way in which language is involved in conscious thought, fulfilling a number of cognitive functions. We criticize three theories that address this issue: Bermúdez’s view of language as a generator of second-order thoughts, Prinz’s development of Jackendoff’s intermediate-level theory of consciousness, and Carruthers’s theory of inner speech as (...) a rehearsal of action-schemata. We contend they have problems to account for those cases in which inner speech is fragmentary, and for the difference with those instances in which it appears as more sentence-like. In addition, we present verbal overshadowing as a phenomenon that neither of them can easily explain. Finally, we propose an account in which inner speech is fundamentally silent outer speech and argue that it is more explanatory than the alternatives. (shrink)
David Hume endorses three claims that are difficult to reconcile: (1) sympathy with those in distress is sufficient to produce compassion towards their plight, (2) adopting the general point of view often requires us to sympathize with the pain and suffering of distant strangers, but (3) our care and concern is limited to those in our close circle. Hume manages to resolve this tension, however, by distinguishing two types of sympathy. We feel compassion towards those around us because associative sympathy (...) causes us to mirror their pain and suffering, but our ability to enter into the afflictions of those remote from us involves cognitive sympathy and merely requires us to reflect upon how we would feel in their shoes. This hybrid theory of sympathy receives support from recent work on affective mirroring and cognitive pretense. Hume’s account should appeal to contemporary researchers, therefore, who are interested in the nature of moral imagination. (shrink)
The main claim of this essay is that knowledge is no more valuable than lasting true belief. This claim is surprising. Doesn't knowledge have a unique and special value? If the main claim is correct and if, as it seems, knowledge is not lasting true belief, then knowledge does not have a unique value: in whatever way knowledge is valuable, lasting true belief is just as valuable. However, this result does not show that knowledge is worthless, nor does it undermine our knowledge gathering practices. There (...) is, rather, a positive philosophical payoff: skepticism about knowledge is defused. Assuming one can have lasting true belief, then even if one cannot have knowledge, one can have something just as valuable. . (shrink)
That laws of nature play a vital role in explanation, prediction, and inductive inference is far clearer than the nature of the laws themselves. My hope here is to shed some light on the nature of natural laws by developing and defending the view that they involve genuine relations between properties. Such a position is suggested by Plato, and more recent versions have been sketched by several writers.~ But I am not happy with any of these accounts, not so much (...) because they lack detail or engender minor difficulties, though they do, but because they share a quite fundamental defect. My goal here is to make this defect clear and, more importantly, to present a rather different version of this general conception of laws that avoids it. I begin by considering several features of natural laws and argue that these are best explained by the view that laws involve properties, that this involvement takes the form of a genuine relation between properties, and, finally, that the relation is a metaphysically necessary one. In the second section I start at the other end, and by reflecting on the nature of properties arrive at a similar account of natural laws. In the final section I develop this account in more detail, with emphasis on the nature of the relation between properties it invokes. Along the way several natural objections to the account are answered. (shrink)
The new Chomskian orthodoxy denies that our linguistic competence gives us knowledge *of* a language, and that the representations in the language faculty are representations *of* anything. In reply, I have argued that through their intuitions speaker/hearers, (but not their language faculties) have knowledge of language, though not of any externally existing language. In order to count as knowledge, these intuitions must track linguistic facts represented in the language faculty. I defend this idea against the objections Collins has raised to (...) such an account. (shrink)
It is commonly assumed that facts would be complex entities made out of particulars and universals. This thesis, which I call Compositionalism, holds that parthood may be construed broadly enough so that the relation that holds between a fact and the entities it ‘ties’ together counts as a kind of parthood. I argue firstly that Compositionalism is incompatible with the possibility of certain kinds of fact and universal, and, secondly, that such facts and universals are possible. I conclude that Compositionalism (...) is false. What all these kinds of fact and universal have in common is a violation of supplementation principles governing any relation that may be intelligibly regarded as a kind of parthood. Although my arguments apply to Compositionalism generally, I focus on recent work by David Armstrong, who is a prominent and explicit Compositionalist. (shrink)
How do fitness and natural selection relate to other evolutionary factors like architectural constraint, mode of reproduction, and drift? In one way of thinking, drawn from Newtonian dynamics, fitness is one force driving evolutionary change and added to other factors. In another, drawn from statistical thermodynamics, it is a statistical trend that manifests itself in natural selection histories. It is argued that the first model is incoherent, the second appropriate; a hierarchical realization model is proposed as a basis for a (...) statistical treatment. It emerges that natural selection does not cause evolution; it just is evolution. The theory incorporates relations of statistical correlation, but not the kind of causation found in fundamental physical processes. (shrink)
Once it is appreciated that it is not possible for an all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving God to exist, the important question arises: What does exist that is closest to, and captures the best of what is in, the traditional conception of God? In this paper I set out to answer that question. The first step that needs to be taken is to sever the God-of-cosmic-power from the God-of-cosmic-value. The first is Einstein’s God, the underlying dynamic unity in the physical universe which (...) physics seeks to depict by means of a true, unified, physical “theory of everything”. Science has already achieved some theoretical knowledge of this God-of-cosmic-power. The second is what is of most value in our human world, and in the world of sentient life more generally. Having cut God in half in this way, our fundamental problem, intellectual and practical, becomes: How can the God-of-cosmic-value (as it is represented on earth at least) exist and best flourish within the God-of-cosmic-power? Or, in other words: How can what is of value associated with human life – and sentient life more generally – exist and best flourish within the physical universe? Clearly acknowledging that this is our fundamental problem, in academic inquiry, and in all that we do, might help what is of value in life to flourish rather better than it does at present. (shrink)
Despite their divergent metaphysical assumptions, Reformed and evolutionary epistemologists have converged on the notion of proper basicality. Where Reformed epistemologists appeal to God, who has designed the mind in such a way that it successfully aims at the truth, evolutionary epistemologists appeal to natural selection as a mechanism that favors truth-preserving cog- nitive capacities. This paper investigates whether Reformed and evolutionary epistemological accounts of theistic belief are compatible. We will argue that their chief incompatibility lies in the noetic effects of (...) sin and what may be termed the noetic effects of evolution, systematic tendencies wherein human cognitive faculties go awry. We propose a reconceptualization of the noetic effects of sin to mitigate this tension. (shrink)
Suppose a fire broke out in a fertility clinic. One had time to save either a young girl, or a tray of ten human embryos. Would it be wrong to save the girl? According to Michael Sandel, the moral intuition is to save the girl; what is more, one ought to do so, and this demonstrates that human embryos do not possess full personhood, and hence deserve only limited respect and may be killed for medical research. We will argue, however, (...) that no relevant ethical implications can be drawn from the thought experiment. It demonstrates neither that one always ought to let the embryos die, nor does it allow for any general conclusion concerning the moral status of human embryos. (shrink)
When so much is being written on conscious experience, it is past time to face the question whether experience happens that is not conscious of itself. The recognition that we and most other living things experience non-consciously has recently been firmly supported by experimental science, clinical studies, and theoretic investigations; the related if not identical philosophic notion of experience without a subject has a rich pedigree. Leaving aside the question of how experience could become conscious of itself, I aim here (...) to demonstrate that the terms experience and consciousness are not interchangeable. Experience is a notoriously difficult concept to pin down, but I see non-conscious experience as based mainly in momentary sensations, relational between bodies or systems, and probably common throughout the natural world. If this continuum of experience — from non-conscious, to conscious, to self-transcending awareness — can be understood and accepted, radical constructivism (the “outside” world as a construct of experience) will gain a firmer foundation, panexperientialism (a living universe) may gain credibility, and psi will find its medium. (shrink)
Metaethics is the study of metaphysics, epistemology, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of language, insofar as they relate to the subject matter of moral or, more broadly, normative discourse – the subject matter of what is good, bad, right or wrong, just, reasonable, rational, what we must or ought to do, or otherwise. But out of these four ‘core’ areas of philosophy, it is plausibly the philosophy of language that is most central to metaethics – and not simply (...) because ‘metaethics’ was for a long time construed more narrowly as a name for the study of moral language. The philosophy of language is central to metaethics because both the advantages of and the open problems facing different metaethical theories differ sharply over the answers those theories give to central questions in the philosophy of language. In fact, among the open problems over which such theories differ, are included particularly further problems in the philosophy of language. This article briefly surveys a range of broad categories of views in metaethics and both catalogues some of the principal issues faced by each in the philosophy of language, as well as how those arise out of their answers to more basic questions in the philosophy of language. I make no claim to completeness, only to raising a variety of important issues. (shrink)
Biological theory demands a clear organism concept, but at present biologists cannot agree on one. They know that counting particular units, and not counting others, allows them to generate explanatory and predictive descriptions of evolutionary processes. Yet they lack a unified theory telling them which units to count. In this paper, I offer a novel account of biological individuality, which reconciles conflicting definitions of ‘organism’ by interpreting them as describing alternative realisers of a common functional role, and then defines individual (...) organisms as essentially possessing some mechanisms that play this role. (shrink)
To the extent, then, that we set our face against admitting the truth of Humeanism in the theory of motivation, to that extent we are probably going to feel that there is no such thing as the theory of motivation, so conceived, at all. And that will be the position that this paper is trying to defend, though not only for this reason. It might seem miraculous that so much can be extracted from the little distinction with which we started, (...) between the reasons why an action was right and the agent's reasons for doing it. It is not so much the distinction itself which is the culprit, however, as the account of it that sees motivating reasons as complexes of beliefs and desires, i.e. as complexes of psychological states of whatever sort, and sees justifying reasons as truths. It is this account, which puts into form the attempt to combine value realism with Humean philosophical psychology, that leads to the results I have outlined above. (shrink)
In his critical works of the 1780's, Kant claims, seemingly inconsistently, that (1) theoretical and practical reason are one and the same reason, applied differently, (2) that he still needs to show that they are, and (3) that theoretical and practical reason are united. I first argue that current interpretations of Kant's doctrine of the unity of reason are insufficient. But rather than concluding that Kant’s doctrine becomes coherent only in the Critique of Judgment, I show that the three statements (...) are compatible, providing a new and more coherent account of Kant's 1780's doctrine of the unity of reason. (shrink)
In psychiatry, pharmacological drugs play an important experimental role in attempts to identify the neurobiological causes of mental disorders. Besides being developed in applied contexts as potential treatments for patients with mental disorders, pharmacological drugs play a crucial role in research contexts as experimental instruments that facilitate the formulation and revision of neurobiological theories of psychopathology. This paper examines the various epistemic functions that pharmacological drugs serve in the discovery, refinement, testing, and elaboration of neurobiological theories of mental disorders. I (...) articulate this thesis with reference to the history of antipsychotic drugs and the evolution of the dopamine hypothesis of schizophrenia in the second half of the twentieth century. I argue that interventions with psychiatric patients through the medium of antipsychotic drugs provide researchers with information and evidence about the neurobiological causes of schizophrenia. This analysis highlights the importance of pharmacological drugs as research tools in the generation of psychiatric knowledge and the dynamic relationship between practical and theoretical contexts in psychiatry. (shrink)
That truth provides the standard for believing appears to be a platitude, one which dovetails with the idea that in some sense belief aims only at the truth. In recent years, however, an increasing number of prominent philosophers have suggested that knowledge provides the standard for believing, and so that belief aims only at knowledge. In this paper, I examine the considerations which have been put forward in support of this suggestion, considerations relating to lottery beliefs, Moorean beliefs, the criticism (...) and defence of belief, and the value of knowledge. I argue that those considerations do not give us reason to give up the truth view in favour of the knowledge view and, moreover, that reflection on those considerations gives us some reason to reject the knowledge view. Thus, I conclude, we can continue to the take the apparent platitude at face value. (shrink)
John Carroll undertakes a careful philosophical examination of laws of nature, causation, and other related topics. He argues that laws of nature are not susceptible to the sort of philosophical treatment preferred by empiricists. Indeed he shows that emperically pure matters of fact need not even determine what the laws are. Similar, even stronger, conclusions are drawn about causation. Replacing the traditional view of laws and causation requiring some kind of foundational legitimacy, the author argues that these phenomena are inextricably (...) intertwined with everything else. This distinctively clear and detailed discussion of what it is to be a law will be valuable to a broad swathe of philosophers in metaphysics, the philosophy of mind, and the philosophy of science. (shrink)