ANDRÉS LOMEÑA: Transhumanism, or human enhancement, suggests the use of new technologies to improve mental and physical abilities, discarding some aspects as stupidity, suffering and so forth. You have been described as technoutopian by critics who write on “Future hypes”. In my opinion, there is something pretty much worse than optimism: radical technopessimism, managed by Paul Virilio, deceased Baudrillard and other thinkers. Why is there a strong strain between the optimistic and pessimistic overview?
Exploring informal components of clinical reasoning, we argue that they need to be understood via the analysis of professional wisdom. Wise decisions are needed where action or insight is vital, but neither everyday nor expert knowledge provides solutions. Wisdom combines experiential, intellectual, ethical, emotional and practical capacities; we contend that it is also more strongly social than is usually appreciated. But many accounts of reasoning specifically rule out such features as irrational. Seeking to illuminate how wisdom operates, we therefore build (...) on Aristotle’s work on informal reasoning. His account of rhetorical communication shows how non-formal components can play active parts in reasoning, retaining, or even enhancing its reasonableness. We extend this account, applying it to forms of healthcare-related reasoning which are characterised by the need for wise decision-making. We then go on to explore some of what clinical wise reasoning may mean, concluding with a case taken from psychotherapeutic practice. (shrink)
Reasoning and judgement in health care entail complex responses to problems whose demands typically derive from several areas of specialism at once. We argue that current evidence- or value-based models of health care reasoning, despite their virtues, are insufficient to account for responses to such problems exhaustively. At the same time, we offer reasons for contending that health professionals in fact engage in forms of reasoning of a kind described for millennia under the concept of wisdom. Wisdom traditions refer to (...) forms of deliberation which combine knowledge, reflection and life experience with social, emotional and ethical capacities. Wisdom is key in dealing with problems which are vital to human affairs but lack prescribed solutions. Uncertainty and fluidity must be tolerated in seeking to resolve them. We illustrate the application of wisdom using cases in psychiatry, where non-technical aspects of problems are often prominent and require more systematic analysis than conventional approaches offer, but we argue that our thesis applies throughout the health care field. We argue for the relevance of a threefold model of reasoning to modern health care situations in which multifaceted teamwork and complex settings demand wise judgement. A model based on practical wisdom highlights a triadic process with features activating capacities of the self (professional), other (patient and/or carers and/or colleagues) and aspects of the problem itself. Such a framework could be used to develop current approaches to health care based on case review and experiential learning. (shrink)
I was delighted to be asked to comment on Peter Zachar’s paper, partly because he presents an elegant proposal for how personality disorders (PD) might be considered to fit into a broadly medical conception of disorder, but also because the overlap between moral and clinical elements of disorder, and more broadly moral and clinical psychiatric kinds, seems to me to be a question central to the theory and practice of psychiatry. The moral context of diagnosis and treatment is a question (...) not just in the PD field (Pearce and Pickard 2009, 2010). The fact that over half of prisoners in the United Kingdom have a PD and a similar number can be diagnosed with a neurotic disorder (Singleton, Meltzer, and Gatward 1998) .. (shrink)
The Abolitionist Project outlines how (post)humans will use biotechnology to abolish suffering in all sentient life. Sadly, this utopian sounding outcome may not be nearly as wonderful as it sounds. Assume..
Most accounts of miracles assume that a necessary condition for an event's being miraculous is that it be, as Hume put it, “a violation of the laws of nature.” However, any account of this sort will be ill-suited for defending the major Western religious traditions because, as I will argue, classical theists should not believe in violations of the laws of nature. In place of the rejected Humean accounts, this paper seeks to develop and defend a Leibnizian conception of miracles (...) on which an event is said to be miraculous just in case we can discover its final cause but not its efficient cause. (shrink)
In 1936 Tarski sketched a rigorous definition of the concept of logical consequence which, he claimed, agreed quite well with common usage-or, as he also said, with the common concept of consequence. Commentators of Tarski's paper have usually been elusive as to what this common concept is. However, being clear on this issue is important to decide whether Tarski's definition failed (as Etchemendy has contended) or succeeded (as most commentators maintain). I argue that the common concept of consequence that Tarski (...) tried to characterize is not some general, all-purpose notion of consequence, but a rather precise one, namely the concept of consequence at play in axiomatics. I identify this concept and show that Tarski's definition is fully adequate to it. (shrink)
George Berkeley's linguistic account of sense perception is one of the most central tenets of his philosophy. It is intended as a solution to a wide range of critical issues in both metaphysics and theology. However, it is not clear from Berkeley's writings just how this ‘universal language of the Author of Nature’ is to be interpreted. This paper discusses the nature of the theory of sense perception as language, together with its metaphysical and theological motivations, then proceeds to develop (...) an account of the semantics of the perceptual language, using Berkeley's theory of reference for human language as a guide. (shrink)
Because of its capacity to characterize mathematical concepts and structures?a capacity which first-order languages clearly lack?second-order languages recommend themselves as a convenient framework for much of mathematics, including set theory. This paper is about the credentials of second-order logic:the reasons for it to be considered logic, its relations with set theory, and especially the efficacy with which it performs its role of the underlying logic of set theory.
There is an apparent tension between the open-ended aspect of the ordinal sequence and the assumption that the set-theoretical universe is fully determinate. This tension is already present in Cantor, who stressed the incompletable character of the transfinite number sequence in Grundlagen and avowed the definiteness of the totality of sets and numbers in subsequent philosophical publications and in correspondence. The tension is particularly discernible in his late distinction between sets and inconsistent multiplicities. I discuss Cantor’s contrasting views, and I (...) conclude that his account of that distinction is only tenable if the definiteness of the set-theoretical universe is rejected. Partially supported by the Spanish CICYT, grant MTM 2008–03389. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the VIII International Ontology Congress in San Sebastian, and at the Seminar in Logic and the Philosophy of Mathematics of the University of Bristol. I wish to thank the participants for their comments. I am also grateful to Joan Bertran, Joan Climent, and one anonymous referee for their careful reading of the paper and their helpful remarks and suggestions. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
advocating the use of biotechnology to abolish suffering throughout the living world. At that time, Nick was a philosophy postgrad in London. He read the manifesto and fired off several incisive questions. Later we met up. I harangued Nick into getting a website. Nick then sounded me out about setting up a kind of umbrella organization for transhumanists - and overcame my doubts about whether overcoming suffering is really at the heart of a transhumanist agenda.
How should patriotism be handled in schools? We argue that schools cannot afford to ignore the topic, but nor are they justified in either promoting or discouraging patriotic feeling in students. The only defensible policy is for schools to adopt a stance of neutrality and teach the topic as a controversial issue. We go on to show that there is general support among British teachers and students for school neutrality on patriotism and that the currently preferred classroom practice is to (...) address patriotic ideas in the context of open discussion. We conclude with some discussion of the extensive and often hostile coverage of our research in the British press. (shrink)
George Boolos has described an interpretation of a fragment of ZFC in a consistent second-order theory whose only axiom is a modification of Frege's inconsistent Axiom V. We build on Boolos's interpretation and study the models of a variety of such theories obtained by amending Axiom V in the spirit of a limitation of size principle. After providing a complete structural description of all well-founded models, we turn to the non-well-founded ones. We show how to build models in which foundation (...) fails in prescribed ways. In particular, we obtain models in which every relation is isomorphic to the membership relation on some set as well as models of Aczel's anti-foundation axiom (AFA). We suggest that Fregean extensions provide a natural way to envisage non-well-founded membership. (shrink)
There is an apparent tension between the open-ended aspect of the ordinal sequence and the assumption that the set-theoretical universe is fully determinate. This tension is already present in Cantor, who stressed the incompletable character of the transfinite number sequence in Grundlagen and avowed the definiteness of the totality of sets and numbers in subsequent philosophical publications and in correspondence. The tension is particularly discernible in his late distinction between sets and inconsistent multiplicities. I discuss Cantor’s contrasting views, and I (...) conclude that his account of that distinction is only tenable if the definiteness of the set-theoretical universe is rejected. (shrink)
Does introspection grant us privileged insight into the intrinsic nature of the stuff of the world? Michael Lockwood 's startling answer is yes. Quantum mechanics may indeed supply a complete formal description of the universe. Yet what "breathes fire into" the quantum-theoretic equations, it transpires, isn't physical in the traditional sense at all.
Summary In hisProgress and its Problems, Laudan dismisses the problem of incommensurability in science by endorsing two general assertions. The first claims there are actually no incommensurable pairs of theories or research traditions; the second maintains that his problem-solving model of scientific progress would be able rationally to appraise even incommensurable pairs of theories or traditions (are compare them for their progressiveness). I argue here that Laudan fails to provide a plausible defence of either thesis, and that this creates some (...) problems for his general approach. (shrink)
"Over the past half billion years, life on Earth has been governed by the pleasure pain axis. Nature is typically "red in tooth and claw". Consequently, life has typically been "nasty, brutish and short". However, a major evolutionary transition lies ahead. Natural selection has evolved organic robots with the capacity to rewrite their own source code. Humans will shortly be able to redesign our own reward circuitry, decommission natural selection, design compassionate ecosystems, and abolish suffering throughout the living world.
There are fundamental differences between the explanation of scientific change and the explanation of technological change. The differences arise from fundamental differences between scientific and technological knowledge and basic disanalogies between technological advance and scientific progress. Given the influence of economic markets and industrial and institutional structures on the development of technology, it is more plausible to regard technological change as a continuous and incremental process, rather than as a process of Kuhnian crises and revolutions.
Of the various notions of reduction in the logical literature, relative interpretability in the sense of Tarskiet al.  appears to be the central one. In the present note, this syntactic notion is characterized semantically, through the existence of a suitable reduction functor on models. The latter mathematical condition itself suggests a natural generalization, whose syntactic equivalent turns out to be a notion of interpretability quite close to that of Ershov , Szczerba  and Gaifman .
Our current conception of intelligence as measured by IQ tests is “mind-blind”. IQ tests lack ecological validity because they ignore social cognition – the “mindreading” prowess that enabled one species of social primate to become the most cognitively successful on the planet. In this talk, I shall examine how to correct the ethnocentric and anthropocentric biases of our perspective-taking abilities. What future technologies can enrich our capacity to understand other minds? I shall also discuss obstacles to building empathetic AGI (artificial (...) general intelligence) - and why old-fashioned “autistic AI” may always be vulnerable to the cunning of “Machiavellian apes”. In an era of global catastrophic and existential risks, developing ways to enrich and “de-bias” mankind's capacity for empathetic cognition will be vital. This is because the greatest underlying risk to the wellbeing of life on Earth is the dominance behaviour of other male human primates. (shrink)
"The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation. During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all k inds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease. It must be so." -/- —Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (1995).
We revive the idea that a deductive-nomological explanation of a scientific theory by its successor may be defensible, even in those common and troublesome cases where the theories concerned are mutually incompatible; and limiting, approximating and counterfactual assumptions may be required in order to define a logical relation between them. Our solution is based on a general characterization of limiting relations between physical theories using the method of nonstandard analysis.
This paper examines the effects of environmental factors on the ethical behavior of managers using computers at work in Mainland China. In this study, environmental factors refer to senior management, peer groups, company policies, professional practices, and legal considerations. Ethical behaviors include attitudes to disclosure, protection of privacy, conflict of interest, personal conduct, social responsibility, and integrity. A questionnaire survey was used for data collection, and 125 mainland Chinese managers participated in the study. The results show that peer groups, professional (...) practices, and legal considerations do influence the ethical behavior of mainland Chinese managers in the areas of social responsibility, integrity, and accountability. A discussion of the implications of the results is also provided in this paper. (shrink)
"African philosophy," when conceived of as ethnophilosophy, is based on the idea that all thought is social, culture-bound, or based in natural language. But ethnophilosophy, whatever its sociological status, makes no contribution to philosophy, which is necessarily invulnerable to the sociological thesis. The sociological thesis must be limited in application to its own proper domain. The conflation of sociological and philosophical discourse arises from the fallacy of misplaced concreteness. This fallacy is responsible, among other things, for the sociological misinterpretation of (...) Wittgenstein. African philosophy, to be thought philosophical, must conceive of itself as addressing universal problems instead of pursuing intellectual apartheid. (shrink)
Representational democracy has been the main form of government in the West since the English, American, and French revolutions of the 17th and 18th centuries. However, there are indications that its ability to frame the relationship between citizen and state has begun to weaken. This weakening can be traced to many factors. One of these is the emergence of new collective actors, such as social movements, and the (re)recognition of the arena of "civil society" just as the articulating power of (...) political parties began to erode. Although these emerged initially under the umbrella of the nation state, toward the end of the 20th century a qualitatively new dynamic of networked social activism illustrated that the nation-state was no longer the only location for political action and the exercise of citizenship. These trends point to a new participatory dynamic, which could not yet be said to offer a serious challenge to representative forms of politics, but that arguably marks the beginning of the decline of that form. However, we are far from understanding how a participatory democracy might replace representational government. This article argues that we should begin now to discuss the uncomfortable gaps in our understanding of what "qualifies" participation, in order to develop a new theory of new practice and strengthen the content and potential of this new political imaginary. (shrink)
Advance online articles have been peer reviewed and accepted for publication but have not yet appeared in the paper journal (edited, typeset versions may be posted when available prior to final publication). Advance online articles are citable and establish publication priority; they are indexed by PubMed from initial publication. Citations to Advance online articles must include the digital object identifier (DOIs) and date of initial publication.
This paper argues that philosophers should pay more attention to the idea of ecosystem engineering and to the scientific literature surrounding it. Ecosystem engineering is a broad but clearly delimited concept that is less subject to many of the “it encompasses too much” criticisms that philosophers have directed at niche construction . The limitations placed on the idea of ecosystem engineering point the way to a narrower idea of niche construction. Moreover, experimental studies in the ecosystem engineering literature provide detailed (...) accounts of particular empirical situations in which we cannot neglect the O term in d E /d t = g ( O , E ), which helps us get beyond verbal arguments and simple models purporting to show that niche construction must not be ignored as a factor in evolution. Finally, this literature demonstrates that while ecosystem engineering studies may not require us to embrace a new evolutionary process, as niche construction advocates have claimed, they do teach us that the myriad abiotic factors concealed by the abstract term ‘environment’ are often controlled in large part by organisms. (shrink)
The word ‘environment’ has a history. Before the mid-nineteenth century, the idea of a singular, abstract entity—the organism—interacting with another singular, abstract entity—the environment—was virtually unknown. In this paper I trace how the idea of a plurality of external conditions or circumstances was replaced by the idea of a singular environment. The central figure behind this shift, at least in Anglo-American intellectual life, was the philosopher Herbert Spencer. I examine Spencer’s work from 1840 to 1855, demonstrating that he was exposed (...) to a variety of discussions of the ‘force of circumstances’ in this period, and was decisively influenced by the ideas of Auguste Comte in the years preceding the publication of Principles of psychology (1855). It is this latter work that popularized the word ‘environment’ and the corresponding idea of organism–environment interaction—an idea with important metaphysical and methodological implications. Spencer introduced into the English-speaking world one of our most enduring dichotomies: organism and environment. (shrink)
Transhumanists are ambitious. We want unlimited lifespan, unlimited intelligence, unlimited computer power. But this doesn't mean that we're ambitious about everything, for example height. Perhaps we want to be a bit taller, and we want to ensure that e.g. midgets have the opportunity to reach "normal" stature. Yet even in Second Life, or in tomorrow's immersive virtual realities, we don't for the most part want to be 1000 metres tall - despite freedom from the constraints of gravity. Of course, there (...) are some very exotic creatures in Second Life: they might say the rest of us have stunted imaginations. But intuitively, there is quite a narrow optimum for body height. Moreover, height may be regarded as what economists call a "positional good". It's socially advantageous to be slightly taller than average; but if everyone were to become taller, then no one would be better off. (shrink)
Stepping on a strongly electrified grid is highly aversive. A desperately hungry rat - even a rat who hasn't eaten for 10 days - won't run across an electrified cage-floor to reach a food-source: the shocks are too painful. But a rat with electrodes implanted in its neural reward circuitry will cross the grid, repeatedly, to gain the chance to self-stimulate its pleasure centres. Direct electrical stimulation of the mesolimbic dopamine system is so overpoweringly delightful that the anticipated reward eclipses (...) the immediate pain. (shrink)
Before anaesthesia, surgery used to be agony. ItÂ’s hard to imagine that anyone could have been anything but pleased when painless surgery was introduced in the mid-19th century. And yet, although many welcomed anaesthesia, some did object. In Zurich, anaesthesia was even outlawed. Â“Pain is a natural and intended curse of the primal sin. Any attempt to do away with it must be wrong,Â” claimed the Zurich City Fathers. Painless delivery in childbirth was a particularly contentious issue. Some insisted that (...) Â“in sorrow thou shalt bring forth childrenÂ” (Genesis 3:16). Others, like Doctor Charles Delucena Meigs (1792-1869), Professor of Obstetrics and Diseases of Women at Jefferson Medical College, believed that labour pains were Â“a most desirable, salutary and conservative manifestation of the life force.Â” There was even a belief, expressed in 1847 in The New York Journal of Medicine, that pain was vital to surgical procedure. (shrink)
D.P. It will technically be possible to get rid of all suffering within a century or two. Its abolition would be practical only if it were agreed in the sense of something like the moon program or the human genome project – if there was a degree of social consensus. There are certainly technological obstacles, but they are dwarfed by the ethical-ideological ones. Many people’s negative reaction to the idea of a world without suffering comes from a fear that someone (...) is going to be manipulating and controlling them. Partly, too, the abolition of suffering seems to make a mockery of one’s life projects. Most of us spend the greater part of our lives seeking happiness for ourself and others we care about. But we do so in extremely inefficient and in many cases self-defeating ways. This is a problem with existing human society. Even though we have made extraordinary progress technologically and medically, we aren’t any happier than our ancestors. Even if we could arrange society in the most utopian way imaginable, there would be some people who would still be depressed and anxious. There would be some people who would be consumed by jealousy or unhappy love affairs. No amount of environmental reform or manipulation is going to get rid of suffering. Only biotechnology can eradicate its neural substrates. (shrink)
In this paper an attempt is made to present Skolem's argument, for the relativity of some set-theoretical notions as a sensible one. Skolem's critique of set theory is seen as part of a larger argument to the effect that no conclusive evidence has been given for the existence of uncountable sets. Some replies to Skolem are discussed and are shown not to affect Skolem's position, since they all presuppose the existence of uncountable sets. The paper ends with an assessment of (...) the assumptions on which Skolem's argument rests from a present-day perspective. (shrink)