When Did I Begin? investigates the theoretical, moral, and biological issues surrounding the debate over the beginning of human life. With the continuing controversy over the use of in vitro fertilization techniques and experimentation with human embryos, these issues have been forced into the arena of public debate. Following a detailed analysis of the history of the question, Reverend Ford argues that a human individual could not begin before definitive individuation occurs with the appearance of the primitive streak about (...) two weeks after fertilization. This, he argues, is when it becomes finally known whether one or more human individuals are to form from a single egg. Thus, he questions the idea that the fertilized egg itself could be regarded as the beginning of the development of the human individual. The author also differs sharply, however, from those who would delay the beginning of the human person until the brain is formed, or until birth or the onset of conscious states. (shrink)
This Thesis engages with contemporary philosophical controversies about the nature of dispositional properties or powers and the relationship they have to their non-dispositional counterparts. The focus concerns fundamentality. In particular, I seek to answer the question, ‘What fundamental properties suffice to account for the manifest world?’ The answer I defend is that fundamental categorical properties need not be invoked in order to derive a viable explanation for the manifest world. My stance is a field-theoretic view which describes the world as (...) a single system comprised of pure power, and involves the further contention that ‘pure power’ should not be interpreted as ‘purely dispositional’, if dispositionality means potentiality, possibility or otherwise unmanifested power or ability bestowed upon some bearer. The theoretical positions examined include David Armstrong’s Categoricalism, Sydney Shoemaker’s Causal Theory of Properties, Brian Ellis’s New Essentialism, Ullin Place’s Conceptualism, Charles Martin’s and John Heil’s Identity Theory of Properties and Rom Harré’s Theory of Causal Powers. The central concern of this Thesis is to examine reasons for holding a pure-power theory, and to defend such a stance. This involves two tasks. The first requires explaining what plays the substance role in a pure-power world. This Thesis argues that fundamental power, although not categorical, can be considered ontologically-robust and thus able to fulfil the substance role. A second task—answering the challenge put forward by Richard Swinburne and thereafter replicated in various neo-Swinburne arguments—concerns how the manifestly qualitative world can be explained starting from a pure-power base. The Light-like Network Account is put forward in an attempt to show how the manifest world can be derived from fundamental pure power. (shrink)
Two essays relating Thomas and Whitehead have recently appeared. Coming To Be by James W. Felt, S.J., modifies Thomas by replacing his substantial form with Whitehead’s notion of subjective aim, the essencein-the-making introduced by God to guide the occasion’s act of coming into being. Felt also substitutes subjective aim for matter as the means of individuation. This is one of Whitehead’s individuating principles, although a case can be made that matter (the multiplicity of past actualities as proximate matter) is another. (...) “God and Creativity” by Stephen T. Franklin develops a reconciliation of these two ultimates by conceiving of God as the source of creativity, and seeing creativity in terms of the Thomistic esse. In my reflections on this project I explore four alternativeswith respect to the source of creativity: (a) creativity as derived from the past; (b) creativity as inherent in the present; (c) God as the source of transitional creativity (Franklin); (d) God as the source of concrescent creativity (Ford). The last two differ with respect to being’s relation to becoming. Does being undergird becoming, or does becoming bring about being, such that apart from it there would be no being? Our theory of creation depends upon this question. (shrink)
Ford, Norman Following on from the previous article by Anne Moates, I will take for granted the need for all infected birds to be tracked down and destroyed. I am assuming the scenario that some human beings may be infected by a mutated form of the highly pathogenic H5N1 avian influenza so that this modified bird flu virus can be transmitted from human to human by social contact. Some of the ethical issues that arise in this possible scenario need (...) to be briefly considered. (shrink)
Michael Tyeâ€™s considered position on visual experience combines representationalism with externalism about color, so when considering spectrum inversion, he needs a principled reason to claim that a person with inverted color vision is seeing things incorrectly. Tyeâ€™s responses to the problem of the inverted spectrum ( 2000 , in: Consciousness, color, and content, The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA and 2002a , in: Chalmers (ed.) Philosophy of mind: classical and contemporary readings, Oxford University Press, Oxford) rely on a teleological approach to (...) the evolution of vision to secure the grounds upon which people with normal color vision can be justly called â€˜rightâ€™ and those with inverted color vision can be called â€˜wrongâ€™. I demonstrate that since the inverted spectrum thought experiment requires that both sorts of vision be behaviorally indistinguishable, no biologically acceptable concept of teleology will allow Tye to draw the distinction he needs. (shrink)
In response to new research into the phenomena of inattentional blindness and change- blindness, several philosophers and vision researchers have proposed a novel form of scepticism: they contend that we do not have the conscious experience that we think we have. I will show that this claim is not supported by the evidence usually cited in support of it, and I expose what I believe to be the underlying error motivating this position: the belief that consciousness is either focal (what (...) occupies the focus of attention) or non- existent. Once we appreciate the phenomenology of the periphery of attention, we see that we have the resources to place the problematic phenomena in our peripheral. (shrink)
William Rapaport, in How Helen Keller used syntactic semantics to escape from a Chinese Room, (Rapaport 2006), argues that Helen Keller was in a sort of Chinese Room, and that her subsequent development of natural language fluency illustrates the flaws in Searle’s famous Chinese Room Argument and provides a method for developing computers that have genuine semantics (and intentionality). I contend that his argument fails. In setting the problem, Rapaport uses his own preferred definitions of semantics and syntax, but he (...) does not translate Searle’s Chinese Room argument into that idiom before attacking it. Once the Chinese Room is translated into Rapaport’s idiom (in a manner that preserves the distinction between meaningful representations and uninterpreted symbols), I demonstrate how Rapaport’s argument fails to defeat the CRA. This failure brings a crucial element of the Chinese Room Argument to the fore: the person in the Chinese Room is prevented from connecting the Chinese symbols to his/her own meaningful experiences and memories. This issue must be addressed before any victory over the CRA is announced. (shrink)
Seeking to derive the manifestly qualitative world of objects and entities without recourse to fundamental categoricity or qualitativity, I offer an account of how higher-order categorical properties and objects may emerge from a pure-power base. I explore the possibility of ‘fields’ whose fluctuations are force-carrying entities, differentiated with respect to a micro-topology of curled-up spatial dimensions. Since the spacetime paths of gauge bosons have zero ‘spacetime interval’ and no time-like extension, I argue that according them the status of fundamental entities (...) would support a pure-power ontology. Such entities, circulating within self-sustaining micro-topological ‘networks’, feasibly maintain definite spatial configurations of conserved physical quantities, including energy-momentum. Perceived as time-like and massy, and representing fermionic entities, they give rise to the manifest world. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker’s Causal Theory of Properties is an important starting place for some contemporary metaphysical perspectives concerning the nature of properties. In this paper I discuss the causal and intrinsic criteria that Shoemaker stipulates for the identity of genuine properties and relations, and address George Molnar’s criticism that holding both criteria presents an unbridgeable hypothesis in the Causal Theory of Properties. The causal criterion requires that properties and relations contribute to the causal powers of objects if they are to be (...) deemed genuine rather than ‘mere-Cambridge’. The intrinsic criterion requires that all genuine properties and relations be intrinsic. Molnar’s S-property argument says that these criteria conflict if one considers extrinsic spatiotemporal properties and relations to contribute causally. In this paper I argue that a solution to the contradiction that Molnar identifies involves a denial of discreteness between objects, leading to a Power Holist perspective and a resulting deflationary account of intrinsicality. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that the requirement for the qualitative is theory-dependent, determined by the fundamental assumptions built into the ontology. John Heil’s qualitative, in its role as individuator of objects and powers, is required only by a theory that posits a world of distinct objects or powers. Does Heil’s ‘deep’ view of the world, such that there is only one powerful object (e.g. a field containing modes or properties which we perceive as manifest everyday objects) require the qualitative (...) as individuator of objects and powers? The answer depends on whether it is possible to account for the manifest objects and the ostensible spatial primacy of our perceived world without recourse to the qualitative. In this paper I outline just such an account with the intention of extending Heil’s efforts to incorporate fundamental power in the world while providing a coherent explanation for our strong intuition of spatial, as against relational, priority. (shrink)
Sydney Shoemaker’s Causal Theory of Properties is an important starting place for some contemporary metaphysical perspectives concerning the nature of properties. In this paper I discuss the causal and intrinsic criteria that Shoemaker stipulates for the identity of genuine properties and relations, and address George Molnar’s criticism that holding both criteria presents an unbridgeable hypothesis in the Causal Theory of Properties. The causal criterion requires that properties and relations contribute to the causal powers of objects if they are to be (...) deemed genuine rather than ‘mere-Cambridge’. The intrinsic criterion requires that all genuine properties and relations be intrinsic. Molnar’s S-property argument says that these criteria conflict if one considers extrinsic spatiotemporal properties and relations to contribute causally. In this paper I argue that a solution to the contradiction that Molnar identifies involves a denial of discreteness between objects, leading to a Power Holist perspective and a resulting deflationary account of intrinsicality. -/- Keywords: Shoemaker, Molnar, Holism, genuine properties, powers, Causal Theory of Properties . (shrink)
I contend that Alva Noë’s Enactive Approach to Perception fails to give an adequate account of the periphery of attention. Noë claims that our peripheral experience is not produced by the brain’s representation of peripheral items, but rather by our mastery of sensorimotor skills and contingencies. I offer a two-pronged assault on this account of the periphery of attention. The first challenge comes from Mack and Rock’s work on inattentional blindness, and provides robust empirical evidence for the semantic processing (and (...) hence representation) of some wholly unattended stimuli. The second challenge draws on LaBerge’s theory of attention to provide a substantial advantage to peripheral representations, saving time whenever we shift the focus of our attention to something which had been in the periphery, allowing us to respond to that thing more quickly than would be possible if Noë’s account of perception were correct. (shrink)
This paper largely engages with Brian Ellis’s description of categorical dimensions as put forward in his paper in this volume. The New Essentialism advocated by Ellis posits the ontologically-robust existence of both dispositional and categorical properties. I have argued that the distinction that Ellis draws between the two is unpersuasive, and that the causal role of categorical dimensions—what they do—is inseparable from what they are. This observation is reinforced by the fact that absolute physical quantities permit re-interpretations of measurement that (...) remove a clear differentiation between categoricity and dispositionality. Distinguishing between ‘pure power’ and ‘dispositionality’, I further argue that: i) there are no ontologically-robust categorical properties, although their apparent existence is explicable as higher-order and supervenient; ii) that the fundamental ingredients of the world may be accounted for in terms of pure-power that is neither categorical nor dispositional; and iii) that the categorical-dispositional distinction arises only at the higher-order level of objects, and does not in any case constitute ontologically-robust partitioning of reality. -/- . (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that Stephen Mumford’s Realist Lawlessness account of powers, as put forward in his 2004 Book, Laws in Nature, motivates a Priority Monist account of substances. In Mumford’s formulation, relations are grounded in the intrinsic dispositional properties and powers of things and governing external relations are eliminated. This leads to a preference for Holism, the view that all properties are situated within a relational web, and that no property stands alone outside of the web. Properties are (...) also immanent in their instantiating particulars, and any modal force they bring to the object comprises part of the object itself. Consequently, Mumford refers to his objects as ‘powerful particulars’. This paper argues that the immanence of properties, together with the denial of external relations, leads to an understanding of objects that is shaped by Holism concerning properties. I conclude that Priority Monism is a natural corollary of the Pandispositionalism and subsequent Holism that Mumford advocates. (shrink)
Eternal objects are rigid, being invariant in all their appearances in the world, as well as in the becoming of actual entities. This rigidity within concrescence generates several difficulties, and so I propose that forms within concrescence, both divine and finite, be modifiable. Thus there can be a formation of form. Each eternal object then becomes completely determinate in a finite actualization, and remains so determinate throughout its worldly career.
In “Non-Rigid Forms” I characterized possibilities as indefinite forms, in contrast to the definite forms (eternal objects) of actualities. This did not do justice to the atemporality of eternal objects. Indefinite forms ought to be construed as dense clusters of eternal objects. By progressive definition God specifies relevantpossibilities to the occasion, which determines one to become actual.
IN "THE INCARNATION AS A CONTINUING REALITY," RELIGIOUS STUDIES 6,303-27 (DECEMBER 1970), DAVID PAILIN CLAIMS THAT THE INCARNATION REVEALS THE NECESSARY, EMPIRICALLY NON-FALSIFIABLE CHARACTERISTICS OF GOD’S "ACTIVE ACTUALITY". GOD’S "PASSIVE ACTUALITY," THE WAY HE EXPERIENCES THE WORLD, IS METAPHYSICALLY KNOWN, BUT NOT HIS "ACTIVE ACTUALITY," THE WAY IN WHICH HE RESPONDS TO THE WORLD, FOR HE COULD HAVE RESPONDED OTHERWISE. NEVERTHELESS GOD’S CONCRETE RESPONSE IS EMPIRICALLY NON-FALSIFIABLE, FOR EVERYTHING THAT CAN POSSIBLY HAPPEN IN THE ACTUAL WORLD WILL REFLECT THAT RESPONSE. (...) I REPLY THAT THE METAPHYSICAL PRINCIPLES AS WELL COULD CONCEIVABLY BE OTHERWISE, BUT GOD’S PRIMORDIAL DECISION DETERMINES WHICH MUST BE EXEMPLIFIED BY ALL POSSIBLE ACTUALITIES WHATSOEVER. THE GENERAL CHARACTER OF GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE WORLD IS THEREBY METAPHYSICALLY KNOWABLE. THE INCARNATION OF THE CHRIST REVEALS TO US THE CONTINGENT CHARACTER OF GOD’S RESPONSE TO THE PARTICULARITIES OF HUMAN EXISTENCE, AND THIS. (shrink)
Bioethics at the Movies explores the ways in which popular films engage basic bioethical concepts and concerns. Twenty philosophically grounded essays use cinematic tools such as character and plot development, scene-setting, and narrative-framing to demonstrate a range of principles and topics in contemporary medical ethics. The first section plumbs popular and bioethical thought on birth, abortion, genetic selection, and personhood through several films, including The Cider House Rules, Citizen Ruth, Gattaca, and I, Robot. In the second section, the contributors examine (...) medical practice and troubling questions about the quality and commodification of life by way of Dirty Pretty Things, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and other movies. The third section's essays use Million Dollar Baby, Critical Care, Big Fish, and Soylent Green to show how the medical profession and society at large view issues related to aging, death, and dying. A final section makes use of Extreme Measures and select Spanish and Japanese films to discuss two foundational matters in bioethics: the role of theories and principles in medicine and the importance of cultural context in devising care. Structured to mirror bioethics and cinema classes, this innovative work includes end-of-chapter questions for further consideration and contributions from scholars from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Israel, Spain, and Australia. Contributors: Robert Arp, Ph.D., Michael C. Brannigan, Ph.D., Matthew Burstein, Ph.D., Antonio Casado da Rocha, Ph.D., Stephen Coleman, Ph.D., Jason T. Eberl, Ph.D., Paul J. Ford, Ph.D., Helen Frowe, M.A., Colin Gavaghan, Ph.D., Richard Hanley, Ph.D., Nancy Hansen, Ph.D., Al-Yasha Ilhaam, Ph.D., Troy Jollimore, Ph.D., Amy Kind, Ph.D., Zana Marie Lutfiyya, Ph.D., Terrance McConnell, Ph.D., Andy Miah, Ph.D., Nathan Norbis, Ph.D., Kenneth Richman, Ph.D., Karen D. Schwartz, LL.B., M.A., Sandra Shapshay, Ph.D., Daniel Sperling, LL.M., S.J.D., Becky Cox White, R.N., Ph.D., Clark Wolf, Ph.D. (shrink)
This paper begins by examining a text in which one writer, RichardFord, is discussing both the persona and the work of another writer, Raymond Carver. Ford''s positive reaction to Carver provides us with a puzzle as to what the basis for it is. I suggest that what he is really admiring is a kind of originality that he detects in Carver. I try to specify the constitutive rules for the generation of this form of originality. They (...) seem to take the form of at once being able to preserve what is valuable in existing material and yet managing to add what could be said to be missing. I then argue that, if Carver is doing this sort of work, so too is Ford. Having seen various examples of a kind of originality, I argue that the process we have been seeing might be formulated as the exercise of imagination, and address the issue of the possible significance of accomplishing such imaginative work. If, as many contemporary philosophers and workers in the human sciences have argued, there is no escape from the need for interpretation, there is a problem of what could ever be a satisfactory interpretation. I suggest that the idea or the possibility of an imaginative interpretation could be a way of providing such satisfaction. (shrink)
Ford’s <span class='Hi'>Helen</span> <span class='Hi'>Keller</span> Was Never in a Chinese Room claims that my argument in How <span class='Hi'>Helen</span> <span class='Hi'>Keller</span> Used Syntactic Semantics to Escape from a Chinese Room fails because Searle and I use the terms ‘syntax’ and ‘semantics’ differently, hence are at cross purposes. Ford has misunderstood me; this reply clarifies my theory.
This article is a brief commentary on Donald Turner and Ford Turrell’s “The Non-Existent God: Transcendence, Humanity, and Ethics in Emmanuel Levinas.” While I agree with Turner and Turrell’s general presentation of Levinas’s existential conception of God and ethics, I reflect primarily on the reference the authors make to Kierkegaard as an existentialist forefather of Levinas. I show certain basic similarities between Levinas and Kierkegaard as existentialist thinkers, but also note their differences, also taking into consideration the influence of (...) Hegel. This paper was delivered in the APA Pacific 2007 Mini-Conference on Models of God. (shrink)
Modernism and the Museum proposes an entirely new way of looking at the evolution of Modernist art and literature in the West. It shows that existing surveys of Modernism tend to treat the early stages of the movement as a purely European phenomenon, and fail to take account of the powerful and direct influence of Asia, Africa, and the Pacific islands operating via museums and exhibitions, particularly in London. The book presents the poet Ezra Pound and the sculptor Jacob Epstein (...) as two seminal figures whose development of a Modernist aesthetic depended almost entirely on innovations adapted from extra-European visual art, and makes similar revelations about the work of related figures such as Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, Eric Gill, T.E. Hulme, Laurence Binyon, Richard Aldington, Amy Lowell, Charles Holden, William Rothenstein, Ford Madox Ford, James Gould Fletcher, James Havard Thomas, W.B. Yeats, and D.H. Lawrence. The writing is engaging, but the scholarship is rigorous, and a large quantity of previously unpublished evidence is made available from the British Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Royal Institute of British architects, the Tate Gallery, and several private collections. The book positions the museums of London - and especially the British Museum - as the West's most significant hub of transcultural aesthetic exchange during the early Twentieth century. It essentially proposes that, far from representing a development rooted in provincial European culture, Modernism was in fact the result of an unprecedented willingness in the avant-garde of the West to engage with the rest of the world. (shrink)
The received account of whistleblowing, developed over the last quarter century, is identified with the work of Norman Bowie and Richard DeGeorge. Michael Davis has detailed three anomalies for the received view: the paradoxes of burden, missing harm and failure. In addition, he has proposed an alternative account of whistleblowing, viz., the Complicity Theory. This paper examines the Complicity Theory. The supposed anomalies rest on misunderstandings of the received view or misreadings of model cases of whistleblowing, for example, the (...) Challenger disaster and the Ford Pinto. Nevertheless, the Complicity Theory is important for as in science the contrast with alternative competing accounts often helps us better understand the received view. Several aspects of the received view are reviewed and strengthened through comparison with Complicity Theory, including why whistleblowing needs moral justification. Complicity Theory is also critiqued. The fundamental failure of Complicity Theory is its failure to explain why government and the public encourage and protect whistleblowers despite the possibility of considerable harm to the relevant company in reputation, lost jobs, and lost shareholder value. (shrink)
When one addresses boycotts, the efforts of the Montgomery bus boycotts to end segregation likely come to mind. However, the moral merits of a boycott are not always so clearly determined and how a company reacts to a boycott can have long lasting repercussions for its public image. In this article, I will examine a number of boycotts including boycotts by the American Family Association of both Ford and Proctor & Gamble based on their advertising venue choices. In a (...) politically and morally charged atmosphere, it can be difficult for companies to determine where their moral obligations lie while at the same time being mindful of the bottom line. I suggest a number of guidelines to aid in corporate moral decision making when faced with a boycott. (shrink)
This essay is a commentary upon "Race and Kant" by Thomas Hill, Jr and Bernard Boxill. They argue that although Kant in his anthropological writings took blacks to be inferior, his moral theory requires that they be shown the proper moral respect since blacks are persons nonetheless. I argue that this argument is sound, because the conception of inferiority that Kant attributed to blacks does not permit showing them the proper moral respect. Imagine a defective Mercedes Benz and a (...) class='Hi'>Ford Pinto. These two cars are not inferior in the same sort of way. For Kant, I argue, the inferiority of blacks is more akin to that of a Ford Pinto; for he undoubtedly took blacks to be perpetual children. Chilren are persons, too; however, no one has ever supposed that moral theory applies to children in the full way that it applies to adults. (shrink)
Prayer is one of the central tenets of the major theistic religions, and philosophers of religion have struggled to give a philosophically acceptable account of it. Process philosophies of prayer, in particular, have been criticized for being religiously unfulfilling. In this paper, I critically evaluate previous attempts by Ford, Mason, Cooper and Suchocki to articulate a process philosophy of petitionary prayer. All of these attempts are unsuccessful because they either fail to preserve the importance and uniqueness of prayer or (...) because they reduce prayer to simply a change in the praying subject. After reviewing the previous attempts, I show how one could construct a process philosophy of petitionary prayer out of resources found in Whitehead’s Adventures of Ideas that avoids these problems and is thus more religiously satisfactory to the theist. (shrink)
Ford’s Helen Keller Was Never in a Chinese Room claims that my argument in How Helen Keller Used Syntactic Semantics to Escape from a Chinese Room fails because Searle and I use the terms ‘syntax’ and ‘semantics’ differently, hence are at cross purposes. Ford has misunderstood me; this reply clarifies my theory.
Machine generated contents note: Abbreviations; Preface; Introduction; Part I. How are we to do Bioethics?: Section 1. Context: Challenges and Resources of a New Millennium: 1. Sex and life in post-modernity; 2. Catholic engagement with the culture of modernity; 3. Promising developments; 4. Conclusion; Section 2. Conscience: The Crisis of Authority: 5. The voice of conscience; 6. The voice of the magisterium; 7. Conscience in post-modernity; 8. Where to from here?; Section 3. Cooperation: Should we ever Collaborate with Wrongdoing?: 9. (...) Traditional example; 10. Five modern examples; 11. Some fundamental issues raised by these examples; 12. Why it matters so much; 13. Conclusion; Part II. Beginning-of-Life: Section 4. Beginnings: When do People Begin?: 14. Method, thesis and implications; 15. A closer look at Ford's science; 16. A closer look at Ford's philosophy; 17. Individuality criteria; 18. Conclusions; Section 5. Stem Cells: What's all the Fuss About?: 19. Scientific potential and concerns about stem cells; 20. Ethical concerns about embryonic stem cells; 21. Social concerns about embryonic stem cells; Section 6. Abortion - and the New Eugenics: 22. The perennial debate about abortion; 23. Pre-natal screening: a search and destroy mission?; 24. The new abortion debate; Part III. Later Life: Section 7. Transplants: Bodies, Relationships and Ethics: 25. Love beyond death; 26. Conceptions of the body and relationships in organ transplantation; 27. Fashionable bioethical approaches to organ procurement; 28. Better bioethical approaches to organ procurement; 29. Ethical issues in organ reception; 30. Conclusion; Section 8. Artificial Nutrition: Why do Unresponsive Patients Matter?: 31. Civilisation after Schiavo?; 32. Why the unresponsive still matter: a philosophical account; 33. Why the unresponsive still matter: a theological account; 34. Some final questions; Section 9. Endings: Suicide and Euthanasia in the Bible: 35. The problem of suicide and euthanasia in the Bible; 36. Suicides and euthanasias in the Bible; 37. The Scriptural basis of Judeo-Christian opposition to suicide and euthanasia; Part IV. Protecting Life: Section 10. Identity: What Role for a Catholic Hospital?: 38. A tale of two hospitals; 39. Current challenges for Catholic hospitals; 40. Catholic hospitals as diakonia; 41. Catholic hospitals as martyria; 42. Catholic hospitals as leitourgia; 43. Conclusion: six tasks for a new century; Section 11. Regulation: What Kinds of Laws and Social Policies?: 44. A tale of three politicians; 45. Catholic principles for politicians; 46. Reasonable stances for a pro-life politician; 47. Some virtues of a pro-life politician. (shrink)
Lateral gene transfer (LGT), the exchange of genetic information between (primarily prokaryotic) lineages, not only makes construction of a universal Tree of Life (TOL) difficult to achieve, but calls into question the utility and meaning of any result. Here I review the science of prokaryotic LGT, the philosophy of the TOL as it figured in Darwin’s formulation of the Theory of Evolution, and the politics of the current debate within the discipline over how threats to the TOL should be represented (...) outside it. We could encourage a more realistic and supportive public understanding of evolution by admitting that what we believe in is not a unified meta-theory but a versatile and well-stocked explanatory toolkit. (shrink)
I have taken the traditional problem of the seeming interdependence of identity concepts and essentialistic concepts and the attendant difficulties with circularity as a starting point in my consideration of recent attempts to provide accounts ofde re essences. Having distinguished between theories of individual and generic essences, I have shown how a linguistic device based upon a new approach to referring expressions has, perhaps, provided some advance in the understanding of individualde re essences. I have argued that, however efficacious these (...) linguistic devices may be in dealing with individual essences, they are of no help in dealing with generic essences. I considered, therefore, one of the recent attempts to use science as the arbiter ofde re essences and concluded that such attempts will not, ultimately, solve the traditional problem of circularity. That problem remains, arising in different forms to thwart different attempts to account forde re generic essences. (shrink)