If the force on a particle fails to satisfy a Lipschitz condition at a point, it relaxes one of the conditions necessary for a locally unique solution to the particle’s equation of motion. I examine the most discussed example of this failure of determinism in classical mechanics—that of Norton’s dome—and the range of current objections against it. Finding there are many different conceptions of classical mechanics appropriate and useful for different purposes, I argue that no single conception is preferred. Instead (...) of arguing for or against determinism, I stress the wide variety of pragmatic considerations that, in a specific context, may lead one usefully and legitimately to adopt one conception over another in which determinism may or may not hold. (shrink)
Much has been written as of late on the status of the physical Church- Turing thesis and the relation between physics and computer science in general. The following discussion will focus on one such article . The purpose of these notes is not so much to argue for a particular thesis as it is to solicit a dialog that will help clarify our own thoughts.
We surveyed the approaches of 661 geneticists in 18 nations to 14 clinical cases and asked them to give their ethical reasons for choosing these approaches. Patient autonomy was the dominant value in clinical decision-making, with 59% of responses, followed by non-maleficence (20%), beneficence (11%) and justice (5%). In all, 39% described the consequences of their actions, 26% mentioned conflicts of interest between different parties and 72% placed patient welfare above the welfare of others. The U.S., Canada, Sweden, and U.K. (...) led in responses favoring autonomy. There were substantial international differences in moral reasoning. Gender differences in responses reflected women's greater attention to relationships and supported feminist ethical theories. (shrink)
As the potential for the first human trials of somatic cell gene therapy nears, two ethical issues are examined: (1) problems of moral choice for members of institutional review boards who consider the first protocols, for parents, and for the clinical researchers, and the special protections that may be required for the infants and children to be involved, and (2) ethical objections to somatic cell therapy made by those concerned about a putative inevitable progression of genetic knowledge from therapy to (...) mass genetic engineering in human reproduction. The author's viewpoint is that a consensus exists on the required moral approach to somatic cell therapy, but that no moral approach yet exists for experiments beyond this level, especially in the germline cells of human beings. Keywords: gene therapy, somatic cells, germ cells, institutional review boards, genetic engineering CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
Although the incidence and composition of HECs has been well characterized, little is known about how HECs assess their performance. In order to describe the incidence of HEC self-evaluation, the methods HECs use to evaluate their performance, and the characteristics of HECs that influence self-evaluation, we surveyed the readers ofHospital Ethics. 290 HECs in 45 U.S. states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and three Canadian provinces, completed questionnaires. Of the 241 HECs included in the data analysis, 97.9% had performed (...) some self-evaluation. Responding committees largely made formative rather than summative evaluations and appeared to evaluate performance in light of their own objectives rather than basing assessments on specific structural, process, and outcome measures of quality. Responding committees used certain evaluation criteria more extensively than others — among these, the number of participants and staff knowledge of the service provided — with the choice of criteria differing with the function being evaluated. Eight characteristics of HECs influenced the probability of self-evaluation, including age, number of beds and meetings, the existence of a mission statement, and a budget. The presence of certain characteristics made HECs six times more likely to evaluate their performance than HECs without the characteristic. (shrink)
The debate over how to best guide HIV-infected mothers in resource-poor settings on infant feeding is more than two decades old. Globally, breastfeeding is responsible for approximately 300,000 HIV infections per year, while at the same time, UNICEF estimates that not breastfeeding (formula feeding with contaminated water) is responsible for 1.5 million child deaths per year. The largest burden of these infections and deaths occur in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using this region as an example of the burden faced more generally in (...) other resource-poor settings, we contrast the evolution of the clinical standard of care for infant feeding with HIV-infected mothers in high-income countries to the current international clinical guidelines for HIV-infected mothers and infant feeding in resource-poor settings. While the international guidelines of exclusive breastfeeding for a 6-month period seem to offer the least-worst strategy for reducing mother-to-child transmission of HIV during infancy while conferring some immunity through breastfeeding post-6 months, we argue that the impact of the policy on mothers and healthcare workers on the ground is not well understood. The harm reduction approach on the level of health policy translates into a complicated, painful moral dilemma for HIV-positive mothers and those offering them guidance on infant feeding. We argue that the underlying socio-economic disparities that continue to fuel the need for a harm reduction policy on infant feeding and the harm to women and children justify: (1) that higher priority be given to solving the infant feeding dilemma with improved data on safe feeding alternatives, and (2) support of innovative, community-driven solutions that address the particular economic and cultural challenges that continue to result in HIV-transmission to children within these communities. (shrink)
Legalized gambling has all the hallmarks of a large-scale moral and social concern, yet, remarkably, philosophers have paid scarce attention to the moral issues surrounding this phenomenon. I believe that this neglect is unjustified. While much could be said about gambling in terms of its social impact, I offer an account on the moral status of gambling and avoid the temptation to give a “thin” account in simply categorizing gambling as “permissible” or “impermissible.” I attempt to assess its impact on (...) character and the moral life, felt in five closely interrelated ways. In particular, I will argue that gambling A) injures self-control, fosters moral incontinence, and indeed courts addiction; B) involves greed; C) shows a disregard for money that is incompatible with responsible care of one’s resources; D) cultivates indifference to others’ welfare; and E) represents a reckless assault on practical rationality, the faculty necessary for the moral life and the discharge of one’s responsibilities. (shrink)
John C. Fletcher, a pioneer in the field of bioethics and friend and mentor to many generations of bioethicists, died tragically on May 27th at the age of 72. The son of an Episcopal priest from Bryan, TX, Fletcher graduated in 1953 with a degree in English Literature from the University of the South in Sewanee, TN. After completing a Masters in Divinity degree from the Virginia Theological Seminary and a stint as a Fulbright scholar at the University (...) of Heidelberg in 1956, he was ordained in the Episcopal Church and received a doctorate in Christian ethics from the Union Theological Seminary in New York. After ordination, Fletcher worked in various Episcopal churches and founded the Interfaith Metropolitan Theological Seminary in Washington, D.C. However, despite his religious faith, he was also a skeptic, and renounced his ordination in the mid-1990s due to his need for ?intellectual honesty.? Fletcher began his bioethics contributions in the early 1970's, when he became a founding Fellow of the Hastings Center and eventually the first Chief of the Bioethics Program at the Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health. At the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, he was the Founding Director of the Center for Bioethics and a professor of biomedical ethics at the medical school, and became the Kornfeld Professor of Biomedical Ethics until his retirement in 1999. Fletcher was a prominent authority and voice in the national and international bioethical dialogue through his talks, his testimonies before scientific and congressional panels, his many articles, and his bioethical and religiously-orientated books, including: An Introduction to Clinical Ethics (1997), Coping with Genetic Disorders: a Guide for Clergy and Parents (1982), Ethics and Human Genetics: A Cross-Cultural Perspective (1989), which he wrote with sociologist Dorothy C. Wertz. Dr. Fletcher received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Society of Bioethics and Humanities in 2000. With the passing of Dr. John C. Fletcher, bioethics has lost one of its great voices, a dedicated teacher and mentor, and a friend and colleague to scholars in bioethics and a host of other fields. Below is a touching tribute from one of his former students. (shrink)
Principles and the context, by J. C. Bennett.--Love monism, by J. M. Gustafson.--Responsibility in freedom, by E. C. Gardner.--The new morality, by G. Fackre.--When love becomes excarnate, by H. L. Smith.--Situational morality, by R. W. Gleason.--The nature of heresy, by G. Kennedy.--Situation ethics under fire, by J. Fletcher.
Professor Brenda Baker's recent critique of the Canadian Law Reform Commission's treatment of general standards for criminal liability adds to a growing body of critical theory concerning such standards and their relation to criminal justice. From within the perspective of this same critical movement, I assess the strengths and weaknesses of Professor Baker's efforts and of similar lines of argument in the work of Professor George Fletcher. I find two significant flaws in their shared approach. The first is confusion (...) as to the proper level for analysis of liability standards and, hence, for criticism of the "orthodox" view. This leads Professors Baker and Fletcher to concentrate on issues of culpability rather than responsibility (and to conflate these issues). The second flaw is an error in comprehension of the faults of the orthodox view and, hence, in recognition of the fundamental character of views opposed to that orthodoxy. This leads both theorists to overemphasize a suspect and unilluminating distinction between normative and descriptive approaches to liability problems. The rest of the article is devoted to an overview of my own approach to problems of liability and a general critique of the orthodox view in light of that approach. I argue that the fundamental issue is the relation of liability standards to a conception of agent responsibility. The primary fault of orthodoxy lies, then, in the cognitivist model of responsibility on which it relies. Against this, I propose use of a capacities model of responsibility as the basis for standards of liability. These two models are outlined and compared in final sections. (shrink)