We find that the nature and origin of the proposed “dialogical cognitive representations” in the target article is not sufficiently clear. Our proposal is that (triadic) bodily mimesis and in particular mimetic schemas – prelinguistic representational, intersubjective structures, emerging through imitation but subsequently interiorized – can provide the necessary link between private sensory-motor experience and public language. In particular, we argue that shared intentionality requires triadic mimesis.
Unfit for the Future argues that the future of our species depends on our urgently finding ways to bring about radical enhancement of the moral aspects of our own human nature. We have rewritten our own moral agenda by the drastic changes we have made to the conditions of life on earth. Advances in technology enable us to exercise an influence that extends all over the world and far into the future. But our moral psychology lags behind and leaves us (...) ill equipped to deal with the challenges we now face. We need to change human moral motivation so that we pay more heed not merely to the global community, but to the interests of future generations. It is unlikely that traditional methods such as moral education or social reform alone can bring this about swiftly enough to avert looming disaster, which would undermine the conditions for worthwhile life on earth forever. Persson and Savulescu maintain that it is likely that we need to explore the use of new technologies of biomedicine to change the bases of human moral motivation. They argue that there are in principle no philosophical or moral objections to such moral bioenhancement. Unfit for the Future? challenges us to rethink our attitudes to our own human nature, before it is too late. (shrink)
The Retreat of Reason brings back to philosophy the ambition of offering a broad vision of the human condition. One of the main original aims of philosophy was to give people guidance about how to live their lives. IngmarPersson resumes this practical project, which has been largely neglected in contemporary philosophy, but his conclusions are very different from those of the ancient Greeks. They typically argued that a life led in accordance with reason, a rational life, would (...) also be the happiest or most fulfilling. By exploring the irrationality of our attitudes to time, identity, and responsibility, Persson shows that the aim of living rationally conflicts not only with the aim of leading the most fulfilling life, but also with the moral aim of promoting the maximization and just distribution of fulfilment for all. The Retreat of Reason challenges some of our most fundamental ideas about ourselves. (shrink)
abstract As history shows, some human beings are capable of acting very immorally. 1 Technological advance and consequent exponential growth in cognitive power means that even rare evil individuals can act with catastrophic effect. The advance of science makes biological, nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction easier and easier to fabricate and, thus, increases the probability that they will come into the hands of small terrorist groups and deranged individuals. Cognitive enhancement by means of drugs, implants and biological (including (...) genetic) interventions could thus accelerate the advance of science, or its application, and so increase the risk of the development or misuse of weapons of mass destruction. We argue that this is a reason which speaks against the desirability of cognitive enhancement, and the consequent speedier growth of knowledge, if it is not accompanied by an extensive moral enhancement of humankind. We review the possibilities for moral enhancement by biomedical and genetic means and conclude that, though it should be possible in principle, it is in practice probably distant. There is thus a reason not to support cognitive enhancement in the foreseeable future. However, we grant that there are also reasons in its favour, but we do not attempt to settle the balance between these reasons for and against. Rather, we conclude that if research into cognitive enhancement continues, as it is likely to, it must be accompanied by research into moral enhancement. (shrink)
Recent work in experimental philosophy shows that folk intuitions about moral responsibility are sensitive to a surprising variety of factors. Whether people take agents to be responsible for their actions in deterministic scenarios depends on whether the deterministic laws are couched in neurological or psychological terms (Nahmias et. al. 2007), on whether actions are described abstractly or concretely, and on how serious moral transgression they seem to represent (Nichols & Knobe 2007). Finally, people are more inclined to hold an agent (...) responsible for bringing about bad than for bringing about good side effects that the agent is indifferent about (Knobe 2003). Elsewhere, we have presented an analysis of the everyday concept of moral responsibility that provides a unified explanation of paradigmatic cases of moral responsibility, and accounts for the force of both typical excuses and the most influential skeptical arguments against moral responsibility or for incompatibilism. In this article, we suggest that it also explains the divergent and apparently incoherent set of intuitions revealed by these new studies. If our hypothesis is correct, the surprising variety of judgments stems from a unified concept of moral responsibility. -Knobe, J. (2003) Intentional Action and Side Effects in Ordinary Language. Analysis 63, pp.190–93. -Nahmias, E.; Coates, J.; Kvaran. T. (2007) Free will, moral responsibility, and mechanism: experiments on folk intuitions. Midwest studies in Philosophy XXXI -Nichols, S.; Knobe, J. (2007) Moral responsibility and determinism: the cognitive science of folk intuitions, Noûs 41:4, 663-685. (shrink)
Derek Parfit has argued that, in contrast to prioritarianism, egalitarianism is exposed to the levelling down objection, i.e., the objection that it is absurd that a change which consists merely in the betteroff losing some of their well-being should be in one way for the better. In reply, this paper contends that (1) there is a plausible form of egalitarianism which is equivalent to another form of prioritarianism than the Parfitian one, a relational rather than an absolute form of prioritarianism, (...) and that (2), although this relational or egalitarian form of prioritarianism is hit by the levelling down objection, the Parfitian form is also hit by it, or worse objections, if it is fully worked out. (shrink)
Skeptical worries about moral responsibility seem to be widely appreciated and deeply felt. To address these worries—if nothing else to show that they are mistaken—theories of moral responsibility need to relate to whatever concept of responsibility underlies the worries. Unfortunately, the nature of that concept has proved hard to pin down. Not only do philosophers have conflicting intuitions; numerous recent empirical studies have suggested that both prosaic responsibility judgments and incompatibilist intuitions among the folk are influenced by a number of (...) surprising factors, sometimes prompting apparently contradictory judgments. In this paper, we show how an independently motivated hypothesis about responsibility judgments provides a unified explanation of the more important results from these studies. According to this ‘Explanation Hypothesis’, to take an agent to be morally responsible for an event is to take a relevant motivational structure of the agent to be part of a significant explanation of the event. We argue that because of how explanatory interests and perspectives affect what we take as significant explanations, this analysis accounts for the puzzling variety of empirical results. If this is correct, the Explanation Hypothesis also provides a new way of understanding debates about moral responsibility. (shrink)
We respond to a number of objections raised by John Harris in this journal to our argument that we should pursue genetic and other biological means of morally enhancing human beings (moral bioenhancement). We claim that human beings now have at their disposal means of wiping out life on Earth and that traditional methods of moral education are probably insufficient to achieve the moral enhancement required to ensure that this will not happen. Hence, we argue, moral bioenhancement should be sought (...) and applied. We argue that cognitive enhancement and technological progress raise acute problems because it is easier to harm than to benefit. We address objections to this argument. We also respond to objections that moral bioenhancement: (1) interferes with freedom; (2) cannot be made to target immoral dispositions precisely; (3) is redundant, since cognitive enhancement by itself suffices. (shrink)
New technologies and practices, such as drug testing, genetic testing, and electronic surveillance infringe upon the privacy of workers on workplaces. We argue that employees have a prima facie right to privacy, but this right can be overridden by competing moral principles that follow, explicitly or implicitly, from the contract of employment. We propose a set of criteria for when intrusions into an employee''s privacy are justified. Three types of justification are specified, namely those that refer to the employer''s interests, (...) to the interests of the employee her- or himself, and to the interests of third parties such as customers and fellow workers. For each of these three types, sub-criteria are proposed that can be used to determine whether a particular infringement into an employee''s privacy is morally justified or not. (shrink)
In this paper, we do three things. First, we put forth a novel hypothesis about judgments of moral responsibility according to which such judgments are a species of explanatory judgments. Second, we argue that this hypothesis explains both some general features of everyday thinking about responsibility and the appeal of skeptical arguments against moral responsibility. Finally, we argue that, if correct, the hypothesis provides a defense against these skeptical arguments.
Arguments from explanation, i.e. arguments in which the explanatory value of a hypothesis or premise is appealed to, are common in science, and explanatory considerations are becoming more popular in metaphysics. The paper begins by arguing that explanatory arguments in scienceâ€”even when these are metaphysical explanationsâ€”may fail to be explanatory in metaphysics; there is a distinction to be drawn between metaphysical explanation and explanation in metaphysics. This makes it potentially problematic to deploy arguments from explanation in, for instance, metaphysics of (...) science. Part of this problem has its source in that the explanatory concept differs between contexts. The paper discusses a few explanatory concepts and their corresponding arguments from explanation. Towards the end of the paper, I identify two allegedly explanatory arguments in metaphysical discourse by the concluding decisions they give rise to: the rejection of X as a metaphysical fact if X does not explain anything (the argument from explanatory inability) and the rejection of X as a metaphysical fact if X can be non-metaphysically explained (the argument from the non-metaphysically explained). I ask: What kind of concept of explanation do these arguments rely upon, and is that concept suited to the metaphysical task? Two recent examples of these arguments are used as illustration. The preliminary conclusion is that several of the strengths of arguments from explanation in science seem not to be present in metaphysical contexts. (shrink)
I have earlier argued that, like egalitarianism, prioritarianism is exposed to the levelling down objection—which I do not find serious—but also that it faces related, more serious objections that egalitarianism avoids. In this paper I reply to Thomas Porter’s attempt to rebut this argument. I also trace the more serious objections to prioritarianism to the fact that it implies the desirability of welfare diffusion, i.e. that it is better all things considered if a quantity of welfare is distributed over as (...) many recipients as possible, so that each recipient gets a minimal benefit, and that the outcome would still be in one respect better, even if the quantity of welfare was reduced. In contrast to egalitarianism, prioritarianism therefore implies that it is in one respect better if an equality, or a solitary individual, is located at lower rather than a higher level of welfare. (shrink)
Derek Parfit has argued that (Teleological) Egalitarianism is objectionable by breaking a person-affecting claim to the effect that an outcome cannot be better in any respect - such as that of equality - if it is better for nobody. So, he presents the Priorty View, i.e., the policy of giving priority to benefiting the worse-off, which avoids this objection. But it is here argued, first, that there is another person-affecting claim that this view violates. Secondly, Egalitarianism can be construed as (...) person-affecting in a weaker sense. Thirdly, it is possible to construct a Relational version of the Priority View which incorporates the Egalitarian value of just equality in this sense. Two reasons are given for why this Relational View and Egalitarianism are superior to the Parfitian Absolute Priority View. However, no attempt is made to abjudicate between the first two views, the main point being that they both accept the value of just equality in the same sense. (shrink)
The hypothesis that human reasoning and decision-making can be roughly modeled by Expected Utility Theory has been at the core of decision science. Accumulating evidence has led researchers to modify the hypothesis. One of the latest additions to the field is Dual Process theory, which attempts to explain variance between participants and tasks when it comes to deviations from Expected Utility Theory. It is argued that Dual Process theories at this point cannot replace previous theories, since they, among other things, (...) lack a firm conceptual framework, and have no means of producing independent evidence for their case. (shrink)
In its basic sense, the term "human" is a term of biological classification: an individual is human just in case it is a member of the species Homo sapiens . Its opposite is "nonhuman": nonhuman animals being animals that belong to other species than H. sapiens . In another sense of human, its opposite is "inhuman," that is cruel and heartless (cf. "humane" and "inhumane"); being human in this sense is having morally good qualities. This paper argues that biomedical research (...) and therapy should make humans in the biological sense more human in the moral sense, even if they cease to be human in the biological sense. This serves valuable biomedical ends like the promotion of health and well-being, for if humans do not become more moral, civilization is threatened. It is unimportant that humans remain biologically human, since they do not have moral value in virtue of belonging to H. sapiens. (shrink)
I shall here raise and attempt to answer -- given the constraints of space, rather dogmatically -- some fundamental questions as regards the fertile and far-reaching doctrine Ted Honderich has in the past called Consciousness as Existence.
There are two ways in which the act-omission doctrine, which implies that it may be permissible to let people die or be killed when it is wrong to kill them, gives rise to a paradox. First, it may be that when you let a victim be killed, you let yourself kill this victim. On the assumption that, if it would be wrong of you to act in a certain fashion, it would be wrong of you let yourself act in this (...) fashion, this yields the paradox that it is both permissible and impermissible to let yourself act in this fashion. Second, you may let yourself kill somebody by letting an action you have already initiated cause death, e.g., by not lending a helping hand to somebody you have pushed. This, too, yields the paradox that it is both permissible and impermissible to let yourself kill if you are in a situation in which killing is impermissible but letting be killed permissible. (shrink)
The possibility of apparently negative causation has been discussed in a number of recent works on causation, but the discussion has suffered from beingscattered. In this paper, the problem of apparently negative causation and its attemptedsolutions are examined in more detail. I discuss and discard three attempts that have beensuggested in the literature. My conclusion is negative: Negative causation shows that thetraditional cause & effect view is inadequate. A more unified causal perspective is needed.
Recently David S. Oderberg has tried to refute three arguments that have been advanced in favour of the view that a human being does not begin to exist at fertilization. These arguments turn on the absence of differentiation between the embryoblast and trophoblast, the possibility of monozygotic twinning, and the totipotency of the cells during the first days after fertilization. It is here contended that Oderberg fails to rebut these arguments, though it is conceded that the first two arguments are (...) not conclusive. They do, however, make it at least as reasonable to deny this early origination as to affirm it. It should be noticed that this is all that is needed by those who have used these arguments to dispute that something with a special moral status exists right from fertilization. Nonetheless, it will be seen that the third argument could be developed to the point of giving a conclusive reason to believe that a human being does not begin to exist at fertilization. (shrink)
This paper rejects Hume's famous claim that we never perceive our selves, by arguing that, under conditions specified, our perception of our bodies is perception of our selves. It takes as its point of departure Quassim Cassam's defence of a position to a similar effect but puts a different interpretation on the distinction between perceiving the body as an object, having spatial attributes, and perceiving it as a self or subject of experiences.
Jon Elster worries about the explanatory power of the social sciences. His main concern is that they have so few well-established laws. Elster develops an interesting substitute: a special kind of mechanism designed to fill the explanatory gap between laws and mere description. However, his mechanisms suffer from a characteristic problem that I will explore in this article. As our causal knowledge of a specific problem grows we might come to know too much to make use of an Elsterian mechanism (...) but still lack a law. We might then find ourselves in the paradoxical position of knowing more relevant causal truths about the phenomenon we are interested in than we did before, but being able to explain less. If this possibility is realized in social science settings, as I argue it might well be, Elster?s mechanistic account is threatened. Moreover, even if the possibility is rarely realized in that way, it raises, simply as a possibility, a conceptual problem with Elster?s mechanistic framework. (shrink)
Roboethics is a recently developed field of applied ethics which deals with the ethical aspects of technologies such as robots, ambient intelligence, direct neural interfaces and invasive nano-devices and intelligent soft bots. In this article we look specifically at the issue of (moral) responsibility in artificial intelligent systems. We argue for a pragmatic approach, where responsibility is seen as a social regulatory mechanism. We claim that having a system which takes care of certain tasks intelligently, learning from experience and making (...) autonomous decisions gives us reasons to talk about a system (an artifact) as being “responsible” for a task. No doubt, technology is morally significant for humans, so the “responsibility for a task” with moral consequences could be seen as moral responsibility. Intelligent systems can be seen as parts of socio-technological systems with distributed responsibilities, where responsible (moral) agency is a matter of degree. Knowing that all possible abnormal conditions of a system operation can never be predicted, and no system can ever be tested for all possible situations of its use, the responsibility of a producer is to assure proper functioning of a system under reasonably foreseeable circumstances. Additional safety measures must however be in place in order to mitigate the consequences of an accident. The socio-technological system aimed at assuring a beneficial deployment of intelligent systems has several functional responsibility feedback loops which must function properly: the awareness and procedures for handling of risks and responsibilities on the side of designers, producers, implementers and maintenance personnel as well as the understanding of society at large of the values and dangers of intelligent technology. The basic precondition for developing of this socio-technological control system is education of engineers in ethics and keeping alive the democratic debate on the preferences about future society. (shrink)
Elizabeth Fenton has criticised an earlier article by the authors in which the claim was made that, by providing humankind with means of causing its destruction, the advance of science and technology has put it in a perilous condition that might take the development of genetic or biomedical techniques of moral enhancement to get out of. The development of these techniques would, however, require further scientific advances, thus forcing humanity deeper into the danger zone created by modern science. Fenton argues (...) that the benefits of scientific advances are undervalued. The authors believe that the argument rather relies upon attaching a special weight to even very slight risks of major catastrophes, and attempt to vindicate this weighting. (shrink)
Polygenic effects have more than one cause. They testify to the fact that several causal contributors are sometimes simultaneously involved in causation. The importance of polygenic causation was noticed early on by Mill (1893). It has since been shown to be a problem for causal-law approaches to causation and accounts of causation cast in terms of capacities. However, polygenic causation needs to be examined more thoroughly in the emerging literature on causal mechanisms. In this paper I examine whether an influential (...) theory of mechanisms proposed by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden and Carl Craver can accommodate polygenic effects and other forms of causal interaction. This theory is problematic, I will argue, because it ascribes a central role to activities. In it, activities are needed not only to constitute mechanisms but also to perform the causal role of mechanisms. Any such mechanism-as-activity will be incompatible with causal situations where either no or merely another kind of activity occurs. But, as I will try to illustrate in this paper, both kinds of situation may be frequent. If I am right, the view that Machamer and colleagues suggest leads to an impoverished conception of mechanism. (shrink)
This paper is an attempt to further our understanding of mechanisms conceived of as ontologically separable from laws. What opportunities are there for a mechanistic perspective to be independent of, or even more fundamental than, a law perspective? Advocates of the mechanistic view often play with the possibility of internal and external reliability, or with the paralleling possibilities of enforcing, counteracting, redirecting, etc., the mechanisms’ power to produce To further this discussion I adopt a trope ontology. It is independent of (...) the notion of law, and can easily be adapted to account for such characteristics of mechanisms. The idea of tropes as mechanisms is worked out in some detail. According to the resulting picture, there is still an opportunity to link mechanisms and laws. But while the predominant law view conceives of mechanistic approaches as special kinds of law accounts, this study indicates that the converse may be true. Law accounts are special cases of mechanistic accounts, and they work only in those worlds where the mechanisms are of the right kind. (shrink)
Derek Parfit has argued that egalitarianism is exposed to a levelling down objection because it implies, implausibly, that a change, which consists only in the better-off sinking to the level of the worse-off, is in one respect better, though it is better for nobody. He claims that, in contrast, the prioritarian view that benefits to the worse-off have greater moral weight escapes this objection. This article contends, first, that prioritarianism is equally affected by the levelling down objection as is egalitarianism, (...) but that this objection lacks force. Secondly, prioritarianism is less plausible than egalitarianism because it implies that lowering the level of equality by diffusing a quantity of welfare equally over as many recipients as possible is for the better all things considered, and that the outcome of such welfare diffusion would still be better in one respect, even if the quantity of welfare was radically reduced. (shrink)
In this paper, the nature of the contract of employment is explored from an ethical point of view. It is argued that certain normative arguments should be taken into account in order to justify such a contract. Furthermore, an argument is developed against the claim that (a) the individual’s freedom of decision and (b) the practice of institutional arrangements are sufficient to justify a contract of employment. The dimensional analysis offered shows that further conditions are needed: (a) must be elaborated (...) and interpreted to the extent that this condition is not sufficient – rather sub-criteria regarding the agent’s state of knowledge must be met; and (b) should be supplemented by a demand for fairness. A tentative analysis of existing work contracts is the starting point for the ethical analysis. The aim is to show what a legitimate, or reasonable, contract of employment will require. Finally, some important normative implications and consequences regarding the contract’s normative status are discussed. (shrink)
Accounts of ontic explanation have often been devised so as to provide an understanding of mechanism and of causation. Ontic accounts differ quite radically in their ontologies, and one of the latest additions to this tradition proposed by Peter Machamer, Lindley Darden and Carl Craver reintroduces the concept of activity. In this paper I ask whether this influential and activity-based account of mechanisms is viable as an ontic account. I focus on polygenic scenarios—scenarios in which the causal truths depend on (...) more than one cause. The importance of polygenic causation was noticed early on by Mill (1893). It has since been shown to be a problem for both causal-law approaches to causation (Cartwright 1983) and accounts of causation cast in terms of capacities (Dupré 1993; Glennan 1997, pp. 605-626). However, whereas mechanistic accounts seem to be attractive precisely because they promise to handle complicated causal scenarios, polygenic causation needs to be examined more thoroughly in the emerging literature on activity-based mechanisms. The activity-based account proposed in Machamer et al. (2000, pp. 1-25) is problematic as an ontic account, I will argue. It seems necessary to ask, of any ontic account, how well it performs in causal situations where—at the explanandum level of mechanism—no activity occurs. In addition, it should be asked how well the activity-based account performs in situations where there are too few activities around to match the polygenic causal origin of the explanandum. The first situation presents an explanandum-problem and the second situation presents an explanans-problem—I will argue—both of which threaten activity-based frameworks. (shrink)
Philosophers of science have often favoured reductive approaches to how-possibly explanation. This article identifies three alternative conceptions making how-possibly explanation an interesting phenomenon in its own right. The first variety approaches “how possibly X?” by showing that X is not epistemically impossible. This can sometimes be achieved by removing misunderstandings concerning the implications of one’s current belief system but involves characteristically a modification of this belief system so that acceptance of X does not result in contradiction. The second variety offers (...) a potential how-explanation of X. It is usually followed by a range of further potential how-explanations of the same phenomenon. In recent literature the factual claims implied by the second variety have been downplayed whereas the heuristic role of mapping the space of conceptual possibilities has been emphasized. I will focus especially on this truth-bracketing sense of potentiality when looking closer at the second variety in the paper. The third variety has attracted less interest. It presents a partial how-explanation of X. Typically it aims to establish the existence of a mechanism by which X could be and was generated. The third conception stands out as the natural alternative for the advocate of ontic how-possibly explanations. This article transfers Salmon’s (1984) view that explanation-concepts can be broadly divided into epistemic, modal, and ontic to the context of how-possibly explanations. Moreover, it is argued that each of the three above-mentioned varieties of how-possibly explanation occurs in science. To recognize this may be especially relevant for philosophers. We are often misled by the promises of various why-explanation accounts, and seem to have forgotten nearly everything about the diversity of how-possibly explanations. (shrink)
Semmelweis’s work predates the discovery of the power of randomization in medicine by almost a century. Although Semmelweis would not have consciously used a randomized controlled trial (RCT), some features of his material—the allocation of patients to the first and second clinics—did involve what was in fact a randomization, though this was not realised at the time. This article begins by explaining why Semmelweis’s methodology, nevertheless, did not amount to the use of a RCT. It then shows why it is (...) descriptively and normatively interesting to compare what he did with the modern approach using RCTs. The argumentation centres on causal inferences and the contrast between Semmelweis’s causal concept and that deployed by many advocates of RCTs. It is argued that Semmelweis’s approach has implications for matters of explanation and medical practice. (shrink)
There is a growing trend in policy making of holding people responsible for their lifestyle-based diseases. This has sparked a heated debate on whether people are responsible for these illnesses, which has now come to an impasse. In this paper, I present a psychological model that explains why different views on people’s responsibility for their health exist and how we can reach a resolution of the disagreement. My conclusion is that policymakers should not perceive people as responsible while health care (...) personnel should take the opposing view. (shrink)
This paper presents an argument to the effect that the relation of exact similarity with respect to properties that are supervenient cannot be transitive. The point of departure is that, while a difference in respect of supervenient properties entails a difference in respect of subvenient properties, exact similiarity in respect of supervenient properties is compatible with differences in respect of subvenient properties. It is logically possible that two such sets of differences that each individually is insufficient for a difference as (...) regards the supervenient property together are sufficient for such a supervenient difference. This possibility claim is incompatible with the necessity claim entailed by the transitivity of exact similarity. Several objections to this argument are then considered. (shrink)
Sometimes instances of perceived causation turn out to lack causal relata. The reasons may vary. Causation may display itself as prevention, or as omission, and in some cases causation occurs within such complex environments that few of the things we associate with causes and effects are true of them, etc. But even then, there may be causal explanations to be had. This suggests that the explanatory power of causal reports have other sources than the relation between cause and effect. In (...) this paper it is argued that the causal mechanisms we allude to in explanations have relevant determinables other than the traditionally acknowledged ones. The traditional but in this aspect mistaken view of causation is to be blamed. Discernability, complexity of manifestation, originality, and even stability have often been overlooked. We know, that, in fact, heat is a constant attendant of flame; but what is the connexion between them, we have no room so much as to conjecture or imagine. (Hume 1777, VII. 2, 64). (shrink)