Recent work in cognitive science suggests that conscious thought plays a much less central role in the production of human behavior than most think. Partially on the basis of this work, Peter Carruthers has advanced the claim that humans never consciously decide to act. This claim is of independent interest for action theory, and its potential truth poses a problem for theories of free will and autonomy, which often take our capacity to consciously decide to be of central importance. In (...) this article, I examine the nature of conscious deciding and I argue that Carruthers fails to establish the claim that humans never consciously decide to act. (shrink)
It is natural to think that at root, agents are beings that act. Agents do more than this, however – agents omit to act. Sometimes agents do so intentionally. How should we understand intentional omission? Recent accounts of intentional omission have given causation a central theoretical role. The move is well-motivated. If some form of causalism about intentional omission can successfully exploit similarities between action and omission, it might inherit the broad support causalism about intentional action enjoys. In this paper (...) I consider the prospects for causalism about intentional omission. I examine two recent proposals: one Carolina Sartorio (2009) defends, and one Randolph Clarke (2010a) defends. I argue these versions fail, and for a similar reason. Reflection on the function of intention for agency brings this reason to light, and motivates a novel causalism about intentional omission. On the account I go on to defend necessarily, an agent J intentionally omits to A only if an intention of J’s with relevant content (or the intention’s acquisition) causes in J a disposition not to A. Though the causal work done by intentions to omit differs in some cases from the causal work done by intentions to act, it turns out that causalism about intentional behavior (i.e., about action and omission) is viable. (shrink)
One of the central insights of the embodied cognition (EC) movement is that cognition is closely tied to action. In this paper, I formulate an EC-inspired hypothesis concerning social cognition. In this domain, most think that our capacity to understand and interact with one another is best explained by appeal to some form of mindreading. I argue that prominent accounts of mindreading likely contain a significant lacuna. Evidence indicates that what I call an agent’s actional processes and states—her goals, needs, (...) intentions, desires, and so on—likely play important roles in and for mindreading processes. If so, a full understanding of mindreading processes and their role in cognition more broadly will require an understanding of how actional mental processes interact with, influence, or take part in mindreading processes. (shrink)
Many philosophical theories of causation are egalitarian, rejecting a distinction between causes and mere causal conditions. We sought to determine the extent to which people’s causal judgments discriminate, selecting as causes counternormal events—those that violate norms of some kind—while rejecting non-violators. We found significant selectivity of this sort. Moreover, priming that encouraged more egalitarian judgments had little effect on subjects. We also found that omissions are as likely as actions to be judged as causes, and that counternormative selectivity appears to (...) apply equally to actions and omissions. (shrink)
Ned Block has recently pressed a new criticism of the higher-order thought (HOT) theory of consciousness. HOT proponents have responded in turn. The exchange affords a chance to find some clarity concerning the essential commitments of HOT, as well as a chance to find clarity on the issues that divide Block and HOT proponents. In this paper I discuss the recent exchange, and I draw some lessons. First, I side with HOT proponents in arguing that new criticism presents no new (...) problem for HOT. Second, I argue that the issues separating Block and HOT proponents suggest that two separate debates are being conflated, and I suggest that keeping them distinct will yield progress for consciousness studies. (shrink)
What are the folk-conceptual connections between free will and consciousness? In this paper I present results which indicate that consciousness plays central roles in folk conceptions of free will. When conscious states cause behavior, people tend to judge that the agent acted freely. And when unconscious states cause behavior, people tend to judge that the agent did not act freely. Further, these studies contribute to recent experimental work on folk philosophical affiliation, which analyzes folk responses to determine whether folk views (...) are consistent with the view that free will and determinism are incompatible (incompatibilism) or with the opposite view (compatibilism). Conscious causation of behavior tends to elicit pro-free will judgments, even when the causation takes place deterministically. Thus, when controlling for consciousness, many folk seem to be compatibilists. However, participants who disagree with the deterministic or cognitive scientific descriptions given of human behavior tend to give incompatibilist responses. (shrink)
Necessarily, if S lacks the ability to exercise (some degree of) control, S is not an agent. If S is not an agent, S cannot act intentionally, responsibly, or rationally, nor can S possess or exercise free will. In spite of the obvious importance of control, however, no general account of control exists. In this paper I reflect on the nature of control itself. I develop accounts of control’s exercise and control’s possession that illuminate what it is for degrees of (...) control—that is, the degree of control an agent possesses or exercises in a given circumstance—to vary. Finally, I demonstrate the usefulness of the account on offer by showing how it generates a solution to a long-standing problem for causalist theories of action, namely, the problem of deviant causation. (shrink)
A majority of people regard the harmful side-effects of an agent’s behavior as much more intentional than an agent’s helpful side-effects. In this paper, I present evidence for a related asymmetry. When a side-effect action is an instance of harming , folk ascriptions are significantly impacted by the relative badness of either an agent’s main goal or her side-effect action, but not her attitude. Yet when a side-effect action is an instance of helping , folk ascriptions are sensitive to an (...) agent’s expressed attitude , but not to the relative goodness of her main goal or side-effect. It seems that the connection between harmful side-effects and intentionality is, for many, uniquely impervious to the expressed attitude of the agent in question. (shrink)
In this essay, I apply international human rights theory to the domestic discussion of criminalization. The essay takes as its starting point the “right not to be punished” that Douglas Husak posited in his recent book Overcriminalization . By reviewing international human rights norms, I take up Husak’s challenge to imbue this right with further normative content. This process reveals additional relationships between the criminal law and human rights theory, and I discuss one analogy: the derogation by states of an (...) individual’s human rights under specified conditions has certain similarities to the punishment by states of an individual who holds a right not to be punished. Along the way, I highlight the normative implications of defining a human right not to be punished under both generalist and specificationist perspectives on moral rights. Noting the similarities as well as the differences in the concepts of punishment and derogation, this essay aims to contribute to the exchange between theories of human rights and the criminal law. (shrink)
Research in psychology indicates that situations powerfully impact human behavior. Often, it seems, features of situations drive our behavior even when we remain unaware of these features or their influence. One response to this research is pessimism about human agency: human agents have little conscious control over their own behavior, and little insight into why they do what they do. In this paper we review classic and more recent studies indicating “the power of the situation,” and argue for a more (...) optimistic response. In our view, though psychological research indicates situational influence, it also indicates that knowledge about the impact of situations on behavior can boost agents’ power to counteract harmful situational effects. (shrink)
: Interesting work has been done on the striking similarities between the key arguments of the late Jacques Derrida and Daoism. While named otherwise, such Derridean signposts as the metaphysics of presence, the duality of language, and logocentrism are found in Daoist views of the relationship between reality, speech, writing, and knowledge. However, where the limits of language lead Derrida is different from where they take the authors of the Zhuangzi and the Daodejing, in particular regarding the question of action (...) for and responsibility toward others. (shrink)
Rational choice models are characterized by the image of the self-interested Homo economicus. The role of moral concerns, which may involve a concern for others' welfare in people's judgments and choices, questions the descriptive validity of such models. Increasing evidence of a role for perceived moral obligation within the expectancy-value-based theory of reasoned action and the theory of planned behavior indicates the importance of moral-normative influences in social behavior. In 2 studies, the influence of moral judgments on attitudes toward food (...) produced with the use of genetic engineering techniques and toward meat consumption is addressed. The reasons participants provide for their moral judgments indicate some foci of their moral concerns. The results of both studies corroborate earlier findings that perceived moral obligation (moral norm) has independent effects on behavioral intentions; they also provide evidence that such judgments may affect attitudes themselves. The results are discussed in relation to the need for attitude-behavior models to reflect the role of moral evaluations in judgment and choice. (shrink)
The physician-researcher conflict of interest has thus far eluded satisfactory solution. Most attempts to deal with it focus on improving informed consent. But those attempts are not successful and may even make things worse. Research subjects are already voluntarily undertaking the risks of research — we should not ask them to go it alone — to undergo medical “treatment” without medical “care.” The only effective solution is that in much clinical research, each research subject should have a doctor independent from (...) the research study. (shrink)
Disorders of consciousness and the permanent vegetative state -- Legal and political wrangling over Terri's life -- In context--law and ethics -- Terri's wishes -- The limits of evidence -- The implications of surrogacy -- Qualities of life -- Feeding -- The preservation of life -- Respect and care : an alternative framework.
When Darwin's theory of natural selection threatened to put Paley's Designer out of a job, one response was to reemploy God as the author of the evolutionary process itself. This idea requires an account of how God might be understood to act in biological history. I approach this question in two stages: first, by considering God's action as creator of the world as a whole, and second, by exploring the idea of particular divine action in the course of evolution. As (...) creator ex nihilo God acts directly in every event as its sustaining ground. Because God structures the world as a lawful order of natural causes, God also acts indirectly by means of creatures. More controversially, God might act directly within the world to affect the course of events; this action need not take the form of a miraculous intervention, if the natural order includes the right sort of indeterministic chance. In each of these ways God's purposes can shape evolutionary processes. (shrink)
Background As a number of commentators have noted, SARS exposed the vulnerabilities of our health care systems and governance structures. Health care professionals (HCPs) and hospital systems that bore the brunt of the SARS outbreak continue to struggle with the aftermath of the crisis. Indeed, HCPs – both in clinical care and in public health – were severely tested by SARS. Unprecedented demands were placed on their skills and expertise, and their personal commitment to their profession was severely tried. Many (...) were exposed to serious risk of morbidity and mortality, as evidenced by the World Health Organization figures showing that approximately 30% of reported cases were among HCPs, some of whom died from the infection. Despite this challenge, professional codes of ethics are silent on the issue of duty to care during communicable disease outbreaks, thus providing no guidance on what is expected of HCPs or how they ought to approach their duty to care in the face of risk. Discussion In the aftermath of SARS and with the spectre of a pandemic avian influenza, it is imperative that we (re)consider the obligations of HCPs for patients with severe infectious diseases, particularly diseases that pose risks to those providing care. It is of pressing importance that organizations representing HCPs give clear indication of what standard of care is expected of their members in the event of a pandemic. In this paper, we address the issue of special obligations of HCPs during an infectious disease outbreak. We argue that there is a pressing need to clarify the rights and responsibilities of HCPs in the current context of pandemic flu preparedness, and that these rights and responsibilities ought to be codified in professional codes of ethics. Finally, we present a brief historical accounting of the treatment of the duty to care in professional health care codes of ethics. Summary An honest and critical examination of the role of HCPs during communicable disease outbreaks is needed in order to provide guidelines regarding professional rights and responsibilities, as well as ethical duties and obligations. With this paper, we hope to open the social dialogue and advance the public debate on this increasingly urgent issue. (shrink)
While some of the great thinkers (Socrates, Kant) have argued for an absolutist view of ethical behavior, over the past 250 years the relativist view has become ascendant. Following the contingency framework of Ferrell and Gresham (1985) and the issue contingent model of Jones (1991), a model for ethical research is proposed. The key components include the moral agent/transgressor, the issue type and its intensity, and the nature of the victim. In addition, a statistical methodology, namely conjoint analysis, is introduced (...) to investigate the trade-offs inherent in relativistic inquiry. In two ethical scenarios, in each of which three factors were varied, conjoint analysis provided important insight. The individual transgressor factor of gender had minimal impact on observer responses to two scenarios of questionable ethicality. In contrast, both the dollar magnitude of the transgression and the organizational status of the transgressor (salesperson/manager/owner) did affect observer responses. (shrink)
The relative importance of the Jones’ [Jones, T. M.: 1991, Academy of Management Review 16(2), 366–395] six components of moral intensity was measured using a conjoint experimental design. The most important components influencing ethical perceptions were: probability of effect, magnitude of consequences, and temporal immediacy. Contrary to previous research, overall social consensus was not an important factor. However, consumers exhibit distinctly different patterns in ethical evaluation, and for approximately 15% of respondents social consensus was the most important dimension.
Trust in the nurse—patient relationship is maintained not by how professionals perceive their actions but rather by how the public perceives them. However, little is known about the public's view of nurses and other health care professionals who participate in pharmaceutical marketing. Our study describes public perceptions of health care providers' role in pharmaceutical marketing and compares their responses with those of a random sample of licensed family nurse practitioners. The family nurse practitioners perceived their participation in marketing activities as (...) significantly more ethically appropriate than did the public responders. Further research is warranted before conclusions can be drawn, but these early findings suggest that nurse practitioners should consider a conservative approach to participating in pharmaceutical marketing. (shrink)
Discusses profound functional similarities between the grazing ecosystem of Yellowstone National Park of North America and the Serengeti of East Africa. Structural and climactic differences; Energy dynamics of the grazing ecosystems; Plant biomass concentration throughout the seasonal ranges of migrating animals; The affect that humans have had on grazing ecosystems; The conservation of grazing ecosystems.
The development of genetic engineering and its plausible consequences raises a level of controversy that can be identified at the level of public rather than scientific debate. Opposition to genetic engineering may manifest itself in rejection of the technology overall, or rejection of specific aspects of the technology, where public attitudes may be defined by a complex set of perceptions incorporating risk, benefit, control, and ethical concerns.One hundred and seventy six members of the public responded to questionnaires about genetic engineering (...) that were framed in terms of either food production or medical application. The first section assessed perceived risks, benefits, and control of genetic engineering where the targets of the potential application and the location of control were varied. The second section assessed the relationship between objections to application of the technology to different types of organisms (plants, microorganisms, animals, or human genetic material). Questions were directed at either perceived risk or ethical objections. The applications of genetic engineering were seen as riskier and less beneficial when applied to food production than medicine, although perceived control was independent of application. Optimistic bias was observed. Ethical and risk related objections were greater for applications to food than to medicine, and again dependent on the type of organism manipulated. The transfer of genetic material between “dissimilar” types of organism (for example, between plants and animals) were not associated with greater risk or ethical concern than transfers between “similar” types of organism (for example, between animals and animals). The public requirement for legislative control was also dissociated into risk or ethical objections to the technology, and found to be greater for risk-related concerns, although ethical considerations were also important. (shrink)
Whilst there has been much debateregarding the importance of public acceptance ofgenetic engineering and its applications, there isevidence to indicate that objections to the technologyare likely to focus on specific applications of thetechnology, rather than genetic engineering per se.Thus it becomes important to examine the extent ofobjections associated with individual applications,rather than to assess public feeling regarding thetechnology overall. Survey data were collected from200 respondents regarding their objections to generalapplications of genetic engineering (where thetangible benefits were not obvious). Similar objectiondata (...) were collected from 200 different respondents,who were presented with specific applications withmore obvious tangible benefits. Overall patterns ofobjection to different applications were identifiedusing a novel method of objection mapping, inconjunction with analysis of variance to identifyindividual differences in the samples. For generalapplications, the results indicate that mostrespondents object less to applications involvingplants and microorganisms than to those involvinganimals or human genetic material. Individualdifferences in objection focus on applicationsinvolving animals or human genetic material, withwomen and those who are very concerned with theenvironment having greatest objections to theseapplications. Individual differences tend to reducewhen specific applications are used as stimuli,although the focus of concern is still on applicationsinvolving animals and human genetic material. However,gender differences were not statistically significant,and those respondents who have high levels ofenvironmental concern are differentiated by increasedobjections to large-scale agricultural applications.It is argued that effective communication regardingthe technology should focus on specific applications,and address issues of environmental impact within thecontext of these applications, if the public is tomake an informed choice regarding their acceptance ofthe products of the technology. (shrink)
Source credibility has been thought to bean important determinant of peoples‘ reactions toinformation about technology. There has also been muchdebate about the need to communicate effectively withthe public about genetic engineering, particularlywithin the context of food production. Questionnaireswere used to investigate the impact of sourcecredibility, admission of risk uncertainty, andinitial attitude towards genetic engineering onattitudes of respondents after information provision.120 respondents with positive attitudes towardsgenetic engineering in food production were providedwith persuasive information about the technology,where both source attribution and admission (...) of riskuncertainty were systematically varied within theexperimental design. Impact on perceptions of sourcecredibility, informational qualities, and postintervention attitudes were examined, and compared toa second group of respondents who held initiallynegative attitudes towards genetic engineering, andwho had been exposed to similar informationinterventions. As predicted by Social Judgment Theory,initial attitude was found to be an importantdeterminant of post-intervention attitude. However,admission of risk uncertainty was also found to beinfluential in increasing acceptance and reducingrejection of the technology, possibly through thefacilitation of elaborative processing. Contrary toprevious research, prior attitudes had an impact onperceptions of both source credibility andinformational quality. In terms of effectiveinformation provision about genetic engineering, itwas concluded that scientific honesty is the bestpolicy, and that lay understanding of scientificprocess is probably greater than hitherto assumed byexperts. (shrink)