The ancient philosophical school of Epicureanism tried to argue that death is "nothing to us." Were they right? James Warren provides a comprehensive study and articulation of the interlocking arguments against the fear of death found not only in the writings of Epicurus himself, but also in Lucretius' poem De rerum natura and in Philodemus' work De morte. These arguments are central to the Epicurean project of providing ataraxia (freedom from anxiety) and therefore central to an understanding of Epicureanism (...) as a whole. They also offer significant resources for modern discussions of the value of death--one which stands at the intersection of metaphysics and ethics. If death is the end of the subject, and the subject can not be benefited nor harmed after death, is it reasonable nevertheless to fear the ceasing-to-be? If the Epicureans are not right to claim that the dead can neither be benefited nor harmed, what alternative models might be offered for understanding the harm done by death and do these alternatives suffer from any further difficulties? The discussion involves consideration of both ethical and metaphysical topics since it requires analysis not only of the nature of a good life but also the nature of personal identity and time. A number of modern philosophers have offered criticisms or defences of the Epicureans' views. Warren explores and evaluates these in the light of a systematic and detailed study of the precise form and intention of the Epicureans' original arguments. Warren argues that the Epicureans also were interested in showing that mortality is not to be regretted and that premature death is not to be feared. Their arguments for these conclusions are to be found in their positive conception of the nature of a good and complete life, which divorce the completeness of a life as far as possible from considerations of its duration. Later chapters investigate the nature of a life lived without the fear of death and pose serious problems for the Epicureans being able to allow any concern for the post mortem future and being able to offer a positive reason for prolonging a life which is already complete in their terms. (shrink)
Quantum computers are hypothetical quantum information processing (QIP) devices that allow one to store, manipulate, and extract information while harnessing quantum physics to solve various computational problems and do so putatively more efficiently than any known classical counterpart. Despite many ‘proofs of concept’ (Aharonov and Ben–Or 1996; Knill and Laflamme 1996; Knill et al. 1996; Knill et al. 1998) the key obstacle in realizing these powerful machines remains their scalability and susceptibility to noise: almost three decades after their conceptions, experimentalists (...) still struggle to maintain useful quantum coherence in QIP devices with more than a pair of qubits (e.g., Blatt and Wineland 2008). This slow progress has prompted debates on the feasibility of quantum computers, yet the quantum information community has dismissed the skepticism as “ideology” (Aaronson 2004), claiming that the obstacles are merely technological (Kaye et al. 2007, 240). In a recent paper (Hagar 2009) I’ve argued that such a skepticism with respect to the feasibility of quantum computers need not be deemed ideological at all, and that the aforementioned ‘proofs of concept’ are physically suspect. Using analogies from the foundations of classical statistical mechanics (SM), I’ve also argued that instead of active error correction, the appropriate framework for debating the feasibility of large–scale, fault–tolerant and computationally superior quantum computers should be the project of error avoidance: rather than trying to constantly ‘cool down’ the QIP device and prevent its thermalization, one should try to locate those regions in the device’s state space which are thermodynamically ‘abnormal’, i.e., those regions in the device’s state space which resist thermalization regardless of external noise. This paper is intended as a further contribution to the debate on the feasibility of large–scale, fault–tolerant and computationally superior quantum computers. Relying again on analogies from the foundations of classical SM, it suggests a skeptical conjecture and frames it in the ‘passive’, error avoidance, context.. (shrink)
Mary Anne Warren explores a theoretical question which lies at the heart of practical ethics: what are the criteria for having moral status? In other words, what are the criteria for being an entity towards which people have moral obligations? Some philosophers maintain that there is one intrinsic property--for instance, life, sentience, humanity, or moral agency. Others believe that relational properties, such as belonging to a human community, are more important. In Part I of the book, Warren argues (...) that no single property can serve as the sole criterion for moral status; instead, life, sentience, moral agency, and social and biotic relationships are all relevant, each in a different way. She presents seven basic principles, each focusing on a property that can, in combination with others, legitimately affect an agent's moral obligations towards entities of a given type. In Part II, these principles are applied in an examination of three controversial ethical issues: voluntary euthanasia, abortion, and the moral status of animals. (shrink)
Ecological feminism (or ecofeminism) and feminist bioethics seem to have much in common. They share certain methodological and epistemological concerns, offer similar challenges to traditional philosophy, and take up a number of the same practical issues. The two disciplines have thus far had little or no direct interaction; this is one attempt to begin some conversation and perhaps stimulate some cross-pollination of ideas. The email dialogue engaged an active ecofeminist scholar, Karen Warren, and an active feminist bioethicist, Hilde Nelson, (...) in an exchange of ideas. Jessica Pierce, whose research cuts between environmental philosophy and bioethics, served as moderator. (shrink)
Scott Warren’s ambitious and enduring work sets out to resolve the ongoing identity crisis of contemporary political inquiry. In the Emergence of Dialectical Theory, Warren begins with a careful analysis of the philosophical foundations of dialectical theory in the thought of Kant, Hegel, and Marx. He then examines how the dialectic functions in the major twentieth-century philosophical movements of existentialism, phenomenology, neomarxism, and critical theory. Numerous major and minor philosophers are discussed, but the emphasis falls on two of (...) the greatest dialectical thinkers of the previous century: Maurice Merleau-Ponty and Jürgen Habermas. Warren’s shrewd critique is indispensable to those interested in the history of social and political thought and the philosophical foundations of political theory. His work offers an alternative for those who find postmodernism to be at a philosophical impasse. “[This book] is stimulating and thought provoking . . . [Warren] has the instinct to raise the right questions.”—Zoltán Tar, Contemporary Sociology. (shrink)
The study of letters, by Norman Foerster.--Language, by J.C. McGalliard.--Literary history, by René Wellek.--Literary criticism, by Austin Warren.--Imaginative writing, by W.L. Schramm.--Notes.--Bibliography (p. 239-255).
In interpretations of the "Transcendental Aesthetic" section of the first Critique, there is a widespread tendency to present Kant as establishing that the representation of space is a condition for individuating or distinguishing objects, and to claim that it is on this basis that Kant establishes the apriority of this representation. The aim of this paper is to criticize this way of interpreting the "Aesthetic," and to defend an alternative interpretation. On this alternative, questions about the formation of the representation (...) of space figure more centrally, and the anti-Leibnizian character of Kant's argument can be properly appreciated. (shrink)
We present a brief history of decoherence, from its roots in the foundations of classical statistical mechanics, to the current spin bath models in condensed matter physics. We analyze the philosophical import of the subject matter in three different foundational problems, and find that, contrary to the received view, decoherence is less instrumental to their solutions than it is commonly believed. What makes decoherence more philosophically interesting, we argue, are the methodological issues it draws attention to, and the question of (...) the universality of quantum mechanics. (shrink)
We propose a new interpretation of objective deterministic chances in statistical physics based on physical computational complexity. This notion applies to a single physical system (be it an experimental set--up in the lab, or a subsystem of the universe), and quantifies (1) the difficulty to realize a physical state given another, (2) the 'distance' (in terms of physical resources) from a physical state to another, and (3) the size of the set of time--complexity functions that are compatible with the physical (...) resources required to reach a physical state from another. (shrink)
One of the recurrent problems in the foundations of physics is to explain why we rarely observe certain phenomena that are allowed by our theories and laws. In thermodynamics, for example, the spontaneous approach towards equilibrium is ubiquitous yet the time-reversal-invariant laws that presumably govern thermal behaviour in the microscopic level equally allow spontaneous departure from equilibrium to occur. Why are the former processes frequently observed while the latter are almost never reported? Another example comes from quantum mechanics where the (...) formalism, if considered complete and universally applicable, predicts the existence of macroscopic superpositions—monstrous Schr¨odinger cats—and these are never observed: while electrons and atoms enjoy the cloudiness of waves, macroscopic objects are always localized to definite positions. (shrink)
Hugh Everett III died of a heart attack in July 1982 at the age of 51. Almost 26 years later, a New York Times obituary for his PhD advisor, John Wheeler, mentioned him and Richard Feynman as Wheeler’s most prominent students. Everett’s PhD thesis on the relative state formulation of quantum mechanics, later known as the “Many Worlds Interpretation”, was published (in its edited form) in 1957, and later (in its original, unedited form) in 1973, and since then has given (...) rise to one of the most radical schools of thought in the foundations of quantum theory. Several years ago two conferences held in Oxford and in the Perimeter Institute celebrated the occasion of 50 years to the first publication of Everett’s thesis. The book Many worlds? grew out from contributions to these conferences, but, as its editors emphasize, it is more than mere conference proceedings. Instead, an attempt was made to assemble an impressive collection of papers which together illustrate the promise of the many worlds interpretation and the obstacles it faces. 23 papers divided into six sections follow an introduction by Simon Saunders, one of Oxford’s fiercest Everettians. The first four sections cover two thorny issues that have been flagged by contemporary opponents to the many worlds interpretation, namely, the problem of ontology and the problem of probability, while the fifth discusses alternatives to Everett such as Bohmian mechanics and information–theoretic approaches to quantum theory. The sixth section seems to be a wild card, hosting several papers unrelated to each other, including one of the most interesting contributions to this volume on the history of Everett’s thesis and his (some may say all too) short academic career. Each section concludes with transcripts of the discussion session that took place after the talks, thus giving an additional emphasis to the points of contention. Apart from general comments on the volume, in what follows I would like to concentrate on few papers I found especially illuminating. Start with ontology.. (shrink)
Relying on the universality of quantum mechanics and on recent results known as the “threshold theorems,” quantum information scientists deem the question of the feasibility of large‐scale, fault‐tolerant, and computationally superior quantum computers as purely technological. Reconstructing this question in statistical mechanical terms, this article suggests otherwise by questioning the physical significance of the threshold theorems. The skepticism it advances is neither too strong (hence is consistent with the universality of quantum mechanics) nor too weak (hence is independent of technological (...) contingencies). *Received June 2009; revised August 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of History and Philosophy of Science, College of Arts and Sciences, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
In quantum computing, where algorithms exist that can solve computational problems more efficiently than any known classical algorithms, the elimination of errors that result from external disturbances or from imperfect gates has become the ...
Huw Price (1996, 2002, 2003) argues that causal-dynamical theories that aim to explain thermodynamic asymmetry in time are misguided. He points out that in seeking a dynamical factor responsible for the general tendency of entropy to increase, these approaches fail to appreciate the true nature of the problem in the foundations of statistical mechanics (SM). I argue that it is Price who is guilty of misapprehension of the issue at stake. When properly understood, causal-dynamical approaches in the foundations of SM (...) offer a solution for a different problem; a problem that unfortunately receives no attention in Price’s celebrated work. (shrink)
It is occasionally claimed that the important work of philosophers, physicists, and mathematicians in the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries made Kant’s critical philosophy of geometry look somewhat unattractive. Indeed, from the wider perspective of the discovery of non-Euclidean geometries, the replacement of Newtonian physics with Einstein’s theories of relativity, and the rise of quantificational logic, Kant’s philosophy seems “quaint at best and silly at worst”.1 While there is no doubt that Kant’s transcendental project involves his own conceptions (...) of Newtonian physics, Euclidean geometry and Aristotelian logic, the issue at stake is whether the replacement of these conceptions collapses Kant’s philosophy into an unfortunate embarrassment.2 Thus, in evaluating the debate over the contemporary relevance of Kant’s philosophical project one is faced with the following two questions: (1) Are there any contradictions between the scientific developments of our era and Kant’s philosophy? (2) What is left from the Kantian legacy in light of our modern conceptions of logic, geometry and physics? Within this broad context, this paper aims to evaluate the Kantian project vis à vis the discovery and application of non-Euclidean geometries. Many important philosophers have evaluated Kant’s philosophy of geometry throughout the last century,3 but opinions with regard to the impact of non-Euclidean geometries on it diverge. In the beginning of the century there was a consensus that the Euclidean character of space should be considered as a consequence of the Kantian project, i.e., of the metaphysical view of space and of the synthetic a priori character of geometry. The impact of non-Euclidean geometries was then thought as undermining the Kantian project since it implied, according to positivists such.. (shrink)
Ecological feminism is the position that there are important connections-historical, symbolic, theoretical-between the domination of women and the domination of nonhuman nature. I argue that because the conceptual connections between the dual dominations of women and nature are located in an oppressive patriarchal conceptual framework characterized by a logic of domination, (1) the logic of traditional feminism requires the expansion of feminism to include ecological feminism and (2) ecological feminism provides a framework for developing a distinctively feminist environmental ethic. I (...) conclude that any feminist theory and any environmental ethic which fails to take seriously the interconnected dominations of women and nature is simply inadequate. (shrink)
The early history of the attempts to unify quantum theory with the general theory of relativity is depicted through the work of the under--appreciated Italo-Brazilian physicist Gleb Wataghin, who is responsible for many of the ideas that the quantum gravity community is entertaining today.
Final draft (September 2013 - going to production) of the book on the notion of fundamental length I have been writing for the last couple of years, covering issues in the philosophy of math, metaphysics, and the history and the philosophy of modern physics, from classical electrodynamics to current theories of quantum gravity. To be published (2014) in Cambridge University Press.
In their book The Road to Maxwell's Demon Hemmo & Shenker re-describe the foundations of statistical mechanics from a purely empiricist perspective. The result is refreshing, as well as intriguing, and it goes against much of the literature on the demon. Their conclusion, however, that Maxwell's demon is consistent with statistical mechanics, still leaves open the question of why such a demon hasn't yet been observed on a macroscopic scale. This essay offers a sketch of what a possible answer could (...) look like. (shrink)
We argue that current constructive approaches to the special theory of relativity do not derive the geometrical Minkowski structure from the dynamics but rather assume it. We further argue that in current physics there can be no dynamical derivation of primitive geometrical notions such as length. By this we believe we continue an argument initiated by Einstein.
Scientific realism is dead, or so many philosophers believe. Its death was announced when philosophers became convinced that one can accept all scientific results without committing oneself to metaphysical existence claims about theoretical entities (Fine 1986, 112). In addition, the inability of self–proclaimed scientific realists, despite recurrent demands, to distinguish themselves from their rival anti–realists (Stein 1989) didn’t exactly help their cause. If realists cannot identify the key feature or features that set them apart from their opponents, then there is (...) really no need to conduct a debate on scientific realism, is there? (shrink)
Among the alternatives of non-relativistic quantum mechanics (NRQM) there are those that give different predictions than quantum mechanics in yet-untested circumstances, while remaining compatible with current empirical findings. In order to test these predictions, one must isolate one’s system from environmental induced decoherence, which, on the standard view of NRQM, is the dynamical mechanism that is responsible for the ‘apparent’ collapse in open quantum systems. But while recent advances in condensed-matter physics may lead in the near future to experimental setups (...) that will allow one to test the two hypotheses, namely genuine collapse vs. decoherence, hence make progress toward a solution to the quantum measurement problem, those philosophers and physicists who are advocating an information-theoretic approach to the foundations of quantum mechanics are still unwilling to acknowledge the empirical character of the issue at stake. Here I argue that in doing so they are displaying an unwarranted double standard. r 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
This paper identifies two possible versions of the Epicurean 'Symmetry argument', both of which claim that post mortem non-existence is relevantly like prenatal non-existence and that therefore our attitude to the former should be the same as that towards the latter. One version addresses the fear of the state of being dead by making it equivalent to the state of not yet being born; the other addresses the prospective fear of dying by relating it to our present retrospective attitude to (...) the time before birth. I argue that only the first of these is present in the relevant sections of Lucretius (DRN 3.832-42, 972-5). Therefore, this argument is not aimed at a prospective fear of death, or a fear of 'mortality'. That particular fear is instead addressed by the Epicureans through the additional premise (found in the Letter to Menoeceus 125) that it is irrational to fear in prospect an event which is known to be painless when present. This still leaves unaddressed the related fear of 'premature death', which is to be removed through the acceptance of Epicurean hedonism. (shrink)
For many among the scientifically informed public, and even among physicists, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle epitomizes quantum mechanics. Nevertheless, more than 86 years after its inception, there is no consensus over the interpretation, scope, and validity of this principle. The aim of this chapter is to offer one such interpretation, the traces of which may be found already in Heisenberg's letters to Pauli from 1926, and in Dirac's anticipation of Heisenberg's uncertainty relations from 1927, that stems form the hypothesis of finite (...) nature. Instead of a mere mathematical theorem of quantum theory, or a manifestation of "wave-particle duality", the uncertainty relations turn out to be a result of a more fundamental premise, namely, the inherent limitation on spatial resolution that follows from the bound on physical resources. The implication of this view are far reaching: it depicts the Hilbert space formalism as a phenomenological, "effective", formalism that approximates an underlying discrete structure; it supports a novel interpretation of probability in statistical physics that sees probabilities as deterministic, dynamical transition probabilities which arise from objective and inherent measurement errors; and it helps to clarify several puzzles in the foundations of statistical physics, such as the status of the "disturbance" view of measurement in quantum theory, or the tension between ontology and epistemology in the attempts to describe nature with physical theories whose formalisms include subjective probabilities. Finally, this view also renders obsolete the entire class of interpretations of quantum theory that adhere to "the reality of the wave function". (shrink)
In the chapter “The Geometry of Visibles” in his ‘Inquiry into the Human Mind’, Thomas Reid constructs a special space, develops a special geometry for that space, and offers a natural model for this geometry. In doing so, Reid “discovers” non-Euclidean Geometry sixty years before the mathematicians. This paper examines this “discovery” and the philosophical motivations underlying it. By reviewing Reid’s ideas on visible space and confronting him with Kant and Berkeley, I hope, moreover, to resolve an alleged impasse in (...) Reid’s philosophy concerning the contradictory characteristics of Reid’s tangible and visible space. (shrink)
I discuss a rarely mentioned correspondence between Einstein and Swann on the constructive approach to the special theory of relativity, in which Einstein points out that the attempts to construct a dynamical explanation of relativistic kinematical effects require postulating a fundamental length scale in the level of the dynamics. I use this correspondence to shed light on several issues under dispute in current philosophy of spacetime that were highlighted recently in Harvey Brown’s monograph Physical Relativity, namely, Einstein’s view on the (...) distinction between principle and constructive theories, and the consequences of pursuing the constructive approach in the context of spacetime theories. r 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. (shrink)
This paper extends the discussion of guanxi beyond instrumental evaluations and advances a normative assessment of guanxi. Our discussion departs from previous analyses by not merely asking, Does guanxi work? but rather Should corporations use guanxi? The analysis begins with a review of traditional guanxi definitions and the changing economic and legal environment in China, both necessary precursors to understanding the role of guanxi in Chinese business transactions. This review leads us to suggest that there are distinct types of, and (...) uses for guanxi. We identify the potentially problematic aspects of certain forms of guanxi from a normative perspective, noting among other things, the close association of particular types of guanxi with corruption and bribery. We conclude that there are many different forms of guanxi that may have distinct impacts on economic efficiency and the well-being of ordinary Chinese citizens. Consistent with Donaldson and Dunfee (1999), we advocate a particularistic analysis of the different forms of guanxi. (shrink)
The current feminist debate over ecology raises important and timely issues about the theoretical adequacy of the four leading versions of feminism-liberal feminism, traditional Marxist feminism, radical feminism, and socialist feminism. In this paper I present a minimal condition account of ecological feminism, or ecofeminism. I argue that if eco-feminism is true or at least plausible, then each of the four leading versions of feminism is inadequate, incomplete, or problematic as a theoretical grounding for eco-feminism. I conclude that, if eco-feminism (...) is to be taken seriously, then a transformative feminism is needed that will move us beyond the four familiar feminist frameworks and make an eco-feminist perspective central to feminist theory and practice. (shrink)
Loop quantum gravity predicts that spatial geometry is fundamentally discrete. Whether this discreteness entails a departure from exact Lorentz symmetry is a matter of dispute that has generated an interesting methodological dilemma. On one hand one would like the theory to agree with current experiments, but, so far, tests in the highest energies we can manage show no such sign of departure. On the other hand one would like the theory to yield testable predictions, and deformations of exact Lorentz symmetry (...) in certain yet– to–be–tested regimes may have phenomenological consequences. Exposing their shortcomings, here I discuss two arguments that exemplify this dilemma, and compare them to other cases from the history of physics that share their symptoms. (shrink)
The Epicurean philosophical system has enjoyed much recent scrutiny, but the question of its philosophical ancestry remains largely neglected. It has often been thought that Epicurus owed only his physical theory of atomism to the fifth-century BC philosopher Democritus, but this study finds that there is much in his ethical thought which can be traced to Democritus. It also finds important influences on Epicurus in Democritus' fourth-century followers such as Anaxarchus and Pyrrho, and in Epicurus' disagreements with his own Democritean (...) teacher Nausiphanes. The result is not only a fascinating reconstruction of a lost tradition, but also an important contribution to the philosophical interpretation of Epicureanism, bearing especially on its ideal of tranquillity and on the relation of ethics to physics. (shrink)
This essay offers a reading of a difficult passage in the first book of Lucretius' "De Rerum Natura" in which the poet first explains the Epicurean account of time and then responds to a worry about the status of the past (1.459-82). It identifies two possible readings of the passage, one of which is compatible with the claim that the Epicureans were presentists about the past. Other evidence, particularly from Cicero "De Fato", suggests that the Epicureans maintained that all true (...) assertions must have a contemporaneous truth-maker and that no contingent future-tensed assertions are true. It appears, however, that they did not assert a symmetrical view of past-tensed assertions. There is no compelling reason, therefore, to think that the Epicureans were presentists about the past. (shrink)
Ecological feminism is a feminism which attempts to unite the demands of the women's movement with those of the ecological movement. Ecofeminists often appeal to "ecology" in support of their claims, particularly claims about the importance of feminism to environmentalism. What is missing from the literature is any sustained attempt to show respects in which ecological feminism and the science of ecology are engaged in complementary, mutually supportive projects. In this paper we attempt to do that by showing ten important (...) similarities which establish the need for and benefits of on-going dialogue between ecofeminists and ecosystem ecologists. (shrink)
Quillen  introduced model categories as an abstract framework for homotopy theory which would apply to a wide range of mathematical settings. By all accounts this program has been a success and—as, e.g., the work of Voevodsky on the homotopy theory of schemes  or the work of Joyal [11, 12] and Lurie  on quasicategories seem to indicate—it will likely continue to facilitate mathematical advances. In this paper we present a novel connection between model categories and mathematical logic, inspired (...) by the groupoid model of (intensional) Martin–Löf type theory  due to Hofmann and Streicher . In particular, we show that a form of Martin–Löf type theory can be soundly modelled in any model category. This result indicates moreover that any model category has an associated “internal language” which is itself a form of Martin-Löf type theory. This suggests applications both to type theory and to homotopy theory. Because Martin–Löf type theory is, in one form or another, the theoretical basis for many of the computer proof assistants currently in use, such as Coq and Agda (cf.  and ), this promise of applications is of a practical, as well as theoretical, nature. This paper provides a precise indication of this connection between homotopy theory and logic; a more detailed discussion of these and further results will be given in . (shrink)
Does birth make a difference to the moral rights of the fetus/infant? Should it make a difference to its legal rights? Most contemporary philosophers believe that birth cannot make a difference to moral rights. If this is true, then it becomes difficult to justify either a moral or a legal distinction between late abortion and infanticide. I argue that the view that birth is irrelevant to moral rights rests upon two highly questionable assumptions about the theoretical foundations of moral rights. (...) If we reject these assumptions, then we are free to take account of the contrasting biological and social relationships that make even relatively late abortion morally different from infanticide. (shrink)
Recent suggestions to supply quantum mechanics (QM) with realistic foundations by reformulating it in light of quantum information theory (QIT) are examined and are found wanting by pointing to a basic conceptual problem that QIT itself ignores, namely, the measurement problem. Since one cannot ignore the measurement problem and at the same time pretend to be a realist, as they stand, the suggestions to reformulate QM in light of QIT are nothing but instrumentalism in disguise.
A remarkable theorem by Clifton, Bub and Halvorson (2003) (CBH) characterizes quantum theory in terms of information--theoretic principles. According to Bub (2004, 2005) the philosophical significance of the theorem is that quantum theory should be regarded as a ``principle'' theory about (quantum) information rather than a ``constructive'' theory about the dynamics of quantum systems. Here we criticize Bub's principle approach arguing that if the mathematical formalism of quantum mechanics remains intact then there is no escape route from solving the measurement (...) problem by constructive theories. We further propose a (Wigner--type) thought experiment that we argue demonstrates that quantum mechanics on the information--theoretic approach is incomplete. (shrink)