Some philosophers believe that when epistemic peers disagree, each has an obligation to accord the other's assessment the same weight as her own. I first make the antecedent of this Equal-WeightView more precise, and then I motivate the View by describing cases in which it gives the intuitively correct verdict. Next I introduce some apparent counterexamples – cases of apparent peer disagreement in which, intuitively, one should not give equalweight to the (...) other party's assessment. To defuse these apparent counterexamples, an advocate of the View might try to explain how they are not genuine cases of peer disagreement. I examine David Christensen's and Adam Elga's explanations and find them wanting. I then offer a novel explanation, which turns on a distinction between knowledge from reports and knowledge from direct acquaintance. Finally, I extend my explanation to provide a handy and satisfying response to the charge of self-defeat. (shrink)
There is a controversy, within social epistemology, over how to handle disagreement among epistemic peers. Call this the problem of peer disagreement. There is a solution, i.e. the equal-weightview, which says that disagreement among epistemic peers is a reason for each peer to lower the credence they place in their respective positions. However, this solution is susceptible to a serious challenge. Call it the merely modal peers challenge. Throughout parts of modal space, which resemble the actual (...) world almost completely, there are hordes of epistemic peers, who disagree with almost any arbitrarily chosen belief had by residents of the actual world. Further, the mere modality of these peers is not itself an epistemic difference-maker. Thus, on the equal-weightview, we should significantly lower the credence we place in most of our beliefs. Surely, this is seriously mistaken. Thus, there are serious considerations that cut against the equal-weightview. (shrink)
In this paper, we investigate various possible (Bayesian) precisifications of the (somewhat vague) statements of “the equalweightview” (EWV) that have appeared in the recent literature on disagreement. We will show that the renditions of (EWV) that immediately suggest themselves are untenable from a Bayesian point of view. In the end, we will propose some tenable (but not necessarily desirable) interpretations of (EWV). Our aim here will not be to defend any particular Bayesian precisification of (...) (EWV), but rather to raise awareness about some of the difficulties inherent in formulating such precisifications. (shrink)
In the last decade, analytic epistemologists have engaged in a lively debate about EqualWeight, the claim that you should give the credences of epistemic peers the same consideration as your own credences. In this paper, I explore the implications of the debate about EqualWeight for how we should respond to religious disagreement found in the diversity of models of God. I first claim that one common argument against religious exclusivism and for religious pluralism can (...) be articulated as an EqualWeight argument. I then argue that to avoid this argument, religious exclusivists must reject EqualWeight. Next, I maintain that, while the exclusivist complaint that pluralism is self-undermining is incorrect, exclusivists can rightly object that the pluralist’s EqualWeight argument is self-undermining. Thus both exclusivists and pluralists have an interest in rejecting EqualWeight. My final discussion is speculative: I suggest that the goals of those of pluralist persuasion might be better met by religious permissivism, the view that some forms of both exclusivism and pluralism are rational responses to religious disagreement. (shrink)
Some philosophers believe that, when epistemic peers disagree, each has an obligation to accord the other’s assessment equalweight as her own. Other philosophers worry that this Equal-WeightView is vulnerable to straightforward counterexamples, and that it requires an unacceptable degree of spinelessness with respect to our most treasured philosophical, political, and religious beliefs. I think that both of these allegations are false. To show this, I carefully state the Equal-WeightView, motivate (...) it, describe apparent counterexamples to it, and then explain away the apparent counterexamples. Finally, I adapt those explanations to cases of religious disagreement. In the end, we reach the surprising conclusion that—even if the Equal-WeightView is true—in very many cases of religious disagreement between apparent epistemic peers, the parties to the disagreement need not be conciliatory. And what goes for religious beliefs goes for political and philosophical beliefs as well. This strongly suggests that the View does not demand an unacceptable degree of spinelessness. (shrink)
What sort of doxastic response is rational to learning that one disagrees with an epistemic peer who has evaluated the same evidence? I argue that even weak general recommendations run the risk of being incompatible with a pair of real epistemic phenomena, what I call evidential attenuation and evidential amplification. I focus on a popular and intuitive view of disagreement, the equalweightview. I take it to state that in cases of peer disagreement, a subject (...) ought to end up equally confident that her own opinion is correct as that the opinion of her peer is. I say why we should regard the equalweightview as a synchronic constraint on (prior) credence functions. I then spell out a trilemma for the view: it violates what are intuitively correct updates (also leading to violations of conditionalisation), it poses implausible restrictions on prior credence functions, or it is non-substantive. The sorts of reasons why the equalweightview fails apply to other views as well: there is no blanket answer to the question of how a subject should adjust her opinions in cases of peer disagreement. (shrink)
Zuckerberg almost always tells users that change is hard, often referring back to the early days of Facebook when it had barely any of the features people know and love today. He says sharing and a more open and connected world are had barely any of the features people know and love today. He says sharing and a more open and connected world are good, and often he says he appreciates all the feedback.
How should we respond to cases of disagreement where two epistemic agents have the same evidence but come to different conclusions? Adam Elga has provided a Bayesian framework for addressing this question. In this paper, I shall highlight two unfortunate consequences of this framework, which Elga does not anticipate. Both problems derive from a failure of commutativity between application of the equalweightview and updating in the light of other evidence.
Suppose you know that someone is your epistemic peer regarding some topic. You admit that you cannot think of any relevant epistemic advantage you have over her when it comes to that topic; you admit that she is just as likely as you to get P?s truth-value right. Alternatively, you might know that she is your epistemic superior regarding the topic. And then after learning this about her you find out that she disagrees with you about P. In those situations (...) it appears that the confidence with which one holds one?s belief should be significantly reduced. My primary goal in this essay is to present and reflect upon a set of cases of disagreement that have not been discussed in the literature but are vital to consider. I argue that in the new cases one is reasonable in not lowering one?s confidence in the belief. Then I articulate and defend an ambitious principle, the Disagreement Principle, meant to answer the question ?Under what conditions am I epistemically blameworthy in retaining my belief with the same level of confidence after I have discovered recognized peers or superiors who disagree with me?? (shrink)
Kathryn Paxton George has recently argued that vegetarianism cannot be a moral obligation for most human beings, even if Tom Regan is correct in arguing that humans and certain nonhuman animals are equally inherently valuable. She holds that Regan's liberty principle permits humans to kill and eat innocent others who have a right to life, provided that doing so prevents humans from being made worse off. George maintains that obstaining from meat and dairy products would in fact make most humans (...) worse off. I argue that Regan's liberty principle either contradicts his equal rights view or does not permit the slaughter of another for food. I show that a different view recognizing the moral rights of nonhumans but according them less value than normal adult humans, the unequal rights view, would permit such action if human survival or health depended upon it. However, it would also permit the slaughter of innocent humans in the same circumstances. Finally, I argue that current nutritional research does not support George's contention that most humans would suffer if they ceased eating other animals and their products. (shrink)
Research providing consistent evidence of pervasive discrimination against overweight job applicants and employees in the American workplace raises important questions for organizational stakeholders. To what extent is the disparate treatment of job applicants or employees based on their weight ethically justified? Are there aspects of weight discrimination that make it more acceptable than discrimination based on other characteristics, such as race or gender? What operational steps can employers take to address concerns regarding the ethical treatment of overweight individuals (...) in the workplace? This article investigates these and related questions. Its purpose is to provide information and analysis that will assist organizations in formulating ethical responses to a widespread phenomenon: weight discrimination in the workplace. Although its focus is the American workplace, the proposed employer ethical obligations and the practical guidance that is provided are viewed as generalizing across countries and cultures. (shrink)
How should you update your (degrees of) belief about a proposition when you find out that someone else — as reliable as you are in these matters — disagrees with you about its truth value? There are now several different answers to this question — the question of `peer disagreement' — in the literature, but none, I think, is plausible. Even more importantly, none of the answers in the literature places the peer-disagreement debate in its natural place among the most (...) general traditional concerns of normative epistemology. In this paper I try to do better. I start by emphasizing how we cannot and should not treat ourselves as `truthometers' — merely devices with a certain probability of tracking the truth. I argue that the truthometer view is the main motivation for the EqualWeightView in the context of peer disagreement. With this fact in mind, the discussion of peer disagreement becomes more complicated, sensitive to the justification of the relevant background degrees of belief (including the conditional ones), and to some of the most general points that arise in the context of discussions of scepticism. I argue that thus understood, peer disagreement is less special as an epistemic phenomenon than may be thought, and so that there is very little by way of positive theory that we can give about peer disagreement in general. (shrink)
I argue with my friends a lot. That is, I offer them reasons to believe all sorts of philosophical conclusions. Sadly, despite the quality of my arguments, and despite their apparent intelligence, they don’t always agree. They keep insisting on principles in the face of my wittier and wittier counterexamples, and they keep offering their own dull alleged counterexamples to my clever principles. What is a philosopher to do in these circumstances? (And I don’t mean get better friends.) One popular (...) answer these days is that I should, to some extent, defer to my friends. If I look at a batch of reasons and conclude p, and my equally talented friend reaches an incompatible conclusion q, I should revise my opinion so I’m now undecided between p and q. I should, in the preferred lingo, assign equalweight to my view as to theirs. This is despite the fact that I’ve looked at their reasons for concluding q and found them wanting. If I hadn’t, I would have already concluded q. The mere fact that a friend (from now on I’ll leave off the qualifier ‘equally talented and informed’, since all my friends satisfy that) reaches a contrary opinion should be reason to move me. Such a position is defended by Richard Feldman (2006a, 2006b), David Christensen (2007) and Adam Elga (forthcoming). This equalweightview, hereafter EW, is itself a philosophical position. And while some of my friends believe it, some of my friends do not. (Nor, I should add for your benefit, do I.) This raises an odd little dilemma. If EW is correct, then the fact that my friends disagree about it means that I shouldn’t be particularly confident that it is true, since EW says that I shouldn’t be too confident about any position on which my friends disagree. But, as I’ll argue below, to consistently implement EW, I have to be maximally confident that it is true. So to accept EW, I have to inconsistently both be very confident that it is true and not very confident that it is true. This seems like a problem, and a reason to not accept EW.. (shrink)
The proportional weightview in epistemology of disagreement generalizes the equalweightview and proposes that we assign to judgments of different people weights that are proportional to their epistemic qualifications. It is shown that if the resulting degrees of confidence are to constitute a probability function, they must be the weighted arithmetic means of individual degrees of confidence, while if the resulting degrees of confidence are to obey the Bayesian rule of conditionalization, they must (...) be the weighted geometric means of individual degrees of confidence. The double bind entails that the proportional weightview (and its moderate adjustment in favor of one’s own judgment) is inconsistent with Bayesianism. (shrink)
This paper considers two questions. First, what is the scope of the EqualWeightView? Is it the case that meeting halfway is the uniquely rational method of belief-revision in all cases of known peer disagreement? The answer is no. It is sometimes rational to maintain your own opinion in the face of peer disagreement. But this leaves open the possibility that the EqualWeightView is indeed sometimes the uniquely rational method of belief (...) revision. Precisely what is the skeptical import of this fact; is it the case that some form of skepticism triumphs in such cases? The answer to this question is also no. As it turns out, the situations in which it is most plausible that the EqualWeightview is a rational requirement are the ones in which meeting halfway with a disagreeing peer brings you closer to, and not farther from, knowledge. I argue for these theses in a novel way; by looking at the comparative reliability of belief-invariance and meeting halfway using measures of reliability for degrees of belief, and by drawing normative conclusions from such results. The conclusions here can have the effect of reframing the entire debate in the epistemology of disagreement. (shrink)
I develop a general framework with a rationality constraint that shows how coherently to represent and deal with second-order information about one's own judgmental reliability. It is a rejection of and generalization away from the typical Bayesian requirements of unconditional judgmental self-respect and perfect knowledge of one's own beliefs, and is defended by appeal to the Principal Principle. This yields consequences about maintaining unity of the self, about symmetries and asymmetries between the first- and third-person, and a principled way of (...) knowing when to stop second-guessing oneself. Peer disagreement is treated as a special case where one doubts oneself because of news that an intellectual equal disagrees. This framework, and variants of it, imply that the typically stated belief that an equally reliably peer disagrees is incoherent, and thus that pure rationality constraints without further substantive information cannot give an answer as to what to do. The framework also shows that treating both ourselves and others as thermometers in the disagreement situation does not imply the EqualWeightview. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the question of how to resolve disagreement and uses the Lehrer-Wagner model as a formal tool for investigating consensual decision-making. The main result consists in a general definition of when agents treat each other as epistemic peers (Kelly 2005; Elga 2007), and a theorem vindicating the “equalweightview” to resolve disagreement among epistemic peers. We apply our findings to an analysis of the impact of social network structures on group deliberation processes, and (...) we demonstrate their stability with the help of numerical simulations. (shrink)
The equalweightview says that if you discover that you disagree with a peer, you should decrease your confidence that you are in the right. Since peer disagreement seems to be quite prevalent, the equalweightview seems to tell us that we cannot reasonably believe many of the interesting things we believe because we can always count on a peer to contest the interesting things that we believe. While the equal (...) class='Hi'>weightview seems to have skeptical implications, few epistemologists worry about these implications because the equalweightview is quickly falling out of favor. In this paper, I present an analogical argument for the view and defend it from critics who think that we can justifiably retain confidence in the face of peer disagreement. (shrink)
Disagreements about, within, and between religions are widespread. It’s no surprise, then, that there’s an enormous philosophical literature on religious diversity. But in recent years, philosophers working in mainstream epistemology have done a lot of work on disagreement in general. This work has focused in particular upon the epistemology of peer disagreement, i.e., disagreements between parties who are justifiably believed to be epistemic equals regarding the matter at hand. In this paper, I intend to defend a thesis in the epistemology (...) of peer disagreement from a significant objection. The thesis I intend to defend is the EqualWeightView (EWV). The objection, pressed by philosophers such as Alvin Plantinga, Timothy O’Connor, Charles Taliaferro, Brian Weatherson, and Adam Elga, is that EWV is self-undermining. In short, I argue two things. First, I argue that EWV is not self-undermining. Second, I argue that even if it were, this would give us no reason to think that EWV is false since there are obviously true epistemic principles that self-undermine (or at least do so potentially). The self-undermining objection to EWV fails. (shrink)
In plant morphology, most structures of vascular plants can easily be assigned to pre-established organ categories. However, there are also intermediate structures that do not fit those categories associated with a classical approach to morphology. To integrate the diversity of forms in the same general framework, we constructed a theoretical morphospace based on a variety of modalities where it is possible to calculate the morphological distance between plant organs. This paper gives emphasis on shoot, leaf, leaflet and trichomes while ignoring (...) the root. This will allow us to test the hypothesis that classical morphology (typology) and dynamic morphology occupy the same theoretical morphospace and the relationship between the two approaches remains a question of weighting of criteria. Our approach considers the shoot (i.e. leafy stem) as the basic morphological structural unit. A theoretical data table consisting of as many lines as there are possible combinations between different modalities of characters of a typical shoot was generated. By applying a principal components analysis (PCA) to these data it is possible to define a theoretical morphospace of shoots. Typical morphological elements (shoots, leaves, trichomes) and atypical structures (phylloclades, cladodes) including particular cases representing ‘exotic’ structures such as the epiphyllous appendages of Begonia and ‘water shoot’ and ‘leaf’ of aquatic Utricularia were placed in the morphospace. The more an organ differs from a typical shoot, the further away it will be from the barycentre of shoots. By giving a higher weight to variables used in classical typology, the different organ categories appear to be separate, as expected. If we do not make any particular arbitrary choice in terms of character weighting, as it is the case in the context of dynamic morphology, the clear separation between organs is replaced by a continuum. Contrary to typical structures, “intermediate” structures are only compatible with a dynamic morphology approach whether they are placed in the morphospace based on a ponderation compatible with typology or dynamic morphology. The difference in points of view between typology and continuum leads to a particular mode of weighting. By using an equal weighting of characters, contradictions due to the ponderation of characters are avoided, and the morphological concepts of continuum’ and ‘typology’ appear as sub-classes of ‘process’ or ‘dynamic morphology’. (shrink)
Duncan Pritchard has, in the years following his (2005) defence of a safety-based account of knowledge in Epistemic Luck, abjured his (2005) view that knowledge can be analysed exclusively in terms of a modal safety condition. He has since (Pritchard in Synthese 158:277–297, 2007; J Philosophic Res 34:33–45, 2009a, 2010) opted for an account according to which two distinct conditions function with equal importance and weight within an analysis of knowledge: an anti-luck condition (safety) and an ability (...) condition-the latter being a condition aimed at preserving what Pritchard now takes to be a fundamental insight about knowledge: that it arises from cognitive ability (Greco 2010; Sosa 2007, 2009). Pritchard calls his new view anti-luck virtue epistemology (ALVE). A key premise in Pritchard’s argument for ALVE is what I call the independence thesis; the thesis that satisfying neither the anti-luck condition nor the ability condition entails that the other is satisfied. Pritchard’s argument for the independence thesis relies crucially upon the case he makes for thinking that cognitive achievements are compatible with knowledge-undermining environmental luck—that is, the sort of luck widely thought to undermine knowledge in standard barn facade cases. In the first part of this paper, I outline the key steps in Pritchard’s argument for anti-luck virtue epistemology and highlight how it is that the compatibility of cognitive achievement and knowledge- undermining environmental luck is indispensible to the argument’s success. The second part of this paper aims to show that this compatibility premise crucial to Pritchard’s argument is incorrect. (shrink)
According to one influential conception of morality, being moral is a matter of acting from or in accordance with a moral point of view, a point of view which is arrived at by abstracting from a more natural, pre-ethical, personal point of view, and recognizing that each person''s personal point of view has equal standing. The idea that, were it not for morality, rational persons would act from their respectively personal points of view is, (...) however, simplistic and misleading. Because our nonmoral reasons cannot all be adequately captured as falling within any single, unified and coherent point of view, morality cannot be adequately understood as a matter of abstracting from such points of view and taking them all equally into account. After considering several ways of modifying the initial conception of morality in a way that accommodates the variety of nonmoral reasons that do not have their source in a personal point of view, the paper concludes with the suggestion that we free ourselves more thoroughly from the grip of the metaphor that takes morality as a whole to be a matter of acting in accordance with the judgments of a single unified and coherent point of view. (shrink)
Multiple-vote majority rule is a procedure for making group decisions in which individuals weight their votes on issues in accordance with how competent they are on them. When individuals are motivated by the truth and know their relative competence on different issues, multiple-vote majority rule performs nearly as well, epistemically speaking, as rule by an expert oligarchy, but is still acceptable from the point of view of equal participation in the political process.
When physicist Alan Sokal recently submitted an article to the postmodernist journal Social Text, the periodical's editors were happy to publish it--for here was a respected scientist offering support for the journal's view that science is a subjective, socially constructed discipline. But as Sokal himself soon revealed in Lingua Franca magazine, the essay was a spectacular hoax--filled with scientific gibberish anyone with a basic knowledge of physics should have caught--and the academic world suddenly awoke to the vast gap that (...) has opened between the scientific community and their mould-be critics. But the truth is that not only postmodern critics but Americans in general have a weak grasp on scientific principles and facts. In Connected Knowledge, physicist Alan Cromer offers a way to bridge the chasm, with a lively, lucid account of scientific thinking and a provocative new agenda for American education. Science, Cromer argues, is anything but common sense: It requires a particular habit of mind that does not come naturally. For example, something as simple as buoyancy can only be explained through Archimedes' principle--that a body in a fluid is subject to an upward force equal to the weight of fluid it displaces--yet few scientists could arrive at this ancient concept by trial and error. School children, however, are often given a ball and a tank of water, and asked to explain buoyancy any way they can. Today's de emphasis on teaching pupils necessary facts and principles, he argues, "far from empowering them, makes them slaves of their own subjective opinions." This movement in education, known as Constructivism, has close ties to postmodern critics (such as the editors of Social Text) who question the objectivity of science, and with it the existence of an objective reality. Cromer offers a ringing defense of the knowability of the world, both as an objective reality and as a finite landscape of discovery. The advance of scientific knowledge, he argues, is not unlike the mapping of the continents; at this point, we have found them all. He shows how the advent of quantum mechanics, rather than making knowledge less certain, actually offers a more precise understanding of the behavior of atoms and electrons. Turning from philosophy to education, he argues that instead of allowing students to flounder, however creatively, schools should follow a progressive curriculum that returns theoretical knowledge to the classroom. Connected Knowledge, however, goes much farther. As a discipline that insists upon connecting theory with measurable reality, physical science offers a new direction for reforming the social sciences. Cromer also shows how some of the hottest issues in public policy--including the debates over special education and group variations in I.Q., can be resolved through clear, hard headed thinking. For example, he argues for use of the G.E.D. as a national educational standard, with a new "politics of intelligence" to guide the distribution of school resources. Always forthright and articulate, Alan Cromer offers a startling new vision for integrating science, philosophy, and education. (shrink)
In this paper, I defend a novel view of the religion clauses. The historical origins of the clause suggest two competing conceptual interpretations: one which privileges religion (the religion-weighted view) and one which privileges freedom (the freedom-weighted view). I argue for the freedom-weighted view and explore the jurisprudential implications of both views. I also argue for the counterintuitive result that, if we accept the freedom-weighted view, Free Exercise challenges to certain laws promoting autonomy (freedom) in (...) children are analytically incoherent. Because such laws by definition promote autonomy, they cannot be inconsistent with the Free Exercise clause under a range of conditions. (shrink)
In this essay I identify and develop an alternative to pluralism which is overlooked in contemporary debate in philosophy of religion and in theology. According to this view, some but not all of the great world religions are equally correct, that is to say, they are just as successful when it comes to tracking the truth and providing a path to salvation. This alternative is not haunted by the same difficulty as pluralism, namely the problem of emptiness. It is (...) therefore more rational at least for many Muslims, but probably also for many Christians and Jews, to embrace it rather than to embrace pluralism. Whether it is also to be preferred over exclusivism and inclusivism is a topic which I will not address in this essay. (shrink)
In their paper ‘Why It Matters That Some Are Worse Off Than Others: An Argument against the Priority View’, Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve argue that prioritarianism is mistaken. I argue that their case against prioritarianism has much weaker foundations than it might at first seem. Their key argument is based on the claim that prioritarianism ignores the fact of the ‘separateness of persons’. However, prioritarianism, far from ignoring that fact, is a plausible response to it. It may be (...) that prioritarianism disregards the fact of the ‘unity of the individual’. But even if this is true, that doesn’t straightforwardly tell against prioritarianism as a view about distributive justice. In the end, Otsuka and Voorhoeve’s argument relies on a non-decisive intuition that they appeal to early in their paper. Their conclusion, as a result, is not compelling. (shrink)
It has been argued that there is a genuine conflict between the views of geometry defended by Hume in the Treatise and in the Enquiry: while the former work attributes to geometry a different status from that of arithmetic and algebra, the latter attempts to restore its status as an exact and certain science. A closer reading of Hume shows that, in fact, there is no conflict between the two works with respect to geometry. The key to understanding Hume's (...) class='Hi'>view of geometry is the distinction he draws between two standards of equality in extension. (shrink)
This thesis argues that a particular version of equal opportunity for welfare is the best way of meeting the joint demands of three liberal egalitarian ideals: distributional equality, responsibility, and respect for individuals’ differing reasonable judgements of their own good. It also examines which social choice rules best represent these demands. Finally, it defends the view that achieving equal opportunity for welfare should not only be a goal of formal public institutions, but that just citizens should also (...) sometimes be guided by it in their everyday life. The version of equal opportunity for welfare it defends differs from some well-known contemporary versions in the following ways. First, it rejects a definition of welfare as the degree of satisfaction of a person’s preferences, because, it argues, this conception of welfare cannot adequately deal with preference change. Instead, it suggests that we should adopt a conception of welfare based on a list of goods and conditions that are recognised as valuable from the perspective of a variety of different conceptions of the good. Second, it argues that individuals’ prima facie claim to an equally valuable share of the world’s resources—a claim which is based on their equal moral worth—is limited to situations in which giving one person a more valuable share means that someone else ends up with a less valuable share. It also argues that in situations where we can improve at least one person’s situation without worsening anyone else’s, we generally do not fail to respect each person’s equal moral worth by doing so, even if this leads to inequalities. Third, it defends a distinct view of responsibility, which justifies social arrangements that give people certain options with reference to the value that individuals can achieve (but don’t necessarily achieve) through their choices from these options. (shrink)
In this commentary we discuss a predictive sensorimotor illusion, the size-weight illusion, in which the smaller of two objects of equalweight is perceived as heavier. We suggest that Grush's emulation theory can explain this illusion as a mismatch between predicted and actual sensorimotor feedback, and present preliminary data suggesting that the cerebellum may be critical for implementing the emulator.
There exists an ongoing debate about the nature of incomparability. In this paper, I argue that incomparability is most usefully seen as a practical, rather than a metaphysical, issue. When confronted with an important choice between two options, an agent often will be at a loss as to how to decide between them. A common response to this problem is to assert that the options must therefore be equal, and that it is perfectly rational to be indifferent and decide (...) between them in some arbitrary fashion. Contrary to this common view, this paper shows that equality should be seen as the result of indifference and not the cause of it. I will show that the judgment between whether options are either equal or incomparable is actually a decision, made by an agent, that can in turn be judged as more or less rational. (shrink)
In her book, Moral Status, Mary Anne Warren defends a comprehensive theory of the moral status of various entities. Under this theory, she argues that animals may have some moral rights but that their rights are much weaker in strength than the rights of humans, who have rights in the fullest, strongest sense. Subsequently, Warren believes that our duties to animals are far weaker than our duties to other humans. This weakness is especially evident from the fact that Warren believes (...) that it is frequently permissible for humans to kill animals for food. Warren’s argument for her view consists primarily in the belief that we have inevitable practical conflicts with animals that make it impossible to grant them equal rights without sacrificing basic human interests. However, her arguments fail to justify her conclusions. In particular, Warren fails to justify her beliefs that animals do not have an equal right to life and that it is permissible for humans to kill animals for food. (shrink)
This paper provides a critical examination of the strongest defenses of the pure lifetime view, according to which justice requires taking only people's whole lives as relevant when assessing and establishing their distributive entitlements and obligations. The paper proposes that we reject a pure lifetime view and replace it with an alternative view, on which some time-specific considerations--that is to say, considerations about how people fare at specific points in time--have nonderivative weight in determining what our (...) obligations are to them. (shrink)
Harris levels two main criticisms against our original defence of QALYs (Quality Adjusted Life Years). First, he rejects the assumption implicit in the QALY approach that not all lives are of equal value. Second, he rejects our appeal to Rawls's veil of ignorance test in support of the QALY method. In the present article we defend QALYs against Harris's criticisms. We argue that some of the conclusions Harris draws from our view that resources should be allocated on the (...) basis of potential improvements in quality of life and quantity of life are erroneous, and that others lack the moral implications Harris claims for them. On the other hand, we defend our claim that a rational egoist, behind a veil of ignorance, could consistently choose to allocate life-saving resources in accordance with the QALY method, despite Harris's claim that a rational egoist would allocate randomly if there is no better than a 50% chance of being the recipient. (shrink)
The focus here is the question of the moral status of viable human embryos for the first few days of their existence. More precisely, my focus is the human embryo from its conception, through its becoming a mass of undifferentiated cells, to its first differentiation when the initial stem cell mass appears. Naturally, this would occur in the first week of the embryo’s existence, whether in vitro (in a laboratory) or in vivo (in the uterine tubes or uterus). With cryogenics, (...) the process can be frozen at any stage. In this essay, I identify four categories of human embryos and argue that differences between these categories support the view that embryos are not all equal in terms of their moral status, which, in turn, supports the legitimacy of some medical and research procedures that put embryos at risk. (shrink)
Michael Levin, in Feminism and Freedom, argues that sex-stereotyping is inevitable and legitimate since there are innate non-anatomical differences between the sexes. He, further, believes that sex-stereotyping is compatible with members of both sexes acting freely and having equal opportunity in the job market and other areas of life. I will attack both claims, but I will particularly concentrate on the second one. I believe that Levin is only able to make his view sound plausible because of his (...) minimal definitions of “freedom” and “equal opportunity” which I shall argue are not acceptable. The result of his mistake is that he presents us with a false dilemma: We must choose between either a Libertarian ideal---which includes freedom, equal opportunity, the inevitable sex-stereotyping and resulting patriarchal society (since it cannot be eliminated voluntarily)---and Feminism---which denies the legitimacy of sex-stereotyping, insists that unequal outcome means inequality of opportunity and so supports a quota system, and attempts to accomplish its aims, at great cost, by depriving people of freedom. (shrink)
Einstein's gravitational field equations in empty space outside a massive plane with infinite extension give a class of solutions describing a field with flat spacetime giving neutral, freely moving particles an acceleration. This points to the necessity of defining the concept “gravitational field” not simply by the nonvanishing of the Riemann curvature tensor, but by the nonvanishing of certain elements of the Christoffel symbols, called the physical elements, or the nonvanishing of the Riemann curvature tensor. The tidal component of a (...) gravitational field is associated with a nonvanishing Riemann tensor, while the nontidal components are associated with nonvanishing physical elements of the Christoffel symbols. Spacetime in a nontidal gravitational field is flat. Such a field may be separated into a homogeneous and a rotational component. In order to exhibit the physical significance of these components in relation to their transformation properties, coordinate transformations inside a given reference frame are discussed. The mentioned solutions of Einstein's field equations lead to a metric identical to that obtained as a result of a transformation from an inertial frame to a uniformly accelerated frame. The validity of the strong principle of equivalence in extended regions for nontidal gravitational fields is made clear. An exact calculation of the weight of an extended body in a uniform gravitational field, from a global point of view, gives the result that its weight is independent of the position of the scale on the body. (shrink)
While supporters argue that exemptions are needed to equalize opportunities, critics claim they are unwarranted in principle and discriminatory in practice: equal treatment requires only facial neutrality whereas exemptions treat citizens unequally insofar as individuals with idiosyncratic commitments similarly burdened by general rules are rarely given an exemption.The upshot of this critique is that the burdens of cultural and religious commitments ought to be treated as expensive tastes. I argue that religious and cultural commitments cannot be reduced to expensive (...) tastes that can be revised in the face of resource expectations and that, for this reason, opportunities are not equal when minorities must choose between adherence to such commitments and availing of valuable opportunities, when members of more dominant communities need not. I also explain why treating religious and cultural commitments in this way does not entail the adoption of a primordial view of culture that puts these commitments beyond revision and choice. (shrink)
The debate of nativisim versus empiricism is over the relative importance of evolutionary versus ontogenetic mechanisms. This is mostly seen today as a false dichotomy. The synthesis of these positions provides a modern viewpoint of grounded category formation. This combined view places equal importance on feedback between these levels in guiding development, and is more appropriately compared to culturalist positions.
This paper proposes a novel egalitarian answer to the question: what initial distribution of the world’s resources could possibly count as just? Like many writers in the natural rights tradition, I take for granted that distributive justice consists in conformity to pre-political principles that apply to property regimes. Against the background of that assumption, the paper distinguishes between broadly Lockean and broadly Grotian conceptions of distributive justice in the state of nature. After an extended critique of various versions of the (...) Lockean approach, it argues for a particular, egalitarian version of the Grotian view. My position is based on what I call the common ownership formula, which says: each human being, as an equal co-owner of the world’s resources, may use those resources provided that the terms of their use are in conformity with principles that no co-owner could reasonably reject as the basis of an informed, unforced general agreement between all of the world’s co-owners who sought to find equitable principles of resource division. Using this principle, I suggest how an unequivocally egalitarian view of pre-political entitlement can be justified without recourse to any alleged duty to ameliorate the effects of brute bad luck on people’s lives. (shrink)
The academic standing of the staff working in vocational higher education must be judged as unsatisfactory according to two possible criteria: the traditional criteria, which are derived from the universities operating within the previous unitary higher education system; and the criteria outlined by the bill of the Law of Higher Education Institutions. The latter derive from the same historical institutional pattern.There are many reasons to conclude that, academically, in most fields of study, the new institutions do not reach the level (...) of the old ones. However, the mission of the new sector—the second-rank academic institutions in the eyes of the traditional academic community—is at least debatable, if not mistaken. The public university sector appears to be in deep crisis, with academics so attached to the Humboldtian university that they ignore the claims for social relevance in education.8 This is further complicated by deepening financial hardship.Using traditional criteria, it is possible that Estonia will be left with two socially irrelevant higher education sectors, instead of one functioning sector. It is also possible that the second sector, which does not fit these criteria, will be eliminated. However, the fault does not lie wholly with the dominance of traditional university attitudes. It also lies in a lack of vision on the part of the new institutions. As children of the proletariat society, they fail to recognise their vocational orientation as a benefit, and instead try to hide it. They are developing theoretically overloaded four- to five-year study programmes. None of these institutions has solved the problem of balancing the requirement of employing 50 per cent faculty full time and maintaining a satisfactory academic level. The need to demonstrate that part-time employees may actually benefit the vocational sector has not yet been understood.9As long as the sector continues to accept the rules forced upon it by the old universities, it probably has no useful role in Estonia. Its institutions, especially the public institutions, cannot compete with the traditional universities in academic fields. The universities, on the other hand, are beginning to understand that the policy they proclaimed some years ago, which was based on the clear distinction between two sectors on the German pattern, does not work in a small country with very limited resources, and an inheritance from the previous regime of a large university sector with an enrolment rate of more than 20 per cent of the age group. The universities have agreed to offer their own non-degree courses at diploma level, and now seriously threaten the small new institutions. From the financial point of view, the universities' expressed desire to swallow the small vocational institutions is beneficial since the small institutions have no clearly distinct role of their own.The private vocational higher education institutions do not conceal the fact that, according to their own vision, they have little place in the vocational sector. Some of them would like an official status equal to that of the universities, the right to offer graduate and postgraduate courses as well as diploma courses, and the registration of their diplomas and certificates on an equal basis with the public universities in the Register of Diplomas and Certificates at the Ministry of Culture and Education. In other words, they are interested in becoming fully accredited universities. This increases competition for students and—given the Estonian mechanism of public financing of higher education based on the number of students admitted provided by the Ministry of Culture and Education10—there will be less money for public universities. Here lies the origin of the principle that the universities are established by parliament and the vocational higher education institutions by executive action by the government.The existence of the new sector is seriously threatened. The current pattern of postgraduate studies has blocked the preparation of a sufficient number of research-degree holders, even at master's level.11 The new institutions cannot train their own faculty. The recent experience of Concordia International University—which depends greatly on staff with bachelor's and master's degrees from the United States, who form some 80 per cent of the faculty—demonstrates that the participation of first- or even second-rank Western academics in Estonian higher education can never be very high. If the system cannot accept experienced local staff for legal appointments in the vocational sector, unless they have a research degree, these institutions will not survive for long. Society will be back to the position where there are a large number of underpaid or unemployed academics, but a shortage of qualified individuals who could be self-employed and capable of running small and medium-size enterprises. (shrink)
A number of writers have deployed the notion of a point of view as a key to the allegedly theory-resistant subjective aspect of experience. I examine that notion more closely than is usually done and find that it cannot support the anti-objectivist's case. Experience may indeed have an irreducibly subjective aspect, but the notion of a point of view cannot be used to show that it does.
Stephen Finlay analyses ‘ought’ in terms of probability. According to him, normative ‘ought's are statements about the likelihood that an act will realize some (contextually supplied) end. I raise a problem for this theory. It concerns the relation between ‘ought’ and the balance of reasons. ‘A ought to Φ’ seems to entail that the balance of reasons favours that A Φ-es, and vice versa. Given Finlay's semantics for ‘ought’, it also makes sense to think of reasons and their weight (...) in terms of probability. In this paper, I develop such a theory of weight. It turns out, however, that it cannot explain the entailments. This leaves Finlay with a challenge: to explain these entailments in some other way consistent with his theory, or to show why the appearances deceive and there are no such entailments. (shrink)
The Subset View of realization, though it has some attractive advantages, also has several problems. In particular, there are five main problems that have emerged in the literature: Double-Counting, The Part/Whole Problem, The “No Addition of Being” Problem, The Problem of Projectibility, and the Problem of Spurious Kinds. Each is reviewed here, along with solutions (or partial solutions) to them. Taking these problems seriously constrains the form that a Subset view can take, and thus limits the kinds of (...) relations that can fulfill the realization relation on this view. (shrink)
According to Stephen Finlay, ‘A ought to X’ means that X-ing is more conducive to contextually salient ends than relevant alternatives. This in turn is analysed in terms of probability. I show why this theory of ‘ought’ is hard to square with a theory of a reason’s weight which could explain why ‘A ought to X’ logically entails that the balance of reasons favours that A X-es. I develop two theories of weight to illustrate my point. I first (...) look at the prospects of a theory of weight based on expected utility theory. I then suggest a simpler theory. Although neither allows that ‘A ought to X’ logically entails that the balance of reasons favours that A X-es, this price may be accepted. For there remains a strong pragmatic relation between these claims. (shrink)
In his book Slaves of the Passions, Mark Schroeder defends a Humean theory of reasons. Humeanism is the view that you have a reason to X only if X-ing promotes at least one of your desires. But Schroeder rejects a natural companion theory of the weight of reasons, which he calls proportionalism. According to it, the weight of a reason is proportionate to the strength of the desire that grounds it and the extent to which the act (...) promotes the object of that desire. In this paper, I aim to do three things: (1) to show why Schroeder's arguments against proportionalism do not refute it; (2) to identify the real trouble with proportionalism; and (3) to suggest a better way of understanding it (preferentialism). According to this theory, the overall strength of reasons is determined by the agent's preferences. (shrink)