To understand H.L.A. Hart's general theory of law, it is helpful to distinguish between substantive and methodological legal positivism. Substantive legal positivism is the view that there is no necessary connection between morality and the content of law. Methodological legal positivism is the view that legal theory can and should offer a normatively neutral description of a particular social phenomenon, namely law. Methodological positivism holds, we might say, not that there is no necessary connection between morality and law, but rather (...) that there is no connection, necessary or otherwise, between morality and legal theory. The respective claims of substantive and methodological positivism are, at least on the surface, logically independent. Hobbes and Bentham employed normative methodologies to defend versions of substantive positivism, and in modern times Michael Moore has developed what can be regarded as a variant of methodological positivism to defend a theory of natural law. (shrink)
Preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) raises serious moral questions concerning the parent-child relationship. Good parents accept their children unconditionally: they do not reject/attack them because they do not have the features they want. There is nothing wrong with treating a child as someone who can help promote some other worthwhile end, providing the child is also respected as an end in him or herself. However, if the child's presence is not valued in itself, regardless of any further benefits it brings, the (...) child is not being treated as an end in the full sense of the term. In this paper, I argue that these principles apply to human embryos, as well as to born human offspring: the human moral subject is a bodily being, whose interests and rights begin with the onset of his or her bodily life. The rights of the living, bodily human individual include a right not to be attacked/abandoned because of his or her genetic profile. PGD is harmful to the parent-child relationship, and we give mixed messages to parents by expecting them to show unconditional commitment to offspring after birth, while inviting them to take a very different approach at the prenatal stage. (shrink)
What makes something an embryo—as opposed to what is actually, and not just in biotech parlance, a collection of cells? This question has come to the fore in recent years with proposals for producing embryonic stem cells for research. While some of those opposed to use of standard embryonic stem cells emphasise that adult cells have a clinical track record, others argue that there may be further benefits obtainable from cells very like those of embryos, provided such cells can be (...) derived in new ways. Rather than deriving them in ways that kill or otherwise endanger a living human embryo, they could be obtained from an entity that merely resembles a human embryo sufficiently closely for its cells to be of use. Such an entity might be created after introducing genetic changes to an ovum before it is activated by, for example, a cloning-type procedure, such that a gene essential to embryogenesis will be either absent, blocked in its expression, or overexpressed.1,2 The claim is that the ovum could be made to give rise to embryonic stem cells—mere living parts—without ever giving rise to a whole embryo, who is killed to obtain them. Whereas cloning “proper” winds back the specialisation of the cell nucleus to a point where a whole embryo is formed who has not yet specialised its cells, oocyte-assisted reprogramming , it is claimed, would wind back the specialisation merely to an intermediate point at which no embryo is created. Other methods proposed for deriving pseudoembryonic cells include parthenogenesis, in which an ovum is activated without a sperm, or even the insertion of an adult cell nucleus.1MORAL STATUS OF THE EMBRYOIn this paper, I assume that a genuine …. (shrink)
Medical and/or social gender transition need not involve denial of one's biological sex, but raises other taxing ethical issues. These range from sexual ethics issues narrowly understood to consideration of the claims of any spouse or children and indeed, of gender‐discordant younger people who may follow one's example. As with intersex conditions, not all crossdressing or use of cross‐sex hormones is excluded absolutely. Detransition, for example, could be rightly deferred for various reasons. However, as illustrated by the analogy of an (...) infertile woman wanting to present as the pregnant mother of a child she plans to adopt, there is a significant social value in accurate bodily and other outward communication of one's actual/predominant sex (and occupancy of key allied roles). (shrink)
Health services internationally struggle to ensure health care is ?person-centered? (or similar). In part, this is because there are many interpretations of ?person-centered care? (and near synonyms), some of which seem unrealistic for some patients or situations and obscure the intrinsic value of patients? experiences of health care delivery. The general concern behind calls for person-centered care is an ethical one: Patients should be ?treated as persons.? We made novel use of insights from the capabilities approach to characterize person-centered care (...) as care that recognizes and cultivates the capabilities associated with the concept of persons. This characterization unifies key features from previous characterisations and can render person-centered care applicable to diverse patients and situations. By tying person-centered care to intrinsically valuable capability outcomes, it incorporates a requirement for responsiveness to individuals and explains why person-centered care is required independently of any contribution it may make to health gain. (shrink)
This essay deals with property rights in body parts that can be exchanged in a market. The inquiry arises in the following context. With some exceptions, the laws of many countries permit only the donation, not the sale, of body parts. Yet for some years there has existed a shortage of body parts for transplantation and other medical uses. It might then appear that if more sales were legally permitted, the supply of body parts would increase, because people would have (...) more incentive to sell than they currently have to donate. To allow sales is to recognize property rights in body parts. To allow sales, however, makes body parts into “commodities”—that is, things that can be bought and sold in a market. And some view it as morally objectionable to treat body parts as commodities. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr proposed a distinction between “proximate”, mechanistic, and “ultimate”, evolutionary, causes of biological phenomena. This dichotomy has influenced the thinking of many biologists, but it is increasingly perceived as impeding modern studies of evolutionary processes, including study of “niche construction” in which organisms alter their environments in ways supportive of their evolutionary success. Some still find value for this dichotomy in its separation of answers to “how?” versus “why?”questions about evolution. But “why is A?” questions about evolution necessarily take (...) the form “how does A occur?”, so this separation is illusory. Moreover, the dichotomy distorts our view of evolutionary causality, in that, contra Mayr, the action of natural selection, driven by genotype-phenotype-environment interactions which constitute adaptations, is no less “proximate” than the biological mechanisms which are altered by naturally selected genetic variants. Mayr’s dichotomy thus needs replacement by more realistic, mechanistic views of evolution. From a mechanistic viewpoint, there is a continuum of adaptations from those evolving as responses to unchanging environmental pressures to those evolving as the capacity for niche construction, and intermediate stages of this can be identified. Some biologists postulate an association of “phenotypic plasticity” (phenotype-environment covariation with genotype held constant) with capacity for niche construction. Both “plasticity” and niche construction comprise wide ranges of adaptive mechanisms, often fully heritable and resulting from case-specific evolution. Association of “plasticity” with niche construction is most likely to arise in systems wherein capacity for complex learning and behavioral flexibility have already evolved. (shrink)
Jaak Panksepp’s article ‘Affective Consciousness: Core Emotional Feelings in Animals and Humans’ is a excellent review and summary by a leading empirical contributor whose work for many years has been running counter to reigning behavioristic premises in neuroscience. It may unfortunately be true that he could not get this review published in many neuroscience journals because it attacks too many sacred cows. Panksepp has given readers of Consciousness and Cognition a nicely condensed summary of much of his classic 1998 textbook, (...) Affective Neuroscience. I’m reasonably confident that future neuroscience students will look on that textbook as one of the seminal publications on the subject of emotion and the brain, much as we might now look back on Luria’s Higher Cortical Functions in Man, or Paul MacLean’s classic work, The Triune Brain. There is probably little that I can add to his elegant presentation of the basic affective neuroscience findings, but I would like to highlight a few key issues for the reader. (shrink)
The presence of a human being/organism—a living human ‘whole’, with the defining tendency to promote its own welfare—has value in itself, as do the functions which compose it. Life is inseparable from health, since without some degree of healthy functionality the living whole would not exist. The value of life differs both within a single life and between lives. As with any other form of human flourishing, the value of life-and-health must be distinguished from the moral importance of human beings: (...) less fulfilled means not less important morally, but more in need of being fulfilled. That said, to say that life and health has value is not to say exactly what—if anything—that value requires by way of active promotion at a given time. Many factors must be taken into account in making health care decisions, even if the worth of all lives, and the dignity of all human beings, must in every case be acknowledged. (shrink)
A cross-species affective neuroscience strategy for understanding the primary-process (basic) emotions is defended. The need for analyzing the brain and mind in terms of evolutionary stratification of functions into at least primary (instinctual), secondary (learned), and tertiary (thought-related) processes is advanced. When viewed in this context, the contentious battles between basic-emotion theorists and dimensional-constructivist approaches can be seen to be largely nonsubstantial differences among investigators working at different levels of analysis.
[Stephen Makin] Aristotle draws two sets of distinctions in Metaphysics 9.2, first between non-rational and rational capacities, and second between one way and two way capacities. He then argues for three claims: [A] if a capacity is rational, then it is a two way capacity [B] if a capacity is non-rational, then it is a one way capacity [C] a two way capacity is not indifferently related to the opposed outcomes to which it can give rise I provide explanations (...) of Aristotle's terminology, and of how [A]-[C] should be understood. I then offer a set of arguments which are intended to show that the Aristotelian claims are plausible. \\\ [Nicholas Denyer] In De Caelo 1: 11-12 Aristotle argued that whatever is and always will be true is necessarily true. His argument works, once we grant him the highly plausible principle that if something is true, then it can be false if and only if it can come to be false. For example, assume it true that the sun is and always will be hot. No proposition of this form can ever come to be false. Hence this proposition cannot be false. Hence it is necessarily true, and so too is anything that follows from it. In particular, it is necessarily true that the sun is hot. Moreover, if the sun not only is and always will be hot, but also always has been, then it follows by similar reasoning that the sun not only cannot now fail to be hot, but also never could have failed. Anything everlastingly true is therefore, in the strictest sense of the term, necessarily true. (shrink)
Perhaps the most salient feature of Rawls's theory of justice which at once attracts supporters and repels critics is its apparent egalitarian conclusion as to how economic goods are to be distributed. Indeed, many of Rawls's sympathizers may find this result intuitively appealing, and regard it as Rawls's enduring contribution to the topic of economic justice, despite technical deficiencies in Rawls's contractarian, decision-theoretic argument for it which occupy the bulk of the critical literature. Rawls himself, having proposed a “coherence” theory (...) of justification in metaethics, must regard the claim that his distributive criterion “is a strongly egalitarian conception” as independently a part of the overarching moral argument. The alleged egalitarian impact of Rawls's theory is crucial again in normative ethics where Rawls is thought to have developed a major counter-theory to utilitarianism, one of the most popular criticisms of which has been its alleged inadequacy in handling questions of distributive justice. Utilitarians can argue, however, as Brandt recently has, that the diminishing marginal utility of money, along with ignorance of income-welfare curves, would require a utility-maximizing distribution to be substantially egalitarian. The challenge is therefore for Rawls to show that his theory yields an ethically preferable degree of equality. (shrink)
The subject of this article is a powerful objection to the non-conceptualist interpretation of Kant’s transcendental deduction of the categories. Part of the purpose of the deduction is to refute the sort of scepticism according to which there are no objects of empirical intuition that instantiate the categories. But if the non-conceptualist interpretation is correct, it does not follow from what Kant is arguing in the transcendental deduction that this sort of scepticism is false. This article explains and assesses a (...) number of possible responses to this objection. (shrink)
This article argues that Maurice Blanchot is a significant presence in Bernard Stiegler's Technics and Time series. The article first sets out Stiegler's invocation of the Blanchotian ‘change of epoch’ in the first volume, which attempts to situate Blanchot within the horizon of technics. I argue Blanchot's disaster is a hidden element in Stiegler's play on the motifs of the star and catastrophe. The article then traces how these motifs emerge in the second and third volumes, in which the technical (...) forms of photography and cinema become more important and where the motifs are woven together through reference to works by Roland Barthes, D. W. Winnicott and Federico Fellini. Stiegler filters these references to apparently disparate figures through Blanchot's analyses of writing and temporality. Tracing both overt and unacknowledged references to Blanchot in Stiegler's text, I conclude that Stiegler's use of Blanchot destabilizes his conceptions of time and epochality. (shrink)
This target article argues that the Turing test implicitly rests on a "naive psychology," a naturally evolved psychological faculty which is used to predict and understand the behaviour of others in complex societies. This natural faculty is an important and implicit bias in the observer's tendency to ascribe mentality to the system in the test. The paper analyses the effects of this naive psychology on the Turing test, both from the side of the system and the side of the observer, (...) and then proposes and justifies an inverted version of the test which allows the processes of ascription to be analysed more directly than in the standard version. (shrink)
Abortion for life-limiting foetal anomaly is often an intensely painful choice for the parents; though widely offered and supported, it is surprisingly difficult to defend in ethical terms. Abortion on this ground is sometimes defended as foetal euthanasia but has features which sharply differentiate it from standard non-voluntary euthanasia, not least the fact that any suffering otherwise anticipated for the child may be neither severe nor prolonged. Such abortions may be said to reduce suffering for the family including siblings – (...) a consideration rarely stated so explicitly in defences of postnatal euthanasia – or for the woman who must in any case face the eventual loss of her baby, and for whom the abortion is seen as therapeutic in minimising pain. Finally, the abortion may be said to constitute the cessation of morally optional life support on the part of the woman, and/or to be a ‘social’ choice she is entitled to make, whether or not this in fact promotes her interests or those of her child. These defences need honest exploration: the intense parental suffering caused by the choice to end an often much-wanted pregnancy should not preclude but rather encourage the question whether this choice can indeed be ethically proposed to couples, especially compared with the neonatal palliative care (‘perinatal hospice’) approach so well received by parents who experience it. (shrink)
I have argued in other work that emotion, attentional functions, and executive functions are three interpenetrant global state variables, essentially differential slices of the consciousness pie. This paper will outline the columnar architecture and connectivities of the PAG (periaqueductal gray), its role in organizing prototype states of emotion, and the re-entry of PAG with the extended reticular thalamic activating system (“ERTAS”). At the end we will outline some potential implications of these connectivities for possible functional correlates of PAG networks that (...) are just starting to be mapped. Overall, we will look at many lines of evidence that PAG should be conceptualized as a peri-reticular structure that has a foundational role in emotion, in generating the meaningful organization of behavior by the brain through prototype emotional states, and in allowing the various emotional systems to globally influence and tune both the forebrain and brainstem. Finally, we address implications of these concepts for what is currently understood about consciousness, underlining the need for somewhat more humility within consciousness studies about our current level of understanding of consciousness in the brain, combined with a deeper appreciation of the intrinsic connections between emotion and consciousness. One hopes that more concerted empirical interest in structures underneath the thalamus, combined with a deeper appreciation for the fundamental role that organismic and social value must have in bootstrapping awareness in the developing brain, would begin more widely to influence the fundamental lines of neuroscientific research in both emotion studies and consciousness studies. (shrink)
In a world of rapid technological advances, the moral issues raised by life and death choices in healthcare remain obscure. _Life and Death in Healthcare Ethics_ provides a concise, thoughtful and extremely accessible guide to these moral issues. Helen Watt examines, using real-life cases, the range of choices taken by healthcare professionals, patients and clients which lead to the shortening of life. The topics looked at include: * euthanasia and withdrawal of treatment * the persistent vegetative state * abortion (...) * IVF and cloning * life-saving treatment of pregnant women Clearly written and insightful, _Life and Death in Healthcare Ethics_ presupposes no prior knowledge of philosophy. It will be of interest to anyone confronting healthcare ethics for the first time, or seeking to develop his or her understanding of some core topics in the field. (shrink)
What does it mean to respect life and health in an innocent fellow-human being? Separating conjoined twins where one twin will die as a result need not involve the intention to kill or harm. Arguably, however, not all side-effects are “mere” side-effects which could, in principle, be outweighed by sufficiently good intended effects. Rather, foreseen serious harm for an innocent person we non-therapeutically affect can be morally conclusive when linked to the intention to affect the person’s body or invade the (...) space it fills. In the case of infant conjoined twins, such as the Maltese twins Jodie and Mary, the twin who dies from separation has no unjust, or any, intentions as regards the twin saved. She thus has the moral immunity of any innocent person from lethal bodily invasions and other serious bodily harm. Neither the final act which killed Mary nor previous acts of cutting into Mary, including parts shared with her twin Jodie, were therefore morally permissible. (shrink)
This paper investigates a particular understanding of ‘awareness’ in Mahāyāna Buddhism and its relevance for secular mindfulness. We will focus on the Zen and Mahāmudrā traditions which share a view of awareness as an innate wakefulness, described using metaphors of space, light and clarity. These traditions encourage practices in which the meditator rests in this spacious ‘non-dual’ awareness: Zen’s ‘just sitting’ and Mahāmudrā’s ‘open presence’. We explore the role of this approach within secular mindfulness, in particular Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction and (...) Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy. We see how Jon Kabat-Zinn brought influences from Zen into the creation of MBSR, in his approach of ‘non-doing’, and in the practice of ‘choiceless awareness’, akin to Zen’s ‘just sitting’. We then examine how ‘open presence’ meditation is developed in the Tibetan Mahāmudrā tradition, using a sixteenth-century text Mahāmudrā: The Moonlight as our focal point. Turning to interviews with leading UK mindfulness teachers with Tibetan Buddhist training, we explore how this understanding of awareness can infuse meditation with a sense of ‘space’, and how that manifests in their teaching. We argue that a willingness to explore the ‘space of awareness’ can help mindfulness to offer a transformative path beyond stress reduction and therapy. (shrink)
In recent years there has been a great deal of discussion about the prospects of developing a ‘naturalized epistemology’, though different authors tend to interpret this label in quite different ways. One goal of this paper is to sketch three projects that might lay claim to the ‘naturalized epistemology’ label, and to argue that they are not all equally attractive. Indeed, I'll maintain that the first of the three—the one I'll attribute to Quine—is simply incoherent. There is no way we (...) could get what we want from an epistemological theory by pursuing the project Quine proposes. The second project on my list is a naturalized version of reliabilism. This project is not fatally flawed in the way that Quine's is. However, it's my contention that the sort of theory this project would yield is much less interesting than might at first be thought. (shrink)
Between the later views of Wittgenstein and those of connectionism 1 on the subject of the mastery of language there is an impressively large number of similarities. The task of establishing this claim is carried out in the second section of this paper.
The social and environmental problems that we face at this tail end of twentieth-century progress require us to identify some cause, some spirit that transcends the petty limits of our time and place. It is easy to believe that there is no crisis. We have been told too often that the oceans will soon die, the air be poisonous, our energy reserves run dry; that the world will grow warmer, coastlands be flooded and the climate change; that plague, famine and (...) war will be the necessary checks on population growth. But here we are: sufficiently healthy and well-fed, connoisseurs of far-off catastrophe and horror movies, confident that something will turn up or that the prophecies of doom were only dreams. We are the descendants, after all, of creatures who did not despair, who hoped against hope that there would still be life tomorrow. We no more believe in the world's end than we believe that soldiers could break down the door and drag us off to torture and to death: we don't believe that they could even when we know that, somewhere altogether elsewhere, they did. Even if we can force ourselves to remember other ages, other lands or other classes, we are content enough. (shrink)
Some form of potential or "capacity" is often seen as evidence of human moral status. Opinions differ as to whether the potential of the embryo should be regarded as such evidence. In this paper, I discuss some common arguments against regarding the embryo's potential as a sign of human status, together with some less common arguments in favour of regarding the embryo's potential in this way.
I consider reasons for questioning ‘the laws of logic’, and suggest that these laws do not accord with everyday reality. Either they are rhetorical tools rather than absolute truths, or else Plato and his successors were right to think that they identify a reality distinct from the ordinary world of experience, and also from the ultimate source of reality.