Carey argues that the aspects of categorization that are diagnostic of deep conceptual structure and, by extension, narrow conceptual content, must be distinguished from those aspects that are incidental to categorization tasks. For natural kind concepts, discriminating between these two types of processes is complicated by the role of explanatory stance and the causal history of features in determining category structure.
Moral debunking arguments are meant to show that, by realist lights, moral beliefs are not explained by moral facts, which in turn is meant to show that they lack some significant counterfactual connection to the moral facts (e.g., safety, sensitivity, reliability). The dominant, “minimalist” response to the arguments—sometimes defended under the heading of “third-factors” or “pre-established harmonies”—involves affirming that moral beliefs enjoy the relevant counterfactual connection while granting that these beliefs are not explained by the moral facts. We show that (...) the minimalist gambit rests on a controversial thesis about epistemic priority: that explanatory concessions derive their epistemic import from what they reveal about counterfactual connections. We then challenge this epistemic priority thesis, which undermines the minimalist response to debunking arguments (in ethics and elsewhere). (shrink)
One of the central questions of material-object metaphysics is which highly visible objects there are right before our eyes. Daniel Z. Korman defends a conservative view, according to which our ordinary, natural judgments about which objects there are are more or less correct. He begins with an overview of the arguments that have led people away from the conservative view, into revisionary views according to which there are far more objects than we ordinarily take there to be or far (...) fewer. Korman criticizes a variety of compatibilist strategies, according to which these revisionary views are actually compatible with our ordinary beliefs. He goes on to respond to debunking arguments; objections that the conservative's verdicts about which objects that are and aren't are objectionably arbitrary; the argument from vagueness; the overdetermination argument; the argument from material constitution; and the problem of the many. (shrink)
I present two puzzles about the metaphysics of stores, restaurants, and other such establishments. I defend a solution to the puzzles, according to which establishments are not material objects and are not constituted by the buildings that they occupy.
Nihilism is the thesis that no composite objects exist. Some ontologists have advocated abandoning nihilism in favor of deep nihilism, the thesis that composites do not existO, where to existO is to be in the domain of the most fundamental quantifier. By shifting from an existential to an existentialO thesis, the deep nihilist seems to secure all the benefits of a composite-free ontology without running afoul of ordinary belief in the existence of composites. I argue that, while there are well-known (...) reasons for accepting nihilism, there appears to be no reason at all to accept deep nihilism. In particular, deep nihilism draws no support either from the usual arguments for nihilism or from considerations of parsimony. (shrink)
Debunking arguments—also known as etiological arguments, genealogical arguments, access problems, isolation objec- tions, and reliability challenges—arise in philosophical debates about a diverse range of topics, including causation, chance, color, consciousness, epistemic reasons, free will, grounding, laws of nature, logic, mathematics, modality, morality, natural kinds, ordinary objects, religion, and time. What unifies the arguments is the transition from a premise about what does or doesn't explain why we have certain mental states to a negative assessment of their epistemic status. I examine (...) the common, underlying structure of the arguments and the different strategies for motivating and resisting the premises of debunking arguments. (shrink)
Rose and Schaffer (forthcoming) argue that teleological thinking has a substantial influence on folk intuitions about composition. They take this to show (i) that we should not rely on folk intuitions about composition and (ii) that we therefore should not reject theories of composition on the basis of intuitions about composition. We cast doubt on the teleological interpretation of folk judgments about composition; we show how their debunking argument can be resisted, even on the assumption that folk intuitions have a (...) teleological source; and we argue that, even if folk intuitions about composition carry no weight, theories of composition can still be rejected on the basis of the intuitions of metaphysicians. (shrink)
This is a contribution to a symposium on Amie Thomasson’s Ontology Made Easy (2015). Thomasson defends two deflationary theses: that philosophical questions about the existence of numbers, tables, properties, and other disputed entities can all easily be answered, and that there is something wrong with prolonged debates about whether such objects exist. I argue that the first thesis (properly understood) does not by itself entail the second. Rather, the case for deflationary metaontology rests largely on a controversial doctrine about the (...) possible meanings of ‘object’. I challenge Thomasson's argument for that doctrine, and I make a positive case for the availability of the contested, unrestricted use of ‘object’. (shrink)
The question of whether AI systems such as robots can or should be afforded moral agency or patiency is not one amenable either to discovery or simple reasoning, because we as societies constantly reconstruct our artefacts, including our ethical systems. Consequently, the place of AI systems in society is a matter of normative, not descriptive ethics. Here I start from a functionalist assumption, that ethics is the set of behaviour that maintains a society. This assumption allows me to exploit the (...) theoretical biology of sociality and autonomy to explain our moral intuitions. From this grounding I extend to consider possible ethics for maintaining either human- or of artefact-centred societies. I conclude that while constructing AI systems as either moral agents or patients is possible, neither is desirable. In particular, I argue that we are unlikely to construct a coherent ethics in which it it is ethical to afford AI moral subjectivity. We are therefore obliged not to build AI we are obliged to. (shrink)
Debunking arguments are arguments that aim to undermine some range of beliefs by showing that those beliefs are not appropriately connected to their subject matter. Arguments of this sort rear their heads in a wide variety of domains, threatening beliefs about morality, mathematics, logic, color, and the existence of God. Perceptual beliefs about ordinary objects, however, are widely thought to be invulnerable to such arguments. I will show that this is a mistake. I articulate a debunking argument that purports to (...) undermine our most basic perceptual beliefs. I then challenge a number of responses to the argument, including the “permissivist” response that there are a plenitude of objects before us, virtually guaranteeing the accuracy of our object beliefs. (shrink)
Evolutionary debunking arguments abound, but it is widely assumed that they do not arise for our perceptual beliefs about midsized objects, insofar as the adaptive value of our object beliefs cannot be explained without reference to the objects themselves. I argue that this is a mistake. Just as with moral beliefs, the adaptive value of our object beliefs can be explained without assuming that the beliefs are accurate. I then explore the prospects for other sorts of vindications of our object (...) beliefs—which involve “bootstrapping” from our experiences as of midsized objects—and I defend bootstrapping maneuvers against a variety of objections. Finally, I argue for an explanatory constraint on legitimate bootstrapping and show how some attempts to respond to debunking arguments run afoul of the constraint. (shrink)
An encyclopedia entry which covers various revisionary conceptions of which macroscopic objects there are, and the puzzles and arguments that motivate these conceptions: sorites arguments, the argument from vagueness, the puzzles of material constitution, arguments against indeterminate identity, arguments from arbitrariness, debunking arguments, the overdetermination argument, and the problem of the many.
We present an explanatory objection to Norton's material theory of induction, as applied to predictive inferences. According to the objection we present, there is an explanatory disconnect between our beliefs about the future and the relevant future facts. We argue that if we recognize such a disconnect, we are no longer rationally entitled to our future beliefs.
A symposium on my *Objects: Nothing Out of the Ordinary* (2015). In response to Wallace, I attempt to clarify the dialectical and epistemic role that my arguments from counterexamples were meant to play, I provide a limited defense of the comparison to the Gettier examples, and I embrace the comparison to Moorean anti-skeptical arguments. In response to deRosset, I provide a clearer formulation of conservatism, explain how a conservative should think about the interaction between intuition and science, and discuss what (...) conservatives should say about scattered territories, clonal colonies, and arbitrary systems. In response to Tillman and Spencer, I fortify my original presentation of the debunking arguments by clarifying why, even while trees (if they exist) are paradigmatically causal, conservatives are meant to be rationally obstructed from believing that it is trees that are causing our tree beliefs. (shrink)
Conferring legal personhood on purely synthetic entities is a very real legal possibility, one under consideration presently by the European Union. We show here that such legislative action would be morally unnecessary and legally troublesome. While AI legal personhood may have some emotional or economic appeal, so do many superficially desirable hazards against which the law protects us. We review the utility and history of legal fictions of personhood, discussing salient precedents where such fictions resulted in abuse or incoherence. We (...) conclude that difficulties in holding “electronic persons” accountable when they violate the rights of others outweigh the highly precarious moral interests that AI legal personhood might protect. (shrink)
Virtually everyone agrees that, even after having presented the arguments for their positions, proponents of revisionary philosophical theories are required to provide some sort of account of the conflict between their theories and what the folk believe. I examine various strategies for answering the challenge from folk belief. The examination proceeds as a case study, whose focus is eliminativism about ordinary material objects. I critically assess eliminativist attempts to explain folk belief by appeal to paraphrase, experience, and intuition.
When some objects are the parts of another object, they compose that object and that object is composite. This article is intended as an introduction to the central questions about composition and a highly selective overview of various answers to those questions. In §1, we review some formal features of parthood that are important for understanding the nature of composition. In §2, we consider some answers to the question: which pluralities of objects together compose something? As we will see, the (...) dominant answers are all of them and none of them. In §§3-4, we examine one of the main arguments that has driven philosophers to these extreme answers: the argument from vagueness. In §5, we turn to the question of whether composition is unique: is it sometimes the case that some things compose more than one thing? Finally, in §6, we turn from the question of which composites exist to the question of which composites exist fundamentally. (shrink)
Particularists in material-object metaphysics hold that our intuitive judgments about which kinds of things there are and are not are largely correct. One common argument against particularism is the argument from arbitrariness, which turns on the claim that there is no ontologically significant difference between certain of the familiar kinds that we intuitively judge to exist (snowballs, islands, statues, solar systems) and certain of the strange kinds that we intuitively judge not to exist (snowdiscalls, incars, gollyswoggles, the fusion of the (...) my nose and the Eiffel Tower). Particularists frequently respond by conceding that there is no ontologically significant difference and embracing some sort of deflationary metaontology (relativism, constructivism, quantifier variance). I show -- by identifying ontologically significant differences -- that the argument can be resisted without retreating to any sort of deflationary metaontology. (shrink)
Our aim here is to explore the prospects of a relativist response to moral debunking arguments. We begin by clarifying the relativist thesis under consideration, and we explain why relativists seem well-positioned to resist the arguments in a way that avoids the drawbacks of existing responses. We then show that appearances are deceiving. At bottom, the relativist response is no less question-begging than standard realist responses, and – when we turn our attention to the strongest formulation of the debunking argument (...) – the virtues of relativism turn out to be vices. (shrink)
Many of those who accept the universalist thesis that mereological composition is unrestricted also maintain that the folk typically restrict their quantifiers in such a way as to exclude strange fusions when they say things that appear to conflict with universalism. Despite its prima facie implausibility, there are powerful arguments for universalism. By contrast, there is remarkably little evidence for the thesis that strange fusions are excluded from the ordinary domain of quantification. Furthermore, this reconciliatory strategy seems hopeless when applied (...) to the more fundamental conflict between universalism and the intuitions that tell against it. (shrink)
There’s the question of what there is, and then there’s the question of what ultimately exists. Many contend that, once we have this distinction clearly in mind, we can see that there is no sensible debate to be had about whether there are such things as properties or tables or numbers, and that the only ontological question worth debating is whether such things are ultimate (in one or another sense). I argue that this is a mistake. Taking debates about ordinary (...) objects as a case study, I show that the arguments that animate these debates bear directly on the question of which objects there are and cannot plausibly be recast as arguments about what’s ultimate. I also address the objection that, because they are easy answerable, questions about what there is cannot be a proper subject of ontological debate. (shrink)
A person who is liable to defensive harm has forfeited his rights against the imposition of the harm, and so is not wronged if that harm is imposed. A number of philosophers, most notably Jeff McMahan, argue for an instrumental account of liability, whereby a person is liable to defensive harm when he is either morally or culpably responsible for an unjust threat of harm to others, and when the imposition of defensive harm is necessary to avert the threatened unjust (...) harm. Others may favour a purely noninstrumental account of liability: one that looks only to the past behaviour of the potentially liable person. We argue that both views are vulnerable to serious objections. Instead we develop and defend a new view of liability to defensive harm: the pluralist account. The pluralist account states that liability to defensive harm has at least two bases. First, if an attacker is morally or culpably responsible for an unjust attack then he has forfeited what we call his agency right, and in doing so he has made himself partially liable to defensive harm. Whether the attacker is fully liable to defensive harm depends, however, on whether the imposition of defensive harm would infringe a different right held by the attacker: his humanitarian right. Humanitarian rights are rights to be provided with urgently needed resources or to be protected from serious harms when others can do so at reasonably low cost. We argue the pluralist account avoids the objections to which the instrumental and noninstrumental views are vulnerable, coheres with our intuitive reactions in a wide range of cases, and sheds new light on the way different rights combine to determine a person's liability to suffer harm. (shrink)
Dry earth seems to its inhabitants (our intrinsic duplicates) just as earth seems to us, that is, it seems to them as though there are rivers and lakes and a clear, odorless liquid flowing from their faucets. But, in fact, this is an illusion; there is no such liquid anywhere on the planet. I address two objections to externalism concerning the nature of the concept that is expressed by the word 'water' in the mouths of the inhabitants of dry earth. (...) Gabriel Segal presents a dilemma for the externalist concerning the application conditions of the concept, and Paul Boghossian presents a dilemma for the externalist concerning the complexity of the concept. I show that, in both cases, the externalist may occupy the horn of his choice without departing from either the letter or spirit of externalism. (shrink)
A CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title 2012! Contemporary picturebooks open up spaces for philosophical dialogues between people of all ages. As works of art, picturebooks offer unique opportunities to explore ideas and to create meaning collaboratively. This book considers censorship of certain well-known picturebooks, challenging the assumptions on which this censorship is based. Through a lively exploration of children's responses to these same picturebooks the authors paint a way of working philosophically based on respectful listening and creative and authentic interactions, rather (...) than scripted lessons. This dialogical process challenges much current practice in education. The authors propose that a courageous and critical practice of listening is central to the facilitation of mutually educative dialogue. This book will be of interest to scholars and students of education studies, philosophy of education, literacy teaching and learning, children's literature, childhood and pedagogy. (shrink)
Each year thousands of individuals enrol in clinical trials as healthy volunteers to earn money. Some of them pursue research participation as a full-time or at least a part-time job. They call themselves professional or semiprofessional guinea pigs. The practice of paying healthy volunteers raises numerous ethical concerns. Different payment models have been discussed in literature. Dickert and Grady argue for a wage-payment model. This model gives research subjects a standardised hourly wage, and it is based on an assumption that (...) research participation is morally indistinguishable from other forms of unskilled labour. In this paper, I will challenge this assumption. I will argue that human guinea pigging has particular characteristics which taken together make it significantly different from other forms of labour. Participation in research is skill-independent. Healthy volunteers are valuable not because they are skilful persons, but because they are human bodies. The role of research volunteers is mainly passive. They are not asked to produce goods or deliver services. They are paid for enduring unpleasant, painful and risky interventions performed by investigators. Research volunteering involves inherent risks and uncertainties, and subjects have little or no control over their minimisation and materialisation. I conclude that participation in clinical research is a specific kind of activity. It is more like renting out one’s body to strangers, than working. Thus, research participation should not be treated on par with other forms of employment. (shrink)
Perez-Rodriguez and de la Fuente (2017) assume that although human races do not exist in a biological sense (“geneticists and evolutionary biologists generally agree that the division of humans into races/subspecies has no defensible scientific basis,” they exist only as “sociocultural constructions” and because of that maintain an illusory reality, for example, through “racialized” practices in medicine. Agreeing with the main postulates formulated in the article, we believe that the authors treat this problem in a superficial manner and have failed (...) to capture the current state of the field of knowledge in science and the humanities. In our commentary, we want to highlight two main omissions, and to notice three important implications for “a postracial medicine.”. (shrink)
I address Sinnott-Armstrong's argument that evidence of framing effects in moral psychology shows that moral intuitions are unreliable and therefore not noninferentially justified. I begin by discussing what it is to be epistemically unreliable and clarify how framing effects render moral intuitions unreliable. This analysis calls for a modification of Sinnott-Armstrong's argument if it is to remain valid. In particular, he must claim that framing is sufficiently likely to determine the content of moral intuitions. I then re-examine the evidence which (...) is supposed to support this claim. In doing so, I provide a novel suggestion for how to analyze the reliability of intuitions in empirical studies. Analysis of the evidence suggests that moral intuitions subject to framing effects are in fact much more reliable than perhaps was thought, and that Sinnott-Armstrong has not succeeded in showing that noninferential justification has been defeated. (shrink)
Words, languages, symphonies, fictional characters, games, and recipes are plausibly abstract artifacts— entities that have no spatial location and that are deliberately brought into existence as a result of creative acts. Many accept that composition is unrestricted: for every plurality of material objects, there is a material object that is the sum of those objects. These two views may seem entirely unrelated. I will argue that the most influential argument against restricted composition—the vagueness argument—doubles as an argument that there can (...) be no abstract artifacts. There is no way to resist the vagueness argument against abstract artifacts that does not also undermine the vagueness argument against restricted composition. (shrink)
This study examines the conflation of terms such as “knowledge” and “understanding” in peer-reviewed literature, and tests the hypothesis that little current research clearly distinguishes between importantly distinct epistemic states. Two sets of data are presented from papers published in the journal Public Understanding of Science. In the first set, the digital text analysis tool, Voyant, is used to analyze all papers published in 2014 for the use of epistemic success terms. In the second set of data, all papers published (...) in Public Understanding of Science from 2010–2015 are systematically analyzed to identify instances in which epistemic states are empirically measured. The results indicate that epistemic success terms are inconsistently defined, and that measurement of understanding, in particular, is rarely achieved in public understanding of science studies. We suggest that more diligent attention to measuring understanding, as opposed to mere knowledge, will increase efficacy of scientific outreach and communication efforts. (shrink)
How obliged can we be to AI, and how much danger does it pose us? A surprising proportion of our society holds exaggerated fears or hopes for AI, such as the fear of robot world conquest, or the hope that AI will indefinitely perpetuate our cul- ture. These misapprehensions are symptomatic of a larger problem—a confusion about the nature and origins of ethics and its role in society. While AI technologies do pose promises and threats, these are not qualitatively different (...) from those posed by other artifacts of our culture which are largely ignored: from factories to advertising, weapons to political systems. Ethical systems are based on notions of identity, and the exaggerated hopes and fears of AI derive from our cultures having not yet accommodated the fact that language and reasoning are no longer uniquely human. The experience of AI may improve our ethical intuitions and self-understanding, potentially helping our societies make better-informed decisions on serious ethical dilemmas. (shrink)
The use of the category of race in science remains controversial. During the last few years there has been a lively debate on this topic in the field of a relatively young neuroscience discipline called cultural neuroscience. The main focus of cultural neuroscience is on biocultural conditions of the development of different dimensions of human perceptive activity, both cognitive or emotional. These dimensions are analysed through the comparison of representatives of different social and ethnic groups. In my article, I present (...) arguments supporting these two hypotheses: the other-race effect understood as an individual, distinct effect does not exist. It is rather an exemplification of a much broader phenomenon which I call theunfamiliarity homogeneity effect. It includes not only problems with differentiation and recognition of faces of representatives of other ethnic groups, but also covers similar recognitional difficulties ; The race-based terminology and categories are used in cultural neuroscience research in a vague and inconsistent manner. Such an approach distorts the science both in empirically and conceptually significant respects. The unfamiliarity homogeneity effect is an example of such a situation: narrowing it to the other-race effect makes it difficult to analyse in a wider context crucial for its understanding. (shrink)
Unprecedented advances in medicine, genetic engineering, and demographic forecasting raise new questions that strain the categories and assumptions of traditional ethical theories. Heyd's approach resolves many paradoxes in intergenerational justice, while offering a major test case for the profound problems of the limits of ethics and the nature of value.
Rather than focus on effects, the isolatable and measureable outcomes of events and interventions, the papers assembled here offer different perspectives on the affective dimension of the meaning and politics of human/non-human relations. The authors begin by drawing attention to the constructed discontinuity between humans and non-humans, and to the kinds of knowledge and socialities that this discontinuity sustains, including those underpinned by nature-culture, subject-object, body-mind, individual-society polarities. The articles presented track human/non-human relations through different domains, including: humans/non-humans in history (...) and animal welfare science ; the relationship between the way we live, the effects on our natural environment and contested knowledges about ‘nature’ ; choreographies of everyday life and everyday science practices with non-human animals such as horses, meerkats, mice, and wolves. Each paper also goes on to offer different perspectives on the human/non-human not just as division, or even as an asymmetrical relation, but as relations that are mutually affective, however invisible and inexpressible in the domain of science. Thus the collection contributes to new epistemologies/ontologies that undercut the usual ordering of relations and their dichotomies, particularly in that dominant domain of contemporary culture that we call science. Indeed, in their impetus to capture ‘affect’, the collection goes beyond the usual turn towards a more inclusive ontology, and contributes to the radical shift in the epistemology and philosophy of science’s terms of engagement. (shrink)
Heidegger and ethics is a contentious conjunction of terms. Martin Heidegger himself rejected the notion of ethics, while his endorsement of Nazism is widely seen as unethical. This major study examines the complex and controversial issues involved in bringing Heidegger and ethics together. Working backwards through his work, from his 1964 claim that philosophy has been completed to his first major book, Being and Time, Joanna Hodge questions Heidegger's denial that his inquiries were concerned with ethics. She discovers a (...) form of ethics in Heidegger's thinking which elucidates his important distinction between metaphysics and philosophy. Opposing many contemporary views, Hodge proposes that ethics can be retrieved and questions the relation between ethics and metaphysics that Heidegger made so pervasive. (shrink)