This book offers original accounts of a number of central social phenomena, many of which have received little if any prior philosophical attention. These phenomena include social groups, group languages, acting together, collective belief, mutual recognition, and social convention. In the course of developing her analyses Gilbert discusses the work of Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, Max Weber, David Lewis, among others.
One of the most distinguished living social philosophers, Margaret Gilbert develops and extends her application of plural subject theory of human sociality, first introduced in her earlier works On Social Facts and Living Together. Sociality and Responsibility presents an extended discussion of her proposal that joint commitments inherently involve obligations and rights, proposing, in effect, a new theory of obligations and rights. In addition, it demonstrates the extensive range and fruitfulness of plural subject theory by presenting accounts of social rules, (...) scientific change, political obligation, collective remorse, collective guilt, shared intention and an important class of rights and obligations. (shrink)
Margaret Gilbert offers an incisive new approach to a classic problem of political philosophy: when and why should I do what the law tells me to do? Do I have special obligations to conform to the laws of my own country and if so, why? In what sense, if any, must I fight in wars in which my country is engaged, if ordered to do so, or suffer the penalty for law-breaking the law imposes - including the death penalty? Gilbert's (...) accessible book offers a provocative and compelling case in favour of citizens' obligations to the state, while examining how these can be squared with self-interest and other competing considerations. (shrink)
Based on theoretical insights of discourse ethics as developed by Jürgen Habermas, we delineate a proposal to further develop theinstitutionalization of social accounting in multinational corporations by means of “Social Accountability 8000” . First, we discuss the cornerstones of Habermas’s discourse ethics and elucidate how and why this concept can provide a theoretical justification of the moral point of view in MNCs. Second, the basic conception, main purpose, and implementation procedure of SA 8000 are presented. Third, we critically examine SA (...) 8000 from a Habermasian perspective, and discuss advantages and drawbacks of the initiative. Fourth, to address the drawbacks, we introduce a “discourse-ethically” extended version of SA 8000. We show that this approach is theoretically well-founded and able to overcome some of the current deficits of the certification initiative. We demonstrate that the extended version of SA 8000 can be successfully applied on a cross-cultural basis, and that our findings have significant implications for other international ethics initiatives. (shrink)
What is it for a group to believe something? A summative account assumes that for a group to believe that p most members of the group must believe that p. Accounts of this type are commonly proposed in interpretation of everyday ascriptions of beliefs to groups. I argue that a nonsummative account corresponds better to our unexamined understanding of such ascriptions. In particular I propose what I refer to as the joint acceptance model of group belief. I argue that group (...) beliefs according to the joint acceptance model are important phenomena whose aetiology and development require investigation. There is an analogous phenomenon of social or group preference, which social choice theory tends to ignore. (shrink)
This article explores the question: what is it for two or more people to intend to do something in the future? In a technical phrase, what is it for people to share an intention ? Extending and refining earlier work of the author’s, it argues for three criteria of adequacy for an account of shared intention (the disjunction, concurrence, and obligation criteria) and offers an account that satisfies them. According to this account, in technical terms explained in the paper, people (...) share an intention when and only when they are jointly committed to intend as a body to do such-and-such in the future. This account is compared and contrasted with the common approach that treats shared intention as a matter of personal intentions, with particular reference to the work of Michael Bratman. (shrink)
Typical agreements can be seen as joint decisions, inherently involving obligations of a distinctive kind. These obligations derive from the joint commitment' that underlies a joint decision. One consequence of this understanding of agreements and their obligations is that coerced agreements are possible and impose obligations. It is not that the parties to an agreement should always conform to it, all things considered. Unless one is released from the agreement, however, one has some reason to conform to it, whatever else (...) is true. In this sense, one is under an obligation to the other parties. The relevance of these points to the issue of political obligation is discussed. (shrink)
This paper introduces the author's approach to everyday ascriptions of collective cognitive states as in such statements as we believe he is lying. Collective epistemology deals with these ascriptions attempting to understand them and the phenomena in question.
The everyday concept of a social group is approached by examining the concept of going for a walk together, an example of doing something together, or "shared action". Two analyses requiring shared personal goals are rejected, since they fail to explain how people walking together have obligations and rights to appropriate behavior, and corresponding rights of rebuke. An alternative account is proposed: those who walk together must constitute the "plural subject" of a goal. The nature of plural subjecthood, the thesis (...) that social groups are plural subjects, and the relation of these ideas to Rousseau's and Hobbes 's, are briefly explored. (shrink)
Based on theoretical insights of discourse ethics as developed by Jürgen Habermas, we delineate a proposal to further develop theinstitutionalization of social accounting in multinational corporations (MNCs) by means of “Social Accountability 8000” (SA 8000). First, we discuss the cornerstones of Habermas’s discourse ethics and elucidate how and why this concept can provide a theoretical justification of the moral point of view in MNCs. Second, the basic conception, main purpose, and implementation procedure of SA 8000 are presented. Third, we critically (...) examine SA 8000 from a Habermasian perspective, and discuss advantages and drawbacks of the initiative. Fourth, to address the drawbacks, we introduce a “discourse-ethically” extended version of SA 8000. We show that this approach is theoretically well-founded and able to overcome some of the current deficits of the certification initiative. We demonstrate that the extended version of SA 8000 can be successfully applied on a cross-cultural basis, and that our findings have significant implications for other international ethics initiatives. (shrink)
Holobionts are multicellular eukaryotes with multiple species of persistent symbionts. They are not individuals in the genetic sense— composed of and regulated by the same genome—but they are anatomical, physiological, developmental, immunological, and evolutionary units, evolved from a shared relationship between different species. We argue that many of the interactions between human and microbiota symbionts and the reproductive process of a new holobiont are best understood as instances of reciprocal scaffolding of developmental processes and mutual construction of developmental, ecological, and (...) evolutionary niches. Our examples show that mother, fetus, and different symbiotic microbial communities induce or constitute conditions for the development and reproduction of one another. These include the direct induction of maternal or fetus physiological changes, the restructuring of ecological relations between communities, and evolutionary selection against undesirable competitors. The mutual scaffolding and niche constructing processes start early—prior to amniotic rupture. We are evolutionarily, physiologically, and developmentally integrated holobiont systems, strung together through mutual reliance and mutual construction. Bringing the processes of niche construction and developmental scaffolding together to interpret holobiont birth conceptually scaffolds two new directions for research: in niche construction, identifying the evolutionary implications of organisms actively constructing multiple overlapping niches and scaffolds, and in Evolutionary Developmental Biology, characterizing evolutionary and ecological processes as developmental causes. (shrink)
The goal of this article is to shed light on Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) postoperative suicidality risk factors within Treatment Resistant Depression (TRD) patients, in particular by focusing on the ethical concern of enrolling patient with history of self-estrangement, suicide attempts and impulsive–aggressive inclinations. In order to illustrate these ethical issues we report and review a clinical case associated with postoperative feelings of self-estrangement, self-harm behaviours and suicide attempt leading to the removal of DBS devices. Could prospectively identifying and excluding (...) patients with suicidality risk factors from DBS experimental trials—such as history of self-estrangement, suicide attempts and impulsive–aggressive inclinations—lead to minimizing the risk of suicidality harm? (shrink)
This new essay collection by distinguished philosopher Margaret Gilbert provides a richly textured argument for the importance of joint commitment in our personal and public lives. Topics covered by this diverse range of essays range from marital love to patriotism, from promissory obligation to the unity of the European Union.
In everyday discourse groups or collectives are often said to believe this or that. The author has previously developed an account of the phenomenon to which such collective belief statements refer. According to this account, in terms that are explained, a group believes that p if its members are jointly committed to believe that p as a body. Those who fulfill these conditions are referred to here as collectively believing* that p. Some philosophers – here labeled rejectionists – have argued (...) that collective belief* is not belief but rather acceptance. This paper presents several arguments against rejectionism. One has to do with the proper methodology for arriving at an account of belief. Two address rejectionist claims to the effect that collective beliefs* lack key features of belief in general, the features in question being “aiming at truth” and having a particular relation to the will. A fourth notes that there is a phenomenon more apt for the label of “collective acceptance” than is the phenomenon of collective belief*. (shrink)
Among other things, this paper considers what so-called collective guilt feelings amount to. If collective guilt feelings are sometimes appropriate, it must be the case that collectives can indeed be guilty. The paper begins with an account of what it is for a collective to intend to do something and to act in light of that intention. An account of collective guilt in terms of membership guilt feelings is found wanting. Finally, a "plural subject" account of collective guilt feelings is (...) articulated, such that they involve a joint commitment to feel guilt as a body. (shrink)
This article will compare and contrast two very different accounts of convention: the game-theoretical account of Lewis in Convention, and the account initially proposed by Margaret Gilbert (the present author) in chapter six of On Social Facts, and further elaborated here. Gilbert’s account is not a variant of Lewis’s. It was arrived at in part as the result of a detailed critique of Lewis’s account in relation to a central everyday concept of a social convention. An account of convention need (...) not be judged by that standard. Perhaps it reveals the nature of an important phenomenon. Looked at in that light, these very different accounts are not incompatible. Indeed, neither should be ignored if one is seeking to understand the way in which human beings arrive at some degree of social order. (shrink)
This article reviews the incredible growth of electronic commerce (e-commerce) and presents ethical issues that have emerged. Security concerns, spamming, Web sites that do not carry an "advertising" label, cybersquatters, online marketing to children, conflicts of interest, manufacturers competing with intermediaries online, and "dinosaurs" are discussed. The power of the Internet to spotlight issues is noted as a significant force in providing a kind of self-regulation that supports an ethical e-commerce environment.
Coalescent argumentation is a normative ideal that involves the joining together of two disparate claims through recognition and exploration of opposing positions. By uncovering the crucial connection between a claim and the attitudes, beliefs, feelings, values and needs to which it is connected dispute partners are able to identify points of agreement and disagreement. These points can then be utilized to effect coalescence, a joining or merging of divergent positions, by forming the basis for a mutual investigation of non-conflictual options (...) that might otherwise have remained unconsidered. The essay proceeds by defining and discussing ‘argument’, ‘position’ and ‘understanding’. These notions are then brought together to outline the concept of coalescent reasoning. (shrink)
Given immunity’s general role in the organism’s economy—both in terms of its internal environment as well as mediating its external relations—immune theory has expanded its traditional formulation of preserving individual autonomy to one that includes accounting for nutritional processes and symbiotic relationships that require immune tolerance. When such a full ecological alignment is adopted, the immune system becomes the mediator of both defensive and assimilative environmental intercourse, where a balance of immune rejection and tolerance governs the complex interactions of the (...) organism’s ecological relationships. Accordingly, immunology, which historically had affiliated with the biology of individuals, now becomes a science concerned with the biology of communities. With this translocation, the ontological basis of the organism is undergoing a profound change. Indeed, the recent recognition of the ubiquity of symbiosis has challenged the traditional notions of biological individuality and requires a shift in the metaphysics undergirding biology, in which a philosophy of the organism must be characterized by ecological dialectics “all-the-way-down.”. (shrink)
Since the passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and more recent Federal legislation, managers, regulators, and attorneys have been busy in sorting out the legal meaning of fairness in employment. While ethical managers must follow the law in their hiring practices, they cannot be satisfied with legal compliance. In this article, we first briefly summarize what the law requires in terms of fair hiring practices. We subsequently rely on multiple perspectives to explore the ethical meaning (...) of fairness in hiring. Ethical fairness underlies the law and regulations in this area, but goes beyond them as well. We conclude by demonstrating that ethical hiring practices enable managers to make better hiring decisions. (shrink)
This article explains problems and opportunities created by standardized ethics initiatives (e.g., the UN Global Compact, the Global Reporting Initiative, and SA 8000) from the perspective of stakeholder theory. First, we outline differences and commonalities among currently existing initiatives and thus generate a common ground for our discussion. Second, based on these remarks, we critically evaluate standardized ethics initiatives by drawing on descriptive, instrumental, and normative stakeholder theory. In doing so, we explain why these standards are helpful tools when it (...) comes to ‘managing’ stakeholder relations but also face considerable limitations that can eventually hamper their successful expansion. We suspect that this discussion is necessary to conduct meaningful empirical research in the future and also to provide managers with a more clear-cut picture about a successful application of such initiatives. Third, we outline possible ways to cope with the identified problems and thus demonstrate how standard-setting institutions can improve the initiatives they offer. (shrink)
There is little doubt that Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is now a global concept and a prominent feature of international business, with its practice localised and differing across countries. Despite the growing body of research focussing on CSR in developing countries, there is dearth research on CSR institutionalisation in African countries. Drawing on institutional theory (IT), this article examines the focus and form of CSR practice of companies in Kenya. It is evident from our findings that the nature and orientation (...) of CSR differ across companies with operations only in Kenya and those headquartered abroad or with international operations. Significantly, firm-related drivers such as public relations and performance, as well as global institutional pressures explain the focus and form of CSR in Kenya. This article concludes that for the institutionalisation of CSR in Kenya, attention must be paid to conditions that stifle CSR uptake such as lack of government regulations, and the government's capacity and commitment to enforce regulation. The establishment of functional CSR institutions and a vibrant civil society that advance civil regulation ought to be encouraged. (shrink)
Clinical cases of frontal lobe lesions have been significantly associated with acquired aggressive behaviour. Restoring neuronal and cognitive faculties of aggressive individuals through invasive brain intervention raises ethical questions in general. However, more questions have to be addressed in cases where individuals refuse surgical treatment. The ethical desirability and permissibility of using intrusive surgical brain interventions for involuntary or voluntary treatment of acquired aggressiveness is highly questionable. This article engages with the description of acquired aggressiveness in general, and presents a (...) rare clinical case to illustrate the difficulties of treating this population. To expand the debate further, this article explores the ethics related to invasive brain surgery in three parts: a) it examines coercive involuntary invasive brain surgery for the benefit of protecting others on individuals suffering from acquired aggressiveness who lack decision-making capacities to consent; b) it addresses voluntary psychosurgery on individuals suffering from acquired aggressiveness who are competent to consent; and, c) it questions whether acquired aggressive individuals, who are legally competent, have a duty to consent to invasive brain surgery, in order to maintain their autonomy by reducing or even eliminate their aggressive drives. Ensuring the safety and efficacy of surgical brain interventions could increase the ethical permissibility of voluntary treatment, but it would not necessarily entail ethical justification for proceeding with invasive brain surgery for treatment of intractable acquired aggressive behaviour. (shrink)
Currently, an increasing number of organizations are attempting to enhance inclusiveness of under represented individuals through proactive efforts to manage their diversity. In this article, we define diversity management against the backdrop of its predecessor, affirmative action. Next, selected examples of organizations that have experienced specific positive bottom line results from diversity management strategies are discussed. The present paper also provides a conceptual model to examine antecedents and consequences of effective diversity management. Additional research areas identified from the model and (...) literature review result in a number of research propositions intended to enhance the exploration and understanding of diversity management. (shrink)
The United Nations Global Compact – which is a Global Public Policy Network advocating 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards, environmental protection, and anticorruption – has turned into the world's largest corporate responsibility initiative. Although the Global Compact is often characterized as a promising way to address global governance gaps, it remains largely unclear why this is the case. To address this problem, we discuss to what extent the initiative represents an institutional solution to exercise (...) global governance. We suggest that new governance modes, which have arisen in the context of globalization, often adopt a multiactor, multilevel, and network-based approach. We then analyze how far the Global Compact's institutional design reflects this multiactor, multilevel, and network-based steering mode. Drawing on this discussion, we offer suggestions regarding how the initiative can be further developed. (shrink)
The question whether and in what way languages and language use involve convention is addressed, With special reference to David Lewis's account of convention in general. Data are presented which show that Lewis has not captured the sense of 'convention' involved when we speak of adopting a linguistic convention. He has, In effect, attempted an account of social conventions. An alternative account of social convention and an account of linguistic convention are sketched.
This paper argues for a methodological point that bears on a relatively long-standing debate concerning collective beliefs in the sense elaborated by Margaret Gilbert: are they cases of belief or rather of acceptance? It is argued that epistemological accounts and distinctions developed in individual epistemology on the basis of considering the individual case are not necessarily applicable to the collective case or, more generally, uncritically to be adopted in collective epistemology.
A feature of David Lewis's account of conventions in his book "Convention" which has received admiring notices from philosophers is his use of the mathematical theory of games. In this paper I point out a number of serious flaws in Lewis's use of game theory. Lewis's basic claim is that conventions cover 'coordination problems'. I show that game-Theoretical analysis tends to establish that coordination problems in Lewis's sense need not underlie conventions.
Although an invasive medical intervention, Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) has been regarded as an efficient and safe treatment of Parkinson’s disease for the last 20 years. In terms of clinical ethics, it is worth asking whether the use of DBS may have unanticipated negative effects similar to those associated with other types of psychosurgery. Clinical studies of epileptic patients who have undergone an anterior temporal lobectomy have identified a range of side effects and complications in a number of domains: psychological, (...) behavioural, affective and social. In many cases, patients express difficulty adjusting from being chronically ill to their new status as ‘treated’ or ‘seizure free’. This postoperative response adjustment has been described in the literature on epilepsy as the ‘Burden of Normality’ (BoN) syndrome. Most of the discussion about DBS postoperative changes to self is focused on abnormal side effects caused by the intervention (ie, hypersexuality, hypomania, etc). By contrast, relatively little attention is paid to the idea that successfully ‘treated’ individuals might experience difficulties in adjusting to becoming ‘normal’. The purpose of this paper is (1) to articulate the postoperative DBS psychosocial adjustment process in terms of the BoN syndrome, (2) to address whether the BoN syndrome illustrates that DBS treatment poses a threat to the patient’s identity, and (3) to examine whether the current framework for rehabilitation after DBS procedures should be updated and take into account the BoN syndrome as a postoperative self-change response. (shrink)
The development of culture-independent strategies to study microbial diversity and function has led to a revolution in microbial ecology, enabling us to address fundamental questions about the distribution of microbes and their influence on Earth’s biogeochemical cycles. This article discusses some of the progress that scientists have made with the use of so-called “omic” techniques (metagenomics, metatranscriptomics, and metaproteomics) and the limitations and major challenges these approaches are currently facing. These ‘omic methods have been used to describe the taxonomic structure (...) of microbial communities in different environments and to discover new genes and enzymes of industrial and medical interest. However, microbial community structure varies in different spatial and temporal scales and none of the ‘omic techniques are individually able to elucidate the complex aspects of microbial communities and ecosystems. In this article we highlight the importance of a spatiotemporal sampling design, together with a multilevel ‘omic approach and a community analysis strategy (association networks and modeling) to examine and predict interacting microbial communities and their impact on the environment. (shrink)
At a time of fake news, hacks, leaks, and unverified reports, many people are unsure whom to believe. How can we communicate in ways that make individuals question their assumptions and learn? My colleagues at The Hastings Center and many journalists and scientists are grappling with this question and have, independently, reached the same first step: recognize that facts can't be fully understood without probing their connection to values. “Explaining the basics is important, of course, but we also need to (...) diversify our approach to the coverage of science—particularly as it intersects with the matrix of cultural, religious, social, and political values of our readers,” said an article in Undark, an online magazine of science journalism. An editorial in Nature called for scientists to engage directly with citizens in debates over climate change and genome editing, noting that “the ethical issues can be critically dependent on the science, for example, in understanding where the boundaries between non-heritable and heritable genome modifications might be.” We're here to help. (shrink)
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is optimistically portrayed in contemporary media. This already happened with psychosurgery during the first half of the twentieth century. The tendency of popular media to hype the benefits of DBS therapies, without equally highlighting risks, fosters public expectations also due to the lack of ethical analysis in the scientific literature. Media are not expected (and often not prepared) to raise the ethical issues which remain unaddressed by the scientific community. To obtain a more objective portrayal of (...) DBS in the media, a deeper collaboration between the science community and journalists, and particularly specialized ones, must be promoted. Access to databases and articles, directly or through science media centers, has also been proven effective in increasing the quality of reporting. This article has three main objectives. Firstly, to explore the past media coverage of leukotomy, and to examine its widespread acceptance and the neglect of ethical issues in its depiction. Secondly, to describe how current enthusiastic coverage of DBS causes excessive optimism and neglect of ethical issues in patients. Thirdly, to discuss communication models and strategies to enhance media and science responsibility. (shrink)
Developmental biology is a theory of interpretation. Developmental signals are interpreted differently depending on the previous history of the responding cell. Thus, there is a context for the reception of a signal. While this conclusion is obvious during metamorphosis, when a single hormone instructs some cells to proliferate, some cells to differentiate, and other cells to die, it is commonplace during normal development. Paracrine factors such as BMP4 can induce apoptosis, proliferation, or differentiation depending upon the history of the responding (...) cells. In addition, organisms have evolved to alter their development in response to differences in temperature, diet, the presence of predators, or the presence of competitors. This allows them to develop the phenotype, within the limits imposed by the genotype, best suited for the immediate habitat of the organism. Most developing organisms have also evolved to expect developmental signals from symbionts, and these organisms develop abnormally if the symbiont signals are not present. Thus Hoffmeyer’s “vertical semiotic system” of genetic communication and “horizontal semiotic system” of ecological communication are integrated during development. (shrink)
I argue that obligations of an important type inhere in what I call 'joint commitments'. I propose a joint commitment account of everyday agreements. This could explain why some philosophers believe that we know of the obligating nature of agreements a priori. I compare and contrast obligations of joint commitment with obligations in the relatively narrow sense recommended by H. L. A. Hart, a recommendation that has been influential. Some central contexts in which Hart takes there to be obligations in (...) his sense are contexts in which there are obligations of joint commitment. Nonetheless, different senses of 'obligation' appear to be at issue. (shrink)