Collected and edited by Noah Levin -/- Table of Contents: -/- UNIT ONE: INTRODUCTION TO CONTEMPORARY ETHICS: TECHNOLOGY, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, AND IMMIGRATION 1 The “Trolley Problem” and Self-Driving Cars: Your Car’s Moral Settings (Noah Levin) 2 What is Ethics and What Makes Something a Problem for Morality? (David Svolba) 3 Letter from the Birmingham City Jail (Martin Luther King, Jr) 4 A Defense of Affirmative Action (Noah Levin) 5 The Moral Issues of Immigration (B.M. Wooldridge) 6 The Ethics of (...) our Digital Selves (Noah Levin) -/- UNIT TWO: TORTURE, DEATH, AND THE “GREATER GOOD” 7 The Ethics of Torture (Martine Berenpas) 8 What Moral Obligations do we have (or not have) to Impoverished Peoples? (B.M. Wooldridge) 9 Euthanasia, or Mercy Killing (Nathan Nobis) 10 An Argument Against Capital Punishment (Noah Levin) 11 Common Arguments about Abortion (Nathan Nobis & Kristina Grob) 12 Better (Philosophical) Arguments about Abortion (Nathan Nobis & Kristina Grob) -/- UNIT THREE: PERSONS, AUTONOMY, THE ENVIRONMENT, AND RIGHTS 13 Animal Rights (Eduardo Salazar) 14 John Rawls and the “Veil of Ignorance” (Ben Davies) 15 Environmental Ethics: Climate Change (Jonathan Spelman) 16 Rape, Date Rape, and the “Affirmative Consent” Law in California (Noah Levin) 17 The Ethics of Pornography: Deliberating on a Modern Harm (Eduardo Salazar) 18 The Social Contract (Thomas Hobbes) -/- UNIT FOUR: HAPPINESS 19 Is Pleasure all that Matters? Thoughts on the “Experience Machine” (Prabhpal Singh) 20 Utilitarianism (J.S. Mill) 21 Utilitarianism: Pros and Cons (B.M. Wooldridge) 22 Existentialism, Genetic Engineering, and the Meaning of Life: The Fifths (Noah Levin) 23 The Solitude of the Self (Elizabeth Cady Stanton) 24 Game Theory, the Nash Equilibrium, and the Prisoner’s Dilemma (Douglas E. Hill) -/- UNIT FIVE: RELIGION, LAW, AND ABSOLUTE MORALITY 25 The Myth of Gyges and The Crito (Plato) 26 God, Morality, and Religion (Kristin Seemuth Whaley) 27 The Categorical Imperative (Immanuel Kant) 28 The Virtues (Aristotle) 29 Beyond Good and Evil (Friedrich Nietzsche) 30 Other Moral Theories: Subjectivism, Relativism, Emotivism, Intuitionism, etc. (Jan F. Jacko). (shrink)
Sober (1992) has recently evaluated Brandon's (1982, 1990; see also 1985, 1988) use of Salmon's (1971) concept of screening-off in the philosophy of biology. He critiques three particular issues, each of which will be considered in this discussion.
This anthology collects some of the most important papers on what is believed to be the major force in evolution, natural selection. An issue of great consequence in the philosophy of biology concerns the levels at which, and the units upon which selection acts. In recent years, biologists and philosophers have published a large number of papers bearing on this subject. The papers selected for inclusion in this book are divided into three main sections covering the history of the subject, (...) explaining its conceptual foundations, and focusing on kin and group selection and higher levels of selection.One of the book's interesting features is that it draws together material from the biological and philosophical literatures. The philosophical literature, having thoroughly absorbed the biological material, now offers conceptual tools suitable for the reworking of the biological arguments. Although a full symbiosis has yet to develop, this anthology offers a unique resource for students in both biology and philosophy.Robert N. Brandon is Professor in the Philosophy Department, Duke University. Richard M. Burian is Professor of Philosophy and Department Chairman, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.A Bradford Book. (shrink)
Robert Brandon is one of the most important and influential of contemporary philosophers of biology. This collection of his recent essays covers all the traditional topics in the philosophy of evolutionary biology and as such could serve as an introduction to the field. There are essays on the nature of fitness, teleology, the structure of the theory of natural selection, and the levels of selection. The book also deals with newer topics that are less frequently discussed but are of (...) growing interest, for example the evolution of human language and the role of experimentation in evolutionary biology. A special feature of the collection is that it avoids jargon and is written in a style that will appeal to working evolutionary biologists as well as philosophers. (shrink)
what is now the mainstream view as to the best way forward in the dream of engineering reliable software systems out of autonomous agents. The way of using formal logics to specify, implement and verify distributed systems of interacting units using a guiding analogy of beliefs, desires and intentions. The implicit message behind the book is this: Distributed Artificial Intelligence (DAI) can be a respectable engineering science. It says: we use sound formal systems; can cite established philosophical foundations; and will (...) be able to build reliable and flexible software systems. (shrink)
This paper is divided into three sections. In the first section we offer a retooling of some traditional concepts, namely icons and symbols, which allows us to describe an evolutionary continuum of communication systems. The second section consists of an argument from theoretical biology. In it we explore the advantages and disadvantages of phenotypic plasticity. We argue that a range of the conditions that selectively favor phenotypic plasticity also favor a nongenetic transmission system that would allow for the inheritance of (...) acquired characters. The first two sections are independent, the third depends on both of them. In it we offer an argument that human natural languages have just the features required of an ideal transmission mechanism under the conditions described in section 2. (shrink)
Drift is to evolution as inertia is to Newtonian mechanics. Both are the "natural" or default states of the systems to which they apply. Both are governed by zero-force laws. The zero-force law in biology is stated here for the first time.
The concept of individuality as applied to species, an important advance in the philosophy of evolutionary biology, is nevertheless in need of refinement. Four important subparts of this concept must be recognized: spatial boundaries, temporal boundaries, integration, and cohesion. Not all species necessarily meet all of these. Two very different types of pluralism have been advocated with respect to species, only one of which is satisfactory. An often unrecognized distinction between grouping and ranking components of any species concept is necessary. (...) A phylogenetic species concept is advocated that uses a grouping criterion of monophyly in a cladistic sense, and a ranking criterion based on those causal processes that are most important in producing and maintaining lineages in a particular case. Such causal processes can include actual interbreeding, selective constraints, and developmental canalization. The widespread use of the biological species concept is flawed for two reasons: because of a failure to distinguish grouping from ranking criteria and because of an unwarranted emphasis on the importance of interbreeding as a universal causal factor controlling evolutionary diversification. The potential to interbreed is not in itself a process; it is instead a result of a diversity of processes which result in shared selective environments and common developmental programs. These types of processes act in both sexual and asexual organisms, thus the phylogenetic species concept can reflect an underlying unity that the biological species concept can not. (shrink)
Millstein [Bio. Philos. 17 (2002) 33] correctly identies a serious problem with the view that natural selection and random drift are not conceptually distinct. She offers a solution to this problem purely in terms of differences between the processes of selection and drift. I show that this solution does not work, that it leaves the vast majority of real biological cases uncategorized. However, I do think there is a solution to the problem she raises, and I offer it here. My (...) solution depends on solving the biological analogue of the reference class problem in probability theory and on the reality of individual fitnesses. (shrink)
In this paper we first briefly review Bell's (1964, 1966) Theorem to see how it invalidates any deterministic "hidden variable" account of the apparent indeterminacy of quantum mechanics (QM). Then we show that quantum uncertainty, at the level of DNA mutations, can "percolate" up to have major populational effects. Interesting as this point may be it does not show any autonomous indeterminism of the evolutionary process. In the next two sections we investigate drift and natural selection as the locus of (...) autonomous biological indeterminacy. Here we conclude that the population-level indeterminacy of natural selection and drift are ultimately based on the assumption of a fundamental indeterminacy at the level of the lives and deaths of individual organisms. The following section examines this assumption and defends it from the determinists' attack. Then we show that, even if one rejects the assumption, there is still an important reason why one might think evolutionary theory (ET) is autonomously indeterministic. In the concluding section we contrast the arguments we have mounted against a deterministic hidden variable account of ET with the proof of the impossibility of such an account of QM. (shrink)
In this paper I argue that we can best make sense of the practice of experimental evolutionary biology if we see it as investigating contingent, rather than lawlike, regularities. This understanding is contrasted with the experimental practice of certain areas of physics. However, this presents a problem for those who accept the Logical Positivist conception of law and its essential role in scientific explanation. I address this problem by arguing that the contingent regularities of evolutionary biology have a limited range (...) of nomic necessity and a limited range of explanatory power even though they lack the unlimited projectibility that has been seen by some as a hallmark of scientific laws. (shrink)
In the past three decades a number of narrative self-concepts have appeared in the philosophical literature. A central question posed in recent literature concerns the embodiment of the narrative self. Though one of the best-known narrative self-concepts is a non-embodied one, namely Dennett’s self as ‘a center of narrative gravity’, others argue that the narrative self should include a role for embodiment. Several arguments have been made in support of the latter claim, but these can be summarized in two main (...) points. Firstly, a logical one: without taking the body into account Dennett’s theory becomes self-refuting. Secondly, a more practical/phenomenological point: a disembodied self-concept overlooks how personal the body is, and as such should be considered part of the self. In this paper I endorse these criticisms of non-embodied narrative self-concepts, but I argue that the relationship between the narrative self and the body is far from sufficiently fleshed out. I claim that the narrative self and the body are much more interwoven than the above criticisms suggest. What I aim to show in this paper is that the relationship between the body and the narrative self is interactive rather than unidirectional: not only does our body shape our narrative self, but our narrative self also shapes our body. The upshot of this is a better conception of the self is as a dynamic interaction between its various aspects. (shrink)
Branching-time temporal logics have proved to be an extraordinarily successful tool in the formal specification and verification of distributed systems. Much of their success stems from the tractability of the model checking problem for the branching time logic CTL, which has made it possible to implement tools that allow designers to automatically verify that systems satisfy requirements expressed in CTL. Recently, CTL was generalised by Alur, Henzinger, and Kupferman in a logic known as Alternating-time Temporal Logic (ATL). The key insight (...) in ATL is that the path quantifiers of CTL could be replaced by cooperation modalities, of the form , where is a set of agents. The intended interpretation of an ATL formula is that the agents can cooperate to ensure that holds (equivalently, that have a winning strategy for ). In this paper, we extend ATL with knowledge modalities, of the kind made popular in the work of Fagin, Halpern, Moses, Vardi and colleagues. Combining these knowledge modalities with ATL, it becomes possible to express such properties as group can cooperate to bring about iff it is common knowledge in that . The resulting logic — Alternating-time Temporal Epistemic Logic (ATEL) — shares the tractability of model checking with its ATL parent, and is a succinct and expressive language for reasoning about game-like multiagent systems. (shrink)
This paper gives an account of evolutionary explanations in biology. Briefly, the explanations I am primarily concerned with are explanations of adaptations. These explanations are contrasted with other nonteleological evolutionary explanations. The distinction is made by distinguishing the different kinds of questions these different explanations serve to answer. The sense in which explanations of adaptations are teleological is spelled out.
Richard Lewontin's (1970) early work on the units of selection initiated the conceptual and theoretical investigations that have led to the hierarchical perspective on selection that has reached near consensus status today. This paper explores other aspects of his work, work on what he termed continuity and quasi-independence, that connect to contemporary explorations of modularity in development and evolution. I characterize such modules and argue that they are the true units of selection in that they are what evolution by natural (...) selection individuates, selects among, and transforms. (shrink)
Although the change of beliefs in the face of new information has been widely studied with some success, the revision of other mental states has received little attention from the theoretical perspective. In particular, intentions are widely recognised as being a key attitude for rational agents, and while several formal theories of intention have been proposed in the literature, the logic of intention revision has been hardly considered. There are several reasons for this: perhaps most importantly, intentions are very closely (...) connected with other mental states—in particular, beliefs about the future and the abilities of the agent. So, we cannot study them in isolation. We must consider the interplay between intention revision and the revision of other mental states, which complicates the picture considerably. In this paper, we present some first steps towards a theory of intention revision. We develop a simple model of an agent’s mental states, and define intention revision operators. Using this model, we develop a logic of intention dynamics, and then investigate some of its properties. (shrink)
Barrett et al. present four puzzles for the ZFEL-view of evolution that we present in our 2010 book, Biology’s First Law: The Tendency for Diversity and Complexity to Increase in Evolutionary Systems. Our intent in writing this book was to present a radically different way to think about evolution. To the extent that it really is radical, it will be easy to misunderstand. We think Barrett et al. have misunderstood several crucial points and so we welcome the opportunity to clarify.
Since it was first proposed by Moses, Shoham, and Tennenholtz, the social laws paradigm has proved to be one of the most compelling approaches to the offline coordination of multiagent systems. In this paper, we make four key contributions to the theory and practice of social laws in multiagent systems. First, we show that the Alternating-time Temporal Logic (atl) of Alur, Henzinger, and Kupferman provides an elegant and powerful framework within which to express and understand social laws for multiagent systems. (...) Second, we show that the effectiveness, feasibility, and synthesis problems for social laws may naturally be framed as atl model checking problems, and that as a consequence, existing atl model checkers may be applied to these problems. Third, we show that the complexity of the feasibility problem in our framework is no more complex in the general case than that of the corresponding problem in the Shoham–Tennenholtz framework (it is np-complete). Finally, we show how our basic framework can easily be extended to permit social laws in which constraints on the legality or otherwise of some action may be explicitly required. We illustrate the concepts and techniques developed by means of a running example. (shrink)
Genic selectionists (Williams 1966; Dawkins 1976) defend the view that genes are the (unique) units of selection and that all evolutionary events can be adequately represented at the genic level. Pluralistic genic selectionists (Sterelny and Kitcher 1988; Waters 1991; Dawkins 1982) defend the weaker view that in many cases there are multiple equally adequate accounts of evolutionary events, but that always among the set of equally adequate representations will be one at the genic level. We describe a range of cases (...) all involving stable equilibria actively maintained by selection. In these cases genotypic models correctly show that selection is active at the equilibrium point. In contrast, the genic models have selection disappearing at equilibrium. For deterministic models this difference makes no difference. However, once drift is added in, the two sets of models diverge in their predicted evolutionary trajectories. Thus, contrary to received wisdom on this matter, the two sets of models are not empirically equivalent. Moreover, the genic models get the facts wrong. (shrink)
Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection provided the first, and only, causal-mechanistic account of the existence of adaptations in nature. As such, it provided the first, and only, scientific alternative to the “argument from design”. That alone would account for its philosophical significance. But the theory also raises other philosophical questions not encountered in the study of the theories of physics. Unfortunately the concept of natural selection is intimately intertwined with the other basic concepts of evolutionary theory—such as the (...) concepts of fitness and adaptation —that are themselves philosophically controversial. Fortunately we can make considerable headway in getting clear on natural selection without solving all of those outstanding problems. (shrink)
There is a worry that the ‘major transitions in evolution’ represent an arbitrary group of events. This worry is warranted, and we show why. We argue that the transition to a new level of hierarchy necessarily involves a nonselectionist chance process. Thus any unified theory of evolutionary transitions must be more like a general theory of fortuitous luck, rather than a rigid formulation of expected events. We provide a systematic account of evolutionary transitions based on a second-order regularity of chance (...) events, as stipulated by the ZFEL (Zero Force Evolutionary Law). And in doing so, we make evolutionary transitions explainable and predictable, and so not entirely contingent after all. (shrink)
Although the change of beliefs in the face of new information has been widely studied with some success, the revision of other mental states has received little attention from the theoretical perspective. In particular, intentions are widely recognised as being a key attitude for rational agents, and while several formal theories of intention have been proposed in the literature, the logic of intention revision has been hardly considered. There are several reasons for this: perhaps most importantly, intentions are very closely (...) connected with other mental states—in particular, beliefs about the future and the abilities of the agent. So, we cannot study them in isolation. We must consider the interplay between intention revision and the revision of other mental states, which complicates the picture considerably. In this paper, we present some first steps towards a theory of intention revision. We develop a simple model of an agent's mental states, and define intention revision operators. Using this model, we develop a logic of intention dynamics, and then investigate some of its properties. (shrink)
Rational agents are important objects of study in several research communities, including economics, philosophy, cognitive science, and most recently computer science and artificial intelligence. Crudely, a rational agent is an entity that is capable of acting on its environment, and which chooses to act in such a way as to further its own best interests. There has recently been much interest in the use of mathematical logic for developing formal theories of such agents. Such theories view agents as practical reasoning (...) systems, deciding moment by moment which action to perform next, given the beliefs they have about the world and their desires with respect to how they would like the world to be. In this article, we survey the state of the art in developing logical theories of rational agency. Following a discussion on the dimensions along which such theories can vary, we briefly survey the logical tools available in order to construct such theories. We then review and critically assess three of the best known theories of rational agency: Cohen and Levesque's intention logic, Rao and Georgeff's BDI logics, and the KARO framework of Meyer et al. We then discuss the various roles that such logics can play in helping us to engineer rational agents, and conclude with a discussion of open problems. (shrink)
In this paper Wimsatt's analysis of units of selection is taken as defining the units of selection question. A definition of levels of selection is offered and it is shown that the levels of selection question is quite different from the units of selection question. Some of the relations between units and levels are briefly explored. It is argued that the levels of selection question is the question relevant to explanatory concerns, and it is suggested that it is the question (...) relevant to ontological concerns. (shrink)
Since it was first proposed by Moses, Shoham, and Tennenholtz, the social laws paradigm has proved to be one of the most compelling approaches to the offline coordination of multiagent systems. In this paper, we make four key contributions to the theory and practice of social laws in multiagent systems. First, we show that the "Alternating-time Temporal Logic" of Alur, Henzinger, and Kupferman provides an elegant and powerful framework within which to express and understand social laws for multiagent systems. Second, (...) we show that the effectiveness, feasibility, and synthesis problems for social laws may naturally be framed as atl model checking problems, and that as a consequence, existing atl model checkers may be applied to these problems. Third, we show that the complexity of the feasibility problem in our framework is no more complex in the general case than that of the corresponding problem in the Shoham—Tennenholtz framework. Finally, we show how our basic framework can easily be extended to permit social laws in which constraints on the legality or otherwise of some action may be explicitly required. We illustrate the concepts and techniques developed by means of a running example. (shrink)
We add a limited but useful form of quantification to Coalition Logic, a popular formalism for reasoning about cooperation in game-like multi-agent systems. The basic constructs of Quantified Coalition Logic (QCL) allow us to express such properties as "every coalition satisfying property P can achieve φ" and "there exists a coalition C satisfying property P such that C can achieve φ". We give an axiomatisation of QCL, and show that while it is no more expressive than Coalition Logic, it is (...) nevertheless exponentially more succinct. The complexity of QCL model checking for symbolic and explicit state representations is shown to be no worse than that of Coalition Logic, and satisfiability for QCL is shown to be no worse than satisfiability for Coalition Logic. We illustrate the formalism by showing how to succinctly specify such social choice mechanisms as majority voting, which in Coalition Logic require specifications that are exponentially long in the number of agents. (shrink)
In this paper, we reflect on current notions of engineering practice by examining some of the motives for engineered solutions to the problem of climate change. We draw on fields such as science and technology studies, the philosophy of technology, and environmental ethics to highlight how dominant notions of apoliticism and ahistoricity are ingrained in contemporary engineering practice. We argue that a solely technological response to climate change does not question the social, political, and cultural tenet of infinite material growth, (...) one of the root causes of climate change. In response to the contemporary engineering practice, we define an activist engineer as someone who not only can provide specific engineered solutions, but who also steps back from their work and tackles the question, What is the real problem and does this problem “require” an engineering intervention? Solving complex problems like climate change requires radical cultural change, and a significant obstacle is educating engineers about how to conceive of and create “authentic alternatives,” that is, solutions that differ from the paradigm of “technologically improving” our way out of problems. As a means to realize radically new solutions, we investigate how engineers might deploy the concept of praxis, which raises awareness in engineers of the inherent politics of technological design. Praxis empowers engineers with a more comprehensive understanding of problems, and thus transforms technologies, when appropriate, into more socially just and ecologically sensitive interventions. Most importantly, praxis also raises a radical alternative rarely considered—not “engineering a solution.” Activist engineering offers a contrasting method to contemporary engineering practice and leads toward social justice and ecological protection through problem solving by asking not, How will we technologize our way out of the problems we face? but instead, What really needs to be done? (shrink)
This paper proposes a revision of our understanding of causation that is designed to address what Hartry Field has suggested is the central problem in the metaphysics of causation today: reconciling Bertrand Russell’s arguments that the concept of causation can play no role in the advanced sciences with Nancy Cartwright’s arguments that causal concepts are essential to a scientific understanding of the world. The paper shows that Russell’s main argument is, ironically, very similar to an argument that Cartwright has put (...) forward against the truth of universal laws of nature. The paper uses this insight to develop an account of causation that does justice to traditional views yet avoids the arguments of Russell. (shrink)
Clatterbuck et al. (Biol Philos 28: 577–592, 2013) argue that there is no fact of the matter whether selection dominates drift or vice versa in any particular case of evolution. Their reasons are not empirically based; rather, they are purely conceptual. We show that their conceptual presuppositions are unmotivated, unnecessary and overly complex. We also show that their conclusion runs contrary to current biological practice. The solution is to recognize that evolution involves a probabilistic sampling process, and that drift is (...) a deviation from probabilistic expectation. We conclude that conceptually, there are no problems with distinguishing drift from selection, and empirically—as modern science illustrates—when drift does occur, there is a quantifiable fact of the matter to be discovered. (shrink)
We introduce a logic specifically designed to support reasoning about social choice functions. The logic includes operators to capture strategic ability, and operators to capture agent preferences. We establish a correspondence between formulae in the logic and properties of social choice functions, and show that the logic is expressively complete with respect to social choice functions, i.e., that every social choice function can be characterised as a formula of the logic. We prove that the logic is decidable, and give a (...) complete axiomatization. To demonstrate the value of the logic, we show in particular how it can be applied to the problem of determining whether a social choice function is strategy-proof. (shrink)
Presented here are three research studies examining psychological characteristics underlying attitudes toward the use of nonhuman animals: beliefs and value systems; their comparative impact on opinions; and empathetic responses to humans and to animals. The first study demonstrated that the attitudes of laypeople are context dependent: different sets of beliefs underlie attitudes toward various types of animal use. Belief in the existence of alternatives was especially important, accounting alone for 40% of the variance in attitudes. The second study compared the (...) opinions, beliefs, value systems, and empathetic responses of scientists, animal welfarists, and laypeople. Results demonstrated that laypersons are most similar to the science community, not the animal welfare community. Scientists and laypeople differed on very few measures, whereas animal welfarists differed on most measures. The third study demonstrated a causal link between belief and attitude: manipulating “perceptions of choice” led to a significant change in support for animal use. These studies explain how individuals and groups can have dramatically different attitudes toward animal use and demonstrate how opinions can be changed. (shrink)
The principle of natural selection is stated. It connects fitness values (actual reproductive success) with expected fitness values. The term 'adaptedness' is used for expected fitness values. The principle of natural selection explains differential fitness in terms of relative adaptedness. It is argued that this principle is absolutely central to Darwinian evolutionary theory. The empirical content of the principle of natural selection is examined. It is argued that the principle itself has no empirical biological content, but that the presuppositions of (...) its applicability are empirical. They form the empirical biological core of evolutionary theory. (shrink)