Many economists and philosophers assume that status quo bias is necessarily irrational. I argue that, in some cases, status quo bias is fully rational. I discuss the rationality of status quo bias on both subjective and objective theories of the rationality of preferences. I argue that subjective theories cannot plausibly condemn this bias as irrational. I then discuss one kind of objective theory, which holds that a conservative bias toward existing things of value is rational. This account can fruitfully explain (...) some compelling aspects of common sense morality, and it may justify status quo bias. (shrink)
The process of adopting a child is “not for the faint of heart.” This is what we were told the first time we, as a couple, began this process. Part of the challenge lies in fulfilling the licensing requirements for adoption, which, beyond the usual home study, can include mandatory participation in parenting classes. The question naturally arises for many people who are subjected to these requirements whether they are morally justified. We tackle this question in this paper. In our (...) view, while strong reasons exist in favour of licensing adoptive parents, these reasons support the licensing not only of adoptive parents, but of all or some subset of so-called “natural” parents as well. We therefore conclude that the status quo with respect to parental licensing, according to which only adoptive parents need to be licensed, is morally unjustified. (shrink)
The local food movement has been touted by some as a profoundly effective way to make our food system become more healthy, just, and sustainable. Others have criticized the movement as being less a challenge to the status quo and more an easily co-opted support offering just another set of choices for affluent consumers. In this paper, we analyze three distinct sub-movements within the local food movement, the individual-focused sub-movement, the systems-focused sub-movement, and the community-focused sub-movement. These movements can be (...) combined within any particular campaign or within the goals of any particular organization or individual activist, but they are nevertheless quite different from each other, and come out of different conceptualizations of what food, people, and locality are. We argue that most of the critiques leveled against local food are actually directed against the individual-focused sub-movement, which is most compatible with the current industrial food system, and perhaps not surprisingly receives the most mainstream attention. Further, we argue that while each movement has its own strengths and weaknesses, it is the community-focused sub-movement that has the most potential to radically transform the global food system. (shrink)
Preferences play a role in well-being that is difficult to escape, but whatever authority one grants to preferences, their malleability seems to cause problems for any theory of well-being that employs them. Most importantly, preferences appear to display a status-quo bias: people come to prefer what they are likely rather than unlikely to get. I try to do two things here. The first is to provide a more precise characterization of the status-quo bias, how it functions, and how it infects (...) commonly accepted theories of well-being. The second is to give an alternative characterization of an agent's preferences that succeeds in avoiding the status-quo bias. (shrink)
Bostrom and Ord’s reversal test has been appealed to by many philosophers to substantiate the charge that preferences for status quo options are motivated by status quo bias. I argue that their characterization of the reversal test needs to be modified, and that their description of the burden of proof it imposes needs to be clarified. I then argue that there is a way to meet that burden of proof which Bostrom and Ord fail to recognize. I also argue that (...) the range of circumstances in which the reversal test can be usefully applied is narrower than they recognize. (shrink)
The status quo on parental licensing in most Western jurisdictions is that licensing is required in the case of adoption but not in the case of assisted or unassisted biological reproduction. To have a child via adoption, one must fulfill licensing requirements, which, beyond the usual home study, can include mandatory participation in parenting classes. One is exempt from these requirements, however, if one has a child via biological reproduction, including assisted reproduction involving donor gametes or a contract pregnancy. In (...) an earlier paper, we challenged this system of parental licensing by showing that arguments in favour of it do not succeed. One argument we failed to consider, however, is that prospective biological parents have a right to reproduce that protects them against the sort of state interference that is involved in parental licensing. According to this argument, because prospective adoptive parents do not exercise a similar right when attempting to become parents, they are not similarly protected. In this paper, we argue that this reproductive rights argument, like other arguments in favour of the status quo on parental licensing, is flawed. We also question whether people in fact have a right to reproduce, and in doing so distinguish this right from others that we think are legitimate, including a right to become a parent and a right to bodily autonomy. (shrink)
ABSTRACTAs neo-Aristotelian character education approaches have become more popular, the list of objections has increased too. This paper focuses on the objection that while character education proponents claim to be ‘progressive’ and ‘reformative’ they seem to maintain the educational status quo. This paper examines what happens to neo-Aristotelian character education approaches when they are implemented in schools. First, a range of authors is consulted that has critically followed character education approaches, in particular the one advocated by the Jubilee Centre for (...) Character and Virtues. Second, the Bildung tradition is discussed, which was also intended as a progressive and cosmopolitan project, but was used by German governments in the 19th century to fashion the nation state. Finally, a comparison between the two approaches is made, raising the question whether it is possible for states to run an education system that does not distort ideals of what it means to be human. (shrink)
This is a review essay about David Corfield and Jon Williamson's anthology Foundations of Bayesianism. Taken together, the fifteen essays assembled in the book assess the state of the art in Bayesianism. Such an assessment is timely, because decision theory and formal epistemology have become disciplines that are no longer taught on a routine basis in good philosophy departments. Thus we need to ask: Quo vadis, Bayesianism? The subjects of the articles include Bayesian group decision theory, approaches to the concept (...) of probability, Bayesian approaches in the philosophy of mathematics, reflections on the relationship between causation and probability, the Independence axiom, and a range of criticisms of Bayesianism, among other subjects. While critical of some of the arguments presented in the articles, this review recommends Corfield and Williamson's volume to anyone who is trying to stay abreast of Bayesian research. (shrink)
Some writers have noted that valuation is often focused on foreseen changes. They say that we often don't value situations in terms of what we would have in them only but also in terms of the gains or losses that they offer us — that we then focus on departures from our status quo. They argue that such thinking conflicts with basic economic analysis, and also that it violates logic: they say that it is irrational. I agree that it seems (...) to be common. But is such a way of setting one's values a challenge to economics? And does it conflict with being rational? (shrink)
Harold Jaffe argues that we should adopt opt-out testing for HIV. There are paternalistic and utilitarian arguments for such an approach. In this commentary I draw attention to some similarities between his arguments and debates about opt-out systems of organ donation. I argue that the status quo bias provides both part of the reason that opt-out approaches work, and an explanation for why such approaches are sometimes resisted.
A quid pro quo is an exchange of value between a citizen or group—often a businessperson or organization—and an official; whatthe citizen or group offers can take either monetary or nonmonetary form and what the official supplies, in return, is some kind of public act. Despite the fact that instances of quid pro quo seem continually to compel public attention, very few rise to the level of bribery; i.e., the level in which they are resolved judicially. In part, quid pro (...) quo eludes judicial forums for factual reasons: It is difficult to prove. And in part, the reasons are normative: The distinction between objectionable quid pro quo and acceptable democratic norms—on which citizens and groups ought to be able to support officials who are in turn responsive to them—is difficult to draw. Hence, a great gray area of quid pro quo finds itself resolved in political forums. In what follows I examine central strands of American public discourse over the factual and normative issues of quid pro quo. My purpose is to articulate those principles which most parsimoniously account for its structure, and to explore what presuppositions various discourse-participants either explicitly or implicitly bring to bear in determining whether a situation constitutes a troubling quid pro quo. (shrink)
A quid pro quo is an exchange of value between a citizen or group—often a businessperson or organization—and an official; whatthe citizen or group offers can take either monetary or nonmonetary form and what the official supplies, in return, is some kind of public act. Despite the fact that instances of quid pro quo seem continually to compel public attention, very few rise to the level of bribery; i.e., the level in which they are resolved judicially. In part, quid pro (...) quo eludes judicial forums for factual reasons: It is difficult to prove. And in part, the reasons are normative: The distinction between objectionable quid pro quo and acceptable democratic norms—on which citizens and groups ought to be able to support officials who are in turn responsive to them—is difficult to draw. Hence, a great gray area of quid pro quo finds itself resolved (or at least debated) in political forums. In what follows I examine central strands of American public discourse over the factual and normative issues of quid pro quo. My purpose is to articulate those principles which most parsimoniously account for its structure, and to explore what presuppositions various discourse-participants either explicitly or implicitly bring to bear in determining whether a situation constitutes a troubling quid pro quo. (shrink)
Shortly after his accidental transformation into an ass, Lucius attempts to return to his human form by grabbing some roses decorating a statue of the patron goddess of the quadrupeds, Epona. But his servulus feels outraged at the sacrilegious act. Jumping to his feet in a temper and acting as a faithful defender of the sacred place, he addresses his former human owner as a new ‘Catiline’ : Quod me pessima scilicet sorte conantem servulus meus, cui semper equi cura mandata (...) fuerat, repente conspiciens indignatus exurgit et: ‘quo usque tandem’ inquit ‘cantherium patiemur istum paulo ante cibariis iumentorum, nunc etiam simulacris deorum infestum? Quin iam ego istum sacrilegum debilem claudumque reddam.’ My attempt was frustrated by what seemed to be the worst of luck: my own dear servant, who always had the task of looking after my horse, suddenly saw what was going on, and jumped up in a rage. ‘For how long’, he cried, ‘are we to endure this clapped-out beast? A minute ago his target was the animals' rations, and now he is attacking even the statues of deities! See if I don't maim and lame this sacrilegious brute!’A self-evident instance of parody, the servant's words ironically reformulate one of the most familiar texts of Republican oratory, the famous opening of Cicero's first invective against Catiline, delivered before the assembled senate in the Temple of Jupiter Stator on 8 November 63 b.c.: the substitution of a low and familiar word such as cantherium for Catilinam underpins the comic undertone of the entire passage, imbued with further reminiscences of Cicero. Scholars debate whether the servant's verbal attack against Lucius is a parodic adaptation of Cicero's opening invective or rather a spoof on Catiline's paradoxical reading of Cicero's phrase in Sallust . It is safer to assume a case of double imitation, not unusual in Apuleius' work. (shrink)
Volume 1: The Dance of Civa Collum Originally published in 1927. "It has substance and thought to it." Spectator "A very interesting account of the work of Sir Jagadis Bose." Oxford Magazine This essay suggests that recognition of the ceaseless flow of the Dance of Civa is the most promising cure for the misunderstandings that have arisen from a Western habit of assuming that conventional categories have tangible existence. Quo Vadimus? Glimpses of the Future E E Fournier d’Albe Originally published (...) in 1925. "A wonderful vision of the future. A book that will be talked about." Daily Graphic "Interesting and singularly plausible" Daily Telegraph This volume discusses the possible advances of life on earth and asks whether a new race will arise or whether the earth will remain the dominant planet in the solar system for human life. 92pp. Ethnos or the Problem of Race Arthur Keith Originally published in 1931 The author argues that the global unrest of the 1930s arises from qualities inherent in human races and he maintains that if the world is to have peace the problems engendered by diversity of race must first be understood. 86pp Tantalus Or the Future of Man F C S Schiller Originally published in 1924. "…brilliantly clever…" Morning Post "Immensely valuable and infinitely readable" Daily News This volume discusses the threats which face mankind and ways in which destruction may be avoided. 66pp. (shrink)
Suppose that we develop a medically safe and affordable means of enhancing human intelligence. For concreteness, we shall assume that the technology is genetic engineering (either somatic or germ line), although the argument we will present does not depend on the technological implementation. For simplicity, we shall speak of enhancing “intelligence” or “cognitive capacity,” but we do not presuppose that intelligence is best conceived of as a unitary attribute. Our considerations could be applied to speciﬁc cognitive abilities such as verbal (...) ﬂuency, memory, abstract reasoning, social intelligence, spatial cognition, numerical ability, or musical talent. It will emerge that the form of argument that we use can be applied much more generally to help assess other kinds of enhancement technologies as well as other kinds of reform. However, to give a detailed illustration of how the argument form works, we will focus on the prospect of cognitive enhancement. (shrink)
The article investigates the intuition that both scientific realism and scientific antirealism are turning into degenerating research programs. The evolution of realism in reaction to pessimistic (meta)induction has certainly led to its increased sophistication as it has given rise to various versions of selective realism. However, many current discussions seem either too focused on semantic niceties or are turning into endless quarrels over case-study refutations of particular forms of realism. The point of finding a better understanding of the relations of (...) scientific knowledge to the world seems to get lost in the process. Magnus, Callender, and Saatsi are among those who see the problem. Although drawing on different observations, they agree that the source of the problem is the wholesale approach according to which it is possible to resolve the realism debate in one move, by finding a single universal method of interpreting any scientific theory. Instead, they call for a more modest approach, based on case-by-case analyses. Particularly promising is Saatsi's idea of exemplar realism, according to which realism should be an attitude motivating detailed case studies rather than a specific account of science in general. (shrink)
This Introduction has two foci: the first is a discussion of the motivation for and the aims of the 2014 conference on New Thinking about Scientific Realism in Cape Town South Africa, and the second is a brief contextualization of the contributed articles in this special issue of Synthese in the framework of the conference. Each focus is discussed in a separate section.
In this article I flesh out support for observations that scientific accounts of social groups can influence the very groups and mental phenomena under investigation. The controversial hypothesis that there are hardwired differences between the brains of males and females that contribute to sex differences in gender-typed behaviour is common in both the scientific and popular media. Here I present evidence that such claims, quite independently of their scientific validity, have scope to sustain the very sex differences they seek to (...) explain. I argue that, while further research is required, such claims can have self-fulfilling effects via their influence on social perception, behaviour and attitudes. The real effects of the products of scientists’ research on our minds and society, together with the fact that all scientific hypotheses are subject to dispute and disconfirmation, point to a need for scientists to consider the ethical implications of their work. (shrink)
So quantum mechanics has been an amazing success story. I stress this point at the outset, for two reasons. First, it is, unfortunately, all too easy to get used to success. Nowadays, both physicists, for whom the various quantum theories have ...
This article offers a critique of the recently revised BMA guidance on routine neonatal male circumcision and seeks to challenge the assumptions underpinning the guidance which construe this procedure as a matter of parental choice. Our aim is to problematise continued professional willingness to tolerate the non-therapeutic, non-consensual excision of healthy tissue, arguing that in this context both professional guidance and law are uncharacteristically tolerant of risks inflicted on young children, given the absence of clear medical benefits. By interrogating historical (...) medical explanations for this practice, which continue to surface in contemporary justifications of non-consensual male circumcision, we demonstrate how circumcision has long existed as a procedure in need of a justification. We conclude that it is ethically inappropriate to subject children—male or female—to the acknowledged risks of circumcision and contend that there is no compelling legal authority for the common view that male circumcision is lawful. (shrink)
Richard Rorty’s liberal utopia offers an interesting model for those who wish to explore the emancipatory potential of a post-foundational account of politics, specifically liberalism. What Rorty proposes is a form of liberalism that is divorced from its Kantian metaphysical foundations. This paper will focus on the gulf that appears between Rorty’s liberal utopia in theory, the political form that it must ultimately manifest itself in, and the consequences this has for debates on pluralism, diversity, and identity, within liberal political (...) thought. -/- The strength of Rorty’s liberal utopia, in his analysis, lies in the fact that with the rejection of philosophy and metaphysics, we can simply get on with the job of reducing cruelty through experimental tinkering with the liberal political system. Instead of trying to develop intellectually sophisticated justifications for why we act, we should just act. Political action, for Rorty, does not require a philosophical or metaphysical justification. However, upon closer critical examination, we can see that whatever potential Rorty’s liberal utopia may have in theory, this is negated by the fact that at the level of political praxis, his re-description of liberalism leaves us with a conception of liberalism that is essentially unchanged. Whilst Rorty has re-situated liberalism from the philosophical to the political, his solution fails to address any internal problems. (shrink)
A lot of research in cognition and decision making suffers from a lack of formalism. The quantum probability program could help to improve this situation, but we wonder whether it would provide even more added value if its presumed focus on outcome models were complemented by process models that are, ideally, informed by ecological analyses and integrated into cognitive architectures.