I will argue that a person is causally responsible for believing what she does. Through inference, she can sustain and change her perspective on the world. When she draws an inference, she causes herself to keep or to change her take on things. In a literal sense, she makes up her own mind as to how things are. And, I will suggest, she can do this voluntarily. It is in part because she is causally responsible for believing what she does (...) that there are things that she ought to believe, and that what she believes can be to her credit or discredit. I won’t pursue these ethical matters here, but will focus instead on the metaphysics that underpin them. (shrink)
Research involving human subjects is much more stringently regulated than many other nonresearch activities that appear to be at least as risky. A number of prominent figures now argue that research is overregulated. We argue that the reasons typically offered to justify the present system of research regulation fail to show that research should be subject to more stringent regulation than other equally risky activities. However, there are three often overlooked reasons for thinking that research should be treated as a (...) special case. First, research typically involves the imposition of risk on people who do not benefit from this risk imposition. Second, research depends on public trust. Third, the complexity of the moral decision making required favors ethics committees as a regulative solution for research. (shrink)
This paper argues that it is possible to knowingly believe something while judging that one ought not to believe it and (so) viewing the belief as manifesting a sort of failure. I offer examples showing that such ‘alienated belief’ has several potential sources. I contrast alienated belief with self-deception, incontinent (or akratic) belief and half-belief. I argue that the possibility of alienated belief is compatible with the so-called ‘transparency’ of first-person reflection on belief, and that the descriptive and expressive difficulties (...) it involves stem from well-understood sources. I conclude by speculating that endorsed belief is in important respects like intentional action. Reflection on the possibility of alienated belief may thus help us to see one respect in which an agent can be responsible for her attitudes. (shrink)
A natural view is that linguistic understanding is a source of justification or evidence: that beliefs about the meaning of a text or speech act are prima facie justified when based on states of understanding. Neglect of this view is largely due to the widely held assumption that understanding a text or speech act consists in knowledge or belief. It is argued that this assumption rests, in part, on confusing occurrent states of understanding and dispositions to understand. It is then (...) argued that occurrent states of understanding are not states of belief of knowledge since a subject may fail to believe that a text or speech act means what she understands it to mean if she doubts the reliability or truth- fulness of that understanding. States of understanding, it is maintained, belong in the same epistemic category as states of perception and memory. (shrink)
Presently, there is a movement in the UK research governance framework towards what is referred to as proportional ethical review. Proportional ethical review is the notion that the level of ethical review and scrutiny given to a research project ought to reflect the level of ethical risk represented by that project. Relatively innocuous research should receive relatively minimal review and relatively risky research should receive intense scrutiny. Although conceptually attractive, the notion of proportional review depends on the possibility of effectively (...) identifying the risks and ethical issues posed by an application with some process other than a full review by a properly constituted research ethics committee. In this paper, it is argued that this cannot be achieved and that the only appropriate means of identifying risks and ethical issues is consideration by a full committee. This implies that the suggested changes to the National Health Service research ethics system presently being consulted on should be strenuously resisted. (shrink)
Ebbs’s aim is to “come to terms with and move beyond currently entrenched ways of looking at central topics in the philosophy of language and mind”. The entrenched perspectives are Metaphysical Realism, the view that “we can make ‘objective’ assertions only if we can ‘grasp’ metaphysically independent ‘truth conditions”’, and Scientific Naturalism, “Quine’s view that ‘it is within science itself that reality is to be identified and described”’. Ebbs intends to replace these with what he calls the “Participant Perspective,” from (...) which alone, he says, a satisfactory understanding of our linguistic behavior can be had. His work constitutes, I think, a stimulating and highly original contribution to the field. (shrink)
A natural view is that linguistic understanding is a source of justification or evidence: that beliefs about the meaning of a text or speech act are prima facie justified when based on states of understanding. Neglect of this view is largely due to the widely held assumption that understanding a text or speech act consists in knowledge or belief. It is argued that this assumption rests, in part, on confusing occurrent states of understanding and dispositions to understand. It is then (...) argued that occurrent states of understanding are not states of belief of knowledge since a subject may fail to believe that a text or speech act means what she understands it to mean if she doubts the reliability or truthfulness of that understanding. States of understanding, it is maintained, belong in the same epistemic category as states of perception and memory. (shrink)
Widescopism, as I call it, holds that names are synonymous with descriptions that are required to take wide scope over modal adverbs. Scott Soames has recently argued that Widescopism is false. He identifies an argument that is valid but which, he claims, a defender of Widescopism must say has true premises and a false conclusion. I argue, first, that a defender of Widescopism need not in fact say that the target arguments conclusion is false. Soames argument that she must confuses, (...) I claim, modal adverbs and modal predicates. I then argue that even if she did reject the conclusion, she could nonetheless hold that the target arguments first premise is ambiguous as between a true reading, on which the argument is invalid, and a false reading, on which the argument is valid. I conclude that Soames argument against Widescopism fails. (shrink)
In their development of causal decision theory, Allan Gibbard and William Harper advocate a particular method for calculating the expected utility of an action, a method based upon the probabilities of certain counterfactuals. Gibbard and Harper then employ their method to support a two-box solution to Newcomb’s paradox. This paper argues against some of Gibbard and Harper’s key claims concerning the truth-values and probabilities of counterfactuals involved in expected utility calculations, thereby disputing their analysis of Newcomb’s Paradox. If we are (...) right, then Gibbard and Harper’s method of calculating expected utility does not adequately represent rational choice. (shrink)
Contemporary philosophy of mind has tended to make the believer disappear. In response, Matt Boyle and Pamela Hieronymi have argued that believing is an act or activity, not a mental state. I argue that this response fails to fully critique contemporary accounts of believing. Such accounts assume that states of believing are particulars; with semantic properties; that we attend to in reflection and act on in inference; and with a rich causal life of their own. Together, these assumptions leave no (...) room for the believer in an account of believing. But these assumptions are not entailed by the idea that believing is a mental state. Careful reflection on other kinds of states helps us see how to put the believer back in the heart of our account of believing. (shrink)
The current system of ethical review for medical research in the United Kingdom is changing from the current system involving large committees of 7–18 members reviewing every individual application to a system involving pre-review by small sub-committees of National Research Ethics Officers , who have a remit to approve studies if they believe there are no material ethical issues imposed by the research. The reliability of this new system depends on the reliability of the NREAs and in particular the ability (...) of small groups to effectively identify and appropriately assess the seriousness of all the material ethical issues that may be posed by an application. There is anecdotal evidence to suggest that many individual research ethics committee members have had experience of believing that a study presents no material ethical concerns, then on reaching the committee and discussing the application they realise that the committee feels it does present significant ethical concerns. If this is the case then this casts doubt on the reliability of NREAs or small groups to effectively identify ethically problematic research and appropriately respond to this to protect research participants. In this paper we describe a small questionnaire based piece of research carried out to assess how common this and other relevant experiences are. (shrink)
In this brief paper I intend to make some distinctions between the activities that research ethics committees are required to undertake as part of their role in protecting research participants. These functions are, identifying ethical issues and risks within research projects, providing advice on how to resolve these issues and risks without compromising the validity of the research and finally, when this cannot be achieved, deciding whether the research should still be allowed to go ahead. Distinguishing these distinct functions allows (...) us to determine what an appropriate membership of a Research Ethics Committee is. I will sketch out the implications of these functions for the appropriate membership of NHS and university based ethics committees in the UK. (shrink)
The history of the National Health Service research ethics system in the UK and some of the key drivers for its change into the present system are described. It is suggested that the key drivers were the unnecessary delay of research, the complexity of the array of processes and contradictions between research ethics committee (REC) decisions. It is then argued that the primary drivers for this change are and will be replicated by the systems of research ethics review being put (...) in place at UK universities in response to the Economic and Social Research Council research ethics framework. It is argued that this is particularly problematic for multi-centre review and for researchers who switch institutions. Finally, some potential solutions to this problem and their feasibility are discussed. (shrink)
Did Donald Davidson agree with G.E.M. Anscombe that action requires a distinctive form of agential awareness? The answer is No, at least according to the standard interpretation of Davidson’s account of action. A careful study of Davidson’s early writings, however, reveals a much more subtle conception of the role of agential belief in action. While the role of the general belief in Davidson’s theory is familiar and has been much discussed, virtually no attention has been paid to the singular belief. (...) This essay makes a start on remedying this neglect. I begin, in section 1, by examining Davidson’s claim that for a desire or belief to rationalize and cause an action it must have a suitable generality. It must, he says, be ‘logically independent’ of the action itself. While he was clear about this requirement in the case of the desire that forms part of a person’s primary reason, I show in section 2 that his early treatment of belief confuses general and singular beliefs. This confusion reflects his failure clearly to distinguish the two roles belief can play in his account of action: as rationalizing cause and as agential awareness. Somewhat surprisingly, though, after he carefully drew the distinction and announced that intentional action requires practical knowledge, he pretty much ignored it. This may explain why some have assumed that Davidson parted ways with Anscombe on this. But a careful study of their writings shows that in fact they held remarkably similar views on the nature and need for practical knowledge. (shrink)
Some philosophical proposals seem to die hard. In a recent paper, Jason Stanley has worked to resurrect the description theory of reference, at least as it might apply to natural kind terms like ‘elm’ (Stanley, 1999). The theory’s founding idea is that to understand ‘elm’ one must know a uniquely identifying truth about elms. Famously, Hilary Putnam showed that ordinary users of ‘elm’ may understand it while lacking such knowledge, and may even be unable to distinguish elms from beeches (Putnam, (...) 1975). In response, Stanley claims that linguistic understanding in the case of natural kind terms comes in levels, and that only those at the top level need have the knowledge in question. The description theory, in Stanley’s hands, applies only to those with top level understanding and it is their understanding that ﬁxes the term’s reference. To use the term successfully, those with inferior understanding need only be defer- ential to those at the top. However, Stanley’s appeal to expert knowledge fails to revive the description theory. (shrink)
This paper looks at the issue of consent from children and whether the test of Gillick competency, applied in medical and healthcare practice, ought to extend to participation in research. It is argued that the relatively broad usage of the test of Gillick competency in the medical context should not be considered applicable for use in research. The question of who would and could determine Gillick competency in research raises further concerns relating to the training of the researcher to make (...) such a decision as well as to the obvious issue of the researcher’s personal interest in the project and possibility of benefiting from the outcome. These could affect the judgment of Gillick competency if the researcher is charged with making this decision. The above notwithstanding, there are two exceptional research situations in which Gillick competency might be legitimately applied: when the research is likely to generate significant advantages for the participants while exposing them to relatively minor risks, and when it is likely to generate great societal benefit, pose minimal risks for the participants and yet raise parental objection. In both cases, to ensure that autonomy is genuinely respected and to protect against personal interest, Gillick competency should be assessed by an individual who has no interest or involvement in the research. (shrink)
A recurring objection to the exploration, development and deployment of radical new technologies is based on their implications with regards to social justice. In this article, using synthetic biology as an example, I explore this line of objection and how we ought to think about justice in the context of the development and introduction of radically new technologies. I argue that contrary to popular opinion, justice rarely provides a reason not to investigate, develop and introduce radical new technologies, although it (...) may have significant implications for how they ought to be introduced. In particular I focus on the time dependency of justice objections and argue that often these function by looking only at the implications of the introduction of the technology at the point of introduction, rather than the more important long-term impact on patterns of distribution and opportunity. (shrink)
I argue that entertaining a proposition is not an action. Such events do not have intentional explanations and cannot be evaluated as rational or not. In these respects they contrast with assertions and compare well with perceptual events. One can control what one thinks by doing something, most familiarly by reciting a sentence. But even then the event of entertaining the proposition is not an action, though it is an event one has caused to happen, much as one might cause (...) oneself to see a book by looking at it. I also discuss how this may support the view that thinking about the world is a source of information about it. (shrink)
Direct-to-consumer advertising is banned in Australia, and instead pharmaceutical companies use disease awareness campaigns as a strategy to raise public awareness of conditions for which the company produces a treatment. This practice has been justified by promoting individual autonomy and public health, but it has attracted criticism regarding medicalisation of normal health and ageing, and exaggeration of the severity of the condition in question, imbalanced reporting of risks and benefits, and damaging the patient–clinician relationship. While there are benefits of disease (...) awareness promotion, there is another possible adverse consequence that has not yet been rigorously considered: the possibility of inducing a nocebo response via the campaign. We will discuss the creation of a nocebo response in this context. (shrink)
Coordination problems, problems in which each agent's expected utility depends upon what other agents do, pose a problem for act utilitarianism. When the agents are act utilitarians and know of each other that they are so, they seem unable to achieve optimal outcomes in certain coordination problems. I examine various ways the act utilitarian might attempt to solve this problem, where act utilitarianism is interpreted within the framework of subjective expected utility theory. In particular, a new method for computing expected (...) utility,dynamic deliberation, deserves examination as a possible act utilitarian solution to coordination problems. I argue that even dynamic deliberation fails to give the act utilitarian what he needs in coordination problems, and that the failure of act utilitarianism for such problems suggests the need for an alternative theory of moral choice along rule utilitarian lines. (shrink)
This article considers the question whether belief ascriptions exhibit context dependence. I first distinguish two potential forms of context dependence in belief ascription. Propositional context dependence concerns what the subject believes, whereas attitudinal context dependence concerns what it is to believe a proposition. I then discuss three potential sources of PCD and two potential sources of ACD. Given the nature of this article, my discussion will provide only an overview of these various forms and sources of context dependence. Along the (...) way I will identify areas where continued research is needed. (shrink)
I argue that while practical reasoning is essentially first personal it does not require having essentially first personal thoughts. I start with an example of good practical reasoning. Because there is debate about what practical reasoning is, I discuss how different sides in those debates can accommodate my example. I then consider whether my example involves essentially first personal thoughts. It is not always clear what philosophers who would claim that it must have in mind. I identify two features of (...) essentially personal thoughts that they share with their impersonal counterparts: they have the same truth conditions and can have the same evidential bases. I next argue that my example of good practical reasoning does not involve any thoughts other than the impersonal ones of the kind I identified. I defend this conclusion against several objections. One pair of objections starts from claims to the effect that there can be no difference in two people’s actions, or in the reasons they have, without a difference in their beliefs or desires. I argue that these claims are false. I then consider an alleged skeptical possibility that often motivates the idea that practical reasoning requires special first personal beliefs. I conclude the paper by suggesting that what Anscombe called an ‘overly contemplative’ conception of knowledge and belief encourages this skeptical possibility. If we think of having a belief as like having a map of the world, then we will easily think that we need self-locating beliefs the way we need ‘I am here’ stickers on maps. The best response, I suggest, is to reject the image that beliefs are like maps. (shrink)
Terence Parsons has recently given a consistent formahzation of Meinong's Theory of Objects. The interest in this theory lies in its postulation of nonexistent objects. An important implication of the theory is that we commonly refer to nonexistent objects. In particular, the theory is committed to taking fictional entities as objects of reference. Yet it is difficult to see how reference to fictional entities can be estabHshed if Parsons' theory is correct. This difficulty diminishes the attractiveness of the theory and (...) also raises questions as to the ability of the theory to give a satisfactory account of intentional attitudes towards fictional entities. (shrink)
Significant changes are proposed for the research ethics system governing the review of the conduct of medical research in the UK. This paper examines these changes and whether they will meet the aimed-for goal of improving the efficiency of the research ethics system. The author concludes that, unfortunately, they will not and thus should be rejected.
There is considerable controversy about the mandatory ethics review of research. This paper engages with the arguments offered by Murray Dyck and Gary Allen against mandatory review, namely, that this regulation fails to reach the standards that research ethics committees apply to research since it is harmful to the ethics of researchers, has little positive evidence base, leads to significant harms (through delaying valuable research) and distorts the nature of research. As these are commonplace arguments offered by researchers against regulation (...) it is useful to assess their strength and the conclusion that they are taken to support, namely, that we ought to move back to a system of trust in researchers without compulsory regulation. Unfortunately, these arguments are at best weak and to some degree come into conflict in terms of supporting the desired conclusion. (shrink)
In this short note, we discuss several aspectsof “dimensions” and the related constructof “factors”. We concentrate on those aspectsthat are relevant to articles in this specialissue, especially those dealing with the analysisof the wild animal cases discussed inBerman and Hafner's 1993 ICAIL article. We reviewthe basic ideas about dimensions,as used in HYPO, and point out differences withfactors, as used in subsequent systemslike CATO. Our goal is to correct certainmisconceptions that have arisen over the years.
This paper is about what is distinctive about first-person beliefs. I discuss several sets of puzzling cases of first-person belief. The first focus on the relation between belief and action, while the second focus on the relation of belief to subjectivity. I argue that in the absence of an explanation of the dispositional difference, individuating such beliefs more finely than truth conditions merely marks the difference. I argue that the puzzles reveal a difference in the ways that I am disposed (...) to revise my beliefs about myself. This point develops the insight that Anscombe and others had that those of an agent's beliefs about himself that manifest that special self-consciousness are not based on observation, testimony or inference. The puzzles show that this kind of self-consciousness involves, not a special kind of belief or even a special kind of self-reference, but a special kind of belief revision policy. (shrink)
Research ethics committees should ensure that there has been a direct enquiry into research participants' moral and spiritual beliefs so as to ensure that volunteers are not inadvertently being led into doing things that might contravene their beliefs.
In attempting to build intelligent litigation support tools, we have moved beyond first generation, production rule legal expert systems. Our work integrates rule based and case based reasoning with intelligent information retrieval.When using the case based reasoning methodology, or in our case the specialisation of case based retrieval, we need to be aware of how to retrieve relevant experience. Our research, in the legal domain, specifies an approach to the retrieval problem which relies heavily on an extended object oriented/rule based (...) system architecture that is supplemented with causal background information. We use a distributed agent architecture to help support the reasoning process of lawyers. (shrink)
In this paper, I try to make sense of the idea that true knowledge attributions characterize something that is more valuable than true belief and that survives even if, as Contextualism implies, contextual changes make it no longer identifiable by a knowledge attribution. I begin by sketching a familiar, pragmatic picture of assertion that helps us to understand and predict how the words “S knows that P” can be used to draw different epistemic distinctions in different contexts. I then argue (...) that the examples provided by Cohen and DeRose meant to illustrate Contextualism fail to do so, and I construct an example that does. I conclude by considering the response that an objective assessment of skepticism depends, not on what we might use sentences of the form “S knows that P” to say, but on what such sentences themselves say—on their literal, context-invariant meanings. I argue that there is little reason to believe that our words have such context-invariant meanings, and I suggest that the pragmatic picture of assertion can secure a rich enough conception of objectivity to address the skeptic. (shrink)
The common ground in an inquiry consists of what the participants agree on, at least for the sake of the inquiry. The relations between the factual and linguistic components of common ground are notoriously difficult to trace. I clarify them by exploring how modal disagreements – disagreements about how things might be – interact with the linguistic and the factual common ground. I argue that modal agreement is essential to common ground of any kind.