Challenging, with several powerful arguments, some of our deepest beliefs about rationality, morality, and personal identity, Parfit claims that we have a false view about our own nature. It is often rational to act against our own best interersts, he argues, and most of us have moral views that are self-defeating. We often act wrongly, although we know there will be no one with serious grounds for complaint, and when we consider future generations it is very hard to avoid conclusions (...) that most of us will find very disturbing. (shrink)
In this paper I shall suggest that philosophy which bases itself firmly inlife is incompatible with idealism. The example of such a philosophy to be discussed is the later work of Wittgenstein, and I shall define in what sense this is ‘based in life’, with particular reference to his concept of ‘Lebensform’, or ‘life-form’. I shall understand idealism to be, in general terms, the doctrine that idea is the primary, or the only, category of being. Various kinds of idealism may (...) then be distinguished according to the precise definition each gives of ‘idea’, and of the category, if any, which is held to be less fundamental. Thus, in brief, in Platonic idealism, absolute immaterial being is ontologically prior to the changing world given to sense-experience; in the idealistic systems of more modern thought, mind is more fundamental than matter; or again, subject, or spirit, is more fundamental than object. While the various systems of idealism are properly classed together so far as they assign priority to the concept idea, it is clear that they differ in their interpretations of the concept. When one has in mind these differences, it is of course misconceived to speak of idealism as a single doctrine; nevertheless, it is plausible to suppose that philosophers have been led to apply the term ‘idealism’ to various systems despite their differences, because there is indeed a common tendency of thought to be found in them. The present paper takes this supposition as a working hypothesis, with the particular aim of establishing that philosophy based in life is incompatible with philosophy based in idea, whatever be reasonably meant by ‘idea’. In brief my argument will be this: that life is no idea. (shrink)
This is a major work in moral philosophy, the long-awaited follow-up to Parfit's 1984 classic Reasons and Persons, a landmark of twentieth-century philosophy. Parfit now presents a powerful new treatment of reasons and a critical examination of the most prominent systematic moral theories, leading to his own ground-breaking conclusion.
There are many different oughts. There is a moral ought, a prudential ought, an epistemic ought, the legal ought, the ought of etiquette, and so on. These oughts can prescribe incompatible actions. What I morally ought to do may be different from what I self-interestedly ought to do. Philosophers have claimed that these conflicts are resolved by an authoritative ought, or by facts about what one ought to do simpliciter or all-things-considered. However, the only coherent notion of an ought simpliciter (...) has preposterous first-order normative commitments. It is more reasonable to reject the ought simpliciter in favor of the form of normative pluralism advocated in (Tiffany 2007). (shrink)
Scientists often make surprising claims about things that no one can observe. In physics, chemistry, and molecular biology, scientists can at least experiment on those unobservable entities, but what about researchers in fields such as paleobiology and geology who study prehistory, where no such experimentation is possible? Do scientists discover facts about the distant past or do they, in some sense, make prehistory? In this book Derek Turner argues that this problem has surprising and important consequences for the scientific (...) realism debate. His discussion covers some of the main positions in philosophy of science - realism, social constructivism, empiricism, and the natural ontological attitude - and shows how they relate to issues in paleobiology and geology. His original and thought-provoking book will be of wide interest to philosophers and scientists alike. (shrink)
We can start with some science fiction. Here on Earth, I enter the Teletransporter. When I press some button, a machine destroys my body, while recording the exact states of all my cells. This information is sent by radio to Mars, where another machine makes, out of organic materials, a perfect copy of my body. The person who wakes up on Mars seems to remember living my life up to the moment when I pressed the button, and is in every (...) other way just like me. (shrink)
According to the Repugnant Conclusion: Compared with the existence of many people who would all have some very high quality of life, there is some much larger number of people whose existence would be better, even though these people would all have lives that were barely worth living. I suggest some ways in which we might be able to avoid this conclusion. I try to defend a strong form of lexical superiority.
One of the central debates within contemporary Anglo-American political philosophy concerns how to formulate an egalitarian theory of distributive justice which gives coherent expression to egalitarian convictions and withstands the most powerful anti-egalitarian objections. This book brings together many of the key contributions to that debate by some of the world’s leading political philosophers: Richard Arneson, G.A. Cohen, Ronald Dworkin, Thomas Nagel, Derek Parfit, John Rawls, T.M. Scanlon, and Larry Temkin.
In the wake of the paleobiological revolution of the 1970s and 1980s, paleontologists continue to investigate far-reaching questions about how evolution works. Many of those questions have a philosophical dimension. How is macroevolution related to evolutionary changes within populations? Is evolutionary history contingent? How much can we know about the causes of evolutionary trends? How do paleontologists read the patterns in the fossil record to learn about the underlying evolutionary processes? Derek Turner explores these and other questions, introducing the (...) reader to exciting recent work in the philosophy of paleontology and to theoretical issues including punctuated equilibria and species selection. He also critically examines some of the major accomplishments and arguments of paleontologists of the last 40 years. (shrink)
Jerrold Levinson maintains that he is a realist about aesthetic properties. This paper considers his positive arguments for such a view. An argument from Roger Scruton, that aesthetic realism would entail the absurd claim that many aesthetic predicates were ambiguous, is also considered and it is argued that Levinson is in no worse position with respect to this argument than anyone else. However, Levinson cannot account for the phenomenon of aesthetic autonomy: namely, that we cannot be put in a position (...) to make an aesthetic judgement by testimony alone. Finally, Levinson's views on the ontology of aesthetic properties are considered and found wanting. (shrink)
The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has recently issued a revised "Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants" (IFAC Code). As a requirement for membership in IFAC, a national accounting organization must either adopt the IFAC Code or adopt a code of conduct that is not "less stringent" than the IFAC Code. In this paper, we examine the extent to which 158 national accounting organizations have adopted the revised IFAC Code as their own. Our results indicate that 80 of our sample (...) organizations have adopted the IFAC Code (sometimes with minor modifications), while the remaining 78 opted not to utilize the model IFAC Code. We then test the hypothesis that national accounting organizations in lower income economies would be less likely to adopt the IFAC Code than those in high income economies. Our results do not support the hypothesis. We argue that one potential reason for such a finding is that adopting the IFAC Code may be a cost effective means of adopting a code of ethics for organizations in lower income economies. (shrink)
Do fictions depend upon imagination? Derek Matravers argues against the mainstream view that they do, and offers an original account of what it is to read, listen to, or watch a narrative. He downgrades the divide between fiction and non-fiction, largely dispenses with the imagination, and in doing so illuminates a succession of related issues.
The effects of mental disorder are apparent and pervasive, in suffering, loss of freedom and life opportunities, negative impacts on education, work satisfaction and productivity, complications in law, institutions of healthcare, and more. With a new edition of the 'bible' of psychiatric diagnosis - the DSM - under developmental, it is timely to take a step back and re-evalutate exactly how we diagnose and define mental disorder. This new book by Derek Bolton tackles the problems involved in the definition (...) and boundaries of mental disorder. It addresses two main questions regarding mental illness. Firstly, what is the basis of the standards or norms by which we judge that a person has a mental disorder - that the person's mind is not working as it should, that their mental functioning is abnormal? Controversies about these questions have been dominated by the contrast between norms that are medical, scientific or natural, on the one hand, and social norms on the other. The norms that define mental disorder seem to belong to psychiatry, to be medical and scientific, but are they really social norms, hijacked and disguised by the medical profession? Secondly, what is the validity of the distinction between mental disorder and order, between abnormal and normal mental functioning? To what extent, notwithstanding appearances, does mental disorder involve meaningful reactions and problem-solving? These responses may be to normal problems of living, or to not so normal problems - to severe psycho-social challenges. Is there after all order in mental disorder? With the closing of asylums and the appearance of care in the community, mental disorder is now in our midst. While attempts have been made to define clearly a concept of mental disorder that is truly medical as opposed to social, there is increasing evidence that such a distinction is unviable - there is no clear line between what is normal in the population and what is abnormal. 'What is Mental Disorder?' reviews these various crucial developments and their profound impact for the concept and its boundaries in a provocative and timely book. (shrink)
Over the last quarter century, the dominant tendency in comparative cognitive psychology has been to emphasize the similarities between human and nonhuman minds and to downplay the differences as (Darwin 1871). In the present target article, we argue that Darwin was mistaken: the profound biological continuity between human and nonhuman animals masks an equally profound discontinuity between human and nonhuman minds. To wit, there is a significant discontinuity in the degree to which human and nonhuman animals are able to approximate (...) the higher-order, systematic, relational capabilities of a physical symbol system (PSS) (Newell 1980). We show that this symbolic-relational discontinuity pervades nearly every domain of cognition and runs much deeper than even the spectacular scaffolding provided by language or culture alone can explain. We propose a representational-level specification as to where human and nonhuman animals' abilities to approximate a PSS are similar and where they differ. We conclude by suggesting that recent symbolic-connectionist models of cognition shed new light on the mechanisms that underlie the gap between human and nonhuman minds. (shrink)
This book presents an accessible and groundbreaking new look at the evolution of consciousness. It traces its origins back to early man's primordial emotions - those elicited from basic needs such as hunger and thirst.
Derek Parfit presents the third volume of On What Matters, his landmark work of moral philosophy. Parfit develops further his influential treatment of reasons, normativity, the meaning of moral discourse, and the status of morality. He engages with his critics, and shows the way to resolution of their differences.
This paper discusses varieties of normative phenomena, ranging from morality, to epistemic justification, to the rules of chess. It canvases a number of distinctions among these different normative phenomena. The most significant distinction is between formal and authoritative normativity. The prior is the normativity exhibited by any standard one can meet or fail to meet. The latter is the sort of normativity associated with phenomena like the "all-things-considered" ought. The paper ends with a brief discussion of reasons for skepticism about (...) authoritative normativity. (shrink)
When we have a normative reason, and we act for that reason, it becomes our motivating reason. But we can have either kind of reason without having the other. Thus, if I jump into the canal, my motivating reason was provided by my belief; but I had no normative reason to jump. I merely thought I did. And, if I failed to notice that the canal was frozen, I had a reason not to jump that, because it was unknown to (...) me, did not motivate me. Though we can have normative reasons without being motivated, and vice versa, such reasons are closely related to our motivation. There are, however, very different views about what this relation is. This disagreement raises wider questions about what normative reasons are, and about which reasons there are. After sketching some of these views, I shall discuss some arguments by Williams, and then say where, in my opinion, the truth lies. [...] I [will] suggest why, as I believe, we should be non-reductive normative realists, and should regard all reasons as external. (shrink)
The International Federation of Accountants (IFAC) has issued a revised “Code of Ethics for Professional Accountants” (IFAC Code). The IFAC Code is intended to be a model code of ethics for national accounting organizations throughout the world. Prior research demonstrates that approximately 50% of IFAC member organizations have adopted the IFAC Code as their organizational code of conduct. There is therefore empirical evidence that international convergence of accounting ethical standards is occurring. We employ Hofstede’s ( 2008 , http://www.geert-hofstede.com/hofstede_dimensions.php ) cultural (...) dimensions in an attempt to empirically explain accounting organizations’ decisions about whether to adopt the IFAC Code or to retain their organization-specific code. Our results indicate that accounting organizations in cultures with high levels of Individualism and Uncertainty Avoidance are less likely to adopt the model IFAC Code. Organizations in high Individualism and Uncertainty Avoidance societies are therefore less likely to surrender the setting of ethical standards to an outside, international organization. (shrink)
Derek Matravers introduces students to the philosophy of art through a close examination of eight famous works of twentieth-century art. Each work has been selected in order to best illustrate and illuminate a particular problem in aesthetics. Each artwork forms a basis for a single chapter and readers are introduced to such issues as artistic value, intention, interpretation, and expression through a careful analysis of the artwork. Questions considered include what does art mean in contemporary art practice? Is the (...) artistic value of a painting the same as how much you like it? If a painting isn't of anything, then how do we understand it? Can art be immoral? By grounding abstract and theoretical discussion in real examples the book provides an excellent way into the subject for readers new to the philosophical dimension of art appreciation. (shrink)
It is generally acknowledged that confabulation undermines the authority of self-attribution of mental states. But why? The mainstream answer is that confabulation misrepresents the actual state of one’s mind at some relevant time prior to the confabulatory response. This construal, we argue, rests on an understanding of self-attribution as first-person mindreading. Recent developments in the literature on folk psychology, however, suggest that mental state attribution also plays an important role in regulating or shaping future behaviour in conformity with normative expectations. (...) We explore an analogue understanding of self-attribution of mental states in terms of first-person mindshaping. The main aim of this paper is to explore how this insight alters the implications of empirical confabulation studies on first-person authority. We also indicate how this sheds new light on the phenomenon of confabulation itself. (shrink)
To generate explanatory theory, ecologists must wrestle with how to represent the extremely many, diverse causes behind phenomena in their domain. Early twentieth-century plant ecologists Frederic E. Clements and Henry A. Gleason provide a textbook example of different approaches to explaining vegetation, with Clements allegedly committed, despite abundant exceptions, to a law of vegetation, and Gleason denying the law in favor of less organized phenomena. However, examining Clements's approach to explanation reveals him not to be expressing a (...) law, and instead to be developing an explanatory structure without laws, capable of progressively integrating causal complexity. Moreover, Clements and Gleason largely agree on the causes of vegetation; but, since causal understanding here underdetermines representation, they differ on how to integrate recognized causes into general theory---that is, in their methodologies. Observers of the case may have mistakenly assumed that scientific representation across the disciplines typically aims at laws like Newton's, and that representations always reveal scientists' metaphysical commitments. Ironically, in the present case, this assumption seems to have been made even by observers who regard Clements as naı¨ve for his alleged commitment to an ecological law. (shrink)
Joseph Raz and Sergio Tenenbaum argue that the Guise of the Good thesis explains both the possibility of practical reason and its unity with theoretical reason, something Humean psychological theories may be unable to do. This paper will argue, however, that Raz and Tenenbaum face a dilemma: either the version of the Guise of the Good they offer is too strong to allow for weakness of will, or it will lose its theoretical advantage in preserving the unity of reason.
It has long been widely agreed that some concepts can be possessed only by those who have undergone a certain type of phenomenal experience. Orthodoxy among contemporary philosophers of mind has it that these phenomenal concepts provide the key to understanding many disputes between physicalists and their opponents, and in particular offer an explanation of Mary’s predicament in the situation exploited by Frank Jackson's knowledge argument. I reject the orthodox view; I deny that there are phenomenal concepts. My arguments exploit (...) the sort of considerations that are typically used to motivate externalism about mental content. Although physicalists often appeal to phenomenal concepts to defend their view against the knowledge argument, I argue that this is a mistake. The knowledge argument depends on phenomenal concepts; if there are no phenomenal concepts, then the knowledge argument fails. (shrink)
Mark Schroeder has argued that all reasonable forms of inconsistency of attitude consist of having the same attitude type towards a pair of inconsistent contents (A-type inconsistency). We suggest that he is mistaken in this, offering a number of intuitive examples of pairs of distinct attitudes types with consistent contents which are intuitively inconsistent (B-type inconsistency). We further argue that, despite the virtues of Schroeder's elegant A-type expressivist semantics, B-type inconsistency is in many ways the more natural choice in developing (...) an expressivist account of moral discourse. We close by showing how to adapt ordinary formality-based accounts of logicality to define a B-type account of logical inconsistency and distinguish it from both semantic and pragmatic inconsistency. In sum, we provide a roadmap of how to develop a successful B-type expressivism. (shrink)
This article discusses the relation between prioritarian and egalitarian principles, whether and why we need to appeal to both kinds of principle, how prioritarians can answer various objections, especially those put forward by Michael Otsuka and Alex Voorhoeve, the moral difference between cases in which our acts could affect only one person or two or more people, veil of ignorance contractualism and utilitarianism, what prioritarians should claim about cases in which the effects of our acts are uncertain, the relative moral (...) importance of actual and expectable benefits, whether people should sometimes be given various chances of receiving benefits, and principles that appeal to competing claims. (shrink)
The extraordinary events surrounding the measles, mumps, and rubella vaccine in the United Kingdom have not only placed in jeopardy the use of this triple vaccine but have also spread concern to other parts of the world. Examination of the public’s worry about MMR vaccine reveals they have been exposed to a range of conflicting views resulting in the feeling of having been misled about the safety of the vaccine. There are various groups and individuals who have legitimate roles in (...) informing the public about such subjects. But is each one behaving in an ethically responsible way? And if confidence falters, vaccine coverage dips, and an outbreak of measles, mumps, or rubella ensues, who, if anyone, will stand and say “I misled them, I confused them, this is my responsibility”? We examine the ethical issues of each group with a voice in the debate about vaccine safety. (shrink)
It is now widely accepted that microorganisms play many important roles in the lives of plants and animals. Every macroorganism has been shaped in some way by microorganisms. The recognition of the ubiquity and importance of microorganisms has led some to argue for a revolution in how we understand biological individuality and the primary units of natural selection. The term “holobiont” was introduced as a name for the biological unit made up by a host and all of its associated microorganisms, (...) and much of this new debate about biological individuality has focused on whether holobionts are integrated individuals or communities. In this paper, I show how parts of the holobiont can span both characterizations. I argue that most holobionts share more affinities with communities than they do with organisms, and that, except for maybe in rare cases, holobionts do not meet the criteria for being organisms, evolutionary individuals, or units of selection. (shrink)
This paper offers a paleobiological perspective on the debate concerning the possible use of biotechnology to bring back extinct species. One lesson from paleobiology is that extinction selectivity matters in addition to extinction rates and extinction magnitude. Combining some of Darwin’s insights about artificial selection with the theory of species selection that paleobiologists developed in the 1970s and 1980s provides a useful context for thinking about de-extinction. Using recent work on the prioritization of candidate species for de-extinction as a test (...) case, the paper argues that de-extinction would be a form of artificial species selection in which humans influence which species persist vs. go extinct. This points to a serious gap in our ethical theory: Much work has been done to clarify the value of biological diversity, but we also need theoretical guidance for decisions that amount to species sorting, and that will shape the macroevolutionary future. (shrink)
This paper develops a critical response to John Beatty’s recent (2006) engagement with Stephen Jay Gould’s claim that evolutionary history is contingent. Beatty identifies two senses of contingency in Gould’s work: an unpredictability sense and a causal dependence sense. He denies that Gould associates contingency with stochastic phenomena, such as drift. In reply to Beatty, this paper develops two main claims. The first is an interpretive claim: Gould really thinks of contingency has having to do with stochastic effects at the (...) level of macroevolution, and in particular with unbiased species sorting. This notion of contingency as macro-level stochasticity incorporates both the causal dependence and the unpredictability senses of contingency. The second claim is more substantive: Recent attempts by other scientists to put Gould’s claim to the test fail to engage with the hypothesis that species sorting sometimes resembles a lottery. Gould’s claim that random sorting is a significant macroevolutionary phenomenon remains an intriguing and largely untested live hypothesis about evolution. (shrink)