When cognitive neuropsychologists make inferences about the functional architecture of the normal mind from selective cognitive impairments they generally assume that the effects of brain damage are local, that is, that the nondamaged components of the architecture continue to function as they did before the damage. This assumption follows from the view that the components of the functional architecture are modular, in the sense of being informationally encapsulated. In this target article it is argued that this “locality” assumption is probably (...) not correct in general. Inferences about the functional architecture can nevertheless be made from neuropsychological data with an alternative set of assumptions, according to which human information processing is graded, distributed, and interactive. These claims are supported by three examples of neuropsychological dissociations and a comparison of the inferences obtained from these impairments with and without the locality assumption. The three dissociations are: selective impairments in knowledge of living things, disengagment of visual attention, and overt face recognition. In all three cases, the neuropsychological phenomena lead to more plausible inferences about the normal functional architecture when the locality assumption is abandoned. Also discussed are the relations between the locality assumption in neuropsychology and broader issues, including Fodor's modularity hypothesis and the choice between top-down and bottom-up research approaches. (shrink)
One of the reasons why moral enhancement may be controversial, is because the advantages of moral enhancement may fall upon society rather than on those who are enhanced. If directed at individuals with certain counter-moral traits it may have direct societal benefits by lowering immoral behavior and increasing public safety, but it is not directly clear if this also benefits the individual in question. In this paper, we will discuss what we consider to be moral enhancement, how different means may (...) be used to achieve it and whether the means we employ to reach moral enhancement matter morally. Are certain means to achieve moral enhancement wrong in themselves? Are certain means to achieve moral enhancement better than others, and if so, why? More specifically, we will investigate whether the difference between direct and indirect moral enhancement matters morally. Is it the case that indirect means are morally preferable to direct means of moral enhancement and can we indeed pinpoint relevant intrinsic, moral differences between both? We argue that the distinction between direct and indirect means is indeed morally relevant, but only insofar as it tracks an underlying distinction between active and passive interventions. Although passive interventions can be ethical provided specific safeguards are put in place, these interventions exhibit a greater potential to compromise autonomy and disrupt identity. (shrink)
Can the theory and practice of the yogic tradition serve as a challenge to dominant cultural and political norms in the Western world? In this essay I demonstrate that modern yoga is a creature of fabrication, while arguing that yogic norms can simultaneously reinforce and challenge the norms of contemporary Western neoliberal societies. In its current and most common iteration in the West, yoga practice does stand in danger of reinforcing neoliberal constructions of selfhood. However, yoga does contain ample resources (...) for challenging neoliberal subjectivity, but this requires reading the yogic tradition in a particular way, to emphasize certain philosophical elements over others, while directing its practice toward an inward-oriented detachment from material outcomes and desires. Contemporary claims about yoga’s counterhegemonic status often rely on exaggerated notions of its former “purity” and “authenticity,” which belie its invented and retrospectively reconstructed nature. Rather than engaging in these debates about authenticity, scholars and practitioners may productively turn their energies toward enacting a resistant, anti-neoliberal practice of yoga, while remaining self-conscious about the particularity and partiality of the interpretive position on which such a practice is founded. (shrink)
Philosophy is often conceived in the Anglophone world today as a subject that focuses on questions in particular ‘‘core areas,’’ pre-eminently epistemology and metaphysics. This article argues that the contemporary conception is a new version of the scholastic ‘‘self-indulgence for the few’’ of which Dewey complained nearly a century ago. Philosophical questions evolve, and a first task for philosophers is to address issues that arise for their own times. The article suggests that a renewal of philosophy today should turn the (...) contemporary conception inside out, attending to and developing further the valuable work being done on the supposed ‘‘periphery’’ and attending to the ‘‘core areas’’ only insofar as is necessary to address genuinely significant questions. (shrink)
Personhood is a foundational concept in ethics, yet defining criteria have been elusive. In this article we summarize attempts to define personhood in psychological and neurological terms and conclude that none manage to be both specific and non-arbitrary. We propose that this is because the concept does not correspond to any real category of objects in the world. Rather, it is the product of an evolved brain system that develops innately and projects itself automatically and irrepressibly onto the world whenever (...) triggered by stimulus features such as a human-like face, body, or contingent patterns of behavior. We review the evidence for the existence of an autonomous person network in the brain and discuss its implications for the field of ethics and for the implicit morality of everyday behavior. (shrink)
Our ethical obligations to another being depend at least in part on that being’s capacity for a mental life. Our usual approach to inferring the mental state of another is to reason by analogy: If another being behaves as I do in a circumstance that engenders a certain mental state in me, I conclude that it has engendered the same mental state in him or her. Unfortunately, as philosophers have long noted, this analogy is fallible because behavior and mental states (...) are only contingently related. If the other person is acting, for example, we could draw the wrong conclusion about his or her mental state. In this article I consider another type of analogy that can be drawn between oneself and another to infer the mental state of the other, substituting brain activity for behavior. According to most current views of the mind–body problem, mental states and brain states are non-contingently related, and hence inferences drawn with the new analogy are not susceptible to the alternative interpretations that plague the behavioral analogy. The implications of this approach are explored in two cases for which behavior is particularly unhelpful as a guide to mental status: severely brain–damaged patients who are incapable of intentional communicative behavior, and nonhuman animals whose behavioral repertoires are different from ours and who lack language. (shrink)
What if neurofeedback or other types of neurotechnological treatment, by itself or in combination with behavioral treatment, could achieve a successful “rewiring” of the psychopath’s brain? Imagine that such treatments exist and that they provide a better long-term risk-minimizing strategy compared to imprisonment. Would it be ethical to offer such treatments as a condition of probation, parole, or prison release? In this paper, I argue that it can be ethical to offer effective, non-invasive neurotechnological treatments to offenders as a condition (...) of probation, parole, or prison release provided that: the status quo is in no way cruel, inhuman, degrading, or in some other way wrong, the treatment option is in no way cruel, inhuman, degrading, or in some other way wrong, the treatment is in the best interests of the offender, and the offender gives his/her informed consent. (shrink)
Neuroethics has developed rapidly, driven in large part by developments in neuroscience. This article reviews neuroethics from the standpoint of its growing real-world relevance. It opens up with an analysis of the history of neuroscience that suggests the reason for the emergence of neuroethics now, in the early twenty-first century. It proceeds to survey current applications of neuroscience to diverse real-world problems. Published research in the field of neuromarketing is more focused on academic issues, such as the nature of the (...) brain activity underlying consumer behavior and the accuracy of brain-behavior predictions, than it is on the real-world utility of neuromarketing for improving business. Finally, this article concludes with a discussion of the ethical issues raised by these developments, and outlines three general challenges for society in the age of neuroscience. (shrink)
Within the United States, the most prominent justification for criminal punishment is retributivism. This retributivist justification for punishment maintains that punishment of a wrongdoer is justified for the reason that she deserves something bad to happen to her just because she has knowingly done wrong—this could include pain, deprivation, or death. For the retributivist, it is the basic desert attached to the criminal’s immoral action alone that provides the justification for punishment. This means that the retributivist position is not reducible (...) to consequentialist considerations nor in justifying punishment does it appeal to wider goods such as the safety of society or the moral improvement of those being punished. A number of sentencing guidelines in the U.S. have adopted desert as their distributive principle, and it is increasingly given deference in the “purposes” section of state criminal codes, where it can be the guiding principle in the interpretation and application of the code’s provisions. Indeed, the American Law Institute recently revised the Model Penal Code so as to set desert as the official dominate principle for sentencing. And courts have identified desert as the guiding principle in a variety of contexts, as with the Supreme Court’s enthroning retributivism as the “primary justification for the death penalty.” While retributivism provides one of the main sources of justification for punishment within the criminal justice system, there are good philosophical and practical reasons for rejecting it. One such reason is that it is unclear that agents truly deserve to suffer for the wrongs they have done in the sense required by retributivism. In the first section, I explore the retributivist justification of punishment and explain why it is inconsistent with free will skepticism. In the second section, I then argue that even if one is not convinced by the arguments for free will skepticism, there remains a strong epistemic argument against causing harm on retributivist grounds that undermines both libertarian and compatibilist attempts to justify it. I maintain that this argument provides sufficient reason for rejecting the retributive justification of criminal punishment. I conclude in the third section by briefly sketching my public health-quarantine model, a non-retributive alternative for addressing criminal behavior that draws on the public health framework and prioritizes prevention and social justice. I argue that the model is not only consistent with free will skepticism and the epistemic argument against retributivism, it also provides the most justified, humane, and effective way of dealing with criminal behavior. (shrink)
Mountaineering is a dangerous activity. For many mountaineers, part of its very attraction is the risk, the thrill of danger. Yet mountaineers are often regarded as reckless or even irresponsible for risking their lives. In this paper, we offer a defence of risk-taking in mountaineering. Our discussion is organised around the fact that mountaineers and non-mountaineers often disagree about how risky mountaineering really is. We hope to cast some light on the nature of this disagreement – and to argue that (...) mountaineering may actually be worthwhile because of the risks it involves. Section 1 introduces the disagreement and, in doing so, separates out several different notions of risk. Sections 2–4 then consider some explanations of the disagreement, showing how a variety of phenomena can skew people's risk judgements. Section 5 then surveys some recent statistics, to see whether these illuminate how risky mountaineering is. In light of these considerations, however, we suggest that the disagreement is best framed not simply in terms of how risky mountaineering is but whether the risks it does involve are justified. The remainder of the paper, sections 6–9, argues that risk-taking in mountaineering often is justified – and, moreover, that mountaineering can itself be justified by and because of the risks it involves. (shrink)
If someone abstains from meat-eating for reasons of taste or personal economics, no moral or philosophical question arises. But when a vegetarian attempts to persuade others that they, too, should adopt his diet, then what he says requires philosophical attention. While a vegetarian might argue in any number of ways, this essay will be concerned only with the argument for a vegetarian diet resting on a moral objection to the rearing and killing of animals for the human table. The vegetarian, (...) in this laense, does not merely require us to change or justify our eating habits, but to reconsider our attitudes and behaviour towards members of other species across a wide range of practices. (shrink)
This paper explores the ‘indigenous’ philosophy of education of Syed Muhammad Naquib al-Attas, a Malay-Muslim scholar who’s theoretical work culminated in the establishment of a counter-colonial higher education institution. Through presenting al-Attas’ life and philosophy and by exploring the arguments of his critics, I aim to shed light on the challenges and paradoxes faced by indigenous academics working at the interface of philosophy and education.
Is rhetoric just a new and trendy way to épater les bourgeois? Unfortunately, I think that the newfound interest of some economists in rhetoric, and particularly Donald McCloskey in his new book and subsequent responses to critics, gives that impression. After economists have worked so hard for the past five decades to learn their sums, differential calculus, real analysis, and topology, it is a fair bet that one could easily hector them about their woeful ignorance of the conjugation of Latin (...) verbs or Aristotle's Six Elements of Tragedy. Moreover, it has certainly become an academic cliché that economists write as gracefully and felicitously as a hundred monkeys chained to broken typewriters. The fact that economists still trot out Keynes's prose in their defense is itself an index of the inarticulate desperation of an inarticulate profession. (shrink)
Roger Crisp has inspired two important criticisms of Scanlon's buck-passing account of value. I defend buck-passing from the wrong kind of reasons criticism, and the reasons and the good objection. I support Rabinowicz and Rønnow-Rasmussen's dual role of reasons in refuting the wrong kind of reasons criticism, even where its authors claim it fails. Crisp's reasons and the good objection contends that the property of goodness is buck-passing in virtue of its formality. I argue that Crisp conflates general and formal (...) properties, and that Scanlon is ambiguous about whether the formal property of a reason can stop the buck. Drawing from Wallace, I respond to Crisp's reasons and the good objection by developing an augmented buck-passing account of reasons and value, where the buck is passed consistently from the formal properties of both to the substantive properties of considerations and evaluative attitudes. I end by describing two unresolved problems for buck-passers. (shrink)
The evolutionary claim that the function of self-awareness lies, at least in part, in the benefits of theory of mind (TOM) regained attention in light of current findings in cognitive neuroscience, including mirror neuron research. Although certain non-human primates most likely possess mirror self-recognition skills, we claim that they lack the introspective abilities that are crucial for human-like TOM. Primate research on TOM skills such as emotional recognition, seeing versus knowing and ignorance versus knowing are discussed. Based upon current findings (...) in cognitive neuroscience, we provide evidence in favor of an introspection-based simulation theory account of human mindreading. (shrink)
During the last three decades, reflections on the growth of scientific knowledge have inspired historians, sociologists, and some philosophers to contend that scientific objectivity is a myth. In this book, Kitcher attempts to resurrect the notions of objectivity and progress in science by identifying both the limitations of idealized treatments of growth of knowledge and the overreactions to philosophical idealizations. Recognizing that science is done not by logically omniscient subjects working in isolation, but by people with a variety of personal (...) and social interests, who cooperate and compete with one another, he argues that, nonetheless, we may conceive the growth of science as a process in which both our vision of nature and our ways of learning more about nature improve. Offering a detailed picture of the advancement of science, he sets a new agenda for the philosophy of science and for other "science studies" disciplines. (shrink)
This paper discusses the use of deep brain stimulation for the treatment of neurological and psychiatric disorders in children. At present, deep brain stimulation is used to treat movement disorders in children and a few cases of deep brain stimulation for psychiatric disorders in adolescents have been reported. Ethical guidelines on the use of deep brain stimulation in children are therefore urgently needed. This paper focuses on the decision-making process, and provides an ethical framework for (future) treatment decisions in pediatric (...) deep brain stimulation. I defend a shared decision-making model in case of deep brain stimulation for neurological and psychiatric disorders in children. To protect the vulnerable child patient, a dual consent process is needed where parents or parental guardians give their consent, and the child gives his/her assent. (shrink)
Recently there has been some discussion concerning a particular type of enhancement, namely ‘ moral enhancement ’. However, there is no consensus on what precisely constitutes moral enhancement, and as a result the concept is used and defined in a wide variety of ways. In this article, we develop a clarificatory taxonomy of these definitions and we identify the criteria that are used to delineate the concept. We think that the current definitions can be distinguished from each other by the (...) criteria used for determining whether an intervention is indeed moral enhancement. For example, some definitions are broad and include moral enhancement by any means, while other definitions focus only on moral enhancement by means of specific types of intervention. Moreover, for some definitions it suffices for an intervention to be aimed or intended to morally enhance a person, while other definitions only refer to ‘ moral enhancement ’ in relation to interventions that are actually effective. For all these differences in definitions we discuss some of their implications. This shows that definitions are significantly less descriptive and more normative than they are regularly portrayed to be. We therefore hope that the taxonomy developed in this paper and the comments on the implications for the normative debate of the variety of definitions will provide conceptual clarity in a complex and highly interesting debate. (shrink)
The debate on the ethical aspects of moral bioenhancement focuses on the desirability of using biomedical as opposed to traditional means to achieve moral betterment. The aim of this paper is to systematically review the ethical reasons presented in the literature for and against moral bioenhancement.
I argue here that a clearer conception of Gandhi's nonviolence is required in order to understand his resonance for contemporary environmentalism. Gandhi's nonviolence incorporates elements of both the brahmin or ascetic, as well as the ksatriya or warrior. Contemporary environmental movements by and large over-emphasize the self-abnegating, self-denying and self-scrutinizing ascetic components of Gandhi's thought, to the neglect of the confrontational and warrior-like ones. In so doing, they often also over-emphasize the ethical dimension of Gandhi's thought, missing the discursive political (...) dimension with which this Gandhian ethics is interwoven. I will argue here that the warrior-like and confrontational political aspect of Gandhi's nonviolence must be brought to the fore in discussions of environmentalism. In so doing, Gandhi can be read as an advocate of a certain form of "ecological" citizenship, requiring both the scrutiny of one's bodily consumptive behaviours, as well as the placement of one's body on the frontlines of aggressive political contestation. (shrink)
Jonathan Glover and I, while not in such deep disagreement about the ethics of killing as to make all communication impossible, still disagree enough to make sustained confrontation worthwhile. At minimum, such confrontation should make it clear what are the most fundamental issues at stake in ethical arguments about various kinds of killing.