There is unanimous agreement that Nāgārjuna (ca 150–250 AD) is the most important Buddhist philosopher after the historical Buddha himself and one of the most original and influential thinkers in the history of Indian philosophy. His philosophy of the “middle way” (madhyamaka) based around the central notion of “emptiness” (śūnyatā) influenced the Indian philosophical debate for a thousand years after his death; with the spread of Buddhism to Tibet, China, Japan and other Asian countries the writings of Nāgārjuna became an (...) indispensable point of reference for their own philosophical inquiries. A specific reading of Nāgārjuna's thought, called Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka, became the official philosophical position of Tibetan Buddhism which regards it as the pinnacle of philosophical sophistication up to the present day. (shrink)
The neurosciences not only challenge assumptions about the mind’s place in the natural world but also urge us to reconsider its role in the normative world. Based on mind-brain dualism, the law affords only one-sided protection: it systematically protects bodies and brains, but only fragmentarily minds and mental states. The fundamental question, in what ways people may legitimately change mental states of others, is largely unexplored in legal thinking. With novel technologies to both intervene into minds and detect mental activity, (...) the law should, we suggest, introduce stand alone protection for the inner sphere of persons. We shall address some metaphysical questions concerning physical and mental harm and demonstrate gaps in current doctrines, especially in regard to manipulative interferences with decision-making processes. We then outline some reasons for the law to recognize a human right to mental liberty and propose elements of a novel criminal offence proscribing severe interventions into other minds. (shrink)
There is concern that the use of neuroenhancements to alter character traits undermines consumer's authenticity. But the meaning, scope and value of authenticity remain vague. However, the majority of contemporary autonomy accounts ground individual autonomy on a notion of authenticity. So if neuroenhancements diminish an agent's authenticity, they may undermine his autonomy. This paper clarifies the relation between autonomy, authenticity and possible threats by neuroenhancements. We present six neuroenhancement scenarios and analyse how autonomy accounts evaluate them. Some cases are considered (...) differently by criminal courts; we demonstrate where academic autonomy theories and legal reasoning diverge and ascertain whether courts should reconsider their concept of autonomy. We argue that authenticity is not an appropriate condition for autonomy and that new enhancement technologies pose no unique threats to personal autonomy. (shrink)
Freedom of thought is a fundamental human right, enshrined in many human rights treaties. It might very well be the only human right without any practical application. The paper reconstructs scope and meaning of this forgotten right and proposes four principles for its interpretation. In the age of neuroscientific insights and interventions into mind and brain that afford to alter thoughts, the time for the law to de fine freedom of thought in a way that lives up to its theoretical (...) significance has come. (shrink)
Ideas about freedom and related concepts like autonomy and self-determination play a prominent role in the moral debate about human enhancement interventions. However, there is not a single understanding of freedom available, and arguments referring to freedom are simultaneously used to argue both for and against enhancement interventions. This gives rise to misunderstandings and polemical arguments. The paper attempts to disentangle the different distinguishable concepts, classifies them and shows how they relate to one another in order to allow for a (...) more structured and clearer debate. It concludes in identifying the individual underpinnings and the social conditions of choice and decision-making as particularly salient dimensions of freedom in the ethical debate about human enhancement. (shrink)
ABSTRACT Ernst Fraenkel’s seminal study about Nazi law, in which he described the co-existence of a ‘normative state’ and a ‘prerogative state’ as principles of government, is to be rediscovered in the new age of the prerogative. Through a critical reading of The Dual State and other important texts by Fraenkel, this article seeks to contribute to the contemporary debate on regime types and governmental power in three regards: first, by clarifying Fraenkel’s concept of and perspective on law; second, by (...) discussing the methodological demands for the beneficial application of the dual state concept; and, third, by showing the usefulness of such an application, even beyond the field of authoritarian states in the narrower sense. Law-eroding prerogative developments cannot only be witnessed in hybrid regimes, but also in democratic states, which resort to reflections and practices of an ‘enemy criminal law’, and in the European Union’s recent crisis politics. (shrink)
Asgary and Smith (2013) identify an important challenge: the difficult position of physicians caught between the obligation to treat every human being with the same professional rigor, and their feelings of responsibility toward the state and its judicial decisions on asylum requests. The authors show that in some cases this conflict leads to a tendency to "sacrifice their medical responsibilities". The authors' core demand is that health care workers should be independent of the state and judiciary systems, and thus prioritize (...) the interests of the patient. We agree entirely with the authors, that well-performed documenting is the only ethically justifiable option and should not be influenced by a feeling of responsibility for contributing to judicial decisions. However, the authors also address the more general, and ethically more challenging, issue of the responsibility of health care workers and the state toward asylum seekers and ask, how much health care provision is appropriate? (shrink)
Nagarjuna's Vigrahavyavartani is one of the most important Madhyamaka Buddhist philosophical texts. Jan Westerhoff offers a new translation, reflecting the best current philological research and all available editions, and adds his own philosophical commentary on the text. His nuanced, philosophically sophisticated commentary explains Nagarjuna's arguments in a way that is both grounded in historical and textual scholarship and connected explicitly to contemporary philosophical concerns.
The Indian philosopher Acarya Nagarjuna (c. 150-250 CE) was the founder of the Madhyamaka (Middle Path) school of Mahayana Buddhism and arguably the most influential Buddhist thinker after Buddha himself. Indeed, in the Tibetan and East Asian traditions, Nagarjuna is often referred to as the "second Buddha." This book presents a survey of the whole of Nagarjuna's philosophy based on his key philosophical writings. His primary contribution to Buddhist thought lies in the further development of the concept of sunyata or (...) "emptiness." For Nagarjuna, all phenomena are without any svabhava, literally "own-nature" or "self-nature," and thus without any underlying substance. Particular emphasis is put on discussing Nagarjuna's thinking as philosophy. The present discussion shows how his thoughts on metaphysics, epistemology, the self, language, and truth present a unified theory of reality with considerable systematic appeal. The book offers a systematic account of Nagarjuna's philosophical position. It reads Nagarjuna in his own philosophical context, but also shows that the issues of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist philosophy have at least family resemblances to issues in European philosophy. (shrink)
The concept of an ontological category is central to metaphysics. Metaphysicians argue about which category of existence an object should be assigned to, whether one category can be reduced to another one, or whether there might be different equally adequate systems of categorization. Answers to these questions presuppose a clear understanding of what precisely an ontological category is, and Jan Westerhoff now provides the first in-depth analysis. After examining a variety of attempted definitions, he proceeds to argue for a (...) new understanding of ontological categories, according to which they are systematizations of our knowledge of the world rather than essential characteristics of the world itself. Metaphysicians will find his work highly stimulating. (shrink)
Jan Westerhoff unfolds the story of one of the richest episodes in the history of Indian thought, the development of Buddhist philosophy during the first millennium CE. He aims to offer the reader a systematic grasp of key Buddhist concepts such as non-self, suffering, reincarnation, karma, and nirvana.
Madhyamaka philosophy has been frequently characterized as nihilism, not just by its Buddhist and non-Buddhist opponents, but also by some contemporary Buddhologists. This characterization might well strike us as surprising. First, nihilism appears to be straightforwardly inconsistent. It would be curious if a philosophical school holding such an obviously deficient view would have acquired the kind of importance Madhyamaka has acquired in the Asian intellectual landscape over the last two millenia. Second, Madhyamaka by its very name proclaims to tread the (...) “middle way”, and what if anything would count as an extreme position but the view that there is nothing? This essay addresses both the systematic status of nihilist theories as well as the historical contexts in which Madhyamaka has been characterized as nihilistic, aiming to throw some light on plausible and implausible ways of understanding the Madhyamaka intellectual enterprise. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to examine some of the key points of Nāgārjuna’s discussion of problems relating to the philosophy of language. We will focus on two works from Nāgārjuna’s yukti-corpus that address these matters most explicitly, the Vigrahavyāvartanī and the Vaidalyaprakaraṇa. The discussion will concentrate on four topics: Nāgārjuna’s views on semantics, the problem of empty names, the relation between language and momentariness, and the implications of Madhyamaka views on parts and wholes for the existence of language.
Whatever ethical stance one takes in the debate regarding the ethics of human enhancement, one or more reference points are required to assess its morality. Some have suggested looking at the bioethical notions of safety, justice, and/or autonomy to find such reference points. Others, arguing that those notions are limited with respect to assessing the morality of human enhancement, have turned to human nature, human authenticity, or human dignity as reference points, thereby introducing some perfectionist assumptions into the debate. In (...) this article, we ask which perfectionist assumptions should be used in this debate. After a critique of views that are problematic, we take a positive approach, suggesting some perfectionist elements that can lend guidance to the practice of human enhancement, based on the work of Martha Nussbaum's Capability Approach. We suggest that the central capabilities can be used to define the human aspect of human enhancement and thereby allow a moral evaluation of enhancement interventions. These central capabilities can be maximized harmoniously to postulate what an ideal human would look like. Ultimately, the aim of this article is twofold. First, it seeks to make explicit the perfectionist assumptions found in the debate and eliminate those that are problematic. Second, the paper clarifies an element that is often neglected in the debate about human enhancement, the view of the ideal human towards which human enhancement should strive. Here, we suggest that some central capabilities that are essential for an ideal human being can be maximized harmoniously and can therefore serve as possible reference points to guide human enhancement. (shrink)
An implication relation between pictures is defined, it is then shown how conjunctions, disjunctions, negations, and hypotheticals of pictures can be formed on the basis of this. It is argued that these logical operations on pictures correspond to natural cognitive operations employed when thinking about pictures.
Both, bioconservatives and bioliberals, should seek a discussion about ideas of human perfection, making explicit their underlying assumptions about what makes for a good human life. This is relevant, because these basic, and often implicit ideas, inform and influence judgements and choices about human enhancement interventions. Both neglect, and polemical but inconsistent use of the complex ideas of perfection are leading to confusion within the ethical debate about human enhancement interventions, that can be avoided by tackling the notion of perfection (...) directly. In the recent debates, bioconservatives have prominently argued against the ‘pursuit of perfection’ by biotechnological means. In the first part of this paper, we show that—paradoxically—bioconservatives themselves explicitly embrace specific conceptions of human perfection and perfectionist assumptions about the good human life in order to argue against the use of enhancement technologies. Yet, we argue that the bioconservative position contains an untenable ambiguity between criticising and endorsing ideas of human perfection. Hence, they stand in need of clarifying their stance on human perfection. In the second part of the paper, we ask whether bioliberals in fact (implicitly) advocate a particular conception of perfection, or whether they are right in holding that they do not, and that discussing perfection is obsolete anyway. We show that bioliberals also rely on a specific idea of human perfection, based on the idea of autonomy. Hence, their denial of the relevance of perfection in the debate is unconvincing and has to be revised. (shrink)
The paper discusses the role of anthropological arguments in contemporary ethics as exemplified in the current debate about biotechnological human enhancement interventions. Anthropological arguments refer to a normative conception of what it means to be a human being and are highly contested in contemporary moral philosophy. Most often they are promoted to constrain the ethically acceptable use of enhancement technologies. I argue that anthropological arguments can play a fundamental and important role in assessing the moral qualities of enhancement interventions, but (...) only if their normative justification and their specific content are properly determined. I offer an account how to do so, based on the contractualist and pragmatist ideal that all those who are affected by a decision of normative relevance should be included in what I call a “quasi-democratic deliberative process”. However, given that they stand in need of wide agreement, anthropological arguments resulting from such a process will be be rather minimal in content. In the exemplary debate about human enhancements they hence turn out to be widely – though not fully – permissive and unable to justify a restrictive stance towards enhancement interventions. (shrink)