We maintain that in many contexts promising to try is expressive of responsibility as a promiser. This morally significant application of promising to try speaks in favor of the view that responsible promisers favor evidentialism about promises. Contra Berislav Marušić, we contend that responsible promisers typically withdraw from promising to act and instead promise to try, in circumstances in which they recognize that there is a significant chance that they will not succeed.
We maintain that in many contexts promising to try is expressive of responsibility as a promiser. This morally significant application of promising to try speaks in favor of the view that responsible promisers favor evidentialism about promises. Contra Marušić, we contend that responsible promisers typically withdraw from promising to act, and instead promise to try, in circumstances where they recognize that there is a significant chance that they will not succeed.
Sentimentalist theories in ethics treat evaluative judgments as somehow dependent on human emotional capacities. While the precise nature of this dependence varies, the general idea is that evaluative concepts are to be understood by way of more basic emotional reactions. Part of the task of distinguishing between the concepts that sentimentalism proposes to explicate, then, is to identify a suitably wide range of associated emotions. In this paper, we attempt to deal with an important obstacle to such views, which arises (...) from the dominant tradition in the philosophy of emotion. We will be attempting to steer a middle course between the traditional view and some recent, empirically-minded criticism. (shrink)
Merold Westphal’s new publication, Kierkegaard’s Concept of Faith, gives us an opportunity to explore the many ways in which Kierkegaard has influenced Westphal’s thinking as a whole. This present contribution seeks to show how Kierkegaard helps Westphal discover a concept of faith which holds no ‘reasonable’ foundation as it is entirely dependent upon two different aspects of revelation in tension with each other. Moreover, faith is seen as a willing assent by the believer, and thus it becomes a task and (...) not merely a proposition to behold or to which one’s life conforms. In addition to explicating this notion of faith within his work, this present contribution seeks to situate this faith within Westphal’s philosophy of religion, showing how it is integral to Westphal’s entire project. (shrink)
The biological functions debate is a perennial topic in the philosophy of science. In the first full-length account of the nature and importance of biological functions for many years, Justin Garson presents an innovative new theory, the 'generalized selected effects theory of function', which seamlessly integrates evolutionary and developmental perspectives on biological functions. He develops the implications of the theory for contemporary debates in the philosophy of mind, the philosophy of medicine and psychiatry, the philosophy of biology, and biology (...) itself, addressing issues ranging from the nature of mental representation to our understanding of the function of the human genome. Clear, jargon-free, and engagingly written, with accessible examples and explanatory diagrams to illustrate the discussion, his book will be highly valuable for readers across philosophical and scientific disciplines. (shrink)
Professionals, it is said, have no use for simple lists of virtues and vices. The complexities and constraints of professional roles create peculiar moral demands on the people who occupy them, and traits that are vices in ordinary life are praised as virtues in the context of professional roles. Should this disturb us, or is it naive to presume that things should be otherwise? Taking medical and legal practice as key examples, Justin Oakley and Dean Cocking develop a rigorous (...) articulation and defence of virtue ethics, contrasting it with other types of character-based ethical theories and showing that it offers a promising new approach to the ethics of professional roles. They provide insights into the central notions of professional detachment, professional integrity, and moral character in professional life, and demonstrate how a virtue-based approach can help us better understand what ethical professional-client relationships would be like. (shrink)
There is a certain metaphor that has enjoyed tremendous longevity in the evolution of ageing literature. According to this metaphor, nature has a certain goal or purpose, the perpetuation of the species, or, alternatively, the reproductive success of the individual. In relation to this goal, the individual organism has a function, job, or task, namely, to breed and, in some species, to raise its brood to maturity. On this picture, those who cannot, or can no longer, reproduce are somehow invisible (...) to, or even dispensable to, the evolutionary process. Here, I argue that the metaphor should be discarded, not on the grounds that it is a metaphor, but on the grounds that this particular metaphor distorts our understanding of the evolution of ageing. One reason the metaphor is problematic is that it frames senescence and death as nature’s verdict on the value of older individuals. Instead, we should explore a different metaphor: the lengthy post-reproductive period in humans and some other animals is not an accident of culture, but designed by nature for the purpose of supporting and guiding younger generations. On this alternate picture, different stages of life have their own evolutionary rationales, their distinctive design features, their special mandates. (shrink)
This book is a critical survey of and guidebook to the literature on biological functions. It ties in with current debates and developments, and at the same time, it looks back on the state of discourse in naturalized teleology prior to the 1970s. It also presents three significant new proposals. First, it describes the generalized selected effects theory, which is one version of the selected effects theory, maintaining that the function of a trait consists in the activity that led to (...) its differential persistence or reproduction in a population, and not merely its differential reproduction. Secondly, it advances “within-discipline pluralism” (as opposed to between-discipline pluralism) a new form of function pluralism, which emphasizes the coexistence of function concepts within diverse biological sub-disciplines. Lastly, it provides a critical assessment of recent alternatives to the selected effects theory of function, namely, the weak etiological theory and the systems-theoretic theory. The book argues that, to the extent that functions purport to offer causal explanations for the existence of a trait, there are no viable alternatives to the selected effects view. -/- The debate about biological functions is still as relevant and important to biology and philosophy as it ever was. Recent controversies surrounding the ENCODE Project Consortium in genetics, the nature of psychiatric classification, and the value of ecological restoration, all point to the continuing relevance to biology of philosophical discussion about the nature of functions. In philosophy, ongoing debates about the nature of biological information, intentionality, health and disease, mechanism, and even biological trait classification, are closely related to debates about biological functions. (shrink)
When speakers utter conflicting moral sentences, it seems clear that they disagree. It has often been suggested that the fact that the speakers disagree gives us evidence for a claim about the semantics of the sentences they are uttering. Specifically, it has been suggested that the existence of the disagreement gives us reason to infer that there must be an incompatibility between the contents of these sentences. This inference then plays a key role in a now-standard argument against certain theories (...) in moral semantics. In this paper, we introduce new evidence that bears on this debate. We show that there are moral conflict cases in which people are inclined to say both that the two speakers disagree and that it is not the case at least one of them must be saying something incorrect. We then explore how we might understand such disagreements. As a proof of concept, we sketch an account of the concept of disagreement and an independently motivated theory of moral semantics which, together, explain the possibility of such cases. (shrink)
Justin Snedegar develops and defends contrastivism about reasons. This is the view that normative reasons are fundamentally reasons for or against actions or attitudes only relative to sets of alternatives. Simply put, reasons are always reasons to do one thing rather than another, instead of simply being reasons to do something, full stop.
For some, biology explains all there is to know about the mind. Yet many big questions remain: is the mind shaped by genes or the environment? If mental traits are the result of adaptations built up over thousands of years, as evolutionary psychologists claim, how can such claims be tested? If the mind is a machine, as biologists argue, how does it allow for something as complex as human consciousness? The Biological Mind: A Philosophical Introduction explores these questions and more, (...) using the philosophy of biology to introduce and assess the nature of the mind. Drawing on the four key themes of evolutionary biology; molecular biology and genetics; neuroscience; and biomedicine and psychiatry Justin Garson addresses the following key topics: moral psychology, altruism and levels of selection evolutionary psychology and modularity genes, environment and the nature-nurture debate neuroscience, reductionism and the relation between biology and free will function, selection and mental representation psychiatric classification and the maladapted mind. Extensive use of examples and case studies is made throughout the book, and additional features such as chapter summaries, annotated further reading and a glossary make this an indispensable introduction to those teaching philosophy of mind and philosophy of psychology. It will also be an excellent resource for those in related fields such as biology. (shrink)
Moral grandstanding is a pervasive feature of public discourse. Many of us can likely recognize that we have engaged in grandstanding at one time or another. While there is nothing new about the phenomenon of grandstanding, we think that it has not received the philosophical attention it deserves. In this essay, we provide an account of moral grandstanding as the use of public discourse for moral self-promotion. We then show that our account, with support from some standard theses of social (...) psychology, explains the characteristic ways that grandstanding is manifested in public moral discourse. We conclude by arguing that there are good reasons to think that moral grandstanding is typically morally bad and should be avoided. (shrink)
It is widely agreed that the intelligibility of modal metaphysics has been vindicated. Quine's arguments to the contrary supposedly confused analyticity with metaphysical necessity, and rigid with non-rigid designators.2 But even if modal metaphysics is intelligible, it could be misconceived. It could be that metaphysical necessity is not absolute necessity – the strictest real notion of necessity – and that no proposition of traditional metaphysical interest is necessary in every real sense. If there were nothing otherwise “uniquely metaphysically significant” about (...) metaphysical necessity, then paradigmatic metaphysical necessities would be necessary in one sense of “necessary”, not necessary in another, and that would be it. The question of whether they were necessary simpliciter would be like the question of whether the Parallel Postulate is true simpliciter – understood as a pure mathematical conjecture, rather than as a hypothesis about physical spacetime. In a sense, the latter question has no objective answer. In this article, I argue that paradigmatic questions of modal metaphysics are like the Parallel Postulate question. I then discuss the deflationary ramifications of this argument. I conclude with an alternative conception of the space of possibility. According to this conception, there is no objective boundary between possibility and impossibility. Along the way, I sketch an analogy between modal metaphysics and set theory. (shrink)
The standard view of pains among philosophers today holds that their existence consists in being experienced, such that there can be no unfelt pains or pain hallucinations. The typical line of support offered for this view is that it corresponds with the ordinary or commonsense conception of pain. Despite this, a growing body of evidence from experimental philosophers indicates that the ordinary understanding of pain stands in contrast to the standard view among philosophers. In this paper, we will survey this (...) literature and add to it, detailing the results of seven new studies on the ordinary understanding of pain using both corpus analysis and questionnaire methods. (shrink)
We are all guilty of it. We call people terrible names in conversation or online. We vilify those with whom we disagree, and make bolder claims than we could defend. We want to be seen as taking the moral high ground not just to make a point, or move a debate forward, but to look a certain way--incensed, or compassionate, or committed to a cause. We exaggerate. In other words, we grandstand. Nowhere is this more evident than in public discourse (...) today, and especially as it plays out across the internet. To philosophers Justin Tosi and Brandon Warmke, who have written extensively about moral grandstanding, such one-upmanship is not just annoying, but dangerous. As politics gets more and more polarized, people on both sides of the spectrum move further and further apart when they let grandstanding get in the way of engaging one another. The pollution of our most urgent conversations with self-interest damages the very causes they are meant to forward. Drawing from work in psychology, economics, and political science, and along with contemporary examples spanning the political spectrum, the authors dive deeply into why and how we grandstand. Using the analytic tools of psychology and moral philosophy, they explain what drives us to behave in this way, and what we stand to lose by taking it too far. Most importantly, they show how, by avoiding grandstanding, we can re-build a public square worth participating in. (shrink)
It is often assumed that when one party felicitously rejects an assertion made by an- other party, the first party thinks that the proposition asserted by the second is false. This assumption underlies various disagreement arguments used to challenge contex- tualism about some class of expressions. As such, many contextualists have resisted these arguments on the grounds that the disagreements in question may not be over the proposition literally asserted. The result appears to be a dialectical stalemate, with no independent (...) method of determining whether any particular instance of disagreement is over the proposition literally asserted. In this paper, I propose an independent method for assessing whether a disagreement is about what’s literally asserted. Focusing on epistemic modals throughout, I argue that this method provides evidence that some epistemic modal disagreements are in fact not over the proposition literally asserted by the utterance of the epistemic modal sentence. This method provides a way to break the stalemate, and reveals a new data point for theories of epistemic modals to predict—that is, how there can be such modal disagreements. In the rest of the paper, I motivate a general theory of how to predict these kinds of disagreements, and then offer some brief remarks about how contextualist, relativist, and expressivist theories of epistemic modals might accommodate this new data point. (shrink)
This article presents a distinct sense of ‘mechanism’, which I call the functional sense of mechanism. According to this sense, mechanisms serve functions, and this fact places substantive restrictions on the kinds of system activities ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. On this view, there are no mechanisms for pathology; pathologies result from disrupting mechanisms for functions. Second, on this sense, natural selection is probably not a mechanism for evolution because it does not serve a function. After distinguishing this (...) sense fromsimilar explications of ‘mechanism’, I argue that it is ubiquitous in biology and has valuable epistemic benefits. (shrink)
I present and defend the generalized selected effects theory (GSE) of function. According to GSE, the function of a trait consists in the activity that contributed to its bearer’s differential reproduction, or differential retention, within a population. Unlike the traditional selected effects (SE) theory, it does not require that the functional trait helped its bearer reproduce; differential retention is enough. Although the core theory has been presented previously, I go significantly beyond those presentations by providing a new argument for GSE (...) and defending it from a recent objection. I also sketch its implications for teleosemantics and philosophy of medicine. (shrink)
Inquiry into the meaning of logical terms in natural language (‘and’, ‘or’, ‘not’, ‘if’) has generally proceeded along two dimensions. On the one hand, semantic theories aim to predict native speaker intuitions about the natural language sentences involving those logical terms. On the other hand, logical theories explore the formal properties of the translations of those terms into formal languages. Sometimes, these two lines of inquiry appear to be in tension: for instance, our best logical investigation into conditional connectives may (...) show that there is no conditional operator that has all the properties native speaker intuitions suggest if has. Indicative conditionals have famously been the source of one such tension, ever since the triviality proofs of both Lewis (1976) and Gibbard (1981) established conclusions which are in prima facie tension with ordinary judgments about natural language indicative conditionals. In a recent series of papers, Branden Fitelson has strengthened both triviality results (Fitelson 2013, 2015, 2016), revealing a common culprit: a logical schema known as IMPORT-EXPORT. Fitelson’s results focus the tension between the logical results and ordinary judgments, since IMPORT-EXPORT seems to be supported by intuitions about natural language. In this paper, we argue that the intuitions which have been taken to support IMPORT-EXPORT are really evidence for a closely related, but subtly different, principle. We show that the two principles are independent by showing how, given a standard assumption about the conditional operator in the formal language in which IMPORT-EXPORT is stated, many existing theories of indicative conditionals validate one, but not the other. Moreover, we argue that once we clearly distinguish these principles, we can use propositional anaphora to show that IMPORT-EXPORT is in fact not valid for natural language indicative conditionals (given this assumption about the formal conditional operator). This gives us a principled and independently motivated way of rejecting a crucial premise in many triviality results, while still making sense of the speaker intuitions which appeared to motivate that premise. We suggest that this strategy has broad application and an important lesson: in theorizing about the logic of natural language, we must pay careful attention to the translation between the formal languages in which logical results are typically proved, and natural languages which are the subject matter of semantic theory. (shrink)
Like Kant, the German Idealists, and many neo-Kantian philosophers before him, Nietzsche was persistently concerned with metaphysical questions about the nature of objects. His texts often address questions concerning the existence and non-existence of objects, the relation of objects to human minds, and how different views of objects significantly impact various commitments in many areas of philosophy—not just metaphysics, but also semantics, epistemology, science, logic and mathematics, and even ethics. This book presents a systematic and comprehensive analysis of Nietzsche’s material (...) object metaphysics. Remhof argues that Nietzsche embraces the controversial _constructivist_ view that all concrete objects are socially constructed. Reading Nietzsche as a constructivist, Remhof contends, provides fresh insight into Nietzsche's views on truth, science, naturalism, and nihilism. Remhof investigates how Nietzsche’s view of objects compares with similar views offered by influential American pragmatists, and explores the implications of Nietzsche’s constructivism for debates in contemporary material object metaphysics. _Nietzsche’s Constructivism _is a highly original and timely contribution to the steadily growing literature on Nietzsche’s thought. (shrink)
I want to start this paper by drawing a distinction between two uses of the word ‘conscience’ in order to get clear just what it is I shall talk about. The distinction I want to make can perhaps best be brought out by reference to a type of situation which could equally well be described in one or other of two ways, each way illustrating one use of the word ‘conscience’. Suppose then that we have a man who has been (...) brought up to think that it is a good thing to help the poor. This lesson he has been taught, at least in part, by being told stories about beggars asking for money. The good person gives money to the beggars and the wicked person callously refuses it. One year he decides to book himself a holiday in Spain. Before he goes, however, he has a conversation with a social scientist friend. This friend points out to him that the one thing he should not do when in Spain is give money to beggars. Beggary, he argues, is a social evil and one which will only be removed if people take a stand and refuse to go on giving money when asked. The appropriate action to take is to inform the beggar of the whereabouts of the local employment exchange, or take him along to an employer, or do one or other of various rather embarrassing things. If the worst comes to the worst, it is better simply to walk away than to give money. Our man goes to Spain convinced by this argument and realising the unsophisticated and over-simple nature of his earlier moral approach. Before long, a beggar comes up to him and asks for money. Let's suppose that he refuses to give it, because of his newly acquired conviction. Now it seems to me that when he returns he could describe this situation in one or other of two ways without there being any difference as regards the facts that he is asserting. (shrink)
This paper examines the state of the field of “science and values”—particularly regarding the implications of the thesis of transient underdetermination for the ideal of value-free science, or what I call the “ideal of epistemic purity.” I do this by discussing some of the main arguments in the literature, both for and against the ideal. I examine a preliminary argument from transient underdetermination against the ideal of epistemic purity, and I discuss two different formulations of an objection to this argument—an (...) objection that requires the strict separation of the epistemic from the practical. A secondary aim of the paper is to suggest some future directions for the field, one of which is to replace the vocabulary of values that is often employed in the literature with a more precise one. (shrink)
Promoting the ethical formation of engineering students through the cultivation of their discipline-specific knowledge, sensitivity, imagination, and reasoning skills has become a goal for many engineering education programs throughout the United States. However, there is neither a consensus throughout the engineering education community regarding which strategies are most effective towards which ends, nor which ends are most important. This study provides an overview of engineering ethics interventions within the U.S. through the systematic analysis of articles that featured ethical interventions in (...) engineering, published in select peer-reviewed journals, and published between 2000 and 2015. As a core criterion, each journal article reviewed must have provided an overview of the course as well as how the authors evaluated course-learning goals. In sum, 26 articles were analyzed with a coding scheme that included 56 binary items. The results indicate that the most common methods for integrating ethics into engineering involved exposing students to codes/standards, utilizing case studies, and discussion activities. Nearly half of the articles had students engage with ethical heuristics or philosophical ethics. Following the presentation of the results, this study describes in detail four articles to highlight less common but intriguing pedagogical methods and evaluation techniques. The findings indicate that there is limited empirical work on ethics education within engineering across the United States. Furthermore, due to the large variation in goals, approaches, and evaluation methods described across interventions, this study does not detail “best” practices for integrating ethics into engineering. The science and engineering education community should continue exploring the relative merits of different approaches to ethics education in engineering. (shrink)
Can we represent number approximately? A seductive reductionist notion is that participants in number tasks rely on continuous extent cues (e.g.,area) and therefore that the representations underlying performance lack numerical content. I suggest that this notion embraces a misconception: that perceptual input determines conceptual content.
Social contract theorists often take the ideal contract to be the agreement or bargain individuals would make in some privileged choice situation. Recently, experimental philosophers have explored this kind of decision-making in the lab. One rather robust finding is that the exact circumstances of choice significantly affect the kinds of social arrangements experimental subjects unanimously endorse. Yet prior work has largely ignored the question of which of the many competing descriptions of the original position subjects find most compelling. This paper (...) aims to address this gap, exploring how attractive experimental subjects find various characterizations of these circumstances of choice. We find evidence suggesting that no one choice situation can fulfill the role that social contract theorists have hoped it would play. We also find that, contrary to what some prominent social contract theorists have expected, there is no robust relationship between an individual’s ranking of distributive principles and their ranking of various descriptions of the original position. In conclusion, we discuss the broader implications of these results for political philosophy. (shrink)
What is it for something to be essential to an item? For some time, it was standard to think that the concept of necessity alone can provide an answer: for something to be essential to an item is for it to be strictly implied by the existence of that item. We now tend to think that this view fails because its analysans is insufficient for its analysandum. In response, some argue that we can supplement the analysis in terms of necessity (...) with a further condition. In this paper I argue that this view is untenable in its current form. I then provide a glimmer of hope to those who think that essence is at least partially analyzable in terms of necessity. (shrink)
In this paper we use an experimental approach to investigate how linguistic conventions can emerge in a society without explicit agreement. As a starting point we consider the signaling game introduced by Lewis. We find that in experimental settings, small groups can quickly develop conventions of signal meaning in these games. We also investigate versions of the game where the theoretical literature indicates that meaning will be less likely to arise—when there are more than two states for actors to transfer (...) meaning about and when some states are more likely than others. In these cases, we find that actors are less likely to arrive at strategies where signals have clear conventional meaning. We conclude with a proposal for extending the use of the methodology of experimental economics in experimental philosophy. (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to address the neglected but important problem of differentiating between epistemically beneficial and epistemically detrimental dissent. By “dissent,” we refer to the act of objecting to a particular conclusion, especially one that is widely held. While dissent in science can clearly be beneficial, there might be some instances of dissent that not only fail to contribute to scientific progress, but actually impede it. Potential examples of this include the tobacco industry’s funding of studies that (...) questioned the link between smoking and lung cancer, and the attempt by the petroleum industry and other groups to cast doubt upon the conclusion that human consumption of fossil fuels contributes to global climate change. The problem of distinguishing between good and bad dissent is important because of the growing tendency of some stakeholders to attempt to delay political action by ’manufacturing doubt’. Our discussion in this paper focuses on climate science. This field, in our view, is rife with instances of bad dissent. On the basis of our discussion of climate science, we articulate a set of sufficient conditions for epistemically problematic dissent in general, which we call “the inductive risk account of epistemically detrimental dissent.”. (shrink)
We identify a novel ‘cultural red king effect’ that, in many cases, results in stable arrangements which are to the detriment of minority groups. In particular, we show inequalities disadvantaging minority groups can naturally arise under an adaptive process when minority and majority members must routinely determine how to divide resources amongst themselves. We contend that these results show how inequalities disadvantaging minorities can likely arise by dint of their relative size and need not be a result of either explicit (...) nor implicit prejudices, nor due to intrinsic differences between minority and majority members. (shrink)
This paper focuses on the concept of collective essence: that some truths are essential to many items taken together. For example, that it is essential to conjunction and negation that they are truth-functionally complete. The concept of collective essence is one of the main innovations of recent work on the theory of essence. In a sense, this innovation is natural, since we make all sorts of plural predications. It stands to reason that there should be a distinction between essential and (...) accidental plural predications if there is a distinction among singular predications. In this paper I defend the view that the concept of collective essence is governed by the principle of Monotonicity: that something is essential to some items only if it is essential to any items to which they belong. (shrink)
Mainstream teleosemantics is the view that mental representation should be understood in terms of biological functions, which, in turn, should be understood in terms of selection processes. One of the traditional criticisms of teleosemantics is the problem of novel contents: how can teleosemantics explain our ability to represent properties that are evolutionarily novel? In response, some have argued that by generalizing the notion of a selection process to include phenomena such as operant conditioning, and the neural selection that underlies it, (...) we can resolve this problem. Here, we do four things: we develop this suggestion in a rigorous way through a simple example, we draw on recent neurobiological research to support its empirical plausibility, we defend the move from a host of objections in the literature, and we sketch how the picture can be extended to help us think about more complex “conceptual” representations and not just perceptual ones. (shrink)
I distinguish two forms of pluralism about biological functions, between-discipline pluralism and within-discipline pluralism. Between-discipline pluralism holds that different theories of function are appropriate for different subdisciplines of biology and psychology. I provide reasons for rejecting this view. Instead, I recommend within-discipline pluralism, which emphasizes the plurality of function concepts at play within any given subdiscipline of biology and psychology.
At the center of the literature on conditionals lies the division between indicative and subjunctive conditionals, and Ernest Adams’ famous minimal pair: If Oswald didn’t shoot Kennedy, someone else did. If Oswald hadn’t shot Kennedy, someone else would have. While a lot of attention is paid to figuring out what these different kinds of conditionals mean, significantly less attention has been paid to the question of why their grammatical differences give rise to their semantic differences. In this paper, I articulate (...) and defend an answer to this question that illuminates and unifies the meanings of both kinds of conditionals. The basic idea is that epistemic and metaphysical possibilities differ with respect to their interaction with time, such that there can be present epistemic possibilities with different pasts, while present metaphysical possibilities share the same past. The interpretation of conditionals is subject to a pragmatic constraint that rules out interpretations in which their consequents are directly settled by information used to build their domains. The past + future morphology on subjunctives, but not indicatives, is what allows them to receive a metaphysical interpretation in light of this pragmatic constraint. The resulting theory predicts several surprising features of indicatives and subjunctives, which I argue are correct. (shrink)
The Ramseyan thesis that the probability of an indicative conditional is equal to the corresponding conditional probability of its consequent given its antecedent is both widely confirmed and subject to attested counterexamples (e.g., McGee 2000, Kaufmann 2004). This raises several puzzling questions. For instance, why are there interpretations of conditionals that violate this Ramseyan thesis in certain contexts, and why are they otherwise very rare? In this paper, I raise some challenges to Stefan Kaufmann's account of why the Ramseyan thesis (...) sometimes fails, and motivate my own theory. On my theory, the proposition expressed by an indicative conditional is partially determined by a background partition, and hence its probability depends on the choice of such a partition. I hold that this background partition is contextually determined, and in certain conditions is set by a salient question under discussion in the context. I show how the resulting theory offers compelling answers to the puzzling questions raised by failures of the Ramseyan thesis. (shrink)
Though it did not yet exist as a discrete field of scientific inquiry, biology was at the heart of many of the most important debates in seventeenth-century philosophy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the work of G. W. Leibniz. In Divine Machines, Justin Smith offers the first in-depth examination of Leibniz's deep and complex engagement with the empirical life sciences of his day, in areas as diverse as medicine, physiology, taxonomy, generation theory, and paleontology. He shows how (...) these wide-ranging pursuits were not only central to Leibniz's philosophical interests, but often provided the insights that led to some of his best-known philosophical doctrines.Presenting the clearest picture yet of the scope of Leibniz's theoretical interest in the life sciences, Divine Machines takes seriously the philosopher's own repeated claims that the world must be understood in fundamentally biological terms. Here Smith reveals a thinker who was immersed in the sciences of life, and looked to the living world for answers to vexing metaphysical problems. He casts Leibniz's philosophy in an entirely new light, demonstrating how it radically departed from the prevailing models of mechanical philosophy and had an enduring influence on the history and development of the life sciences. Along the way, Smith provides a fascinating glimpse into early modern debates about the nature and origins of organic life, and into how philosophers such as Leibniz engaged with the scientific dilemmas of their era. (shrink)
A common misunderstanding of the selected effects theory of function is that natural selection operating over an evolutionary time scale is the only functionbestowing process in the natural world. This construal of the selected effects theory conflicts with the existence and ubiquity of neurobiological functions that are evolutionary novel, such as structures underlying reading ability. This conflict has suggested to some that, while the selected effects theory may be relevant to some areas of evolutionary biology, its relevance to neuroscience is (...) marginal. This line of reasoning, however, neglects the fact that synapses, entire neurons, and potentially groups of neurons can undergo a type of selection analogous to natural selection operating over an evolutionary time scale. In the following, I argue that neural selection should be construed, by the selected effect theorist, as a distinct type of function-bestowing process in addition to natural selection. After explicating a generalized selected effects theory of function and distinguishing it from similar attempts to extend the selected effects theory, I do four things. First, I show how it allows one to identify neural selection as a distinct function-bestowing process, in contrast to other forms of neural structure formation such as neural construction. Second, I defend the view from one major criticism, and in so doing I clarify the content of the view. Third, I examine drug addiction to show the potential relevance of neural selection to neuroscientific and psychological research. Finally, I endorse a modest pluralism of function concepts within biology. (shrink)
I examine how particular social arrangements and incentive structures encourage the honest reporting of experimental results and minimize fraudulent scientific work. In particular I investigate how epistemic communities can achieve this goal by promoting members to police the community. Using some basic tools from game theory, I explore a simple model in which scientists both conduct research and have the option of investigating the findings of their peers. I find that this system of peer policing can in many cases ensure (...) high levels of honesty. (shrink)
One popular reason for rejecting moral realism is the lack of a plausible epistemology that explains how we come to know moral facts. Recently, a number of philosophers have insisted that it is possible to have moral knowledge in a very straightforward way—by perception. However, there is a significant objection to the possibility of moral perception: it does not seem that we could have a perceptual experience that represents a moral property, but a necessary condition for coming to know that (...) X is F by perception is the ability to have a perceptual experience that represents something as being F . Call this the ‘Representation Objection’ to moral perception. In this paper I argue that the Representation Objection to moral perception fails. Thus I offer a limited defense of moral perception. (shrink)
Although the counterfactual comparative account of harm, according to which someone is harmed when things go worse for her than they otherwise would have, is intuitively plausible, it has recently come under attack. There are five serious objections in the literature: some philosophers argue that the counterfactual account makes it hard to see how we could harm someone in the course of benefitting that person; others argue that Parfit’s non-identity problem is particularly problematic; another objection claims that the account forces (...) us to see many harms where there is just one; a fourth objection is based on the claim that the counterfactual account makes mysterious the distinction between harms and mere failures-to-benefit; and a final problem arises from cases of pre-emption, in which the nearest possible world in which the harmful event does not occur is a world in which some other harmful event occurs. This paper argues that, properly understood, harm essentially involves a counterfactual comparison, and that these comparisons are sensitive to context in the manner typical of counterfactual conditionals, and that, augmented with two plausible distinctions, this account has the resources to provide satisfying responses to each of the objections that have been raised against it. (shrink)
Various deficits in the cognitive functioning of people with autism have been documented in recent years but these provide only partial explanations for the condition. We focus instead on an imitative disturbance involving difficulties both in copying actions and in inhibiting more stereotyped mimicking, such as echolalia. A candidate for the neural basis of this disturbance may be found in a recently discovered class of neurons in frontal cortex, 'mirror neurons' (MNs). These neurons show activity in relation both to specific (...) actions performed by self and matching actions performed by others, providing a potential bridge between minds. MN systems exist in primates without imitative and ‘theory of mind’ abilities and we suggest that in order for them to have become utilized to perform social cognitive functions, sophisticated cortical neuronal systems have evolved in which MNs function as key elements. Early developmental failures of MN systems are likely to result in a consequent cascade of developmental impairments characterised by the clinical syndrome of autism. (shrink)
Philosophers interested in the role of values in science have focused much attention on the argument from inductive risk. In the 1950s and 1960s, a number of authors argued that value judgments play an ineliminable role in the acceptance or rejection of hypotheses. No hypothesis is ever verified with certainty, and so a decision to accept or reject a hypothesis depends upon whether the evidence is sufficiently strong. But whether the evidence is sufficiently strong depends upon the consequences of making (...) a mistake in accepting or rejecting the hypothesis. Recent philosophers of science have not only revived this argument; they have also extended it... (shrink)