This paper motivates, explains, and defends a new account of the content of thought experiments. I begin by briefly surveying and critiquing three influential accounts of thought experiments: James Robert Brown’s Platonist account, John Norton’s deflationist account that treats them as picturesque arguments, and a cluster of views that I group together as mental model accounts. I use this analysis to motivate a set of six desiderata for a new approach. I propose that we treat thought experiments primarily as aesthetic (...) objects, specifically fictions, and then use this analysis to characterize their content and ultimately assess their epistemic success. Taking my starting point from Kendall Walton’s account of representation (Mimesis as make-believe, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, 1990), I argue that the best way to understand the content of thought experiments is to treat them as props for imagining fictional worlds. Ultimately, I maintain that, in terms of their form and content, thought experiments share more with literary fictions and pictorial representations than with either argumentation or observations of the Platonic realm. Moreover, while they inspire imaginings, thought experiments themselves are not mental kinds. My approach redirects attention towards what fixes the content of any given thought experiment and scrutinizes the assumptions, cognitive capacities and conventions that generate them. This view helps to explain what seems plausible about Brown’s, Norton’s, and the mental modelers’ views. (shrink)
There are two distinct interpretations of the role that Feynman diagrams play in physics: (i) they are calculational devices, a type of notation designed to keep track of complicated mathematical expressions; and (ii) they are representational devices, a type of picture. I argue that Feynman diagrams not only have a calculational function but also represent: they are in some sense pictures. I defend my view through addressing two objections and in so doing I offer an account of representation that explains (...) why Feynman diagrams represent. The account that I advocate is a version of that defended by Kendall Walton, which provides us with a basic characterization of the way that representations in general work and is particularly useful for understanding distinctively pictorial representations - in Walton's terms, depictions. The question of the epistemic function of Feynman diagrams as pictorial representations is left for another time. (shrink)
In this article, we critically examine some of the ethical challenges and interpretive difficulties with possible future non-clinical applications of pediatric fMRI with a particular focus on applications in the classroom and the courtroom - two domains in which children come directly in contact with the state. We begin with a general overview of anticipated clinical and non-clinical applications of pediatric fMRI. This is followed by a detailed analysis of a range of ethical challenges and interpretive difficulties that trouble the (...) use of fMRI and are likely to be especially acute with non-clinical uses of the technology. We conclude that knowledge of these challenges and difficulties should influence policy decisions regarding the non-clinical uses of fMRI. Our aim is to encourage the development of future policies prescribing the responsible use of this neuroimaging technology as it develops both within and outside the clinical setting. (shrink)
In December 2013, the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) filed a petition for a common law writ of habeas corpus in the New York State Supreme Court on behalf of Tommy, a chimpanzee living alone in a cage in a shed in rural New York (Barlow, 2017). Under animal welfare laws, Tommy’s owners, the Laverys, were doing nothing illegal by keeping him in those conditions. Nonetheless, the NhRP argued that given the cognitive, social, and emotional capacities of chimpanzees, Tommy’s confinement constituted (...) a profound wrong that demanded remedy by the courts. Soon thereafter, the NhRP filed habeas corpus petitions on behalf of Kiko, another chimpanzee housed alone in Niagara Falls, and Hercules and Leo, two chimpanzees held in research facilities at Stony Brook University. Thus began the legal struggle to move these chimpanzees from captivity to a sanctuary, an effort that has led the NhRP to argue in multiple courts before multiple judges. The central point of contention has been whether Tommy, Kiko, Hercules, and Leo have legal rights. To date, no judge has been willing to issue a writ of habeas corpus on their behalf. Such a ruling would mean that these chimpanzees have rights that confinement might violate. Instead, the judges have argued that chimpanzees cannot be bearers of legal rights because they are not, and cannot be persons. In this book we argue that chimpanzees are persons because they are autonomous. (shrink)
In "Why Feynman Diagrams Represent", I argued that Feynman diagrams have two distinct functions: they are both calculational devices, developed to keep track of the long mathematical expressions of quantum electrodynamics,1 and they are pictorial representations. This challenges the common view that FDs are calculational devices alone and that it is misleading, if not an outright error, to think of them as pictorial. Following Kendall Walton's account of representation, I drew out what it means to think of FDs as pictures, (...) which in turn explained why FDs represent. However, my defence conceded an important point: not all of... (shrink)
In 2002, Evolution and Human Behavior published a study purporting to show that the differences in toy preferences commonly attributed to girls and boys can also be found in male and female vervet monkeys, tracing the origin of these differing preferences back to a common ancestor. Despite some flaws in its design and the prima facie implausibility of some of its central claims, this research received considerable attention in both scientific circles and the popular media. In what follows, I survey (...) some of the problems with this study that seem to be characteristic of research into sex differences in a particular research program in evolutionary psychology. I suggest that an epistemology of ignorance is at work that suppresses the methods and insights of an earlier research program, which emphasized the complexity and contingency that ultimately grounds the variety of human behaviors, in favor of one that has been widely criticized as empirically flawed and politically pernicious. I conclude with some speculative remarks on the persistence of this problematic research program in evolutionary psychology. (shrink)
Meynell’s contention is that feminists should attend to pictures in science as distinctive bearers of epistemic content that cannot be reduced to propositions. Remarks on the practice and function of medical illustration—specifically, images Nancy Tuana used in her discussion of the construction of ignorance of women’s sexual function (2004)—show pictures to be complex and powerful epistemic devices. Their affinity with perennial feminist concerns, the relation between epistemic subject and object, and the nature of social knowledge, are of particular interest.
From Lucretius throwing a spear beyond the boundary of the universe to Einstein racing against a beam of light, thought experiments stand as a fascinating challenge to the necessity of data in the empirical sciences. Are these experiments, conducted uniquely in our imagination, simply rhetorical devices or communication tools or are they an essential part of scientific practice? This volume surveys the current state of the debate and explores new avenues of research into the epistemology of thought experiments.
Meynell's contention is that feminists should attend to pictures in science as distinctive bearers of epistemic content that cannot be reduced to propositions. Remarks on the practice and function of medical illustration—specifically, images Nancy Tuana used in her discussion of the construction of ignorance of women's sexual function —show pictures to be complex and powerful epistemic devices. Their affinity with perennial feminist concerns, the relation between epistemic subject and object, and the nature of social knowledge, are of particular interest.
The portrayal of novel neurotechnologies in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report serves to inoculate viewers from important moral considerations that are displaced by the film’s somewhat singular emphasis on the question of how to reintroduce freedom of choice into an otherwise technology driven world. This sets up a crisis mentality and presents a false dilemma regarding the appropriate use, and regulation, of neurotechnologies. On the one hand, it seems that centralized power is required to both control and effectively implement such technologies (...) and, on the other hand, individual heroic resistance is required to protect citizens from the invasions of personal privacy and state control made possible through neurotechnologies. While Minority Report, as a dystopic vision of emergent neurotechnologies, engages surface ethical issues it risks cheapening them through its rather simplistic, dichotomous analysis. Most conspicuously absent from this approach is a sense of the social matrices that work to circumscribe or augment expressions of human freedom, privacy, control and power that are all implicated in our engagement with novel neurotechnologies. Were Minority Report unique in this respect it would have little interest, but we think this type of cheapening of ethical discourse about novel technologies is common. Because science fiction film informs the social imaginary in which ethical considerations and ultimately policy decisions take place, such cheapening risks subverting pervasive and tangible ethical issues by focusing on the sensationalistic and simplistic. (shrink)
I argue that it is time for many feminists to rethink their attitudes towards evolutionary biology, not because feminists have been wrong to be deeply sceptical about many of its claims, both explicit and implicit, but because biology itself has changed. A new appreciation for the importance of development in biology has become mainstream and a new ontology, associated with developmental systems theory, has been introduced over the last two decades. This turn challenges some of the features of evolutionary biology (...) that have most troubled feminists. DST undermines the idea of biologicales sence and challenges both nature /nurture and nature/culture distinctions. Freed from these conceptual constraints, evolutionary biology no longer poses the problems that have justified feminist scepticism. Indeed, feminists have already found useful applications for DST and I argue that they should expand their use of DST to support more radical and wide-ranging political theories.Si les féministes n’ont pas eu tort d’être profondément sceptiques face aux nombreuses revendications de la biologie, leur attitude face à cette science doit être remise en question car la biologie s’est transformée au courant des dernières décennies. La «théorie des systèmes de développement» est une théorie qui s’est considérablement développée et qui a pris beaucoup d’ampleur. Cette théorie n’accepte pas le concept d’essence biologique ce qui pose un défi important à la distinction nature/culture. Une des conséquences de cet apport théorique est que le scepticisme des féministes face à la biologie de l’évolution n’est plus justifié car la biologie ne comporte plus les contraintes essentialistes qui s’avéraient contentieuses. En effet, certaines féministes ont déjà trouvé des applications utiles pour la TDS et nous avançons que les féministes doivent maintenant élargir l’utilisation de la TDS car la porté de celle-ci pourrait être significative dans d’autres domaines tel celui de la théorie politique. (shrink)
In this brief, we argue that there is a diversity of ways in which humans (Homo sapiens) are ‘persons’ and there are no non-arbitrary conceptions of ‘personhood’ that can include all humans and exclude all nonhuman animals. To do so we describe and assess the four most prominent conceptions of ‘personhood’ that can be found in the rulings concerning Kiko and Tommy, with particular focus on the most recent decision, Nonhuman Rights Project, Inc v Lavery.
In this paper I examine third wave leminism in the hopes of shedding light on its relationship to the concurrent contemporary backlash against leminism. I investigate this by attempting to answer two questions. First, given the nature of the first and second waves, is the third wave appropriately so called? I tentatively conclude that it is not. Second, I ask whether the issue of identity, which is central to third wave analysis, is addressed well by third wavers. I suggest that (...) there are serious problems with the rejection of identity politics that characterizes much third wave feminism, particularly in the repudiation of second wave feminism that seems to accompany it. I conclude that, at best, the third wave seems unprepared to light the present backlash and, at worst, it appears to be a part of it. (shrink)
In this paper, we argue that there are good, scientifically credible reasons for thinking that some nonhuman animals might have genders. We begin by considering why the sex/gender distinction has been important for feminist politics yet has also been difficult to maintain. We contrast contemporary views that trouble gender with those typical of traditional sex difference research, which has enjoyed considerable feminist critique, and argue that the anthropocentric focus of feminist accounts of gender weakens these critiques. Then, drawing from Jordan-Young’s (...) concept of gendered norms of reaction and van Anders’ Sexual Configurations Theory, we consider what it might mean to say that animals other than humans are gendered in a scientifically robust sense that does not simply reduce gender to sex or project human gender norms onto other animals. It is important that such an account is not only sensitive to its political ramifications for feminist and queer politics but is also sensitive to the ways in which troubling the human–nonhuman animal divide may seem to threaten those humans whose oppression is constituted by dehumanization and animalization. We suggest that, in fact, the contrary is true. We find that decolonial feminists have plausibly argued that animalizing oppression is premised on the human–animal divide and that the idea of nonhuman animal genders fits naturally with some traditional Indigenous ways of thinking about other animals and their relations with humans. (shrink)
We are preparing this special issue celebrating the work of Susan Sherwin under extraordinary circumstances. We are sitting in our homes, isolating ourselves from each other, in order to support and protect each other. Each of us is curtailing our preferences in order not only to protect ourselves but to protect everyone else in our community—local and global—from COVID-19. In this historic moment it is abundantly clear that our lives are inescapably relational—that, through our own decisions and actions, each individual (...) makes possible, or impossible, other actions for other people. To take a relatively simple example, consider one type of physical distancing that our government is asking us to practice... (shrink)
In this paper I tackle the question of what basic form an analytical method for articulating and ultimately assessing visual representations should take. I start from the assumption that scientific images, being less prone to interpretive complication than artworks, are ideal objects from which to engage this question. I then assess a recent application of Nelson Goodman's aesthetics to the project of parsing scientific images, Laura Perini's ‘The truth in pictures’. I argue that, although her project is an important one, (...) her Goodmanian conventionalism produces a method of analysis that is incapable of adequately parsing a certain class of pictures and her focus on truth is unnecessary. This speaks against the promise of Goodman's analytical strategy for elucidating visual content and reasoning in the sciences and elsewhere. As an alternative, I develop John Willats’ analytical method and compare it to Perini's through engaging three of her examples—a chemical diagram, a graph and an electron micrograph. Ultimately, a space remains open for a mixed system where Willats’ account provides pictorial analysis and the Goodman–Perini approach parses visual languages. (shrink)
In Canada, all institutions that conduct publicly funded, animal-based research are expected to comply with the standards of the Canadian Council on Animal Care (CCAC). The CCAC promotes the use of animal alternatives, and uses the “3Rs” principles of Replacement, Reduction, and Refinement as a guiding ethical framework. To ensure these standards are strictly enforced, internal ethics committees at each institution are tasked with creating “Animal Use Protocol” (AUP) forms to be filled out by researchers and evaluated by the committees. (...) In this paper, we assess AUP forms from Canada’s top research universities to identify the extent to which they conform to, or advance, the 3Rs framework. Our results show various deficiencies that call into question the quality of information elicited by these forms. To remedy this, we recommend that the CCAC assume responsibility for creating a standardized 3Rs section to be used on all AUP forms. In addition, proposal forms and experimental results for all research at CCAC-certified institutions should be digitized and uploaded into a national database. We argue that this would offer higher quality information for researchers at the experimental design stage, while strengthening the CCAC’s mandate to be accountable to the Canadian public. (shrink)