The Ontology for Biomedical Investigations (OBI) is an ontology that provides terms with precisely defined meanings to describe all aspects of how investigations in the biological and medical domains are conducted. OBI re-uses ontologies that provide a representation of biomedical knowledge from the Open Biological and Biomedical Ontologies (OBO) project and adds the ability to describe how this knowledge was derived. We here describe the state of OBI and several applications that are using it, such as adding semantic expressivity to (...) existing databases, building data entry forms, and enabling interoperability between knowledge resources. OBI covers all phases of the investigation process, such as planning, execution and reporting. It represents information and material entities that participate in these processes, as well as roles and functions. Prior to OBI, it was not possible to use a single internally consistent resource that could be applied to multiple types of experiments for these applications. OBI has made this possible by creating terms for entities involved in biological and medical investigations and by importing parts of other biomedical ontologies such as GO, Chemical Entities of Biological Interest (ChEBI) and Phenotype Attribute and Trait Ontology (PATO) without altering their meaning. OBI is being used in a wide range of projects covering genomics, multi-omics, immunology, and catalogs of services. OBI has also spawned other ontologies (Information Artifact Ontology) and methods for importing parts of ontologies (Minimum information to reference an external ontology term (MIREOT)). The OBI project is an open cross-disciplinary collaborative effort, encompassing multiple research communities from around the globe. To date, OBI has created 2366 classes and 40 relations along with textual and formal definitions. The OBI Consortium maintains a web resource providing details on the people, policies, and issues being addressed in association with OBI. (shrink)
Philosophers have long been interested in a series of interrelated questions about natural kinds. What are they? What role do they play in science and metaphysics? How do they contribute to our epistemic projects? What categories count as natural kinds? And so on. Owing, perhaps, to different starting points and emphases, we now have at hand a variety of conceptions of natural kinds—some apparently better suited than others to accommodate a particular sort of inquiry. Even if coherent, this situation isn’t (...) ideal. My goal in this article is to begin to articulate a more general account of ‘natural kind phenomena’. While I do not claim that this account should satisfy everyone—it is built around a certain conception of the epistemic role of kinds and has an obvious pragmatic flavour—I believe that it has the resources to go further than extant alternatives, in particular the homeostatic property cluster view of kinds. (shrink)
In this major new work, Matthew Kramer seeks to establish two main conclusions. On the one hand, moral requirements are strongly objective. On the other hand, the objectivity of ethics is itself an ethical matter that rests primarily on ethical considerations. Moral realism - the doctrine that morality is indeed objective - is a moral doctrine. Major new volume in our new series _New Directions in Ethics_ Takes on the big picture - defending the objectivity of ethics whilst rejecting (...) the grounds of much of the existing debate between realists and anti-realists Cuts across both ethical theory and metaethics Distinguished by the quality of the scholarship and its ambitious range. (shrink)
The scientific community, we hold, often provides society with knowledge—that the HIV virus causes AIDS, that anthropogenic climate change is underway, that the MMR vaccine is safe. Some deny that we have this knowledge, however, and work to undermine it in others. It has been common to refer to such agents as “denialists”. At first glance, then, denialism appears to be a form of skepticism. But while we know that various denialist strategies for suppressing belief are generally effective, little is (...) known about which strategies are most effective. We see this as an important first step toward their remediation. This paper leverages the approximate comparison to various forms of philosophical skepticism to design an experimental test of the efficacy of four broad strategies of denial at suppressing belief in specific scientific claims. Our results suggest that assertive strategies are more effective at suppressing belief than questioning strategies. (shrink)
How are law and morality connected, how do they interact, and in what ways are they distinct? In Part I of this book, Matthew Kramer argues that moral principles can enter into the law of any jurisdiction. He contends that legal officials can invoke moral principles as laws for resolving disputes, and that they can also invoke them as threshold tests which ordinary laws must satisfy. In opposition to many other theorists, Kramer argues that these functions of moral principles (...) are consistent with all the essential characteristics of any legal system. Part II reaffirms the legal positivist argument that law and morality are separable, arguing against the position of natural-law theory, which portrays legal requirements as a species of moral requirements. Kramer contends that even though the existence of a legal system in any sizeable society is essential for the realization of fundamental moral values, law is not inherently moral either in its effects or in its motivational underpinnings. In the final part, Kramer contests the widespread view that people whose conduct is meticulously careful cannot be held morally responsible for harmful effects of their actions. Through this argument, he reveals that fault-independent liability is present even more prominently in morality than in the law. Through a variety of arguments, Where Law and Morality Meet highlights both some surprising affinities and some striking divergences between morality and law. (shrink)
A number of influential biologists are currently pursuing efforts to restore previously extinct species. But for decades, philosophers of biology have regarded “de-extinction” as conceptually incoherent. Once a species is gone, it is gone forever. We argue that a range of metaphysical, biological, and ethical grounds for opposing de-extinction are at best inconclusive and that a pragmatic stance that allows for its possibility is more appealing.
Talk of different types of cells is commonplace in the biological sciences. We know a great deal, for example, about human muscle cells by studying the same type of cells in mice. Information about cell type is apparently largely projectible across species boundaries. But what defines cell type? Do cells come pre-packaged into different natural kinds? Philosophical attention to these questions has been extremely limited [see e.g., Wilson (Species: New Interdisciplinary Essays, pp 187–207, 1999; Genes and the Agents of Life, (...) 2005; Wilson et al. Philos Top 35(1/2):189–215, 2007)]. On the face of it, the problems we face in individuating cellular kinds resemble those biologists and philosophers of biology encountered in thinking about species: there are apparently many different (and interconnected) bases on which we might legitimately classify cells. We could, for example, focus on their developmental history (a sort of analogue to a species’ evolutionary history); or we might divide on the basis of certain structural features, functional role, location within larger systems, and so on. In this paper, I sketch an approach to cellular kinds inspired by Boyd’s Homeostatic Property Cluster Theory, applying some lessons from this application back to general questions about the nature of natural kinds. (shrink)
Science communication via testimony requires a certain level of trust. But in the context of ideologically-entangled scientific issues, trust is in short supply—particularly when the issues are politically ‘entangled’. In such cases, cultural values are better predictors than scientific literacy for whether agents trust the publicly-directed claims of the scientific community. In this paper, we argue that a common way of thinking about scientific literacy—as knowledge of particular scientific facts or concepts—ought to give way to a second-order understanding of science (...) as a process as a more important notion for the public’s trust of science. (shrink)
This collection of essays forms a lively debate over the fundamental characteristics of legal and moral rights. The essays examine whether rights fundamentally protect individuals' interests or whether they instead fundamentally enable individuals to make choices.
Different chemical species are often cited as paradigm examples of structurally delimited natural kinds. While classificatory monism may thus seem plausible for simple molecules, it looks less attractive for complex biological macromolecules. I focus on the case of proteins that are most plausibly individuated by their functions. Is there a single, objective count of proteins? I argue that the vagaries of function individuation infect protein classification. We should be pluralists about macromolecular classification.
The authors of this book engage in essay form in a lively debate over the fundamental characteristics of legal and moral rights. They examine whether rights fundamentally protect individuals' interests or whether they instead fundamentally enable individuals to make choices. In the course of this debate the authors address many questions through which they clarify, though not finally resolve, a number of controversial present-day political debates, including those over abortion, euthanasia, and animal rights.
Good chefs know the importance of maintaining sharp knives in the kitchen. What’s their secret? A well-worn Taoist allegory offers some advice. The king asks about his butcher’s impressive knifework. “Ordinary butchers,” he replied “hack their way through the animal. Thus their knife always needs sharpening. My father taught me the Taoist way. I merely lay the knife by the natural openings and let it find its own way through. Thus it never needs sharpening” (Kahn 1995, vii; see also Watson (...) 2003, 46). Plato famously employed this image as an analogy for the reality of his Forms (Phaedrus, 265e). Just like an animal, the world comes pre-divided for us. Ideally, our best theories will be those which “carve nature at its joints”. While Plato employed the “carving” metaphor to convey his views about the reality of his celebrated Forms, its most common contemporary use involves the success of science -- particularly, its success in identifying distinct kinds of things. Scientists often report discovering new kinds of things -- a new species of mammal or novel kind of fundamental particle, for example -- or uncovering more information about already familiar kinds. Moreover, we often notice considerable overlap in different approaches to classification. As Ernst Mayr put it: No naturalist would question the reality of the species he may find in his garden, whether it is a catbird, chickadee, robin, or starling. And the same is true for trees or flowering plants. Species at a given locality are almost invariably separated from each other by a distinct gap. Nothing convinced me so fully of the reality of species as the observation . . . that the Stone Age natives in the mountains of New Guinea recognize as species exactly the same entities of nature as a western scientist. (Mayr 1987, 146) Such agreement is certainly suggestive. It suggests that taxonomies are discoveries rather than mere inventions. Couple this with their utility in scientific inference and explanation and we have compelling reason for accepting the objective, independent reality of many different natural kinds of things.. (shrink)
This book is an uncompromising defense of legal positivism that insists on the separability of law and morality. After distinguishing among three facets of morality, Kramer explores a variety of ways in which law has been perceived as integrally connected to each of those facets. The book concludes with a detailed discussion of the obligation to obey the law--a discussion that highlights the strengths of legal positivism in the domain of political philosophy as much as in the domain of jurisprudence.
In this paper, I consider ways of responding to critiques of natural kinds monism recently suggested from the pluralist camp. Even if monism is determined to be untenable in certain domains (say, about species), it might well be tenable in others. Chemistry is suggested to be such a monist‐friendly domain. Suggestions of trouble for chemical kinds can be defused by attending to the difference between monism as a metaphysical thesis and as a claim about classification systems. Finally, I consider enantiomers (...) as a test case for the monism/pluralism debate. The question of whether enantiomers differ in kind does not appear easily answerable. I suggest that this legislates for pluralism in chemistry. (shrink)
Research that involves the creation of animals with human-derived parts opens the door to potentially valuable scientific and therapeutic advances, yet invokes unsettling moral questions. Critics and champions alike stand to gain from clear identification and careful consideration of the strongest ethical objections to this research. A prevailing objection argues that crossing the human/nonhuman species boundary introduces inexorable moral confusion (IMC) that warrants a restriction to this research on precautionary grounds. Though this objection may capture the intuitions of many who (...) find this research unsettling, it relies on mistaken views of both biology and moral standing, ultimately distorting the morally relevant facts. We critically examine IMC, identify mistaken essentialist assumptions, and reframe ethical concerns. The upshot is a stronger line of objection that encourages a more inclusive and productive ethical discourse. (shrink)
Some important recent articles, including one in this journal, have sought to devise theories of rights that can transcend the longstanding debate between the Interest Theory and the Will Theory. The present essay argues that those efforts fail and that the Interest Theory and the Will Theory withstand the criticisms that have been levelled against them. To be sure, the criticisms have been valuable in that they have prompted the amplification and clarification of the two dominant theories of rights; but (...) their upshot has been to reveal the need for the improvement, rather than the abandonment, of those theories. (shrink)
As is well known to everyone familiar with the analytical table of legal relationships propounded by the American jurist Wesley Hohfeld, one of the eight positions in the table is that of the no-right. In most discussions of Hohfeld’s overall framework, no-rights have received rather little attention. Doubtless, one reason for the relative dearth of scrutiny is that Hohfeld devised a hyphenated neologism to designate no-rights. Each of the other positions in the Hohfeldian table is designated by a term with (...) a solid grounding in everyday discourse and juristic discourse, whereas the hyphenated term “no-right”—in contrast with the unhyphenated phrase “no right”—does not have any comparable grounding either in ordinary discourse or in juristic discourse. That neologism is almost never employed by anyone outside the confines of discussions of Hohfeld’s categories, and it is often not employed even within those confines. Notwithstanding the enormous amount of philosophical and juristic attention bestowed on Hohfeld’s analytical framework since its elaboration in the second decade of the twentieth century, the term “no-right” has found little favor in philosophical or juristic circles. Moreover, on the rather rare occasions when the term is used rather than merely mentioned, it is almost always misused. The exploration of the correct use of that term in the first half of this paper may seem rather fussy, but the importance of that exploration for a satisfactory understanding of legal and moral relationships will become apparent in the second half of the paper. While endeavoring to vindicate the term “no-right” as a fully apposite element in the vocabulary of legal philosophy, this paper will also be replying to a recent article by Heidi Hurd and Michael Moore in this journal. (shrink)
Type specimens are used to designate species. What is the nature of the relation between a type specimen and the species it designates? If species names are rigid designators, and type specimens ostensively define species, then that relation is, at the very least, a close one. Levine :325–338, 2001) argues that the relationship of type specimen to a named species is one of necessity—and that this presents problems for the individuality thesis. Namely, it seems odd that a contingently selected specimen (...) should belong to a species of necessity. In considering Levine’s argument, LaPorte suggests that recognizing the distinction between de re and de dicto necessity resolves Levine’s worries. I reconsider the motivating question: does a type specimen belong of necessity to the species that it designates? In light of taxonomic cases and practice the answer is clear: definitively not. This is particularly clear in the case of re-designation of types by taxonomic decree. I explain how this helps reveal how taxonomists prioritize competing theoretical commitments, and offer a defense of the individuality thesis as applied to these particular cases. In short, I demonstrate how to misidentify a type specimen. (shrink)
The morality of interrogational torture has been the subject of heated debate in recent years. In explaining why torture is morally wrong, Kramer engages in deep philosophical reflections on the nature of morality and on moral conflicts.
Some astronomers believe that we have discovered that Pluto is not a planet. I contest this assessment. Recent discoveries of trans-Neptunian Pluto-sized objects do not require that we exclude Pluto from the planets. But the obvious alternative, that classificatory revision is a matter of arbitrary choice, is also unpalatable. I argue that this classificatory controversy — which I compare to the controversy about the classification of the platypus — illustrates how our classificatory practices are laden with normative commitments of a (...) distinctive kind. I argue that the “norm-ladenness” of classification has philosophically significant ramifications for how we think about scientific disputes and debates in the metaphysics of classification such as the monism/pluralism debate. (shrink)
In Legality Scott Shapiro seeks to provide the motivation for the development of his own elaborate account of law by undertaking a critique of H.L.A. Hart's jurisprudential theory. Hart maintained that every legal system is underlain by a rule of recognition through which officials of the system identify the norms that belong to the system as laws. Shapiro argues that Hart's remarks on the rule of recognition are confused and that his model of lawis consequently untenable. Shapiro contends that a (...) new approach is vital for progress in the philosophy of law and, with his lengthy presentation of his own Planning Theory of Law, he aspires to pioneer just such an approach. Except for a very terse observation in the final main section, this article does not directly assess the strengths and shortcomings of Shapiro's piquant planning theory. Instead, I defend Hart against Shapiro's charges and thereby undermine the motivation for the development of the planning theory. (shrink)
Samir Okasha argues that clade selection is an incoherent concept, because the relation that constitutes clades is such that it renders parent-offspring (reproduction) relations between clades impossible. He reasons that since clades cannot reproduce, it is not coherent to speak of natural selection operating at the clade level. We argue, however, that when species-level lineages and clade-level lineages are treated consistently according to standard cladist commitments, clade reproduction is indeed possible and clade selection is coherent if certain conditions obtain. Despite (...) clade selection's logical coherence, however, we share some of Okasha's pessimism. Whether or not clades are a unit of selection is ultimately a question of empirical support and theoretical import. (shrink)
Biological lineages move through time, space, and each other. As they do, they diversify, diverge, and grade away from and into one another. One result of this is genealogical discordance; i.e., the lineages of a biological entity may have different histories. We see this on numerous levels, from microbial networks, to holobionts, to population-level lineages. This paper considers how genealogical discordance impacts our study of species. More specifically, I consider this in the context of three framing questions: (1) How, if (...) at all, does genealogical discordance challenge, modify, or revise how we conceive of species? (2) How has growing appreciation of genealogical discordance impacted scientific practice? Of systematics in particular? (3) How do lineages at different levels diverge and diversify? All told, genealogical discordance enriches and complicates our taxonomic ontology, as well as the practice of reconstructing phylogenies. This presents both challenges and opportunities for the study of divergence and diversification. (shrink)
Michael Ghiselin and David Hull’s individuality thesis is that biological species are individuals. Philosophers often treat the term “individual” as synonymous with “mereological sum” and characterize it in terms of mereology. It is easy to see how the biological project has been interpreted as a mereological one. This chapter argues that this is a mistake, that biological part/whole relations often violate the axioms of mereology. Conflating these projects confuses the central issues at stake in both, and makes the job of (...) evaluating either unnecessarily burdensome. Clarifying this helps identify the genuine metaphysical implications of the individuality thesis, which serves as an exemplar of scientifically informed metaphysics. (shrink)
This essay argues against the commonly held view that "ought" implies "can" in the domain of morality. More specifically, I contest the notion that nobody should ever be held morally responsible for failing to avoid the infliction of any harm that he or she has not been able to avoid through all reasonably feasible precautions in the carrying out of some worthwhile activity. The article explicates the concept of a moral right in order to show why violations of moral rights (...) can occur even when no one has acted wrongfully in any fashion. In so doing, it will effectively be maintaining that strict liability (i.e., liability irrespective of the presence or absence of culpability) exists in morality as well as in law. When we take account of the distinction between exoneration and extenuation, we can see that scrupulously thorough precautions are never sufficient to constitute an excuse in morality. Having made that point with some extended examples, the article goes on to consider a number of possible objections - objections that lead into discussions of some basic distinctions within moral philosophy and some central principles within deontic logic. (shrink)
Do the laws of nature supervene on ordinary, non-nomic matters of fact? Lange's criticism of Humean supervenience (HS) plays a key role in his account of natural laws. Though we are sympathetic to his account, we remain unconvinced by his criticism. We focus on his thought experiment involving a world containing nothing but a lone proton and argue that it does not cast sufficient doubt on HS. In addition, we express some concern about locating the lawmakers in an ontology of (...) primitive subjunctive facts and suggest that a 'mixed' metaphysics to the lawmaker question might be attractive. (shrink)
We often knowingly teach false science. Such a practice conflicts with a prima facie pedagogical value placed on teaching only what’s true. I argue that only a partial dissolution of the conflict is possible: the proper aim of instruction in science is not to provide an armory of facts about what things the world contains, how they interact, and so on, but rather to contribute to an understanding of how science as a human endeavor works and what sorts of facts (...) about the world science aims to provide. Such an aim legislates for an increased prominence of history and philosophy in even secondary science education. (shrink)
This article defends my 2011 book “The Ethics of Capital Punishment” against the thoughtful critiques written by Carol Steiker and John Danaher respectively. It does not attempt to respond to every point of contention in the two critiques, but concentrates instead on a few of the main points from each of them.
In Albert Camus and the Political Philosophy of the Absurd: Ambivalence, Resistance, and Creativity, Matthew H. Bowker takes an interdisciplinary approach to Albert Camus’ political philosophy by reading absurdity itself as a metaphor for the psychosocial dynamics of ambivalence, resistance, integration, and creativity. Decoupling absurdity from its ontological aspirations and focusing instead on its psychological and phenomenal contours, Bowker discovers an absurdist foundation for ethical and political practice.
There is a tension between the “growing block” account of time (closed past, open future) and the possibility of backwards time travel. If Tim the time traveler can someday travel backwards through time, then he has (in a certain sense) already been. He might discover this fact before (in another sense) he goes. Hence a dilemma: it seems that either Tim’s future is determined in an odd way or cases of (temporary) ontic indeterminate identity are possible. Either Tim cannot avoid (...) heading for the past or he is only indeterminately that guy who appeared in the past with many of Tim’s memories. Determinacy in the past implies a degree of determinism in the future; indeterminism about the future seeps back to the past. (shrink)
In this wide-ranging investigation of leading issues in contemporary legal and political philosophy, distinguished philosophers and legal theorists tackle issues such as the rights of animals, the role of public-policy considerations in legal reasoning, the appropriateness of compensation as a means of rectifying mishaps and misdeeds, the extent of individuals' responsibility for the consequences of their choices, and the culpability of failed attempts to commit crimes.
The Direct Argument for the incompatibility of moral responsibility and determinism is designed to side-step complaints given by compatibilist critiques of the so-called Transfer Argument. I argue that while it represents an improvement over the Transfer Argument, it loses some of its plausibility when we reflect on some metalogical issues about normal modal modeling and the semantics of natural language. More specifically, the crucial principle on which the Direct Argument depends appears doubtful where context plays a role in evaluation of (...) normative claims. (shrink)
This article delineates some of the main issues that are debated by philosophers of law. It explores the connections between legal philosophy and other areas of philosophy, while also seeking to specify the distinctiveness of many of the concerns that have preoccupied philosophers of law. It illustrates its abstract points with examples focused on the separability of law and morality, the nature of the rule of law, the nature of rights, justifications for the imposition of punishment, and the identification of (...) basic legal entitlements. (shrink)
Ronald Dworkin has long criticized legal positivists for their efforts to distinguish between legal and non-legal standards of conduct that are incumbent on people. Recently, Dworkin has broached this criticism in his hostile account of the debates between Incorporationist Legal Positivists and Exclusive Legal Positivists. Specifically, he has maintained that Incorporationists cannot avoid the unpalatable conclusion that the axioms and theorems of arithmetic are legal norms. This article shows why such a conclusion is indeed avoidable and why Dworkin's criticism is (...) therefore wide of the mark. (shrink)
This volume analyzes the biological and philosophical disagreements in evolutionary ethics and points out difficulties with the interpretations. The book is divided into four sections. The first is an historical introduction to the origin of evolutionary ethics, showing how different evolutionary ethics was a hundred years ago, and how distant Huxley is from most of us now. The second section argues for a sociobiological interpretation of evolutionary ethics. The third section presents the view opposite to that of the second section (...) and rejects the sociobiological interpretation. The fourth section deals objectively with many complex and fundamental issues from diverse perspectives. (shrink)