Critics of theological accounts of the nature of morality have argued that such accounts must be rejected, even by theists, because such accounts (i) have the unacceptable implication that nothing is morally wrong in possible worlds in which atheism is true, (ii) render the substantive content of morality arbitrary, and (iii) make it impossible or redundant to attribute moral properties to God or God’s actions. I argue that none of these criticisms constitute good reason for theists to abandon theological accounts (...) of the nature of morality. (shrink)
The term "human dignity" is the source of considerable confusion in contemporary bioethics. It has been used by Kantians to refer to autonomy, by others to refer to the sanctity of life, and by still others to refer—albeit obliquely—to an important but infrequently discussed set of human goods. In the first part of this article, I seek to disambiguate the notion of human dignity. The second part is a defense of the philosophical utility of such a notion; I argue that (...) there is nothing implausible about appealing to a deontological "principle of dignity" to solve bioethical problems, especially those concerning the development of new biotechnologies. There may, however, be problems associated with any attempt to use dignity as a basis for public policy. This sort of worry is explained and briefly addressed in the final section. (shrink)
This essay presents a theistic account of deontic properties that can lay claim to many of the advantages of divine command theory but which avoids its flaws. The account, divine attitude theory, asserts that moral properties should be understood in terms of agent-directed divine attitudes, such that it is morally wrong for an agent to perform an action just in case God would be displeased with the agent for performing that action. Among the virtues of this account is its ability (...) to explain the modal status of fundamental moral truths, something that divine command theory cannot do. (shrink)
One central question of metaethics concerns whether there are any moral facts. I argue that morality as such is characterized by a number of distinctive features, and that metaphysical naturalists should believe that there are moral facts only if there is a plausible naturalistic explanation of the existence of facts which exemplify those features. I survey three prominent (and very different) naturalistic moral theories—the reductive naturalism of Peter Railton, Frank Jackson’s analytic descriptivism, and Christine Korsgaard’s Kantianism—and argue that none of (...) them has the resources to explain the existence of genuine moral facts. (shrink)
In this paper, I argue that theists are extremely well-situated with respect to developing metaethical accounts that qualify as ‘robust’ versions of moral realism. In the first part of the essay, a number of metaethical desiderata are identified. In the second part, theistic strategies for accommodating those desiderata are explained and defended. The upshot is that, contrary to the received philosophical wisdom, there are good theoretical reasons for theistic philosophers to seek to develop metaethical accounts that ground moral facts in (...) facts about God. (shrink)
Only human beings have a rich conceptual repertoire with concepts like tort, entropy, Abelian group, mannerism, icon and deconstruction. How have humans constructed these concepts? And once they have been constructed by adults, how do children acquire them? While primarily focusing on the second question, in The Origin of Concepts , Susan Carey shows that the answers to both overlap substantially. Carey begins by characterizing the innate starting point for conceptual development, namely systems of core cognition. Representations of (...) core cognition are the output of dedicated input analyzers, as with perceptual representations, but these core representations differ from perceptual representations in having more abstract contents and richer functional roles. Carey argues that the key to understanding cognitive development lies in recognizing conceptual discontinuities in which new representational systems emerge that have more expressive power than core cognition and are also incommensurate with core cognition and other earlier representational systems. Finally, Carey fleshes out Quinian bootstrapping, a learning mechanism that has been repeatedly sketched in the literature on the history and philosophy of science. She demonstrates that Quinian bootstrapping is a major mechanism in the construction of new representational resources over the course of childrens cognitive development. Carey shows how developmental cognitive science resolves aspects of long-standing philosophical debates about the existence, nature, content, and format of innate knowledge. She also shows that understanding the processes of conceptual development in children illuminates the historical process by which concepts are constructed, and transforms the way we think about philosophical problems about the nature of concepts and the relations between language and thought. (shrink)
Is the no-minimum claim true? I have argued that it is not. Andrew Cullison contends that my argument fails, since human sentience is variable; while Michael Schrynemakers has contended that the failure is my neglect of vagueness. Both, I argue, are wrong.
A central understanding in experimental economics is that subjects’ decisions in the lab are independent of history. We test whether this assumption of between-experiment independence is indeed justified. We analyze experiments with an allocation decision and find that participation in previous experiments tends to increase the amount subjects allocate to themselves. Hence, independence between experiments cannot be presumed if subjects participate repeatedly. The finding has implications for the interpretation of previous allocation decision results and deserves attention when running future experiments.
A theory of conceptual development must specify the innate representational primitives, must characterize the ways in which the initial state differs from the adult state, and must characterize the processes through which one is transformed into the other. The Origin of Concepts (henceforth TOOC) defends three theses. With respect to the initial state, the innate stock of primitives is not limited to sensory, perceptual, or sensorimotor representations; rather, there are also innate conceptual representations. With respect to developmental change, conceptual development (...) consists of episodes of qualitative change, resulting in systems of representation that are more powerful than, and sometimes incommensurable with, those from which they are built. With respect to a learning mechanism that achieves conceptual discontinuity, I offer Quinian bootstrapping. TOOC concludes with a discussion of how an understanding of conceptual development constrains a theory of concepts. (shrink)
While endorsing Gopnik's proposal that studies of the emergence and modification of scientific theories and studies of cognitive development in children are mutually illuminating, we offer a different picture of the beginning points of cognitive development from Gopnik's picture of "theories all the way down." Human infants are endowed with several distinct core systems of knowledge which are theory-like in some, but not all, important ways. The existence of these core systems of knowledge has implications for the joint research program (...) between philosophers and psychologists that Gopnik advocates and we endorse. A few lessons already gained from this program of research are sketched. (shrink)
Are human beings linked by a common nature, one that makes them see the world in the same moral way? Or are they fragmented by different cultural practices and values? These fundamental questions of our existence were debated in the Enlightenment by Locke, Shaftesbury, and Hutcheson. Daniel Carey provides an important new historical perspective on their discussion. At the same time, he explores the relationship between these founding arguments and contemporary disputes over cultural diversity and multiculturalism. Our own conflicting (...) positions today reflect long-standing differences that emerged during the Enlightenment. (shrink)
The exclusion problem is held to show that mental and physical events are identical by claiming that the denial of this identity is incompatible with the causal completeness of physics and the occurrence of mental causation. The problem relies for its motivation on the claim that overdetermination of physical effects by mental and physical causes is objectionable for a variety of reasons. In this paper, I consider four different definitions of? overdetermination? and argue that, on each, overdetermination in all cases (...) of mental causation either does not occur or is unobjectionable, even when mental and physical events are non-identical. I therefore conclude that the exclusion problem cannot be used as a reason to accept that mental and physical events are identical unless some other definition of? overdetermination? is provided. (shrink)
This is a wide-ranging 2004 book about arguments for and against beliefs in God. The arguments for the belief are analysed in the first six chapters and include ontological arguments from Anselm to Gödel, the cosmological arguments of Aquinas and Leibniz, and arguments from evidence for design and miracles. The next two chapters consider arguments against belief. The last chapter examines Pascalian arguments for and against belief in God. There are discussions of Cantorian problems for omniscience, of challenges to divine (...) omnipotence, and of the compatibility of everlasting complete knowledge of the world with free-will. There are appendices that present formal proofs in a system for quantified modal logic, a theory of possible worlds, notes on Cantorian set theory, and remarks concerning non-standard hyperreal numbers. This book will be a valuable resource for philosophers of religion and theologians and will interest logicians and mathematicians as well. (shrink)
Dehaene articulates a naturalistic approach to the cognitive foundations of mathematics. Further, he argues that the ‘number line’ system of representation is the evolutionary and ontogenetic foundation of numerical concepts. Here I endorse Dehaene’s naturalistic stance and also his characterization of analog magnitude number representations. Although analog magnitude representations are part of the evolutionary foundations of numerical concepts, I argue that they are unlikely to be part of the ontogenetic foundations of the capacity to represent natural number. Rather, the developmental (...) source of explicit integer list representations of number are more likely to be systems such as the object–file representations that articulate mid–level object based attention, systems that build parallel representations of small sets of individuals. (shrink)
Obtaining informed consent is a cornerstone of biomedical research, yet participants comprehension of presented information is often low. The most effective interventions to improve understanding rates have not been identified.
This article explores the ethical challenges of providing Medical Assistance in Dying in a paediatric setting. More specifically, we focus on the theoretical questions that came to light when we were asked to develop a policy for responding to MAID requests at our tertiary paediatric institution. We illuminate a central point of conceptual confusion about the nature of MAID that emerges at the level of practice, and explore the various entailments for clinicians and patients that would flow from different understandings. (...) Finally, we consider the ethical challenges of building policy on what is still an extremely controversial social practice. While MAID is currently available to capable patients in Canada who are 18 years or older—a small but important subsection of the population our hospital serves—we write our policy with an eye to the near future when capable young people may gain access to MAID. We propose that an opportunity exists for MAID-providing institutions to reduce social stigma surrounding this practice, but not without potentially serious consequences for practitioners and institutions themselves. Thus, this paper is intended as a road map through the still-emerging legal and ethical landscape of paediatric MAID. We offer a view of the roads taken and considered along the way, and our justifications for travelling the paths we chose. By providing a record of our in-progress thinking, we hope to stimulate wider discussion about the issues and questions encountered in this work. (shrink)
A theory of conceptual development must provide an account of the innate representational repertoire, must characterize how these initial representations differ from the adult state, and must provide an account of the processes that transform the initial into mature representations. In Carey, 2009 (The Origin of Concepts), I defend three theses: 1) the initial state includes rich conceptual representations, 2) nonetheless, there are radical discontinuities between early and later developing conceptual systems, 3) Quinean bootstrapping is one learning mechanism that (...) underlies the creation of new representational resources, enabling such discontinuity. I also claim that the theory of conceptual development developed in The Origin of Concepts addresses two of Fodor's challenges to cognitive science; namely, to show how learning could possibly lead to an increase in expressive power and to defeat Mad Dog Nativism, the thesis that all concepts lexicalized as mono-morphemic words are innate. A recent article by Georges Rey (Mind & Language, 29.2, 2014) argues that my responses to Fodor's challenges fail, because, he says, I fail to distinguish concept possession from manifestation and I do not confront Goodman's new riddle of induction. My response is to show that, and how, new primitives in a language of thought can be learned, that there are easy routes and hard ones to doing so, and that characterizing the learning mechanisms involved is the key to understanding both concept possession and constraints on induction. (shrink)
In order to defend her claim that the concept object is biologically determined, Carey must answer Quine's gavagai argument, which purports to show that mastery of any concept with determinate reference presupposes a substantial repertoire of logical concepts. I maintain that the gavagai argument withstands the experimental data that Carey provides, but that it yields to an a priori argument.
In the debate surrounding the morality and legality of the practices of physician-assisted death and euthanasia, a common logical argument regularly employed against these practices is the “slippery slope argument.” One formulation of this argument claims that acceptance of physician-assisted death will eventually lead down a “slippery slope” into acceptance of active euthanasia, including its voluntary, non-voluntary, and/or involuntary forms, through psychological and social processes that warp a society’s values and moral perspective of a practice over an extended period of (...) time. This formulation is known as the psychological slippery slope argument. This paper analyzes the psychological slippery slope argument as it is applied to the practice of physician-assisted death, and utilizing recent empirical evidence from various nations around the world that practice physician-assisted death and/or euthanasia, the paper argues that employing the psychological slippery slope argument against physician-assisted death is logically fallacious, this kind of slippery slope is unfounded in practice, and thus the psychological slippery slope argument is insufficient on its own to justify continued legal prohibition of physician-assisted death. (shrink)
Conciliatory views about disagreement with one’s epistemic peers lead to a somewhat troubling skeptical conclusion: that often, when we know others disagree, we ought to be (perhaps much) less sure of our beliefs than we typically are. One might attempt to extend this skeptical conclusion by arguing that disagreement with merely possible epistemic agents should be epistemically significant to the same degree as disagreement with actual agents, and that, since for any belief we have, it is possible that someone should (...) disagree in the appropriate way, we ought to be much less sure of all of our beliefs than we typically are. In this paper, I identify what I take to be the main motivation for thinking that actual disagreement is epistemically significant and argue that it does not also motivate the epistemic significance of merely possible disagreement. (shrink)
Teleological explanations (TEs) account for the existence or properties of an entity in terms of a function: we have hearts because they pump blood, and telephones for communication. While many teleological explanations seem appropriate, others are clearly not warranted-for example, that rain exists for plants to grow. Five experiments explore the theoretical commitments that underlie teleological explanations. With the analysis of [Wright, L. (1976). Teleological Explanations. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press] from philosophy as a point of departure, we examine (...) in Experiment 1 whether teleological explanations are interpreted causally, and confirm that TEs are only accepted when the function invoked in the explanation played a causal role in bringing about what is being explained. However, we also find that playing a causal role is not sufficient for all participants to accept TEs. Experiment 2 shows that this is not because participants fail to appreciate the causal structure of the scenarios used as stimuli. In Experiments 3-5 we show that the additional requirement for TE acceptance is that the process by which the function played a causal role must be general in the sense of conforming to a predictable pattern. These findings motivate a proposal, Explanation for Export, which suggests that a psychological function of explanation is to highlight information likely to subserve future prediction and intervention. We relate our proposal to normative accounts of explanation from philosophy of science, as well as to claims from psychology and artificial intelligence. (shrink)