Drawing on a rich pragmatist tradition, this book offers an account of the different kinds of ‘oughts’, or varieties of normativity, that we are subject to contends that there is no conflict between normativity and the world as science describes it. The authors argue that normative claims aim to evaluate, to urge us to do or not do something, and to tell us how a state of affairs ought to be. These claims articulate forms of action-guidance that are different in (...) kind from descriptive claims, with a wholly distinct practical and expressive character. This account suggests that there are no normative facts, and so nothing that needs any troublesome shoehorning into a scientific account of the world. This work explains that nevertheless, normative claims are constrained by the world, and answerable to reason and argumentation, in a way that makes them truth-apt and objective. (shrink)
My dissertation is concerned with natural kind terms; its most basic goal is to provide a semantic account of the role these play in scientific discourse. Since my broad semantic approach follows Sellars and Brandom in looking to the pragmatically articulated inferential role of sentences rather than their relation to the world, I manage to set aside metaphysical questions regarding the nature of kinds. I begin with an account of the central role played by natural kind terms in theoretical explanation. (...) I show how natural kind terms are essential to the explanatory function of scientific laws as inference licenses of a certain sort. I turn then to the curious fact that natural kind terms occur in multiple grammatical positions: as parts of attributive predicates and as apparently singular referents . This latter role is at times one that seems to involve a quantificational attribution to all members of the kind, but at other times is more robust . My account demonstrates the utility of just such ambiguity to the role played by kind terms in explanation. I go on to account for a number of other puzzling features of natural kind term usage and to explain the distinction between natural kind terms and other sortals on grounds of their distinctive pragmatic significances. I conclude by laying out how my view can be extended to give a semantics for other sorts of kind terms . This allows us to draw a substantial distinction between gerrymandered kind terms and those that our theories should genuinely commit us to, while acknowledging that the entire natural/social divide among the kind terms stands or falls with our ability to show that there is an important fundamental distinction between different sorts of theories. (shrink)
Cognitive functions like perception, memory, language, or consciousness are based on highly parallel and distributed information processing by the brain. One of the major unresolved questions is how information can be integrated and how coherent representational states can be established in the distributed neuronal systems subserving these functions. It has been suggested that this so-called ''binding problem'' may be solved in the temporal domain. The hypothesis is that synchronization of neuronal discharges can serve for the integration of distributed neurons into (...) cell assemblies and that this process may underlie the selection of perceptually and behaviorally relevant information. As we intend to show here, this temporal binding hypothesis has implications for the search of the neural correlate of consciousness. We review experimental results, mainly obtained in the visual system, which support the notion of temporal binding. In particular, we discuss recent experiments on the neural mechanisms of binocular rivalry which suggest that appropriate synchronization among cortical neurons may be one of the necessary conditions for the buildup of perceptual states and awareness of sensory stimuli. (shrink)
The newest addition to the Point/Counterpoint Series, Abortion: Three Perspectives features a debate between four noted philosophers - Michael Tooley, Celia Wolf-Devine, Philip E. Devine, and Alison M. Jaggar - presenting different perspectives on one of the most socially and politically argued issues of the past 30 years. The three main arguments include the "liberal" pro-choice approach, the "communitarian" pro-life approach, and the "gender justice" approach. Divided into two parts, the text features the authors' ideas, developed in depth, (...) and their responses to one another within each framework. As philosophers, the authors have special skills in critical analysis and thinking systematically about values. The text is appropriate for advanced courses in ethics, bioethics, sex and gender issues, and contemporary moral issues. (shrink)
No consensus yet exists on how to handle incidental fnd-ings in human subjects research. Yet empirical studies document IFs in a wide range of research studies, where IFs are fndings beyond the aims of the study that are of potential health or reproductive importance to the individual research participant. This paper reports recommendations of a two-year project group funded by NIH to study how to manage IFs in genetic and genomic research, as well as imaging research. We conclude that researchers (...) have an obligation to address the possibility of discovering IFs in their protocol and communications with the IRB, and in their consent forms and communications with research participants. Researchers should establish a pathway for handling IFs and communicate that to the IRB and research participants. We recommend a pathway and categorize IFs into those that must be disclosed to research participants, those that may be disclosed, and those that should not be disclosed. (shrink)
A new edition of the highly acclaimed book Multiculturalism and "The Politics of Recognition," this paperback brings together an even wider range of leading philosophers and social scientists to probe the political controversy surrounding ...
Peer review is a widely accepted instrument for raising the quality of science. Peer review limits the enormous unstructured influx of information and the sheer amount of dubious data, which in its absence would plunge science into chaos. In particular, peer review offers the benefit of eliminating papers that suffer from poor craftsmanship or methodological shortcomings, especially in the experimental sciences. However, we believe that peer review is not always appropriate for the evaluation of controversial hypothetical science. We argue that (...) the process of peer review can be prone to bias towards ideas that affirm the prior convictions of reviewers and against innovation and radical new ideas. Innovative hypotheses are thus highly vulnerable to being “filtered out” or made to accord with conventional wisdom by the peer review process. Consequently, having introduced peer review, the Elsevier journal Medical Hypotheses may be unable to continue its tradition as a radical journal allowing discussion of improbable or unconventional ideas. Hence we conclude by asking the publisher to consider re-introducing the system of editorial review to Medical Hypotheses. (shrink)
Following the success of Hong Kong Corner Houses, German photographer MichaelWolf continues his collaboration with Hong Kong University Press to produce Small God, Big City. Wolf again uses his creative eye to draw attention to overlooked objects in the visually rich urban environment of Hong Kong. This time the object is the Earth God shrine, found commonly by the doorways of shops and homes throughout Hong Kong. Through his visually stimulating and thought-provoking photographs, Wolf challenges (...) our sensitivity to seemingly familiar everyday things. An interpretative text for the photographs is authored by two familiar names: Lee Ho Yin and Lynne DiStefano, who are well-known academics and practitioners of heritage conservation in Hong Kong. The text is a highly readable curatorial essay that leads readers to a better understanding of the topic and the meaning behind Wolf 's photographs of Earth God shrines in urban Hong Kong. The topic of this book is timely, given the vulnerability of traditional beliefs and practices in an increasingly urbanized Hong Kong. It is hoped that Small God, Big City will provoke deeper thoughts on who we are and what we believe in this modern world. (shrink)
We adjudicate a recent dispute concerning the desire theory of well-being. Stock counterexamples to the desire theory include “quirky” desires that seem irrelevant to well-being, such as the desire to count blades of grass. Bruckner claims that such desires are relevant to well-being, provided that the desirer can characterize the object in such a way that makes it clear to others what attracts the desirer to it. Lin claims that merely being attracted to the object of one’s desire should be (...) sufficient for it to be relevant to one’s well-being. The capacity to characterize the desire as Bruckner requires does no work in the explanation of the welfare-relevance of the desire, Lin claims, especially since Lin’s account and Bruckner’s account are extensionally equivalent. In response, we provide a conceptual analysis of desire based on conceptual role semantics. Our analysis shows the plausibility of and motivation for Bruckner’s account. As well, it shows that the extensional equivalence of the accounts is no accident, but due to what it is to have a desire. Lin has not succeeded in providing an alternative to Bruckner’s account, but merely reformulated it, though in an illuminating way that supports Bruckner’s original case. (shrink)
Many contextualist accounts in epistemology appeal to ordinary language and everyday practice as grounds for positing a low-standards knowledge (knowledgeL) that contrasts with high-standards prevalent in epistemology (knowledgeH). We compare these arguments to arguments from the height of “ordinary language” philosophy in the mid 20th century and find that all such arguments face great difficulties. We find a powerful argument for the legitimacy and necessity of knowledgeL (but not of knowledgeH). These appeals to practice leave us with reasons to accept (...) knowledgeL in the face of radical doubts raised by skeptics. We conclude by arguing that by relegating knowledgeH to isolated contexts, the contextualist fails to deal with the skeptical challenge head-on. KnowledgeH and knowledgeL represent competing, incompatible intuitions about knowledge, and we must choose between them. A fallibilist conception of knowledge, formed with proper attention to radical doubts, can address the skeptical challenge without illicit appeal to everyday usage. (shrink)
Few philosophers today doubt the importance of some notion of rigid designation, as suggested by Kripke and Putnam for names and natural kind terms. At the very least, most of us want our theories to be compatible with the most plausible elements of that account. Anaphoric theories of reference have gained some attention lately, but little attention has been given to how they square with rigid designation. Although the differences between anaphoric theories and many interpretations of the New Theory of (...) reference are substantial, I argue that rigid designation and anaphoric theories can be reconciled with one another and in fact complement one another in important ways. (shrink)
In recent years, many researchers engaged in diverse areas and approaches of “cultural-historical activity theory” (CHAT) realized an increasing international interest in Lev S. Vygotsky’s, A. N. Leont’ev’s, and A. Luria’s work and its continuations. Not so long ago, Yrjö Engeström noted that the activity approach was still “the best-held secret of academia” (p. 64) and highlighted the “impressive dimension of theorizing behind” it. Certainly, this remark reflects a time when CHAT was off the beaten tracks. But if this situation (...) begins to change today, in which direction will CHAT be heading? Will it continue to be one of those projects “unique for its practical, political, and civic engagement” committed “to ideals of social justice, equality, and social change” as it was in the beginning (Stetsenko & Arievitch, 2004, p. 58)? Although a positive future of CHAT seems to lie ahead, we consider in this article some of the problematics that may challenge all those who want to pass the “impressive dimensions of theorizing” from “insider” circles to a larger audience and from one generation to another as well as encourage newcomers to become part of this tradition through critical engagement in its theory and practice. A key to these engagements, we suggest, is not only the comprehensive empirical and philosophical basis, but also the role of dialectics as both topic and method. Therefore, the challenge for newcomers (as well as for “old-timers”) to take on the tradition of CHAT is not a small one indeed. We assume that a major reason for the increasing interest in CHAT lies in its potential to provide a non-reductionist approach to human development, which is due to its affinity to dialectics; however, the close interrelation to a tradition that reaches back to the theories of Georg W.F. Hegel and Karl Marx, among others, is not the easiest to master. In consideration of these difficulties, the purpose of this article is to investigate how contemporary approaches within CHAT can continue to provide a dialectical framework to preserve and renew the critical intention of this tradition, and how we run the risk of losing this sting. Thereby, we sensitize researchers to the problem of developing a cultural-historical approach within a historical situation that confronts us with new, unanswered questions. In this light, we also problematize the use of scientific language, for it may lead us to speak and argue un-dialectically when in fact we intend or ought to think dialectically. This article seeks to convey insights and arguments of how we can relate our theoretical approaches to a tradition of dialectical thinking and in what ways this is paramount for a critical engagement in theory and practice. In the first part, we therefore discuss not only some major theorems in Hegel’s and Marx’s work but also, and above all, Vygotsky’s way of developing the cultural-historical approach of psychology. Second, we argue that the contemporary, widely known version of CHAT, related to Yrjö Engeström’s theoretical and empirical work, neglects different aspects of dialectical thinking and consequently narrows its potential to a socio-critical approach to societal practice and human development. A crucial question of this scrutiny will be the notion of contradictions and how development is supposed to be achieved. In general, our intention is not only to clarify the role of dialectics as a method for activity theory but also to problematize the role of the subjects of research in CHAT and to confront ourselves with the problems of practicing and developing a critical science in face of a complex and challenging societal world. (shrink)
In Cultivating Citizens Dwight Allman and Michael Beaty bring together some of America's leading social and political thinkers to address the question of civic vitality in contemporary American society. The resulting volume is a serious reflection on the history of civil society and a rich and rewarding conversation about the future American civic order.
During the latter half of the twentieth century, many philosophers in Europe and America turned towards social pragmatist and holistic accounts of concepts and theories. In this paper, I make the case that many forms of relativism—moral and otherwise—that emerge from this turn are misguided. While we must always operate from some framework of practices in which things may serve as reasons for us, most forms of relativism in recent decades have more boldly granted us immunity from external rational scrutiny. (...) I argue that this strong form of relativism is possible only with sharp divisions between communities of speakers that I call “strict boundaries” and that these are implausible. We are left with the possibility of social pragmatist theories that do not entail strong relativism. (shrink)
This paper addresses recent literature on rigid designation and natural kind terms that draws on the inferentialist approaches of Sellars and Brandom, among others. Much of the orthodox literature on rigidity may be seen as appealing, more or less explicitly, to a semantic form of “the given” in Sellars’s terms. However, the important insights of that literature may be reconstructed and articulated in terms more congenial to the Pittsburgh school of normative functionalism.
Causal theories of reference in the philosophy of language and philosophy of science have suggested that it could resolve lingering worries about incommensurability between theoretical claims in different paradigms, to borrow Kuhn’s terms. If we co-refer throughout different paradigms, then the problems of incommensurability are greatly diminished, according to causal theorists. I argue that assuring ourselves of that sort of constancy of reference will require comparable sorts of cross-paradigm affinities, and thus provides us with no special relief on this problem. (...) Suggestions on how to think about rigid designation across paradigms are included. (shrink)
This paper addresses some of Sellars's views on conceptual change and revision, spread across several books and articles. It begins with Sellars's distinction between rules of criticism and rules of action. I argue that Sellars's distinction here actually sheds light on the epistemology of theoretical revision. Many revisions of theoretical commitments can be motivated by the force of rules of action that govern the maintenance of our theories. I offer a partial account of this, positing two rules of action. A (...) rule of maximizing explanatory strength compels us to refine and revise theories to improve their performance, while a rule of conservatism puts boundaries on the acceptable pursuit of those goals. The dynamic between these two guides revision, narrowing the range of acceptable options. Sellars's conception of the roles of analogy and affinity are considered, as well as an elaboration of a Sellarsian point about meaning change. (shrink)
In this paper, I will outline some of the important points made by Kripke and Putnam on the meaning of natural kind terms. Their notion of the baptism of natural kinds- the process by which kind terms are initially introduced into the language â is of special concern here. I argue that their accounts leave some ambiguities that suggest a baptism of objects and kinds that is free of additional theoretical commitments. Both authors suggest that we name the stuff and (...) then let the scientists tell us what properties it really has, and hence what the real meaning is. I contend that such a barren baptism, taken at face value, cannot succeed in the semantic roles it has been assigned and that softening the stance on baptism suggests a more subtle and complex relation between reference and theoretical commitment than has emerged thus far. (shrink)