[NOTE: I now reject this essay, which was too accommodating of trans ideology.] Surprisingly, it follows from commonplaces about sex and gender that there is a widely-practiced variety of transgenderism achievable through sex/gender “exaggerating.” Recognizing exaggeration as trans---or at least its moral equivalent---has several important consequences. One is that, since most traditional cultures endorse exaggeration, trans lifestyles have often been mainstream. But more importantly, recognizing that gender exaggeration is trans (or its moral equivalent) reveals a number of sex- and gender-discriminatory (...) practices and intolerant attitudes: from pathologizing hypergender to legally restricting androgenic hormones, many people who consider themselves trans allies are less consistent in their support of transgender lifestyles than they realize. Thus, seeing exaggerators as trans not only follows from a better grasp of transgenderism, but also reveals new arguments in favor of greater gender freedom against gender-policing by both conservatives and progressives. (shrink)
This essay focuses on a recently prominent notion of ground which is distinctive for how it links metaphysics to explanation. Ground is supposed to serve both as the common factor in diverse in virtue of questions as well as the structuring relation in the project of explaining how some phenomena are “built” from more fundamental phenomena. My aim is to provide an opinionated synopsis of this notion of ground without engaging with others. Ground, so understood, generally resists illumination by appeal (...) to more familiar models of explanation. Nevertheless, its distinctive explanatory and metaphysical aspects guide us on characterizing its explanatory logic and its metaphysical features. Some issues concerning the meta-question of what grounds ground are explored, as well as some recent skeptical challenges to ground. (shrink)
Because of the difficulty posed by the contrast between the search for truth and truth itself, Michael Polanyi believes that we must alter the foundation of epistemology to include as essential to the very nature of mind, the kind of groping that constitutes the recognition of a problem. This collection of essays, assembled by Marjorie Grene, exemplifies the development of Polanyi's theory of knowledge which was first presented in Science, Faith, and Society and later systematized in Personal Knowledge. Polanyi (...) believes that the dilemma of the modern mind arises from the peculiar relation between the positivist claim for total objectivity in scientific knowledge and the unprecedented moral dynamism characterizing the social and political aspirations of the last century. The first part of Knowing and Being deals with this theme. Part two develops Polanyi's idea that centralization is incompatible with the life of science as well as his views on the role of tradition and authority in science. The essays on tacit knowing in Part Three proceed directly from his preoccupation with the nature of scientific discovery and reveal a pervasive substructure of all intelligent behavior. Polanyi believes that all knowing involves movement from internal clues to external evidence. Therefore, to explain the process of knowing, we must develop a theory of the nature of living things in general, including an account of that aspect of living things we call "mind." Part Four elaborates upon this theme. (shrink)
In various areas of Anglo-American law, legal liability turns on causation. In torts and contracts, we are each liable only for those harms we have caused by the actions that breach our legal duties. Such doctrines explicitly make causation an element of liability. In criminal law, sometimes the causal element for liability is equally explicit, as when a statute makes punishable any act that has “ caused … abuse to the child….” More often, the causal element in criminal liability is (...) more implicit, as when criminal statutes prohibit killings, maimings, rapings, burnings, etc. Such causally complex action verbs are correctly applied only to defendants who have caused death, caused disfigurement, caused penetration, caused fire damage, etc. (shrink)
Freud justified his extensive theorizing about dreams by the observation that they were “the royal road” to something much more general: namely, our unconscious mental life. The current preoccupation with the theory of excuse in criminal law scholarship can be given a similar justification, for the excuses are the royal road to theories of responsibility generally. The thought is that if we understand why we excuse in certain situations but not others, we will have also gained a much more general (...) insight into the nature of responsibility itself. Nowhere has this thought been more evident than in the century-old focus of criminal law theoreticians on the excuse of insanity, a focus that could not be justified by the importance of the excuse itself. In this paper I wish to isolate two theories of excuse, each of which instantiates its own distinctive theory of responsibility. One is what I shall call the choice theory of excuse, according to which one is excused for the doing of a wrongful action because and only because at the moment of such action's performance, one did not have sufficient capacity or opportunity to make the choice to do otherwise. Such a choice theory of excuse instantiates a more general theory of responsibility, according to which we are responsible for wrongs we freely choose to do, and not responsible for wrongs we lacked the freedom to avoid doing. The second I shall call the character theory of excuse, according to which one is excused for the doing of a wrongful action because and only because such action is not determined by those enduring attributes of ourselves we call our characters. (shrink)
In the Trolley Case, as devised by Philippa Foot and modified by Judith Jarvis Thomson, a runaway trolley is headed down a main track and will hit and kill five unless you divert it onto a side track, where it will hit and kill one.
This paper deals with Ludwik Fleck’s theory of thought styles and Michael Polanyi’s theory of tacit knowledge. Though both concepts have been very influential for science studies in general, and both have been subject to numerous interpretations, their accounts have, somewhat surprisingly, hardly been comparatively analyzed. Both Fleck and Polanyi relied on the physiology and psychology of the senses in order to show that scientific knowledge follows less the path of logical principles than the path of accepting or rejecting (...) specific conventions, where these may be psychologically or sociologically grounded. It is my aim to show that similarities and differences between Fleck and Polanyi are to be seen in the specific historical and political context in which they worked. Both authors, I shall argue, emphasized the relevance of perception in close connection to their respective understanding of science, freedom, and democracy. (shrink)
Michael Ryan (d. 1840) remains one of the most mysterious figures in the history of medical ethics, despite the fact that he was the only British physician during the middle years of the 19th century to write about ethics in a systematic way. Michael Ryan’s Writings on Medical Ethics offers both an annotated reprint of his key ethical writings, and an extensive introductory essay that fills in many previously unknown details of Ryan’s life, analyzes the significance of his (...) ethical works, and places him within the historical trajectory of the field of medical ethics. (shrink)
According to the extended cognition hypothesis (henceforth ExC), there are conditions under which thinking and thoughts (or more precisely, the material vehicles that realize thinking and thoughts) are spatially distributed over brain, body and world, in such a way that the external (beyond-the-skin) factors concerned are rightly accorded fully-paid-up cognitive status.1 According to functionalism in the philosophy of mind, “what makes something a mental state of a particular type does not depend on its internal constitution, but rather on the way (...) it functions, or the role it plays, in the system of which it is a part” (Levin 2008). The respective fates of these two positions may not be independent of each other. The claim that ExC is in some way a form of, dependent on, entailed by, or at least commonly played out in terms of, functionalism is now pretty much part of the received view of things (see, e.g., Adams and Aizawa 2008; Clark and Chalmers 1998; Clark 2005, 2008, this volume a, b, forthcoming; Menary 2007; Rupert 2004; Sprevak manuscript; Wheeler forthcoming). Thus ExC might be mandated by the existence of functionally specified cognitive systems whose boundaries are located partly outside the skin. This is the position that Andy Clark has recently dubbed extended functionalism (Clark 2008, forthcoming; see also Wheeler forthcoming). (shrink)
Young argues against Michael Huemer's contention that egoism demands sacrificing others. The centrality of mutual trust in achieving vital sociallyproduced goods requires that egoism strictly limit, in degree and scope, any allowable prédation. The need for genuine and meaningful social recognition and affirmation rules out achieving mutual trust while secretly being a predator. Egoism may not support a strong Randian principle of never sacrificing others for the benefit of oneself but it plausibly supports a principle of never achieving particular (...) benefits for oneself by imposing on others costs that undermine mutual trust. (shrink)
The idea that immoral behaviour can sometimes be admirable, and that moral behaviour can sometimes be less than admirable, has led several of its supporters to infer that moral considerations are not always overriding, contrary to what has been traditionally maintained. In this paper I shall challenge this inference. My purpose in doing so is to expose and acknowledge something that has been inadequately appreciated, namely, the moral aspect of nonmoral goods and evils. I hope thereby to show that, even (...) if immorality can be admirable, this poses no threat to morality. (shrink)
Miranda Fricker appeals to the idea of moral-epistemic disappointment in order to show how our practices of moral appraisal can be sensitive to cultural and historical contingency. In particular, she thinks that moral-epistemic disappointment allows us to avoid the extremes of crude moralism and a relativism of distance. In my response I want to investigate what disappointment is, and whether it can constitute a form of focused moral appraisal in the way that Fricker imagines. I will argue that Fricker is (...) unable to appeal to disappointment as standardly understood, but that there is a more plausible way of understanding the notion that she can employ. There are, nevertheless, significant worries about the capacity of disappointment in this sense to function as a form of moral appraisal. I will argue, finally, that even if Fricker can address these worries, her position might end up closer to moralism than she would like. (shrink)
In this paper I propose and develop a social account of global autonomy. On this view, a person is autonomous simply to the extent to which it is difficult for others to subject her to their wills. I argue that many properties commonly thought necessary for autonomy are in fact properties that tend to increase an agent’s immunity to such interpersonal subjection, and that the proposed account is therefore capable of providing theoretical unity to many of the otherwise heterogeneous requirements (...) of autonomy familiar from recent discussions. Specifically, I discuss three such requirements: (i) possession of legally protected status, (ii) a sense of one’s own self-worth, and (iii) a capacity for critical reflection. I argue that the proposed account is not only theoretically satisfying but also yields a rich and attractive conception of autonomy. (shrink)
Objects have dispositions. As Nelson Goodman put it, “a thing is full of threats and promises”. But sometimes those threats go unfulﬁlled, and the promises unkept. Sometimes the dispositions of objects fail to manifest themselves, even when their conditions of manifestation obtain. Pieces of wood, disposed to burn when heated, do not burn when heated in a vacuum chamber. And pastries, disposed to go bad when left lying around too long, won’t do so if coated with lacquer and put on (...) display in a baker ’s window. Any account of what a disposition is, or of what it takes for an object to have a disposition, should be compatible with these commonplace observations. To date, I believe, no adequate account of dispositions has been given, and the aim of this paper is to defend one. (shrink)
According to some philosophers of technology, technology embodies moral values in virtue of its functional properties and the intentions of its designers. But this paper shows that such an account makes the values supposedly embedded in technology epistemically opaque and that it does not allow for values to change. Therefore, to overcome these shortcomings, the paper introduces the novel Affordance Account of Value Embedding as a superior alternative. Accordingly, artefacts bear affordances, that is, artefacts make certain actions likelier given the (...) circumstances. Based on an interdisciplinary perspective that invokes recent moral anthropology, I conceptualize affordances as response-dependent properties. That is, they depend on intrinsic as well as extrinsic properties of the artefact. We have reason to value these properties. Therefore, artefacts embody values and are not value-neutral, which has practical implications for the design of new technologies. (shrink)
If observation is ‘theory-laden’, how can there be ‘observationally equivalent theories’? How can the observations ‘laden’ by one theory be ‘the same as’ those ‘laden’ by another? The answer might lie in the expressibility of observationally equivalent theories in a common mathematical formalism.