Normative theories can be useful in developing descriptive theories, as when normative subjective expected utility theory is used to develop descriptive rational choice theory and behavioral game theory. “Ought” questions are also the essence of theories of moral reasoning, a domain of higher mental processing that could not survive without normative considerations.
The recent case of the UK woman who lost her legal struggle to be impregnated with her own frozen embryos, raises critical issues about the meaning of reproductive autonomy and the scope of regulatory practices. I revisit this case within the context of contemporary debate about the moral and legal dimensions of assisted reproduction. I argue that the gender neutral context that frames discussion of regulatory practices is unjust unless it gives appropriate consideration to the different positions women and men (...) occupy in relation to reproductive processes and their options for autonomous choice. First, I consider relevant legal rulings, media debate, and scholarly commentary. Then I discuss the concept of reproductive autonomy imbedded in this debate. I argue that this concept conflates informed consent and reproductive autonomy, thereby providing an excessively narrow reading of autonomy that fails to give due regard to relations among individuals or the social, political and economic environment that shapes their options. I contrast this notion of autonomy with feminist formulations that seek to preserve respect for the agency of individuals without severing them from the conditions of their embodiment, their surrounding social relationships, or the political contexts that shape their options. Taking these considerations into account I weigh the advantages of regulation over the commercial market arrangement that prevails in some countries and suggest general guidelines for a regulatory policy that would more equitably resolve conflicting claims to reproductive autonomy. (shrink)
There is a long-standing debate in philosophy about whether it is morally permissible to harm one person in order to prevent a greater harm to others and, if not, what is the moral principle underlying the prohibition. Hypothetical moral dilemmas are used in order to probe moral intuitions. Philosophers use them to achieve a reflective equilibrium between intuitions and principles, psychologists to investigate moral decision-making processes. In the dilemmas, the harms that are traded off are almost always deaths. However, the (...) moral principles and psychological processes are supposed to be broader than this, encompassing harms other than death. Further, if the standard pattern of intuitions is preserved in the domain of economic harm, then that would open up the possibility of studying behaviour in trolley problems using the tools of experimental economics. We report the results of two studies designed to test whether the standard patterns of intuitions are preserved when the domain and severity of harm are varied. Our findings show that the difference in moral intuitions between bystander and footbridge scenarios is replicated across different domains and levels of physical and non-physical harm, including economic harms. (shrink)
We argue that human rights are best conceived as norms arising from a fiduciary relationship that exists between states and the citizens and noncitizens subject to their power. These norms draw on a Kantian conception of moral personhood, protecting agents from instrumentalization and domination. They do not, however, exist in the abstract as timeless natural rights. Instead, they are correlates of the state's fiduciary duty to provide equal security under the rule of law, a duty that flows from the state's (...) institutional assumption of irresistible sovereign powers. (shrink)
In this paper I make the case for a feminist hinge epistemology in three steps. My first step is to explain hinge epistemologies as contemporary epistemologies that take Wittgenstein’s work in On Certainty as their starting point. My second step is to make three criticisms of this literature as it currently stands. My third step is to introduce feminist epistemologies, which argue that social factors like race and gender affect what different people and groups justifiably believe, and argue that developing (...) a feminist hinge epistemology is both plausible and desirable. (shrink)
Feminist epistemologies hold that differences in the social locations of inquirers make for epistemic differences, for instance, in the sorts of things that inquirers are justified in believing. In this paper we situate this core idea in feminist epistemologies with respect to debates about social constructivism. We address three questions. First, are feminist epistemologies committed to a form of social constructivism about knowledge? Second, to what extent are they incompatible with traditional epistemological thinking? Third, do the answers to these questions (...) raise serious problems for feminist epistemologies? We argue that some versions of two of the main strands in feminist epistemology – feminist standpoint theory and feminist empiricism – are committed to a form of social constructivism, which requires certain departures from traditional epistemological thinking. But we argue that these departures are less problematic than one might think. Thus, (some) feminist epistemologies provide a plausible way of understanding how (some) knowledge might be socially constructed. (shrink)
In the literature of collective intentions, the ‘we-intentions’ that lie behind cooperative actions are analysed in terms of individual mental states. The core forms of these analyses imply that all Nash equilibrium behaviour is the result of collective intentions, even though not all Nash equilibria are cooperative actions. Unsatisfactorily, the latter cases have to be excluded either by stipulation or by the addition of further, problematic conditions. We contend that the cooperative aspect of collective intentions is not a property of (...) the intentions themselves, but of the mode of reasoning by which they are formed. We analyse collective intentions as the outcome of team reasoning, a mode of practical reasoning used by individuals as members of groups. We describe this mode of reasoning in terms of formal schemata, discuss a range of possible accounts of group agency, and show how existing theories of collective intentions fit into this framework. (shrink)
Faced with troubling professional decisions in his long and successful career as a psychiatrist, M. O'C. Drury turned for direction to the philosophical work of his teacher and friend, Ludwig Wittgenstein. Of particular concern to Drury were the situations in which psychiatrists were expected to differentiate between instances of madness that were religious in form and instances of genuine religious experience that, for their oddity, landed believers in psychiatric consulting rooms. In this essay we consider the special orientation Wittgenstein's philosophy (...) gave Drury, for example the way in which Drury came to understand how even his search for a principle of differentiation between madness and religion was misleading and contrary to his own practice—how it involved ‘sitting back in a cool hour and attempting to solve this problem as a pure piece of theory. To be the detached, wise, external critic’ and not see himself and his own manner of life ‘as intimately involved in the settlement of this question.’. (shrink)
A renowned philosopher of the mind, also known for his groundbreaking work on Buddhism and cognitive science, Evan Thompson combines the latest neuroscience research on sleep, dreaming, and meditation with Indian and Western philosophy of the mind, casting new light on the self and its relation to the brain. Thompson shows how the self is a changing process, not a static thing. When we are awake we identify with our body, but if we let our mind wander or daydream, we (...) project a mentally imagined self into the remembered past or anticipated future. As we fall asleep, the impression of being a bounded self distinct from the world dissolves, but the self reappears in the dream state. If we have a lucid dream, we no longer identify only with the self within the dream. Our sense of self now includes our dreaming self, the "I" as dreamer. Finally, as we meditate--either in the waking state or in a lucid dream--we can observe whatever images or thoughts arise and how we tend to identify with them as "me." We can also experience sheer awareness itself, distinct from the changing contents that make up our image of the self. Contemplative traditions say that we can learn to let go of the self, so that when we die we can witness its dissolution with equanimity. Thompson weaves together neuroscience, philosophy, and personal narrative to depict these transformations, adding uncommon depth to life's profound questions. Contemplative experience comes to illuminate scientific findings, and scientific evidence enriches the vast knowledge acquired by contemplatives. (shrink)
This paper proposes a refocusing of consent for clinical genetic testing, moving away from an emphasis on autonomy and information provision, towards an emphasis on the virtues of healthcare professionals seeking consent, and the relationships they construct with their patients. We draw on focus groups with UK healthcare professionals working in the field of clinical genetics, as well as in-depth interviews with patients who have sought genetic testing in the UK’s National Health Service. We explore two aspects of consent: first, (...) how healthcare professionals consider the act of ‘consenting’ patients; and second how these professional accounts, along with the accounts of patients, deepen our understanding of the consent process. Our findings suggest that while healthcare professionals working in genetic medicine put much effort into ensuring patients’ understanding about their impending genetic test, they acknowledge, and we show, that patients can still leave genetic consultations relatively uninformed. Moreover, we show how placing emphasis on the informational aspect of genetic testing is not always reflective of, or valuable to, patients’ decision-making. Rather, decision-making is socially contextualised – also based on factors outside of information provision. A more collaborative on-going consent process, grounded in virtue ethics and values of honesty, openness and trustworthiness, is proposed. (shrink)
_A provocative essay challenging the idea of Buddhist exceptionalism, from one of the world’s most widely respected philosophers and writers on Buddhism and science_ Buddhism has become a uniquely favored religion in our modern age. A burgeoning number of books extol the scientifically proven benefits of meditation and mindfulness for everything ranging from business to romance. There are conferences, courses, and celebrities promoting the notion that Buddhism is spirituality for the rational, compatible with cutting‑edge science, indeed, “a science of the (...) mind.” In this provocative book, Evan Thompson argues that this representation of Buddhism is false. In lucid and entertaining prose, Thompson dives deep into both Western and Buddhist philosophy to explain how the goals of science and religion are fundamentally different. Efforts to seek their unification are wrongheaded and promote mistaken ideas of both. He suggests cosmopolitanism instead, a worldview with deep roots in both Eastern and Western traditions. Smart, sympathetic, and intellectually ambitious, this book is a must‑read for anyone interested in Buddhism’s place in our world today. (shrink)
Defences of perspectival realism are motivated, in part, by an attempt to find a middle ground between the realist intuition that science seems to tell us a true story about the world, and the Kuhnian intuition that scientific knowledge is historically and culturally situated. The first intuition pulls us towards a traditional, absolutist scientific picture, and the second towards a relativist one. Thus, perspectival realism can be seen as an attempt to secure situated knowledge without entailing epistemic relativism. A very (...) similar motivation is behind feminist standpoint theory, a view which aims to capture the idea that knowledge is socially situated, whilst retaining some kind of absolutism. Elsewhere I argue that the feminist project fails to achieve this balance; its commitment to situated knowledge unavoidably entails epistemic relativism (though of an unproblematic kind), which allows them to achieve all of their feminist goals. In this paper I will explore whether the same arguments apply to perspectival realism. And so I will be asking whether perspectival realism too is committed to an unproblematic kind of relativism, capable of achieving scientific goals; or, whether it succeeds in carving out a third view, between or beyond the relativism/absolutism dichotomy. (shrink)
Trolley problems have been used in the development of moral theory and the psychological study of moral judgments and behavior. Most of this research has focused on people from the West, with implicit assumptions that moral intuitions should generalize and that moral psychology is universal. However, cultural differences may be associated with differences in moral judgments and behavior. We operationalized a trolley problem in the laboratory, with economic incentives and real-life consequences, and compared British and Chinese samples on moral behavior (...) and judgment. We found that Chinese participants were less willing to sacrifice one person to save five others, and less likely to consider such an action to be right. In a second study using three scenarios, including the standard scenario where lives are threatened by an on-coming train, fewer Chinese than British participants were willing to take action and sacrifice one to save five, and this cultural difference was more pronounced when the consequences were less severe than death. (shrink)
Colour fascinates all of us, and scientists and philosophers have sought to understand the true nature of colour vision for many years. In recent times, investigations into colour vision have been one of the main success stories of cognitive science, for each discipline within the field - neuroscience, psychology, linguistics, computer science and artificial intelligence, and philosophy - has contributed significantly to our understanding of colour. Evan Thompson's book is a major contribution to this interdisciplinary project. Colour Vision provides an (...) accessible review of the current scientific and philosophical discussions of colour vision. Thompson steers a course between the subjective and objective positions on colour, arguing for a relational account. This account develops a novel `ecological' approach to colour vision in cognitive science and the philosophy of perception. It is vital reading for all cognitive scientists and philosophers whose interests touch upon this central area. (shrink)
Game theory is central to modern understandings of how people deal with problems of coordination and cooperation. Yet, ironically, it cannot give a straightforward explanation of some of the simplest forms of human coordination and cooperation--most famously, that people can use the apparently arbitrary features of "focal points" to solve coordination problems, and that people sometimes cooperate in "prisoner's dilemmas." Addressing a wide readership of economists, sociologists, psychologists, and philosophers, Michael Bacharach here proposes a revision of game theory that resolves (...) these long-standing problems. In the classical tradition of game theory, Bacharach models human beings as rational actors, but he revises the standard definition of rationality to incorporate two major new ideas. He enlarges the model of a game so that it includes the ways agents describe to themselves their decision problems. And he allows the possibility that people reason as members of groups, each taking herself to have reason to perform her component of the combination of actions that best achieves the group's common goal. Bacharach shows that certain tendencies for individuals to engage in team reasoning are consistent with recent findings in social psychology and evolutionary biology. As the culmination of Bacharach's long-standing program of pathbreaking work on the foundations of game theory, this book has been eagerly awaited. Following Bacharach's premature death, Natalie Gold and Robert Sugden edited the unfinished work and added two substantial chapters that allow the book to be read as a coherent whole. (shrink)
This paper focuses on two enduring features of Gareth Evans’s work. The first is his rethinking of standard ways of understanding the Fregean notion of sense and the second his sustained attempt to undercut the standard opposition between Russellian and Fregean approaches to understanding thought and language.I explore the peculiar difficulties that ‘I’ poses for a Fregean theory and show how Evans’s account of the sense of the first person pronoun can be modified to meet those difficulties.
Constitutivism is the view that it is possible to derive contentful, normatively binding demands of practical reason and morality from the constitutive features of agency. Whereas much of the debate has focused on the constitutivist's ability to derive content, David Enoch has challenged her ability to generate normativity. Even if one can derive content from the constitutive aims of agency, one could simply demur: ?Bah! Agency, shmagency?. The ?Why be moral?? question would be replaced by the ?Why be an agent?? (...) question. It is the aim of this paper to show that the shmagency objection is essentially correct, though not as originally defended by Enoch. Since Enoch posed his argument as ruling out the normative authority of agency under any conception of the constitutive features of agency, constitutivists have responded by arguing for the inescapability of certain minimal features of agency. I argue that this amounts to equivocation: the constitutivist appeals to a minimal conception of agency in answering the normative question but to a richer understanding in answering the content question. The key to the shmagency objection, as I shall defend it, is to insist that the same sense of agency must be employed in answering both questions. A shmagent can concede that there may be inescapable ways of understanding agency, but insist that any such understanding would have to be too minimal to generate substantive content. (shrink)
Evan Thompson’s paper has four parts. First, he says more about what he means when he asks, “what is living?” Second, he presents his way of answering this question, which is that living is sense-making in precarious conditions. Third, he responds to Welton’s considerations about what he calls the “affective entrainment” of the living being by the environment. Finally, he addresses Protevi’s remarks about panpsychism.
This paper argues that Gareth Evans' treatment of first person reference based on the myriad ways we have of receiving information about our bodies and location, cannot secure the guaranteed reference exhibited by first person reference. It faces a problem both when a subject fails to receive such information about herself, and when she receives misinformation.
According to Duncan Pritchard, there are two kinds of radical sceptical problem; the closure-based problem, and the underdetermination-based problem. He argues that distinguishing these two problems leads to a set of desiderata for an anti-sceptical response, and that the way to meet all of these desiderata is by supplementing a form of Wittgensteinian contextualism with disjunctivist views about factivity. I agree that an adequate response should meet most of the initial desiderata Pritchard puts forward, and that some version of Wittgensteinian (...) contextualism shows the most promise as a starting point for this, but I argue, contra Pritchard, that the addition of disjunctivism is unnecessary and potentially counter-productive. If we draw on lessons from Michael Williams's inferential contextualism then it is both possible, and preferable, to meet the most important of Pritchard's desiderata, undercutting both closure-based and underdetermination-based sceptical problems in a unified way, without the need to resort to disjunctivism. (shrink)
There is a long-standing debate in philosophy about whether it is morally permissible to harm one person in order to prevent a greater harm to others and, if not, what is the moral principle underlying the prohibition. Hypothetical moral dilemmas are used in order to probe moral intuitions. Philosophers use them to achieve a reflective equilibrium between intuitions and principles, psychologists to investigate moral decision-making processes. In the dilemmas, the harms that are traded off are almost always deaths. However, the (...) moral principles and psychological processes are supposed to be broader than this, encompassing harms other than death. Further, if the standard pattern of intuitions is preserved in the domain of economic harm, then that would open up the possibility of studying behavior in trolley problems using the tools of experimental economics. We report the results of two studies designed to test whether the standard patterns of intuitions are preserved when the domain and severity of harm are varied. Our findings show that the difference in moral intuitions between bystander and footbridge scenarios is replicated across different domains and levels of physical and non-physical harm, including economic harms. (shrink)
Several writers have argued for the implausibility of there being naturalistic explanations of mystical experience. These writers recognize that the evidential significance of mystical experiences for theism depends upon whether explanations that exclude supernatural agency can be discounted; but they seem unaware of some of the best scientific work done in this area. Part I of the present paper introduces the theory of I. M. Lewis, an anthropologist, and tests it against the case of St Teresa. I use Teresa because (...) of her prominence, and because we have considerable biographical data for her. I conclude that Lewis's approach, suitably supplemented, is strikingly successful in explaining this case. (shrink)
Both mindreading and stereotyping are forms of social cognition that play a pervasive role in our everyday lives, yet too little attention has been paid to the question of how these two processes are related. This paper offers a theory of the influence of stereotyping on mental-state attribution that draws on hierarchical predictive coding accounts of action prediction. It is argued that the key to understanding the relation between stereotyping and mindreading lies in the fact that stereotypes centrally involve character-trait (...) attributions, which play a systematic role in the action–prediction hierarchy. On this view, when we apply a stereotype to an individual, we rapidly attribute to her a cluster of generic character traits on the basis of her perceived social group membership. These traits are then used to make inferences about that individual’s likely beliefs and desires, which in turn inform inferences about her behavior. (shrink)
Joseph Raz’s The Morality of Freedom is well known for defending both a perfectionist form of liberalism and an ‘externalist’ conception of autonomy. John Christman proposes that there is a logical connection between the two theses and argues that externalist accounts of autonomy should be rejected on the basis that they are perfectionist. Christman’s perfectionism argument contains two premises: externalist theories of autonomy entail political perfectionism and political perfectionism is not defensible. I argue that neither premise is true. Externalist theories (...) of autonomy do not entail political perfectionism. Further, even assuming for the sake of argument that premise is true, premise is false. The strongest challenge to political perfectionism is that it is incompatible with the value of respect. I argue that those defending political perfectionism misconstrue what is required for respect. Once we see that respect is secured through features inherent in processes, the value of respect can be reconciled with political perfectionism. Political perfectionism is a defensible thesis and premise is false. (shrink)
There have been multiple factors involved in the decline of the anatomy course’s central role in medical education over the last century. The course has undergone a multitude of changes, in large part due to the rise in technology and cultural shifts away from physical dissection. This paper argues that, as the desire of medical schools to introduce clinical experiences earlier in the curriculum increased, anatomy courses began implementing changes that would align themselves with the shifting culture towards incorporating humanistic (...) values early on in the medical curriculum. One of these changes, argued as a product of this shift, included calling a cadaver a ‘patient’ and introducing the cadaver as a student’s ‘first patient’. This change has been seen in different universities and textbooks. This paper argues that the use of the words ‘patient’ to describe the cadaver in order to promote principled habits in medical students may in fact create an environment that does the opposite. By equating an environment in which the subject of dissection is lifeless and incapable of participation, and the space is discouraging of emotions and conducive to untested coping mechanisms to the clinical environment through using the word ‘patient’, values like detached concern, a controversial practice in medicine, can be implicitly encouraged. An ethical analysis of the use of the word ’patient’ to describe the cadaver shows that this practice can promote unethical habits in students and that changing this aspect of anatomy lab culture could improve ethical dispositions of future physicians. (shrink)
A framing effect occurs when an agent's choices are not invariant under changes in the way a decision problem is presented, e.g. changes in the way options are described (violation of description invariance) or preferences are elicited (violation of procedure invariance). Here we identify those rationality violations that underlie framing effects. We attribute to the agent a sequential decision process in which a “target” proposition and several “background” propositions are considered. We suggest that the agent exhibits a framing effect if (...) and only if two conditions are met. First, different presentations of the decision problem lead the agent to consider the propositions in a different order (the empirical condition). Second, different such “decision paths” lead to different decisions on the target proposition (the logical condition). The second condition holds when the agent's initial dispositions on the propositions are “implicitly inconsistent,” which may be caused by violations of “deductive closure.” Our account is consistent with some observations made by psychologists and provides a unified framework for explaining violations of description and procedure invariance. (shrink)
Kant's short essay is a reflection on the contemporary structure of academic studies; he examines this structure in terms of the functions of the State and of the Universities which form part of it. His analysis links the empirical facts with conceptual distinctions, in ways that are familiar from his more general and abstract philosophy. His main aim is to ground a distinction between legitimate and illegitimate ways in which different Faculties of the University may approach intellectual issues that are (...) of common interest to them. I then consider to what extent and how a Kantian analysis might be applied to our contemporary University situation. Despite the societal and intellectual differences between Kant's environment and ours, I argue that significant parallels exist between the two cases and that Kant's proposals and strictures for his own time have application for us today. (shrink)
Recent scholarship has given increasing attention to studying women’s involvement in conflict and mass violence. However, there is comparatively less discussion of the experiences of women as actors and perpetrators in conflict, and limited discussion of women as defendants in international criminal tribunals. This article explores this under-researched area. By analysing legal materials from the cases of six female defendants, this article investigates the extent to which legal discourses are shaped by stereotypes regarding femininity, conflict and peace. It identifies three (...) gender narratives—mothers, monsters and wives—used in relation to female defendants, which highlight the incompatibility of femininity with violence, and deny women’s agency in political and military contexts. Thus, this article concludes that female defendants in international criminal tribunals are viewed through gendered lenses, and discussed in accordance with gendered themes. This gendered justice is problematic, as it reinforces patriarchal gender stereotypes, and may hinder attempts to facilitate gender justice. (shrink)