Talk of linguistic universals has given cognitive scientists the impression that languages are all built to a common pattern. In fact, there are vanishingly few universals of language in the direct sense that all languages exhibit them. Instead, diversity can be found at almost every level of linguistic organization. This fundamentally changes the object of enquiry from a cognitive science perspective. This target article summarizes decades of cross-linguistic work by typologists and descriptive linguists, showing just how few and unprofound the (...) universal characteristics of language are, once we honestly confront the diversity offered to us by the world's 6,000 to 8,000 languages. After surveying the various uses of we illustrate the ways languages vary radically in sound, meaning, and syntactic organization, and then we examine in more detail the core grammatical machinery of recursion, constituency, and grammatical relations. Although there are significant recurrent patterns in organization, these are better explained as stable engineering solutions satisfying multiple design constraints, reflecting both cultural-historical factors and the constraints of human cognition. (shrink)
A recent controversy over the US National Science Advisory Board for Biosecurity's recommendation to censor two publications on genetically modified H5N1 avian influenza has generated concern over the threat to scientific freedom such censorship presents. In this paper, I argue that in the case of these studies, appeals to scientific freedom are not sufficient to motivate a rejection of censorship. I then use this conclusion to draw broader concerns about the ethics of dual-use research.
Rather than treating them as discrete and incommensurable ideas, we sketch some connections between human flourishing and human dignity, and link them to human rights. We contend that the metaphor of flourishing provides an illuminating aspirational framework for thinking about human development and obligations, and that the idea of human dignity is a critical element within that discussion. We conclude with some suggestions as to how these conceptions of human dignity and human flourishing might underpin and inform appeals to human (...) rights. (shrink)
Accounts of language evolution have largely suffered from a monolingual bias, assuming that language evolved in a single isolated community sharing most speech conventions. Rather, evidence from the small-scale societies who form the best simulacra available for ancestral human communities suggests that the combination of small societal scale and out-marriage pushed ancestral human communities to make use of multiple linguistic systems. Evolutionary innovations would have occurred in a number of separate communities, distributing the labor of structural invention between populations, and (...) would then have been pooled gradually through multilingually mediated horizontal transfer to produce the technological package we now regard as a natural ensemble. (shrink)
In this article, we raise ethical concerns about the potential misuse of open-source biology : biological research and development that progresses through an organisational model of radical openness, deskilling, and innovation. We compare this organisational structure to that of the open-source software model, and detail salient ethical implications of this model. We demonstrate that OSB, in virtue of its commitment to openness, may be resistant to governance attempts.
Debates about dual-use research often turn on the potential for scientific research to be used to benefit or harm humanity. This dual-use potential is conventionally understood as the product of the magnitude of the harms and benefits of dual-use research, multiplied by their likelihood. This account, however, neglects important social aspects of the use of science and technology. In this paper, I supplement existing conceptions of dual-use potential to account for the social context of dual-use research. This account incorporates relational (...) and positional concerns that feature in the success or failure of dual-use. I then defend this account against foreseeable objections. (shrink)
This new Handbook offers a comprehensive overview of contemporary extensions and alternatives to the just war tradition in the field of the ethics of war. -/- The modern history of just war has typically assumed the primacy of four particular elements: jus ad bellum, jus in bello, the state actor, and the solider. This book will put these four elements under close scrutiny, and will explore how they fare given the following challenges: -/- • What role do the traditional elements (...) of jus ad bellum and jus in bello—and the constituent principles that follow from this distinction—play in modern warfare? Do they adequately account for a normative theory of war? -/- • What is the role of the state in warfare? Is it or should it be the primary actor in just war theory? -/- • Can a just war be understood simply as a response to territorial aggression between state actors, or should other actions be accommodated under legitimate recourse to armed conflict? -/- • Is the idea of combatant qua state-employed soldier a valid ethical characterization of actors in modern warfare? -/- • What role does the technological backdrop of modern warfare play in understanding and realizing just war theories? -/- Over the course of three key sections, the contributors examine these challenges to the just war tradition in a way that invigorates existing discussions and generates new debate on topical and prospective issues in just war theory. -/- This book will be of great interest to students of just war theory, war and ethics, peace and conflict studies, philosophy and security studies. (shrink)
In this paper, I will discuss the responsibilities that scientists have for ensuring their work is interpreted correctly. I will argue that there are three good reasons for scientists to work to ensure the appropriate communication of their findings. First, I will argue that scientists have a general obligation to ensure scientific research is communicated properly based on the vulnerability of others to the misrepresentation of their work. Second, I will argue that scientists have a special obligation to do so (...) because of the power we as a society invest in them as specialists and professionals. Finally, I will argue that scientists ought to ensure their work is interpreted correctly based on prudential, self-interested considerations. I will conclude by offering suggestions regarding policy considerations. (shrink)
Generative linguistics' search for linguistic universals (1) is not comparable to the vague explanatory suggestions of the article; (2) clearly merits a more central place than linguistic typology in cognitive science; (3) is fundamentally untouched by the article's empirical arguments; (4) best explains the important facts of linguistic diversity; and (5) illuminates the dominant component of language's nature: biology.
Conflation of our unique human endowment for language with innate, so-called universal, grammar has banished language from its biological home. The facts reviewed by Evans & Levinson (E&L) fit the biology of cultural transmission. My commentary highlights our dedicated learning capacity for vocal production learning as the form of our language endowment compatible with those facts.
Our response takes advantage of the wide-ranging commentary to clarify some aspects of our original proposal and augment others. We argue against the generative critics of our coevolutionary program for the language sciences, defend the use of close-to-surface models as minimizing cross-linguistic data distortion, and stress the growing role of stochastic simulations in making generalized historical accounts testable. These methods lead the search for general principles away from idealized representations and towards selective processes. Putting cultural evolution central in understanding language (...) diversity makes learning fundamental in the cognition of language: increasingly powerful models of general learning, paired with channelled caregiver input, seem set to manage language acquisition without recourse to any innate Understanding why human language has no clear parallels in the animal world requires a cross-species perspective: crucial ingredients are vocal learning (for which there are clear non-primate parallels) and an intention-attributing cognitive infrastructure that provides a universal base for language evolution. We conclude by situating linguistic diversity within a broader trend towards understanding human cognition through the study of variation in, for example, human genetics, neurocognition, and psycholinguistic processing. (shrink)
In this paper, we highlight some problems for accounts of disability and enhancement that have not been sufficiently addressed in the literature. The reason, we contend, is that contemporary debates that seek to define, characterise or explain the normative valence of disability and enhancement do not pay sufficient attention to a wide range of cases, and the transition between one state and another. In section one, we provide seven cases that might count as disability or enhancement. We explain why each (...) case might count, and on what basis, and why it is been neglected. Each case is explained as a transition in what we call capacity space. We then argue that no definition of disability or enhancement addresses all of these cases, except for strict welfarist accounts of disability that do not rely on a depiction of any particular capacity. We argue further, however, that this is a serious deficiency of welfarist conceptions of disability. We then address objections to our account. (shrink)
Though it draws on the grammatical metaphor of person (first, third, second) in terms of representations, Schilbach et al.'s target article does not consider an orthogonal line of evidence for the centrality of interaction to social cognition: the many grammatical phenomena, some widespread cross-linguistically and some only being discovered, which are geared to supporting real-time interaction. My commentary reviews these, and the contribution linguistic evidence can make to a fuller account of social cognition.
Modern warfare has shifted from the traditional conception of states involved in self-defensive wars to include peacekeeping missions, humanitarian intervention, regional stabilisation in the face of natural disasters, and more. A central criterion from just war traditions is the probability of success—given the magnitude of harms that large military operations are expected to cause; there must be some likelihood that the military operation will be successful. However, how likely a given military operation will be is dependent, in part at least, (...) on the capacities of those acting in the given military operation. Our paper shows that the capacities of those involved in a military action bear upon the likelihood of that operation being successful. A central goal of this paper is to argue for the recognition of the training of soldiers as a moral requirement for the just war. (shrink)
Across the world people in different societies structure their family relationships in many different ways. These relationships become encoded in their languages as kinship terminology, a word set that maps variably onto a vast genealogical grid of kinship categories, each of which could in principle vary independently. But the observed diversity of kinship terminology is considerably smaller than the enormous theoretical design space. For the past century anthropologists have captured this variation in typological schemes with only a small number of (...) model system types. Whether those types exhibit the internal co-selection of parts implicit in their use is an outstanding question, as is the sufficiency of typologies in capturing variation as a whole. We interrogate the coherence of classic kinship typologies using modern statistical approaches and systematic data from a new database, Kinbank. We first survey the canonical types and their assumed patterns of internal and external co-selection, then present two data-driven approaches to assess internal coherence. Our first analysis reveals that across parents’ and ego’s generation, typology has limited predictive value: knowing the system in one generation does not reliably predict the other. Though we detect limited co-selection between generations, “disharmonic” systems are equally common. Second, we represent structural diversity with a novel multidimensional approach we term kinship space. This approach reveals, for ego’s generation, some broad patterning consistent with the canonical typology, but diversity is considerably higher than classical typologies suggest. Our results strongly challenge the descriptive adequacy of the set of canonical kinship types. (shrink)