The recent debates concerning divine action in the context of quantum mechanics are examined with particular reference to the work of William Pollard, Robert J. Russell, Thomas Tracy, Nancey Murphy, and Keith Ward. The concept of a quantum mechanical “event” is elucidated and shown to be at the center of this debate. An attempt is made to clarify the claims made by the protagonists of quantum mechanical divine action by considering the measurement process of quantum mechanics in detail. Four possibilities (...) for divine influence on quantum mechanics are identified and the theological and scientific implications of each discussed. The conclusion reached is that quantum mechanics is not easily reconciled with the doctrine of divine action. (shrink)
The Buddhist construct of mindfulness is a central element of mindfulness-based interventions and derives from a systematic phenomenological programme developed over several millennia to investigate subjective experience. Enthusiasm for ?mindfulness? in Western psychological and other science has resulted in proliferation of definitions, operationalizations and self-report inventories that purport to measure mindful awareness as a trait. This paper addresses a number of seemingly intractable issues regarding current attempts to characterize mindfulness and also highlights a number of vulnerabilities in this domain that (...) may lead to denaturing, distortion, dilution or reification of Buddhist constructs related to mindfulness. Enriching positivist Western psychological paradigms with a detailed and complex Buddhist phenomenology of the mind may require greater study and long-term direct practice of insight meditation than is currently common among psychologists and other scientists. Pursuit of such an approach would seem a necessary precondition for attempts to characterize and quantify mindfulness. (shrink)
This article is a theoretical and empirical exploration of the meaning that accompanies contractual agreements, such as the End-User License Agreements that participants of online communities are required to sign as a condition of participation. As our study indicates, clicking “I agree” on the often lengthy conditions presented during the installation and updating process typically permits third parties to monitor the digitally-mediated actions of users. Through our small-scale study in which we asked participants which terms of EULAs they would find (...) agreeable, the majority confirmed that they simply clicked through the terms presented to them without much knowledge about the terms to which they were agreeing. From a research ethics standpoint, we reflect upon whether or not informed consent is achieved in these cases and pose a challenge to the academic research community to attend to the socio-technical shift from informed consent to a more nebulous concept of contractual agreement, online and offline. (shrink)
Cloud computing is enabling users to instantiate and access high-performance computing clusters quickly. However, without proper knowledge of the type of application and the nature of the instances, it can become quite expensive. Our objective is to indicate that adequately choosing the instances provides a fast execution, which, in turn, leads to a low execution price, using the pay-as-you-go model on cloud computing. We have used graphics processing unit instances on the spot market to execute a seismic-data set interpolation job (...) and compared their performance with regular on-demand central processing unit instances. Furthermore, we explored how scaling could also improve the execution times at small price differences. The experiments have shown that, by using an instance with eight accelerators on the spot market, we obtain up to a 300 times speed-up compared with the on-demand CPU options, while being 100 times cheaper. Finally, our results have shown that seismic-imaging processing can be sped up by an order of magnitude with a low budget, resulting in faster and cheaper processing turnaround time and enabling new possible imaging techniques. (shrink)
To be committed to the truth of a proposition is to constrain one’s options in a certain way: one may not reason as if it is false, and one is obligated to reason as if it is true. Though one is often committed to the truth of the propositions that one believes, the states of belief and commitment are distinct. For historical reasons, however, they are rarely distinguished. Distinguishing between the two states allows for a defense of epistemic deontology against (...) the charge that beliefs are not under the voluntary control of believers, and so cannot be subject to deontic evaluation. It also allows for the resolution of some disputes between naturalists and non-naturalists in epistemology, and permits us to account for obvious facts about the connection between belief and truth in a theoretically parsimonious way. (shrink)
The Embracing Revenge account of semantic paradox avoids the expressive limitations of previous approaches based on the Kripkean fixed point construction by replacing a single language with an indefinitely extensible sequence of languages, each of which contains the resources to fully characterize the semantics of the previous languages. In this paper we extend the account developed in Cook, Cook, Schlenker, and Tourville and Cook via the addition of intensional operators such as ``is paradoxical''. In this extended framework we are able (...) to characterize the difference between sentences, such as the Liar and the Truth-teller, that receive the same semantic value in minimal fixed points yet seem to involve distinct semantic phenomena. (shrink)
Astbury's role in the X-ray study of DNA; his failure to continue his pioneering appraisal; surprising details of his MRC grant application; and his disinterest in Beighton's DNA photographs demand attention. Rosie Franklin's later involvement and behaviour receive comments, which, as with Astbury, are based on personal knowledge.
The Revenge Problem threatens every approach to the semantic paradoxes that proceeds by introducing nonclassical semantic values. Given any such collection Δ of additional semantic values, one can construct a Revenge sentence:This sentence is either false or has a value in Δ.TheEmbracing Revengeview, developed independently by Roy T. Cook and Phlippe Schlenker, addresses this problem by suggesting that the class of nonclassical semantic values is indefinitely extensible, with each successive Revenge sentence introducing a new ‘pathological’ semantic value into the discourse. (...) The view is explicitly motivated in terms of the idea that every notion thatseemsto be expressible should, if at all possible,beexpressible. Extant work on the Embracing Revenge view has failed to live up to this promise, since the formal languages developed within such work are expressively impoverished. We rectify this here by developing a much richer formal language, and semantics for that language, and we then prove an extremely powerful expressive completeness result for the system in question. (shrink)
This paper responds to Nick Bostrom’s suggestion that the threat of a human-unfriendly superintelligenceshould lead us to delay or rethink progress in AI. I allow that progress in AI presents problems that we are currently unable to solve. However; we should distinguish between currently unsolved problems for which there are rational expectations of solutions and currently unsolved problems for which no such expectation is appropriate. The problem of a human-unfriendly superintelligence belongs to the first category. It is rational to proceed (...) on that assumption that we will solve it. These observations do not reduce to zero the existential threat from superintelligence. But we should not permit fear of very improbable negative outcomes to delay the arrival of the expected benefits from AI. (shrink)
The rapid developments in technologies -- especially computing and the advent of many 'smart' devices, as well as rapid and perpetual communication via the Internet -- has led to a frequently voiced view which Nicholas Agar describes as 'radical optimism'. Radical optimists claim that accelerating technical progress will soon end poverty, disease, and ignorance, and improve our happiness and well-being. Agar disputes the claim that technological progress will automatically produce great improvements in subjective well-being. He argues that radical optimism (...) 'assigns to technological progress an undeserved pre-eminence among all the goals pursued by our civilization'. Instead, Agar uses the most recent psychological studies about human perceptions of well-being to create a realistic model of the impact technology will have. Although he accepts that technological advance does produce benefits, he insists that these are significantly less than those proposed by the radical optimists, and aspects of such progress can also pose a threat to values such as social justice and our relationship with nature, while problems such as poverty cannot be understood in technological terms. He concludes by arguing that a more realistic assessment of the benefits that technological advance can bring will allow us to better manage its risks in future. (shrink)
Unger has recently argued that if you are the only thinking and experiencing subject in your chair, then you are not a material object. This leads Unger to endorse a version of Substance Dualism according to which we are immaterial souls. This paper argues that this is an overreaction. We argue that the specifically Dualist elements of Unger’s view play no role in his response to the problem; only the view’s structure is required, and that is available to Unger’s opponents. (...) We outline one such non-Dualist view, suggest how to resolve the dispute, respond to some objections, and argue that ours is but one of many views that survive Unger’s challenge. All these views are incompatible with microphysicalism. So Unger’s discussion does contain an insight: if you are the only conscious subject in your chair, then microphsyicalism is false. Unger’s mistake was to infer Substance Dualism from this; for microphysicalism is not the only alternative to Dualism. (shrink)
• It would be a moral disgrace for God (if he existed) to allow the many evils in the world, in the same way it would be for a parent to allow a nursery to be infested with criminals who abused the children. • There is a contradiction in asserting all three of the propositions: God is perfectly good; God is perfectly powerful; evil exists (since if God wanted to remove the evils and could, he would). • The religious believer (...) has no hope of getting away with excuses that evil is not as bad as it seems, or that it is all a result of free will, and so on. Piper avoids mentioning the best solution so far put forward to the problem of evil. It is Leibniz’s theory that God does not create a better world because there isn’t one — that is, that (contrary to appearances) if one part of the world were improved, the ramifications would result in it being worse elsewhere, and worse overall. It is a “bump in the carpet” theory: push evil down here, and it pops up over there. Leibniz put it by saying this is the “Best of All Possible Worlds”. That phrase was a public relations disaster for his theory, suggesting as it does that everything is perfectly fine as it is. He does not mean that, but only that designing worlds is a lot harder than it looks, and determining the amount of evil in the best one is no easy matter. Though humour is hardly appropriate to the subject matter, the point of Leibniz’s idea is contained in the old joke, “An optimist is someone who thinks this is the best of all possible worlds, and a pessimist thinks.. (shrink)
Benjamin Franklin's social and political thought was shaped by contacts with and knowledge of ancient aboriginal traditions. Indeed, a strong case can be made that key features of the social structure eventually outlined in the United States Constitution arose not from European sources, and not full-grown from the foreheads of European-American "founding fathers", but from aboriginal sources, communicated to the authors of the Constitution to a significant extent through Franklin. A brief sketch of the main argument to this (...) effect is offered in this essay. (shrink)
A familiar feature of our moral responsibility practices are pleas: considerations, such as “That was an accident”, or “I didn’t know what else to do”, that attempt to get agents accused of wrongdoing off the hook. But why do these pleas have the normative force they do in fact have? Why does physical constraint excuse one from responsibility, while forgetfulness or laziness does not? I begin by laying out R. Jay Wallace’s (Responsibility and the moral sentiments, 1994 ) theory of (...) the normative force of excuses and exemptions. For each category of plea, Wallace offers a single governing moral principle that explains their normative force. The principle he identifies as governing excuses is the Principle of No Blameworthiness without Fault: an agent is blameworthy only if he has done something wrong. The principle he identifies as governing exemptions is the Principle of Reasonableness: an agent is morally accountable only if he is normatively competent. I argue that Wallace’s theory of exemptions is sound, but that his account of the normative force of excuses is problematic, in that it fails to explain the full range of excuses we offer in our practices, especially the excuses of addiction and extreme stress. I then develop a novel account of the normative force of excuses, which employs what I call the “Principle of Reasonable Opportunity,” that can explain the full range of excuses we offer and that is deeply unified with Wallace’s theory of the normative force of exemptions. An important implication of the theory I develop is that moral responsibility requires free will. (shrink)
Why should I be just? What have I to gain if I am decent, honest, moral, upright, fair and truthful? Other people benefit if I am just, but do I? And doesn't it seem clear that sometimes the benefit that other people receive from my being just is a benefit received at my expense? Perhaps then I have no adequate reason to be just. Perhaps if I have any sense I will not bother.
This paper addresses a worry about backwards time travel. The worry is that there is something mysteriously inexplicable about the combination of commonplace events that will inevitably conspire to prevent the time traveler from doing something impossible such as killing her younger self. The worry is first distinguished from other problems for backwards time travel concerning its alleged impossibility or improbability. It is then shown that the worry is misplaced: there is in fact no real problem here. Yet the worry (...) has been widely expressed—so a suggestion is also made as to why it is so easy to get into the position of thinking that there is a genuine problem here, when in fact there is not. Finally, in light of the resolution of the inexplicability worry, a new way of dealing with the other two problems for backwards time travel—concerning its alleged impossibility and improbability—is proposed. (shrink)