I aim to illuminate foundational epistemological issues by reflecting on 'epistemic consequentialism'—the epistemic analogue of ethical consequentialism. Epistemic consequentialism employs a concept of cognitive value playing a role in epistemic norms governing belief-like states that is analogous to the role goodness plays in act-governing moral norms. A distinction between 'direct' and 'indirect' versions of epistemic consequentialism is held to be as important as the familiar ethical distinction on which it is based. These versions are illustrated, respectively, by cognitive decision-theory and (...) reliabilism. Cognitive decision-theory is defended, and various conceptual issues concerning it explored. A simple dilemma suggests that epistemic consequentialism has radical consequences. (shrink)
According to the causal interpretation of quantum mechanics, one can precisely define the state of an individual particle in a many-body system by its position, momentum, and spin. It is shown in the EPR spin experiment that the quantum torque brings about an instantaneous change in the state of one of the particles when the other undergoes a local interaction, but that such a transfer of “information” cannot be extracted by any experiment subject to the laws of quantum mechanics.
Background: According to the Declaration of Helsinki, patients who take part in a clinical trial must be adequately informed about the trial's aims, methods, expected benefits, and potential risks. The declaration does not, however, elaborate on what “adequately informed” might amount to, in practice. Medical researchers and Local Research Ethics Committees attempt to ensure that the information which potential participants are given is pitched at an appropriate level, but few studies have considered whether the patients who take part in such (...) trials feel they have been given adequate information, or whether they feel able to understand that information.Objectives: To explore trial participants' views on the amount of information provided, and of their own understanding of that information.Design: Structured interviews of patients participating in clinical trials for the treatment of chronic medical condition.Findings: Patients generally felt they were given an appropriate amount of information, and that they were able to understand all or most of it. They felt they were given adequate time to ask questions before agreeing to take part. In comparison with treatment given outwith the research setting, patients generally felt they received more information when participating in a clinical trial.Conclusions: Researchers sometimes complain that patients are given too much information during clinical trials, and have limited understanding of that information. The present study shows that this perception is not necessarily shared by patients. More research is needed in this area, particularly to gauge whether patient understanding is indeed accurate. (shrink)
Several cases which have been considered by the courts in recent years have highlighted the legal dilemmas facing doctors whose decisions result in the ending of a patient's life. This paper considers the case of Dr Cox, who was convicted of attempting to murder one of his patients, and explores the roles of motive, diminished responsibility and consent in cases of "mercy killing". The Cox decision is compared to that of Tony Bland and Janet Johnstone, in which the patients were (...) in a persistent vegetative state. In all three cases, the doctors believed that their patients' quality of life was so poor that their continued existence was of no benefit to them, and decided that their lives should not be unduly prolonged, yet the doctor who was prosecuted was the one whose dying patient had requested that her death be hastened. The paper examines the law's seemingly contradictory approaches to such cases. (shrink)
Reductionism--understanding complex processes by breaking them into simpler elements--dominates scientific thinking around the world and has certainly proved a powerful tool, leading to major discoveries in every field of science. But reductionism can be taken too far, especially in the life sciences, where sociobiological thinking has bordered on biological determinism. Thus popular science writers such as Richard Dawkins, author of the highly influential The Selfish Gene, can write that human beings are just "robot vehicles blindly programmed to preserve the selfish (...) molecules known as genes." Indeed, for many in science, genes have become the fundamental unit for understanding human existence: genes determine every aspect of our lives, from personal success to existential despair: genes for health and illness, genes for criminality, violence, and sexual orientation. Others would say that this is reductionism with a vengeance. In Lifelines, biologist Steven Rose offers a powerful alternative to the ultradarwinist claims of Dawkins, E.O. Wilson, Daniel Dennett and others. Rose argues against an extreme reductionist approach that would make the gene the key to understanding human nature, in favor of a more complex and richer vision of life. He urges instead that we focus on the organism and in particular on the organism's lifeline: the trajectory it takes through time and space. Our personal lifeline, Rose points out, is unique--even identical twins, with identical genes at birth, will differ over time. These differences are obviously not embedded in our genes, but come about through our developmental trajectory in which genes, as part of the biochemical orchestra of trillions of cells in each human body, have an important part--but only a part--to play. To illustrate this idea, Rose examines recent research in modern biology, and especially two disciplines--genetics (which looks at the impact of genes on form) and developmental biology (which examines the interaction between the organism and the environment)--and he explores new ideas on biological complexity proposed by scientists such as Stuart Kauffman. He shows how our lifelines are constructed through the interplay of physical forces--such as the intrinsic chemistry of lipids and proteins, and the self-organizing and stabilizing properties of complex metabolic webs--and he reaches a startling conclusion: that organisms are active players in their own fate, not simply the playthings of the gods, nature, or the inevitable workings out of gene-driven natural selection. The organism is both the weaver and the pattern it weaves. Lifelines will be a rallying point for all who seek an alternative to the currently fashionable, deeply determinist accounts which dominate popular science writing and, in fact, crowd the pages of some of the major scientific journals. Based on solid, state-of-the-art research, it not only makes important contributions to our understanding of Darwin and natural selection, but will swing the pendulum back to a richer, more complex view of human nature and of life. (shrink)
It was shown by de Broglie and Bohm that the concept of a deterministic particle trajectory is compatible with quantum mechanics. It is demonstrated by explicit construction that there exists another more general deterministic trajectory interpretation. The method exploits an internal angular degree of freedom that is implicit in the Schrödinger equation, in addition to the particle position. The de Broglie-Bohm model is recovered when the new theory is averaged over the internal freedom. The model exhibits a strong form of (...) entanglement which implies a primary role for the wavefunction of the Universe. The conditions of autonomy are examined, and the viability of the theory is established by application to the measurement problem. (shrink)
The Homeric description of the shield made for Achilles by Hephaestus is the type for all later ecphrases of works of art in ancient literature. It stands out as an extravagant example of the epic poet's powers of elaborate and vivid description, so extravagant that one notable ancient critic at least, Zenodotus, felt that it was more comfortable simply to athetize the greater bulk of the passage. More symphathetic commentators of modern times have sought ways of integrating the scenes displayed (...) on the divine artefact with the primary subject-matter of theIliad; the most common approach is to take the Shield as a summary of all human life, a mirror of society in all its aspects, against which to measure the significance of the narrow range of warfare and death that dominates the rest of the poem.The requirements of internal coherence and external relevance also guided the interpretative strategy of ancient critics less austere than Zenodotus. This paper is an inquiry into the ways that antiquity perceived and exploited the Homeric Shield of Achilles. In the first section I examine early Greek responses to the question of the contextual function of a decorated shield such as that of Achilles. (shrink)
Conditions are stated under which the "argument by analogy" is consistent with the principle of inverse probability. It is contended that the argument by analogy, in conjunction with a crucial test, has a legitimate place in scientific logic. As an example the astrophysical problem of solar granulation is discussed in detail and other examples are mentioned more briefly.
The geometrical structures implicit in the de Broglie waves associated with a relativistic charged scalar quantum mechanical particle in an external field are analyzed by employing the ray concept of the causal interpretation. It is shown how an osculating Finslerian metric tensor, a torsion tensor, and a tetrad field define respectively the strain, the dislocation density, and the Burgers vector in the “natural state” of the wave, which is a non-Riemannian space of distant parallelism. A quantum torque determined by the (...) quantum potential is introduced and the example of a screw dislocated wave is discussed. (shrink)
We analyze phase-space approaches to relativistic quantum mechanics from the viewpoint of the causal interpretation. In particular, we discuss the canonical phase space associated with stochastic quantization, its relation to Hilbert space, and the Wigner-Moyal formalism. We then consider the nature of Feynman paths, and the problem of nonlocality, and conclude that a perfectly consistent relativistically covariant interpretation of quantum mechanics which retains the notion of particle trajectory is possible.
In Life Beyond the Gene, Steven Rose offers a theory of life which insists that we as humans -- and indeed all living creatures -- create our own futures, though in circumstances not of our own choosing. Placing the organism at the center of life, Rose confronts the ideology of reductionism and ultra-Darwinism, with its insistence that all aspects of human life from sexual preference to infanticide, political orientation to violence, male domination to alcoholism, are in our genes and are (...) the inevitable consequences of natural selection. These claims, Rose asserts, are not only socially naive, but fundamentally misunderstand the active and irreducible nature of living processes. Rose argues that life depends on the elaborate web of interactions that occur within cells, organisms, and ecosystems, in which DNA has one part to play. From early in their development, living organisms have to be capable of quasi-independent existence while growing to maturity. If we are to understand life, we must recapture an understanding of the entire living organism and its trajectory through time and space. Rose calls these trajectories lifelines. Provocative and incisive, Life Beyond the Gene provides a compelling response to those enthusiasts of the gene who would deny the complexity of life. (shrink)
The career of the father of Claudius Etruscus is of special importance in the history of the Imperial administration in the first century A.D. In the course of a long life he rose from slave status under Tiberius to be head of the Imperial financial administration and to equestrian status under Vespasian. He was one of the most important, wealthy, and influential of the Imperial freedmen in the first century when their influence was at its peak; he is one of (...) the best documented of their number outside the pages of Tacitus; yet we do not know his personal name—he has to remain simply ‘the father of Claudius Etruscus’ —and even his nomen gentilicium and the date of his appointment to be the secretary a rationibus are subject to disput. (shrink)
Lily Ross Taylor in an interesting recent article on the proportion of freedmen to freeborn in the sepulchral inscriptions of Imperial Rome discusses the increasing omission of status nomenclature by freedmen in the first and second centuries A.D. and the consequent difficulty of determining the status of persons whose names appear in the epitaphs. One contributory factor to this decline in the traditional nomenclature which she mentions is the growing numbers and importance of the freedmen of the emperor, the Augusti (...) liberti. While non-imperial freedmen were anxious to record their acquisition of citizenship, but not their inferior status in the citizen body, the emperor's freedmen, on the other hand, increasingly formalized their status nomenclature so that the formula ‘Aug. lib.’ proclaimed not only the fact of their manumission within the Familia Caesaris but also the higher social status which they enjoyed. An examination of the nomenclature of the Imperial freedmen might help to throw some light on this process, particularly on the problem of dating. (shrink)
This paper argues that, contrary to the claims of Alan Chalmers, Boyle understood his experimental work to be intimately related to his mechanical philosophy. Its central claim is that the mechanical philosophy has a heuristic structure that motivates and gives direction to Boyle's experimental programme. Boyle was able to delimit the scope of possible explanations of any phenomenon by positing both that all qualities are ultimately reducible to a select group of mechanical qualities and that all explanations of natural phenomena (...) are to be in terms of the operations of machines and are to appeal only to qualities that are already familiar. This is illustrated by his investigations into the Torricellian experiment. Boyle's explanation of the elevation of the mercurial cylinder by appeal to the spring of the air was an intermediate mechanical explanation. Boyle was convinced that the spring of the air was ultimately reducible to the mechanical qualities. This in turn had implications for his research into the cause of respiration. In a move that was both parsimonious and consistent with the broad requirements of the mechanical philosophy, Boyle was able to solve the problem of the cause of the inflow of air into the lungs by appeal to his research in pneumatics. This application of a mechanical explanation in pneumatics to physiology is just what one would expect if the mechanical philosophy was as universal as Boyle claimed it to be. Therefore, far from Boyle's experiments having a life of their own, they were clearly directed by and understood in terms of the mechanical philosophy. (shrink)