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.
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)
This paper considers the maturation of the American Catholic tradition of social and economic thought in the seminal period between 1920 and 1940, particularly as encapsulated in the work of John A. Ryan. While different social ethical models emerged in the American Church during this time, the dominant school of thought was the liberal tradition associated with Ryan. This tradition, which Ryan described as "true economic liberalism," forged American political liberalism and papal critiques of secular modernity into a new social (...) ethical theory which became the capstone of prewar Catholic progressivism. True economic liberalism first manifested itself in critiques of the Supreme Court's description of "freedom" in Adkins v. Children's Hospital (1923). It took positive form during the 1920s in the widespread Catholic embrace of industrial democracy as a moral alternative to laissez-faire capitalism It was during the 1930s, however, when the Church confronted the economic crisis of the Great Depression, that true economic liberalism became a more totalizing system of social thought. It was also during the 1930s that this theory revealed the difficulties Catholic liberals have had in defining their relationship to a market economy and the state. On one hand, true economic liberalism provoked the creative maturation of Catholic thought and established the Church as a leading progressive critic of capitalism. At the same time, true economic liberalism circumscribed the possible depths of the Catholic moral critique. American Catholics liberals were so committed to constructing a social ethic that upheld "the priceless goods of liberty, opportunity, and democracy," that they accepted a reformed capitalism, guarded and chastened by religion, as the most desirable outcome for a modern economy. As John P. Carroll revealingly wrote, "The remedy, then, for the social evils. . . does not lie in the destruction of the present social system. The way to clean a house is not to dynamite it." By accommodating the Church's social ethic to the ideals of American democracy, liberal Catholics rejected radical reforms in favor of moderate legislative schemes which one writer described in Commonweal as "sniping at capitalism." It was for this reason that so many Catholics fawningly embraced the New Deal and, indeed, found in Franklin Roosevelt the supreme advocate for the principles set forth in Pius XI’s 1931 Quadragesimo Anno. (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)
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)
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)
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)
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.
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)
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.
Pease ad loc.: ‘Roman writers often use axis… in a figurative sense… for the caelum as a whole, and in our passage, while the force is applied by Atlas to the axis of the sphere, yet the whole sphere is apparently in mind, as the phrase stellis ardentibus aptum indicates.’ It is lexicographical commonplace that axis is used, especially in the poets, as a synonym for the sky, yet the oddity of the synecdoche by which a scientific, or pseudoscientific, term (...) for the axis of the universe is transferred to mean the heavens in general has been little commented on; unanalytic recognition of the semantic fact is the norm . I believe that a more precise account of this transference can be given, and in particular I will argue that Virgilian usage in the Aeneid is central to the history of this process. (shrink)
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