The anthology, Feminist Bioethics, edited by Jackie Leach Scully, Laurel E. Baldwin-Ragaven, and PetyaFitzpatrick, examines how feminist bioethics theoretically and methodologically challenges mainstream bioethics, and whether these approaches are useful for exploring difference in other contexts. It offers critical conceptual analyses of "autonomy", "universality", and "trust", and covers topics such as testing for hereditary cancer, prenatal selection for sexual orientation, midwifery, public health, disability, Indigenous research reform in Australia, and China's one child policy.
The latest attempt by a determined, well-resourced lobby to introduce a law to permit assisted suicide/euthanasia in the UK was announced 15 May 2013 in the House of Lords. There are many dangerous facets to their arguments, not least of which is the rôle they cast for doctors in this debate. Rush Rhees' remarks on the topic display a depth that is lacking in the current debate in the public square, which needs to be lifted from its current low level. (...) I try to show inter alia why the question of who is ‘qualified to speak’ in this deep moral dilemma is important ; why resistance is vital against a law, which must be general, permitting assisted suicide/euthanasia ; how one group of people judging another group of people as candidates for elimination, is based on the false notion that a disabled life is ‘not worth living’; that so many of the deep moral questions raised by assisted suicide/euthanasia are not even considered in the contemporary impoverished public debate. (shrink)
_Foucault’s Law_ is the first book in almost fifteen years to address the question of Foucault’s position on law. Many readings of Foucault’s conception of law start from the proposition that he failed to consider the role of law in modernity, or indeed that he deliberately marginalized it. In canvassing a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Ben Golder and Peter Fitzpatrick rebut this argument. They argue that rather than marginalize law, Foucault develops a much more radical, nuanced and (...) coherent theory of law than his critics have acknowledged. For Golder and Fitzpatrick, Foucault’s law is not the contained creature of conventional accounts, but is uncontainable and illimitable. In their radical re-reading of Foucault, they show how Foucault outlines a concept of law which is not tied to any given form or subordinated to a particular source of power, but is critically oriented towards alterity, new possibilities and different ways of being. _Foucault’s Law_ is an important and original contribution to the ongoing debate on Foucault and law, engaging not only with Foucault’s diverse writings on law and legal theory, but also with the extensive interpretive literature on the topic. It will thus be of interest to students and scholars working in the fields of law and social theory, legal theory and law and philosophy, as well as to students of Foucault’s work generally. (shrink)
Existing approaches to the relation of law and society have for a long time seen law as either autonomous or grounded in society. Drawing on untapped resources in social theory, Fitzpatrick finds law pivotally placed in and beyond modernity. Being itself of the modern, law takes impetus and identity from modern society and, through incorporating 'pre-modern' elements of savagery and the sacred, it comes to constitute that very society. When placing law in such a crucial position for modernity, (...) class='Hi'>Fitzpatrick ranges widely from the colonizations of the Americas, through the thought of the European Enlightenment, and engages finally with contemporary arrogations of the 'global'. By extending his previous work on the origins of modernity, this book makes a significant contribution to continuing developments in law and society, legal philosophy, and jurisprudence. (shrink)
Foreword -- Prologue -- Attorney Eileen Fitzpatrick -- Dr. Jeanne Fitzpatrick -- section 1. Death and dying in America -- 1. The need for change : the cautionary tale of Phyllis Shattuck -- Dr. Fitzpatrick tells Phyllis Shattuck's story -- Reflections -- How this book will help -- Lessons to learn -- New name, old concept -- 2. Your right to die -- Your right to die is born : the case of Karen Ann Quinlan -- The (...) Supreme Court weights in : the case of Nancy Cruzan -- Advance directive forms : an imperfect solution -- The more things change, the more they stay the same : the case of Terri Schiavo -- Moving forward : comfort care only and the Compassion Protocol -- A personal choice -- section 2. Who can use the Compassion Protocol -- 3. The competent elderly -- Dr. Fitzpatrick tells Willa Simpson's story -- Learning from Willa -- The Compassion Protocol increases choice and control at the end of lie -- The Compassion Protocol and the competent elderly -- 4. The terminally ill -- Dr. Fitzpatrick tells Melissa Blackburn's story -- Terminal illness and the Compassion Protocol -- Current practices -- Compassion Protocol practices -- 5. Alzheimer's dementia and the Compassion Protocol -- Dr. Fitzpatrick tells Carl Novack's story -- Alzheimer's dementia and the Compassion Protocol -- Is this really legal? -- Updating time-honored advice -- section 3. How the Compassion Protocol works -- 6. Step one : know your options -- Option one : don't go to the hospital again -- Option two : refuse antibiotics -- Option three : discontinue your usual medications -- Option four : refuse hydration and nutrition -- Health care options summary -- Choosing when your options take effect -- Step one summary -- 7. Step two : make your decisions -- Introduction to step two -- The Compassion Protocol worksheet -- Your list of pros and cons -- A story of our own worst fears -- Step two and the Alzheimer's patient -- Selecting a health care decision maker -- Review -- 8. Step three : communicate your decisions -- The importance of full and adequate communication : the story of Ray Sullivan -- What constitutes effective communication? -- Tell your health care decision maker -- Tell your doctor and other health care providers -- Tell your family -- Tell your friends -- Dr. Fitzpatrick talks about her end-of-life choices -- Attorney Fitzpatrick talks about her end-of-life choices -- Step three summary -- 9. Step four : do the paperwork -- Introduction to the Contract for Compassionate Care -- Legal basis of the Compassion Protocol -- The long and short of legal forms -- And never forget the "people" part -- 10. Step five : plan the kind of death you want -- Changing society one death at a time -- 11. Hospice and the Compassion Protocol -- The importance of fighting for life and of letting go : Dr. Fitzpatrick tells the story of one patient's experience with hospice -- The team approach -- Paying for hospice -- Hospice and the Compassion Protocol -- 12. Everyone's worst fear : the nursing home -- Dr. Fitzpatrick relates the story of Sean O'Connor : a regrettably common nursing home experience -- Understanding you nursing home option -- Nursing homes : a growth business -- The home health care alternative -- When the system works : Dr. Fitzpatrick tells the story of Sally Forest -- Reflections -- 13. Looking ahead -- Appendix A. Contract for Compassionate Care -- Appendix B. Tools for the Compassion Protocol -- Glossary. (shrink)
What implications, if any, does evolutionary biology have for metaethics? Many believe that our evolutionary background supports a deflationary metaethics, providing a basis at least for debunking ethical realism. Some arguments for this conclusion appeal to claims about the etiology of the mental capacities we employ in ethical judgment, while others appeal to the etiology of the content of our moral beliefs. In both cases the debunkers’ claim is that the causal roles played by evolutionary factors raise deep epistemic problems (...) for realism: if ethical truths are objective or independent of our evaluative attitudes, as realists maintain, then we lose our justification for our ethical beliefs once we become aware of the evolutionary shaping of our ethical capacities or beliefs, which would not have disposed us reliably to track independent ethical truths; realism, they claim, thus saddles us with ethical skepticism. I distinguish and spell out various evolutionary debunking arguments along these lines and argue that they all fail: the capacity etiology argument fails to raise any special or serious problem for realism, and the content etiology arguments all rely on strong explanatory claims about our moral beliefs that are simply not supported by the science unless it is supplemented by philosophical claims that just beg the question against realism from the start. While the various debunking arguments do bring out some interesting commitments of ethical realism, and even raise some good challenges as realists develop positive moral epistemologies, they fall far short of their debunking ambitions. (shrink)
Empirical studies of the social lives of non-human primates, cetaceans, and other social animals have prompted scientists and philosophers to debate the question of whether morality and moral cognition exists in non-human animals. Some researchers have argued that morality does exist in several animal species, others that these species may possess various evolutionary building blocks or precursors to morality, but not quite the genuine article, while some have argued that nothing remotely resembling morality can be found in any non-human species. (...) However, these different positions on animal morality generally appear to be motivated more by different conceptions of how the term “morality” is to be defined than by empirical disagreements about animal social behaviour and psychology. After delving deeper into the goals and methodologies of various of the protagonists, I argue that, despite appearances, there are actually two importantly distinct debates over animal morality going on, corresponding to two quite different ways of thinking about what it is to define “morality”, “moral cognition”, and associated notions. Several apparent skirmishes in the literature are thus cases of researchers simply talking past each other. I then focus on what I take to be the core debate over animal morality, which is concerned with understanding the nature and phylogenetic distribution of morality conceived as a psychological natural kind. I argue that this debate is in fact largely terminological and non-substantive. Finally, I reflect on how this core debate might best be re-framed. (shrink)
Conwy Lloyd Morgan (1852–1936) is widely regarded as the father of modern comparative psychology. Yet, Morgan initially had significant doubts about whether a genuine science of comparative psychology was even possible, only later becoming more optimistic about our ability to make reliable inferences about the mental capacities of non-human animals. There has been a fair amount of disagreement amongst scholars of Morgan’s work about the nature, timing, and causes of this shift in Morgan’s thinking. We argue that Morgan underwent two (...) quite different shifts of attitude towards the proper practice of comparative psychology. The first was a qualified acceptance of the Romanesian approach to comparative psychology that he had initially criticized. The second was a shift away from Romanes’ reliance on systematizing anecdotal evidence of animal intelligence towards an experimental approach, focused on studying the development of behaviour. We emphasize the role of Morgan’s evolving epistemological views in bringing about the first shift – in particular, his philosophy of science. We emphasize the role of an intriguing but overlooked figure in the history of comparative psychology in explaining the second shift, T. Mann Jones, whose correspondence with Morgan provided an important catalyst for Morgan’s experimental turn, particularly the special focus on development. We also shed light on the intended function of Morgan’s Canon, the methodological principle for which Morgan is now mostly known. The Canon can only be properly understood by seeing it in the context of Morgan’s own unique experimental vision for comparative psychology. (shrink)
This paper considers John Doris, Stephen Stich, Alexandra Plakias, and colleagues’ recent attempts to utilize empirical studies of cross-cultural variation in moral judgment to support a version of the argument from disagreement against moral realism. Crucially, Doris et al. claim that the moral disagreements highlighted by these studies are not susceptible to the standard ‘diffusing’ explanations realists have developed in response to earlier versions of the argument. I argue that plausible hypotheses about the cognitive processes underlying ordinary moral judgment and (...) the acquisition of moral norms, when combined with a popular philosophical account of moral inquiry—the method of reflective equilibrium—undercut the anti-realist force of the moral disagreements that Doris et al. describe. I also show that Stich's recent attempt to provide further theoretical support for Doris et al.'s case is unsuccessful. (shrink)
Ethical realists hold that our ethical concepts, thoughts, and claims are in the business of representing ethical reality, by representing evaluative or normative properties and facts as aspects of reality, and that such representations are at least sometimes accurate. Non-naturalist realists add the further claim that ethical properties and facts are ultimately non-natural, though they are nonetheless worldly. My aim is threefold: to elucidate the sort of representation involved in ethical evaluation on realist views; to clarify what exactly is represented (...) and how non-naturalism comes into the picture for non-naturalists; and to defend worldly non-naturalism against some objections. The first question addressed is how we should model evaluation on any realist view, which should in turn guide the identification of which properties and facts are credibly regarded as ‘evaluative’ ones. Then the question is: what role might non-natural properties and facts play, and how are they related to w... (shrink)
There is perhaps no more widely shared conviction in contemporary metaethics, even among those who hold otherwise divergent views, than that practical normativity must be capable of being naturalized . My aim is to illuminate the central reasons for skepticism about this. While certain naturalizing projects are plausible for very limited purposes, it is unlikely that any can provide everything we might reasonably want from an account of goodness and badness, rightness and wrongness, and unqualified reasons for acting—at least if (...) we are unwilling to accept certain deflationary or bullet-biting moves. Some naturalizing views can be shown to fail outright to capture the relevant normative facts or properties, while others have more promise but can also be seen to have certain limitations and costs, failing to capture elements that some of us take to be important to an adequate theory of practical normativity. There are, of course, far more naturalizing moves than can be considered here, so the aim is not to establish the truth of nonnaturalism through a process of elimination. But I hope to say enough to bring out the central worries about naturalizing projects and to pose some challenges that apply more widely, with the aim of showing that ethical nonnaturalism remains an attractive and well-motivated option at least for those of us who reject both nihilism and various forms of ethical deflation. (shrink)
The distinction between harm that is intended as a means or end, and harm that is merely a foreseen side-effect of one’s action, is widely cited as a significant factor in a variety of ethical contexts. Many use it, for example, to distinguish terrorist acts from certain acts of war that may have similar results as side-effects. Yet Bennett and others have argued that its application is so arbitrary that if it can be used to cast certain harmful actions in (...) a more favorable light, then it can equally be manipulated to do the same for any kind of harmful action. In response, some have tried to block such extensions of the intend/foresee distinction by rejecting its application in cases where the relation between the plainly intended means and the harm is “too close”. This move, however, has been attacked as vague and obscure, and Bennett has argued that all the plausible candidates for explicating the idea of excessive closeness ultimately fail. In this paper, I develop and defend an account of excessive closeness with the aim of rescuing the intend/foresee distinction from such charges of arbitrariness. The account is based on the distinction between merely causal and constitutive relations among states of affairs, and I show both how it escapes Bennett’s objections to other accounts and how it applies to a variety of cases. Finally, I also examine Quinn’s alternative move of shifting the focus of the intend/foresee distinction in an attempt to sidestep the issue of closeness, and argue that it is not ultimately successful. In fact, Quinn’s view has shortcomings that can be resolved only by returning to an appeal to some notion of closeness, underscoring the need for the sort of account I offer. (shrink)
I begin by distinguishing two general approaches to metaethics and ontology. One in effect puts our experience as engaged ethical agents on hold while independent metaphysical and epistemological inquiries, operating by their own lights, deliver metaethical verdicts on acceptable interpretations of our ethical lives; the other instead keeps engaged ethical experience in focus and allows our reflective interpretation of it to shape our metaphysical and epistemological views, including our ontology. While the former approach often leads to deflationary views, the latter (...) may lead us to enrich our metaethical picture as needed to capture robust objectivity and categorical normative authority for ethics. Assuming, as I have argued elsewhere, that this requires positing irreducibly evaluative or normative properties and facts, the question I take up here is what ontological implications this has. I argue against quietist non-naturalist views, which maintain that positing such properties and facts either has no ontological implications or has only domain-specific ontological implications that likewise imply nothing about what the world contains. Against these views, I advocate a worldly, dual-aspect view, locating irreducibly evaluative or normative properties as features of relevant worldly things. But while I have previously defended this view as a form of non-naturalism, I here explore the possibility of instead seeing it as a new, more expansive form of naturalism—what might be called “Non-Scientistic Naturalism”—inspired by parallel attempts in the philosophy of mind to accommodate irreducibly phenomenal properties within a more expansive physicalism. (shrink)
Morgan’s Canon is a very widely endorsed methodological principle in animal psychology, believed to be vital for a rigorous, scientific approach to the study of animal cognition. In contrast I argue that Morgan’s Canon is unjustified, pernicious and unnecessary. I identify two main versions of the Canon and show that they both suffer from very serious problems. I then suggest an alternative methodological principle that captures all of the genuine methodological benefits that Morgan’s Canon can bring but suffers from none (...) of its problems. (shrink)
The recent debate surrounding scientific realism has largely focused on the “no miracles” argument (NMA). Indeed, it seems that most contemporary realists and anti-realists have tied the case for realism to the adequacy of this argument. I argue that it is mistake for realists to let the debate be framed in this way. Realists would be well advised to abandon the NMA altogether and pursue an alternative strategy, which I call the “local strategy”.
Background Increase in global health research undertaken in resource poor settings in the last decade though a positive development has raised ethical concerns relating to potential for exploitation. Some of the suggested strategies to address these concerns include calls for providing universal standards of care, reasonable availability of proven interventions and more recently, promoting the overall social value of research especially in clinical research. Promoting the social value of research has been closely associated with providing fair benefits to various stakeholders (...) involved in research. The debate over what constitutes fair benefits; whether those that addresses micro level issues of justice or those focusing on the key determinants of health at the macro level has continued. This debate has however not benefited from empirical work on what stakeholders consider fair benefits. This study explores practical experiences of stakeholders involved in global health research in Kenya, over what benefits are fair within a developing world context. Methods and results We conducted in-depth interviews with key informants drawn from within the broader health research system in Kenya including researchers from the mainstream health research institutions, networks and universities, teaching hospitals, policy makers, institutional review boards, civil society organisations and community representative groups. The range of benefits articulated by stakeholders addresses both micro and macro level concerns for justice by for instance, seeking to engage with interests of those facilitating research, and the broader systemic issues that make resource poor settings vulnerable to exploitation. We interpret these views to suggest a need for global health research to engage with current crises that face people in these settings as well as the broader systemic issues that produce them. Conclusion Global health research should provide benefits that address both the micro and macro level issues of justice in order to forestall exploitation. Embracing the two is however challenging in terms of how the various competing interests/needs should be balanced ethically, especially in the absence of structures to guide the process. This challenge should point to the need for greater dialogue to facilitate value clarification among stakeholders. (shrink)
This article contributes to the development of a professional responsibility theory of public relations ethics. Toward that end, we examine the roles of a public relations practitioner as a professional, an institutional advocate, and the public conscience of institutions served. In the article, we review previously suggested theories of public relations ethics and propose a new theory based on the public relations professional's dual obligations to serve client organizations and the public interest.
It feels like there’s two of you inside—like there’s another half of you, which is my anorexia, and then there’s the real K [own name], the real me, the logic part of me, and it’s a constant battle between the two. The anorexia almost does become part of you, and so in order to get it out of you I think you do have to kind of hurt you in the process. I think it’s almost inevitable. We came to the (...) concept of authenticity belatedly, one might say. We had been talking to people who had a diagnosis of anorexia nervosa about their experiences of living with their condition, and though we had not raised issues of authenticity or identity ourselves, they often did. They struggled with questions of .. (shrink)
The Doctrine of Double Effect (DDE) is an influential non-consequentialist principle positing a role for intention in affecting the moral permissibility of some actions. In particular, the DDE focuses on the intend/foresee distinction, the core claim being that it is sometimes permissible to bring about as a foreseen but unintended side-effect of one’s action some harm it would have been impermissible to aim at as a means or as an end, all else being equal. This article explores the meaning and (...) application of the DDE along with current debates over the nature of the intend/foresee distinction and its moral significance. How is the line between intended effects and merely foreseen but unintended side-effects to be drawn, and how are problem cases best handled? What is an appropriate methodology for debating the tenability of the DDE? How might the DDE interact with other non-consequentialist principles, and how might it be modified to capture other related factors (resulting perhaps in a Doctrine of Triple Effect) or to avoid certain problem cases? Does the DDE make permissibility turn on the actual intentions of particular agents, as critics such as Thomson and Scanlon assume, or is the role of intention more abstract? (shrink)
Suicide has long been the subject of philosophical, literary, theological and cultural–historical inquiry. But despite the diversity of disciplinary and methodological approaches that have been brought to bear in the study of suicide, we argue that the formal study of suicide, that is, suicidology, is characterized by intellectual, organizational and professional values that distinguish it from other ways of thinking and knowing. Further, we suggest that considering suicidology as a “social practice” offers ways to usefully conceptualize its epistemological, philosophical and (...) practical norms. This study develops the idea of suicidology as a social practice and considers the implications for research, practice and public discourse. (shrink)
Value judgements in research and political decision-making that exclude evidence for the social determinants of suicide suggest that evidence is not sufficient on its own to guide policy and practice, and that there is a lack of conceptual clarity with regard to decisions relating to the prioritization of problems, the allocation of resources, the translation of research into practice, as well as questions of responsibility for suicide prevention. In this work I seek to broaden conventional ethical debate about suicide through (...) the use of public health ethics frameworks. I argue that despite espousing a public health approach, current suicide prevention strategies are based largely on individual-level theorizing. This emphasis on the individual works to responsibilize individuals and communities for suicide prevention and directs attention away from public policy and systemic inequities. Given continued high rates of suicide, especially among disadvantaged social groups and communities, comprehensive government action is required to address the social and political determinants of suicide. Normative justification for action in realizing these ends is critical. I conclude by proposing one practicable form of action to make values and value judgements in suicide prevention explicit so that alternative forms of ethical and political recognition and responsibility are acknowledged. (shrink)
BackgroundCurrent guidelines do not clearly outline when assent should be attained from paediatric research participants, nor do they detail the necessary elements of the assent process. This stems from the fact that the fundamental justification behind the concept of assent is misunderstood. In this paper, we critically assess three widespread ethical arguments used for assent: children’s rights, the best interests of the child, and respect for a child’s developing autonomy. We then outline a newly-developed two-fold justification for the assent process: (...) respect for the parent’s pedagogical role in teaching their child to become an autonomous being and respect for the child’s moral worth.DiscussionWe argue that the ethical grounding for the involvement of young children in medical decision-making does not stem from children’s rights, the principle of best interests, or respect for developing autonomy. An alternative strategy is to examine the original motivation to engage with the child. In paediatric settings there are two obligations on the researcher: an obligation to the parents who are responsible for determining when and under what circumstances the child develops his capacity for autonomy and reasoning, and an obligation to the child himself. There is an important distinction between respecting a decision and encouraging a decision. This paper illustrates that the process of assent is an important way in which respect for the child as an individual can be demonstrated, however, the value lies not in the child’s response but the fact that his views were solicited in the first place.SummaryThis paper demonstrates that the common justifications for the process of assent are incomplete. Assent should be understood as playing a pedagogical role for the child, helping to teach him how specific decisions are made and therefore helping him to become a better decision-maker. How the researcher engages with the child supports his obligation to the child’s parents, yet why the researcher engages with the child stems from the child’s moral worth. Treating a child as having moral worth need not mean doing what they say but it may mean listening, considering, engaging or involving them in the decision. (shrink)
The famous ‘trolley problem’ began as a simple variation on an example given in passing by Philippa Foot , involving a runaway trolley that cannot be stopped but can be steered to a path of lesser harm. By switching from the perspective of the driver to that of a bystander, Judith Jarvis Thomson showed how the case raises difficulties for the normative theory Foot meant to be defending, and Thomson compounded the challenge with further variations that created still more puzzles (...) of broader interest. In recent years, her thought experiments have even been co-opted by psychologists engaged in the empirical study of moral judgment . Yet more than thirty years after launching the trolley problem, Thomson has now strikingly reversed course, retracting the very claim she had originally used to raise puzzles for Foot. I shall argue that this reversal is a mistake, leading to a needlessly counterintuitive, contrarian position about damage-control cases. Instead of overturning her earlier position, her new variations merely uncover a surprising insight about the conditions under which one may permissibly sacrifice another for a good end.1. The central case at issue is what Thomson now calls Bystander's Two Options: you are a bystander who sees a runaway trolley headed toward five innocent people who cannot move off the track; you cannot stop the trolley, but you have access to a switch that will divert it onto a side track where one innocent person is trapped. Is it permissible to throw the switch and divert the trolley toward lesser harm? The common answer, and Thomson's earlier one, is that it is: in cases like this, where there is a public threat and we can act on it so …. (shrink)
BackgroundPromoting the social value of global health research undertaken in resource poor settings has become a key concern in global research ethics. The consideration for benefit sharing, which concerns the elucidation of what if anything, is owed to participants, their communities and host nations that take part in such research, and the obligations of researchers involved, is one of the main strategies used for promoting social value of research. In the last decade however, there has been intense debate within academic (...) bioethics literature seeking to define the benefits, the beneficiaries, and the scope of obligations for providing these benefits. Although this debate may be indicative of willingness at the international level to engage with the responsibilities of researchers involved in global health research, it remains unclear which forms of benefits or beneficiaries should be considered. International and local research ethics guidelines are reviewed here to delineate the guidance they provide.MethodsWe reviewed documents selected from the international compilation of research ethics guidelines by the Office for Human Research Protections under the US Department of Health and Human Services.ResultsAccess to interventions being researched, the provision of unavailable health care, capacity building for individuals and institutions, support to health care systems and access to medical and public health interventions proven effective, are the commonly recommended forms of benefits. The beneficiaries are volunteers, disease or illness affected communities and the population in general. Interestingly however, there is a divide between "global opinion" and the views of particular countries within resource poor settings as made explicit by differences in emphasis regarding the potential benefits and the beneficiaries.ConclusionAlthough in theory benefit sharing is widely accepted as one of the means for promoting the social value of international collaborative health research, there is less agreement amongst major guidelines on the specific responsibilities of researchers over what is ethical in promoting the social value of research. Lack of consensus might have practical implications for efforts aimed at enhancing the social value of global health research undertaken in resource poor settings. Further developments in global research ethics require more reflection, paying attention to the practical realities of implementing the ethical principles in real world context. (shrink)
As one component of a broader social and normative response to the problem of suicide, scientism served to minimize sociopolitical and religious conflict around the issue. As such, it embodied, and continues to embody, a number of interests and values, as well as serving important social functions. It is thus comparable with other normative frameworks and can be appraised, from an ethical perspective, in light of these values, interests, and functions. This work examines the key values, interests, and functions of (...) scientism in suicidology and argues that although scientism has had some social benefit, it primarily serves to maintain political and professional interests and has damaging implications for suicide research and prevention. (shrink)
Introduction: characterizing ethical realismIt is useful to begin a survey of recent work on ethical realism with a look at current disputes over what makes a theory of ethics count as ‘realist’ in the first place. Nearly all characterizations of ethical realism include some version of the following two core claims: Ethical discourse is assertoric and descriptive: ethical claims purport to state ethical facts by attributing ethical properties to people, actions, institutions, etc., and are thus true or false depending on (...) whether their descriptions of things are accurate or not . 1 At least some ethical claims, when literally construed, are true in the above sense.Sayre-McCord maintains that these two conditions are necessary and sufficient to characterize ethical realism; others argue that further conditions must be added to yield ethical realism, or at least ‘paradigmatic’ or ‘robust’ ethical realism. Before turning to that, however, it is worth noting that some have recently denied that the above two conditions are even necessary for ethical realism. In probing new work on metaethical taxonomy, Miller argues that the core of ethical realism is simply the metaphysical commitment to objective ethical properties and facts, which is strictly independent of the semantic claims above. If one holds that there are objective facts about the wrongness of slavery, for example, then one ought to count as an ethical realist regardless of whatever views one might hold about the semantics of the contingent forms of discourse that have evolved among language users. Even if our ethical discourse turns out primarily to express conative states ), or all moral claims turn out to be false because …. (shrink)
Intent and mitigating circumstances play a central role in moral and legal assessments in large-scale industrialized societies. Al- though these features of moral assessment are widely assumed to be universal, to date, they have only been studied in a narrow range of societies. We show that there is substantial cross-cultural variation among eight traditional small-scale societies (ranging from hunter-gatherer to pastoralist to horticulturalist) and two Western societies (one urban, one rural) in the extent to which intent and mitigating circumstances influence (...) moral judgments. Although participants in all societies took such factors into account to some degree, they did so to very different extents, varying in both the types of considerations taken into account and the types of violations to which such considerations were applied. The particular patterns of assessment characteristic of large-scale industrialized societies may thus reflect relatively recently culturally evolved norms rather than inherent features of human moral judgment. (shrink)
This paper discusses the role that appeals to theoretical simplicity have played in the debate between nativists and empiricists in cognitive science. Both sides have been keen to make use of such appeals in defence of their respective positions about the structure and ontogeny of the human mind. Focusing on the standard simplicity argument employed by empiricist-minded philosophers and cognitive scientists—what I call “the argument for minimal innateness”—I identify various problems with such arguments—in particular, the apparent arbitrariness of the relevant (...) notions of simplicity at work. I then argue that simplicity ought not be seen as a theoretical desideratum in its own right, but rather as a stand-in for other desirable features of theories. In this deflationary vein, I argue that the best way of interpreting the argument for minimal innateness is to view it as an indirect appeal to various potential biological constraints on the amount of innate structure that can wired into the human mind. I then consider how nativists may respond to this biologized version of the argument, and discuss the role that similar biological concerns have played in recent nativist theorizing in the Minimalist Programme in generative linguistics. (shrink)
While differing widely in other respects, both neo-Humean and neo-Kantian approaches to normativity embrace an internalist thesis linking reasons for acting to potential motivation. This thesis pushes in different directions depending on the underlying view of the powers of practical reason, but either way it sets the stage for an attack on realist attempts to ground reasons directly in facts about value. How can reasons that are not somehow grounded in motivational features of the agent nonetheless count as reasons for (...) that particular agent, having genuine normative force for her? Won't any realist, externalist view threaten to alienate the individual from the reasons that obtain for her, particularly if she fails (even after rational deliberation) to care about the values that are supposed to ground them? I argue that such objections can successfully be answered, and that externalist views of reasons need not be plagued with normative alienation. Focusing largely on a recent debate between Williams and McDowell over the nature of normative reasons, I show that a value-based externalist theory, when properly conceived, can account for the normative relevance of reasons to the particular agents for whom they obtain. Moreover, Williams's own sophisticated neo-Humeanism turns out to be vulnerable to parallel charges of normative alienation, which it cannot escape without compromising the very psychologistic orientation that has been its chief attraction. Realist externalism about reasons turns out to be a more viable and attractive alternative to both neo-Humeanism and neo-Kantianism than many currently take it to be. (shrink)
This paper discusses Kevin Kelly’s recent attempt to justify Ockham’s Razor in terms of truth-finding efficiency. It is argued that Kelly’s justification fails to warrant confidence in the empirical content of theories recommended by Ockham’s Razor. This is a significant problem if, as Kelly and many others believe, considerations of simplicity play a pervasive role in scientific reasoning, underlying even our best tested theories, for the proposal will fail to warrant the use of these theories in practical prediction.