If someone abstains from meat-eating for reasons of taste or personal economics, no moral or philosophical question arises. But when a vegetarian attempts to persuade others that they, too, should adopt his diet, then what he says requires philosophical attention. While a vegetarian might argue in any number of ways, this essay will be concerned only with the argument for a vegetarian diet resting on a moral objection to the rearing and killing of animals for the human table. The vegetarian, (...) in this laense, does not merely require us to change or justify our eating habits, but to reconsider our attitudes and behaviour towards members of other species across a wide range of practices. (shrink)
Jonathan Glover and I, while not in such deep disagreement about the ethics of killing as to make all communication impossible, still disagree enough to make sustained confrontation worthwhile. At minimum, such confrontation should make it clear what are the most fundamental issues at stake in ethical arguments about various kinds of killing.
The following objection to the ‘ontological’ argument of St Anselm has a continuing importance. The argument begs the question by introducing into the first premise the name ‘God’. In order for something to be truly talked about, to have properties truly attributed to it—it has been said—it must exist; a statement containing a vacuous name must either be false, meaningless, or lacking in truth-value, if it is not a misleading formulation to be explained by paraphrase into other terms. In any (...) case the question of the divine existence is begged. (shrink)
Despite the bad reputation of the legal profession, law remains king in America. A highly diverse society relies on the laws to maintain a working sense of the dignity and inviability of each individual. And a persistent element in contemporary debates is the fear that naturalistic theories of the human person will erode our belief that we have a dignity greater than that of other natural objects. Thus the endurance of the creation vs. evolution debate is due less to the (...) arguments of creationists, or to the continued influence of the book of Genesis, than to the reading of the evidence provided by Phillip E. Johnson of the University of California, Berkeley, Law School. (shrink)
It seems clear that the ontological argument can no longer be dismissed as a silly fallacy. The dogma of the impossibility of necessary existence is seriously threatened by the case of necessary existential truths in mathematics, and as for the claim that the ontological argument must beg the question, since by mentioning God in the premise his existence is presupposed, it is undermined by the fact that we often refer to things—Hamlet for instance— we do not for a moment think (...) exist. The doctrine that existence is not a property , insofar as it does not reduce to one of the foregoing points, is very murky, for the sense in which ‘red’ is a predicate and ‘exists’ is not has never been clearly defined. Moreover, the way many believers hold that ‘God exists’ is immune to empirical refutation strongly suggests that we are dealing here with an analytic statement, which is just what the ontological argument should be expected to produce. It seems in order, then, to conduct theological discussion under the supposition that the argument is in fact sound. (shrink)
Historical analysis and policy making often require counterfactual thought experiments that isolate hypothesized causes from a vast array of historical possibilities. However, a core precept of Jervis's ?systems thinking? is that causes are so interconnected that the historian can only with great difficulty imagine causation by subtracting all variables but one. Prediction, according to Jervis, is even more problematic: The more sensitive an event is to initial conditions (e.g., butterfly effects), the harder it is to derive accurate forecasts. Nevertheless, if (...) awareness of system effects can help forecasters better calibrate their probability estimates of whether or not certain events will come to pass, systems thinkers who are pessimistic about prediction are diluting their confidence too much. The challenge is a meta-cognitive one: thinking systematically about when to engage in systems thinking; and weighing the costs and benefits of using simple or complex heuristics in policy environments that can shift suddenly from quiescence to turbulence. (shrink)
Heuristics are necessary but far from sufficient explanations for moral judgment. This commentary stresses: (a) the need to complement cold, cognitive-economizing functionalist accounts with hot, value-expressive, social-identity-affirming accounts; and (b) the importance of conducting reflective-equilibrium thought and laboratory experiments that explore the permeability of the boundaries people place on the “thinkable.”.
Recent work in cognitive neuroscience on the child's Theory of Mind has pursued the idea that the ability to metarepresent mental states depends on a domain-specific cognitive subystem implemented in specific neural circuitry: a Theory of Mind Module. We argue that the interaction of several domain-general mechanisms and lower-level domain-specific mechanisms accounts for the flexibility and sophistication of behavior, which has been taken to be evidence for a domain-specific ToM module. This finding is of more general interest since it suggests (...) a parsimonious cognitive architecture can account for apparent domain specificity. We argue for such an architecture in two stages. First, on conceptual grounds, contrasting the case of language with ToM, and second, by showing that recent evidence in the form of fMRI and lesion studies supports the more parsimonious hypothesis. Theory of Mind, Metarepresentation, and Modularity Developmental Components of ToM The Analogy with Modularity of Language Dissociations without Modules The Evidence from Neuroscience Conclusion. (shrink)
Abstract Timur Kuran's Private Truths, Public Lies makes a compelling case that people often misrepresent their private preferences in response to real or imagined social pressures, that the relative power of competing interest groups to punish opinion deviance and reward conformity determines the patterns and pervasiveness of preference falsification, and that preference falsifi?cation helps explain such diverse outcomes as the persistence and sudden collapse of communism and the precarious persistence of racial preferences in the United States and of the caste (...) system in India. Although preference falsification is important and raises questions about the legitimacy of the opinions expressed in opinion polls and elections, it does not seem widespread enough to warrant the conclusion that ordinary people lack the courage necessary to make democracy work. (shrink)
In response to the dozen essays published here, which relate my 1964 paper on ?The Nature of Belief Systems in the Mass Publics? to normative requirements of democratic theory, I note, inter alia, a major misinterpretation of my old argument, as well as needed revisions of that argument in the light of intervening data. Then I address the degree to which there may be some long?term secular change in the parameters that I originally laid out. In the final section, I (...) provide a case study of public understanding of factual trends in federal tax policy in recent decades which seems commendably veridical on average. The preferences of the public thereon add up to a remarkably clear popular mandate. But this mandate seems to disappear rather magically in the voting booth, probably due to a combination of limited contextual information on the public side, and considerable skill on the elite side in manipulating apparent political realities. (shrink)
The newest addition to the Point/Counterpoint Series, Abortion: Three Perspectives features a debate between four noted philosophers - Michael Tooley, Celia Wolf-Devine, Philip E. Devine, and Alison M. Jaggar - presenting different perspectives on one of the most socially and politically argued issues of the past 30 years. The three main arguments include the "liberal" pro-choice approach, the "communitarian" pro-life approach, and the "gender justice" approach. Divided into two parts, the text features the authors' ideas, developed in depth, and (...) their responses to one another within each framework. As philosophers, the authors have special skills in critical analysis and thinking systematically about values. The text is appropriate for advanced courses in ethics, bioethics, sex and gender issues, and contemporary moral issues. (shrink)
Role conflict occurs when a job possesses inconsistent expectations incongruent with individual beliefs, a situation that precipitates considerable frustration and other negative work outcomes. Increasing interest in processes that reduce role conflict is, therefore, witnessed. With the help of information collected from a large sample of individuals employed at an education-based healthcare institution, this study identified several factors that might decrease role conflict, namely mindfulness and organizational ethics. In particular, the results indicated that mindfulness was associated with decreased role conflict, (...) and that perceived ethical values and a shared ethics code were associated with decreased role conflict and increased mindfulness. Despite the study's limitations, these findings imply that companies might better manage role conflict through the development of mindfulness and organizational ethics. (shrink)