The proper role, if any, for religion-based arguments is a live and sometimes heated issue within the field of bioethics. The issue attracts heat primarily because bioethical analyses influence the outcomes of controversial court cases and help shape legislation in sensitive biopolicy areas. A problem for religious bioethicists who seek to influence biopolicy is that there is now widespread academic and public acceptance, at least within liberal democracies, that the state should not base its policies on any particular religion’s metaphysical (...) claims or esoteric moral system. In response, bioethicists motivated by religious concerns have adopted two identifiable strategies. Sometimes they rely on slippery-slope arguments that, sometimes at least, have empirically testable premises. A more questionable response is the manipulation and misuse of secular-sounding moral language, such as references to “human dignity,” and the plights of groups of people labeled “vulnerable.”. (shrink)
We commonly identify something seriously defective in a human life that is lived in ignorance of important but unpalatable truths. At the same time, some degree of misapprehension of reality may be necessary for individual health and success. Morally speaking, it is unclear just how insistent we should be about seeking the truth. Robert Sparrow has considered such issues in discussing the manufacture and marketing of robot ‘pets’, such as Sony’s doglike ‘AIBO’ toy and whatever more advanced devices may supersede (...) it. Though it is not his only concern, Sparrow particularly criticizes such robot pets for their illusory appearance of being living things. He fears that some individuals will subconsciously buy into the illusion, and come to sentimentalize interactions that fail to constitute genuine relationships. In replying to Sparrow, I emphasize that this would be continuous with much of the minor sentimentality that we already indulge in from day to day. Although a disposition to seek the truth is morally virtuous, the virtue concerned must allow for at least some categories of exceptions. Despite Sparrow’s concerns about robot pets (and robotics more generally), we should be lenient about familiar, relatively benign, kinds of self-indulgence in forming beliefs about reality. Sentimentality about robot pets seems to fall within these categories. Such limited self-indulgence can co-exist with ordinary honesty and commitment to truth. (shrink)
_Intelligence Unbound_ explores the prospects, promises, and potential dangers of machine intelligence and uploaded minds in a collection of state-of-the-art essays from internationally recognized philosophers, AI researchers, science fiction authors, and theorists. Compelling and intellectually sophisticated exploration of the latest thinking on Artificial Intelligence and machine minds Features contributions from an international cast of philosophers, Artificial Intelligence researchers, science fiction authors, and more Offers current, diverse perspectives on machine intelligence and uploaded minds, emerging topics of tremendous interest Illuminates the nature (...) and ethics of tomorrow’s machine minds—and of the convergence of humans and machines—to consider the pros and cons of a variety of intriguing possibilities Considers classic philosophical puzzles as well as the latest topics debated by scholars Covers a wide range of viewpoints and arguments regarding the prospects of uploading and machine intelligence, including proponents and skeptics, pros and cons. (shrink)
In the end, Harris provides a compelling argument for selective intolerance toward harsh moral traditions. He argues via a kind of moral realism, linked to a form of utilitarian ethic, but I submit that these are not doing the real work. To reach a similar conclusion, we can rely on much weaker premises. It’s enough that we have a non-arbitrary conception of what morality is for, and what sorts of things we can rationally and realistically want moral traditions to do. (...) Where they divert from that conception, moral traditions merit our critique and opposition. These should be every bit as severe, absolutely as passionate, as Harris evidently wants, but that does not commit us to his total picture of morality's landscape. Like it or not, morality is a much trickier phenomenon. (shrink)
In issue 20 of The Journal of Evolution and Technology, we published “Nietzsche, the Overhuman, and Transhumanism” by Stefan Lorenz Sorgner . In this intriguing article, Sorgner argues that there are significant similarities between the concept of the posthuman and Nietzsche’s celebrated notion of the overhuman . Sorgner does not claim that late twentieth-century and contemporary transhumanist thinkers were knowingly influenced by Nietzsche: this is a question that he explicitly leaves open. Nor does he depict transhumanism as monolithic, or the (...) concept of the posthuman as unambiguous. For all that, he suggests that the similarity between the two concepts – overhuman and posthuman – is not merely superficial: it lies at a fundamental level. (shrink)
Since early 1997, when the creation of Dolly the sheep by somatic cell nuclear transfer was announced in Nature, numerous government reports, essays, articles and books have considered the ethical problems and policy issues surrounding human reproductive cloning. In this article, I consider what response a modern liberal society should give to the prospect of human cloning, if it became safe and practical. Some opponents of human cloning have argued that permitting it would place us on a slippery slope to (...) a repugnant future society, comparable to that portrayed in Aldous Huxley’s novel, Brave New World.I conclude that, leaving aside concerns about safety, none of the psychological or social considerations discussed in this article provides an adequate policy justification for invoking the state’s coercive powers to prevent human cloning. (shrink)
Though Arthur C. Clarke was one of the science fiction field's most eminent and influential figures, his work attracts surprisingly little scholarly discussion. In his new study of Clarke's extensive oeuvre, Gary Westfahl points out that few previous books have been devoted entirely to Clarke's fiction, and even those concentrate on what are regarded as a small number of major works. They overlook much of Clarke's short fiction, and most were completed before significant new works appeared in the last thirty (...) or so years of his life. More importantly, Westfahl suggests, Clarke's literary skills are generally underrated by his critics, and his themes and dramatic intentions are widely misunderstood.Westfahl has... (shrink)
Bunge on Science and Ideology: A Re-Analysis.Russell Blackford - 2019 - In Mario Augusto Bunge, Michael R. Matthews, Guillermo M. Denegri, Eduardo L. Ortiz, Heinz W. Droste, Alberto Cordero, Pierre Deleporte, María Manzano, Manuel Crescencio Moreno, Dominique Raynaud, Íñigo Ongay de Felipe, Nicholas Rescher, Richard T. W. Arthur, Rögnvaldur D. Ingthorsson, Evandro Agazzi, Ingvar Johansson, Joseph Agassi, Nimrod Bar-Am, Alberto Cupani, Gustavo E. Romero, Andrés Rivadulla, Art Hobson, Olival Freire Junior, Peter Slezak, Ignacio Morgado-Bernal, Marta Crivos, Leonardo Ivarola, Andreas Pickel, Russell Blackford, Michael Kary, A. Z. Obiedat, Carolina I. García Curilaf, Rafael González del Solar, Luis Marone, Javier Lopez de Casenave, Francisco Yannarella, Mauro A. E. Chaparro, José Geiser Villavicencio- Pulido, Martín Orensanz, Jean-Pierre Marquis, Reinhard Kahle, Ibrahim A. Halloun, José María Gil, Omar Ahmad, Byron Kaldis, Marc Silberstein, Carolina I. García Curilaf, Rafael González del Solar, Javier Lopez de Casenave, Íñigo Ongay de Felipe & Villavicencio-Pulid (eds.), Mario Bunge: A Centenary Festschrift. Springer Verlag. pp. 439-463.details
Mario Bunge has provided a useful analysis of the phenomenon of ideology, dividing ideologies into religions and sociopolitical ideologies and showing how both can be analyzed into very similar elements. This approach illuminates why sociopolitical ideologies so often bear the trappings of religion, and how they can play a similar role in their adherents’ lives. Importantly, both contain cognitive content that includes one or another view of human nature. Science can threaten religions and sociopolitical ideologies by undermining their credibility and (...) their specific claims, though science can also inform sociopolitical ideologies in ways that are potentially beneficial. Unfortunately, ideologues often insist on an arrow of causation that goes from ideology to science, rather than from science to ideology. That is, ideologues make judgments about science by using their own partisan beliefs, procedures, and epistemic standards, rather than allowing scientific findings to inform the emergence of an ideology grounded in reason. In this respect, ideologies of all kinds can become enemies of free scientific inquiry. (shrink)
n issue 20 of The Journal of Evolution and Technology, we published “Nietzsche, the Overhuman, and Transhumanism” by Stefan Lorenz Sorgner, a leading Nietzsche scholar and the author of Metaphysics Without Truth: On the Importance of Consistency within Nietzsche’s Philosophy. Issue 21, our “Nietzsche and European Posthumanisms” issue, was prepared following a call for papers in response. We published a mix of short responses and full-length peer-reviewed articles. Meanwhile, we also invited Stefan Sorgner to reply to the papers in the (...) issue once they were all published. We’re now pleased to present Sorgner’s detailed reply, in which he argues that Nietzsche could plausibly have favored technological means for bringing about the overhuman, particularly since no principled distinction can be made between technological interventions and educational interventions. Sorgner defends Nietzsche’s fundamental epistemological position and a Nietzschean approach to virtue ethics, but is unenthusiastic about Nietzsche’s wish to establish a two-tier society where a small class of people are free to dedicate themselves to the creation of culture . At the same time, Sorgner stresses that Nietzsche is often unfairly associated with the Nazis – despite his clearly-expressed opposition to anti-Semitism – and that he did not favor aristocratic rule in the ordinary sense conveyed by that term. Nietzsche was no egalitarian, but he favored an elite of culture-creators rather than the rule of the hereditary aristocracy. (shrink)
As described elsewhere on this journal’s website, The Journal of Evolution and Technology was founded in 1998 as The Journal of Transhumanism, and was originally published by the World Transhumanist Association. In November 2004, JET moved under the umbrella of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies , an organization that seeks to contribute to our understanding of the impact of emerging technologies on individuals and societies. Prior to my appointment, in January 2008, as JET’s editor-in-chief, I’d had four distinguished (...) predecessors – Nick Bostrom, Robin Hanson, Mark Walker, and James Hughes – who had established the journal as a leading forum for discussion of the future of the human species and whatever might come after it. Articles that they'd published in JET were – and are – frequently cited in discussions of the human or posthuman future. With a decade of history behind the journal as I commenced my watch this year, and with JET’s fifth year with IEET now underway, we have much to celebrate. I'm personally delighted to have taken up my position with a journal of ideas that has such a rich history and so much promise. JET is a scholarly, peer-reviewed journal. The material that it publishes may or may not be submitted by scholars and scientists currently working within the academy, but it must certainly meet the standards of well-established academic journals. Most submissions received are rejected because they don’t reach the required standard, but we are always looking for appropriate articles and reviews. We require only that they be relevant to the human or posthuman future and that they meet our high standards of scholarship, originality, and intellectual rigor. We welcome submissions on a wide range of relevant topics and from almost any academic discipline or interdisciplinary standpoint. Central to our thinking at JET is the idea – increasingly familiar and plausible – that the human species is about to commence, or has already commenced, a new form of evolution. This is something quite different from the slow Darwinian processes of survival, reproduction, and adaptation. It is powered, rather, by new technologies that increasingly work their way inwards, transforming human bodies and minds. According to this idea, technology can do more than merely giving us tools to manipulate the world around us; it can alter us far more comprehensively than by shaping our neurological pathways when we learn to handle new tools. This idea of a technologically-mediated process of evolution remains controversial, of course, and even if we grant it broad acceptance there is still much to debate. Just how the process might be manifested in the years to come, and just where it might take us or our successors, are both unclear. Nonetheless, the idea merits careful study from many viewpoints, whether scientific, philosophical, historical, sociological, anthropological, legal, artistic … or even theological. (shrink)
This special issue of JET deals with questions relating to our radically enhanced future selves or our possible “mind children” – conscious beings that we might bring about through the development of advanced computers and robots. Our mind children might exceed human levels of cognition, and avoid many human limitations and vulnerabilities. In a call for papers earlier this year, the editors asked how far we ought to go with processes that might ultimately convert humans to some sort of post-biological (...) form or replace us with post-biological beings. Are these coherent ideas at all? If so, is it likely, or plausible, that we’ll one day be able to do such things? Even if we can, is that desirable? More generally, how far can all these processes go, and how far should we pursue them? To offer a more personal and pointed question, would you “upload” your personality into some kind of advanced computer or robot if the technology became available? Would you do so even if the process required the destruction of your original organic brain? We are not the first to ask such questions. A large body of relevant literature has built up in recent decades, some of it discussing these and similar questions purely as philosophical thought experiments , but some of it at the level of practical recommendations for a posthuman future. Despite the intensity and quality of the ongoing debate and the eminence of many of the contributors, much work remains to be done to sort it all out and advance the discussion. We have gathered a range of viewpoints, and I predict that some of these pieces will soon be regarded as classics. They may not be the last word – how could they be when they do not all agree with each other? – but they advance our understanding of what is at stake. (shrink)
Tackling a host of myths and prejudices commonly leveled at atheism, this captivating volume bursts with sparkling, eloquent arguments on every page. The authors rebut claims that range from atheism being just another religion to the alleged atrocities committed in its name. An accessible yet scholarly commentary on hot-button issues in the debate over religious belief Teaches critical thinking skills through detailed, rational argument Objectively considers each myth on its merits Includes a history of atheism and its advocates, an appendix (...) detailing atheist organizations, and an extensive bibliography Explains the differences between atheism and related concepts such as agnosticism and naturalism. (shrink)
Philosophy proceeds, supposedly, by way of rational inquiry and argument, yet, as Jonathan Glover has written, “philosophers persistently disagree” to such an extent that the “apparent lack of clear progress or of a body of established results is an embarrassment”. To outside observers, this may appear puzzling. Even professional philosophers sometimes worry about their discipline’s lack of consensus, continuing disagreement on standards and methods, and increasingly fragmented, hyperspecialized state of play. Though philosophy hesitates to speak with one voice, it can (...) endorse and teach values to do with intellectual rigor and honesty, charity to opponents, and openness to evidence. If these are passed down effectively from teachers to students, we might hope that philosophers will bring their characteristic skills and values to some of the great practical questions of our age, not least those relating to global injustice and risks to humanity’s future. All too often, the debates that surround these questions are dominated by tribalism, dogma, and emotional manipulation. With dedication, and perhaps a bit of good luck, philosophical training might provide something of a corrective. If philosophy fails in that respect by not living up to its ideals, that’s a situation we can identify and try to alter. (shrink)
Blackford, Russell A recent survey conducted on behalf of the Rationalist Association of New South Wales and the Humanist Society of Queensland has found that only 14 per cent of Australians were influenced by their religious beliefs the last time they voted.
Published in 1973, Arthur C. Clarkes Rendezvous with Rama won the Hugo, Nebula, and John W. Campbell Awards . Its im- pressive collection of awards, outstanding commercial success, and intrinsic interest make it one of the few truly iconic works of hard science fiction. It depicts the work of astronauts in space, and shows an obvious concern for scientific accuracy and logic. In all, Rendezvous with Rama seems like an unlikely candidate for a utopian novel, and that expression would, indeed, (...) misdescribe it. Yet, it contains strong mythic, satirical, and utopian elements, which give it much of its interest. Alas, many of those elements are discarded in the trilogy of novels that appeared much later as an extended sequel to the novels action. (shrink)
In this highly original book, Russell Blackford discusses the intersection of science fiction and humanity’s moral imagination. With the rise of science and technology in the 19th century, and our continually improving understanding of the cosmos, writers and thinkers soon began to imagine futures greatly different from the present. Science fiction was born out of the realization that future technoscientific advances could dramatically change the world. Along with the developments described in modern science fiction - space societies, conscious machines, and (...) upgraded human bodies, to name but a few - come a new set of ethical challenges and new forms of ethics. Blackford identifies these issues and their reflection in science fiction. His fascinating book will appeal to anyone with an interest in philosophy or science fiction, or in how they interact. (shrink)
The Liberty of Thought and Discussion: Restatement and Implications.Russell Blackford - 2018 - In David Boonin, Katrina L. Sifferd, Tyler K. Fagan, Valerie Gray Hardcastle, Michael Huemer, Daniel Wodak, Derk Pereboom, Stephen J. Morse, Sarah Tyson, Mark Zelcer, Garrett VanPelt, Devin Casey, Philip E. Devine, David K. Chan, Maarten Boudry, Christopher Freiman, Hrishikesh Joshi, Shelley Wilcox, Jason Brennan, Eric Wiland, Ryan Muldoon, Mark Alfano, Philip Robichaud, Kevin Timpe, David Livingstone Smith, Francis J. Beckwith, Dan Hooley, Russell Blackford, John Corvino, Corey McCall, Dan Demetriou, Ajume Wingo, Michael Shermer, Ole Martin Moen, Aksel Braanen Sterri, Teresa Blankmeyer Burke, Jeppe von Platz, John Thrasher, Mary Hawkesworth, William MacAskill, Daniel Halliday, Janine O’Flynn, Yoaav Isaacs, Jason Iuliano, Claire Pickard, Arvin M. Gouw, Tina Rulli, Justin Caouette, Allen Habib, Brian D. Earp, Andrew Vierra, Subrena E. Smith, Danielle M. Wenner, Lisa Diependaele, Sigrid Sterckx, G. Owen Schaefer, Markus K. Labude, Harisan Unais Nasir, Udo Schuklenk, Benjamin Zolf & Woolwine (eds.), The Palgrave Handbook of Philosophy and Public Policy. Springer Verlag. pp. 305-315.details
John Stuart Mill’s “liberty of thought and discussion” is both broader and narrower than some current understandings of free speech. On the one hand, Mill is not concerned only with state censorship: he argues against all attempts, official or otherwise, to restrict the range of opinion and public discussion. On the other hand, he seeks to defend uninhibited discussion of general topics, such as those to do with science, morality, religion, and politics. Thus, he opposes a social environment of orthodoxies (...) and heresies, but he does not defend defamatory falsehoods or incitements to violence. Mill’s approach is subtle and philosophically rewarding; it is worth revisiting, updating, and pondering for its implications at a time of contention over free speech issues. (shrink)
The Mystery of Moral Authority argues for a sceptical and pragmatic view of morality as an all-too-human institution. Searching, intellectually rigorous, and always fair to rival views, it represents the state of the art in a tradition of moral philosophy that includes Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, and J.L. Mackie.
Blackford, Russell In the United Kingdom, ongoing social and political controversy over voluntary euthanasia, or assisted suicide, has reached a new stage. Labour MP Rob Marris has put forward a private member's bill, to be debated in the House of Commons in September. Thus, the UK now becomes a focus of attention for those of us with an interest in the issue of assisted suicide.
_50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents_ a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists. Features a truly international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals such as Peter Singer, Susan Blackmore, and A.C. Grayling, novelists, such as Joe Haldeman, and heavyweight philosophers of religion, including Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley Contributions range from (...) rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives Likely to have broad appeal given the current public fascination with religious issues and the reception of such books as _The God Delusion_ and _The End of Faith_. (shrink)
50 Voices of Disbelief: Why We Are Atheists presents a collection of original essays drawn from an international group of prominent voices in the fields of academia, science, literature, media and politics who offer carefully considered statements of why they are atheists. Features a truly international cast of contributors, ranging from public intellectuals such as Peter Singer, Susan Blackmore, and A.C. Grayling, novelists, such as Joe Haldeman, and heavyweight philosophers of religion, including Graham Oppy and Michael Tooley Contributions range from (...) rigorous philosophical arguments to highly personal, even whimsical, accounts of how each of these notable thinkers have come to reject religion in their lives Likely to have broad appeal given the current public fascination with religious issues and the reception of such books as The God Delusion and The End of Faith. (shrink)
Much of the adverse reaction to the New Atheism is ill-founded. It displays a foolish sentimentalisation of religious faith, and often a failure to appreciate the real-world problem of religion’s persistence. Critics of forthright atheism display a naivety about religion’s ongoing power and influence in the public sphere, all too obvious even in Western democracies.
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