The purpose of this paper is to review critically Julian Savulescu's principle of 'Procreative Beneficence,' which holds that prospective parents are morally obligated to select, of the possible children they could have, those with the greatest chance of leading the best life. According to this principle, prospective parents are obliged to use the technique of pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) to select for the 'best' embryos, a decision that ought to be made based on the presence or absence of both disease (...) traits and non-disease traits such as intelligence. While several articles have been written in response to Savulescu's principle, none has systematically explored its philosophical underpinnings to demonstrate where it breaks down. In this paper I argue that the examples that Savulescu employs to support his theory in fact fail to justify it. He presents these examples as analogous to PGD, when in fact they differ from it in subtle but morally relevant ways. Specifically, Savulescu fails to acknowledge the fact that his examples evoke deontological and virtue ethics concerns that are absent in the context of PGD. These differences turn out to be crucial, so that, in the end, the analogies bear little support for his theory. Finally, I lay out the implications of this analysis for reproductive ethics. (shrink)
Riassunto: Nel suo contributo Rosalba Morese si occupa di tre fenomeni di particolare interesse per comprendere il modo in cui gli esseri umani di fatto si comportano nei confronti dei loro simili quando sono coinvolte le loro identità di gruppo, ovvero l’altruismo parrocchiale, la punizione antisociale e la punizione altruistica. Scopo di questo lavoro è indagare se e in quale misura i dati comportamentali e di risonanza magnetica funzionale riportati da Morese possano informare le nostre teorie morali normative. Se, cioè, (...) esse possano non solo informarci circa il modo in cui di fatto gli esseri umani si comportano, ma se possano influire sulla nostra comprensione di come essi dovrebbero comportarsi; se dicano qualcosa del “dover essere” oltre che dell’“essere”. Parole chiave: Altruismo parrocchiale; Punizione antisociale; Punizione altruistica; Etica descrittiva; Etica normativa Parochial Altruism, Antisocial Punishment, and Altruistic Punishment: What Contribution Can Empirical Data Make to the Understanding of Ethics?: In her contribution, Morese takes into account three phenomena that are particularly interesting for understanding how human beings actually behave towards others when their group identities are involved – i.e. parochial altruism, antisocial punishment, and altruistic punishment. The aim of this commentary is to understand if and to what extent the behavioral and fMRI data reported by Morese can also inform our moral normative theories. That is, if they can inform us not only about how human beings actually behave, but also influence our understanding of how they should behave; if they tell us something about the “ought” as well as the “is”. Keywords: Parochial Altruism; Antisocial Punishment; Altruistic Punishment; Ethics; Normative Ethics. (shrink)
In her review of my book How we remember: Brain mechanisms of episodic memory, Sarah Robins highlights my example of the problem of interference between memories accessed by content-addressable memory. However, she points out the difficulty of solving this problem with index-addressable representations such as time cells or arc length cells. Namely, the index-addressable memory requires knowing the unique index in advance in order to perform effective retrieval. This is a difficult problem, but should be solvable by forming bi-directional (...) associations between an index-addressable sequence of time cells and an array of content-addressable features in the environment. (shrink)
This commentary focuses on two aspects of eye movement behaviour that E-Z Reader 7 currently makes no attempt to explain: the influence of higher order psycholinguistic processes on fixation durations, and orthographic influences on initial and refixation locations on words. From our understanding of the current version of the model, it is not clear how it may be readily modified to account for existing empirical data.
Philosophers and cognitive scientists alike often emphasize the role of the brain or cognitive processes “in the head” when trying to understand the mind – in contrast to considering cognition as involving the organism as a whole. This is evident in some contemporary theory of mind approaches that require the ability to make mental attributions to others either via inferences from folk psychology or via simulation. But there are numerous problems with adopting such theories of mind. In contrast, we should (...) consider the 4-E approach – that the mind is enactive (facilitating action via both practice and social affordances), embedded (in a particular environment), extended (such that we rely on the use of tools outside of our own brains or bodies to perform equivalent or complementary cognitive functions), and embodied (acknowledging that the individual’s body shapes the way in which her mind perceives and understands the world). From this approach, an alternative theory of mind emerges: interaction theory, which holds that we can directly perceive another’s intentions and emotions via sensory-motor processes. Here, I argue that by adopting the 4-E approach and interaction theory we can consider the more broadly biological foundations of cognition (i.e., outside of the brain) and then challenge paradigmatic views of human and non-human social cognition. (shrink)