We have been teaching gender issues and feminist theory for many years, and we know that there is certainly a diversity of views among women, and men, about what counts as feminist or as good for women. Some may see a competent woman running for V.P as inevitably a step forward for women's equality. But consider this.
G.E.M. Anscombe famously claimed that acting intentionally entails knowing "without observation" what one is doing. Among those that have taken her claim seriously, an influential response has been to suppose that in order to explain this fact, we should conclude that intentions are a species of belief. This paper argues that there are good reasons to reject this "cognitivist" view of intention in favor of the view that intentions are distinctively practical attitudes that are not beliefs and do not constitutively (...) involve the belief that one will do what one intends. A theory is then proposed on behalf of Distinctive Practical Attitude views of intention to explain Anscombe's non-observational knowledge phenomenon. It is argued that intentions do not embody non-observational knowledge, but they do provide the evidential basis for it: we know without observation what we are doing by inferring from our intentions. (shrink)
The Archival and Constructive views of memory offer contrasting characterizations of remembering and its relation to memory errors. I evaluate the descriptive adequacy of each by offering a close analysis of one of the most prominent experimental techniques by which memory errors are elicited—the Deese-Roediger-McDermott paradigm. Explaining the DRM effect requires appreciating it as a distinct form of memory error, which I refer to as misremembering. Misremembering is a memory error that relies on successful retention of the targeted event. It (...) differs from both successful remembering and from confabulation errors, where the representation produced is wholly inaccurate. As I show, neither the Archival nor the Constructive View can account for the DRM effect because they are insensitive to misremembering’s unique explanatory demands. Fortunately, the explanatory limitations of the Archival and Constructive Views are complementary. This suggests a way.. (shrink)
Confabulation is a symptom central to many psychiatric diagnoses and can be severely debilitating to those who exhibit the symptom. Theorists, scientists, and clinicians have an understandable interest in the nature of confabulation—pursuing ways to define, identify, treat, and perhaps even prevent this memory disorder. Appeals to confabulation as a clinical symptom rely on an account of memory’s function from which cases like the above can be contrasted. Accounting for confabulation is thus an important desideratum for any candidate theory of (...) memory. Many contemporary memory theorists now endorse Constructivism, where memory is understood as a capacity for constructing plausible representations of past events. Constructivism’s aim is to account for and normalize the prevalence of memory errors in everyday life. Errors are plausible constructions that, on a particular occasion have led to error. They are not, however, evidence of malfunction in the memory system. While Constructivism offers an uplifting repackaging of the memory errors to which we are all susceptible, it has troubling implications for appeals to confabulation in psychiatric diagnosis. By accommodating memory errors within our understanding of memory’s function, Constructivism runs the risk of being unable to explain how confabulation errors are evidence of malfunction. After reviewing the literature on confabulation and Constructivism, respectively, I identify the tension between them and explore how different versions of Constructivism may respond. The paper concludes with a proposal for distinguishing between kinds of false memory—specifically, between misremembering and confabulation—that may provide a route to their reconciliation. (shrink)
When we define something as a crime, we generally thereby criminalize the attempt to commit that crime. However, it is a vexing puzzle to specify what must be the case in order for a criminal attempt to have occurred, given that the results element of the crime fails to come about. I argue that the philosophy of action can assist the criminal law in clarifying what kinds of events are properly categorized as criminal attempts. A natural thought is that this (...) project should take the form of specifying what it is in general to attempt or try to perform an action, and then to define criminal attempts as attempts to commit crimes. Focusing on Gideon Yaffe's resourceful work in Attempts (Oxford University Press, 2010) as an example of this strategy, I argue that it results in a view that is overly inclusive: one will count as trying to commit a crime even in the far remote preparatory stages that we in fact have good reason not to criminalize. I offer an alternative proposal to distinguish between mere preparations and genuine attempts that has its basis not in trying, but doing: a criminal attempt is underway once what the agent is doing is a crime. Working out the details of this schema turns out to have important implications for action theory. A recently burgeoning view known as Naive Action Theory holds that all action can be explained by appeal to some further thing that the agent is doing, and that that the same explanatory nexus is at work even when we appeal to what the agent is intending, trying, or preparing to do -- these notions do explanatory work because they too refer to actions that are in progress, albeit in their infancy. If this is right, than the notion of 'doing' will also be too inclusive for the purposes of the criminal law. I argue that we should draw the reverse conclusion: the distinctions between pure intending, trying, preparing, and doing serve an important purpose in the criminal law, and this fact lends support to the view that they are genuine metaphysical and explanatory distinctions. (shrink)
Suppose some person 'A' sets out to accomplish a difficult, long-term goal such as writing a passable Ph.D. thesis. What should you believe about whether A will succeed? The default answer is that you should believe whatever the total accessible evidence concerning A's abilities, circumstances, capacity for self-discipline, and so forth supports. But could it be that what you should believe depends in part on the relationship you have with A? We argue that it does, in the case where A (...) is yourself. The capacity for "grit" involves a kind of epistemic resilience in the face of evidence suggesting that one might fail, and this makes it rational to respond to the relevant evidence differently when you are the agent in question. We then explore whether similar arguments extend to the case of "believing in" our significant others -- our friends, lovers, family members, colleagues, patients, and students. (shrink)
Optogenetics makes possible the control of neural activity with light. In this article, I explore how the development of this experimental tool has brought about methodological and theoretical advances in the neurobiological study of memory. I begin with Semon’s distinction between the engram and the ecphory, explaining how these concepts present a methodological challenge to investigating memory. Optogenetics provides a way to intervene into the engram without the ecphory that, in turn, opens up new means for testing theories of memory (...) error. I focus on a series of experiments where optogenetics is used to study false memory and forgetting. (shrink)
There is a puzzle about how to understand the conclusion of a successful instance of practical reasoning. Do the considerations adduced in reasoning rationalize the particular doing of an action, as Aristotle is sometimes interpreted as claiming? Or does reasoning conclude in the formation of an attitude – an intention, say – that has an action-type as its content? This paper attempts to clarify what is at stake in that debate and defends the latter view against some of its critics.
In her thought-provoking symposium contribution, ‘What Is Impostor Syndrome?’, Katherine Hawley fleshes out our everyday understanding of that concept. This response builds on Hawley’s account to ask the ameliorative question of whether the everyday concept best serves the normative goals of promoting social justice and enhancing well-being. I raise some sceptical worries about the usefulness of the notion, in so far as it is centred on doxastic attitudes that include doubt about one’s own talent or skill. I propose instead that (...) a narrower conception emphasizing the debilitating emotional and behavioural consequences of such beliefs might be preferable, and that the causes of such consequences would be better thought of as unjustified rather than false beliefs about one’s own competence. (shrink)
How do we know what our intentions are? It is argued that work on self-knowledge has tended to neglect the attitude of intention, and that an epistemological account is needed that is attuned to the specific features of that state. Richard Moran’s Authorship view, on which we can acquire self-knowledge by making up our minds, offers a promising insight for such an account: we do not normally discover what we intend through introspection. However, his formulation of the Authorship view, developed (...) primarily with the attitude of belief in mind, is found wanting when applied to intention. An alternative account is proposed for knowledge of one’s own intentions that gives a central role to the mental act of deciding what to do. It is argued that we can come to know what we intend by making a decision about what to do and self-ascribing the content of that decision as our intended action. (shrink)
In Memory: A Philosophical Study, Bernecker argues for an account of contiguity. This Contiguity View is meant to solve relearning and prompting, wayward causation problems plaguing the causal theory of memory. I argue that Bernecker’s Contiguity View fails in this task. Contiguity is too weak to prevent relearning and too strong to allow prompting. These failures illustrate a problem inherent in accounts of memory causation. Relearning and prompting are both causal relations, wayward only with respect to our interest in specifying (...) remembering’s requirements. Solving them requires saying more about remembering, not causation. I conclude by sketching such an account. (shrink)
What is the role of practical thought in determining the intentional action that is performed? Donald Davidson’s influential answer to this question is that thought plays an efficient-causal role: intentional actions are those events that have the correct causal pedigree in the agent's beliefs and desires. But the Causal Theory of Action has always been plagued with the problem of “deviant causal chains,” in which the right action is caused by the right mental state but in the wrong way. This (...) paper addresses an alternative approach to understanding intentional action inspired by G.E.M. Anscombe, interpreting that view as casting practical thought in the role of formal rather than efficient cause of action and thereby avoiding the problem of deviant (efficient) causal chains. Specifically, on the neo-Anscombean view, it is the agent’s “practical knowledge” – non-observational, non-inferential knowledge of what one is doing – that confers the form of intentional action on an event and is the contribution of thought to determining what is intentionally done. This paper argues that the Anscombean view is subject to its own problematic type of deviance: deviant formal causation. What we know non-observationally about what we are doing often includes more than what we intend to be doing; we also know that we are bringing about the foreseen side effects of acting in the intended way. It is argued that the neo-Anscombean view faces difficulty in excluding the expected side effects from the specification of what is intentionally done, whereas the Causal Theory has no such difficulty. Thus, the discussion amounts to an argument in favor of the Causal Theory of Action. (shrink)
Is there a rational requirement enjoining continence over time in the intentions one has formed, such that anyone going in for a certain form of agency has standing reason to conform to such a requirement? This paper suggests that there is not. I argue that Michael Bratman’s defense of such a requirement succeeds in showing that many agents have a reason favoring default intention continence much of the time, but does not establish that all planning agents have such a reason (...) in every case of intending. I then defend an account on which such a reason is grounded in the need to maintain the capacity to commit oneself to a practical option. But although I think this applies more widely than Bratman’s account, it is also not a reason that any planning agent has in every case. I tentatively conclude that although we have many good reasons to stick with our intentions once we have formed them, it is not required by rationality. (shrink)
In philosophical inquiry into the mind, the metaphor of ‘transparency’ has been attractive to many who are otherwise in deep disagreement. It has thereby come to have a variety of different and mutually incompatible connotations. The mind is said to be transparent to itself, our perceptual experiences are said to be transparent to the world, and our beliefs are said to be transparent to – a great many different things. The first goal of this essay is to sort out the (...) different uses of the notion of transparency in the context of the philosophy of mind. The remainder of the essay will then be devoted to examining so-called Transparency theories of self-knowledge, or how we know our own minds. This type of theory has attracted a great deal of interest in recent years, but its prospects hinge on answers to unresolved questions concerning the epistemological details of the account and the scope of its ambitions. (shrink)
A common way to understand memory structures in the cognitive sciences is as a cognitive map. Cognitive maps are representational systems organized by dimensions shared with physical space. The appeal to these maps begins literally: as an account of how spatial information is represented and used to inform spatial navigation. Invocations of cognitive maps, however, are often more ambitious; cognitive maps are meant to scale up and provide the basis for our more sophisticated memory capacities. The extension is not meant (...) to be metaphorical, but the way in which these richer mental structures are supposed to remain map-like is rarely made explicit. Here we investigate this missing link, asking: how do cognitive maps represent non-spatial information? We begin with a survey of foundational work on spatial cognitive maps and then provide a comparative review of alternative, non-spatial representational structures. We then turn to several cutting-edge projects that are engaged in the task of scaling up cognitive maps so as to accommodate non-spatial information: first, on the spatial-isometric approach , encoding content that is non-spatial but in some sense isomorphic to spatial content; second, on the abstraction approach , encoding content that is an abstraction over first-order spatial information; and third, on the embedding approach , embedding non-spatial information within a spatial context, a prominent example being the Method-of-Loci. Putting these cases alongside one another reveals the variety of options available for building cognitive maps, and the distinctive limitations of each. We conclude by reflecting on where these results take us in terms of understanding the place of cognitive maps in memory. (shrink)
A substantial body of evidence shows that people tend to rely too heavily on explanations when trying to justify an opinion. Some research suggests these errors may arise from an inability to distinguish between explanations and the evidence that bears upon them. We examine an alternative account, that many people do distinguish between explanations and evidence, but rely more heavily on unsubstantiated explanations when evidence is scarce or absent. We examine the philosophical and psychological distinctions between explanation and evidence, and (...) show that participants use explanations as a substitute for missing evidence. Experiment 1 replicates the results of other researchers, but further shows that participants generate more evidence when they are not constrained by their lack of data. Merely mentioning a source of data can alter both their evaluation (Experiment 2) and their production (Experiment 3) of explanations and evidence. In Experiment 4, we show that participants can explicitly consider the availability of evidence and other pragmatic factors when evaluating arguments. Finally, we consider the implications of using explanations to replace missing evidence as a strategy in argument. (shrink)
This article argues, contra-Derrida, that Foucault does not essentialize or precomprehend the meaning of life or bio- in his writings on biopolitics. Instead, Foucault problematizes life and provokes genealogical questions about the meaning of modernity more broadly. In The Order of Things, the 1974-75 lecture course at the Collège de France, and Herculine Barbin, the monster is an important figure of the uncertain shape of modernity and its entangled problems (life, sex, madness, criminality, etc). Engaging Foucault’s monsters, I show that (...) the problematization of life is far from a “desire for a threshold,” à la Derrida. It is a spur to interrogating and critiquing thresholds, a fraught question mark where we have “something to do.” As Foucault puts it in “The Lives of Infamous Men,” it an ambiguous frontier where beings lived and died and they appear to us “because of an encounter with power which, in striking down a life and turning it to ashes, makes it emerge, like a flash [...]. (shrink)
We sometimes strive to achieve difficult goals when our evidence suggests that success is unlikely – not just because it will require strength of will, but because we are targets of prejudice and discrimination or because success will require unusual ability. Optimism about one’s prospects can be useful for persevering in these cases. That said, excessive optimism can be dangerous; when our evidence is unfavourable, we should be at most agnostic about whether we will succeed. This paper explores the nature (...) and rational significance of agnostic practical commitments. Most importantly, the rationality of striving against the odds can depend on investing in a plan for failure: a plan B. I aim to make headway on an account of what backup plans are, how they are related to primary plans, and whether the standard norms of plan rationality apply to our agnostic commitments. (shrink)
Is there a sense in which we exercise direct volitional control over our beliefs? Most agree that there is not, but discussions tend to focus on control in forming a belief. The focus here is on sustaining a belief over time in the face of ‘epistemic temptation’ to abandon it. It is argued that we do have a capacity for ‘doxastic self-control’ over time that is partly volitional in nature, and that its exercise is rationally permissible.
The attitude of intention is not usually the primary focus in philosophical work on self-knowledge. A recent exception is the so-called “Transparency” theory of self-knowledge, which attempts to explain how we know our own minds by appeal to reflection on non-mental facts. Transparency theories are attractive in light of their relative psychological economy compared to views that must posit a dedicated mechanism of ‘inner sense’. However, it is argued here, focusing on proposals by Richard Moran and Alex Byrne, that the (...) Transparency approach to explaining knowledge of our intentions fails. Considerations of economy therefore recommend an alternative approach: the Rylean Theory Theory. The particular view defended here is that one way of coming to know what we intend is to self-ascribe an intention on the basis of making a conscious decision about what to do. This view requires that there are such things as conscious decisions, and so the existence of conscious decisions is defended against skeptical worries raised by Peter Carruthers. The conclusion is that we know of our intentions by theorizing about ourselves, but that this knowledge can still be first-personally privileged, authoritative, and non-alienated. (shrink)
In Minds, Brains, and Norms , Pardo and Patterson deny that the activities of persons (knowledge, rule-following, interpretation) can be understood exclusively in terms of the brain, and thus conclude that neuroscience is irrelevant to the law, and to the conceptual and philosophical questions that arise in legal contexts. On their view, such appeals to neuroscience are an exercise in nonsense. We agree that understanding persons requires more than understanding brains, but we deny their pessimistic conclusion. Whether neuroscience can be (...) used to address legal issues is an empirical question. Recent work on locked-in syndrome, memory, and lying suggests that neuroscience has potential relevance to the law, and is far from nonsensical. Through discussion of neuroscientific methods and these recent results we show how an understanding of the subpersonal mechanisms that underlie person-level abilities could serve as a valuable and illuminating source of evidence in legal and social contexts. In so doing, we sketch the way forward for a no-nonsense approach to the intersection of law and neuroscience. (shrink)
This article argues, contra-Derrida, that Foucault does not essentialize or pre-comprehend the meaning of life or bio- in his writings on biopolitics. Instead, Foucault problematizes life and provokes genealogical questions about the meaning of modernity more broadly. In The Order of Things, the 1974-75 lecture course at the Collège de France, and Herculine Barbin, the monster is an important figure of the uncertain shape of modernity and its entangled problems. Engaging Foucault’s monsters, I show that the problematization of life is (...) far from a “desire for a threshold,” à la Derrida. It is a spur to interrogating and critiquing thresholds, a fraught question mark where we have “something to do.” As Foucault puts it in “The Lives of Infamous Men,” it an ambiguous frontier where beings lived and died and they appear to us “because of an encounter with power which, in striking down a life and turning it to ashes, makes it emerge, like a flash [...].”. (shrink)
G.E.M. Anscombe famously remarked that an adequate philosophy of psychology was needed before we could do ethics. Fifty years have passed, and we should now ask what significance our best theories of the psychology of agency have for moral philosophy. My focus is on non-moral conceptions of autonomy and self-governance that emphasize the limits of deliberation -- the way in which one's cares render certain options unthinkable, one's intentions and policies filter out what is inconsistent with them, and one's resolutions (...) function to block further reflection. I argue that we can expect this deliberative "silencing" to lead to moral failures that occur because the morally correct option was filtered out of the agent's deliberation. I think it follows from these conceptions of self-governance that we should be considered culpable for unwitting acts and omissions, even if they express no ill will, moral indifference, or blameworthy evaluative judgments. The question is whether this consequence is acceptable. Either way, the potential tradeoff between self-governance and moral attentiveness is a source of doubt about recent attempts to ground the normativity of rationality in our concern for self-governance. (shrink)
The impact on researchers of working with sensitive data is often not considered by ethics committees when approving research proposals. We conducted interviews with eight research assistants processing clinical notes on emergency department presentations for deliberate self-harm and suicide attempts during a suicide prevention trial. Common experiences of working with the data included feeling unprepared for the level of detail in the records, being drawn deeply into individual stories, emotional exhaustion from the cumulative exposure to the data over long periods (...) of time while working alone, and experiencing a heightened awareness of the fragility of life and the need for safety. The research assistants also reported on some of the strategies they had developed to cope with the sensitive nature of the data and the demands of the work. The ethical implications for suicide research reliant on non-clinically trained researchers exploring sensitive data are considered. These include the need for research l... (shrink)
Medicine often views hospice care as “giving up,” which results in a reduced quality of end-of-life care for many patients. By integrating a theology of the Sabbath with modern medicine, hospice becomes a sacred and valuable way to honor the dying patient in a comprehensive and holistic way. A theology of Sabbath as “Sacredness in Time” can provide the foundation for a shift in understanding hospice as a legitimate care plan, which shifts the focus from controlling and manipulating space for (...) the body, to rest and enjoyment of time for the whole person. First, I explore vitalism and its negative effects on the institution of hospice. Second, I address the main misconceptions and biases surrounding hospice in order to establish hospice as an appropriate option for the terminally ill. Finally, I argue for a shift away from sacredness in space to sacredness in time. (shrink)
The practice of health-care professional involvement in capital punishment has come under scrutiny since the implementation of lethal injection as a method of execution, raising questions of the goals of medicine and the ethics of medicalized procedures. The American Medical Association and other professional associations have issued statements prohibiting physician involvement in capital punishment because medicine is dedicated to preserving life. I address the three primary arguments against health-care professionals being involved in lethal injection and argue that they are not (...) strong enough to prohibit physician involvement in the lethal injection process. (shrink)
In her recent writings on the powers and limits of psychoanalysis, Julia Kristeva develops a theory of power and subjectivity that engages implicitly, if not explicitly, with biopolitical themes. Exploring these engagements, this paper draws on Kristeva to discuss the mute symptoms of homo sacer and the regulatory power of the spectacle. Staging an uncommon (and sometimes antagonistic) conversation between Kristeva, Agamben, and Foucault, I construct a field of inquiry that I term the “psychic life of biopolitics.”.
In the United States, handicapped parking spaces tether the social construction of need to the legal assurance of equality of accessibility. However in places such as Fenway Park in Boston, the threat of terror distorts the intention of these spaces by politically reconfiguring their presence and meaning. As a result, our public interest is legally manipulated and socially challenged to preference the abstraction of threat over real life in even the most ordinary of places.
In this article I describe my experience teaching a moral problems course to first-year students within a Learning Community model. I begin with the learning goals and the mechanics of both my Learning Community and my moral problems course. I then focus on the experiential learning requirement of my Learning Community which is based on a field trip model instead of a service learning model. I describe how two field trips in particular—one to an Arab American community in Brooklyn, New (...) York, and the other to a Black American community in West Harlem, New York—primed my students to more effectively engage in philosophical discussions about terrorism, war, and affirmative action. I conclude that experiential learning on a field trip model helped my students to have more sophisticated conversations about complex and emotionally charged moral issues. (shrink)
What makes identity politics a significant departure from earlier, pre-identitarian forms of the politics of recognition is its demand for recognition on the basis of the very grounds on which recognition has previously been denied: it is qua women, qua blacks, qua lesbians that groups demand recognition.... The demand is not for inclusion within the fold of “universal humankind,” on the basis of shared human attributes; nor is it for respect “in spite of” one’s differences. Rather, what is demanded is (...) respect for oneself as different. And here we reach the crux of the matter: once we move from group claims to the individual struggle for recognition, to the continuous conversation with others and.. (shrink)