Johnston presents an argument for a form of immortality that divests the notion of any supernatural elements. The book is packed with illuminating philosophical reflection on the question of what we are, and what it is for us to persist over time.
Given the possibilities of synthetic biology, weapons of mass destruction and global climate change, humans may achieve the capacity globally to alter life. This crisis calls for an ethics that furnishes effective motives to take global action necessary for survival. We propose a research program for understanding why ethical principles change across time and culture. We also propose provisional motives and methods for reaching global consensus on engineering field ethics. Current interdisciplinary research in ethics, psychology, neuroscience and evolutionary theory (...) grounds these proposals. Experimental ethics, the application of scientific principles to ethical studies, provides a model for developing policies to advance solutions. A growing literature proposes evolutionary explanations for moral development. Connecting these approaches necessitates an experimental or scientific ethics that deliberately examines theories of morality for reliability. To illustrate how such an approach works, we cover three areas. The first section analyzes cross-cultural ethical systems in light of evolutionary theory. While such research is in its early stages, its assumptions entail consequences for engineering education. The second section discusses Howard University and University of Puerto Rico/Mayagüez (UPRM) courses that bring ethicists together with scientists and engineers to unite ethical theory and practice. We include a syllabus for engineering and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) ethics courses and a checklist model for translating educational theory and practice into community action. The model is based on aviation, medicine and engineering practice. The third and concluding section illustrates Howard University and UPRM efforts to translate engineering educational theory into community action. Multidisciplinary teams of engineering students and instructors take their expertise from the classroom to global communities to examine further the ethicality of prospective technologies and the decision-making processes that lead to them. (shrink)
This chapter examines sexual assault from the point of view of a survivor, indicating that its consequences extend beyond the emotional or physical. Philosophical issues are raised by this experience, such as its effects on personal identity, notions of “harm“Notions of "harm", the role of denial, victim blaming, as well as its political implications for gender equality. Given the significance of these concerns and the extent of sexual assaults, it is imperative the harms of violence against women be taken more (...) seriously by philosophers. (shrink)
The fission of a person involves what common sense describes as a single person surviving as two distinct people. Thus, say most metaphysicians, this paradox shows us that common sense is inconsistent with the transitivity of identity. Lewis’s theory of overlapping persons, buttressed with tensed identity, gives us one way to reconcile the common sense claims. Lewis’s account, however, implausibly says that reference to a person about to undergo fission is ambiguous. A better way to reconcile the claims of common (...) sense, one that avoids this ambiguity, is to recognize branching persons, persons who have multiple pasts or futures. (shrink)
Surviving Race, Ethnicity, and Nationality is the first book of philosophy that explores race, ethnicity, and nationality together and attempts to present a systematic and unified theory about them with particular emphasis on the metaphysical and epistemological issues that these phenomena raise.
Recent evidence in natural and semi-natural settings has revealed a variety of left-right perceptual asymmetries among vertebrates. These include preferential use of the left or right visual hemifield during activities such as searching for food, agonistic responses, or escape from predators in animals as different as fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals. There are obvious disadvantages in showing such directional asymmetries because relevant stimuli may be located to the animal's left or right at random; there is no a priori association (...) between the meaning of a stimulus (e.g., its being a predator or a food item) and its being located to the animal's left or right. Moreover, other organisms (e.g., predators) could exploit the predictability of behavior that arises from population-level lateral biases. It might be argued that lateralization of function enhances cognitive capacity and efficiency of the brain, thus counteracting the ecological disadvantages of lateral biases in behavior. However, such an increase in brain efficiency could be obtained by each individual being lateralized without any need to align the direction of the asymmetry in the majority of the individuals of the population. Here we argue that the alignment of the direction of behavioral asymmetries at the population level arises as an “evolutionarily stable strategy” under “social” pressures occurring when individually asymmetrical organisms must coordinate their behavior with the behavior of other asymmetrical organisms of the same or different species. Key Words: asymmetry; brain evolution; brain lateralization; development; hemispheric specialization; laterality; lateralization of behavior; social behavior; theory of games. (shrink)
In Darwinism's Struggle for Survival Jean Gayon offers a philosophical interpretation of the history of theoretical Darwinism. He begins by examining the different forms taken by the hypothesis of natural selection in the nineteenth century and the major difficulties which it encountered, particularly with regard to its compatibility with the theory of heredity. He then shows how these difficulties were overcome during the seventy years which followed the publication of Darwin's Origin of Species, and he concludes by analysing the (...) major features of the genetic theory of natural selection, as it developed from 1920 to 1960. This rich and wide-ranging study will appeal to philosophers and historians of science and to evolutionary biologists. (shrink)
In this paper, I discuss an argument for the existence of God known as “The Argument from the Survival of the Jews.” This argument has the form of an Inference to the Best Explanation (IBE). It proceeds from the phenomenon of Jewish survival to the existence of God as the best explanation for this phenomenon. I will argue that, even if we grant that Jewish survival is a remarkable occurrence that demands an explanation, and even if we (...) gloss over the difficulties in defining the terms “Jewish” and “survive,” the argument ultimately fails as an argument for the existence of God. It fails because it postulates divine supervision in order to explain Jewish endurance, but it doesn’t provide any clues as to what might be the underlying mechanism at work. (shrink)
Here I advance two related evolutionary propositions. (1) Natural selection is most often considered to require competition between reproducing “individuals”, sometimes quite broadly conceived, as in cases of clonal, species or multispecies-community selection. But differential survival of non-competing and non-reproducing individuals will also result in increasing frequencies of survival-promoting “adaptations” among survivors, and thus is also a kind of natural selection. (2) Darwinists have challenged the view that the Earth’s biosphere is an evolved global homeostatic system. Since there (...) is only one biosphere, reproductive competition cannot have been involved in selection for such survival-promoting adaptations, they claim. But natural selection through survival could reconcile Gaia with evolutionary theory. (shrink)
What moral reasons, if any, do we have to ensure the long-term survival of humanity? This article contrastively explores two answers to this question: according to the first, we should ensure the survival of humanity because we have reason to maximize the number of happy lives that are ever lived, all else equal. According to the second, seeking to sustain humanity into the future is the appropriate response to the final value of humanity itself. Along the way, the (...) article discusses various issues in population axiology, particularly the so-called Intuition of Neutrality and John Broome’s ‘greediness objection’ to this intuition. (shrink)
Chris Tweedt has offered a solution to the “common sense problem of evil,” on which that there is gratuitous evil is justified non-inferentially as a trivial inference from non-inferentially justified premises by invoking versions of CORNEA. Tweedt claims his solution applies not only to the versions of the common sense problem of evil offered by Paul Draper and Trent Dougherty, but also to that offered by me in this journal in 1992. Here I argue that Tweedt fails to defeat this (...) version of the problem. So even if Tweedt’s response to Draper and Dougherty is successful, a version of the common sense problem of evil survives. (shrink)
You can survive after death in various kinds of artifacts. You can survive in diaries, photographs, sound recordings, and movies. But these artifacts record only superficial features of yourself. We are already close to the construction of programs that partially and approximately replicate entire human lives (by storing their memories and duplicating their personalities). A digital ghost is an artificially intelligent program that knows all about your life. It is an animated auto-biography. It replicates your patterns of belief and desire. (...) You can survive after death in a digital ghost. We discuss a series of digital ghosts over the next 50 years. As time goes by and technology advances, they are progressively more perfect replicas of the lives of their original authors. (shrink)
(Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1996: 17-36) I If I am to survive until some later date, what must happen, and what must not happen, over the intervening period? I am talking here about survival in the strict sense. Take an earlier and a later person, if they are one and the same, what is it about them that makes this so? In addressing this question the preferred tool has long been the exploitation of imaginary or science fiction cases. (...) We are asked to reflect on scenarios in which an ordinary person is subjected to some unusual treatment which effectively removes one or more of the elements that usually accompanies personal persistence. If we think the subject survives the treatment, the conclusion is drawn that the elements removed are not necessary to personal identity as we conceive it. The hope is that the repeated use of this method, with a variety of scenarios, will finally produce a convergence of intuitive responses as to what is necessary and sufficient for survival. Unfortunately, this method has failed to produce the goods. The literature is brimming with cunningly constructed scenarios yet consensus as to what personal persistence involves seems as elusive as ever. So it is hardly surprising that the method has come in for some criticism recently. There is a feeling that much time has been wasted on devising fantastic stories about which many people have no firm or reliable intuitions. Hence the demand for a different approach. As for the direction the new approach should take, a general trend can be detected: a focusing on human beings, biological entities of a particular kind, with species-specific identity conditions - a move away from science fiction, towards science. I shall be arguing here that this response is premature. Although it would be a mistake to expect too much from the standard method, it delivers at least one significant result: that of the several strands that make up a human life, we believe that one particular strand is of overriding importance in regard to our continued existence. (shrink)
Humans are powerful and clever, and also more ignorant than they know. As a result, they too often fail to acknowledge or even recognize their limitations, and are more arrogant than humble regarding their capabilities. Education that explicitly recognizes and addresses the context of science and technology, their inherent values and ethical implications and concerns, and their problematic as well as beneficial impacts can potentially rescue the human species from itself.
In this quite modestly ambitious essay, I'll generally just assume that, for the most part, our "scientifically informed" commonsense view of the world is true. Just as it is with such unthinking things as planets, plates and, I suppose, plants, too, so it also is with all earthly thinking beings, from people to pigs and pigeons; each occupies a region of space, however large or small, in which all are spatially related to each other. Or, at least, so it is (...) with the bodies of these beings. And, even as each of these ordinary entities extends through some space, so, also, each endures through some time. In line with that, each ordinary entity is at least very largely, and is perhaps entirely, an enduring physical entity (which allows that many might have certain properties that aren't purely physical properties.) Further, each ordinary enduring entity is a physically complex entity: Not only is each composed of parts, but many of these parts, whether or not absolutely all of them, are themselves enduring physical entities, and many of them also are such physically complex continuing entities. When an ordinary entity undergoes a significant change, then, at least generally, this change will involve changes concerning that entity's constituting physical parts, whether it be a rearrangement of (some of) these parts, or a loss of parts, or a gain of parts, or whatever. Often, the entity will still exist even after the change occurs. As we may well suppose, this happens when, from two strokes of an ax, an ordinary log loses just a chip of wood. As we may then say, such a change conforms with the log's "persistence conditions." Somewhat less often, such an ordinary entity undergoes a change that means an end to it: When a bomb's explosion makes our log become just so many widely scattered motes of dust, the log will no longer exist. Such a momentous change doesn't conform with the log's persistence conditions. (shrink)
Revisionary theories of logic or truth require revisionary theories of mind. This essay outlines nonclassically based theories of rational belief, desire, and decision making, singling out the supervaluational family for special attention. To see these nonclassical theories of mind in action, this essay examines a debate between David Lewis and Derek Parfit over what matters in survival. Lewis argued that indeterminacy in personal identity allows caring about psychological connectedness and caring about personal identity to amount to the same thing. (...) The essay argues that Lewis's treatment of two of Parfit's puzzle cases—degreed survival and fission—presuppose different nonclassical treatments of belief and desire. (shrink)
Life may turn sour and, in extremis, not worth living. On occasion it may be best, moreover, to lay down one's life for a greater cause. None of this is any news, debatable though it may remain, in general or case by case. Now comes the news that life does not matter in the way we had thought. No resurgence of existentialism, nor tidings from some ancient religion or some new cult, the news derives from the most sober and probing (...) philosophical argument (the extraor- dinary Parfit, 1984, Part III), and takes more precisely the following form: Even though life L is optimal (in all dimensions), and even though if it were extended L would continue to be optimal, it does not follow that it is best to extend it, even for the subject whose life L is. What is the argument? Section II will defend a certain view of the nature of persons and personal identity, and Section III will then argue for the Paradox on that basis, and reflect on its philosophical implications and on the options it presents. (shrink)
This paper defends moral realism against Sharon Street’s “Darwinian Dilemma for Realist Theories of Value” (this journal, 2006). I argue by separation of cases: From the assumption that a certain normative claim is true, I argue that the first horn of the dilemma is tenable for realists. Then, from the assumption that the same normative claim is false, I argue that the second horn is tenable. Either way, then, the Darwinian dilemma does not add anything to realists’ epistemic worries.
In a recent issue of Biology and Philosophy, Kenneth Waters argues that the principle of survival of the fittest should be eliminated from the theory of natural selection, because it is an untestable law of probability, and as such, has no place in evolutionary theory. His argument is impressive, but it does not do justice to the practice of biology. The principle of survival of the fittest should not be eliminated from the theory of natural selection because it (...) is important to biological practice: it plays an essential role in explanation and discovery, and in unffying the theory of natural selection. (shrink)
The 2015 Nepal earthquake and subsequent avalanche at Mount Everest Base Camp is the deadliest mountaineering disaster to date. This study is novel in exploring the lived experiences of survivors and the role of mental toughness in their psychological responses to the disaster. Design: Phenomenological study. Method: Ten mountaineers, who were on expeditions during the earthquake, participated in phenomenological interviews. Data were analysed inductively and thematically, while strategies to enhance trustworthiness were also employed. Results: Seven dimensions emerged from the data, (...) which captured climbers' psychological responses to the disaster, ranging from the moments the earthquake hit to reflections on the disaster after returning home. Contrasting emotional responses were described, and suggested to depend on experience and mental toughness. Negative emotional and behavioural responses were reported in the aftermath. Some climbers reported post-traumatic stress, but also a strong desire to return to Mount Everest and continue mountaineering. Conclusions: These findings provide detailed insights into the lived experiences of climbers who survived the 2015 Nepal earthquake and Base Camp avalanche. Findings also shed light on the role of mental toughness in coping with and responding to a major natural disaster. (shrink)
This paper provides a critique of Bostrom’s concern with existential risks, a critique which relies on Adorno and Horkheimer’s interpretation of the Enlightenment. Their interpretation is used to elicit the inner contradictions of transhumanist thought and to show the invalid premises on which it is based. By first outlining Bostrom’s position this paper argues that transhumanism reverts to myth in its attempt to surpass the human condition. Bostrom’s argument is based on three pillars, Maxipok, Parfitian population ethics and a universal (...) notion of general human values. By attempting to transcend the human condition, to achieve post-humanity, transhumanism reverts to myth. Thus, the aim of this paper is to provide a critical examination of transhumanism which elicits its tacit contradictions. It will also be argued that transhumanism’s focus on a universal, all-encompassing, notion of humanity neglects any concern with actual lived lives. This absence is problematic because it clearly shows that there is a discrepancy, between transhumanism’s claimed concern for all of humanity and the practical implications of proposing a universal notion of humanity. This paper will conclude, that transhumanism’s lack of concern with actual lives is due to its universal and totalising gestures. Gestures which allow for universal claims such as general values or Earth-originating intelligent life. (shrink)
Abduction or retroduction, as introduced by C.S. Peirce in the double sense of searching for explanatory instances and providing an explanation is a kind of complement for usual argumentation. There is, however, an inferential step from the explanandum to the abductive explanans . Whether this inferential step can be captured by logical machinery depends upon a number of assumptions, but in any case it suffers in principle from the triviality objection: any time a singular contradictory explanans occurs, the system collapses (...) and stops working. The traditional remedies for such collapsing are the expensive mechanisms of consistency maintenance, or complicated theories of non-monotonic derivation that keep the system running at a higher cost. I intend to show that the robust logics of formal inconsistency, a particular category of paraconsistent logics which permit the internalization of the concepts of consistency and inconsistency inside the object language, provide simple yet powerful techniques for automatic abduction. Moreover, the whole procedure is capable of automatization by means of the tableau proof-procedures available for such logics. Some motivating examples are discussed in detail. (shrink)
Do I have a special reason to care about my future, as opposed to yours? We reject the common belief that I do. Putting our thesis paradoxically, we say that nothing matters in survival: nothing in our continued existence justifies any special self-concern. Such an "extreme" view is standardly tied to ideas about the metaphysics of persons, but not by us. After rejecting various arguments against our thesis, we conclude that simplicity decides in its favor. Throughout the essay we (...) honor Jim Rachels, whose final days exemplified his own unselfish morality as well as the “neutralist” ideal we espouse. As an appendix, we include the last original work to be published by James Rachels, in which he criticizes Sidgwick’s most famous defense of egoism. (shrink)
Various hypotheses about the importance of psycho-neural concomitants are reviewed and their implications discussed for the 'easy' and 'hard' problems of consciousness -- especially, as viewed by cognitive and ecological psychology. In Ecological Psychology, where the subjective-objective dichotomy is repudiated, these concepts are without foundation, and are replaced by informed awareness, which is argued to play an important, perhaps, indispensable role in goal- directed actions and thus to have survival value. The significance of informed awareness is illustrated in several (...) real- world goal-directed tasks. (shrink)
In this paper we examine and critique the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection developed and defended by Lynne Rudder Baker. Baker identifies three conditions for an adequate metaphysics of resurrection. We argue that one of these, the identity condition, cannot be met on the constitution view given the account of personal identity it assumes. We discuss some problems with the constitution theory of personal identity Baker develops in her book, Persons and Bodies. We argue that these problems render (...) the constitution theory of personal identity as stated by Baker untenable. The upshot for the debate over the metaphysics of resurrection is that the constitution view of the metaphysics of resurrection must either be rejected or modified. (shrink)
“Access to medicines” is a broad concept. After a review of three authoritative frameworks that help to identify its constitutive components, this essay summarizes the actual situation on the ground in low- and middle-income countries on the basis of recent empirical work. An analysis of survey data from 36 countries concluded that developing countries should promote generic medicines as a key policy option for improving access to medicines. Taking an international perspective to that recommendation, this essay reviews the World Trade (...) Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and, particularly, how this agreement has been applied in practice. As shown by the experience of Thailand, Brazil, and the Philippines, in order to deal effectively with international pressures for an excessive application of the TRIPS Agreement, some sort of conversion experience appears to be required, which then leads to a switch from a private enterprise, supply-driven approach to a public health vision that insists on universal and affordable access. But moral conviction is not sufficient. In order to muster and sustain the political will to face down international forces, civil society and government offices must be able and ready to show the costs and other adverse consequences of the TRIPS-based model for medicines. This calculation needs to reach beyond the health sector and calls for new alliances, nationally as well as internationally. (shrink)
Everyone loves a good story. But does everyone live a good story? It has frequently been asserted by philosophers, psychologists and others interested in understanding the distinctive nature of human existence that our lives do, or should, take a narrative form. Over the last few decades there has been a steady and growing focus on this narrative approach within philosophical discussions of personal identity, resulting in a wide range of narrative identity theories. While the narrative approach has shown great promise (...) as a tool for addressing longstanding and intractable problems of personal identity, it has also given rise to much suspicion. Opponents of this approach charge it with overstating or distorting the structure of actual lives. (shrink)
In his Ethics of Killing: Problems at the Margins of Life , Jeff McMahan defends what he calls the embodied mind view of identity, and then puts forward several arguments in support of the view that physical continuity of the brain is crucial to our survival. He ultimately denies that psychological continuity is of any importance. His strategy is to recommend, by means of thought experiments, intuitions that support the importance of physical continuity of the brain and then argue (...) against the plausibility of the notion of psychological continuity to which psychological theorists appeal. This paper is specifically concerned with the alleged importance of physical continuity to our survival. It responds to the positive and negative aspects of McMahan’s case by arguing that thought experiments that recommend the psychological view are far more compelling than he allows them to be and that psychological theorists can make do with a notion of psychological continuity that is immune to his criticisms. (shrink)
Doctors’ survival predictions for terminally ill patients have been shown to be inaccurate and there has been an argument for less guesswork and more use of carefully constructed statistical indices. As statisticians, the authors are less confident in the predictive value of statistical models and indices for individual survival times. This paper discusses and illustrates a variety of measures which can be used to summarise predictive information available from a statistical model. The authors argue that models and statistical (...) indices can be useful at the group or population level, but that human survival is so uncertain that even the best statistical analysis cannot provide single-number predictions of real use for individual patients. (shrink)