Practical methods are introduced for the construction of definitions, both for philosophical purposes and for uses in other disciplines. The structural and contentual requirements on definitions are clarified. It is emphasized that the development of a definition should begin with careful choice of a primary definiendum, followed by the selection of appropriate variables for the definition. Two methods are proposed for the construction of the definiens, the case list method and the method of successive improvements. Four classes of concepts are (...) discussed that are particularly difficult to define: vague concepts, value-laden concepts, controversial concepts, and inconsistent concepts. (shrink)
Some of the major problems in radiation protection are closely connected to issues that have a long, independent tradition in moral philosophy. This contribution focuses on two of these issues. One is the relationship between the protection of individuals and optimisation on the collective level, and the other is the relative valuation of future versus immediate damage. Some of the intellectual tools that have been developed by philosophers can be useful in radiation protection. On the other hand, philosophers have much (...) to learn from radiation protectors, not least when it comes to ﬁnding pragmatic solutions to problems that may be intractable in principle. (shrink)
The Ethics of Technology. Methods and Approaches avoids the overly simplistic and individualistic approach to the ethics of technology, which might otherwise mislead the reader into a superficial understanding of the discipline. Too often, the ethics of technology is reduced to an overt and over reliance on professional codes, ethical theories (spelled out in terms of the dichotomy between deontology and utilitarianism) and the application of a prescribed heuristic to what most often are black and white individualistic dilemmas described by (...) case studies. The collection of essays edited by Hansson is thus an important contribution to the growing body of literature on the ethics of technology, as it questions and brings to light the broader purpose of engineering and the conceptual tools required for the responsible practice of the profession if we are to enable engineers to address structural issues. (shrink)
This comment on Sven Ove Hansson's article on the history of the journal Theoria elaborates and corrects Hansson's characterisation of the political standpoint of the Finnish philosopher Eino Kaila as "sympathetic towards the German regime". Although not an easy question, particularly considering Kaila's unfortunate publications during the Second World War, it is argued that the characterisation is plainly wrong if it refers to the mid-1930s.
In the first part of this paper, I clear the ground from frequent misconceptions of the relationship between fact and value by examining some uses of the adjective “natural” in ethical controversies. Such uses bear evidence to our “natural” tendency to regard nature as the source of ethical norms. I then try to account for the origins of this tendency by offering three related explanations, the most important of which is evolutionistic: if any behaviour that favours our equilibrium with the (...) environment is potentially adaptive, nothing can be more effective for this goal than developing an attitude toward the natural world that considers it as a dispenser of sacred norms that must be invariably respected. By referring to the Aristotelian notion of human flourishing illustrated in the first part of the paper, in the second I discuss as a case study some ethical problems raised by mini-chips implantable in our bodies. I conclude by defending their potential beneficial effects of such new technological instruments. (shrink)
This article is an attempt at a systematic account of decision making under greater uncertainty than what traditional, mathematically oriented decision theory can cope with. Four components of great uncertainty are distinguished: (1) the identity of the options is not well determined (uncertainty of demarcation) ; (2) the consequences of at least some option are unknown (uncertainty of consequences); (3) it is not clear whether information obtained from others, such as experts, can be relied on (uncertainty of reliance); and (4) (...) the values relevant for the decision are not determined with sufficient precision (uncertainty of values). Some possible strategy types are proposed for each of these components. Decisions related to environmental issues are used to illustrate the proposals. (shrink)
It is almost universally acknowledged that risks have to be weighed against benefits, but there are different ways to perform the weighing. In conventional risk analysis, collectivist risk-weighing is the standard. This means that an option is accepted if the sum of all individual benefits outweighs the sum of all individual risks. In practices originating in clinical medicine, such as ethical appraisals of clinical trials, individualist risk-weighing is the standard. This implies a much stricter criterion for risk acceptance, namely that (...) the risk to which each individual is exposed should be outweighed by benefits for that same individual. The different choices of risk-weighing methods in different policy areas seem to have emerged from traditional thought patterns and social relations, rather than from explicit deliberations on possible justifications for the alternative ways to weigh risks against benefits. It is not obvious how the prevalent differences in risk-weighing practices can be reconstructed in terms of consistent underlying principles of preventive health or social priority-setting. (shrink)
This book explains how the logic of theory change employs formal models in the investigation of changes in belief states and databases. The topics covered include equivalent characterizations of AGM operations, extended representations of the belief states, change operators not included in the original framework, iterated change, applications of the model, its connections with other formal frameworks, and criticism of the model.
Clear-cut cases of decision-making under risk are unusual in real life. The gambler's decisions at the roulette table are as close as we can get to this type of decision-making. In contrast, decision-making under uncertainty can be exemplified by a decision whether to enter a jungle that may contain unknown dangers. Life is usually more like an expedition into an unknown jungle than a visit to the casino. Nevertheless, it is common in decisionsupporting disciplines to proceed as if reasonably reliable (...) probability estimates were available for all possible outcomes, i.e. as if the prevailing epistemic conditions were analogous to those of gambling at the roulette table. This mistake can be called the tuxedo fallacy. It is argued that traditional engineering practices such as safety factors and multiple safety barriers avoid this fallacy and that they therefore manage uncertainty better than probabilistic risk analysis. PRA is a useful tool, but it must be supplemented with other methods in order not to limit the analysis to dangers that can be assigned meaningful probability estimates. (shrink)
Healthcare depends increasingly on advanced medical technology. In addition, other forms of technology contribute to determine how our lives are influenced by disease and disability. The extent to which persons with impaired bodily functions are forced to live their lives differently than other people depends to a large part on a variety of technologies, from wheelchairs to computer interfaces, from hearing aids to garage doors. This wide-ranging influence of technology has important ethical aspects, but has seldom been discussed in bioethics, (...) the ethics of technology, or other branches of applied ethics. (shrink)
John Stuart Mill commented on the relationship between equality and liberty in general terms, and he also discussed the relationships between equality and four more concrete social goals: equality vs. diversity and individual spontaneity, equality vs. freedom of trade and entrepreneurial activity, equality vs. economic incentives for workpeople, and equality vs. welfare. In his more general statements he wrote off potential conflicts between equality and liberty, claiming that only those liberties that can be enjoyed by all are real liberties—or at (...) least they are the only ones worth defending. However, in several of his more concrete discussions he gave higher priority to various liberty-related goals than to equality. This seeming contradiction can be resolved if we assume that he distinguished between valuing a liberty per se and valuing it as a means to achieve something else. (shrink)
The AGM theory of belief contraction is extended tomultiple contraction, i.e. to contraction by a set of sentences rather than by a single sentence. There are two major variants: Inpackage contraction all the sentences must be removed from the belief set, whereas inchoice contraction it is sufficient that at least one of them is removed. Constructions of both types of multiple contraction are offered and axiomatically characterized. Neither package nor choice contraction can in general be reduced to contractions by single (...) sentences; in the finite case choice contraction allows for reduction. (shrink)
Formal representations of values and norms are employed in several academic disciplines and specialties, such as economics, jurisprudence, decision theory and social choice theory. Sven Ove Hansson closely examines such foundational issues as the values of wholes and the values of their parts, the connections between values and norms, how values can be decision-guiding and the structure of normative codes with formal precision. Models of change in both preferences and norms are offered, as well as a method to (...) base the logic of norms on that of preferences. Hansson has developed a unified formal representation of values and norms that reflects both their static and their dynamic properties. This formalized treatment, carried out in terms of both informal value theory and precise logical detail, will contribute to the clarification of certain issues in the basic philosophical theory of values and norms. (shrink)
Should Probabilistic Design Replace Safety Factors? Content Type Journal Article Pages 151-168 DOI 10.1007/s13347-010-0003-6 Authors Neelke Doorn, Department of Technology, Policy and Management, Delft University of Technology, PO Box 5015, 2600 GA Delft, The Netherlands Sven Ove Hansson, Department of Philosophy and the History of Technology, Royal Institute of Technology, Teknikringen 78 B, 100 44 Stockholm, Sweden Journal Philosophy & Technology Online ISSN 2210-5441 Print ISSN 2210-5433 Journal Volume Volume 24 Journal Issue Volume 24, Number 2.
A representation theorem is obtained for contraction operators that are based on Levi's recent proposal that selection functions should be applied to the set of saturatable contractions, rather than to maximal subsets as in the AGM framework. Furthermore, it is shown that Levi's proposal to base the selection on a weakly monotonic measure of informational value guarantees the satisfaction of both of Gärdenfors' supplementary postulates for contraction. These results indicate that Levi has succeeded in constructing a well-behaved operation of contraction (...) that does not satisfy the postulate of recovery. (shrink)
Due to modern biochemistry and, in particular, recent developments in genomics, proteomics, and bioinformatics, human samples have become the most important raw materials for advancement in the health sciences. Such material has been at the center of fundamental biomedical research for a long time. What is new is its increased usefulness in research with direct clinical relevance, such as the development of drugs. Because of the larger commercial involvement in such research, this has also led to greater economic interests in (...) human biological material and in the information that can be extracted from it. (shrink)
In the middle of the 1980s, logical tools were discovered that make it possible to model changes in belief and knowledge in entirely new ways. These logical tools turned out to be applicable both to human beliefs and to the contents of databases. This is the first textbook in this new area. It contains both discursive chapters with a minimum of formalism and formal chapters in which proofs and proof methods are presented. By using different selections from the formal section (...) the book can be used on all levels of University education. (shrink)
The 1985 paper by Carlos Alchourrón (1931–1996), Peter Gärdenfors, and David Makinson (AGM), "On the Logic of Theory Change: Partial Meet Contraction and Revision Functions" was the starting-point of a large and rapidly growing literature that employs formal models in the investigation of changes in belief states and databases. In this review, the first twentyfive years of this development are summarized. The topics covered include equivalent characterizations of AGM operations, extended representations of the belief states, change operators not included in (...) the original framework, iterated change, applications of the model, its connections with other formal frameworks, computatibility of AGM operations, and criticism of the model. (shrink)
The 1985 paper by Carlos Alchourrón, Peter Gärdenfors, and David Makinson, “On the Logic of Theory Change: Partial Meet Contraction and Revision Functions” was the starting-point of a large and rapidly growing literature that employs formal models in the investigation of changes in belief states and databases. In this review, the first twenty-five years of this development are summarized. The topics covered include equivalent characterizations of AGM operations, extended representations of the belief states, change operators not included in the original (...) framework, iterated change, applications of the model, its connections with other formal frameworks, computatibility of AGM operations, and criticism of the model. (shrink)
This book describes argumentative tools and strategies that can be used to guide policy decisions under conditions of great uncertainty. Contributing authors explore methods from philosophical analysis and in particular argumentation analysis, showing how it can be used to systematize discussions about policy issues involving great uncertainty. The first part of the work explores how to deal in a systematic way with decision-making when there may be plural perspectives on the decision problem, along with unknown consequences of what we do. (...) Readers will see how argumentation tools can be used for prioritizing among uncertain dangers, for determining how decisions should be framed, for choosing a suitable time frame for a decision, and for systematically choosing among different decision options. Case studies are presented in the second part of the book, showing argumentation in practice in the areas of climate geoengineering, water governance, synthetic biology, nuclear waste, and financial markets. In one example, argumentation analysis is applied to proposals to solve the climate problem with various technological manipulations of the natural climate system, such as massive dispersion of reflective aerosols into the stratosphere. Even after a thorough investigation of such a proposal, doubt remains as to whether all the potential risks have been identified. In such discussions, conventional risk analysis does not have much to contribute since it presupposes that the risks have been identified, whereas the argumentative approach to uncertainty management can be used to systematize discussions. (shrink)
Three of the bioethical issues recently discussed in Sweden appear to be particularly interesting also to an international audience. A new law allowing restrictive use of preimplantation genetic diagnosis /human leukocyte antigen () has been implemented, a new recommendation for the cessation of life-sustaining treatment has been issued, and the scope of individual responsibility for medical mistakes has been rather thoroughly discussed.
In order to explore public views on nanobiotechnology (NBT), convergence seminars were held in four places in Europe; namely in Visby (Sweden), Sheffield (UK), Lublin (Poland), and Porto (Portugal). A convergence seminar is a new form of public participatory activity that can be used to deal systematically with the uncertainty associated for instance with the development of an emerging technology like nanobiotechnology. In its first phase, the participants are divided into three “scenario groups” that discuss different future scenarios. In the (...) second phase, the participants are regrouped into three “convergence groups”, each of which contains representatives from each of the three groups from the first phase. In the final third phase, all participants meet for a summary discussion. This pilot project had two aims: (1) to develop and assess the new methodology and (2) to gather advice and recommendations from the public that may be useful for future decisions on nanobiotechnology (NBT). Participants emphasized that they wanted the technology to focus on solutions to environmental and medical problems and to meet the needs of developing countries. The need for further public participation and deliberation on NBT issues seemed to be acknowledged by all participants. Many of them also raised equality concerns. Views on the means by which NBT should be steered into socially useful directions were more divided. In particular, different views were expressed on how much regulation of company activities is needed to curb unwanted developments. The participants’ responses in a questionnaire indicate that the methodology of the convergence seminars was successful for decision-making under uncertainty. In particular, the participants stated that their advice was influenced both by access to different possible future developments and by the points of view of their co-participants, which is what the method is specifically intended to achieve. (shrink)
Sweden is probably one of the most secularized nations in the world. Therefore religious arguments tend to play a smaller role in the public bioethical debate than in most other countries. Issues such as abortion, stem-cell research, and therapeutic cloning have been far less controversial in Sweden than elsewhere. Instead, other issues have dominated recent bioethical debates in Sweden, in particular those concerning privacy and the control over biological information about individuals.
Modern belief revision theory is based to a large extent on partial meet contraction that was introduced in the seminal article by Carlos Alchourrón, Peter Gärdenfors, and David Makinson that appeared in 1985. In the same year, Alchourrón and Makinson published a significantly different approach to the same problem, called safe contraction. Since then, safe contraction has received much less attention than partial meet contraction. The present paper summarizes the current state of knowledge on safe contraction, provides some new results (...) and offers a list of unsolved problems that are in need of investigation. (shrink)
New technologies and practices, such as drug testing, genetic testing, and electronic surveillance infringe upon the privacy of workers on workplaces. We argue that employees have a prima facie right to privacy, but this right can be overridden by competing moral principles that follow, explicitly or implicitly, from the contract of employment. We propose a set of criteria for when intrusions into an employee''s privacy are justified. Three types of justification are specified, namely those that refer to the employer''s interests, (...) to the interests of the employee her- or himself, and to the interests of third parties such as customers and fellow workers. For each of these three types, sub-criteria are proposed that can be used to determine whether a particular infringement into an employee''s privacy is morally justified or not. (shrink)
Mainstream moral theories deal with situations in which the outcome of each possible action is well-determined and knowable. In order to make ethics relevant for problems of risk and uncertainty, moral theories have to be extended so that they cover actions whose outcomes are not determinable beforehand. One approach to this extension problem is to develop methods for appraising probabilistic combinations of outcomes. This approach is investigated and shown not to solve the problem. An alternative approach is then developed. Its (...) starting-point is that everyone has a prima facie moral right not to be exposed to risk. However, this right can be overridden if the risk-exposure is part of an equitable system for risk-taking that works to the advantage of the individual risk-exposed person. (shrink)
We present a novel procedure to engage the public in ethical deliberations on the potential impacts of brain machine interface technology. We call this procedure a convergence seminar, a form of scenario-based group discussion that is founded on the idea of hypothetical retrospection. The theoretical background of this procedure and the results of five seminars are presented.
We introduce a constructive model of selective belief revision in which it is possible to accept only a part of the input information. A selective revision operator ο is defined by the equality K ο α = K * f(α), where * is an AGM revision operator and f a function, typically with the property ⊢ α → f(α). Axiomatic characterizations are provided for three variants of selective revision.
Cost–benefit analysis (CBA) is much more philosophically interesting than has in general been recognized. Since it is the only well-developed form of applied consequentialism, it is a testing-ground for consequentialism and for the counterfactual analysis that it requires. Ten classes of philosophical problems that affect the practical performance of cost–benefit analysis are investigated: topic selection, dependence on the decision perspective, dangers of super synopticism and undue centralization, prediction problems, the indeterminateness of our control over future decisions, the need to exclude (...) certain consequences for moral reasons, bias in the delimitation of consequences, incommensurability of consequences, difficulties in defending the essential requirement of transferability across contexts, and the normatively questionable but equally essential assumption of interpersonal compensability. (Published Online July 31 2007). (shrink)
In non-technical contexts, the word “risk” refers, often rather vaguely, to situations in which it is possible but not certain that some undesirable event will occur. In technical contexts, the word has many uses and specialized meanings. The most common ones are the following.