As our scientific and technical abilities expand at breathtaking speeds, concern that modern genetics and bioengineering are leading us to a posthuman future is growing. Is Human Nature Obsolete? poses the overarching question of what it is to be human against the background of these current advances in biotechnology. Its perspective is philosophical and interdisciplinary rather than technical; the focus is on questions of fundamental ontological importance rather than the specifics of medical or scientific practice.The authors -- all distinguished scholars (...) in their fields -- take on questions about technology's goals and values that are often ignored or sidelined in the face of rapid scientific advances and the highly specialized nature of technical knowledge. The essays included represent a rich variety of thought, ranging from finely nuanced philosophical and theological arguments to historical studies and cultural commentaries. Several explore the historical background of today's biotechnology: TimothyCasey traces such developments as the emergence of cybernetic humanity from Cartesian dualism, and Diane Paul presents the history of "positive" versus coerced eugenics. Jean Bethke Elshtain discusses cloning as a "messianic project" to perfect the body and exclude natural diversity -- giving as an example the elimination of Down Syndrome as an acceptable human type -- while Harold Baillie calls for an examination of the metaphysical roots of personhood. Robert Proctor finds no evidence in paleontology for any "essence of humanity," and Tom Shannon argues against materialist reductionism. Addressing social concerns, Lisa Sowle Cahill finds the possibility of a political solution to the problems raised by genetic engineering in Catholic teachings on social justice, and Langdon Winner looks critically at the "scientific enthusiasts of a posthuman future." Taken as a whole, the book provides a humanistic overview of a subject too often considered only in its technological aspect. (shrink)
In this rather brief polemic, Newman proposes to clarify the relation between technology and religion in Western culture. His aim is primarily practical: to promote “intelligent, farsighted adjustments to the relations currently obtaining between particular religious phenomena and particular technologies, or between religion and technology generally”. This requires an affirmation of technological progress as the cultural expression of religion’s universal impulse to improve the world for humans. Technology is thus taken to be a religious endeavor, and religion, suprisingly, a kind (...) of technology. Both are united in the notion of culture as the amelioration of the human condition. (shrink)
Technology does not belong to the province of just one philosophical school, or even to philosophy itself. It is complex and deep enough to transcend the bounds of any one method of research and of any particular set of philosophical presuppositions.
We can try to imagine a people who in circumstances of hardship and danger—in hunting and warfare, for instance—show endurance, persistence, indifference to pain, and an unflinching readiness to accept death. Yet it may be that these qualities do not have any important place in their picture of themselves. Their courage is simply something they take for granted and it does not go with any practice of praise and blame. They are not proud of themselves when they act bravely, nor (...) ashamed of themselves if they fail to do so. This would be a courage that would be independent of the social practices of praise and blame, admiration and contempt, pride and shame. It would be a courage that did not fit into a scheme of values. This raises the question whether it could properly be regarded as an ethical quality, as a virtue. (shrink)
In his Aesthetic Croce makes some remarks upon the subject of sincerity: Artists protest vainly: ‘Lasciva est nobis pagina, vita proba’. They are merely taxed with lying and hypocrisy. How far more prudent you were, poor women of Verona, when you founded your belief that Dante had really descended to Hell upon his blackened countenance. Yours was at any rate an historical conjecture.
Timothy Williamson (2000) makes a strong prima facie case for the identification of a subject's total evidence with the subject's total knowledge (E = K). However, as Brian Weatherson (Ms) has observed, there are intuitively problematic consequences of E = K. In this article, I'll offer a contextualist implementation of E = K that provides the resources to respond to Weatherson's argument; the result will be a novel approach to knowledge and evidence that is suggestive of an unexplored contextualist (...) approach to basic knowledge. (shrink)
Williamson (2000) appeals to considerations about when it is natural to say that a hypothesis is consistent with one’s evidence in order to motivate the claim that all and only knowledge is evidence. It is argued here that the relevant considerations do not support this claim, and in fact conflict with it.
According to the knowledge view of evidence notoriously defended by Timothy Williamson (2000), for any subject, her evidence consists of all and only her propositional knowledge (E=K). Many have found (E=K) implausible. However, few have offered arguments against Williamson’s positive case for (E=K). In this paper, I propose an argument against Williamson’s positive case in favour of (E=K). Central to my argument is the possibility of the knowledge of necessary truths. I also draw some more general conclusions concerning theorizing (...) about evidence. (shrink)
In The Norm of Belief, John Gibbons claims that there is a “natural reaction” to the general idea that one can be normatively required to Ø when that requirement is in some sense outside of one’s first person perspective or inaccessible to one. The reaction amounts to the claim that this is not possible. Whether this is a natural or intuitive idea or not, it is difficult to articulate exactly why we might think it is correct. To do so, we (...) need a view about the relationship between agents’ capacities to accord with normative requirements and the conditions under which those normative requirements obtain. I offer an account of the epistemic dimension of this relationship. The goal is to provide enough of a story about the natural reaction to make accounting for it look like an important desideratum for any theory of the nature of normative requirements—whether these are moral or epistemic. To focus the discussion, I use Timothy Williamson’s knowledge-first view of evidence as an example of a view in epistemology that generates the natural reaction. One upshot of the discussion, then, is a detailed account of what is troubling about Williamson’s influential but controversial view of evidence. (shrink)
Scholarly books of edited readings depend on the ability of the editor, the range of topics and authors, and the breadth versus depth with which the subject is approached. Too much breadth results in a platitudinous mishmash, while too much depth usually lacks context. In this work, the editor, Tim Miller of the University of Kansas, strikes a reasonable compromise. Not all chapters will be of equal interest to any reader, but all are germane to the topic.This book has thirteen (...) chapters, seven written by North Americans, three by U.K. residents, two by Europeans, and one by an Israeli. Eight of these authors are current or ex-members of “spiritual and visionary” communities, three are academics, and two are... (shrink)
In this book, Timothy J. Madigan examines the continuing relevance of "The Ethics of Belief" to epistemological and ethical concerns. He places the essay within the historical context, especially the so-called 'Victorian Crisis of Faith' of which Clifford was a key player. Clifford's own life and interests are dealt with as well, along with the responses to his essay by his contemporaries, the most famous of which was William James's "The Will to Believe." Madigan provides an overview of modern-day (...) critics of Cliffordian evidentialism, as well as examining thinkers who were positively influenced by him, including Bertrand Russell, who was perhaps Clifford's most influential successor as an advocate of intellectual honesty. (shrink)