What does it mean to be disadvantaged? Is it possible to compare different disadvantages? What should governments do to move their societies in the direction of equality, where equality is to be understood both in distributional and social terms? Linking rigorous analytical philosophical theory with broad empirical studies, including interviews conducted for the purpose of this book, Wolff and de-Shalit show how taking theory and practice together is essential if the theory is to be rich enough to be applied to (...) the real world, and policy systematic enough to have purpose and justification. The book is in three parts. Part 1 presents a pluralist analysis of disadvantage, modifying the capability theory of Sen and Nussbaum to produce the 'genuine opportunity for secure functioning' view. This emphasises risk and insecurity as a central component of disadvantage. Part 2 shows how to identify the least advantaged in society even on a pluralist view. The authors suggest that disadvantage 'clusters' in the sense that some people are disadvantaged in several different respects. Thus identifying the least advantaged is not as problematic as it appears to be. Conversely, a society which has 'declustered disadvantaged' - in the sense that no group lacks secure functioning on a range of functionings - has made considerable progress in the direction of equality. Part 3 explores how to decluster disadvantage, by paying special attention to 'corrosive disadvantages' - those disadvantages which cause further disadvantages - and 'fertile functionings' - those which are likely to secure other functionings. In sum this books presents a refreshing new analysis of disadvantage, and puts forward proposals to help governments improve the lives of the least advantaged in their societies, thereby moving in the direction of equality. (shrink)
The dynamics model, which is based on Talmy’s (1988) theory of force dynamics, characterizes causation as a pattern of forces and a position vector. In contrast to counterfactual and probabilistic models, the dynamics model naturally distinguishes between different cause-related concepts and explains the induction of causal relationships from single observations. Support for the model is provided in experiments in which participants categorized 3D animations of realistically rendered objects with trajectories that were wholly determined by the force vectors entered into a (...) physics simulator. Experiments 1-3 showed that causal judgments are based on several forces, not just one. Experiment 4 demonstrated that people compute the resultant of forces using a qualitative decision rule. Experiments 5 and 6 showed that a dynamics approach extends to the representation of social causation. Implications for the relationship between causation and time are discussed. (shrink)
This paper surveys the current philosophical discussion of the ethics of risk imposition, placing it in the context of relevant work in psychology, economics and social theory. The central philosophical problem starts from the observation that it is not practically possible to assign people individual rights not to be exposed to risk, as virtually all activity imposes some risk on others. This is the ‘problem of paralysis’. However, the obvious alternative theory that exposure to risk is justified when its total (...) benefits exceed its total costs faces the standard distributional challenges of consequentialism. Forms of contractualism have been proposed as a solution, but how exactly such theories can be formulated remains problematic, especially when confronted with the difficult cases of mass, novel, risk such as climate change. (shrink)
Train crashes cause, on average, a handful of deaths each year in the UK. Technologies exist that would save the lives of some of those who die. Yet these technical innovations would cost hundreds of millions of pounds. Should we spend the money? How can we decide how to trade off life against financial cost? Such dilemmas make public policy is a battlefield of values, yet all too often we let technical experts decide the issues for us. Can philosophy help (...) us make better decisions? Ethics and Public Policy: A Philosophical Inquiry is the first book to subject important and controversial areas of public policy to philosophical scrutiny. Jonathan Wolff, a renowned philosopher and veteran of many public committees, such as the Gambling Review Body, introduces and assesses core problems and controversies in public policy from a philosophical standpoint. Each chapter is centred on an important area of public policy where there is considerable moral and political disagreement. Topics discussed include: Can we defend inflicting suffering on animals in scientific experiments for human benefit? What limits to gambling can be achieved through legislation? What assumptions underlie drug policy? Can we justify punishing those who engage in actions that harm only themselves? What is so bad about crime? What is the point of punishment? Other chapters discuss health care, disability, safety and the free market. Throughout the book, fundamental questions for both philosopher and policy maker recur: what are the best methods for connecting philosophy and public policy? Should thinking about public policy be guided by an ‘an ideal world’ or the world we live in now? If there are ‘knock down’ arguments in philosophy why are there none in public policy? Each chapter concludes with ‘Lessons for Philosophy’ making this book not only an ideal introduction for those coming to philosophy, ethics or public policy for the first time, but also a vital resource for anyone grappling with the moral complexity underlying policy debates. (shrink)
Ontic structural realists hold that structure is all there is, or at least all there is fundamentally. This thesis has proved to be puzzling: What exactly does it say about the relationship between objects and structures? In this article, I look at different ways of articulating ontic structural realism in terms of the relation between structures and objects. I show that objects cannot be reduced to structure, and argue that ontological dependence cannot be used to establish strong forms of structural (...) realism. At the end, I show how a weaker, but controversial, form of structural realism can be articulated on the basis of ontological dependence. (shrink)
This paper reconsiders some themes and arguments from my earlier paper “Fairness, Respect and the Egalitarian Ethos.” That work is often considered to be part of a cluster of papers attacking “luck egalitarianism” on the grounds that insisting on luck egalitarianism's standards of fairness undermines relations of mutual respect among citizens. While this is an accurate reading, the earlier paper did not make its motivations clear, and the current paper attempts to explain the reasons that led me to write the (...) earlier paper, assesses the force of its arguments, and locates it in respect to work of Richard Arneson and Elizabeth Anderson. The paper concludes by bringing out what now appears to be the main message of the earlier paper: that the attempt to implement an “ideal” theory of equality can harm the very people that the theory is designed to help. (shrink)
The study of word meanings promises important insights into the nature of the human mind by revealing what people find to be most cognitively significant in their experience. However, as we learn more about the semantics of various languages, we are faced with an interesting problem. Different languages seem to be telling us different stories about the mind. For example, important distinctions made in one language are not necessarily made in others. What are we to make of these cross-linguistic differences? (...) How do they arise? Are they created by purely linguistic processes operating over the course of language evolution? Or do they reflect fundamental differences in thought? In this sea of differences, are there any semantic universals? Which categories might be given by the genes, which by culture, and which by language? And what might the cross-linguistic similarities and differences contribute to our understanding of conceptual and linguistic development? The kinds of mapping principles, structures, and processes that link language and non-linguistic knowledge must accommodate not just one language but the rich diversity that has been uncovered. The integration of knowledge and methodologies necessary for real progress in answering these questions has happened only recently, as experimental approaches have been applied to the cross-linguistic study of word meaning. In Words and the Mind, Barbara Malt and Phillip Wolff present evidence from the leading researchers who are carrying out this empirical work on topics as diverse as spatial relations, events, emotion terms, motion events, objects, body-part terms, causation, color categories, and relational categories. By bringing them together, Malt and Wolff highlight some of the most exciting cross-linguistic and cross-cultural work on the language-thought interface, from a broad array of fields including linguistics, anthropology, cognitive and developmental psychology, and cognitive neuropsychology. Their results provide some answers to these questions and new perspectives on the issues surrounding them. (shrink)
Over the past years, a number of probabilistic measures of coherence have been proposed. As shown in the paper, however, many of them do not conform to the intuitition that equivalent testimonies are highly coherent, regardless of their prior probability.
Metaphor has a double life. It can be described as a directional process in which a stable, familiar base domain provides inferential structure to a less clearly specified target. But metaphor is also described as a process of finding commonalities, an inherently symmetric process. In this second view, both concepts may be altered by the metaphorical comparison. Whereas most theories of metaphor capture one of these aspects, we offer a model based on structure-mapping that captures both sides of metaphor processing. (...) This predicts (a) an initial processing stage of symmetric alignment; and (b) a later directional phase in which inferences are projected to the target. To test these claims, we collected comprehensibility judgments for forward (e.g., “A rumor is a virus”) and reversed (“A virus is a rumor”) metaphors at early and late stages of processing, using a deadline procedure. We found an advantage for the forward direction late in processing, but no directional preference early in processing. Implications for metaphor theory are discussed. (shrink)
The human right to health has been established in international law since 1976. However, philosophers have often regarded human rights doctrine as a marginal contribution to political philosophy, or have attempted to distinguish ‘human rights proper’ from ‘aspirations’, with the human right to health often considered as falling into the latter category. Here the human right to health is defended as an attractive approach to global health, and responses are offered to a series of criticisms concerning its demandingness.
The paper describes a project in which the thesis of the social determinants of health is used in order to help identify groups that will be among the least advantaged members of society, when disadvantage is understood in terms of lack of genuine opportunity for secure functioning. The analysis is derived from the author's work with Avner de-Shalit in Disadvantage (Oxford University Press, 2007).
In this paper I aim to answer two questions: Can spin be treated as a determinable? Can a treatment of spin as a determinable be used to understand quantum indeterminacy? In response to the first question I show that the relations among spin number, spin components and spin values cannot be captured by a single determination relation; instead we need to look at spin number and spin value separately. In response to the second question I discuss three ways in which (...) the determinables model might be modified to account for indeterminacy, and argue that none of them is fully successful in helping us to understand quantum indeterminacy. (shrink)
Are laws of nature necessary, and if so, are all laws of nature necessary in the same way? This question has played an important role in recent discussion of laws of nature. I argue that not all laws of nature are necessary in the same way: conservation laws are perhaps to be regarded as metaphysically necessary. This sheds light on both the modal character of conservation laws and the relationship between different varieties of necessity.
_In Defense of Anarchism_ is a 1970 book by the philosopher Robert Paul Wolff, in which the author defends individualist anarchism. He argues that individual autonomy and state authority are mutually exclusive and that, as individual autonomy is inalienable, the moral legitimacy of the state collapses.
Realists about science tend to hold that our scientific theories aim for the truth, that our successful theories are at least partly true, and that the entities referred to by the theoretical terms of these theories exist. Antirealists about science deny one or more of these claims. A sizable minority of philosophers of science prefers not to take sides: they believe the realism debate to be fundamentally mistaken and seek to abstain from it altogether. In analogy with other realism debates (...) I will call these philosophers quietists. In the philosophy of science quietism often takes a somewhat peculiar form, which I will call naturalistic quietism. In this paper I will characterize Maddy’s Second Philosophy as a form of naturalistic quietism, and show what the costs for making it feasible are. (shrink)
It often appears that the most appropriate form of addressing disadvantage related to disability is through policies that can be called “status enhancements”: changes to the social, cultural and material environment so that the difﬁculties experienced by those with impairments are reduced, even eradicated. However, status enhancements can also have their limitations. This paper compares the relative merits of policies of status enhancement and “personal enhancement”: changes to the disabled person. It then takes up the question of how to assess (...) the priority of the claims of disabled people in the face of scarcity of resources for which there can be many competing social claims, arguing for the theory of “declustering disadvantage”. (shrink)
The question of when people may impose risks on each other is of fundamental moral importance. Forms of “quantified risk assessment,” especially risk cost-benefit analysis, provide one powerful approach to providing a systematic answer. It is also well known that such techniques can show that existing resources could be used more effectively to reduce risk overall. Thus it is often argued that some current practices are irrational. On the other hand critics of quantified risk assessment argue that it cannot adequately (...) capture all relevant features, such as “societal concern” and so should be abandoned. In this paper I argue that current forms of quantified risk assessment are inadequate, and in themselves, therefore, insufficient to demonstrate that current practices are irrational. In particular, I will argue that insufficient attention has been given to the cause of a hazard, which needs to be treated as a primary variable in its own right. However rather than reject quantified risk assessment I wish to supplement it by proposing a framework to make explicit the role causation plays in the understanding of risk, and how it interacts with factors which influence perception of risks and other attitudes to risk control. Once an improved description of risk perception is available it will become possible to have a more informed debate about the normative question: how safety should be regulated. (shrink)
The revised edition of this highly successful text provides a clear and accessible introduction to some of the most important questions of political philosophy. Organized around major issues, Wolff provides the structure that beginners need, while also introducing some distinctive ideas of his own.
The discussion of the adequacy of Karl Marx''s definition of exploitation has paid insufficient attention to a prior question: what is a definition? Once we understand Marx as offering a reference-fixing definition in a model we will realise that it is resistant to certain objections. A more general analysis of exploitation is offered here and it is suggested that Marx''s own definition is a particular instance of the general analysis which makes a number of controversial moral assumptions.
This article examines Kant′s use of the expression fact of reason by giving an analysis of the pseudo-mathematical method which Kant employs in the first part of the Critique of Practical Reason. It turns out that Kant′s use of this expression has nothing to do with appealing to a certain fact as being an obvious, self-evident truth. There is no need for such an appeal since the Fundamental Law of Pure Practical Reason is a practical postulate which, like a postulate (...) in geometry, is unquestionably certain. In order to realize its validity it is sufficient to know what a practical law is and on what its validity depends. The fundamental law of pure practical reason needs, in Kant′s view, a deduction since it is a synthetic principle a priori. But its deduction cannot be a proof since postulates neither can nor need be proved. It has to be a justification which guarantees that the use of pure reason in giving practical laws is not transcendent, but immanent. This justification has, unlike Kant′s deduction of the Postulates of Empirical Thinking, the systematic form of a defence which invalidates possible objections by showing that they themselves necessarily rest on a transcendent use of reason. (shrink)
This article highlights the growing mainstream preoccupation with law, lawyers and litigation on Japanese prime-time television. Specifically, the article focuses on the recent shift from the dramatic and serious in 1990s productions to the more comic in the 2000s and beyond. Linking the semiotics of humour, sociolegal studies and socio-semiotics more broadly, the article argues that an analysis of law-themed comic scenes and skits highlights Japanese society’s heightened interest in the law and yet an enduring social sense that the law, (...) especially legal resolution of conflict, is something incongruous and unrelated to people’s lived realities. Despite Ramseyer’s thesis that “rational” Japanese avoid the law because they bargain in its shadow, this article concludes that the Japanese draw on their emotional intelligence to accept the possibilities of the law for achieving social justice but acknowledge its limits for resolving satisfactorily everyday disputes. (shrink)
This paper considers the range of possible policy options that are available if we wish to attempt to treat people with cognitive disabilities as equal members of society. It is suggested that the goal of policy should be allow each disabled person to establish a worthwhile place in the world and sets out four policy options: cash compensation, personal enhancement, status enhancement and targeted resource enhancement. The paper argues for the social policy of targeted resource enhancement for individuals with cognitive (...) disabilities, in the form of providing cash with some limits on its use. Taking the example from the UK of ‘self-directed support’ it is argued that such policies can be cost-effective and advance the autonomy of people with cognitive disabilities, especially when compared with current policies of centrally provided services. (shrink)
What contribution can political philosophers make to policy questions, such as the best configuration of the welfare state? On one view, political philosophers set out abstract theories of justice that can guide policy makers in their attempt to transform existing institutions. Yet it rarely seems the case that such a model is used in practice, and it therefore becomes unclear how political philosophy can contribute to policy debates. Following a suggestion from Margaret MacDonald, I consider the view that political philosophers (...) can contribute by drawing attention to relatively neglected values. I develop this view to add the possibility that political philosophers can try to correct a situation in which a particular value, though important, can come to be too highly emphasised. I illustrate the account by considering the rise of the value of ‘responsibility’ in the welfare state, and ultimately the damage that has been done to society to disadvantaged groups by the over-insistence on the importance of responsibility. (shrink)
Health-related Quality of Life measures have recently been attacked from two directions, both of which criticize the preference-based method of evaluating health states they typically incorporate. One attack, based on work by Daniel Kahneman and others, argues that ‘experience’ is a better basis for evaluation. The other, inspired by Amartya Sen, argues that ‘capability’ should be the guiding concept. In addition, opinion differs as to whether health evaluation measures are best derived from consultations with the general public, with patients, or (...) with health professionals. And there is disagreement about whether these opinions should be solicited individually and aggregated, or derived instead from a process of collective deliberation. These distinctions yield a wide variety of possible approaches, with potentially differing policy implications. We consider some areas of disagreement between some of these approaches. We show that many of the perspectives seem to capture something important, such that it may be a mistake to reject any of them. Instead we suggest that some of the existing ‘instruments’ designed to measure HR QoLs may in fact successfully already combine these attributes, and with further refinement such instruments may be able to provide a reasonable reconciliation between the perspectives. (shrink)
This paper describes a novel perspective on the foundations of mathematics: how mathematics may be seen to be largely about “information compression via the matching and unification of patterns”. That is itself a novel approach to IC, couched in terms of nonmathematical primitives, as is necessary in any investigation of the foundations of mathematics. This new perspective on the foundations of mathematics reflects the facts that mathematics is almost exclusively the product of human brains, and has been developed, as an (...) aid to human thinking, mathematics is likely to be consonant with much evidence for the importance of IC in human learning, perception, and cognition. This perspective on the foundations of mathematics has grown out of a long-term programme of research developing the SP Theory of Intelligence and its realization in the SP Computer Model, a system in which a generalised version of ICMUP—the powerful concept of SP-multiple-alignment—plays a central role. This paper shows with an example how mathematics, without any special provision, may achieve compression of information. Then, it describes examples showing how variants of ICMUP may be seen in widely used structures and operations in mathematics. Examples are also given to show how several aspects of the mathematics-related disciplines of logic and computing may be understood as ICMUP. Also discussed is the intimate relation between IC and concepts of probability, with arguments that there are advantages in approaching AI, cognitive science, and concepts of probability via ICMUP. Also discussed is how the close relation between IC and concepts of probability relates to the established view that some parts of mathematics are intrinsically probabilistic, and how that latter view may be reconciled with the all-or-nothing, “exact,” forms of calculation or inference that are familiar in mathematics and logic. There are many potential benefits and applications of the mathematics-as-IC perspective. (shrink)
The literature of modernity, describing the fleeting, anonymous, ephemeral encounters of life in the metropolis, mainly accounts for the experiences of men. It ignores the concomitant separation of public and private spheres from the mid-nineteenth century, and the increasing segregation of the sexes around that separation. The influential writings of Baudelaire, Simmel, Benjamin and, more recently, Richard Sennett and Marshall Berman, by equating the modern with the public, thus fail to describe women's experience of modernity. The central figure of the (...) flâneur in the literature of modernity can only be male. What is required, therefore, is a feminist sociology of modernity to supplement these texts. (shrink)
In the first section the problem of political obligation is motivated, and in Section 2 the core structure of the problem is laid bare. A recognition ofthis structure prompts reflection that the problem will appear very different to different thinkers, depending on their moral theories. It also invites the speculation that the problem will be incapable of solution on some moral theories while trivial on others. This polarity does reflect the state of much of the literature until fairly recently. However (...) this picture is seen to be too crude, and in the third section it is shown how an interesting solution has been proposed by advocates of the ‘theory of fairness’. In Section 4 this theory is evaluated, concentrating particularly on George Klosko’s version, which is, in part, rejected. However it is argued that no version of the theory is able to guarantee universal political obligations. In Section 5 it is argued that this is an unnoticed advantage of the theory, for it may well be that, morally at least, we should allow those who do not benefit from the existence of the state to escape political obligations. The consequences of this view are examined and found not to be as threatening as they might first have appeared. (shrink)