Privacy and surveillance scholars increasingly worry that data collectors can use the information they gather about our behaviors, preferences, interests, incomes, and so on to manipulate us. Yet what it means, exactly, to manipulate someone, and how we might systematically distinguish cases of manipulation from other forms of influence—such as persuasion and coercion—has not been thoroughly enough explored in light of the unprecedented capacities that information technologies and digital media enable. In this paper, we develop a definition of (...) class='Hi'>manipulation that addresses these enhanced capacities, investigate how information technologies facilitate manipulative practices, and describe the harms—to individuals and to social institutions—that flow from such practices. -/- We use the term “online manipulation” to highlight the particular class of manipulative practices enabled by a broad range of information technologies. We argue that at its core, manipulation is hidden influence—the covert subversion of another person’s decision-making power. We argue that information technology, for a number of reasons, makes engaging in manipulative practices significantly easier, and it makes the effects of such practices potentially more deeply debilitating. And we argue that by subverting another person’s decision-making power, manipulation undermines his or her autonomy. Given that respect for individual autonomy is a bedrock principle of liberal democracy, the threat of online manipulation is a cause for grave concern. (shrink)
In Manipulated Agents, Alfred R. Mele examines the role one's history plays in whether or not one is morally responsible for one's actions. Mele develops a "history-sensitive" theory of moral responsibility through reflection on a wide range of thought experiments which feature agents who have been manipulated or designed in ways that directly affect their actions.
Ever-increasing numbers of human interactions with intelligent software agents, online and offline, and their increasing ability to influence humans have prompted a surge in attention toward the concept of (online) manipulation. Several scholars have argued that manipulative influence is always hidden. But manipulation is sometimes overt, and when this is acknowledged the distinction between manipulation and other forms of social influence becomes problematic. Therefore, we need a better conceptualisation of manipulation that allows it to be overt (...) and yet clearly distinct from related concepts of social influence. I argue that manipulation is careless influence, show how this account helps to alleviate the shortcomings of the hidden influence view of manipulation, and derive implications for digital ethics. (shrink)
This article distinguishes among and examines three different kinds of argument for the thesis that moral responsibility and free action are each incompatible with the truth of determinism: straight manipulation arguments; manipulation arguments to the best explanation; and original-design arguments. Structural and methodological matters are the primary focus.
Alfred Mele’s zygote argument is widely considered to be the strongest version of the manipulation argument against compatibilism (about free will and determinism). Opponents have focused largely on the first of its two premises and on the overall dialectic. My focus here will be on the underlying thought experiment—the Diana scenario—and on the second premise of the argument. I will argue that reflection on the Diana scenario shows that the second premise does not hold, and we will see that (...) my objection to the second premise helps to defend the claim that manipulation arguments face, in general, a dilemma. (shrink)
I provide a manipulation-style argument against classical compatibilism—the claim that freedom to do otherwise is consistent with determinism. My question is simple: if Diana really gave Ernie free will, why isn't she worried that he won't use it precisely as she would like? Diana's non-nervousness, I argue, indicates Ernie's non-freedom. Arguably, the intuition that Ernie lacks freedom to do otherwise is stronger than the direct intuition that he is simply not responsible; this result highlights the importance of the denial (...) of the principle of alternative possibilities for compatibilist theories of responsibility. Along the way, I clarify the dialectical role and structure of “manipulation arguments”, and compare the manipulation argument I develop with the more familiar Consequence Argument. I contend that the two arguments are importantly mutually supporting and reinforcing. The result: classical compatibilists should be nervous—and if PAP is true, all compatibilists should be nervous. (shrink)
We use recent interventionist theories of causation to develop a compatibilist account of causal sourcehood, which provides a response to Manipulation Arguments for the incompatibility of free will and determinism. Our account explains the difference between manipulation and determinism, against the claim of Manipulation Arguments that there is no relevant difference. Interventionism allows us to see that causal determinism does not mean that variables outside of the agent causally explain her actions better than variables within the agent, (...) whereas the causal source of a manipulated agent’s actions instead lies outside of the agent in the intentions of the manipulator. As a result, determined agents can have free will and be morally responsible in a way that manipulated agents cannot, contrary to what Manipulation Arguments conclude. In this way, our account demonstrates not only how Manipulation Arguments fail but also how compatibilism can be strengthened by means of a plausible account of causal sourcehood. (shrink)
Carl Craver’s mutual manipulability criterion aims to pick out all and only those components of a mechanism that are constitutively relevant with respect to a given phenomenon. In devising his criterion, Craver has made heavy use of the notion of an ideal intervention, which is a tool for illuminating causal concepts in causal models. The problem is that typical mechanistic models contain non-causal relations in addition to causal ones, which is why the standard concept of an ideal intervention is not (...) appropriate in that context. In this paper, I first show how top-down interventions in mechanistic models violate the conditions for ideal interventions. Drawing from recent developments in the causal exclusion literature, I then argue for extended interventionism better suited for the purposes of the new mechanist. Finally, I show why adopting such an extended account leads to the surprising consequence that an important subset of mechanistic interlevel relations comes out as causal. (shrink)
"The Manipulation Argument has recently taken center stage in the free-will debate, yet little else can be said of this newcomer that is uncontroversial. At present, even the most fundamental elements of the Manipulation Argument--its structure, conclusion, and target audience--are a matter of dispute. As such, we cannot begin, as we ideally would, with a simple and relatively uncontroversial overview of the argument. Instead, clarifying the debate over the basic structure and general conclusion of the Manipulation Argument (...) will be our goal.". (shrink)
Evolutionary processes such as natural selection and random drift are commonly regarded as causes of population-level change. We respond to a recent challenge that drift and selection are best understood as statistical trends, not causes. Our reply appeals to manipulation as a strategy for uncovering causal relationships: if you can systematically manipulate variable A to bring about a change in variable B, then A is a cause of B. We argue that selection and drift can be systematically manipulated to (...) produce different kinds of population-level change. They should therefore be regarded as causes. (shrink)
In this paper we analyze the non-coercive ways in which researchers can use knowledge about the decision-making tendencies of potential participants in order to motivate them to consent to research enrollment. We identify which modes of influence preserve respect for participants’ autonomy and which disrespect autonomy, and apply the umbrella term of manipulation to the latter. We then apply our analysis to a series of cases adapted from the experiences of clinical researchers in order to develop a framework for (...) thinking through the ethics of manipulating people into research participation. All manipulation disrespects autonomy and is therefore pro tanto wrong. However, only deceptive manipulation invalidates the consent that results from it. Use of the other forms of manipulation can be permissible, but only if the outcome of using manipulation is sufficiently good and if the research cannot be carried out using ethically preferable means to obtain consent. (shrink)
Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler recommend helping people make better decisions by employing ‘nudges’, which they define as noncoercive methods of influencing choice for the better. Not surprisingly, healthcare practitioners and public policy professionals have become interested in whether nudges might be a promising method of improving health-related behaviors without resorting to heavy-handed methods such as coercion, deception, or government regulation. Many nudges seem unobjectionable as they merely improve the quality and quantity available for the decision-maker. However, other nudges influence (...) decision-making in ways that do not involve providing more and better information. Nudges of this sort raise concerns about manipulation. This paper will focus on noninformational nudges that operate by changing the salience of various options. It will survey two approaches to understanding manipulation, one which sees manipulation as a kind of pressure, and one that sees it as a kind of trickery. On the pressure view, salience nudges do not appear to be manipulative. However, on the trickery view, salience nudges will be manipulative if they increase the salience so that it is disproportionate to that fact's true relevance and importance for the decision at hand. By contrast, salience nudges will not be manipulative if they merely highlight some fact that is true and important for the decision at hand. The paper concludes by providing examples of both manipulative and nonmanipulative salience nudges. (shrink)
The present studies investigate how the intentions of third parties influence judgments of moral responsibility for other agents who commit immoral acts. Using cases in which an agent acts under some situational constraint brought about by a third party, we ask whether the agent is blamed less for the immoral act when the third party intended for that act to occur. Study 1 demonstrates that third-party intentions do influence judgments of blame. Study 2 finds that third-party intentions only influence moral (...) judgments when the agent's actions precisely match the third party's intention. Study 3 shows that this effect arises from changes in participants' causal perception that the third party was controlling the agent. Studies 4 and 5, respectively, show that the effect cannot be explained by changes in the distribution of blame or perceived differences in situational constraint faced by the agent. (shrink)
Manipulation arguments are commonly deployed to raise problems for compatibilist theories of responsibility. These arguments proceed by asking us to reflect on an agent who has been manipulated to perform some (typically bad) action but who still meets the compatibilist conditions of responsibility. The incompatibilist argues that it is intuitive that the agent in such a case is not responsible even though she met the compatibilist conditions. Thus, it is argued, the compatibilist has not provided conditions sufficient for responsibility. (...) Patrick Todd has recently argued that incompatibilists have taken on a heavier dialectical burden than is necessary. Todd argues that incompatibilists need not argue that an agent in a manipulation case is not at all responsible, but only that her responsibility is mitigated in order to refute compatibilism. Hannah Tierney has responded to Todd’s argument by arguing that a compatibilist can admit that manipulation mitigates responsibility without eliminating it. I argue that Tierney’s response is unsuccessful on its own terms. But, I argue, Todd’s argument can be resisted by way of a parallel counter-argument for compatibilism. I argue that Todd’s argument for incompatibilism is no more powerful than my argument for compatibilism. And since Todd’s manipulation argument is offered as an objection to compatibilism, this amounts to a victory for the compatibilist; the objection is defused. (shrink)
Since 2016, when the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal began to emerge, public concern has grown around the threat of “online manipulation”. While these worries are familiar to privacy researchers, this paper aims to make them more salient to policymakers — first, by defining “online manipulation”, thus enabling identification of manipulative practices; and second, by drawing attention to the specific harms online manipulation threatens. We argue that online manipulation is the use of information technology to covertly influence another (...) person’s decision-making, by targeting and exploiting their decision-making vulnerabilities. Engaging in such practices can harm individuals by diminishing their economic interests, but its deeper, more insidious harm is its challenge to individual autonomy. We explore this autonomy harm, emphasising its implications for both individuals and society, and we briefly outline some strategies for combating online manipulation and strengthening autonomy in an increasingly digital world. (shrink)
Manipulative actions come in a bewildering variety of forms: direct and indirect deception, playing on emotions, tempting, inciting, and so on. It is not obvious what feature all these actions share in virtue of which they are all of the same kind and in virtue of which they are all morally wrong. This article argues that all manipulative actions are cases in which the manipulator attempts to lead the victim astray by trying to get her to have emotions, beliefs, or (...) desires that, as the manipulator sees it, are not ideal for the victim. To attempt to lead a person astray in this way is to fail to respect the moral and rational agency of the victim. This analysis captures the fact that actions of many kinds--and with many different psychological effects--can be manipulative, and it tells us what is wrong with acting manipulatively. It also helps distinguish manipulation from non rational persuasion. (shrink)
A great deal of scholarly attention has been paid to coercion. Less attention has been paid to what might be a more pervasive form of influence: manipulation. The essays in this volume address this relative imbalance by focusing on manipulation, examining its nature, moral status, and its significance in personal and social life.
In response to the increasingly popular manipulation argument against compatibilism, some have argued that libertarian accounts of free will are vulnerable to parallel manipulation arguments, and thus manipulation is not uniquely problematic for compatibilists. The main aim of this article is to give this point a more detailed development than it has previously received. Prior attempts to make this point have targeted particular libertarian accounts but cannot be generalized. By contrast, I provide an appropriately modified manipulation (...) that targets all libertarian accounts of freedom and responsibility—an especially tricky task given that libertarian accounts are a motley set. I conclude that if manipulation arguments reveal any theoretical cost then it is one borne by all accounts according to which we are free and responsible, not by compatibilism in particular. (shrink)
The first part of this paper argues that if Craver’s ([2007a], [2007b]) popular mutual manipulability account (MM) of mechanistic constitution is embedded within Woodward’s () interventionist theory of causation--for which it is explicitly designed--it either undermines the mechanistic research paradigm by entailing that there do not exist relationships of constitutive relevance or it gives rise to the unwanted consequence that constitution is a form of causation. The second part shows how Woodward’s theory can be adapted in such a way that (...) (MM) neither undermines the mechanistic paradigm nor reduces constitution to causation. However, it turns out that this modified theoretical embedding of (MM) makes it impossible to produce empirical evidence for constitutive relations. The paper ends by suggesting an additional criterion, the fat-handedness criterion, which, when combined with (MM), generates indirect empirical evidence for constitutive relevance. (shrink)
This article’s guiding question is about bullet biting: When should compatibilists about moral responsibility bite the bullet in responding to stories used in arguments for incompatibilism about moral responsibility? Featured stories are vignettes in which agents’ systems of values are radically reversed by means of brainwashing and the story behind the zygote argument. The malady known as “intuition deficit disorder” is also discussed.
I argue that considerations pertaining to constitutive luck undermine historicism—the view that an agent’s history can determine whether or not she is morally responsible. The main way that historicists have motivated their view is by appealing to certain cases of manipulation. I argue, however, that since agents can be morally responsible for performing some actions from characters with respect to which they are entirely constitutively lucky, and since there is no relevant difference between these agents and agents who have (...) been manipulated into acting from a character bestowed upon them by their manipulators, we should give up historicism. After presenting this argument and defending it against some potential objections, I briefly criticize the standard structuralist alternative and propose a new structuralist position that is shaped by reflection on constitutive luck. (shrink)
Manipulation arguments aim to show that compatibilism is false. Usually, they aim to undermine compatibilism by first eliciting the intuition that a manipulated agent is not morally responsible. Patrick Todd's (2012) Moral Standing Manipulation Argument instead aims to first elicit the intuition that a manipulator cannot blame her victim. Todd then argues that the best explanation for why a manipulator cannot blame her victim is that incompatibilism is true. In this paper, I present three lines of defence against (...) this argument for those who agree a manipulator cannot blame her victim. (shrink)
In this paper I critically assess Derk Pereboom’s book, Free Will, Agency, and Meaning in Life. In it, I resist Pereboom’s manipulation argument for incompatibilism and his indictment of desert-based accounts of moral responsibility.
A prominent recent strategy for advancing the thesis that moral responsibility is incompatible with causal determinism has been to argue that agents who meet compatibilist conditions for responsibility could nevertheless be subject to certain sorts of deterministic manipulation, so that an agent could meet the compatibilist’s conditions for responsibility, but also be living a life the precise details of which someone else determined that she should live. According to the incompatibilist, however, once we became aware that agents had been (...) manipulated or ‘set up’ in the relevant way, we should no longer judge that they are responsible for their behavior, nor should we hold them responsible for it by blaming them, in case what they did was wrong. In this paper, I aim to shift the debate to different terrain. The focus so far has been simply on what we may or may not permissibly say or do concerning manipulated agents. But I believe a powerful new incompatibilist argument can be mounted from considering whether the manipulators themselves can justifiably blame the agents they manipulate in compatibilist-friendly ways. It seems strikingly counterintuitive to suppose that they may do so. The argument of this paper, however, is that, given the right story, incompatibilism provides the best explanation for why this is so. In short, the compatibilist must say that, while such manipulated agents are still responsible, the manipulators lack the moral standing to blame them. But I argue that, on compatibilist assumptions, this explanation ultimately fails. (shrink)
At the most general level, "manipulation" refers one of many ways of influencing behavior, along with (but to be distinguished from) other such ways, such as coercion and rational persuasion. Like these other ways of influencing behavior, manipulation is of crucial importance in various ethical contexts. First, there are important questions concerning the moral status of manipulation itself; manipulation seems to be mor- ally problematic in ways in which (say) rational persuasion does not. Why is this (...) so? Furthermore, the notion of manipulation has played an increasingly central role in debates about free will and moral responsibility. Despite its significance in these (and other) contexts, however, the notion of manipulation itself remains deeply vexed. I would say notoriously vexed, but in fact direct philosophical treatments of the notion of manipulation are few and far between, and those that do exist are nota- ble for the sometimes widely divergent conclusions they reach concerning what it is. I begin by addressing (though certainly not resolving) the conceptual issue of how to distinguish manipulation from other ways of influencing behavior. Along the way, I also briefly address the (intimately related) question of the moral status of manipulation: what, if anything, makes it morally problematic? Then I discuss the controversial ways in which the notion of manipulation has been employed in contemporary debates about free will and moral responsibility. (shrink)
The compatibility of determinism and the ability to do otherwise has been implicitly assumed by many to be irrelevant to the viability of compatibilist responses to the manipulation argument for incompatibilism. I argue that this assumption is mistaken. The manipulation argument may be unsound. But even so, the manipulation argument, at the very least, undermines classical compatibilism, the view that free will requires the ability to do otherwise, and having that ability is compatible with determinism. This is (...) because classical compatibilism, in conjunction with any type of reply to the manipulation argument, has counterintuitive implications. In order to avoid such implications, we need not hold that determinism is incompatible with moral responsibility. But we must hold that determinism is incompatible with the ability to do otherwise. (shrink)
Manipulation arguments for incompatibilism all build upon some example or other in which an agent is covertly manipulated into acquiring a psychic structure on the basis of which she performs an action. The featured agent, it is alleged, is manipulated into satisfying conditions compatibilists would take to be sufficient for acting freely. Such an example used in the context of an argument for incompatibilism is meant to elicit the intuition that, due to the pervasiveness of the manipulation, the (...) agent does not act freely and is not morally responsible for what she does. It is then claimed that any agent's coming to be in the same psychic state through a deterministic process is no different in any relevant respect from the pertinent manner of manipulation. Hence, it is concluded that compatibilists' proposed sufficient conditions for free will and moral responsibility are inadequate, and that free will and moral responsibility are incompatible with determinism. One way for compatibilists to resist certain manipulation arguments is by appealing to historical requirements that, they contend, relevant manipulated agents lack. While a growing number of compatibilists advance an historical thesis, in this paper, I redouble my efforts to show, in defense of nonhistorical compatibilists like Harry Frankfurt, that there is still life left in a nonhistorical view. The historical compatibilists, I contend, have fallen shy of discrediting their nonhistorical compatibilist rivals. (shrink)
Constitutive mechanistic explanations are said to refer to mechanisms that constitute the phenomenon-to-be-explained. The most prominent approach of how to understand this constitution relation is Carl Craver’s mutual manipulability approach to constitutive relevance. Recently, the mutual manipulability approach has come under attack (Leuridan 2012; Baumgartner and Gebharter 2015; Romero 2015; Harinen 2014; Casini and Baumgartner 2016). Roughly, it is argued that this approach is inconsistent because it is spelled out in terms of interventionism (which is an approach to causation), whereas (...) constitutive relevance is said to be a non-causal relation. In this paper, I will discuss a strategy of how to resolve this inconsistency, so-called fat-handedness approaches (Baumgartner and Gebharter 2015; Casini and Baumgartner 2016; Romero 2015). I will argue that these approaches are problematic. I will present a novel suggestion of how to consistently define constitutive relevance in terms of interventionism. My approach is based on a causal interpretation of mutual manipulability, where manipulability is interpreted as a causal relation between the mechanism’s components and temporal parts of the phenomenon. (shrink)
Two genetic technologies capable of making heritable changes to the human genome have revived interest in, and in some quarters a very familiar panic concerning, so-called germline interventions. These technologies are: most recently the use of CRISPR/Cas9 to edit genes in non-viable IVF zygotes and Mitochondrial Replacement Therapy the use of which was approved in principle in a landmark vote earlier this year by the United Kingdom Parliament. The possibility of using either of these techniques in humans has encountered the (...) most violent hostility and suspicion. However it is important to be aware that much of this hostility dates back to the fears associated with In Vitro Fertilization and other reproductive technologies and by cloning; fears which were baseless at the time concerning both IVF and cloning the use of both of which have proved to be highly beneficial to humanity and which have been effectively regulated and controlled. This paper argues that CRISPR should by pursued through res.. (shrink)
: Where there are cases of underdetermination in scientific controversies, such as the case of the molecular clock, scientists may direct the course and terms of dispute by playing off the multidimensional framework of theory evaluation. This is because assessment strategies themselves are underdetermined. Within the framework of assessment, there are a variety of trade-offs between different strategies as well as shifting emphases as specific strategies are given more or less weight in assessment situations. When a strategy is underdetermined, scientists (...) can change the dynamics of a controversy by making assessments using different combinations of evaluation strategies and/or weighting whatever strategies are in play in different ways. Following an underdetermination strategy does not end or resolve a scientific dispute. Consequently, manipulating underdetermination is a feature of controversy dynamics and not controversy closure. (shrink)
It has recently been argued that reproductive genetic manipulation technologies like mitochondrial replacement and germline CRISPR modifications cannot be said to save anyone’s life because, counterfactually, no one would suffer more or die sooner absent the intervention. The present article argues that, on the contrary, reproductive genetic manipulations may be life-saving (and, from this, have therapeutic value) under an appropriate population health perspective. As such, popular reports of reproductive genetic manipulations potentially saving lives or preventing disease are not necessarily (...) mistaken, though such terminology still requires further empirical validation. (shrink)
This paper tells the story of G-protein coupled receptors, one of the most important scientific objects in contemporary biochemistry and molecular biology. By looking at how cell membrane receptors turned from a speculative concept into a central element in modern biochemistry over the past 40 years, we revisit the role of manipulability as a criterion for entity realism in wet-lab research. The central argument is that manipulability as a condition for reality becomes meaningful only once scientists have decided how to (...) conceptually coordinate measurable effects distinctly to a specific object. We show that a scientific entity, such as GPCRs, is assigned varying degrees of reality throughout different stages of its discovery. The criteria of its reality, we further claim, cannot be made independently of the question about how this object becomes a standard by which the reality of neighbouring elements of enquiry is evaluated. (shrink)
Previous research has shown that subliminally presented stimuli accelerate or delay responses afforded by supraliminally presented stimuli. Our experiments extend these findings by showing that unconscious stimuli even affect free choices between responses. Thus, actions that are phenomenally experienced as freely chosen are influenced without the actor becoming aware of the manipulation. However, the unconscious influence is limited to a response bias, as participants chose the primed response only in up to 60% of the trials. LRP data in free (...) choice trials indicate that the prime was not ineffective in trials in which participants chose the non-primed response as then it delayed performance of the incongruently primed response. (shrink)
There are several argumentative strategies for advancing the thesis that moral responsibility is incompatible with causal determinism. One prominent such strategy is to argue that agents who meet compatibilist conditions for moral responsibility can nevertheless be subject to responsibility-undermining manipulation. In this paper, I argue that incompatibilists advancing manipulation arguments against compatibilism have been shouldering an unnecessarily heavy dialectical burden. Traditional manipulation arguments present cases in which manipulated agents meet all compatibilist conditions for moral responsibility, but are (...) (allegedly) not responsible for their behavior. I argue, however, that incompatibilists can make do with the more modest (and harder to resist) claim that the manipulation in question is mitigating with respect to moral responsibility. The focus solely on whether a manipulated agent is or is not morally responsible has, I believe, masked the full force of manipulation-style arguments against compatibilism. Here, I aim to unveil their real power. (shrink)
I respond to Kersten’s criticism in his article “Music and Cognitive Extension” of my approach to the musically extended emotional mind in Krueger (2014). I specify how we manipulate—and in so doing, integrate with—music when, as active listeners, we become part of a musically extended cognitive system. I also indicate how Kersten’s account might be enriched by paying closer attention to the way that music functions as an environmental artifact for emotion regulation.
Social media use is soaring globally. Existing research of its ethical implications predominantly focuses on the relationships amongst human users online, and their effects. The nature of the software-to-human relationship and its impact on digital well-being, however, has not been sufficiently addressed yet. This paper aims to close the gap. I argue that some intelligent software agents, such as newsfeed curator algorithms in social media, manipulate human users because they do not intend their means of influence to reveal the user’s (...) reasons. I support this claim by defending a novel account of manipulation and by showing that some intelligent software agents are manipulative in this sense. Apart from revealing a priori reason for thinking that some intelligent software agents are manipulative, the paper offers a framework for further empirical investigation of manipulation online. (shrink)
This article focuses on exerting influence in leadership, namely manipulation in storytelling. Manipulation is usually considered an unethical approach to leadership. We will argue that manipulation is a more complex phenomenon than just an unethical way of acting in leadership. We will demonstrate through an empirical qualitative study that there are various types of manipulation through storytelling. This article makes a contribution to the literature on manipulation through leadership storytelling, offering a more systematic empirical analysis (...) and a more nuanced view of the topic than previously existed by outlining how managers engage in manipulative storytelling and what kind of ethics they link to their manipulation in leadership. Four types of manipulation in storytelling are identified in the study: humorous, pseudo-participative, seductive and pseudo-empathetic. From an ethical perspective, we will show that manipulation is not always self-evidently reprehensible. We will conclude that the dominant ethical justification for manipulation stems from its consequences. (shrink)
Claims pertaining to understanding are made in a variety of contexts and ways. As a result, few in the philosophical literature have made an attempt to precisely characterize the state that is y understanding x. This paper builds an account that does just that. The account is motivated by two main observations. First, understanding x is somehow related to being able to manipulate x. Second, understanding is a mental phenomenon, and so what manipulations are required to be an understander must (...) only be mental manipulations. Combining these two insights, the paper builds an account (URM) of understanding as a certain representational capacity—specifically, understanding x involves possessing a representation of x that could be manipulated in useful ways. By tying understanding to representation, the account correctly identifies that understanding is a fundamentally cognitive achievement. However, by also demanding that which representations count as understanding-conferring be determined by their practical effects, URM captures the insight that understanding is vitally connected to practice. URM is fully general, and can apply equally well to understanding states of affairs, understanding events, and even understanding people and works of art. The ultimate test of URM is its applicability in actual scientific and philosophical discourse. To that end the paper discusses the importance of understanding in the philosophy of science, psychology, and computer science. (shrink)
This paper explores the relationship between a manipulability conception of causation and the causal Markov condition (CM). We argue that violations of CM also violate widely shared expectations—implicit in the manipulability conception—having to do with the absence of spontaneous correlations. They also violate expectations concerning the connection between independence or dependence relationships in the presence and absence of interventions.
In the first part of the paper, previous work about embodied mathematics and the practice of topology will be presented. According to the proposed view, in order to become experts, topologists have to learn how to use manipulative imagination: representations are cognitive tools whose functioning depends from pre-existing cognitive abilities and from specific training. In the second part of the paper, the notion of imagination as “make-believe” is discussed to give an account of cognitive tools in mathematics as props; to (...) better specify the claim, the notion of “affordance” is explored in its possible extension from concrete objects to representations. (shrink)
Christian List and Peter Menzies 2009 have looked to interventionist theories of causation for an answer to Jaegwon Kim's causal exclusion problem. Important to their response is the idea of realization-insensitivity. However, this idea becomes mired in issues concerning multiple realization, leaving it unable to fulfil its promise to block exclusion. After explaining why realization-insensitivity fails as a solution to Kim's problem, I look to interventionism to describe a different kind of solution.
This article is part of a symposium on Alfred Mele’s Manipulated Agents: A Window to Moral Responsibility. It is Mele’s response to John Fischer, Ishtiyaque Haji, and Michael McKenna. Topics discussed include the bearing of manipulation on moral responsibility, the zygote argument, the importance of scenarios in which manipulators radically reverse an agent’s values, positive versus negative historical requirements for moral responsibility, the scope of moral responsibility, the value of intuitions, bullet-biting, and how we develop from neonates who are (...) not morally responsible for anything into morally responsible agents. A variety of scenarios featuring various kinds of manipulation are discussed. (shrink)
If someone brings about an outcome without intending to, is she causally and morally responsible for it? What if she acts intentionally, but as the result of manipulation by another agent? Previous research has shown that an agent's mental states can affect attributions of causal and moral responsibility to that agent, but little is known about what effect one agent's mental states can have on attributions to another agent. In Experiment 1, we replicate findings that manipulation lowers attributions (...) of responsibility to manipulated agents. Experiments 2–7 isolate which features of manipulation drive this effect, a crucial issue for both philosophical debates about free will and attributions of responsibility in situations involving social influence more generally. Our results suggest that “bypassing” a manipulated agent's mental states generates the greatest reduction in responsibility, and we explain our results in terms of the effects that one agent's mental states can have on the counterfactual relations between another agent and an outcome. (shrink)
In this article, we explore how digital marketers think about marketing in the age of Big Data surveillance, automatic computational analyses, and algorithmic shaping of choice contexts. Our starting point is a contradiction at the heart of digital marketing namely that digital marketing brings about unprecedented levels of consumer empowerment and autonomy and total control over and manipulation of consumer decision-making. We argue that this contradiction of digital marketing is resolved via the notion of relevance, which represents what Fredric (...) Jameson calls a symbolic act. The notion of the symbolic act lets us see the centering of relevance as a creative act of digital marketers who undertake to symbolically resolve a contradiction that cannot otherwise be resolved. Specifically, we suggest that relevance allows marketers to believe that in the age of surveillance capitalism, the manipulation of choice contexts and decision-making is the same as consumer empowerment. Put differently, relevance is the moment when marketing manipulation disappears and all that is left is the empowered consumer. To create relevant manipulations that are experienced as empowering by the consumer requires always-on surveillance, massive analyses of consumer data and hyper-targeted responses, in short, a persistent marketing presence. The vision of digital marketing is therefore a fascinating one: marketing disappears at precisely the moment when it extends throughout the life without limit. (shrink)
Incompatibilists and compatibilists (mostly) agree that there is a strong intuition that a manipulated agent, i.e., an agent who is the victim of methods such as indoctrination or brainwashing, is unfree. They differ however on why exactly this intuition arises. Incompatibilists claim our intuitions in these cases are sensitive to the manipulated agent’s lack of ultimate control over her actions, while many compatibilists argue that our intuitions respond to damage inflicted by manipulation on the agent’s psychological and volitional capacities. (...) Much hangs on this issue because manipulation-based arguments are among the most important for defending incompatibilist views of free will. In this paper, I investigate this issue from a experimental perspective, using a set of statistical methods well suited for identifying the features of hypothetical cases people’s intuitions are responding to. Results strongly support the compatibilist view—subjects’ tendency to judge that a manipulated agent is unfree was found to depend on their judgments that the agent suffers impairments to certain psychological/volitional capacities that compatibilists say are the basis for free will. I discuss the significance of these results for the use of manipulation cases in the philosophical debate about free will. (shrink)
More and more researchers argue that online technologies manipulate human users and, therefore, undermine their autonomy. We call this the MAL view on online technology because it argues from Manipulation to Autonomy-Loss. MAL enjoys public visibility and will shape the academic discussion to come. This view of online technology, however, fails conceptually. MAL presupposes that manipulation equals autonomy loss, and that autonomy is the absence of manipulation. That is mistaken. In short, an individual can be manipulated while (...) being fully personally autonomous. Internet policy researchers should be aware of this point to avoid looking in the wrong place in future research on manipulative and harmful online technology. (shrink)