This essay explains the inescapability of moral demands. I deny that the individual has genuine reason to comply with these demands only if she has desires that would be served by doing so. Rather, the learning of moral reasons helps to shape and channel self- and other-interested motivations so as to facilitate and promote social cooperation. This shaping happens through the “embedding” of reasons in the intentional objects of motivational propensities. The dominance of the instrumental conception of reason, according to (...) which reasons must be based in desires of the individual, has made it harder to recognize that reasons shape desires. I attempt to undermine this dominance by arguing that the concept of a self that extends over time is constructed to meet the demands of social cooperation. Prudential reasons to act on behalf of the persisting self's desires are often taken to constitute the paradigm of reasons based on desires of the individual. But such reasons, along with the very concept of the persisting self, are constructed to promote human cooperation and to shape the individual's desires. (shrink)
David B. Wong proposes that there can be a plurality of true moralities, moralities that exist across different traditions and cultures, all of which address facets of the same problem: how we are to live well together. Wong examines a wide array of positions and texts within the Western canon as well as in Chinese philosophy, and draws on philosophy, psychology, evolutionary theory, history, and literature, to make a case for the importance of pluralism in moral life, and to (...) establish the virtues of acceptance and accommodation. Wong's point is that there is no single value or principle or ordering of values and principles that offers a uniquely true path for human living, but variations according to different contexts that carry within them a common core of human values. We should thus be modest about our own morality, learn from other approaches, and accommodate different practices in our pluralistic society. (shrink)
The main lines of this exploration are quite simply drawn. That the God whom Jews, Christians, and Muslims worship outstrips our capacities for characterization, and hence must be unknowable, will be presumed as uncontested. The reason that God is unknowable stems from our shared confession that ‘the Holy One, blessed be He’, and ‘the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth’, and certainly ‘Allah, the merciful One’ is one ; and just why God's oneness entails God's being unknowable deserves discussion, (...) though that will occur as we move along. The issue facing us is the one which preoccupied al-Ghazali: how does a seeker respond to that unknowability? The root meaning of the Arabic word for ‘student’ means ‘seeker’, and that attitude of ‘seeking the face of God’, along with the indescribability of the face, will be presumed throughout our discussion. That's why we are struck with the clumsy term ‘unknowable’ rather than its more euphonious Greek form ‘agnostic’. For Western agnostics are such largely because they cannot find God sufficiently compelling, while they ‘would not have the impudence to claim to be atheists’ – as one contemporary seeker puts it. So theologians feel it necessary to enclose the term in quotation marks when discussing, say, Aquinas' ‘agnosticism’ regarding divinity. Yet a genuine unknowing does lie at the heart of the inquiry of the Jew, Christian or Muslim seeking after God; indeed, it is the unknowing which distinguishes a search for God from lusting after idols. So let us follow al-Ghazali in an effort to discover the lineaments of both search and seeker after an unknowable God. (shrink)
In America today, the problem of achieving racial justice--whether through "color-blind" policies or through affirmative action--provokes more noisy name-calling than fruitful deliberation. In Color Conscious, K. Anthony Appiah and Amy Gutmann, two eminent moral and political philosophers, seek to clear the ground for a discussion of the place of race in politics and in our moral lives. Provocative and insightful, their essays tackle different aspects of the question of racial justice; together they provide a compelling response to our nation's most (...) vexing problem.Appiah begins by establishing the problematic nature of the idea of race. He draws on the scholarly consensus that "race" has no legitimate biological basis, exploring the history of its invention as a social category and showing how the concept has been used to explain differences among groups of people by mistakenly attributing various "essences" to them. Appiah argues that, while people of color may still need to gather together, in the face of racism, under the banner of race, they need also to balance carefully the calls of race against the many other dimensions of individual identity; and he suggests, finally, what this might mean for our political life.Gutmann examines alternative political responses to racial injustice. She argues that American politics cannot be fair to all citizens by being color blind because American society is not color blind. Fairness, not color blindness, is a fundamental principle of justice. Whether policies should be color-conscious, class conscious, or both in particular situations, depends on an open-minded assessment of their fairness. Exploring timely issues of university admissions, corporate hiring, and political representation, Gutmann develops a moral perspective that supports a commitment to constitutional democracy.Appiah and Gutmann write candidly and carefully, presenting many-faceted interpretations of a host of controversial issues. Rather than supplying simple answers to complex questions, they offer to citizens of every color principled starting points for the ongoing national discussions about race. (shrink)
Metaphors of adorning, crafting, water flowing downward, and growing sprouts appear in the Analects , the Mencius , and the Xunzi 荀子. They express and guide thinking about what there is in human nature to cultivate and how it is to be cultivated. The craft metaphor seems to imply that our nature is of the sort that must be disciplined and reshaped to achieve goodness, while the adorning, water, and sprout metaphors imply that human nature has an inbuilt directionality toward (...) the ethical that should be protected or nurtured. I argue that all the metaphors capture different aspects of human nature and how one must work with these aspects. There is much in contemporary psychology and neuroscience to suggest that the early Confucians were on the right track. It is also argued that they point to a fruitful conception of ethical development that is relational and holistic. (shrink)
During the past decade scientists, public policy analysts, politicians, and laypeople, have become increasingly aware of the importance of ethical conduct in scientific research. In this timely book, David B. Resnik introduces the reader to the ethical dilemmas and questions that arise in scientific research. Some of the issues addressed in the book include ethical decision-making, the goals and methods of science, and misconduct in science. The Ethics of Science also discusses significant case studies such as human and animal (...) cloning, the Challenger accident and Tobacco research. This is essential reading for anyone who wishes to understand the importance of ethics in science. (shrink)
Modern science is big business. Governments, universities, and corporations have invested billions of dollars in scientific and technological research in the hope of obtaining power and profit. For the most part, this investment has benefited science and society, leading to new discoveries, inventions, disciplines, specialties, jobs, and career opportunities. However, there is a dark side to the influx of money into science. Unbridled pursuit of financial gain in science can undermine scientific norms, such as objectivity, honesty, openness, respect for research (...) participants, and social responsibility. In The Price of Truth, David B. Resnik examines some of the important and difficult questions resulting from the financial and economic aspects of modern science. How does money affect scientific research? Have scientists become entrepreneurs bent on making money instead of investigators searching for the truth? How does the commercialization of research affect the public's perception of science? Can scientists prevent money from corrupting the research enterprise? What types of rules, polices, and guidelines should scientists adopt to prevent financial interests from adversely affecting research and the public's opinion of science? (shrink)
Do psychological traits predict philosophical views? We administered the PhilPapers Survey, created by David Bourget and David Chalmers, which consists of 30 views on central philosophical topics (e.g., epistemology, ethics, metaphysics, philosophy of mind, and philosophy of language) to a sample of professional philosophers (N = 314). We extended the PhilPapers survey to measure a number of psychological traits, such as personality, numeracy, well-being, lifestyle, and life experiences. We also included non-technical ‘translations’ of these views for eventual use (...) in other populations. We found limited to no support for the notion that personality or demographics predict philosophical views. We did, however, find that some psychological traits were predictive of philosophical views, even after strict correction for multiple comparisons. Findings include: higher interest in numeracy predicted physicalism, naturalism, and consequentialism; lower levels of well-being and higher levels of mental illness predicted hard determinism; using substances such as psychedelics and marijuana predicted non-realist and subjectivist views of morality and aesthetics; having had a transformative or self-transcendent experience predicted theism and idealism. We discuss whether or not these empirical results have philosophical implications, while noting that 68% of our sample of professional philosophers indicated that such findings would indeed have philosophical value. (shrink)
Environmental Health Ethics illuminates the conflicts between protecting the environment and promoting human health. In this study, David B. Resnik develops a method for making ethical decisions on environmental health issues. He applies this method to various issues, including pesticide use, antibiotic resistance, nutrition policy, vegetarianism, urban development, occupational safety, disaster preparedness and global climate change. Resnik provides readers with the scientific and technical background necessary to understand these issues. He explains that environmental health controversies cannot simply be reduced (...) to humanity versus environment and explores the ways in which human values and concerns - health, economic development, rights and justice - interact with environmental protection. (shrink)
Readers should be aware that the present author’s views are criticized in Moody-Adams’ book. Very few moral theorists escape criticism in this interesting alternative to relativist and realist approaches in contemporary ethical theory. Moody-Adams rejects the relativist claim that there are irresolvable moral disagreements, but does not rest that rejection on the idea of an independently existing moral reality. Indeed, she resolutely rejects attempts to explain moral differences based on the idea that some cultures have a lesser access to a (...) moral reality than others do. All cultures, she holds, have the same fundamental conceptual resources for moral reflection and debate. Such reflection and debate, she goes on to argue, is more a matter of interpretation of the common conceptual resources, rather than inquiry into the nature of an independently existing reality. In staking out such a position, she comes closest to Michael Walzer’s view that the main task of moral philosophy ought to be interpretation of existing tradition, and to Hilary Putnam’s rejection of both relativism and “metaphysical realism.”. (shrink)
David Annis is professor of philosophy at Ball State University. In this essay, Annis offers an alternative to the foundationalist-coherent controversy: "contextualism." This theory rejects both the idea of intrinsically basic beliefs in the foundational sense and the thesis that coherence is sufficient for justification. he argues that justification is relative to the varying norms of social practices.
Is the ancient Confucian ideal of he 和, ‘harmony,’ a viable ideal in pluralistic societies composed of people and groups who subscribe to different ideals of the good and moral life? Is harmony compatible with accepting, even encouraging, difference and the freedom to think differently? I start with seminal characterizations of harmony in Confucian texts and then aim to chart ways harmony and freedom can be compatible and even mutually supportive while recognizing the constant possibility of conflict between them. I (...) shall point out how the Confucian notion of harmony resonates with the Indian King Asoka's project of promoting religious pluralism. Along the way, I will make some comments of a ‘meta’ nature about the kind of interpretation I am offering of harmony in the Confucian texts and the use to which I am putting this interpretation by setting it in the context of societies that in important respects are quite different from the ones from which concepts of harmony originally emerged. (shrink)
This book provides a framework for approaching ethical and policy dilemmas in research with human subjects from the perspective of trust. It explains how trust is important not only between investigators and subjects but also between and among other stakeholders involved in the research enterprise, including research staff, sponsors, institutions, communities, oversight committees, government agencies, and the general public. The book argues that trust should be viewed as a distinct ethical principle for research with human subjects that complements other principles, (...) such as autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice. The book applies the principle of trust to numerous issues, including informed consent, confidentiality, risk minimization, risks and benefits, protection of vulnerable subjects, experimental design, research integrity, and research oversight.This work also includes discussions of the history of research involving human subjects, moral theories and principles, contemporary cases, and proposed regulatory reforms. The book is useful for undergraduate and graduate students studying ethical policy issues related to research with human subjects, as well as for scientists and scholars who are interested in thinking about this topic from the perspective of trust. (shrink)
Most early studies of consciousness have focused on human subjects. This is understandable, given that humans are capable of reporting accurately the events they experience through language or by way of other kinds of voluntary response. As researchers turn their attention to other animals, “accurate report” methodologies become increasingly difficult to apply. Alternative strategies for amassing evidence for consciousness in non-human species include searching for evolutionary homologies in anatomical substrates and measurement of physiological correlates of conscious states. In addition, creative (...) means must be developed for eliciting behaviors consistent with consciousness. In this paper, we explore whether necessary conditions for consciousness can be established for species as disparate as birds and cephalopods. We conclude that a strong case can be made for avian species and that the case for cephalopods remains open. Nonetheless, a consistent effort should yield new means for interpreting animal behavior. (shrink)
The fact that the names of biological species refer independently of identifying descriptions does not support the view of Ghiselin and Hull that species are individuals. Species may be regarded as natural kinds whose members share an essence which distinguishes them from the members of other species and accounts for the fact that they are reproductively isolated from the members of other species. Because evolutionary theory requires that species be spatiotemporally localized their names cannot occur in scientific laws. If natural (...) kind status is denied to species on this ground, it must also be denied to most classes of concrete entities which are now accorded such status. (shrink)
David Albert claims that classical electromagnetic theory is not time reversal invariant. He acknowledges that all physics books say that it is, but claims they are ``simply wrong" because they rely on an incorrect account of how the time reversal operator acts on magnetic fields. On that account, electric fields are left intact by the operator, but magnetic fields are inverted. Albert sees no reason for the asymmetric treatment, and insists that neither field should be inverted. I argue, to (...) the contrary, that the inversion of magnetic fields makes good sense and is, in fact, forced by elementary geometric considerations. I also suggest a way of thinking about the time reversal invariance of classical electromagnetic theory -- one that makes use of the invariant (four-dimensional) formulation of the theory -- that makes no reference to magnetic fields at all. It is my hope that it will be of interest in its own right, Albert aside. It has the advantage that it allows for arbitrary curvature in the background spacetime structure, and is therefore suitable for the framework of general relativity. (The only assumption one needs is temporal orientability.). (shrink)
Various U.S. laws, such as the Clean Air Act and the Food Quality Protection Act, require additional protections for susceptible subpopulations who face greater environmental health risks. The main ethical rationale for providing these protections is to ensure that environmental health risks are distributed fairly. In this article, we consider how several influential theories of justice deal with issues related to the distribution of environmental health risks; show that these theories often fail to provide specific guidance concerning policy choices; and (...) argue that an approach to public decision making known as accountability for reasonableness can complement theories of justice in establishing acceptable environmental health risks for the general population and susceptible subpopulations. Since accountability for reasonableness focuses on the fairness of the decision-making process, not the outcome, it does not guarantee that susceptible subpopulations will receive a maximum level of protection, regardless of costs or other morally relevant considerations. (shrink)
This essay analyzes the concept of public trust in science and offers some guidance for ethicists, scientists, and policymakers who use this idea defend ethical rules or policies pertaining to the conduct of research. While the notion that public trusts science makes sense in the abstract, it may not be sufficiently focused to support the various rules and policies that authors have tried to derive from it, because the public is not a uniform body with a common set of interests. (...) Well-focused arguments that use public trust to support rules or policies for the conduct of research should specify (a) which public is being referred to (e.g. the general public or a specific public, such as a particular community or group); (b) what this public expects from scientists; (c) how the rule or policy will ensure that these expectations are met; and (d) why is it important to meet these expectations. (shrink)
We become ill in ways our parents and grandparents did not, with diseases unheard of and treatments undreamed of generations ago. This text tells the story of the modern experience of illness, linking ideas of illness, health, and postmodernism.
Our contention is that all of the major arguments for abortion are also arguments for permitting infanticide. One cannot distinguish the fetus from the infant in terms of a morally significant intrinsic property, nor are they morally discernible in terms of standing in different relationships to others. The logic of our position is that if such arguments justify abortion, then they also justify infanticide. If we are right that infanticide is not justified, then such arguments will fail to justify abortion. (...) We respond to those philosophers who accept infanticide by putting forth a novel account of how the mindless can be wronged which serves to distinguish morally significant potential from morally irrelevant potential. This allows our account to avoid the standard objection that many entities possess a potential for personhood which we are intuitively under no obligation to further or protect. (shrink)
We propose an "explanation scheme" for why the Gibbs phase average technique in classical equilibrium statistical mechanics works. Our account emphasizes the importance of the Khinchin-Lanford dispersion theorems. We suggest that ergodicity does play a role, but not the one usually assigned to it.
John Norton has recently argued that Newtonian gravitation theory (at least as applied to cosmological contexts where one envisions the possibility of a homogeneous mass distribution throughout all of space) is inconsistent. I am not convinced. Traditional formulations of the theory may seem to break down in cases of the sort Norton considers. But the difficulties they face are only apparent. They are artifacts of the formulations themselves, and disappear if one passes to the so-called "geometrized" formulation of the theory.
In my contribution to the Symposium ("On the Vagaries of Determinism and Indeterminism"), I will identify several issues that arise in trying to decide whether Newtonian particle mechanics qualifies as a deterministic theory. I'll also give a mini-tutorial on the geometry and dynamical properties of Norton's dome surface. The goal is to better understand how his example works, and better appreciate just how wonderfully strange it is.
One reason why the Biological Approach to personal identity is attractive is that it doesn’t make its advocates deny that they were each once a mindless fetus.[i] According to the Biological Approach, we are essentially organisms and exist as long as certain life processes continue. Since the Psychological Account of personal identity posits some mental traits as essential to our persistence, not only does it follow that we could not survive in a permanently vegetative state or irreversible coma, but it (...) would appear that none of us was ever a mindless fetus. But what happens to the organism that was a mindless fetus when the _person_ arrives on the scene?[ii] Can the acquisition of thought destroy an organism? That would certainly be news to biologists. Does one organism cease to exist with the emergence of thought and another organism, one identical to the person, take its place? (Burke,1994) That doesn’t seem much more plausible than the previous move. Should identity and Leibniz. (shrink)
The Zhuangzi text deploys two epistemic themes to accomplish its ends of combatting human pretensions to know the world and to prompting us to rediscover the world through fresh eyes. To get us to shed our arrogant dispositions it applies a constructive skepticism to whatever it is that human beings claim to know. To point towards a more constructive relationship with Nature, it articulates the stance of being a mirror to nature. This essay will explain how the text does this (...) and relates its conceptions of skepticism and being as mirror to relevant contemporary science. (shrink)
Christopher Boorse is very skeptical of there being a pathocentric internal morality of medicine. Boorse argues that doctors have always engaged in activities other than healing, and so no internal morality of medicine can provide objections to euthanasia, contraception, sterilization, and other practices not aimed at fighting pathologies. Objections to these activities have to come from outside of medicine. I first argue that Boorse fails to appreciate that such widespread practices are compatible with medicine being essentially pathocentric. Then I contend (...) that the pathocentric essence, properly understood, does not prohibit physicians from engaging in actions that are not aimed at combating pathologies, but rather supports an internal morality of medicine that allows medical providers to refuse without penalty to engage in practices that promote pathologies. (shrink)