How should probabilities be interpreted in causal models in the social and health sciences? In this paper we take a step towards answering this question by investigating the case of cancer in epidemiology and arguing that the objective Bayesian interpretation is most appropriate in this domain.
We discuss the social-epistemic aspects of Catherine Elgin’s theory of reflective equilibrium and understanding and argue that it yields an argument for the view that a crucial social-epistemic function of epistemic authorities is to foster understanding in their communities. We explore the competences that enable epistemic authorities to fulfil this role and argue that among them is an epistemic virtue we call “epistemic empathy”.
BackgroundThe measures taken to contain the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic, such as the lockdown in Italy, do impact psychological health; yet, less is known about their effect on cognitive functioning. The transactional theory of stress predicts reciprocal influences between perceived stress and cognitive performance. However, the effects of a period of stress due to social isolation on spatial cognition and exploration have been little examined. The aim of the present study was to investigate the possible effects and impact of the (...) COVID-19 pandemic on spatial cognition tasks, particularly those concerning spatial exploration, and the physiological leftward bias known as pseudoneglect. A right-hemisphere asymmetry for spatial attention processes crucially contributes to pseudoneglect. Other evidence indicates a predominantly right-hemisphere activity in stressful situations. We also analyzed the effects of lockdown on coping strategies, which typically show an opposite pattern of hemispheric asymmetry, favoring the left hemisphere. If so, then pseudoneglect should increase during the lockdown and be negatively correlated with the efficacy of coping strategies.MethodsOne week before the start of the lockdown due to COVID-19 in Italy, we had collected data from a battery of behavioral tests including tasks of peri-personal spatial cognition. During the quarantine period, from late April to early May 2020, we repeated the testing sessions with a subgroup of the same participants. At both testing sessions, participants performed digitized neuropsychological tests, including a Cancellation task, Radial Arm Maze task, and Raven’s Advanced Progressive Matrices. Participants also completed a newly developed COVID-19 Student Stress Scale, based on transactional models of stress, and the Coping Orientation to Problems Experienced—New Italian Version to assess coping orientation.ResultsThe tendency to start cancelation from a left-sided item, to explore first a left-sided arm of the maze, and to choose erroneous response items on the left side of the page on Raven’s matrices increased from T1 to T2. The degree of pseudoneglect increment positively correlated with perceived stress and negatively correlated with Positive Attitude and Problem-Solving COPE-NIV subscales.ConclusionLockdown-related stress may have contributed to increase leftward bias during quarantine through a greater activation of the right hemisphere. On the other hand, pseudoneglect was decreased for better coping participants, perhaps as a consequence of a more balanced hemispheric activity in these individuals. (shrink)
The anti-causal prophecies of last century have been disproved. Causality is neither a ‘relic of a bygone’ nor ‘another fetish of modern science’; it still occupies a large part of the current debate in philosophy and the sciences. This investigation into causal modelling presents the rationale of causality, i.e. the notion that guides causal reasoning in causal modelling. It is argued that causal models are regimented by a rationale of variation, nor of regularity neither invariance, thus breaking down the dominant (...) Human paradigm. The notion of variation is shown to be embedded in the scheme of reasoning behind various causal models: e.g. Rubin’s model, contingency tables, and multilevel analysis. It is also shown to be latent – yet fundamental – in many philosophical accounts. Moreover, it has significant consequences for methodological issues: the warranty of the causal interpretation of causal models, the levels of causation, the characterisation of mechanisms, and the interpretation of probability. This book offers a novel philosophical and methodological approach to causal reasoning in causal modelling and provides the reader with the tools to be up to date about various issues causality rises in social science. (shrink)
Causal claims in biomedical contexts are ubiquitous albeit they are not always made explicit. This paper addresses the question of what causal claims mean in the context of disease. It is argued that in medical contexts causality ought to be interpreted according to the epistemic theory. The epistemic theory offers an alternative to traditional accounts that cash out causation either in terms of “difference-making” relations or in terms of mechanisms. According to the epistemic approach, causal claims tell us about which (...) inferences (e.g., diagnoses and prognoses) are appropriate, rather than about the presence of some physical causal relation analogous to distance or gravitational attraction. It is shown that the epistemic theory has important consequences for medical practice, in particular with regard to evidence-based causal assessment. (shrink)
In both scientific and popular circles it is often said that we are in the midst of a sixth mass extinction. Although the urgency of our present environmental crises is not in doubt, such claims of a present mass extinction are highly controversial scientifically. Our aims are, first, to get to the bottom of this scientific debate by shedding philosophical light on the many conceptual and methodological challenges involved in answering this scientific question, and, second, to offer new philosophical perspectives (...) on what the value of asking this question has been — and whether that value persists today. We show that the conceptual challenges in defining ‘mass extinction’, uncertainties in past and present diversity assessments, and data incommensurabilities undermine a straightforward answer to the question of whether we are in, or entering, a sixth mass extinction today. More broadly we argue that an excessive focus on the mass extinction framing can be misleading for present conservation efforts and may lead us to miss out on the many other valuable insights that Earth’s deep time can offer in guiding our future. (shrink)
In questo lavoro intendo confrontare le posizioni di Searle e Dennett nell’ambito della teoria della mente con la teoria husserliana della coscienza. Mostrerò come questi autori modifichino la nozione fenomenologica di intenzionalità, trasformandola in un modello di descrizione in “terza persona”. Tale cambiamento ha conseguenze problematiche riguardanti la distinzione fra un atto mentale e il suo contenuto e la conseguente critica alla teoria rappresentazionale della mente; l’argomento del teatro cartesiano, quello dell’omuncolo e lo smantellamento della nozione di soggettività; il rifiuto (...) dell’inconscio. Mostrerò come le concezioni di Searle e Dennett nascano da un concetto contraddittorio di riduzionismo, implicito anche negli sviluppi della “fenomenologia naturalizzata” e della neurofenomenologia. Queste difficoltà non si possono risolvere adattando o applicando il metodo fenomenologico alle scienze cognitive, né tornando semplicemente alla teoria husserliana. Bisogna invece individuare i problemi specifici affrontabili fenomenologicamente all’interno di un contesto scientifico: per esempio, la struttura temporale della coscienza e la questione dei contenuti inconsci della mente. (shrink)
We argue that the health sciences make causal claims on the basis of evidence both of physical mechanisms, and of probabilistic dependencies. Consequently, an analysis of causality solely in terms of physical mechanisms or solely in terms of probabilistic relationships, does not do justice to the causal claims of these sciences. Yet there seems to be a single relation of cause in these sciences - pluralism about causality will not do either. Instead, we maintain, the health sciences require a theory (...) of causality that unifies its mechanistic and probabilistic aspects. We argue that the epistemic theory of causality provides the required unification. (shrink)
The Thing about Thugs a novel by Tabish Khair set between London and the Indian region of Bihar, the end of 1830’s and contemporary age, reflects on the relationship regarding the transmission of knowledge and the construction of the colonial criminal. I investigate how Khair, in his neo-Victorian and postcolonial novel, recalls canonical works of Victorian Literature in which thugs, together with other spectral, haunting figures, enter British territory to tell a different version of the official stories, to change the (...) course of the events and uncover truths regarding things happened overseas, during British colonial adventures. Starting from Meadows Taylor’s “Confessions of a Thug”, to which the novel is strictly connected, it will be interesting to follow Khair’s itinerary across the different narratives of the Thug’s symbolic, political and social meanings in mid- and late Victorian times, from Dickens’s "The Mystery of Edwin Drood” to Wilkie Collins’s “The Moonstone” and Conan Doyle’s “The Sign of Four” and “The Mystery of Cloomber”. (shrink)
From an institutional perspective we contribute to corporate governance of firms by proposing a procedurally fair mechanism that is ethically desirable, and experimentally testing whether procedural fairness crowds-in ethical behavior of managers and workers. The experiment sees one ‘manager’ and three ‘workers’ co-determining an efficiency-enhancing investment which could harm some workers. Firstly, the manager claims a share of the investment surplus, then workers ‘bid’ for the investment to express their willingness to satisfy the manager’s claim in case the investment is (...) implemented. If the sum of workers’ bids is less than the manager’s claim, the investment is not implementable, which means its surplus will be lost. Workers’ behavior is ‘ethical’ when they veto unfair managerial claims, because the workers have to sacrifice own earnings. Hence, a manager’s fair claim is the ethical response to the threat of workers’ veto. If the manager claims fairly, workers’ ethical behavior is to ‘truthfully’ bid their investment evaluations; by all doing so, they equally share whatever surplus the manager has left for them. The experimental results show ethical behavior of managers in the form of fair claims. Despite these fair claims, workers behave less ethically by strategically underbidding. So the procedurally fair mechanism only partially crowds-in ethical behavior. This study should interest theorists of stakeholder management, especially those engaged in designing the rules of corporate governance. (shrink)
In this book I address the widely debated topic of the legitimacy of democratic decisions showing that the traditional concept of the legitimacy of political authority developed by liberal theories involves dilemmatic outcomes. In order to solve this intrinsic tension of the liberal model of legitimacy, I argue that the legitimacy of political decisions must be granted with a two steps strategy that involves both ideal and non-ideal analysis. Starting from the models developed by John Rawls and Gerald Gaus, I (...) build up my own paradigm, claiming that, pace Rawls, it is not possible to do away with an epistemic analysis of the actual circumstances of justification. I look at the epistemology of disagreement literature in order to build up an epistemic and procedural framework in which it could be shown that disagreement is not a practical obstacle that prevents participants from agreeing on virtually correct solutions; rather, it is exactly in virtue of the fact of disagreement that democracy is the best method for collective decisions. The heart of this proposal is that given certain epistemic circumstances (i.e. pervasive disagreement due to an opaque appraisal of evidence), it is possible to argue that participants within a collective decision-making setting should refer to each other as epistemic peers. This normative request inherits its value from a shared understanding of persons as being on an equal footing and capable of reasoning powers. This reading of political equality implies two related features of peerhood. One is the proceduralist tenet that equality is a non-instrumental value that should be expressed by the fact that any voice, in the political arena, should be given equal weight. The second is the idea that, assumed the fact of pluralism, citizens should be ready to share both practical and epistemic authority while publicly debating over evaluative matters. In the second part of the book I argue that democratic procedures of decision-making, in order to actually respect members of society as equal peers, and in the attempt to solve the dilemmatic outcomes of public reason models of legitimacy, should look at political agreements achieved through compromise rather than consensus. In fact, an overly idealized approach to collective-choice procedures may lose track of actual decision-making processes (lack of guidance). Moreover, seeking consensus, through the establishment of deliberative standards that some individuals or groups have less opportunities than others to fulfil may engender exclusion and inequality (lack of inclusion). Accordingly, I suggest that deliberative constraints should be loosened to include partisan and interested claims and to pursue principled compromises rather than consensual agreement. According to the model of legitimacy I defend, a normative account of democracy cannot rely on standards that could be only applied in an ideal context, otherwise this attempt will be doomed to fail in two ways: 1) delegitimizing actual democratic decision-making processes and 2) undermining the actual possibility to implement decisions reached through deliberation in real contexts. (shrink)
This book systematically addresses the issue of assessing the normative nature of visions of emerging technologies in an epistemologically robust way. In the context of democratic governance of emerging technologies, not only it is important to reflect on technologies' moral significance, but also to address their emerging and future oriented character. The book proposes an original approach to deal with the issue of "plausible" ethical evaluation of new technologies. Taking its start from current debates about Technology Assessment, the proposed solution (...) emerges as a combination of theoretical and methodological insights from the fields of Philosophy of Technology, Science and Technology Studies and a normative justification based on pragmatist ethics. The book's main contribution is to engage a diverse and interdisciplinary audience (ethicists, philosophers, social scientists, technology assessment researchers and practitioners) in a reflection concerning the epistemological challenges that are associated to the endeavour of appraising the moral significance of emerging technologies in the attempt of democratically governing them. It brings together concepts and methodologies from different disciplines and shows their synergy in applying them to two specific case studies of emerging biomedical technologies. (shrink)
To deal with the question about the ethic monitoring of the Brain Interfaces Machine this article analyses the potential impact of BMI on the conditions which guarantee a status of personal identity, by re-discussing some crucial points of the philosophical debate about the human being related to the ways of improving these BMI systems. It is under discussion the matter of the autonomy of human beings related to mutual control between humans and machines in BMI systems.
Die traditionelle Erkenntnistheorie beschäftigte sich vor allem mit drei großen Fragen. (i) Was ist Wissen? (ii) Ist Wissen möglich und in welchen Bereichen und in welchem Umfang können wir es, wenn überhaupt, erwerben? (iii) Was sind die Quellen des Wissens, und spielen womöglich einige von ihnen (etwa Wahrnehmung oder Introspektion) eine besondere Rolle für die Fundierung epistemischer Systeme? Neben der Einbeziehung sozialer Wissensquellen in die Behandlung von Frage (iii) ist in den letzten zwei Jahrzehnten auch ein weiteres Thema in den (...) Fokus erkenntnistheoretischer Debatten gerückt. Wir streben nach Wissen und versuchen, es zu erhalten und zu vermehren. Wenn wir einer Person Wissen zuschreiben, so schwingen außerdem oft Anerkennung, gar Lob oder Bewunderung mit, Einstellungen, die wir Überzeugungen, die kein Wissen sind, vielfach versagen. Nicht zuletzt die anhaltende Beschäftigung der Philosophie selbst seit Platon mit den Fragen (i) bis (iii) scheint zu zeigen, dass wir Wissen als ein wertvolles Gut betrachten. Eine weitere wichtige epistemologische Frage lautet daher (iv): Worin liegt der besondere Wert des Wissens? (shrink)
Social and cultural contexts influence power dynamics and shape gender perceptions, roles, and decisions regarding the management of agrobiodiversity for dealing with and adapting to climate change. Based on a feminist political ecology framework and a mixed method approach, this research performs an empirical analysis of two case studies in the northern of India, one in the Himalayan Mountains and another in the Indian-Gangetic plains. It explores context-specific influence of gender roles and responsibilities on on-farm agrobiodiversity management gendered expertise and (...) knowledge related to agrobiodiversity and gendered preferences for practices and institutional arrangements for agrobiodiversity conservation linked to adaptation to climate change. In the Himalayan mountains women actively participate in crop and seed management decisions and tasks, and maintain informal institutions for seed and services exchanges in the case of crisis, which simultaneously favours high levels of agrobiodiversity and enhances women’s social status. By contrast, in the Indio-Gangetic plains, where women from better-off households are socially secluded and women from poorer households work mainly as labourer to respond to high out-migration of men, they exercise less public control over agrobiodiversity, with their role being mainly invisible at the homestead and related to post-production tasks. We finally discuss as improved understanding of the links between gendered spaces, crops, tasks, social status, and agrobiodiversity management can facilitate the design of gender-sensitive policy interventions for conservation and adaptation to climate change. (shrink)
Testimony spreads information. It is also commonly agreed that it can transfer knowledge. Whether it can work as an epistemic source of understanding is a matter of dispute. However, testimony certainly plays a pivotal role in the proliferation of understanding in the epistemic community. But how exactly do we learn, and how do we make advancements in understanding on the basis of one another’s words? And what can we do to maximize the probability that the process of acquiring understanding from (...) one another succeeds? These are very important questions in our current epistemological landscape, especially in light of the attention that has been paid to understanding as an epistemic achievement of purely epistemic value. Somewhat surprisingly, the recent literature in social epistemology does not offer much on the topic. The overarching aim of this paper is to provide a tentative model of understanding that goes in-depth enough to safely address the question of how understanding and testimony are related to one another. The hope is to contribute, in some measure, to the effort to understand understanding, and to explain two facts about our epistemic practices: the fact that knowledge and understanding relate differently to testimony, and the fact that some pieces of testimonial information are better than others for the sake of providing one with understanding and of yielding advancements in one’s epistemic standing. (shrink)
Causal analysis in the social sciences takes advantage of a variety of methods and of a multi-fold source of information and evidence. This pluralistic methodology and source of information raises the question of whether we should accordingly have a pluralistic metaphysics and epistemology. This paper focuses on epistemology and argues that a pluralistic methodology and evidence dont entail a pluralistic epistemology. It will be shown that causal models employ a single rationale of testing, based on the notion of variation. Further, (...) I shall argue that this monistic epistemology is also involved in alternative philosophical theories of causation. (shrink)
Scientific and philosophical literature on causality has become highly specialised. It is hard to find suitable access points for students, young researchers, or professionals outside this domain. This book provides a guide to the complex literature, explains the scientific problems of causality and the philosophical tools needed to address them.
Mobile applications are increasingly regarded as important tools for an integrated strategy of infection containment in post-lockdown societies around the globe. This paper discusses a number of questions that should be addressed when assessing the ethical challenges of mobile applications for digital contact-tracing of COVID-19: Which safeguards should be designed in the technology? Who should access data? What is a legitimate role for “Big Tech” companies in the development and implementation of these systems? How should cultural and behavioural issues be (...) accounted for in the design of these apps? Should use of these apps be compulsory? What does transparency and ethical oversight mean in this context? We demonstrate that responses to these questions are complex and contingent and argue that if digital contract-tracing is used, then it should be clear that this is on a trial basis and its use should be subject to independent monitoring and evaluation. (shrink)
This book engages directly in close readings of technical texts and computer code in order to show how software works. It offers an analysis of the cultural, political, and philosophical implications of software technologies that demonstrates the significance of software for the relationship between technology, philosophy, culture, and society.
Can we gain understanding from testifiers who themselves fail to understand? At first glance, this looks counterintuitive. How could a hearer who has no understanding or very poor understanding of a certain subject matter non-accidentally extract items of information relevant to understanding from a speaker’s testimony if the speaker does not understand what she is talking about? This paper shows that, when there are theories or representational devices working as mediators, speakers can intentionally generate understanding in their hearers by engaging (...) in relevant speech acts without understanding the topic of these speech acts themselves. More specifically, I argue that testifiers can intentionally elicit understanding of empirical phenomena in their hearers even if they themselves lack such understanding – granted that they properly understood the epistemic mediators involved. (shrink)
Can we transmit understanding via testimony in more or less the same way in which we transmit knowledge? The standard view in social epistemology has a straightforward answer: no, we cannot. Three arguments supporting the standard view have been formulated so far. The first appeals to the claim that gaining understanding requires a greater cognitive effort than acquiring testimonial knowledge does. The second appeals to a certain type of epistemic trust that is supposedly characteristic of knowledge transmission (and maybe of (...) the transmission of epistemic goods in general) and that is allegedly incompatible with understanding. The third aims to show that there is a certain aspect of understanding (what epistemologists these days like to call “grasping”) that cannot be passed on to another person via testimony alone. In this article, I show that all of these arguments can be resisted. Thus, there seem to be no compelling reasons to embrace the standard view. (shrink)
This paper deals with causal analysis in the social sciences. We first present a conceptual framework according to which causal analysis is based on a rationale of variation and invariance, and not only on regularity. We then develop a formal framework for causal analysis by means of structural modelling. Within this framework we approach causality in terms of exogeneity in a structural conditional model based which is based on (i) congruence with background knowledge, (ii) invariance under a large variety of (...) environmental changes, and (iii) model fit. We also tackle the issue of confounding and show how latent confounders can play havoc with exogeneity. This framework avoids making untestable metaphysical claims about causal relations and yet remains useful for cognitive and action-oriented goals. (shrink)
Structural realism à-la-Worrall is the view that inasmuch as our scientific theories provide us with (partially) adequate descriptions of an objective and independent reality, they do so by shedding light on the way this reality is in itself structured, and not on the so-called nature of existing objects. This position seems to imply that there is something about reality that lies beyond our grasp. I will reconstruct and shed new light onto Worrall’s position and show that, contrary to how it (...) might appear at first sight, its allegedly negative, or pessimist stance has a positive side: by placing a constraint on our (theoretically mediated) knowledge, structural realism might tell us something relevant about the nature and functioning of our scientific understanding of the world. The paper is divided in three parts. The first part is devoted to a brief reconstruction of Worrall’s position. In the second part, I propose a new reading of the position in question by uncovering, highlighting and developing its epistemological consequences. In the last part, I investigate and scrutinize the connection between understanding and structures. The overall aim is to show how Worrall’s structural realism, especially in the reading I am proposing here, may provide us with a plausible explanation of the epistemic value of past and actual scientific theories. (shrink)
Wir Menschen streben danach, die Wirklichkeit zu verstehen. Eine Welt, die wir gut verstehen, ist eine, die wir "im Griff" haben, mit der wir gut umgehen können. Aber was heißt es genau, ein Phänomen der Wirklichkeit zu verstehen? Wie sieht unser Weltbild aus, wenn wir ein Phänomen verstanden haben? Welche Bedingungen müssen erfüllt sein, damit Verstehen gelingt? Die Kernthese des Buches ist, dass wir Phänomene der Wirklichkeit durch noetische Integration verstehen. Wir verstehen Phänomene, indem wir den entsprechenden Informationseinheiten eine sinnvolle (...) und angemessene Position in unserem Weltbild zuschreiben und insofern unser Weltbild in gewissem Maße der Wirklichkeit entspricht. (shrink)
C’è una tensione all’interno del sistema di Quine: il suo realismo ci porta a credere che la realtà debba essere così come le nostre migliori teorie dicono che sia, ma i suoi assunti semantici – cioè la sua maniera di concepire le dinamiche del significare e del riferirsi ad oggetti – ci gettano in uno stato di incertezza radicale attorno a ciò che vale come oggetto delle nostre teorie. Questo libro si propone di allentare tale tensione, scandagliando il dominio di (...) questa incertezza e mettendone in luce i confini, con il fine di mostrare come la forma di realismo più consona a Quine sia un realismo che guardi non ad oggetti singolarmente denotati da termini, ma alla maniera in cui gli oggetti sono interrelati, alle strutture che in sistemi di oggetti sono realizzate. (shrink)
The multi-faceted notion of _politeia_ as a lens on Aristotle’s ideas about politics and history is the organizing focus of this monograph in _Araucaria_ which unites essays by philosophers, historians and political theorists. What issues are focused on? The historical qualities of the research on the _politeiai _in relation to the Aristotelian judgement on history ; the use of the _politeiai_ as _paradeigmata_ for the correction of the existing regimes and for the creation of new ones by lawgivers and politicians, (...) be they real models or theoretical elaborations ; the method of Aristotelian research on the _politeiai_ ; Aristotle’s ethical reflection on the principles that give unity and stability to the _politeia_, in particular the democratic ones and, finally, Aristotle’s analysis on a pragmatic way to settle the problem of _stasis _with political means. (shrink)
Scientific realism, roughly, is the view that successful scientific theories are (at least partially or approximately) true. Is this the most reasonable stance to assume towards science? The no-miracle argument says it is: the stunning empirical success of our scientific theories is in need of an explanation, and (partial or approximate) truth seems to be the best explanation that we have at hand. The aim of this paper is to briefly reconstruct the trajectory of the success–to–truth inference, to critically analyse (...) it in its latest formulation, and to sketch a possible way to go in order to make it a safer inference. (shrink)
Mobile health is rapidly being implemented and changing our ways of doing, understanding and organising healthcare. mHealth includes wearable devices as well as apps that track fitness, offer wellness programmes or provide tools to manage chronic conditions. According to industry and policy makers, these systems offer efficient and cost-effective solutions for disease prevention and self-management. While this development raises many ethically relevant questions, so far mHealth has received only little attention in medical ethics. This paper provides an overview of bioethical (...) issues raised by mHealth and aims to draw scholarly attention to the ethical significance of its promises and challenges. We show that the overly positive promises of mHealth need to be nuanced and their desirability critically assessed. Finally, we offer suggestions to bioethicists to engage with this emerging trend in healthcare to develop mHealth to its best potential in a morally sound way. (shrink)
Critical Data Studies explore the unique cultural, ethical, and critical challenges posed by Big Data. Rather than treat Big Data as only scientifically empirical and therefore largely neutral phenomena, CDS advocates the view that Big Data should be seen as always-already constituted within wider data assemblages. Assemblages is a concept that helps capture the multitude of ways that already-composed data structures inflect and interact with society, its organization and functioning, and the resulting impact on individuals’ daily lives. CDS questions the (...) many assumptions about Big Data that permeate contemporary literature on information and society by locating instances where Big Data may be naively taken to denote objective and transparent informational entities. In this introduction to the Big Data & Society CDS special theme, we briefly describe CDS work, its orientations, and principles. (shrink)
In recent years, several authors have argued that the desirability of novel technologies should be assessed early, when they are still emerging. Such an ethical assessment of emerging technologies is by definition focused on an elusive object. Usually promises, expectations, and visions of the technology are taken as a starting point. As Nordmann and Rip have pointed out in a recent article, however, ethicists should not take for granted the plausibility of such expectations and visions. In this paper, we explore (...) how the quality of expectations on emerging technologies might be assessed when engaging in a reflection on the desirability of emerging technologies. We propose that an assessment of expectations’ plausibility should focus on statements on technological feasibility, societal usability, and desirability of the expected technology. Whereas the feasibility statement and, to a lesser extent, the usability statements are frequently quite futuristic, the claims on desirability, by contrast, often display a conservative stance towards the future. Assessing the quality of expectations and visions on behalf of emerging technologies requires, then, a careful and well-directed use of both skepticism and imagination. We conclude with a brief overview of the tools and methods ethicists could use to assess claims made on behalf of emerging technologies and improve the ethical reflection on them. (shrink)