Lloyd (2009) contends that climate models are confirmed by various instances of fit between their output and observational data. The present paper argues that what these instances of fit might confirm are not climate models themselves, but rather hypotheses about the adequacy of climate models for particular purposes. This required shift in thinking—from confirming climate models to confirming their adequacy-for-purpose—may sound trivial, but it is shown to complicate the evaluation of climate models considerably, both in principle and in practice.
An empirical study of people's intuitions about freedom of the will. We show that people tend to have compatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more concrete, emotional way but that they tend to have incompatiblist intuitions when they think about the problem in a more abstract, cognitive way.
Williams (1970) argues that our intuitions about personal identity vary depending on how a given thought experiment is framed. Some frames lead us to think that persistence of self requires persistence of one's psychological characteristics; other frames lead us to think that the self persists even after the loss of one's distinctive psychological characteristics. The current paper takes an empirical approach to these issues. We find that framing does affect whether or not people judge that persistence of psychological characteristics is (...) required for persistence of self. Open-ended, abstract questions about what is required for survival tend to elicit responses that appeal to the importance of psychological characteristics. This emphasis on psychological characteristics is largely preserved even when participants are exposed to a concrete case that yields conflicting intuitions over whether memory must be preserved in order for a person to persist. Insofar as our philosophical theory of personal identity should be based on our intuitions, the results provide some support for the view that psychological characteristics really are critical for persistence of self. (shrink)
A number of recent discussions comparing computer simulation and traditional experimentation have focused on the significance of “materiality.” I challenge several claims emerging from this work and suggest that computer simulation studies are material experiments in a straightforward sense. After discussing some of the implications of this material status for the epistemology of computer simulation, I consider the extent to which materiality (in a particular sense) is important when it comes to making justified inferences about target systems on the basis (...) of experimental results. (shrink)
Realizing the benefits of translating psychiatric genomics research into mental health care is not straightforward. The translation process gives rise to ethical challenges that are distinctive from challenges posed within psychiatric genomics research itself, or that form part of the delivery of clinical psychiatric genetics services. This article outlines and considers three distinct ethical concerns posed by the process of translating genomic research into frontline psychiatric practice and policy making. First, the genetic essentialism that is commonly associated with the genomics (...) revolution in health care might inadvertently exacerbate stigma towards people with mental disorders. Secondly, the promises of genomic medicine advance a narrative of individual empowerment. This narrative could promote a fatalism towards patients' biology in ways that function in practice to undermine patients' agency and autonomy, or, alternatively, a heightened sense of subjective genetic responsibility could become embedded within mental health services that leads to psychosocial therapeutic approaches and the clinician-patient therapeutic alliance being undermined. Finally, adopting a genomics-focused approach to public mental health risks shifting attention away from the complex causal relationships between inequitable socio-economic, political, and cultural structures and negative mental health outcomes. The article concludes by outlining a number of potential pathways for future ethics research that emphasizes the importance of examining appropriate translation mechanisms, the complementarity between genetic and psychosocial models of mental disorder, the implications of genomic information for the clinician-patient relationship, and funding priorities and resource allocation decision making in mental health. (shrink)
The question of whether AI systems such as robots can or should be afforded moral agency or patiency is not one amenable either to discovery or simple reasoning, because we as societies constantly reconstruct our artefacts, including our ethical systems. Consequently, the place of AI systems in society is a matter of normative, not descriptive ethics. Here I start from a functionalist assumption, that ethics is the set of behaviour that maintains a society. This assumption allows me to exploit the (...) theoretical biology of sociality and autonomy to explain our moral intuitions. From this grounding I extend to consider possible ethics for maintaining either human- or of artefact-centred societies. I conclude that while constructing AI systems as either moral agents or patients is possible, neither is desirable. In particular, I argue that we are unlikely to construct a coherent ethics in which it it is ethical to afford AI moral subjectivity. We are therefore obliged not to build AI we are obliged to. (shrink)
Throughout the 20th century, an enormous amount of intellectual fuel was spent debating the merits of a class of skeptical arguments which purport to show that knowledge of the external world is not possible. These arguments, whose origins can be traced back to Descartes, played an important role in the work of some of the leading philosophers of the 20th century, including Russell, Moore and Wittgenstein, and they continue to engage the interest of contemporary philosophers. (e.g., Cohen 1999, DeRose 1995, (...) Hill 1996, Klein 1981, Lewis 1996, McGinn 1993, Nozick 1981, Schiffer 1996, Unger 1975, Williams 1996) Typically, these arguments make use of one or more premises which the philosophers proposing them take to be intuitively obvious. Beyond an appeal to intuition, little or no defense is offered, and in many cases it is hard to see what else could be said in support of these premises. A number of authors have suggested that the intuitions undergirding these skeptical arguments are universal – shared by everyone (or almost everyone) who thinks reflectively about knowledge. In this paper we will offer some evidence indicating that they are far from universal. Rather, the evidence suggests that many of the intuitions epistemologists invoke vary with the cultural background, socioeconomic status and educational background of the person offering the intuition. And this, we will argue, is bad news for the skeptical arguments that rely on those intuitions. The evidence may also be bad news for skepticism itself – not because it shows that skepticism is false, but rather because, if we accept one prominent account of the link between epistemic intuitions and epistemic concepts, it indicates that skepticism may be much less interesting and much less worrisome than philosophers have taken it to be. (shrink)
Conferring legal personhood on purely synthetic entities is a very real legal possibility, one under consideration presently by the European Union. We show here that such legislative action would be morally unnecessary and legally troublesome. While AI legal personhood may have some emotional or economic appeal, so do many superficially desirable hazards against which the law protects us. We review the utility and history of legal fictions of personhood, discussing salient precedents where such fictions resulted in abuse or incoherence. We (...) conclude that difficulties in holding “electronic persons” accountable when they violate the rights of others outweigh the highly precarious moral interests that AI legal personhood might protect. (shrink)
This article identifies conditions under which robust predictive modeling results have special epistemic significance---related to truth, confidence, and security---and considers whether those conditions hold in the context of present-day climate modeling. The findings are disappointing. When today’s climate models agree that an interesting hypothesis about future climate change is true, it cannot be inferred---via the arguments considered here anyway---that the hypothesis is likely to be true or that scientists’ confidence in the hypothesis should be significantly increased or that a claim (...) to have evidence for the hypothesis is now more secure. (shrink)
Julian Savulescu argues for two principles of reproductive ethics: reproductive autonomy and procreative beneficence, where the principle of procreative beneficence is conceptualised in terms of a duty to have the child, of the possible children that could be had, who will have the best opportunity of the best life. Were it to be accepted, this principle would have significant implications for the ethics of reproductive choice and, in particular, for the use of prenatal testing and other reproductive technologies for the (...) avoidance of disability, and for enhancement. In this paper, it is argued that this principle should be rejected, and it is concluded that while potential parents do have important obligations in relation to the foreseeable lives of their future children, these obligations are not best captured in terms of a duty to have the child with the best opportunity of the best life. (shrink)
To study Earth’s climate, scientists now use a variety of computer simulation models. These models disagree in some of their assumptions about the climate system, yet they are used together as complementary resources for investigating future climatic change. This paper examines and defends this use of incompatible models. I argue that climate model pluralism results both from uncertainty concerning how to best represent the climate system and from difficulties faced in evaluating the relative merits of complex models. I describe how (...) incompatible climate models are used together in ‘multi-model ensembles’ and explain why this practice is reasonable, given scientists’ inability to identify a ‘best’ model for predicting future climate. Finally, I characterize climate model pluralism as involving both an ontic competitive pluralism and a pragmatic integrative pluralism. (shrink)
Philosophical theorizing is often, either tacitly or explicitly, guided by intuitions about cases. Theories that accord with our intuitions are generally considered to be prima facie better than those that do not. However, recent empirical work has suggested that philosophically significant intuitions are variable and unstable in a number of ways. This variability of intuitions has led naturalistically inclined philosophers to disparage the practice of relying on intuitions for doing philosophy in general (e.g. Stich & Weinberg 2001) and for doing (...) moral philosophy in particular (Appiah 2008; Doris & Stich 2005; Horowitz 1998; Nadelhoffer & Feltz 2008; Sinnott Armstrong 2008). In this paper, we will draw on naturalistic considerations to offer some solace to philosophers who rely on intuitions. We wouldn’t call this a defense of intuitions, exactly, since we are sympathetic with much of the naturalists’ critique. But we want to introduce into the debate some neglected naturalistic reasons to be optimistic about intuitions, focusing especially on ethical intuitions. (shrink)
Over the last 20 years, a number of central figures in moral philosophy have defended some version of moral rationalism, the idea that morality is based on reason or rationality (e.g., Gewirth 1978, Darwall 1983, Nagel 1970, 1986, Korsgaard 1986, Singer 1995; Smith 1994, 1997). According to rationalism, morality is based on reason or rationality rather than the emotions or cultural idiosyncrasies, and this has seemed to many to be the best way of securing a kind of objectivism about moral (...) claims. Consider the following representative statements. (shrink)
Although linguistic nativism has received the bulk of attention in contemporary innateness debates, moral nativism has perhaps an even deeper ancestry. If linguistic nativism is Cartesian, moral nativism is Platonic. Moral nativism has taken a backseat to linguistic nativism in contemporary discussions largely because Chomsky made a case for linguistic nativism characterized by unprecedented rigor. Hence it is not surprising that recent attempts to revive the thesis that we have innate moral knowledge have drawn on Chomsky’s framework. I’ll argue, however, (...) that the recent attempts to use Chomsky-style arguments in support of innate moral knowledge are uniformly unconvincing. The central argument in the Chomskian arsenal, of course, is the Poverty of the Stimulus (POS) argument. In section 1, I will set out the basic form of the POS argument and the conclusions about domain specificity and innate propositional knowledge that are supposed to follow. In section 2, I’ll distinguish 3 hypotheses about innateness and morality: rule nativism, moral principle nativism, and moral judgment nativism. In sections 3-5 I’ll then consider each of these hypotheses in turn. I’ll argue that while there is some reason to favor rule nativism, the arguments that moral principles and moral judgment derive from innate moral knowledge don’t work. The capacity for moral judgment is better explained by appeal to innate affective systems rather than innate moral knowledge. In the final section, I’ll suggest that the role of such affective mechanisms in structuring the mind complicates the standard picture about poverty of the stimulus arguments and nativism. For the affective mechanisms that influence cognitive structures can make contributions that are neither domain general nor domain specific. (shrink)
Evidence from experimental philosophy indicates that people think that their choices are not determined. What remains unclear is why people think this. Denying determinism is rather presumptuous given people’s general ignorance about the nature of the universe. In this paper, I’ll argue that the belief in indeterminism depends on a default presumption that we know the factors that influence our decision making. That presumption was reasonable at earlier points in intellectual history. But in light of work in cognitive science, we (...) are no longer justified in sustaining the presupposition that we know what influences our choices. As a result, I’ll suggest, our belief in indeterminist choice is unjustified. (shrink)
Recent work has defended “Euclidean” theories of set size, in which Cantor’s Principle (two sets have equally many elements if and only if there is a one-to-one correspondence between them) is abandoned in favor of the Part-Whole Principle (if A is a proper subset of B then A is smaller than B). It has also been suggested that Gödel’s argument for the unique correctness of Cantor’s Principle is inadequate. Here we see from simple examples, not that Euclidean theories of set (...) size are wrong, but that they must be either very weak and narrow or largely arbitrary and misleading. (shrink)
Mary Parker Follett was a feminist-pragmatist American philosopher, a social-settlement worker, a founding figure in the community centers movement, a mediator of labor disputes, and a theorist of political and social organization and management. I argue that she is a model for a certain kind of public philosopher, and I unpack the respects in which she serves as such a model. I emphasize both her virtues as a public thinker and the role played in her work by the process (...) of integration and the creative process. (shrink)
Do you know you are not being massively deceived by an evil demon? That is a familiar skeptical challenge. Less familiar is this question: How do you have a conception of knowledge on which the evil demon constitutes a prima facie challenge? Recently several philosophers have suggested that our responses to skeptical scenarios can be explained in terms of heuristics and biases. We offer an alternative explanation, based in learning theory. We argue that, given the evidence available to the learner, (...) it would be rational for the learner to infer an infallibilist conception of knowledge. (shrink)
Solar radiation management is a form of geoengineering that involves the intentional manipulation of solar radiation with the aim of reducing global average temperature. This paper explores what precaution implies about the status of solar radiation management. It is argued that any form of solar radiation management that poses threats of catastrophe cannot constitute an appropriate precautionary measure against another threat of catastrophe, namely climate change. Research of solar radiation management is appropriate on a precautionary view only insofar as such (...) research aims to identify whether any forms of solar radiation management could be implemented without creating new or exacerbating existing threats of catastrophe. (shrink)
How obliged can we be to AI, and how much danger does it pose us? A surprising proportion of our society holds exaggerated fears or hopes for AI, such as the fear of robot world conquest, or the hope that AI will indefinitely perpetuate our cul- ture. These misapprehensions are symptomatic of a larger problem—a confusion about the nature and origins of ethics and its role in society. While AI technologies do pose promises and threats, these are not qualitatively different (...) from those posed by other artifacts of our culture which are largely ignored: from factories to advertising, weapons to political systems. Ethical systems are based on notions of identity, and the exaggerated hopes and fears of AI derive from our cultures having not yet accommodated the fact that language and reasoning are no longer uniquely human. The experience of AI may improve our ethical intuitions and self-understanding, potentially helping our societies make better-informed decisions on serious ethical dilemmas. (shrink)
Kelly Aguirre, Phil Henderson, Cressida J. Heyes, Alana Lentin, and Corey Snelgrove engage with different aspects of Robert Nichols’ Theft is Property! Dispossession and Critical Theory. Henderson focuses on possible spaces for maneuver, agency, contradiction, or failure in subject formation available to individuals and communities interpellated through diremptive processes. Heyes homes in on the ritual of antiwill called “consent” that systematically conceals the operation of power. Aguirre foregrounds tensions in projects of critical theory scholarship that aim for dialogue and solidarity (...) with Indigenous decolonial struggles. Lentin draws attention to the role of race in undergirding the logic of Anglo-settler colonial domination that operates through dispossession, while Snelgrove emphasizes the link between alienation, capital, and colonialism. In his reply to his interlocutors, Nichols clarifies aspects of his “recursive logics” of dispossession, a dispossession or theft through which the right to property is generated. (shrink)
This primer on authentic education explores how mind and heart can work together in the learning process. Moving beyond the bankruptcy of our current model of education, Parker Palmer finds the soul of education through a lifelong cultivation of the wisdom each of us possesses and can share to benefit others.
The precautionary principle has been widely discussed in the academic, legal, and policy arenas. This paper argues, however, that there is no single precautionary principle and we should stop referring to ?the? precautionary principle. Instead, we should talk about ?precaution? and ?precautionary approaches? more generally and identify and defend distinct precautionary principles of limited scope. Drawing on the vast literature on ?the? precautionary principle, this paper further argues that the challenges of decision making under conditions of uncertainty necessitate taking a (...) precautionary approach to decision making that will enable us to understand what particular precautionary principles require of us on a case-by-case basis. (shrink)
Unprecedented advances in medicine, genetic engineering, and demographic forecasting raise new questions that strain the categories and assumptions of traditional ethical theories. Heyd's approach resolves many paradoxes in intergenerational justice, while offering a major test case for the profound problems of the limits of ethics and the nature of value.
People draw subtle distinctions in the normative domain. But it remains unclear exactly what gives rise to such distinctions. On one prominent approach, emotion systems trigger non-utilitarian judgments. The main alternative, inspired by Chomskyan linguistics, suggests that moral distinctions derive from an innate moral grammar. In this article, we draw on Bayesian learning theory to develop a rational learning account. We argue that the ‘size principle’, which is implicated in word learning, can also explain how children would use scant and (...) equivocal evidence to interpret candidate rules as applying more narrowly than utilitarian rules. (shrink)
A person who is liable to defensive harm has forfeited his rights against the imposition of the harm, and so is not wronged if that harm is imposed. A number of philosophers, most notably Jeff McMahan, argue for an instrumental account of liability, whereby a person is liable to defensive harm when he is either morally or culpably responsible for an unjust threat of harm to others, and when the imposition of defensive harm is necessary to avert the threatened unjust (...) harm. Others may favour a purely noninstrumental account of liability: one that looks only to the past behaviour of the potentially liable person. We argue that both views are vulnerable to serious objections. Instead we develop and defend a new view of liability to defensive harm: the pluralist account. The pluralist account states that liability to defensive harm has at least two bases. First, if an attacker is morally or culpably responsible for an unjust attack then he has forfeited what we call his agency right, and in doing so he has made himself partially liable to defensive harm. Whether the attacker is fully liable to defensive harm depends, however, on whether the imposition of defensive harm would infringe a different right held by the attacker: his humanitarian right. Humanitarian rights are rights to be provided with urgently needed resources or to be protected from serious harms when others can do so at reasonably low cost. We argue the pluralist account avoids the objections to which the instrumental and noninstrumental views are vulnerable, coheres with our intuitive reactions in a wide range of cases, and sheds new light on the way different rights combine to determine a person's liability to suffer harm. (shrink)
Each year thousands of individuals enrol in clinical trials as healthy volunteers to earn money. Some of them pursue research participation as a full-time or at least a part-time job. They call themselves professional or semiprofessional guinea pigs. The practice of paying healthy volunteers raises numerous ethical concerns. Different payment models have been discussed in literature. Dickert and Grady argue for a wage-payment model. This model gives research subjects a standardised hourly wage, and it is based on an assumption that (...) research participation is morally indistinguishable from other forms of unskilled labour. In this paper, I will challenge this assumption. I will argue that human guinea pigging has particular characteristics which taken together make it significantly different from other forms of labour. Participation in research is skill-independent. Healthy volunteers are valuable not because they are skilful persons, but because they are human bodies. The role of research volunteers is mainly passive. They are not asked to produce goods or deliver services. They are paid for enduring unpleasant, painful and risky interventions performed by investigators. Research volunteering involves inherent risks and uncertainties, and subjects have little or no control over their minimisation and materialisation. I conclude that participation in clinical research is a specific kind of activity. It is more like renting out one’s body to strangers, than working. Thus, research participation should not be treated on par with other forms of employment. (shrink)
Today’s most sophisticated simulation studies of future climate employ not just one climate model but a number of models. I explain why this “ensemble” approach has been adopted—namely, as a means of taking account of uncertainty—and why a comprehensive investigation of uncertainty remains elusive. I then defend a middle ground between two camps in an ongoing debate over the transformation of ensemble results into probabilistic predictions of climate change, highlighting requirements that I refer to as ownership, justification, and robustness.
After showing how Deborah Mayo’s error-statistical philosophy of science might be applied to address important questions about the evidential status of computer simulation results, I argue that an error-statistical perspective offers an interesting new way of thinking about computer simulation models and has the potential to significantly improve the practice of simulation model evaluation. Though intended primarily as a contribution to the epistemology of simulation, the analysis also serves to fill in details of Mayo’s epistemology of experiment.
Perez-Rodriguez and de la Fuente (2017) assume that although human races do not exist in a biological sense (“geneticists and evolutionary biologists generally agree that the division of humans into races/subspecies has no defensible scientific basis,” they exist only as “sociocultural constructions” and because of that maintain an illusory reality, for example, through “racialized” practices in medicine. Agreeing with the main postulates formulated in the article, we believe that the authors treat this problem in a superficial manner and have failed (...) to capture the current state of the field of knowledge in science and the humanities. In our commentary, we want to highlight two main omissions, and to notice three important implications for “a postracial medicine.”. (shrink)
Simulation-based weather and climate prediction now involves the use of methods that reflect a deep concern with uncertainty. These methods, known as ensemble prediction methods, produce multiple simulations for predictive periods of interest, using different initial conditions, parameter values and/or model structures. This paper provides a non-technical overview of current ensemble methods and considers how the results of studies employing these methods should be interpreted, paying special attention to probabilistic interpretations. A key conclusion is that, while complicated inductive arguments might (...) be given for the trustworthiness of probabilistic weather forecasts obtained from ensemble studies, analogous arguments are out of reach in the case of long-term climate prediction. In light of this, the paper considers how predictive uncertainty should be conveyed to decision makers. (shrink)
BackgroundCommunity engagement is increasingly promoted as a marker of good, ethical practice in the context of international collaborative research in low-income countries. There is, however, no widely agreed definition of community engagement or of approaches adopted. Justifications given for its use also vary. Community engagement is, for example, variously seen to be of value in: the development of more effective and appropriate consent processes; improved understanding of the aims and forms of research; higher recruitment rates; the identification of important ethical (...) issues; the building of better relationships between the community and researchers; the obtaining of community permission to approach potential research participants; and, the provision of better health care. Despite these diverse and potentially competing claims made for the importance of community engagement, there is very little published evidence on effective models of engagement or their evaluation.MethodsIn this paper, drawing upon interviews with the members of a Community Advisory Board on the Thai-Myanmar border, we describe and critically reflect upon an approach to community engagement which was developed in the context of international collaborative research in the border region.Results and conclusionsDrawing on our analysis, we identify a number of considerations relevant to the development of an approach to evaluating community engagement in this complex research setting. The paper also identifies a range of important ways in which the Community Advisory Board is in practice understood by its members to have morally significant roles and responsibilities beyond those usually associated with the successful and appropriate conduct of research. (shrink)
Brummett and Salter propose a useful and timely taxonomy of clinical ethics expertise (2019). As the field becomes further “professionalized” this taxonomy is important, and the core of it is right. It needs some refinement around the edges, however. In their conclusion, Brummett and Salter rightly point out that there is a significant difference between the ethicist whose recommendations are procedure- and process-heavy, consensus-driven, and dialogical and the authoritarian ethicist whose recommendations flow from “private moral views” (Brummett and Salter, 2019). (...) This admission doesn’t go far enough. Brummett and Salter’s taxonomy fails to capture the notion that offering recommendations whose normative force is moral is different in kind from recommendations whose normative force is non-moral, such as those recommendations that are free of moral content or justified by convention. The difference is in kind, not scale. I argue further that clinical ethics expertise, if possible, consists at least in offering recommendations whose normative force is moral. These two claims imply that the taxonomy fails to cut clinical ethics expertise at the joints: the ethicist who offers justified non-moral normative recommendations is a different kind of ethicist from the one who offers justified moral normative recommendations, yet both are categorized as clinical ethics experts. I finish by offering a refinement of the taxonomy that more precisely categorizes clinical ethicists. (shrink)
Moral bioenhancement is the potential practice of manipulating individuals’ moral behaviors by biological means in order to help resolve pressing moral issues such as climate change and terrorism. This practice has obvious ethical implications, and these implications have been and continue to be discussed in the bioethics literature. What have not been discussed are the epistemological implications of moral bioenhancement. This article details some of these implications of engaging in moral bioenhancement. The argument begins by making the distinction between moral (...) bioenhancement that manipulates the contents of mental states and that which manipulates other, non-representational states. Either way, I argue, the enhanced moral psychology will fail to conform to epistemic norms, and the only way to resolve this failure and allow the moral bioenhancement to be effective in addressing the targeted moral issues is to make the moral bioenhancement covert. (shrink)