John Locke (b. 1632, d. 1704) was a British philosopher, Oxford
academic and medical researcher. Locke’s monumental An Essay
Concerning Human Understanding (1689) is one of the first great
defenses of modern empiricism and concerns itself with determining the
limits of human understanding in respect to a wide spectrum of topics. It thus tells us in some detail what one can legitimately claim to
know and what one cannot. Locke’s association with Anthony Ashley
Cooper (later the First Earl of Shaftesbury) led him to become
successively a government official charged with collecting information
about trade and colonies, economic writer, opposition political
activist, and finally a revolutionary whose cause ultimately triumphed
in the Glorious Revolution of 1688.
This book looks interesting:
• David S. Wilson and Alan Kirman, editors, Complexity and Evolution: Toward a New Synthesis for Economics, MIT Press, Cambridge Mass., 2016. You can get some chapters for free here. …
Head of Competence Center for Methodology and Statistics (CCMS)
Luxembourg Institute of Health
Automatic for the people? Not quite
What caught my eye was the estimable (in its non-statistical meaning) Richard Lehman tweeting about the equally estimable John Ioannidis. …
Johann Christoph Friedrich Schiller (1759–1805) is best known
for his immense influence on German literature. In his relatively
short life, he authored an extraordinary series of dramas, including
The Robbers, Maria Stuart, and the trilogy
Wallenstein. He was also a prodigious poet, composing perhaps
most famously the “Ode to Joy” featured in the culmination
of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony and enshrined, some two centuries
later, in the European
Hymn.[ 1 ]
In part through his celebrated friendship with Goethe, he edited
epoch-defining literary journals and exerted lasting influence on
German stage production.
Today’s Virtual Colloquium is “God’s Standing to Forgive” by Brandon Warmke. Dr. Warmke received his PhD in philosophy from the University of Arizona in 2014 and is currently Assistant Professor of Philosophy at Bowling Green State University in Ohio. …
Effective Altruistism and ethical consumerism
Posted on Tuesday, 18 Apr 2017
In chapter 8 of Doing Good Better, William MacAskill argues
that we should not make a great effort to reduce our carbon emissions,
to buy Fairtrade coffee, or to boycott sweatshops. …
A Greek philosopher of 1st and early 2nd
centuries C.E., and an exponent of Stoic ethics notable for the
consistency and power of his ethical thought and for effective methods
of teaching. Epictetus’s chief concerns are with integrity,
self-management, and personal freedom, which he advocates by demanding
of his students a thorough examination of two central ideas, the
capacity he terms ‘volition’ (prohairesis) and the
correct use of impressions (chrēsis tōn
phantasiōn). Heartfelt and satirical by turns, Epictetus has
had significant influence on the popular moralistic tradition, but he
is more than a moralizer; his lucid resystematization and challenging
application of Stoic ethics qualify him as an important philosopher in
his own right.
Relational egalitarians hold what matters for justice is that all members of a society “stand in relations of equality to others.” The idea that all human beings are moral equals is widely shared: it underlies the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and many national constitutions. …
On a sunny Saturday afternoon, Socrates is walking through the streets of Western Heights, a small town in the country of New Zealand. Feeling rather hungry, he decides to visit a café for food and coffee. As he is about to enter, he bumps into his old friend Greg, the owner of the café.
This paper presents a systematic approach for analyzing and explaining the nature of social groups. I argue against prominent views that attempt to unify all social groups or to divide them into simple typologies. Instead I argue that social groups are enormously diverse, but show how we can investigate their natures nonetheless. I analyze social groups from a bottom-up perspective, constructing profiles of the metaphysical features of groups of specific kinds. We can characterize any given kind of social group with four complementary profiles: its “construction profile,” its “extra essentials” profile, its “anchor” profile, and its “accident” profile. Together these provide a framework for understanding the nature of groups, help classify and categorize groups, and shed light on group agency.
It initially seems to be a strange combination of views that (a) killing in defense of the innocent is sometimes permissible, but (b) lying is never permissible, not even in defense of the innocent. Yet that is the predominant view in the Christian tradition. …
This paper provides a new argument for a natural view in distributive ethics: that the interests of the relatively worse off matter more than the interests of the relatively better off, in the sense that it is more important to give some benefit to those that are worse off than it is to give that same benefit to those that are better off, and that it is sometimes (but not always) more important to give a smaller benefit to the worse off than to give a larger benefit to those better off. I will refer to this position as relative prioritarianism. The formal realization of this position is known as weighted-rank utilitarianism or the Gini social welfare function, and it is typically classified as an egalitarian view, though for reasons I will mention that classification may be misleading.
Karl Marx (1818–1883) is best known not as a philosopher but as
a revolutionary, whose works inspired the foundation of many communist
regimes in the twentieth century. It is hard to think of many who have
had as much influence in the creation of the modern world. Trained as
a philosopher, Marx turned away from philosophy in his mid-twenties,
towards economics and politics. However, in addition to his overtly
philosophical early work, his later writings have many points of
contact with contemporary philosophical debates, especially in the
philosophy of history and the social sciences, and in moral and
I will argue that lying is never permissible. The argument is a curious argument, maybe Kantian in flavor, which attempts to establish the conclusion without actually adverting to any explanation of what is bad about lying. …
Albert Camus (1913–1960) was a journalist, editor and
editorialist, playwright and director, novelist and author of short
stories, political essayist and activist—and, although he more
than once denied it, a philosopher. He ignored or opposed systematic
philosophy, had little faith in rationalism, asserted rather than
argued many of his main ideas, presented others in metaphors, was
preoccupied with immediate and personal experience, and brooded over
such questions as the meaning of life in the face of death. Although
he forcefully separated himself from existentialism, Camus posed one
of the twentieth century’s best-known existentialist questions, which
launches The Myth of Sisyphus: “There is only one
really serious philosophical question, and that is suicide”
(Entry on the violinist thought experiment)
The most widely discussed argument against abortion focuses on the right to life. It starts from something like the following premise:
(1) If an entity X has a right to life, it is impermissible to terminate X’s existence. …
On views on which lying is sometimes permissible, lying to save one’s life from unjust persecution is a paradigm case of permissible lying. But Peter’s lies about his connection to Jesus—his famous three-fold denial of Jesus—fall precisely under that head. …
Our current understanding of the idea of legitimacy is deeply connected to the peculiarly modern political institution of the nation-state. But questions of legitimacy have moved beyond the state. It is now common to examine the legitimacy of institutions such as the European Union, international courts, international human rights institutions, or those focused on specific issues, like the World Trade Organization or particular transnational non-governmental organizations. As our traditional state-centric understanding of legitimacy is applied to these new modes of governance and new varieties of institutions, however, it is becoming increasingly strained. The concepts and standards developed in response to the problems of a much less globalized, much more Westphalian world may be inadequate for the contemporary context.
This article gives two arguments for believing that our society is unknowingly guilty of serious, large-scale wrongdoing. First is an inductive argument: most other societies, in history and in the world today, have been unknowingly guilty of serious wrongdoing, so ours probably is too. Second is a disjunctive argument: there are a large number of distinct ways in which our practices could turn out to be horribly wrong, so even if no particular hypothesized moral mistake strikes us as very likely, the disjunction of all such mistakes should receive significant credence. The article then discusses what our society should do in light of the likelihood that we are doing something seriously wrong: we should regard intellectual progress, of the sort that will allow us to find and correct our moral mistakes as soon as possible, as an urgent moral priority rather than as a mere luxury; and we should also consider it important to save resources and cultivate flexibility, so that when the time comes to change our policies we will be able to do so quickly and smoothly.
How are biases encoded in our representations of social categories? Philosophical and empirical discussions of implicit bias overwhelmingly focus on salient or statistical associations between target features and representations of social categories. These are the sorts of associations probed by the Implicit Association Test and various priming tasks. In this paper, we argue that these discussions systematically overlook an alternative way in which biases are encoded, i.e., in the dependency networks that are part of our representations of social categories. Dependency networks encode information about how the features in a conceptual representation depend on each other, which determines their degree of centrality in a conceptual representation. Importantly, centrally encoded biases systematically disassociate from those encoded in salient-statistical associations. Furthermore, the degree of centrality of a feature determines its cross-contextual stability: in general, the more central a feature is for a concept, the more likely it is to survive into a wide array of cognitive tasks involving that concept. Accordingly, implicit biases that are encoded in the central features of concepts are predicted to be more resilient across different tasks and contexts. As a result, our distinction between centrally encoded and salient-statistical biases has important theoretical and practical implications.
In recent years, a number of philosophers and cognitive scientists have advocated for an ‘interactive turn’ in the methodology of social-cognition research: to become more ecologically valid, we must design experiments that are interactive, rather than merely observational. While the practical aim of improving ecological validity in the study of social cognition is laudable, we think that the notion of ‘interaction’ is not suitable for this task: as it is currently deployed in the social cognition literature, this notion leads to serious conceptual and methodological confusion. In this paper, we tackle this confusion on three fronts: 1) we revise the ‘interactionist’ definition of interaction; 2) we demonstrate a number of potential methodological confounds that arise in interactive experimental designs; and 3) we show that ersatz interactivity works just as well as the real thing. We conclude that the notion of ‘interaction’, as it is currently being deployed in this literature, obscures an accurate understanding of human social cognition.
In his book Beyond Art, Dominic McIver Lopes presents a multitude of arguments about main problems in the philosophy of art but centred on the problem of defining what is art and what is a work of art . He argues for “buck passing” theory of art . According to this theory, the task is passed to philosophical theories which, first, have to find necessary and sufficient conditions, or at least, some non-trivial conditions what makes each kind of art exactly that kind of art . It has a form: “X is a work of art if and only if X is a work of K, where K is an art” . Lopes offers support for his theory through many arguments around problems of aesthetic appreciation, aesthetic properties, value, appreciative kinds and practices, media used in various artforms, etc . He tries to show that theory is more viable and more informative than its competitors . I present and critically assess some of the claims from the book; it seems that, according to a form of the theory, we can do without the concept of “art” altogether .
Because of the centrality of sex in human life, and the significance of its potential consequences, wrongful sex acts have long been treated as particularly problematic by states and societies, though there have been significant disagreements and changes in Western society’s ideas about what exactly is wrongful and why. In the last 50-100 years, in particular, the changes have gone in contrasting directions. Broadly speaking, the legal regulation of sexual conduct has been liberalized, and laws of places like the U.S. now permit much sexual activity that they formerly prohibited. However, the trend with respect to some sorts of problematic sex has moved in the opposite direction, towards more encompassing prohibition. While there has been a crime called “rape” in England and English-derived legal systems for hundreds of years, there have been dramatic changes in the law of rape over these centuries. Many recent changes have come in the wake of arguments by feminists and other advocates for women who seek to maintain the prohibition of the acts that were previously prohibited, while expanding the concept of rape to prevent more kinds of similar predation, and making the prosecution of such offenses easier.
The reward system of science is the priority rule (Merton, 1957). The first scientist making a new discovery is rewarded with prestige while second runners get little or nothing. Strevens (2003, 2011), following Kitcher (1990), defends this reward system arguing that it incentivizes an efficient division of cognitive labor. I argue that this assessment depends on strong implicit assumptions about the replicability of findings. I question these assumptions based on meta-scientific evidence and argue that the priority rule systematically discourages replication. My analysis leads us to qualify Kitcher and Strevens’ contention that a priority-based reward system is normatively desirable for science.
Disagreeing with others about how to interpret a social interaction is a common occurrence. We often find ourselves offering divergent interpretations of others’ motives, intentions, beliefs, and emotions. Remarkably, philosophical accounts of how we understand others do not explain, or even attempt to explain such disagreements. I argue these disparities in social interpretation stem, in large part, from the effect of social categorization and our goals in social interactions, phenomena long studied by social psychologists. I argue we ought to expand our accounts of how we understand others in order to accommodate these data and explain how such profound disagreements arise amongst informed, rational, well-meaning individuals.
Labour markets are rife with questions of justice. This series of blog posts; explore cases of injustice, highlight theoretical puzzles and point towards possible solutions. They emerged from debates at the ‘Labour Market Injustice’ Workshop co-hosted by Newcastle and Durham Universities and generously sponsored by the Society for Applied Philosophy. …
Joseph Raz’s novel, prescient, and richly multifaceted critique of egalitarianism builds on the notion of what he calls ‘‘ordinary’’ principles of entitlement to goods. He draws an exclusive distinction between such principles and those which he labels ‘‘strictly egalitarian.’’ In the case of the latter, it ‘‘is the actually existing inequality of distribution which creates the entitlement. The entitlement is designed to eliminate a specific kind of existing inequality. Such principles reflect the view that it is wrong or unjust for some Fs to have G while others have not.’’ By contrast, ordinary principles are ‘‘indifferent to the existing distribution of their benefits.’’ If, for example, ‘‘the entitlement is based on need then each is entitled just to his needs. Unless the actual distribution of the benefit affects the nature or the extent of the need for it (which it may do) it is irrelevant to the right.’’ (p. 226) The realization, however, of certain ordinary principles of entitlement, will tend, as a by-product, to increase the equality of a distribution. This holds for what Raz calls ‘‘satiable, diminishing principles of entitlement.’’ A satiable principle is one whose ‘‘demands . . . can be completely met’’ (p. 235). A diminishing principle is one where ‘‘the more [of good] G an F has the weaker becomes the reason to give him more G’’ (p. 236).
The criminal law is broadly retributive insofar as it predicates censure and sanction on culpable or responsible wrongdoing. Wrongdoing for which the agent is not responsible and, hence not culpable (in this sense) is excused. Responsibility and excuse are scalar phenomena, because the capacities constitutive of the normative competence required for responsibility can be had in different degrees and their impairment can be a matter of degree. Ideally, the criminal law would aim to deliver just deserts in cases of partial responsibility, making censure and sanction proportional to the degree of culpable wrongdoing. However, with some qualifications, American criminal law is bivalent, that is, all or nothing, and it is very stingy with excuse, in effect, treating cases of partial responsibility as if the individuals were fully responsible.
Marc Lewis, The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease (Public Affairs, 2016)
It is my pleasure to introduce the latest in our series of symposia on papers from the journal Neuroethics. The focus of the current symposium is a forthcoming special issue of Neuroethics on Marc Lewis‘s book The Biology of Desire: Why Addiction Is Not a Disease (PublicAffairs, 2016). …
Theories of free agency based on indeterminism—that is, libertarian theories—are often accused of undermining an agent’s integrity: If an action is due to indeterministic happenings, how can it be called the agent’s action to begin with? Isn’t a deterministic connection between an agent’s circumstances and her action needed to maintain her integrity?