Samuel Scheffler has recently argued that the value of our most important activities depends on the Afterlife: the continued existence of the human species in future generations. The argument begins with a speculative psychological hypothesis: that we would lose interest in most things if we believed that our species was about to go extinct (e.g. through general infertility of the current generation). I argue that even if we accept this hypothesis, it wouldn't follow that the Afterlife is a condition for the value of our activities. For many of our most important activities, the imminent extinction of the species would not affect the properties that make them worth pursuing. I go on to propose an alternative way of thinking about Scheffler’s hypothesis, showing that it reflects psychic trauma on the part of those who are aware that they are the last generation of the species.
One of the many rich and interesting themes in Gary Watson’s very impressive body of philosophical work is the idea that moral responsibility involves a distinctive kind of interpersonal address. There is a characteristic practice of addressing moral standards to other agents that is associated with at least one prominent form of responsibility, and this practice can help us to understand both the nature of moral requirements and the conditions of responsible moral agency.
Here is a simple argument against abortion:
(1) If an entity (X) has a right to life, it is, ceteris paribus, not permissible to terminate that entity’s existence. (2) The foetus has a right to life. …
In 1919, Lukács posed the question, “What is orthodox Marxism?” Even for Lukács, there was an undertone of irony: if by orthodoxy we mean devoutness, then “the most appropriate answer [is] a pitying smile.” But Lukács also points out that the question can be understood and asked in such a way that it invites or even requires a different kind of answer. If we understand it as a question about quintessence, Lukács’ answer is as follows: The quintessence of Marxism does not reside in the results of Marx’s research or a “‘belief’ in one or another proposition,” nor in the “exegesis of a ‘holy book.’” Rather, “orthodoxy in matters of Marxism refers exclusively to method.” In this essay I want to reapply Lukács’ question to Critical Theory: What is orthodox Critical Theory? And I’d like to advocate an approach that could be called orthodox in three respects.
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher and
cultural critic who published intensively in the 1870s and 1880s. He
is famous for uncompromising criticisms of traditional European
morality and religion, as well as of conventional philosophical ideas
and social and political pieties associated with modernity. Many of
these criticisms rely on psychological diagnoses that expose false
consciousness infecting people’s received ideas; for that
reason, he is often associated with a group of late modern thinkers
(including Marx and Freud) who advanced a “hermeneutics of
suspicion” against traditional values (see Foucault  1990,
Ricoeur  1970, Leiter 2004).
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844–1900) was a German philosopher of the late
19th century who challenged the foundations of Christianity and
traditional morality. He was interested in the enhancement of
individual and cultural health, and believed in life, creativity,
power, and down-to-earth realities, rather than those
situated in a world beyond. Central to his philosophy is the idea of
“life-affirmation,” which involves an honest questioning of
all doctrines that drain life’s expansive energies, however socially
prevalent those views might be. Often referred to as one of the first
existentialist philosophers along with Søren Kierkegaard
(1813–1855), Nietzsche’s revitalizing philosophy has inspired leading
figures in all walks of cultural life, including dancers, poets,
novelists, painters, psychologists, philosophers, sociologists and
In our view, behavior is to be understood as influenced by a number of different control systems. We shall focus in particular on what we will call the habit system, the desire system, and the planning system. These three systems are of crucial importance for determining almost all of our choices, addictive and otherwise. It seems likely that the first two of these systems are shared with other animals, but that the planning system is peculiar to humans. By describing these three systems, we aim to provide a framework that will clarify the mechanisms of addiction and the loss of control they involve.
“Contractarianism” names both a political theory of the
legitimacy of political authority and a moral theory about the origin
or legitimate content of moral norms. The political theory of
authority claims that legitimate authority of government must derive
from the consent of the governed, where the form and content of this
consent derives from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. The
moral theory of contractarianism claims that moral norms derive their
normative force from the idea of contract or mutual agreement. Contractarians are skeptical of the possibility of grounding morality
or political authority in either divine will or some perfectionist
ideal of the nature of humanity.
Killer robots. You have probably heard about them. You may also have heard that there is a campaign to stop them. One of the main arguments that proponents of the campaign make is that they will create responsibility gaps in military operations. …
In this article, I argue that what is commonly lamented as the decline of qualitative research might be because of our own inability to reveal something true about being-in-the-world. Four problems with qualitative work are identified: making what is obvious inescapable, confusion around what constitutes qualitative research and phenomenology, uniformed and disrespectful mixing of methods, and devolution into “little t” truth. I finish by calling for bold, evocative interpretation, and posing the question: What is the nature of the revolution that hermeneutics can foment?
Naturalistic philosophers rely on literature search and review in a number of ways and for different purposes. Yet this article shows how processes of literature search and review are likely to be affected by widespread and systematic biases. A solution to this problem is offered here. Whilst the tradition of systematic reviews of literature from scientific disciplines has been neglected in philosophy, systematic reviews are important tools that minimize bias in literature search and review and allow for greater reproducibility and transparency. If naturalistic philosophers wish to reduce bias in their research, they should then supplement their traditional tools for literature search and review by including systematic methodologies.
Human behavior is frequently described both in abstract, general terms and in concrete, specific terms. We asked whether these two ways of framing equivalent behaviors shift the inferences people make about the biological and psychological bases of those behaviors. In five experiments, we manipulated whether behaviors are presented concretely (i.e. with reference to a specific person, instantiated in the particular context of that person’s life) or abstractly (i.e. with reference to a category of people or behaviors across generalized contexts). People judged concretely framed behaviors to be less biologically based and, on some dimensions, more psychologically based than the same behaviors framed in the abstract. These findings held true for both mental disorders (Experiments 1 and 2) and everyday behaviors (Experiments 4 and 5) and yielded downstream consequences for the perceived efficacy of disorder treatments (Experiment 3). Implications for science educators, students of science, and members of the lay public are discussed.
Party scene from Second Life
In 1993, Julian Dibbell wrote an article in The Village Voice describing the world’s first virtual rape. It took place in a virtual world called LambdaMOO, which still exists to this day. …
I am going to discuss our intuitive sense of the motives for bad actions, especially very bad actions. The combination of intuitive grasp of motive with moral judgement is very delicate and problematic, as I shall argue. One connection with legal reasoning arises with sentencing decisions by judges. (Another is with the decision that a case is too trivial to hear.) I shall not say a lot about this connection, because I do not have the background for it. I shall assume, though, that judges often have considerable discretion in sentencing, in spite of sentencing guidelines in some jurisdictions, and that the moral character of the particular instance of a crime for which a particular person has been convicted plays a large role in this. (If this assumption is in fact less evident than it seems to me, please correct me.) Similar considerations apply when juries have discretion such as deciding whether the death penalty is to apply, but I shall not discuss these, again out of ignorance.
Conceiving of fictional characters as types allows us to reconcile intuitions of sameness and difference about characters such as Batman that appear in different fictional worlds. Sameness occurs at the type level while difference occurs at the token level. Yet, the claim that fictional characters are types raises three main issues. Firstly, types seem to be eternal forms whereas fictional characters seem to be the outcome of a process of creation. Secondly, the tokens of a type are concrete particulars in the actual world whereas the alleged tokens of a fictional character are concrete particulars in a fictional world. Thirdly, many fictional characters, unlike Batman, only appear in one work of fiction, and therefore one can wonder whether it does make sense to treat them as types. The main aim of this paper is to address these issues in order to defend a creationist account of fictional characters as types.
Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862) was an American philosopher,
poet, and environmental scientist whose major work, Walden,
draws upon each of these identities in meditating on the concrete
problems of living in the world as a human being. He sought to revive
a conception of philosophy as a way of life, not only a mode of
reflective thought and discourse. Thoreau’s work was informed by
an eclectic variety of sources. He was well-versed in classical Greek
and Roman philosophy, ranging from the pre-Socratics through the
Hellenistic schools, and was also an avid student of the ancient
scriptures and wisdom literature of various Asian traditions.
The past decade has witnessed a growing awareness of conceptual and methodological hurdles within psychology and neuroscience that must be addressed for taxonomic and explanatory progress in understanding psychological functions to be possible. In this paper, I evaluate several recent knowledge-building initiatives aimed at overcoming these obstacles. I argue that while each initiative offers important insights about how to facilitate taxonomic and explanatory progress in psychology and neuroscience, only a “coordinated pluralism” that incorporates positive aspects of each initiative will have the potential for success.
Many countries have constitutions that protect individual rights. Strong form judicial review (hereinafter ‘strong JR’) is the practice whereby courts, usually the ‘supreme’ court in a given jurisdiction, have the final power to strike down legislation that they perceive to be in conflict with constitutionally protected rights. …
Population axiologists hope to shed light on central questions in population ethics (How many people should we want there to be? How well off should we want them to be? What if these things are in tension?) by ranking populations that differ with respect to the number of people they contain, and with respect to how well off those people are. But the enterprise of population axiology has, for thirty five years, been overshadowed by certain paradoxes – collections of propositions that are individually truthy (each looks true, at first glance), but jointly inconsistent (they cannot all be true). Here is one of the simplest :
"Reflective equilibrium" is sometimes treated as the method of ethics (Rawls 1971 is the classic source). In reflective equilibrium, one considers one's judgments, beliefs, or intuitions about particular individual cases (e.g., in such-and-such an emergency would it be bad to push someone in front of an oncoming trolley?). …
The world is ageing. A demographic shift is underway. According to some figures (Suzman et al 2015), the proportion of the worldwide population aged 65 or older will outnumber the proportion aged under 5 by the year 2020. …
Within Alberta Health Services, the Alberta Provincial Patient Relations Department employs Patient Relations Consultants (PRCs) to assist unsatisfied patients, investigate healthcare related concerns, and facilitate resolution. The patients, who are referred to as complainants, interpret their experience and come forward with their complaint; the PRC is responsible to then interpret the complaint and take it forward for redress. In doing so, offering complainants an apology is unavoidable. Patient relations is an interpretive practice, however, and there are shortcomings when apology is inserted into the conversation. In this article, I deconstruct apology from a patient relations perspective. I draw upon concepts in Richard Kearney’s Strangers, Gods and Monsters (2003), as well as the work of Hans-Georg Gadamer and Jacques Derrida, to present an interpretive account of how the hospital is a host to strangers, and to patients. Following an unsatisfactory experience or adverse event, the patients become complainants, or monsters. The PRCs, who are also considered hosts, receive the monsters at their door and, in turn, they can become hostages to the monsters. In attempting to achieve “otherness” with the “monsters,” the phenomenon of apology is examined.
Clinical research attempts to address a relatively straightforward,
and extremely important challenge: how do we determine whether one
medical intervention is better than another, whether it offers greater clinical benefit and/or poses fewer risks? Clinicians may one day be
able to answer these questions by relying on computer models, thereby
avoiding reliance on clinical research and the ethical concerns it
raises. Until that day, clinical researchers begin by testing
potential new medical interventions in the laboratory, and often in
animals. While these methods can provide valuable information and, in
the case of animal research, raise important ethical issues of their
own, potential new interventions eventually must be tested in
To begin, I must express my gratitude to both Emily Crookston and David Kelley for their excellent commentaries on my book. Non-academics often don’t understand this, but it is always an honor to have colleagues criticize one’s work. I am honored. I hope my replies here do justice to their concerns.
Two great problems of learning confront humanity: (1) learning about the universe, and about ourselves as a part of the universe, and (2) learning how to make progress towards as good a world as possible. We solved the first problem when we created modern science in the 17th century, but we have not yet solved the second problem. This puts us in a situation of unprecedented danger. Modern science and technology enormously increase our power to act, but not our power to act wisely. All our current global crises have arisen as a result. What we need to do is learn from our solution to the first great problem of learning how to go about solving the second one. Properly implemented, this idea leads to a new kind of inquiry rationally devoted to helping humanity make progress towards as good a world as possible.
Part One gives context to the life of Mary (Primrose) Shepherd. It weaves the stories of her ancestors and her own stories into a wider social and historical context. The aim is to evoke a world from which to mark the emergence of Mary Primrose, Scotland’s first female philosopher.
Plants have minds because their activities disclose a world of things that have significance for them. Following Evan Thompson, we can call this an enactive approach to plant minds. What is it to disclose a world of things that have significance? …
What makes the combination of creating and parenting a child valuable for a person? On the one hand, the activity of creating on its own can be meaningless for the person who does it. Think of an anonymous sperm donor who never even meets the child he creates. On the other hand, the activity of parenting on its own seems quite meaningful. Think of a stepfather and the profound love he feels towards a child he helps to raise. It is therefore hard to see how there could be any value in the combination of creating and parenting a child over and above the value of parenting itself. This is a problem for those who believe that procreative-parenting uniquely contributes to the pursuit of a meaningful life. But the difficulty in locating the value of procreation in procreative-parenting is not the only problem facing those who believe that there is something special about the bond parents enjoy with the children they have a genetic and/or gestational connection with. Another problem they face is to show that this value is significant enough to give them the theoretical resources to address two pressing moral challenges to the practice of procreative-parenting.
For Thomas Aquinas, as for Aristotle, doing moral philosophy is
thinking as generally as possible about what I should choose to do
(and not to do), considering my whole life as a field of opportunity
(or misuse of opportunity). Thinking as general as this concerns not
merely my own opportunities, but the kinds of good things that any
human being can do and achieve, or be deprived of. Thinking about what
to do is conveniently labeled “practical”, and is
concerned with what and how to choose and do what one intelligently
and reasonably can (i) to achieve intelligible goods in one’s
own life and the lives of other human beings and their environment,
and (ii) to be of good character and live a life that as a whole will
have been a reasonable response to such opportunities.
Many philosophers have argued that you should only assert what you know to be the case (e.g. Williamson 1996). If you don't know that P is true, you shouldn't go around saying that P is true. Furthermore, to assert what you don't know isn't just bad manners; it violates a constitutive norm, fundamental to what assertion is. …