The race to develop a vaccine for COVID-19 is on. Finding a vaccine is the most promising route to lifting the public health restrictions currently in place to prevent the spread of coronavirus, which has already killed hundreds of thousands of people and infected many more. It is possible that a viable candidate may emerge in the not too distant future. At the height of the pandemic, Canadian Prime Minister Justice Trudeau was asked whether he would consider making vaccination for COVID-19 mandatory. He opined that “we have a fair bit of time to reflect on ... [the best vaccination protocol] in order to get it right”. But the time to reflect is now. The legislative changes needed to develop and implement a policy are complex.
Many scholars believe that it is procedurally undemocratic for the judiciary to have an active role in shaping the law. These scholars believe either that such practices as judicial review and creative statutory interpretation are unjustified, or that they are justified only because they improve the law substantively. This Article argues instead that the judiciary can play an important procedurally democratic role in the development of the law. Majority rule by legislatures is not the only defining feature of democracy; rather, a government is democratic to the extent to which it provides egalitarian forms of political participation. One such form of participation can be the opportunity to influence the law through the courts, either directly by participating in a case or indirectly by advocating litigation. Arguing from several examples, this Article shows that judicial decision-making allows different voices to be heard that may not necessarily have influence or power in majoritarian legislative structures or popular initiatives. Giving citizens the opportunity to change, to preserve, and to obtain authoritative clarification of the law through the courts can thus make a government procedurally more democratic.
Pretense is often characterized as a form of imagination, more specifically as a sort of enactive imagination. But for the most part, pretending and imagining interact with one’s evaluative / affective systems differently. One tends to respond to imagined content with emotions similar to (albeit more attenuated than) those one would feel if that content was real. When pretending, however, one’s affective responses are often much more generalized, and insensitive to the content of the pretense. We suggest that this is because one’s attentional focus in pretense is on the actions themselves, and their correspondence with the scripts or roles being used to generate the pretense. Moreover, because pretense is intrinsically motivated, pretending is generally fun, irrespective of what, in particular, is being pretended.
Given how many academic papers are out there, it would be useful to have more filtering and discovery mechanisms for helping us to find the ones we might be most interested in. One thing that could help is if authors themselves offered a concise 'overview' of what they think makes their various papers worth reading (when they are). …
Effective political decision making, like other decision making, requires decision-makers to have accurate beliefs about the domain in which they are acting. In democratic societies, this often means that accurate beliefs must be held by a community, or at least a significant portion of a community, of voters. Voters are tasked with scrutinizing candidates and possible policy proposals and, considering their own experiences, interests, goals, knowledge, and values, with deciding which of various ballot measures is most likely to bring about their desired outcomes.
François-Marie d’Arouet (1694–1778), better known by his
pen name Voltaire, was a French writer and public activist who played
a singular role in defining the eighteenth-century movement called the
Enlightenment. At the center of his work was a new conception of
philosophy and the philosopher that in several crucial respects
influenced the modern concept of each. Yet in other ways Voltaire was
not a philosopher at all in the modern sense of the term. He wrote as
many plays, stories, and poems as patently philosophical tracts, and
he in fact directed many of his critical writings against the
philosophical pretensions of recognized philosophers such as Leibniz,
Malebranche, and Descartes.
Big Data promises to revolutionise the production of knowledge within
and beyond science, by enabling novel, highly efficient ways to plan,
conduct, disseminate and assess research. The last few decades have
witnessed the creation of novel ways to produce, store, and analyse
data, culminating in the emergence of the field of data
science, which brings together computational, algorithmic,
statistical and mathematical techniques towards extrapolating
knowledge from big data. At the same time, the Open Data
movement—emerging from policy trends such as the push for Open
Government and Open Science—has encouraged the sharing and
interlinking of heterogeneous research data via large digital
The neocortex figures importantly in human cognition, but it is not the only locus of cognitive activities or even at the top of a hierarchy of cognitive processing areas in the central nervous system. Moreover, the form of information processing employed in the neocortex is not representative of information processing elsewhere in the nervous system. In this paper, we articulate and argue against cortico-centrism in cognitive science, contending instead that the nervous system constitutes a heterarchical network of diverse types of information processing systems. To press this perspective, we examine neural information processing in both non-vertebrates and vertebrates, including examples of cognitive processing in the vertebrate hypothalamus and basal ganglia.
This paper challenges a common assumption about decision- making mechanisms in humans: decision-making is a distinctively high-level cognitive activity implemented by mechanisms concentrated in the higher-level areas of the cortex. We argue instead that human behavior is controlled by a multiplicity of highly distributed, heterarchically organized decision-making mechanisms. We frame it in terms of control mechanisms that procure and evaluate information to select activities of controlled mechanisms and adopt a phylogenetic perspective, showing how decision-making is realized in control mechanisms in a variety of species. We end by discussing this picture's implication for high-level cognitive decision-making.
The possibility that normative motivations are basic or psychologically primitive is an intriguing one worthy of more attention. On the one hand, there is a powerful case that human minds are equipped with a psychological system dedicated to norms and norm-guided behavior (Setman and Kelly forthcoming). On the other hand, there has not yet been a convincing case made that there are any distinct, sui generis motivational resources that are unique or exclusive to this system. To the extent that the issue is addressed, many discussions simply proceed as if the motivations that drive different norm-guided behaviors are drawn from a number of different and more basic psychological sources. However, I do not think the possibility that some normative motivations are psychologically primitive has been ruled out.
The Rawlsian veil of ignorance should induce agents to behave fairly in a distributive context. This work tried to re-propose, through a dictator game with giving and taking options, a sort of original position in which reasoning behind the veil should have constituted a moral cue for subjects involved in the distribution of a common output with unequal means of production. However, our experimental context would unwittingly recall more the Hobbesian state of nature than the Rawlsian original position, showing that the heuristic resource to the Rawlsian idea of a choice behind the veil is inefficacious in distributive contexts.
Under conditions of ideology, a standard model of normative political epistemology – relying on a domain-specific reflective equilibrium – risks status-quo bias. Social critique requires a more critical standpoint. What are the aims of social critique? How is such a standpoint achieved and what grounds its claims? One way of achieving a critical standpoint is through consciousness raising. Consciousness raising offers a paradigm shift in our understanding of the social world; but not all epistemic practices that appear to “raise” consciousness, are warranted. However, under certain conditions sketched in the paper, consciousness raising produces a warranted critical standpoint and a pro tanto claim against others. This is an important epistemic achievement, yet under conditions of collective self-governance, there is no guarantee that all warranted claims can be met simultaneously. There will be winners and losers even after legitimate democratic processes have been followed.
« Quantum Computing Lecture Notes 2.0
The Collapsing Leviathan
I was seriously depressed for the last week, by noticeably more than my baseline amount for the new pandemic-ravaged world. The depression seems to have been triggered by two pieces of news:
The US Food and Drug Administration—yes, the same FDA whose failure to approve covid tests in February infamously set the stage for the deaths of 100,000 Americans—has now also banned the Gates Foundation’s program for at-home covid testing. …
“real” deadlines, breaks the occasional promise, and bends the rules of games. This shouldn’t surprise anyone with two feet in reality; presumptive normative standards are habitually and unthinkingly violated in entirely unremarkable ways. These acts are surely not evil, but it’s puzzling whether we can treat them as wrong at all. How can it be wrong to do something that’s so commonplace, so venial, that criticizing someone for doing it itself feels wrong? The task of this essay is to attempt to answer this question.
The boundaries of social categories are frequently altered to serve normative projects, such as social reform. Griffiths and Khalidi argue that the value-driven modification of categories diminishes the epistemic value of social categories. I argue that concerns over value-modified categories are an endorsement of problematic assumptions of the value-free ideal of science. Contrary to those concerns, non-epistemic value considerations can increase the epistemic success of a scientific category. For example, the early history of the category infantile autism shows how non-epistemic value considerations can contribute to delimiting and establishing infantile autism as a distinct category in mainstream psychiatry. In the case of infantile autism, non-epistemic considerations have led to a new interpretation of existing data, the expansion of research to include biology, and the creation of diagnostic criteria that further contribute to collecting relevant data. Given this case study, we see that non-epistemic considerations may not be epistemically detrimental but can be epistemically beneficial in scientific classification.
Some, but not all, of the mistakes a person makes when acting in apparently necessary self-defense are reasonable: we take them not to violate the rights of the apparent aggressor. I argue that this is explained by duties grounded in agents’ entitlements to a fair distribution of the risk of suffering unjust harm. I suggest that the content of these duties is filled in by a social signaling norm, and offer some moral constraints on the form such a norm can take.
Edmund Burke, author of Reflections on the Revolution in
France, is known to a wide public as a classic political thinker:
it is less well understood that his intellectual achievement depended
upon his understanding of philosophy and use of it in the practical
writings and speeches by which he is chiefly known. The present essay
explores the character and significance of the use of philosophy in
his political thought. That thought is of the very first importance
for intellectual history and for the conduct of politics. This essay
is the first attempt to examine its philosophical character and to
connect the latter with Burke's political activity.
Leonard Savage famously contravened his own theory when first confronting the Allais Paradox, but then convinced himself that he had made an error. We examine the formal structure of Savage’s ‘error-correcting’ reasoning in the light of (i) behavioural economists’ claims to identify the latent preferences of individuals who violate conventional rationality requirements and (ii) John Broome’s critique of arguments which presuppose that rationality requirements can be achieved through reasoning. We argue that Savage’s reasoning is not vulnerable to Broome’s critique, but does not provide support for the view that behavioural scientists can identify and counteract errors in people’s choices.
Do famous athletes have special obligations to act virtuously? A number of philosophers have investigated this question by examining whether famous athletes are subject to special role model obligations (Wellman 2003; Feezel 2005; Spurgin 2012). In this paper we will take a different approach and give a positive response to this question by arguing for the position that sport and gaming celebrities are ‘ambassadors of the game’: moral agents whose vocations as rule-followers have unique implications for their non-lusory lives. According to this idea, the actions of a game’s players and other stakeholders—especially the actions of its stars—directly affect the value of the game itself, a fact which generates additional moral reasons to behave in a virtuous manner. We will begin by explaining the three main positions one may take with respect to the question: moral exceptionalism, moral generalism, and moral exemplarism. We will argue that no convincing case for moral exemplarism has thus far been made, which gives us reason to look for new ways to defend this position. We then provide our own ‘ambassadors of the game’ account and argue that it gives us good reason to think that sport and game celebrities are subject to special obligations to act virtuously.
Each of the ten million densely populated planets in Empress Alice’s vast intergalactic empire has an average of one person on death row who has exhausted all appeals. Empress Alice’s justice system is a really good one, but she knows it to be fallible like all justice systems, and her statistics show there is one in a million chance of an innocent being sentenced to death and exhausting all appeals. …
This joyful book tells the story of how meaning came into existence, and how we ourselves came to be able to make sense of our world. It blithely ignores hostile boundaries and unites philosophy and science, poetry and biochemistry, Shannon’s mathematical theory of information and good old- fashioned literary scholarship. What could you possibly learn from Aristotle or Francis Bacon about the dynamics of gene regulation, and what could you possibly learn about literary interpretation from the role of retroviruses in rewiring placental regulatory networks?
What does the aesthetic ask of us? What claims do the aesthetic features of the objects and events in our environment make on us? My answer in this paper is: that depends. Aesthetic reasons can only justify feelings – they cannot demand them. A corollary of this is that there are no aesthetic obligations to feel, only permissions. However, I argue, aesthetic reasons can demand actions – they do not merely justify them. A corollary of this is that there are aesthetic obligations to act, not only permissions. So, I conclude, the aesthetic asks little of us as patients and much of as agents.
In a recent article in this journal, David Faraci argues that the value of fairness can plausibly be appealed to in order to vindicate the view that consensual, mutually beneficial employment relationships can be wrongfully exploitative, even if employers have no obligation to hire or otherwise benefit those who are badly off enough to be vulnerable to wage exploitation. In this article, I argue that several values provide potentially strong grounds for thinking that it is at least sometimes better, morally speaking, for employers to hire worse off people at intuitively exploitative wages than to hire better off people at intuitively fair wages. Rather than suggesting that hiring badly off people at intuitively exploitative wages is permissible, however, I suggest that this gives us reason to think that employers can be obligated to hire worse off people rather than better off people and to pay them non-exploitative wages.
You have come to the troubling realization that a friend of yours, whom you have loved with affection for many years, isn’t the person he seemed to be. You hadn’t taken seriously enough the gossip about his obnoxious and cruel behavior. You never doubted his values when he made “colorful remarks”. And in the last few years, you’ve been so busy and distracted with work and family that you haven’t really been paying much attention to him at all. But now your attention is focused, your awareness heightened, and your eyes clear. You see now that he really is a pig, that his kindness really is put on, and that his charms are merely that charms. He is not refreshingly flakey, but unreliable and insincere. Not charismatic, but sloppy and arrogant. What you once believed to be his good qualities you now see as veneer over a mix of vice and hollowness underneath.
The aesthetics of our own actions are already a natural part of the rich experience of our lives. And the arts of action already exist in plenty; we are surrounded by them. Many of our artifacts are designed for the sake of encouraging and structuring the aesthetics of actions.
According to some philosophers of technology, technology embodies moral values in virtue of its functional properties and the intentions of its designers. But this paper shows that such an account makes the values supposedly embedded in technology epistemically opaque and that it does not allow for values to change. Therefore, to overcome these shortcomings, the paper introduces the novel Affordance Account of Value Embedding as a superior alternative. Accordingly, artefacts bear affordances, that is, artefacts make certain actions likelier given the circumstances. Based on an interdisciplinary perspective that invokes recent moral anthropology, I conceptualize affordances as response-dependent properties. That is, they depend on intrinsic as well as extrinsic properties of the artefact. We have reason to value these properties. Therefore, artefacts embody values and are not value-neutral, which has practical implications for the design of new technologies.
As Socrates famously noted, there is perhaps no more important question than how we ought to live. And the answer to this question depends on how the reasons that we have for living in various different ways combine and compete. To illustrate, suppose that I’ve just received a substantial raise from my employer. What should I do with the extra money? It seems that I have most moral reason to donate it to effective charities but most self-interested reason to spend it on luxuries for myself. So, whether I should live my life as I have most moral reason to live it or as I have most self-interested reason to live it depends on how these and other sorts of reasons combine and compete to determine what I have most reason to do, all things considered. This short book seeks to figure out how different sorts of reasons—and, in particular, moral reasons and non-moral reasons—combine and compete to determine how we ought to live.
Josh Greene (2007) famously argued that his cognitive-scientific results undermine deontological moral theorizing. Greene is wrong about this: at best, his research has revealed that at least some characteristically deontological moral judgments are sensitive to factors that we deem morally irrelevant. This alone is not enough to undermine those judgments. However, cognitive science could someday tell us more: it could tell us that in forming those judgments, we treat certain factors as reasons to believe as we do. If we independently deem such factors to be morally irrelevant, such a result would undermine those judgments and any moral theorizing built upon them. This paper brings charity, clarity, and epistemological sophistication to debates surrounding empirical debunking arguments in ethics.
This paper puts forward an account of blame combining two ideas that are usually set ABSTRACT up against each other: that blame performs an important function, and that blame is justified by the moral reasons making people blameworthy rather than by its functionality. The paper argues that blame could not have developed in a purely instrumental form, and that its functionality itself demands that its functionality be effaced in favour of non-instrumental reasons for blame—its functionality is self-effacing. This notion is sharpened and it is shown how it offers an alternative to instrumentalist or consequentialist accounts of blame which preserves their animating insight while avoiding their weaknesses by recasting that insight in an explanatory role. This not only allows one to do better justice to the authority and autonomy of non-instrumental reasons for blame, but also reveals that autonomy to be a precondition of blame’s functionality. Unlike rival accounts, it also avoids the “alienation effect” that renders blame unstable under reflection by undercutting the authority of the moral reasons which enable it to perform its function in the first place. It instead yields a vindicatory explanation that strengthens our confidence in those moral reasons.
Though happiness and related mental states have been the object of systematic scientific study since the beginning of the twentieth century, interest in the topic has accelerated rapidly in the last few decades (Angner 2009). By now, psychologists, economists, and other social and behavioral scientists have convinced themselves that it is possible to develop reliable and valid measures of happiness (and the like), and that these measures can be used to study systematically the determinants and distribution of happiness (and such) in the population. The measures, which are often discussed under the heading of 'subjective measures of well-being,’ are typically based on direct questions such as ’Taking things all together, how would you say things are these days — would you say you’re very happy, pretty happy, or not too happy these days?’ (Gurin et al. 1960, p. 411; italics in original). Answers to such questions are used to construct numerical measures of both individual well-being (the well-being of persons) and social well-being (the well-being of groups).1