Philosophy Research Works

Permanent URI for this collection


Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 20 of 27
  • Item
    Using to Detect Emerging Trends in Aquatic Animal Health
    (MDPI, 2013-05-17) Lyon, Aidan; Mooney, Allan; Grossel, Geoff is an open-source aquatic biosecurity intelligence application. By combining automated data collection and human analysis, provides fast and accurate disease outbreak detection and forecasts, accompanied with nuanced explanations. The system has been online and open to the public since 1 January 2010, it has over 200 registered expert users around the world, and it typically publishes about seven daily reports and two weekly disease alerts. We document the major trends in aquatic animal health that the system has detected over these two years, and conclude with some forecasts for the future.
  • Item
    The Measurement Problem from the Perspective of an Information-Theoretic Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics
    (MDPI, 2015-10-28) Bub, Jeffrey
    The aim of this paper is to consider the consequences of an information-theoretic interpretation of quantum mechanics for the measurement problem. The motivating idea of the interpretation is that the relation between quantum mechanics and the structure of information is analogous to the relation between special relativity and the structure of space-time. Insofar as quantum mechanics deals with a class of probabilistic correlations that includes correlations structurally different from classical correlations, the theory is about the structure of information: the possibilities for representing, manipulating, and communicating information in a genuinely indeterministic quantum world in which measurement outcomes are intrinsically random are different than we thought. Part of the measurement problem is deflated as a pseudo-problem on this view, and the theory has the resources to deal with the remaining part, given certain idealizations in the treatment of macrosystems.
  • Item
    On Quantum Collapse as a Basis for the Second Law of Thermodynamics
    (MDPI, 2017-03-09) Kastner, Ruth E.
    It was first suggested by David Z. Albert that the existence of a real, physical non-unitary process (i.e., “collapse”) at the quantum level would yield a complete explanation for the Second Law of Thermodynamics (i.e., the increase in entropy over time). The contribution of such a process would be to provide a physical basis for the ontological indeterminacy needed to derive the irreversible Second Law against a backdrop of otherwise reversible, deterministic physical laws. An alternative understanding of the source of this possible quantum “collapse” or non-unitarity is presented herein, in terms of the Transactional Interpretation (TI). The present model provides a specific physical justification for Boltzmann’s often-criticized assumption of molecular randomness (Stosszahlansatz), thereby changing its status from an ad hoc postulate to a theoretically grounded result, without requiring any change to the basic quantum theory. In addition, it is argued that TI provides an elegant way of reconciling, via indeterministic collapse, the time-reversible Liouville evolution with the time-irreversible evolution inherent in so-called “master equations” that specify the changes in occupation of the various possible states in terms of the transition rates between them. The present model is contrasted with the Ghirardi–Rimini–Weber (GRW) “spontaneous collapse” theory previously suggested for this purpose by Albert.
  • Item
    What's the coincidence in debunking?
    (Wiley, 2022-07-19) Bhogal, Harjit
    Many moral debunking arguments are driven by the idea that the correlation between our moral beliefs and the moral truths is a big coincidence, given a robustly realist conception of morality. One influential response is that the correlation is not a coincidence because there is a common explainer of our moral beliefs and the moral truths. For example, the reason that I believe that I should feed my child is because feeding my child helps them to survive, and natural selection instills in me beliefs and dispositions that help my children survive since that is conductive to my genes continuing through the generations. Similarly, the reason that it's morally good to feed my child is because it helps them to survive, and survival is morally valuable. But if we look at some cases from scientific practice, and from everyday life, we can see, I argue, why this response fails. A correlation can be coincidental even if there is a common explainer. I give an account of the nature of coincidence that draws upon recent literature on scientific explanation and argue that the correlation between moral belief and moral truth is a coincidence, even given such common explainers. And I use this to defend a certain form of debunking argument.
  • Item
    The importance of self-knowledge for free action
    (Wiley, 2022-07-03) Gurrola, Joseph
    Much has been made about the ways that implicit biases and other apparently unreflective attitudes can affect our actions and judgments in ways that negatively affect our ability to do right. What has been discussed less is that these attitudes negatively affect our freedom. In this paper, I argue that implicit biases pose a problem for free will. My analysis focuses on the compatibilist notion of free will according to which acting freely consists in acting in accordance with our reflectively endorsed beliefs and desires. Though bias presents a problem for free action, I argue that there are steps agents can take to regain their freedom. One such strategy is for agents to cultivate better self-knowledge of the ways that their freedom depends on the relationship between their conscious and unconscious attitudes, and the way these work together to inform action and judgment. This knowledge can act as an important catalyst for agents to seek out and implement short- and long-term strategies for reducing the influence of bias, and I offer four proposals along these lines. The upshot is that though bias is a powerful influence on our actions, we need not resign ourselves to its negative effects for freedom.
  • Item
    Dignity, Dementia and Death
    (Cambridge University Press, 2023-03-30) Kerstein, Samuel J
    According to Kant’s ethics, at least on one common interpretation, persons have a special worth or dignity that demands respect. But personhood is not coextensive with human life; for example, individuals can live in severe dementia after losing the capacities constitutive of personhood. Some philosophers, including David Velleman and Dennis Cooley, have suggested that individuals living after the loss of their personhood might offend against the Kantian dignity the individuals once possessed. Cooley has even argued that it is morally required on Kantian grounds for those who realize that they will lose their personhood as a result of dementia (e.g. Alzheimer’s) to hasten their deaths (e.g. commit suicide). This article specifies circumstances in which post-personhood living might indeed involve an affront to the Kantian dignity of a person who once was. However, the article contends, Kant implies that it is neither morally required nor even morally permissible for someone in an early stage of Alzheimer’s to hasten their death to avoid such an affront, even if they have autonomously chosen to do so. The article adds an ethical perspective to debate on physician-assisted dying, in particular on the moral permissibility of the soon-to-be-demented ending their lives.
  • Item
    Cell maps on the human genome
    (Springer Nature, 2019-03-20) Cherniak, Christopher; Rodriguez-Esteban, Raul
    We have previously described evidence for a statistically significant, global, supra-chromosomal representation of the human body that appears to stretch over the entire genome. Here, we extend the genome mapping model, zooming down to the typical individual animal cell. Its cellular organization appears to be significantly mapped onto the human genome: Evidence is reported for a “cellunculus” — on the model of a homunculus, on the H. sapiens genome.
  • Item
    Suffering without Subjectivity
    (Springer Netherlands, 2004-11) Carruthers, Peter
    This paper argues that it is possible for suffering to occur in the absence of phenomenal consciousness − in the absence of a certain sort of experiential subjectivity, that is. (‘Phenomenal’ consciousness is the property that some mental states possess, when it is like something to undergo them, or when they have subjective feels, or possess qualia.) So even if theories of phenomenal consciousness that would withhold such consciousness from most species of non-human animal are correct, this needn’t mean that those animals don’t suffer, and aren’t appropriate objects of sympathy and concern.
  • Item
    Invertebrate Minds: A Challenge for Ethical Theory
    (Springer Netherlands, 2007) Carruthers, Peter
    This paper argues that navigating insects and spiders possess a degree of mindedness that makes them appropriate (in the sense of ‘possible’) objects of sympathy and moral concern. For the evidence suggests that many invertebrates possess a belief-desire-planning psychology that is in basic respects similar to our own. The challenge for ethical theory is find some principled way of demonstrating that individual insects do not make moral claims on us, given the widely held belief that some other ‘higher’ animals do make such claims on us.
  • Item
    Conscious Experience Versus Conscious Thought
    (Massachusetts Institute of Technology Press, 2006) Carruthers, Peter
    Are there different constraints on theories of conscious experience as against theories of conscious propositional thought? Is what is problematic or puzzling about each of these phenomena of the same, or of different, types? And to what extent is it plausible to think that either or both conscious experience and conscious thought involve some sort of self-reference? In pursuing these questions I shall also explore the prospects for a defensible form of eliminativism concerning conscious thinking, one that would leave the reality of conscious experience untouched. In the end, I shall argue that while there might be no such thing as conscious judging or conscious wanting, there is (or may well be) such a thing as conscious generic thinking.
  • Item
    Moderately Massive Modularity
    (Cambridge University Press, 2003) Carruthers, Peter
    This paper will sketch a model of the human mind according to which the mind’s structure is massively, but by no means wholly, modular. Modularity views in general will be motivated, elucidated, and defended, before the thesis of moderately massive modularity is explained and elaborated.
  • Item
    Consciousness: Explaining the Phenomena
    (Cambridge University Press, 2001) Carruthers, Peter
    Can phenomenal consciousness be given a reductive natural explanation? Many people argue not. They claim that there is an ‘explanatory gap’ between physical and/or intentional states and processes, on the one hand, and phenomenal consciousness, on the other. I reply that, since we have purely recognitional concepts of experience, there is indeed a sort of gap at the level of concepts; but this need not mean that the properties picked out by those concepts are inexplicable. I show how dispositionalist higher-order thought (HOT) theory can reductively explain the subjective feel of experience by deploying a form of ‘consumer semantics’. First-order perceptual contents become transformed, acquiring a dimension of subjectivity, by virtue to their availability to a mind-reading (HOT generating) consumer system.
  • Item
    The Roots of Scientific Reasoning: Infancy, Modularity, and the Art of Tracking
    (Cambridge University Press, 2002) Carruthers, Peter
    This chapter examines the extent to which there are continuities between the cognitive processes and epistemic practices engaged in by human hunter–gatherers, on the one hand, and those which are distinctive of science, on the other. It deploys anthropological evidence against any form of ‘no-continuity’ view, drawing especially on the cognitive skills involved in the art of tracking. It also argues against the ‘child-as-scientist’ accounts put forward by some developmental psychologists, which imply that scientific thinking is present in early infancy and universal amongst humans who have sufficient time and resources to devote to it. In contrast, a modularist kind of ‘continuity’ account is proposed, according to which the innately channelled architecture of human cognition provides all the materials necessary for basic forms of scientific reasoning in older children and adults, needing only the appropriate sorts of external support, social context, and background beliefs and skills in order for science to begin its advance.
  • Item
    Thinking in Language?: Evolution and a Modularist Possibility
    (Cambridge University Press, 1998) Carruthers, Peter
    This chapter argues that our language faculty can both be a peripheral module of the mind and be crucially implicated in a variety of central cognitive functions, including conscious propositional thinking and reasoning. I also sketch arguments for the view that natural language representations (e.g. of Chomsky’s Logical Form, or LF) might serve as a lingua franca for interactions (both conscious and non-conscious) between a number of quasi-modular central systems. The ideas presented are compared and contrasted with the evolutionary proposals made by Derek Bickerton (1990, 1995), who has also argued for the involvement of language in thought. Finally, I propose that it was the evolution of a mechanism responsible for pretend play, circa 40,000 years ago, which led to the explosion of creative culture visible in the fossil record from that time onwards.
  • Item
    Autism as Mind-Blindness: An Elaboration and Partial Defence
    (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Carruthers, Peter
    In this chapter I shall be defending the mind-blindness theory of autism, by showing how it can accommodate data which might otherwise appear problematic for it. Specifically, I shall show how it can explain the fact that autistic children rarely engage in spontaneous pretend-play, and also how it can explain the executive-function deficits which are characteristic of the syndrome. I shall do this by emphasising what I take to be an entailment of the mind-blindness theory, that autistic subjects have difficulties of access to their own mental states, as well as to the mental states of other people.
  • Item
    Simulation and Self-knowledge
    (Cambridge University Press, 1996) Carruthers, Peter
    In this chapter I shall be attempting to curb the pretensions of simulationism. I shall argue that it is, at best, an epistemological doctrine of limited scope. It may explain how we go about attributing beliefs and desires to others, and perhaps to ourselves, in some cases. But simulation cannot provide the fundamental basis of our conception of, or knowledge of, minded agency.
  • Item
    Reductive Explanation and the 'Explanatory Gap'
    (University of Calgary Press, 2004-06) Carruthers, Peter
    Can phenomenal consciousness be given a reductive natural explanation? Exponents of an ‘explanatory gap’ between physical, functional and intentional facts, on the one hand, and the facts of phenomenal consciousness, on the other, argue that there are reasons of principle why phenomenal consciousness cannot be reductively explained (Jackson, 1982, 1986; Levine, 1983, 1993, 2001; McGinn, 1991; Sturgeon, 1994, 2000; Chalmers, 1996, 1999). Some of these writers claim that the existence of such a gap would warrant a belief in some form of ontological dualism (Jackson, 1982; Chalmers, 1996), whereas others argue that no such entailment holds (Levine, 1983; McGinn, 1991; Sturgeon, 1994). In the other main camp, there are people who argue that a reductive explanation of phenomenal consciousness is possible in principle (Block and Stalnaker, 1999), and yet others who claim, moreover, to have provided such an explanation in practice (Dennett, 1991; Dretske, 1995; Tye, 1995, 2000; Lycan, 1996; Carruthers, 2000.) I shall have nothing to say about the ontological issue here (see Balog, 1999, for a recent critique of dualist arguments); nor shall I have a great deal to say about the success or otherwise of the various proposed reductive explanations. My focus will be on the explanatory gap itself – more specifically, on the question whether any such principled gap exists. I shall argue that it does not. The debate will revolve around the nature and demands of reductive explanation in general.
  • Item
    On Being Simple Minded
    (University of Illinois Press, 2004-07) Carruthers, Peter
    How simple minded can you be? Many philosophers would answer: no more simple than a language-using human being. Many other philosophers, and most cognitive scientists, would allow that mammals, and perhaps birds, possess minds. But few have gone to the extreme of believing that very simple organisms, such as insects, can be genuinely minded. This is the ground that the present paper proposes to occupy and defend. It will argue that ants and bees, in particular, possess minds. So it will be claiming that minds can be very simple indeed.
  • Item
    Phenomenal Concepts and Higher-Order Experiences
    (International Phenomenological Society, 2004) Carruthers, Peter
    Relying on a range of now-familiar thought-experiments, it has seemed to many philosophers that phenomenal consciousness is beyond the scope of reductive explanation. Others have thought that we can undermine the credibility of those thought-experiments by allowing that we possess purely recognitional concepts for the properties of our conscious mental states. This paper is concerned to explain, and then to meet, the challenge of showing how purely recognitional concepts are possible if there are no such things as qualia – in the strong sense of intrinsic (non-relational, non-intentional) properties of experience. It argues that an appeal to higher-order experiences is necessary to meet this challenge, and then deploys a novel form of higher-order thought theory to explain how such experiences are generated.
  • Item
    Why the Question of Animal Consciousness Might Not Matter Very Much
    (Taylor and Francis Group, 2005-02) Carruthers, Peter
    According to higher-order thought accounts of phenomenal consciousness (e.g. Carruthers, 2000) it is unlikely that many non-human animals undergo phenomenally conscious experiences. Many people believe that this result would have deep and far-reaching consequences. More specifically, they believe that the absence of phenomenal consciousness from the rest of the animal kingdom must mark a radical and theoretically significant divide between ourselves and other animals, with important implications for comparative psychology. I shall argue that this belief is mistaken. Since phenomenal consciousness might be almost epiphenomenal in its functioning within human cognition, its absence in animals may signify only relatively trivial differences in cognitive architecture. Our temptation to think otherwise arises partly as a side-effect of imaginative identification with animal experiences, and partly from mistaken beliefs concerning the aspects of common-sense psychology that carry the main explanatory burden, whether applied to humans or to non-human animals.