Metaphysics

Individuals Declared Brain-Dead Remain Biologically Alive

A remarkable experiment was reported last week in which a kidney from a genetically modified pig was attached to blood vessels in a brain-dead individual, with the family’s consent. In the study, hailed as “a huge breakthrough,” the pig’s kidney functioned normally, suggesting the future feasibility of successfully transplanting organs from pigs into human beings. This research raises a host of ethical issues, including the ethics of xenotransplantation. Here I focus on the implications for the status of individuals declared brain-dead, or dead by neurological criteria, who are unable to breathe spontaneously  and are being maintained in hospitals with the aid of mechanical ventilation. ¶ It is interesting that an article in The New York Times initially described the  subject in the experiment as being “kept alive on a ventilator” –a common description of a person declared brain-dead. In a version published two days later, “kept alive” was changed to “sustained.”  Presumably, this wording change was meant to be consistent with the stance that the brain- dead are truly dead.  However, there is no way that the experiment could have been a success had the human body attached to the pig’s kidney been a genuinely dead body.  Connecting the pig’s kidney to a cold human corpse, following determination of death based on irreversible cessation circulatory and respiratory functioning, would never have permitted normal functioning of the kidney.  In other words, the biological life continuing in the brain-dead research subject made it possible for the experiment to be a success. ¶ For the... -

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Which Came First, Creative Practices or Imagination?

Max Jones is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Bristol. He is particularly interested in the implications of embodied cognition, predictive processing, ecological psychology, and active perception for our understanding of how we think in more abstract ways (for example, mathematical thought), and has recently been working on embodied and enculturated approaches to the imagination. A post by Max Jones and Sam WilkinsonIn an earlier paper (Jones & Wilkinson 2020) and a previous Junkyard blog post by Max, we suggested that (although we are both fans) the predictive processing framework has considerably more work to do if it is to provide a satisfying account of the imagination, and, importantly, more work than some of its key proponents seem to appreciate. Our task here... -

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Are free actions a counterexample to the PSR?

I’ve argued somewhat as follows in the past. ¶ Necessarily, no one is responsible for a brute fact—an unexplained contingent fact. ¶ Necessarily, someone is responsible for every free decision or free action. ¶ So, it is impossible for a free decision or free action to be a brute... -

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Invariance and Causation by Absence

I am very pleased to contribute to this symposium on Causation with a Human Face (CHF). My commentary concerns chapter 6 of CHF, which uses the notion of invariance to shed light on various puzzle cases about causation. (See Jim’s post “Invariance and Distinctions Within Causation” for a summary... -

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Individuals Declared Brain-Dead Remain Biologically Alive A remarkable experiment was reported last week in which a kidney from a genetically modified pig was attached to blood vessels in a brain-dead individual, with the family’s consent. In the study, hailed as “a huge breakthrough,” the pig’s kidney functioned normally, suggesting the future feasibility of successfully transplanting organs from pigs into human beings. This research raises a host of ethical issues, including the ethics of xenotransplantation. Here I focus on the implications for the status of... Hastings Bioethics -


Which Came First, Creative Practices or Imagination? Max Jones is a Lecturer in Philosophy at the University of Bristol. He is particularly interested in the implications of embodied cognition, predictive processing, ecological psychology, and active perception for our understanding of how we think in more abstract ways (for example, mathematical thought), and has recently been working on embodied and enculturated approaches to the imagination. A post by Max Jones and Sam WilkinsonIn an earlier paper (Jones & Wilkinson 2020) and a previous... The Junkyard -


More on attempted murder and attempted theft In an old post, I observe the curious phenomenon that a typical attempted murder is not an attempt to murder and a typical attempted theft is not not attempt to steal. For one only attempts to do something that one intends to do. But that the killing or the taking in fact constitutes a murder or a theft is, in typical cases, irrelevant to the criminal’s ends. For instance, in typical cases of theft, if... Alexander Pruss -


Woodward on Invariance across Background Conditions One of Woodward’s most important contributions to the study of causation is his introduction of the notion of invariance across background conditions. Woodward’s ideas on this topic have had a major influence on experimental research in causal cognition (including on my own work), and I thought it might be helpful to do a little bit to help bring out the importance of this contribution. First off, what exactly is invariance across background conditions? Perhaps the easiest way... Brains Blog -


Anaphora [Revised entry by Jeffrey C. King and Karen S. Lewis on October 27, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography, notes.html] Anaphora is sometimes characterized as the phenomenon whereby the interpretation of an occurrence of one expression depends on the interpretation of an occurrence of another or whereby an occurrence of an expression has its referent supplied by an occurrence of some other expression in the same or another sentence.[1] However, these are at best very... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


Are free actions a counterexample to the PSR? I’ve argued somewhat as follows in the past. Necessarily, no one is responsible for a brute fact—an unexplained contingent fact. Necessarily, someone is responsible for every free decision or free action. So, it is impossible for a free decision or free action to be a brute fact. But then: Necessarily, a counterexample to the Principle of Sufficient Reason (PSR) is a brute fact. So, no free decision or free action can be a counterexample to... Alexander Pruss -


Invariance and Causation by Absence I am very pleased to contribute to this symposium on Causation with a Human Face (CHF). My commentary concerns chapter 6 of CHF, which uses the notion of invariance to shed light on various puzzle cases about causation. (See Jim’s post “Invariance and Distinctions Within Causation” for a summary of the chapter.) I will focus on Jim’s discussion of causation by absence. One question raised by Jim’s discussion concerns the role (if any) of normality... Brains Blog -


Remote-Working Positions in Academic Philosophy How will remote working in academia spread beyond the pandemic circumstances that familiarized so many of us with it? Here’s one indication: the season’s first and so far only (to my knowledge) ad for a research position in philosophy that tells applicants: “remote-work flexibility is a possibility.” The position is a postdoctoral fellowship “at” Emory University: You can view the full ad at PhilJobs. If you know of other jobs in academic philosophy offering similar... Daily Nous -


Do Delusions Have and Give Meaning? Today's post is by Rosa Ritunnano (University of Birmingham and Melbourne), consultant psychiatrist and PhD candidate at the Institute for Mental Health, Birmingham, UK. Here she talks about a recent paper she co-authored with Lisa Bortolotti, “Do delusions have and give meaning?”, recently published in Phenomenology and the Cognitive Sciences (open access). Rosa RitunnanoFor many people living with psychosis, delusional experiences are hugely distressing. They are not only harmful because of the negative emotions they often carry along,... Imperfect Cognitions -


Invariance and Distinctions Within Causation A previous post  mentioned  the notion of distinctions within causation (or among causal claims). The general idea is that a relationship can satisfy a minimal “interventionist”  condition for causation (in the sense that X can be related to Y in such a way that some interventions on X are associated with a change in Y) but nonetheless differ along a number of other dimensions– these are what give us distinctions within causation. One such dimension has to do... Brains Blog -


Empirical Results concerning Causal Reasoning and Their Philosophical Significance As explained in the previous post, one very rich area of inquiry concerns the extent to which normative theories of causal reasoning, from both philosophy and elsewhere, successfully characterize how, as an empirical matter,  various sorts  of subjects (adults, children, non-human animals) reason. This has been explored by psychologists and other researchers but many of the results are less well-known to philosophers than they should be. These results matter not only for their intrinsic interest but for... Brains Blog -


Risability Aristotle says that a necessary accident of the human being is risability—the capability for laughter. As far as I can tell, necessary accidents are supposed to derive from the essence of a thing. So, how do we derive risability from the essence of the human being? Here’s an idea. The essence is to be a rational animal. A rational being reflects on itself. But to have an animal that is simultaneously rational—that’s objectively funny. Thus,... Alexander Pruss -


New Book in Draft: The Weirdness of the World ... huzzah!I would really appreciate constructive critical comments from anyone who is interested. The book is intended primarily for academic philosophers but should also mostly be comprehensible to non-specialists who enjoy my blog.Each chapter of the book is mostly freestanding (most are based on previously published articles), so if you're interested, you can dive straight to the part that interests you instead of feeling like you need to read from the beginning.Anyone who provides valuable... Splintered Mind -


Anarchism [Revised entry by Andrew Fiala on October 26, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Anarchism is a political theory that is skeptical of the justification of authority and power. Anarchism is usually grounded in moral claims about the importance of individual liberty, often conceived as freedom from domination. Anarchists also offer a positive theory of human flourishing, based upon an ideal of equality, community, and non-coercive consensus building. Anarchism has inspired practical efforts at establishing... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


Philosophy of Well-Being: A “Dysfunctional” Situation? A “responsible definition of wellbeing,” says Anna Alexandrova (Cambridge), “needs to be appropriate to the goals of the project—epistemically accessible, reasonably simple, in other words fit for purpose… Philosophers of wellbeing in the analytic tradition think very differently.” That is from a discussion of the matter of “value aptness,” or “How can the science of wellbeing properly produce knowledge that is genuinely about well being?” Interviewer Richard Marshall had asked, “Why do you think your... Daily Nous -


Can one lie without asserting a proposition? I am starting to think that one can lie without asserting a proposition. Let’s say that a counterintelligence agent tells an enemy spy that a new weapons technology has just been deployed, in order to dissuade the enemy from invading. The description of the technology contains nonsensical technobabble. This seems to be a lie. If it is, my argument is complete, because nonsense does not express a proposition. But suppose we say it’s mere BS.... Alexander Pruss -


Virtue Epistemology [Revised entry by John Turri, Mark Alfano, and John Greco on October 26, 2021. Changes to: Main text, Bibliography] Contemporary virtue epistemology (hereafter 'VE') is a diverse collection of approaches to epistemology. At least two central tendencies are discernible among the approaches. First, they view epistemology as a normative discipline. Second, they view intellectual agents and communities as the primary focus of epistemic evaluation, with a focus on the intellectual virtues and vices embodied in... Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy -


Summary of “Longtermism” and “Existential Risk” Phil Torres recently published “The Dangerous Ideas of “Longtermism” and “Existential Risk” in Current Affairs. The essay’s thesis is that so-called rationalists have created a disturbing secular religion that appears to address humanity’s deepest problems but actually pursues the social preferences of elites. Here is a brief summary of the article. (I’ve published reviews of Torres’ past books here and here.) Torres begins by noting that Skype co-founder Jaan Tallinn minimizes the risk of climate... Reason and Meaning -


Five Choices (5): The Experts vs the People Part five of Five Choices, a Philosophical Reflection on Scientific Knowledge Who can we trust to make the important decisions? We have a choice. One approach is to stand by the ideals of democracy and, one way or another, let the people decide for themselves. But what if they make the wrong choice? We could be committed to a terrible course of action causing immense harm to public health, political stability, or the ideals of... Only a Game -


A Theory of Human Dignity, #18–Pain and Suffering. TABLE OF CONTENTS I. Introduction                                                                                                 II. Refuting the Dignity-Skeptic and Debunking a Dignity-Debunking Argument                                                                   III. The Metaphysics of Human Dignity III.1 What Human Dignity Is III.2 Real Persons and Minded Animals III.3 A Metaphysical Definition of Real Personhood IV. Nonideal Dignitarian Moral Theory IV.0 How Nonideal Can a World Be? IV.1 The Skinny … [continue reading] Against Professional Philosophy -