Background If trials of therapeutic interventions are to serve society's interests, they must be of high methodological quality and must satisfy moral commitments to human subjects. The authors set out to develop a clinical - trials compendium in which standards for the ethical treatment of human subjects are integrated with standards for research methods. Methods The authors rank-ordered the world's nations and chose the 31 with >700 active trials as of 24 July 2008. Governmental and other authoritative entities of the (...) 31 countries were searched, and 1004 English-language documents containing ethical and/or methodological standards for clinical trials were identified. The authors extracted standards from 144 of those: 50 designated as ‘core’, 39 addressing trials of invasive procedures and a 5% sample of the remainder. As the integrating framework for the standards we developed a coherent taxonomy encompassing all elements of a trial's stages. Findings Review of the 144 documents yielded nearly 15 000 discrete standards. After duplicates were removed, 5903 substantive standards remained, distributed in the taxonomy as follows: initiation, 1401 standards, 8 divisions; design, 1869 standards, 16 divisions; conduct, 1473 standards, 8 divisions; analysing and reporting results, 997 standards, four divisions; and post-trial standards, 168 standards, 5 divisions. Conclusions The overwhelming number of source documents and standards uncovered in this study was not anticipated beforehand and confirms the extraordinary complexity of the clinical trials enterprise. This taxonomy of multinational ethical and methodological standards may help trialists and overseers improve the quality of clinical trials, particularly given the globalisation of clinical research. (shrink)
My goal in this paper is to show that two theses that are widely adopted among Kantian ethicists are irreconcilable. The paper is divided into four sections. In the first, I briefly sketch the contours of my own positive view of Kantian ethics, concentrating on the issues relevant to the two theses to be discussed: I argue that agents can perform actions from but not in conformity with duty, and I argue that agents intentionally can perform actions they take to (...) be contrary to duty. In the second, I focus on Barbara Herman’s non-accidental rightness condition from “On the Value of Acting from Duty.” In the third, I focus on Christine Korsgaard’s guise of the objectively good from “Formula of Humanity.” In the fourth, I explain why the positions developed by Herman and Korsgaard are irreconcilable and I make a suggestion about how to move forward. (shrink)
In this article, I confront Flanigan’s recent attempt to show, not merely that women have a right to commit prenatal injury, but also that women who act on this right are praiseworthy and should not be criticized for this injury. I show that Flanigan’s arguments do not work, and I establish presumptive grounds against any such right, namely: prenatal injury, by definition, involves intentional or negligent harm and, as such, may be subsumed under a wider class of actions that are (...) presumptively wrong. (shrink)
The central hypothesis of the collaboration between Language and Computing (L&C) and the Institute for Formal Ontology and Medical Information Science (IFOMIS) is that the methodology and conceptual rigor of a philosophically inspired formal ontology will greatly benefit software application ontologies. To this end LinKBase®, L&C’s ontology, which is designed to integrate and reason across various external databases simultaneously, has been submitted to the conceptual demands of IFOMIS’s Basic Formal Ontology (BFO). With this, we aim to move beyond the level (...) of controlled vocabularies to yield an ontology with the ability to support reasoning applications. (shrink)
Viewed in the light of the remarkable performance of ‘Watson’ - IBMs proprietary artificial intelligence computer system capable of answering questions posed in natural language - on the US general knowledge quiz show ‘Jeopardy’, we review two experiments on formal systems - one in the domain of quantum physics, the other involving a pictographic languaging game - whereby behaviour seemingly characteristic of domain understanding is generated by the mere mechanical application of simple rules. By re-examining both experiments in the context (...) of Searle’s Chinese Room Argument, we suggest their results merely endorse Searle’s core intuition: that ‘syntactical manipulation of symbols is not sufficient for semantics’. Although, pace Watson, some artificial intelligence practitioners have suggested that more complex, higher-level operations on formal symbols are required to instantiate understanding in computational systems, we show that even high-level calls to Google translate would not enable a computer qua ‘formal symbol processor’ to understand the language it processes. We thus conclude that even the most recent developments in ‘quantum linguistics’ will not enable computational systems to genuinely understand natural language. (shrink)
In a reflective and richly entertaining piece from 1979, Doug Hofstadter playfully imagined a conversation between ‘Achilles’ and an anthill (the eponymous ‘Aunt Hillary’), in which he famously explored many ideas and themes related to cognition and consciousness. For Hofstadter, the anthill is able to carry on a conversation because the ants that compose it play roughly the same role that neurons play in human languaging; unfortunately, Hofstadter’s work is notably short on detail suggesting how this magic might be achieved1. (...) Conversely in this paper - finally reifying Hofstadter’s imagination - we demonstrate how populations of simple ant-like creatures can be organised to solve complex problems; problems that involve the use of forward planning and strategy. Specifically we will demonstrate that populations of such creatures can be configured to play a strategically strong - though tactically weak - game of HeX (a complex strategic game).We subsequently demonstrate how tactical play can be improved by introducing a form of forward planning instantiated via multiple populations of agents; a technique that can be compared to the dynamics of interacting populations of social insects via the concept of meta-population. In this way although, pace Hofstadter, we do not establish that a meta-population of ants could actually hold a conversation with Achilles, we do successfully introduce Aunt Hillary to the complex, seductive charms of HeX. (shrink)
J.M. Coetzee’s book, 'Elizabeth Costello' is one of the stranger works to appear in recent years. Yet if we focus our attention on the book’s two chapters dealing with animals, two preoccupations emerge. The first sees Coetzee use animals to evoke a particular conception of ethics, one similar to that of the philosopher Mary Midgley. Coetzee’s second theme connects animals to the phenomena of scapegoating, as it has been characterized by the philosophical anthropologist René Girard. While both themes involve human (...) interactions with animals, each transcends application to that particular issue and raises deeper questions, respectively concerning the foundations of morality and the therapeutic allure of political violence. Making explicit these two preoccupations enhances our understanding of Coetzee’s fiction, particularly Disgrace. However, when Coetzee’s two philosophical strands are analyzed in their own terms, the ethics of sympathy is shown to be a more coherent notion than the understanding of politics he takes over from Girard. (shrink)
It is shown that Russell's Paradox can be solved without advocating the Theory of Types, and also that the Liar's Paradox can be solved in much the same way. Neither solution requires that any of our commonsense-based beliefs be revised, let alone jettisoned. It is also shown that the Theory of Types is false.
This work will focus on Józef Maria Bocheński’s inclination towards seeing the world and its logical structure from the point of view of ontology. In section 2, we shall discuss the perception of the world deriving from Bocheński, while in the third section – issues of its logical structure will be dealt with. In section 4, we will present a formal framework of the structure of the world.
The replicability and importance of the correlation between cognitive style and religious belief have been debated. Moreover, the literature has not examined distinct psychological accounts of this relationship. We tested the replicability of the correlation (N = 5284; students and broader samples of Canadians, Americans, and Indians); while testing three accounts of how cognitive style comes to be related to belief in God, karma, witchcraft, and to the belief that religion is necessary for morality. The first, the dual process model, (...) posits that analytical thinking is recruited in overriding intuitions related to supernatural beliefs. The second, the expressive rationality model, posits that analytical thinking is recruited in supporting already-held beliefs in an identity-protective manner. And the third, the counter-normativity rationality model, posits that analytical thinking is recruited to question beliefs supported by prevailing cultural norms. In Study 2, we tested the replicability of our results in a re-analysis of published data. The association between analytic thinking style and beliefs was replicated. We conclude that whereas the counter-normativity rationality model was contradicted by the data, both the dual process and expressive rationality models received varying degrees of empirical support, but neither model fully accounted for all the patterns in the data. (shrink)
In this paper I discuss Kant’s theory of conscience. In particular, I explicate the following two claims that Kant makes in the Metaphysics of Morals: (1) an erring conscience is an absurdity and (2) if an agent has acted according to his/her conscience, then s/he has done all that can be required of him/her. I argue that (1) is a very specific claim that does not bear on the problem of moral knowledge. I argue that (2) rests on a strongly (...) internalist line of argument. (shrink)
Much problem solving and learning research in math and science has focused on formal representations. Recently researchers have documented the use of unschooled strategies for solving daily problems -- informal strategies which can be as effective, and sometimes as sophisticated, as school-taught formalisms. Our research focuses on how formal and informal strategies interact in the process of doing and learning mathematics. We found that combining informal and formal strategies is more effective than single strategies. We provide a theoretical account of (...) this multiple strategy effect and have begun to formulate this theory in an ACT-R computer model. We show why students may reach common impasses in the use of written algebra, and how subsequent or concurrent use of informal strategies leads to better problem-solving performance. Formal strategies facilitate computation because of their abstract and syntactic nature; however, abstraction can lead to nonsensical interpretations and conceptual errors. Reapplying the formal strategy will not repair such errors; switching to an informal one may. We explain the multiple strategy effect as a complementary relationship between the computational efficiency of formal strategies and the sense-making function of informal strategies. (shrink)
Physicalism is the thesis that everything is physical, including the mind. One argument against physicalism appeals to neardeath experiences, conscious experiences during episodes, such as cardiac arrest, when one's normal brain functions are severely impaired. The core contention is that NDEs cannot be physically explained, and so we have reason to appeal to the non-physical in explaining them. In this paper, we consider in detail a recent article by Pim van Lommel in which he appeals to NDEs in arguing against (...) physicalism and in favour of an alternative conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial. Our main contentions are, first, that it is not clear that physicalism cannot accommodate the phenomena of NDEs and, second, that it is not obvious how the conception of the mind as non-localized and immaterial is supposed to help. (shrink)
The Chinese Room Argument purports to show that‘ syntax is not sufficient for semantics’; an argument which led John Searle to conclude that ‘programs are not minds’ and hence that no computational device can ever exhibit true understanding. Yet, although this controversial argument has received a series of criticisms, it has withstood all attempts at decisive rebuttal so far. One of the classical responses to CRA has been based on equipping a purely computational device with a physical robot body. This (...) response, although partially addressed in one of Searle’s original contra arguments - the ‘robot reply’ - more recently gained friction with the development of embodiment and enactivism1, two novel approaches to cognitive science that have been exciting roboticists and philosophers alike. Furthermore, recent technological advances - blending biological beings with computational systems - have started to be developed which superficially suggest that mind may be instantiated in computing devices after all. This paper will argue that (a) embodiment alone does not provide any leverage for cognitive robotics wrt the CRA, when based on a weak form of embodiment and that (b) unless they take the body into account seriously, hybrid bio-computer devices will also share the fate of their disembodied or robotic predecessors in failing to escape from Searle’s Chinese room. (shrink)
In a series of well known publications, Christine Korsgaard argues for the claim that an agent acts morally just in case s/he acts autonomously. Two of Korsgaard's signature arguments for the connection between morality and autonomy are the "argument from spontaneity" and the "regress argument." In this paper, I argue that neither the argument from spontaneity nor the regress argument is able to show that an agent would be acting wrongly even if s/he acts in a paradigmatically heteronomous fashion.