November 28, 2013
Rotman Postdoc Dan Hicks reviews two anthologies that cover ethical issues in our food system. Both anthologies are intended for “food ethics” courses, and discuss such issues as food security, animal welfare, and biotechnology. Before coming to Western, Hicks developed and taught a food ethics course at the University of Notre Dame. Hicks finds that the Pojman anthology is somewhat dated, and the Kaplan anthology does a better job of bringing philosophy into discussion with other disciplines, including medicine and social science.
Review of Pojman, Food Ethics and Kaplan, The Philosophy of Food Agriculture and Human Values, November 2013
November 21, 2013
Rotman Institute Postdoctoral Fellow in Philosophy of Physics, Science and Theoretical Physics, Keizo Matsubara was published in Synthese for his article titled Realism, Underdetermination and String Theory Dualities earlier this year.
String theory promises to be able to provide us with a working theory of quantum gravity and a unified description of all fundamental forces. In string theory there are so called `dualities’; i.e. different theoretical formulations that are physically equivalent. In this article these dualities are investigated from a philosophical point of view. Semantic and epistemic questions relating to the problem of underdetermination of theories by data and the debate on realism concerning scientific theories are discussed. Depending on ones views on semantic issues and realism different interpretations are possible of the dualities.
Matsubara, K. (2013), “Realism, underdetermination and string theory dualities”, Synthese, 190: 471-489.
November 18, 2013
Rotman Institute Post-doctoral Fellow in Philosophy of Biology and Cognitive Science, Rachael Brown has been accepted for publication in Biological Theory for her paper titled Identifying Behavioral Novelty.
Although there is no in-principle impediment to an EvoDevo of behavior, such an endeavor is not as straightforward as one might think; many of the key terms and concepts used in EvoDevo are tailored to suit its traditional focus on morphology, and are consequently difficult to apply to behavior. In this light, the application of the EvoDevo conceptual toolkit to the behavioral domain requires the establishment of a set of tractable concepts that are readily applicable to behavioral characters. Here, I begin the type of theoretical work that needs to be undertaken in order to achieve this, focusing in particular on the key concept of “novelty.” Building on existing criteria used for the identification of behavioral homology from behavioral ecology, I develop a set of operational criteria for identifying novelty in the behavioral domain. These criteria provide a conceptual foundation for the study of novelty in behavioral traits.
November 11, 2013
Check out Michela Massimi’s talk on Prespectival Realism:
The talk was part of the Rotman Lecture Series (Nov 8th, 2013)
November 7, 2013
Before the lecture, Professor Oreskes sat for an interview with Martin Vezér. In this video, she discusses topics in the philosophy of climate science, including issues in the epistemology and of science, history of climate science, the politics of climate change, and other subjects related to her (and Eric Conway’s) book, Merchants of Doubt. After the interview, she delivered a lecture for the Rotman Speaker Series, which you can find below, followed by a discussion with Paul Kennedy from the CBC.
Interview with Naomi Oreskes, 4 October 2013
Lecture: Merchants of Doubt: Using History and Philosophy of Science to Understand the Climate Change Debate.
October 30, 2013
Check out the talks from the Rotman 2103 Annual Conference, Science and Reality, on our youtube channel.
October 25, 2013
Here’s the final lecture from the Rotman Summer Institute on Foundations of Statistical Mechanics from July 14-20, 2013.
In his second lecture, Albert continues discussing the Past Hypothesis, i.e., the claim that the universe started in a state of extremely low Boltzmann entropy. He considers its status as a law of nature and what conception of law (Humean-‘best systems’-regularity v. governance) can best accommodate it. He examines the meaning and nature of probabilistic claims in such a Humean framework. Albert considers how the Past Hypothesis can account for epistemic and causal asymmetry. Finally, the lecture concludes with a discussion of the quantum nature of statistical mechanical probabilities.
Thanks to Yann Benétreau-Dupin for editing the video, and writing the above precis of the lecture.
October 23, 2013
by Reuven Brandt
The Supreme Court of Canada recently issued a ruling about the unilateral removal of life support by physicians. The case centers on Mr. Rasouli, who is minimally conscious, requires life support and, according his physicians, has little chance of recovering. Doctors sought to have Mr. Rasouli removed from life support against the wishes of his substitute decision maker. The ruling of the court was limited in scope, dealing mainly with the procedural requirements of Ontario’s Healthcare Consent Act. The court found that, in this case, doctors could not remove life support without the consent of Mr. Rasouli’s substitute decision maker because withdrawal of life-support constitutes treatment under the act. Despite the limited nature of the ruling itself, the case raises many questions about the complex interplay between patient autonomy, allocation of scarce resources, and the role of medical expertise in making end-of-life decisions. Many philosophers have been asked to weigh in on these questions, including the former director and current member of the Rotman Institute of Philosophy, Charles Weijer. But I would like to focus on some of the comments made by Arthur Schafer in his interview with CTV and his opinion piece in the Globe and Mail.
Schafer argues that the life-sustaining medical interventions Mr. Rasouli requires are painful, and because these interventions provide no hope of ameliorating his condition should not be continued. He states, “When there is no compensating benefit, critical-care doctors are likely to describe the treatment as “torture.”” Citing the credo “do no harm”, Schafer suggests that continuing life support violates basic medical ethics. He also falls just short of explicitly endorsing a group of physicians who quit their jobs rather than provide life support to a patient in similar circumstances to Mr. Rasouli.
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October 17, 2013
Here’s the tenth lecture from the Rotman Summer Institute on Foundations of Statistical Mechanics from July 14-20, 2013. More to come.
In this talk John Norton argues against Landaur’s Principle in the Thermodynamics of Computation. He does so by first arguing that all demonstrations of Landaur’s principle fail. Then, by identifying the reason why these demonstrations fail, he proposes and argues for the no-go result: The standard inventory of processes in the TD of computation neglect fluctuations. All processes must produce entropy to overcome these, and this entropy overwhelms that tracked by Landaur’s Principle.
Thanks to Jessey Wright for editing the video, and writing the above precis of the lecture.