Q&A with Bioethicist Dr. Mary Kasule

We spoke with Dr. Mary Kasule, Assistant Director of Research Ethics at the University of Botswana, on her bioethics career and upcoming trip to the World Congress of Bioethics in Edinburgh, Scotland.

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The 13th World Congress of Bioethics begins tomorrow. This biennial conference is the largest gathering of bioethics thought-leaders in the world, and will this year explore “Individuals, Public Interests and Public Goods: What is the Contribution of Bioethics?” by bringing international academics, practitioners and experts together in Edinburgh, Scotland.

In support of the bioethics community, Wiley is honored to sponsor a bursary for Dr. Mary Kasule, Assistant Director of Research Ethics at the University of Botswanadr mary kasule

Originally from Uganda, Dr. Kasule completed her PhD in Public Health in 2014 with a focus on research ethics and parental informed consent protocol at the University of the Western Cape. Since then, she has held many roles and achievements, including: Secretary to the Botswana National Research Ethics Committee at the Ministry of Health and Research Officer at the Council on Health Research for Development.

Recently, Dr. Kasule published an article with Douglas R. Waasenaar (Fogarty grand award recipient), Carel Ijsselmuiden, and Boitumelo Mokgatla titled, “Silent voices: Current and future roles of African research ethics committee administrators.” The paper, published by The Hastings Center journal IRB: Ethics & Human Research, discusses findings of the first empirical study conducted specifically on the roles, responsibilities, and potential of administrators for African research ethics committees.

We caught up with Dr. Kasule before her trip to discuss her extensive work in bioethics, and what she hopes to see at the World Congress of Bioethics.


FN: We are honored to sponsor your trip to Edinburgh, Dr. Kasule. Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions. First, what sparked your interest in bioethics and public health?

MK: The courses that I took during my Bachelor of Science in Botany and Zoology and Masters in Applied Food Microbiology, as well as my teaching of Anatomy and Physiology, introduced me to most of the components of public health. To be honest, after over 20 years of lecturing at various tertiary health training institutions I felt I needed a change to specialize into something that could embrace my education background and experience gained. I saw studying public health as a gateway to a diversity of carrier opportunities and growth.

My research methodology course with a component of bioethics during my Masters in Public Health training gave me an insight into the importance of bioethics and responsible conduct of research. I also got an opportunity to work as the Secretary for the Botswana Ministry of Health National Ethics Committee (EC). By listening to EC deliberations, I came to realize the importance of good knowledge of bioethics for EC members in moral reasoning, risk/benefit analysis, and decision making. This further motivated me to find opportunities for long-term training in bioethics. I was very lucky to be awarded a scholarship by National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study for a Post Graduate Diploma in International Bioethics. This training also introduced me to research ethics administration – a new, emerging field in research ethics.

Okavango Delta Sunrise, Botswana
Okavango Delta Sunrise, Botswana

FN: What current project of yours are you most excited about?

MK: I am currently serving as the University of Botswana’s coordinator for the Fogarty African Bioethics Consortium, which was started in 2013 by the Johns Hopkins-Fogarty African Bioethics Training Program through a grant by the NIH.  Under the leadership of Prof. Nancy Kass and Prof. Adnan Hyder, the project aims to create a sustainable and viable institutional bioethics consortium. The consortium seeks to advance institutional capacities to promote and pursue bioethics and research ethics activities, including training, bioethics research, bench marking and publishing and service. Through this collaboration, over ten University of Botswana Institutional Review Board members have been trained in bioethics at Johns Hopkins, greatly improving the board’s structure and function. I am hopeful that this collaborative initiative will be extended to other sub-Saharan countries to gradually harmonize their research ethics review processes.

FN: Your bio is quite impressive! From your extensive career in health, what do you think are the biggest public health priorities for Botswana today?

MK: I would say 1) gaining epidemiologic control of HIV with successful implementation of Treat All, 2) strengthening health systems (improved monitoring and evaluation), supply chain management, quality service delivery), 3) rational human resource allocations, mentorship, and capacity building, and 4) integration of comprehensive health service delivery (such as HIV, sexual and reproductive health, tuberculosis, and non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and cancers).

FN: The World Congress of Bioethics will have attendees from quite diverse backgrounds. What unique perspective do you hope to share with others, and vice versa?

MK:  I would like to share experiences and challenges with people involved in research ethics administration regarding building research ethics capacity in their countries, and discuss the present and future of bioethics.

edinburgh scotland
Edinburgh, Scotland

FN: Are there any panels you’re looking forward to seeing? Any people you’re hoping to meet?

 

MK: Dr. Sarah Chan from the Usher Institute for Population Health Sciences and Informatics, University of Edinburgh. She will be chairing a symposium on ‘Exploring International Policy Development in Regenerative Medicine’ and a panel session considering ‘Socio-Ethical and Legal (ELSI) Implications of Genome Editing Technologies.’

I am currently a member of the Ethics Working Group on the Human Health and Heredity initiative aimed at facilitating a contemporary research approach to the study of genomics and environmental determinants of common diseases with the goal of improving the health of African populations. The group aims to develop a robust and supportive ethical and governance framework for genomic research in Africa, and I hope the symposium and panel will inform this work.

I would also like to meet participants working on Informed Consent, like Dr. Danielle Bromwich (Assistant Professor of Bioethics and Metaethics at University of Massachusetts Boston) and Dr. Ana Krivokuca (Institute for Oncology and Radiology of Serbia).

FN: Congratulations on your recently published paper, “Silent Voices: Current and Future Roles of African Research Ethics Committee Administrators”! How will your findings carry over into the World Congress of Bioethics? How do you hope your research will impact bioethics and public health as a whole?

MK: The paper falls under one of this year’s themes: Public Health, Ethics and Law. Effective and efficient ethics reviews are a result of good research ethics administration by well-trained research ethics administrators. The paper emphasizes the need for sub-Saharan African Ethics Committees to have these administrators manage committee operations and implement review administration with explicit focus so that committees achieve their goal – conducting high-quality, timely, and responsible ethics review. Ultimately, this translates into evidence-based policies and decisions for health care services at both individual and population level.

I hope that implementation of this paper’s recommendations would capacitate ethics committees in sub-regions and ultimately in sub-Saharan Africa. This would lead to a tremendous improvement in ethics review process and to harmonization of ethics review processes and practices in the regions and Africa as a whole, thus improvement of the effectiveness and efficiency of ethics committees. The result would be timely reviews that allow conducting research to improve timeliness of public health interventions, health services delivery, health care policies and decision making. And, this could cut down on waste of resources from delayed reviews and loss of funding which depends on timely review of proposals.

FN: Thank you. We wish you safe travels and look forward to speaking upon your return.


This bursary is sponsored by Wiley on behalf of its bioethics journals.

Read the latest in bioethics from your peers around the world, and submit your paper today. Click on the journals below to access groundbreaking research in an increasingly relevant, ever-evolving field, and check back here soon for a post on Dr. Kasule’s top bioethics article picks!

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Bioethics, official journal of the International Journal of Bioethics
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Developing World Bioethics, the only journal dedicated exclusively to developing countries’ bioethics issues
HAST may 2016 cover cropped
The Hastings Center Report explores ethical, legal, and social issues in medicine, healthcare, and more

 

 

LGBTQ Family & Relationships

LGBT Family

For the second full week of LGBTQ Pride Month, we’ve selected articles from our broad journals portfolio under the theme LGBTQ Family & Relationships. This collection explores the complexities of social, ethical, psychological themes of LGBTQ families and relationships, covering topics such as family planning, marriage equality, child development, sexual health, and many more. Enjoy this research freely through July 31, and don’t forget to comment and share below!

And, don’t forget to come back each Monday as we post think pieces from Wiley authors and LGBTQ advocates centered around a new theme. You’ll also get unlocked access to journal articles and book excerpts that examine the ethical, social, and philosophical issues faced by the LGBTQ community. Thanks for joining us as we continue the necessary conversation on LGBTQ rights, awareness, and support.


Social and psychological creativity in gay male midlife identity management British Journal of Social Psychology | Early View

Performative family: homosexuality, marriage and intergenerational dynamics in China The British Journal of Sociology | Early View

Greedy Spouse, Needy Parent: The Marital Dynamics of Gay, Lesbian, and Heterosexual Intergenerational Caregivers Journal of Marriage & Family | Early View

Development of the Gay and Lesbian Relationship Satisfaction Scale Journal of Marital and Family Therapy | Early View

Religion and Public Opinion Toward Same-Sex Relations, Marriage, and Adoption: Does the Type of Practice Matter? Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion | Early View

Religiousness and Support for Same-Sex Marriage: An Endogenous Treatment Approach Social Science Quarterly | Early View

Ambivalence in Gay and Lesbian Family Relationships Journal of Marriage & Family | June 2016

Identity Transformation During the Transition to Parenthood Among Same-Sex Couples: An Ecological, Stress-Strategy-Adaptation Perspective Journal of Family Theory & Review | March 2016

Queer Theory, Intersectionality, and LGBT-Parent Families: Transformative Critical Pedagogy in Family Theory Journal of Family Theory & Review | March 2016

Maybe “I Do,” Maybe I Don’t: Respectability Politics in the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy | December 2015

Meanings of Intimacy: A Comparison of Members of Heterosexual and Same-Sex Couples Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy | December 2015

Why Donor Insemination and Not Adoption? Narratives of Female-Partnered and Single Mothers Family Relations | December 2015

Queering the Martial Races: Masculinity, Sex and Circumcision in the Twentieth-Century British Indian Army Gender & History | August 2015

The Personal Politics of Same-Sex Marriage Politics & Policy | August 2015

LG(BT) Families and Counting Sociology Compass | July 2015

Getting “Bi” in the Family: Bisexual People’s Disclosure Experiences Journal of Marriage & Family | June 2015

Sexual Health Risk Behaviors Among Older Men Who Have Sex With Men: Implications for Interventions Adultspan Journal | April 2015

Reminders of Heteronormativity: Gay Adoptive Fathers Navigating Uninvited Social Interactions Family Relations | April 2015

“An individual of ill-defined type” (“Un individu d’un genre mal défini”):  Hermaphroditism in Marriage Annulment Proceedings in Nineteenth-Century France’ Gender & History | April 2015

Intimacy and Emotion Work in Lesbian, Gay, and Heterosexual Relationships Journal of Marriage & Family | April 2015

Relationship Preferences Among Gay and Lesbian Online Daters: Individual and Contextual Influences Journal of Marriage & Family | April 2015

Making Sense in and of the Asexual Community: Navigating Relationships and Identities in a Context of Resistance Journal of Community & Applied Social Psychology | March/April 2015

Relationship Education and Therapy for Same-Sex Couples Australian & New Zealand Journal of Family Therapy | December 2014

Reducing Health Disparities and Enhancing the Responsible Conduct of Research Involving LGBT Youth The Hastings Center Report | October 2014

Gay men and intimate partner violence: a gender analysis Sociology of Health & Illness | May 2014

Adoptive Gay Father Families: Parent–Child Relationships and Children’s Psychological Adjustment Child Development | March/April 2014

Reductio ad absurdum objections and the dis-integration argument against merely instrumental sex Journal of Social Philosophy | September 2013

Outing Heteronormativity in Interpersonal and Family Communication: Feminist Applications of Queer Theory “Beyond the Sexy Streets” Communication Theory | May 2013

The Cross-Pressures of Religion and Contact with Gays and Lesbians, and Their Impact on Same-Sex Marriage Opinion Politics & Policy | February 2012

The Friends and Family Plan: Contact with Gays and Support for Gay Rights Policy Studies Journal | May 2011

‘Dealing with sperm’: comparing lesbians’ clinical and non-clinical donor conception processes Sociology of Health & Illness | January 2011


LGBTQ RightsMiss last week’s post on LGBTQ Rights? No worries! The research collection is free through July 31. Go here to read the latest on LGBTQ law, policies, activism, and more.

LGBTQ Rights

This collection explores the past, present, and future of LGBTQ law, politics, and activism which seeks to ensure effective change in social policy and legal protection.

 

LGBTQ Rights

To celebrate the first full week of LGBTQ Pride Month, the Philosopher’s Eye has curated a special collection under the theme LGBTQ Rights. This collection explores the past, present, and future of LGBTQ law, politics, and activism which seeks to ensure effective change in social policy and legal protection. Enjoy this research freely through July 31, and don’t forget to comment and share below!

And, don’t forget to come back each Monday as we post think pieces from Wiley authors and LGBTQ advocates centered around a new theme. You’ll also get unlocked access to journal articles and book excerpts that examine the ethical, social, and philosophical issues faced by the LGBTQ community. Thanks for joining us as we continue the necessary conversation on LGBTQ rights, awareness, and support.


 

nypl.digitalcollections.7c5cbbdb-e5a9-02a9-e040-e00a180668a2.001.r
Ancient Greek philosopher Plato is a celebrated figure in the LGBTQ community as it has long been thought that he was gay. Although Ancient Greeks forbid same-sex marriage, varying sexuality was commonly accepted.

“Comradeship” and “Friendship”:  Masculinity and Militarisation in German’s Homosexual Emancipation Movement after the First World WarGender & History | March 2011

The Transnational Homophile Movement and the Development of Domesticity in Mexico City’s Homosexual Community, 1930-70 Gender & History | October 2014

‘The Ultimate Extension of Gay Community’: Communal Living and Gay Liberation in the 1970s’ Gender & History | October 2015

Same-sex relationship escalation with uncertain marriage legality: Theory and empirical implications Southern Economic Association | April 2015

Are Gay Men and Lesbians Discriminated against in the Hiring Process?  Southern Economic Association | January 2013

When Faith Speech Turns to Gay Hate Speech Dialog | June 2010

As醠and Amen, Sister! Journal of Religious Ethics | April 2015

Hegel, recognition, and same-sex marriage Journal of Social Philosophy | June 2015

Kant, political liberalism, and the ethics of same-sex relations Journal of Social Philosophy | Fall 2001

Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Relationships: New Possibilities for Research on the Role of Marriage Law in Household Labor Allocation Journal of Family Theory & Review | March 2016

Living a Calling, Life Satisfaction, and Workplace Climate Among a Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Population The Career Development Quarterly | December 2015

Does Believing Homosexuality Is Innate Increase Support for Gay Rights? Policy Studies Journal | November 2009

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47da-ed1d-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.r
American poet Walt Whitman was openly gay and is photographed here with his much younger partner Bill Duckett.

Are Debates about “Morality Policy” Really about Morality? Framing Opposition to Gay and Lesbian Rights Policy Studies Journal | May 2011

Relational Comparison and LGBTQ Activism in European Cities International Journal of Urban and Regional Research | May 2014

A hegemon fighting for equal rights: the dominant role of COC Nederland in the LGBT transnational advocacy network Global Networks | April 2016

Organising the Hombre Nuevo Gay: LGBT Politics and the Second Sandinista Revolution Bulletin of Latin American Research | July 2014

Brokering Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity: Chilean Lawyers and Public Interest Litigation Strategies Bulletin of Latin American Research | October 2015

The Impact of Anti-Gay Politics on the LGBTQ Movement Sociology Compass | June 2016

Sexuality in Child Custody Decisions Family Court Review | April 2012

Multilevel analysis of the effects of antidiscrimination policies on earnings by sexual orientation Journal of Policy Analysis and Management | Spring 2012

nypl.digitalcollections.510d47e3-b6bc-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99.001.r
Noted activists Barbara Gittings and Frank Kameny picket outside Independence Hall, Philadelphia in 1969.

The Effect of Requiring Private Employers to Extend Health Benefit Eligibility to Same-Sex Partners of Employees: Evidence from California Journal of Policy Analysis and Management | Spring 2013

Revisiting the Income Tax Effects of Legalizing Same-Sex Marriages Journal of Policy Analysis and Management | Spring 2014

Identity or Behavior: A Moral and Medical Basis for LGBTQ Rights Hastings Center Report | October 2014

Legal and Ethical Concerns about Sexual Orientation Change Efforts Hastings Center Report | October 2014

Trump and Moral Evil

Philosophy scholar and guest blogger, Thomas White, speaks to the Trump Phenomenon and the dangers of Moral Evil as the ‘Privatized Self.’

 

Donald_J__Trump_on_Twitter___Happy__CincoDeMayo__The_best_taco_bowls_are_made_in_Trump_Tower_Grill__I_love_Hispanics__https___t_co_ufoTeQd8yA_https___t_co_k01Mc6CuDI_
This screenshot what taken from Donald Trump’s official Twitter account

 

I popped open my laptop after breakfast to catch up with the latest news. To no surprise, Donald Trump’s face was plastered all over Internet. This time Trump had posted a picture on social media, eating tacos from Trump Tower, wishing everyone a Happy Cinco de Mayo, and exclaiming that he loved “the Hispanics.” Seriously? How could someone so blatantly insensitive be a legitimate candidate for the office of the President of the United States?

Suppressing an overwhelming urge to post a nasty, personal comment on some website about this picture, I instead surfed over to a poetry site where I reread these profound lines from that most philosophical poet, T.S. Eliot, one of my favorites:

   

We are the hollow men/ We are the stuffed men/ Leaning together/ Headpiece filled with straw.  

    Alas! / Our dried voices, when/ We whisper together/ Are quiet and meaningless

Vowing to resist the mindless tide of angry Trump-related polemics, which has swamped any effort to restore even the most minimal rationality to the American political conversation, I decided to act appropriately (rationally), and begin this calm philosophical study of Donald Trump: What is his relationship to knowledge and language? What is the nature of his mind? What is his relationship to other persons qua moral agents?

Eliot’s verse certainly goes a long way to answering these questions: Trump is a Hollow Man, whose mind is filled with nothing but “meaningless”, dead clutter –no poetry, no wit, no knowledge, and no empathy for other persons. This taco stunt revealed not only his ignorance about Spanish culture—Spain and Latin America have a varied ,often European, non-Mexican cuisine—but a   blatant willingness to crudely stereotype others that has become his trademark— a failure of empathy, or emotional intelligence. Trump helps us answer the fascinating philosophical riddle posed by Eliot’s opening lines: a mind can be “hollow” yet “stuffed”– that is filled with emptiness (lack of moral feelings, absence of knowledge etc.). Donald Trump is the abyss Nietzsche warned us against.

The one apparent trait described in  Eliot’s profile of Hollow Men—they speak in “quiet” ”dried”  voices like the elderly—that Trump does not seem to fit actually is appropriate. His trademark bellicose, bullying style masks his hollowness. George Orwell in 1984 captured the emptiness of this demagogic mind. The Orwellian dystopian state mixes political rallies filled with rage and bullying directed at crude political stereotypes, with a political language –Newspeak—that  has been emptied  of any references to “freedom” or “human rights.” (Significantly, Trump never refers to the language in the Declaration of Independence, or any other key historical document that defends freedom, though he has advocated torture, which is Big Brother’s standard operating procedure).

When I mull over of all of these traits, as well as that cringe-worthy, taco-related photo-op, I think immediately of another philosophical concept: Solipsism.

British philosopher, A.E. Taylor defined Solipsism as the doctrine in “which I have no certain knowledge of any existence except my own, everything else being a mere state or modification of myself.”

Though philosophers long ago refuted this theory—how can I communicate the theory of Solipsism to other minds if the latter are problematic?—“Solipsism” actually serves another important goal, namely as a conceptual framework useful to profile the emerging privatization of the self as a culturally, politically, and socially significant trend.  What a  privatized self/ solipsistic self  is was described nicely in this blog about Donald Trump posted on Huffington Post—though the author does not use those terms:

[Donald Trump is an] “emptiness [filled] with a sound and fury meant to gratify his needs in the here and now,” … “others exist only as an extension of himself.”… [His] “behavior… “reflects the hollowness within… the humanity of others [being] of no concern.”

In this taco photo-op Trump is immersed only in his own consciousness; the independent humanity of his ‘Hispanic’ audience is problematic. In other words: a portrait of unsullied solipsism.

These are exactly the representative traits that I profile in my CrossCurrents essay as generally emblematic of the privatized Hollow Men, who lack empathy with the suffering of others, while dominating them for their own personal gratification and private ends. As I observe in this essay, such selves occupy every level of contemporary society. Donald Trump is not unique.


About the Author

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Thomas White is an independent scholar, who has published essays, poetry and fiction , both in print and online journals, in Canada, United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom. White is also the founder of the Takoma Park (MD) Socrates Cafe discussion group, facilitating from 2008 to 2013. He loves the Socratic adventure, and specializes in demonstrating the perennial relevance of philosophy to every aspect of  the human condition.

Enjoy White’s CrossCurrents article, The Hollow Men: Moral Evil as ‘Privatized Self’ freely through June 30.



Special Note: We welcome you to engage in active dialogue in the comments section below. Please note that comments will be carefully moderated to ensure constructive, respectful conversation. Please allow for up to 24 hours for your comment to appear. Happy Commenting!

Our top picks for APA Pacific 2016 – Are You Ready?

This year’s American Philosophical Association Pacific Division Meeting is drawing near. You’re likely combing through the program or app (yes, there’s an app!) squinting at the small font wishing you could split yourself in two in order to attend all the things you’d like AND be able to explore the beautiful city that is San Francisco.

We’re here to help. We’ve put together a list of our top picks – lectures, receptions, and more – to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the good stuff.

SF Haight Street

Day 1 // Wednesday

9am – noon

An Invited Symposium on Chinese Philosophy and Language will be chaired by recent Journal of Chinese Philosophy contributor Xinyan Jiang (University of Redlands).

Or, sit in on the APA Committee on Lectures, Publication, and Research, chaired by Louise Antony (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

If those don’t suit your fancy, we recommend attending the Book Symposium on Lori Gruen’s Entangled Empathy, chaired by Shelley Wilcox (San Francisco State University). Gruen (Wesleyan University) and Wilcox have both worked as editors of Hypatia.

noon – 1pm

Grab some lunch, then head over to the Wiley-Blackwell stand in the exhibit hall. We’re offering 20% off books (to take away or ship directly to you!), free copies of our renowned philosophy journals, and more. Say hello to our acquisitions editor and tell us what you think about the future of philosophy to get a $5 Starbucks gift card.

1 – 4pm

An Invited Symposium: Science and Pragmatism will be chaired by David Boersema (Pacific University). Boersema contributed to the recently published The Ultimate Star Trek and Philosophy: The Search for Socrates.

Also at this time, an APA Committee Session on The Moral Significance of Shame and
Disgust: Chinese and Western Perspectives will take place. Arranged by the APA Committee on the Status of Asian and Asian American Philosophers and Philosophies, this session is chaired by Justin Tiwald (San Francisco State University).

And, you may not want to miss the APA Committee Session on Trends in Brazilian Epistemology, arranged by the APA Committee on International Cooperation. This session is being chaired by Sven Bernecker (University of California, Irvine), author of the book Reading Epistemology: Selected Texts with Interactive Commentary.

4-6 pm

There are several great options to spend your afternoon.

First, a Colloquium on Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism will be chaired for the first hour by Journal of Chinese Philosophy author Nathan Carson (Fresno Pacific University), then chaired by Robin Wang (Loyola Marymount University) for the last hour. Wang has contributed essays to Philosophy Compass (see here and here) and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy (see here and here).

Or, enjoy a lively debate organized by the North American Kant Society. An Author-Meets-Critics session featuring Henry Allison’s Kant’s Transcendental Deduction will be chaired by frequent Wiley philosphy contributor Lucy Allais (University of the Witwatersrand and University of California, San Diego). You can read her past work in the Winter 2008 issue of Philosophy and Public Affairs here and two of her essays featured in Philosophy and Phenomenological Research here and here.

Last but not least, we recommend the APA Committee Session on LGBT Metaphysics. Arranged by the APA Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and
Transgender People in the Profession, this session is chaired by Ásta Sveinsdóttir (San Francisco State University). Sveinsdóttir recently wrote about the role of feminism in naturalism in The Blackwell Companion to Naturalism.

6 – 9pm

If you’re still up for more, the Experimental Philosophy Society is hosting a session on Experimental Work in Formal Semantics, chaired by Philosophy Compass author Seth Yalcin (University of California, Berkeley).

Or, the International Society for Comparative Studies of Chinese and Western Philosophy is hosting a session on Skepticism, Friendship, Perception, and Home: Views from Zhuangzi, Confucians, Montaigne, and Heidegger. This session is chaired by Eirik Lang Harris (City University of Hong Kong). Harris has contributed works to the Philosophy Compass and the Journal of Chinese Philosophy.

Our last pick in this timeslot is a session hosted by the Society for German Idealism. Chaired by Hypatia author Jeff Gauthier (University of Portland), this session will feature the presentation of papers such as, “Du Bois and Hegel on Social Freedom,” “Liberal Naturalism in the Post-Kantian Tradition,” and more.

Day 2 // Thursday

9am-noonpalmquist cover

Start your morning off right with a Book Symposium centered around Stephen Palmquist’s Comprehensive Commentary on Kant’s Religion Within the Bounds of Bare Reason, chaired by Robert Gressis (California State University, Northridge). See critics and author Palmquist (of Hong Kong Baptist University) discuss this new work, the first definitive, comprehensive commentary on Kant’s Religion within the Bounds of Bare Reason.

Alternatively, we recommend the APA Committee Session on Justice in the City, arranged by the APA Committee on Public Philosophy. This session will be chaired by Shelley Wilcox (San Francisco State University).

noon – 1 pm

Don’t forget to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell booth in the exhibit hall! We’d love to chat with you about how you can be published in our journals. In fact, the European Journal of Philosophy is now publishing more pages in each issue – submit your paper ASAP.

1 – 4pm

Next, we recommend seeing the Invited Symposium on Post-Kantian Theories of concepts. Chaired by Mind & Language author Richard Zach (University of Calgary), we’re sure there will be lively discussion around papers such as, “Bolzano on Representations in Logic, Cognition, and Action,” and “The Abstractionist Theory of Concept Formation After Kant.”

Alternatively, observe the Invited Symposium on Women in the History of Philosophy of Religion. This session, chaired by Kristen Irwin (Loyola University Chicago), will debate papers such as, “17th Century Women on God’s Existence and Nature,” and the amusingly titled, “Medieval Women Didn’t Do Philosophy of Religion: So Why Am I Still Talking?” Irwin has contributed work to the Philosophy Compass.

4 – 5pm

Take a break at the Bay Area Feminism and Philosophy Reception taking place in the Italian Room at the Westin St. Francis. A selection of vegetarian canapés will be served, and everyone is welcome. This reception is made possible by the generosity of the Mortimer Fleishhacker Fund for Philosophy at the University of San Francisco.

4 – 6pm

We next recommend the Colloquium on Cognition and the Nature of Acts. Split into two, the first hour will be chaired by Journal of Social Philosophy contributor Jason Kawall (Colgate University), and discuss papers such as, “Knowledge in Action.” The second half of the session will be chaired by David Beglin (University of California, Riverside) and discuss the paper, “‘Philosophy of Action’ Is Not a Philosophy of Acts.”

Or, visit the session hosted by the Society for Philosophy of Creativity. There, you’ll discover a likely fascinating discussion on, “Why Does Art Matter? Reflections on an NEH Enduring Questions Grant,” chaired by Raymond D. Boisvert (Siena College). Boisvert has contributed pieces to The Southern Journal of Philosophy and Journal of Philosophy of Education.

6 – 9pm

The Society for Applied Philosophy is hosting an Author-Meets-Critics session featuring Leif Wenar’s Blood Oil: Tyruants, Violence, and the Rules That Run the World. Gillian Brock (University of Auckland) is chairing. (By the way, their February issue featuring a Singer and Kagan debate of speciesism is available now!)

For those interested in the philosophy of history, the Society for the Philosophy of History is hosting a session on “The Philosophy and Political Thought of Mark Bevir,” chaired by Robert Piercey (University of Regina). Piercey is a contributing author to the new A Companion to Hermeneutics.

We’re also looking forward to the session hosted by the Society

dr emily s lee

Image from the New York Times

 

for Women in Philosophy. There, “Confronting Racism and Violence: Philosophical Research and Teaching” will be chaired by Hypatia contributor Emily S. Lee (California State University, Fullerton). Papers discussed will include, “A New Paradigm of Anti-Racism: Why Discourses of White Privilege, Justice, and Equality Do Not Work,”, “The Revolution Will Not Be Journal(ized): Blogs, Op-eds, and Podcasts as Timely Philosophical Tools,” and more. This session is sure to be fascinating and timely.

8 – 10pm

The Society for the Philosophy of Human Rights is hosting a late evening session with several speakers: Elizabeth Ashford (University of St. Andrews), Adam Etinson (University of Chicago), Robert Simpson (Monash University), and James Nickel (University of Miami). Clearly this is to be a debate of the utmost relevance and is not to be missed!

10pm – midnight

Then, the APA Annual Reception will take place in the Colonial Ballroom (Mezzanine). Grab a glass or three, say hello to all your friends, and talk about what a wonderful time you’re having at the conference.

Day 3 // Friday

9am – noon

Start your morning off with Aristotle. A Colloquium on the Ethics and Politics in Aristotle will feature three parts. The first hour will cover “Aristotle’s Thumos as Dunamis and Pathos” and be chaired by Michael Ferejohn (Duke University), contributor to the Wiley-Blackwell A Companion to Plato. Hour two will be chaired by Bjorn Wastvedt (University of Arizona) and cover, “Aristotle’s Conception of the Political Life as an Imitation of the Divine.” Finally, the session will conclude with an hour discussing, “Aristotelian Sunaisthesis: A Synoptic View of Life” chaired by Emily Perry (University of California, Berkeley).

noon – 1pmbioethics cover

We invite you to stop by the Wiley-Blackwell table in the exhibitor’s hall. Leaf through the newest edition of Bioethics: An Anthology edited by Helga Kuhse, Udo Schuklenk, and Peter Singer.

1 – 4pm

Look no further than the Book Symposium on Duncan Pritchard’s Epistemic Angst: Radical Skepticism and the Groundlessness of Our Believing. This session will be chaired by Chienkuo Mi (Soochow University), with noted speakers such as Ram Neta (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill) and Ernest Sosa (Rutgers University). Neta and Sosa are the esteemed editors of Noûs.

4 – 6pm

You won’t want to miss this year’s annual Dewey Lecture, chaired by editor of Virtue and Vice, Moral and Epistemic Heather Battaly (California State University, Fullerton). Linda Zagzebski (University of Oklahoma) will be speaking on “The Joys and Sorrows of Philosophy.” The reception will take place during the last thirty minutes.

 

7 – 10pm

Don’t miss the Society for Applied Philosophy’s second session, “Corruption and Accountability: Theory and Practice” chaired by Gillian Brock (University of Auckland). Subtopics to be discussed are “Corruption of Knowledge and the Pharmaceutical Industry,” “Think Tank Ethics: Theory Meets Practice,” and more.

Day 4 // Saturday

9am – noon

You’ll want to give yourself major kudos for having made it this far; you will surely be exhausted. Sleep in, get some breakfast – you’ll have earned it.

1 – 4pm

We’re excited about the Invited Symposium: Normativity of Meaning and Content. This session will be chaired by Kirk Ludwig (Indiana University Bloomington), editor of Philosophy and Phenomenological Research, and feature editors of Thought: A Journal of Philosophy Asa Wikforss (Stockholms Universitet) and Ralph Wedgwood (University of Southern) as speaker and commentator, respectively.

4 – 6pm

For your early evening, we recommend the Colloquium on Moral Normativity and Its Relation to Epistemic Normativity. The first half of this session will be chaired by Hypatia author Sharyn Clough (Oregon State University), and discuss, “Knowledge as Ability: A Constructive Critique.”

6 – 9pm

The International Society for Chinese Philosophy is hosting its second session on “Virtues, Roles, and Self-Cultivation in Confucianism”, and will discuss papers such as, “Agent and Deed in Confucian Thought” and more.

chris cuomoOr, see the International Society for Environmental Ethics’s second session chaired by Chris Cuomo (University of Georgia). Cuomo guest edited a special issue of Hypatia in 2014 on climate change. This session will debate environmental ethics, species extinction, and more.

8 – 10pm

Where did the time go? Stop by the Philosophy of Time Society’s session chaired by A Companion to the Philosophy of Time editor Adrian Bardon (Wake Forest University). Ask yourself, “Does It Really Seem to Us That Time Passes?” (A real paper title to be presesnted by Natalja Deng of University of Cambridge.)

Day 5 // Sunday

9am – 6:30pm

Still wanting more philosophy? ArtSense Taste and Community project have organized open workshops that will analyze how cultural artifacts acquire meaning and value as an example of the process by which communities establish shared terms of reference.

Philosophy of Science: How do gravitational waves confirm general relativity?

black holes
Image credit: The SXS (Simulating eXtreme Spacetimes) Project

Last month, this New York Times article announced that a team of scientists “had heard and recorded the sound of two black holes colliding a billion light-years away, a fleeting chirp that fulfilled the last prediction of Einstein’s general theory of relativity.” This, according to the physicists, is the “first direct evidence of gravitational waves, the ripples in the fabric of space-time that Einstein predicted a century ago…complet[ing] his vision of a universe in which space and time are interwoven and dynamic, able to stretch, shrink and jiggle.”

This had us thinking…what are philosophical implications of this recent discovery?

For answers, we turned to Valia Allori, Philosophy Compass philosophy of science editor. Here’s what she had to say.


 

How do gravitational waves confirm general relativity?

By now everybody knows that gravitational waves have been detected, and everybody says that this is another confirmation of general relativity. But does everybody know what general relativity is, what gravitational waves are, why they are a consequence of the theory, and in what sense the theory is confirmed by their detection?  I believe that many who believe they can answer with a ‘yes’ to the first three questions, will not be so sure about the last question. So let us talk about that, even if somewhat informally.

Commonsensically, people believe that experimental data can support theories: if the result predicted by the theory obtains (it is a positive test), then the theory is confirmed by it. General relativity is a theory according to which space-time is not a passive container of matter as Newton believed, but it will be modified by the presence of matter. Just like when a lake’s surface ripples if a stone is dropped in it, and a wave propagates outwards, so space-time ripples around matter and a wave propagates outward: these are gravitational waves. The intuitive idea is that the detection of these waves supports the general theory of relativity, it confirms it. But what exactly does that mean?

One popular account of confirmation is the so-called hypothetico-deductive theory of confirmation, or HD-confirmation. The basic idea is that a theory is confirmed whenever the positive result is logically entailed by the theory. In fact, testing a theory is comparing a logical implication of the theory to the world, and if what one expects turns out to be the case, then the theory is confirmed. This is exactly what happened for general relativity and gravitational waves: the existence of gravitational waves is a logical consequence of general relativity, they looked for them, and finally found them. Because of this, they confirm general relativity. Nonetheless, HD-confirmation has some problems. If some evidence E confirms a theory T, then it will also confirm T&D, where D is some irrelevant statement, namely a statement which has no role in deriving E. For instance, gravitational waves HD-confirm general relativity, but they will also HD-confirm the conjunction of general relativity and that there is life on Mars, which seems wrong.  In addition, it seems that confirmation is not a matter of logical entailment like the HD-confirmation is suggesting. Rather, confirmation seems to be fundamentally about the credibility of a theory: to say that E confirms T is to say that the credibility of T increases because of E.

This is where another popular theory of confirmation, Bayesian confirmation theory or BCT, comes from. The idea is that confirmation is fundamentally about the degrees of belief that people have about a theory, and that evidence can affect such degrees of belief in ways determined by theorems in probability theory, such as Bayes theorem. In particular, a theory T is B-confirmed by evidence E if E increases the degree of belief in T. For instance, assume that scientists believe general relativity to be true with a probability, say, of 0.7. This probability P(T) is called prior probability of general relativity. After the detection of gravitational waves, scientists suitably update their degrees of belief in T. That is, they now assign to T a new probability in light of the new evidence E. This updated probability is called the posterior probability of T given E, and is commonly indicated by P(T/E). BCT says that E confirms T if the posterior probability of T is greater than the prior probability of T. Continuing with the previous example, if the updated degree of belief in T given E is now 0.8, then E confirms the theory T. But how are the degrees of belief updated? BCT says that Bayes theorem provides the link between prior and posterior probabilities. Formally, the posterior probability of T, P(T/E), is given by the prior probability of T, namely P(T), multiplied by the ratio between the likelihood of E, P(E/T), and the expectedness of E, P(E).  The likelihood of E is the degree of belief in E given T: for deterministic theories like general relativity this is 1, but for probabilistic theories it is the physical probability assigned by the theory. The expectedness of E expresses the degree of belief in E regardless of whether T is true. This is supposed to be connected with how ‘surprising’ the evidence is, and the idea is that the less the evidence is expected, the more it confirms the theory. Technicalities aside, BCT is extremely popular because it seems to capture many intuitions about confirmation that HD-confirmation could not account for. In addition of considering confirmation in terms of theory credibility, for instance BCT avoids the problem of irrelevant conjunction because T&D has a lower prior probability than T alone, and therefore is less confirmed by E.

Let us now go back to the original question: what about the case of gravitational waves? Whether their detection B-confirms general relativity fundamentally depends on whether the expectedness of gravitational waves is low. That is, it depends on our degree of belief that there are gravitational waves, regardless of whether general relativity is true: if gravitational waves are a surprising finding, then general relativity is B-confirmed by them. On first thought, this seems not the case: we expected to detect gravitational waves, we have been looking for them for a very long time, we have spent a lot of money to build suitable detectors and screen off all possible interferences, and we were not very surprised that they were finally detected. Nevertheless, we expected them only because we already believe in general relativity. As such, the expectedness of gravitational waves is low, and so they B-confirm general relativity.

But all that glitters isn’t gold: also BCT has problems. One is that ‘old’ evidence does not B-confirm a theory. In fact, if a piece of evidence E is known, then its expectedness P(E) is going to be 1. Because of this, the posterior probability of T will not be greater than the prior probability of T, and thus old evidence does not confirm the theory. But this is extremely counterintuitive: that Mercury’s perihelion had an anomalous precession has been known for a very long time, so it was old news; nevertheless, when it was shown that general relativity could account for it, it was taken as confirming evidence for the theory. Even if this is not the case of gravitational waves, where the evidence is indeed new, it is still a problem for who is trying to figure out what this elusive notion of confirmation really is….


About the Author

valia alloriValia Allori is an Associate Professor of Philosophy at Northern Illinois University. She has worked in the foundations of quantum mechanics, in particular in the framework of Bohmian mechanics, a quantum theory without observers. Her main concern has always been to understand what the world is really like, and how we can use our best physical theory to answer such general metaphysical questions.

In her physics doctoral dissertation, she discussed the classical limit of quantum mechanics, to analyze the connections between the quantum and the classical theories. What does it mean that a theory, in a certain approximation, reduces to another? Is the classical explanation of macroscopic phenomena essentially different from the one provided by quantum mechanics?


About Philosophy Compass

Unique in both range and approach, Philosophy Compass is an online-only journal publishing peer-reviewed survey articles of the most important research from and current thinking from across the entire discipline. In an age of hyper-specialization, the journal provides an ideal starting point for the non-specialist, offering pointers for researchers, teachers and students alike, to help them find and interpret the best research in the field.

Read the Philosophy Compass here.

 

Celebrate International Women’s Day 2016


Each year on International Women’s Day, we are reminded to celebrate the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women worldwide.

This year, the theme is #pledgeforparity, a call for all to champion gender parity. Please take a moment to visit the official International Women’s Day site to make your #pledgeforparity, read pledges from global leaders, and more. Celebrate International Women's Day with Wiley

Yesterday, we hosted a webinar called Women’sRights are Human Rights, covering topics like women’s participation in politics, violence directed at women, unpaid care workloads, and access to equal education across all geographies, classes, races and ethnicities, ages, and cis and transgender rights. The three person panel included Dr. Ranjoo Herr, Associate Professor of Philosophy at Bentley University and frequent contributor to Hypatia. We will post a link to the recording when it is available.

For now, we at Wiley have updated a special collection of scholarly works across the Social Sciences and Humanities to support awareness and equality amongst genders, blog posts from thought leaders spanning fields from philosophy to gender statistics, and more. We welcome you to check it out, and to tell us your story on how you’re supporting gender parity.

DID YOU KNOW?
The Akkadian/Sumerian poet Enheduanna (2285-2250 BCE) is believed by scholars to be the world’s first author and poet known by name.