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Previous SoBIG discussion topics

Spring 2017

January 24: Chapters 1 and 2 from Schaffner, Kenneth F. 2016. Behaving: What's Genetic, What's Not, and Why Should We Care? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780195171402. 
February 21:  Shafto, Patrick, et al. 2012. "Epistemic trust: Modeling children’s reasoning about others’ knowledge and intent." Developmental Science 15.3: 436-447. 
Marusic, Berislav . 2015. "Trusting Against the Evidence", Chapter 7, in Evidence and Agency: Norms of Belief for Promising and Resolving (OUP). 
March 28: Chapters 6 and 8 from Schaffner, Kenneth F. 2016. Behaving: What's Genetic, What's Not, and Why Should We Care? Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN: 9780195171402.
April 25:  Chapter 4 from Sinnott-Armstrong, Walter and Miller, Christian B. 2017 Moral Psychology, volume 5, Cambridge, Mass.:MIT Press. pp 196–236.

Fall 2016

September 13: Valerie Tiberius. (2015) "Moral Psychology: A Contemporary Introduction" Chapter 1 "Moral Psychology and Moral Philosophy" and Chapter 2 "What are Philosophers Doing Here?", pp. viii–x, 1–27. NewYork: Routledge.
October 11: Michael Loughlin & Andrew Miles. (2015). “Psychiatry, objectivity, and realism about value” We sketch the outline of an approach to [psychiatric] validation, but it is one that converts questions about psychiatric validation into questions of a primarily moral nature, and our concluding comments make reference to the sort of epistemic and ethical virtues we need to develop via the education of practitioners, rather than suggestions for the development of formal guidelines, criteria, and unified processes. This is because we think that, before psychiatry can progress, we need to understand fully the underlying conceptual problems that led to what is sometimes termed the “crisis” in psychiatry (Loughlin et al. 2013b). Underlying assumptions, by no means exclusive to psychiatry, about the relationship between science and value generated quite specific problems for this area of practice. For psychiatry to defend and develop its intellectual framework we need to bring these assumptions out in the open, subject them to critical scrutiny, and, we argue, reject them.
November 8: Dominic Murphy. (2014). “Natural kinds in folk psychology and in psychiatry” in Classifying Psychopathology: Mental Kinds and Natural Kinds by Harold Kincaid. Cambrisge: MIT Press.
Abstract: In this chapter, using delusions as my chief example, I will argue that our attribution of mental illness relies on a conception of psychiatric kinds as fundamentally psychological categories with distinctive if unknown causal signatures—characteristic ways of producing similar effects across different people. This aligns psychiatric thought, as well as the folk psychology of psychiatry, with established practices of scientific discovery and explanation that assume that mental illnesses are natural kinds. I shall follow other recent writers in assuming that the relevant conception of natural kind for psychiatry is Richard Boyd’s. However, the ways in which folk psychology groups patients together may not match the ways in which nature does it. Our folk thought may be a poor guide to natural kinds in psychiatry.
December 13: Ron Amundson (2000) “Against Normal Function Stud. Hist. Phil. Biol. & Biomed. Sci. 31(1): 33–53.
Abstract: The concept of normality has been the target of criticism in recent years. Social critics claim that the term carries ideological baggage. Describing individuals or groups as ‘abnormal’ is seen as marginalizing them by use of a falsely objective criterion. This paper will continue that tradition. It will examine the concept of normal function, said by many philosophers to be objectively grounded in the practice of biological and biomedical science. This concept is used in discussions of health care policy, quality-of-life assessments, and even radical ‘treatments’ such as assisted suicide. The core of this paper will be an examination of the biological legitimacy of the concept of functional normality. Social concerns aside, does current biology imply a concept of functional normality, and a distinction between normal and abnormal function? I will argue that it does not. In the last sections of the paper I will introduce the social context of this issue, emphasizing the disadvantages experienced by people whose function is assessed as abnormal. I will distinguish between the level of an individual’s functional performance and the mode or style by which that performance is achieved. This distinction will help reveal that the doctrine of biological normality is itself one aspect of a social prejudice against certain functional modes or styles. The disadvantages experienced by people who are assessed as ‘abnormal’ derive not from biology, but from implicit social judgments about the acceptability of certain kinds of biological variation.

Spring 2016

March 24: Cooper, R. (2015). Why is the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders so hard to revise? Path-dependence and “lock-in” in classification. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 51: 1–10.

Abstract: The latest edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, the D.S.M.-5, was published in May 2013. In the lead up to publication, radical changes to the classification were anticipated; there was widespread dissatisfaction with the previous edition and it was accepted that a “paradigm shift” was required. In the end, however, and despite huge efforts at revision, the published D.S.M.-5 differs very little from its predecessor. This paper considers why it is that revising the D.S.M. has become so difficult. The D.S.M. is such an important classification that this question is worth asking in its own right. The case of the D.S.M. can also serve as a study for considering stasis in classification more broadly; why and how can classifications become resistant to change? I suggest that classifications like the D.S.M. can be thought of as forming part of the infrastructure of science, and have much in common with material infrastructure. In particular, as with material technologies, it is possible for “path dependent” development to cause a sub-optimal classification to become “locked in” and hard to replace.

April 28: Alexandrova, A. and Haybron D. “Is Construct Validation Valid?”

Abstract: What makes a measure of well-being valid? In today's social and medical sciences, validity of self-reported measures is determined by construct validation. This method uses psychometric tests to ensure that a theoretically plausible questionnaire behaves in accordance with the existing background knowledge about, in our case, well-being relevant states such as happiness, life satisfaction and perceived quality of life. Our first claim in this paper is interpretive—construct validation obeys a coherentist logic that seeks to balance diverse sources of evidence about the construct in question. Our second claim is critical - while in theory this logic is defensible, in practice it does not secure valid measures. We argue that the practice of construct validation is in fact dangerously theory-avoidant in that it consistently ignores philosophical considerations about the nature of well-being or else overrides them with statistical correlations.

May 12: Meeting canceled


Fall 2015

October 1: Schaffner, K. 1999. Coming Home to Hume: A Sociobiological Foundation for a Concept of 'Health' and Morality. Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 24:365-375. doi/abs/10.1076/jmep.24.4.365. 5978#.VeR5TpdRQ-0 and the paper by Christopher Boorse that Schaffner discusses:
Boorse, C. 1977. Health as a Theoretical Concept Philosophy of Science 44(4): 542–573.

November 12: We will discuss some of John Doris's new book Talking to Ourselves:  Reflection, Ignorance and Agency Oxford: Oxford University Press.  Here's a short description of the book:

 The unconscious, according to contemporary psychology, determines much of our lives: very often, we don't know why we do what we do, or even exactly what we are doing. This realization undermines the philosophical-and common sense-picture of human beings as rational, responsible, agents whose behavior is ordered by their deliberations and decisions. Drawing on the latest scientific psychology and philosophical ethics, Talking to Our Selves develops a philosophically viable theory of agency and moral responsibility that fully accounts for the unsettling challenges posed by the sciences of mind.

Our focus in the discussion will be on chapter 3, the first part of his empirical critique of the philosophical model of agency he calls "reflectivism".  For those who want to know what reflectivism is, see chapter 2.  Chapter 4 continues the attack and is posted, for your interest (as is the short preface). 

December 10: In our November discussion, a number of people were interested in looking at Doris's positive view about agency.  We also discussed the similarities between Doris's views and the views of the psychologist Jeffrey Gray.  In light of these interests, we will discuss chapter 6 ("Agency") of John Doris's book Talking to Ourselves:  Reflection, Ignorance and Agency, and the brief chapter 19 ("Responsibility") of Gray's 2004 book, Consciousness:  Creeping Up on the Hard Problem.  Doris's chapter 7 on responsibility and Gray's chapter 3 on cybernetics are supplied as background. 

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