Here are abstracts of the papers for the conference‘s first concurrent sessions. Over the course of the next week, I’ll post the abstracts both for the other concurrent sessions and for the plenary sessions, as well.
A Case for Collective Moral Responsibility
Vassiliki Leontis (Bowling Green State University)
In the context of the debate about attributions of moral responsibility to groups rather than to individuals alone, this paper argues that collective moral responsibility can be plausibly attributed to organized groups with a decision-making structure and the capacity to act. This claim is based on some necessary, but insufficient, conditions proposed by J. Angelo Corlett: intentional, voluntary, and epistemic agency of organized collectives. Corlett argues that since the epistemic condition cannot be satisfied, the effort to construe organized groups as morally responsible subjects on the basis of the first two conditions fails. This paper argues that the epistemic condition can be satisfied based simply on collective (even false) belief, and that the intentional and voluntary agency conditions can thus be met too. As a result, organized groups can be viewed as morally responsible subjects. This claim uses an argument based on Corlett’s own lights and on Margaret Gilbert’s “joint acceptance” model of group belief.
Criticisms of John Beatty’s Evolutionary Contingency Thesis
Jay Kumar (Florida State University)
This paper is a response to philosopher of science John Beatty’s paper called “The Evolutionary Contingency Thesis”. Beatty argues that there no natural laws in biology because biological generalizations can either be reduced to chemical, physical, or mathematic ones and because other biological generalizations are dependent upon a certain outcome of evolution and thus contingent, or not true by necessity. He lists two ways that nature fails to necessitate the truth of biological generalizations. These two ways compromise two senses of evolutionary contingency, one being a weaker sense and one being stronger. I will offer criticisms of both these senses. Finally, I will make another criticism of the criteria of which he defines what a “law of nature” is and conclude that Beatty should make these criteria more liberal or inclusive.