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Joseph Rotblat, the Physicist Who Left the Manhattan Project: a Biography of Scientific Responsibility

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Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005) was the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project for moral reasons before its completion. He would spend the rest of his life advocating for nuclear disarmament. His activities for disarmament resulted in the formation, in 1957,

Joseph Rotblat (1908-2005) was the only physicist to leave the Manhattan Project for moral reasons before its completion. He would spend the rest of his life advocating for nuclear disarmament. His activities for disarmament resulted in the formation, in 1957, of the Pugwash conferences, which emerged as the leading global forum to advance limits on nuclear weapons during the Cold War. Rotblat's efforts, and the activities of Pugwash, resulted in both being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. Rotblat is a central figure in the global history of resistance to the spread of nuclear weapons. He also was an important figure in the emergence, after World War II, of a counter-movement to introduce new social justifications for scientific research and new models for ethics and professionalism among scientists. Rotblat embodies the power of the individual scientist to say "no" and thus, at least individually, put limits of conscience on his or her scientific activity. This paper explores the political and ethical choices scientists make as part of their effort to behave responsibly and to influence the outcomes of their work. By analyzing three phases of Rotblat's life, I demonstrate how he pursued his ideal of beneficial science, or science that appears to benefit humanity. The three phases are: (1) his decision to leave the Manhattan Project in 1944, (2) his role in the creation of Pugwash in 1957 and his role in the rise of the organization into international prominence and (3) his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995. These three phases of Rotblat's life provide a singular window of the history of nuclear weapons and the international movement for scientific responsibility in the 50 years since the bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. While this paper does not provide a complete picture of Rotblat's life and times, I argue that his experiences shed important light on the difficult question of the individual responsibility of scientists.

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2015-05

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Ethics of Life Extension Technology

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The prospect of anti-aging or life extension technology is controversial in biogerentology but deemed even by skeptical experts to warrant discussion. I discuss the justifications that the probability of life extension technology being developed in the near future is reasonably

The prospect of anti-aging or life extension technology is controversial in biogerentology but deemed even by skeptical experts to warrant discussion. I discuss the justifications that the probability of life extension technology being developed in the near future is reasonably high and that this research justifies the time and money it receives. I investigate potential ethical and societal issues anti-aging technology might create. This paper addresses inequality of access, economic cost, changes in quality of life, the role of death in human life, if and how the technology should be regulated and how parties who choose not to undergo treatment can be fairly treated, even when they are a minority.

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2015-05

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The Ethics of Keeping Large Felids in Zoos

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This thesis aims to address the ethics of keeping the big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, in zoos. It is a practice that has generated some controversy in light of scientific studies reporting stress among wide-ranging animals in

This thesis aims to address the ethics of keeping the big cats, such as lions, tigers, and leopards, in zoos. It is a practice that has generated some controversy in light of scientific studies reporting stress among wide-ranging animals in captive enclosures, as well as in the context of wider discussions in animal welfare and conservation ethics in zoos. A driving question for this project, therefore, was "What are the arguments for and against keeping large felids in zoos/captivity?" This thesis examines the historical and current ethical approaches to evaluating the ethics of maintaining big cats in zoos. Due to many of the big cat species listed as endangered species on the IUCN redlist, the species-centered approach to zoo ethics is becoming the common viewpoint, and, as a result, zoos are deemed ethical because of their contribution to ex situ conservation practices. Further, the ethical arguments against zoos are minimized when the zoos provide suitable and appropriate enclosures for their large felids. Of course, not all zoos are created equal; the ethics of zoos need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, but in general, it is ethical to maintain big cats in zoos.

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2014-05

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Cultural Continuity and Impediments to Queer Rights in Romania

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Romania is in the midst of an identity emergency due to its relatively recent departure from a communist dictatorship. This paper will take a look at identities within Romania while paying close attention to the way that emerging political, economic,

Romania is in the midst of an identity emergency due to its relatively recent departure from a communist dictatorship. This paper will take a look at identities within Romania while paying close attention to the way that emerging political, economic, religious and gender identities have been and are being used to oppress the Romanian queer population. This paper seeks to justify an application of Western values towards the call for enfranchisement of Romanian queers. Western values, in this sense, will be based on Enlightenment notions of equality in all people and based on philosophers whose writings and paradigms are centered in the Western world. Furthermore, it will discuss violence and masculinity in hopes that understanding and critically examining these topics may be used in application towards the emerging Romanian identities and statistics which highlight and implicate queer oppression. Again, this paper will not seek to definitely link as causal any one emerging identity towards the oppression of the queer minority in Romania nor will it seek to undermine any single Romanian institution, but rather question the correlative elements of Romanian society that may be implicated in potential oppression, violences, and a neglect of the Romanian queer minority.

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2014-05

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Empathy, enhancement, and responsibility

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This dissertation engages with the philosophical, psychological, and scientific literature on two important topics: empathy and human enhancement. My two broad goals are to clarify the role of empathy in ascriptions of responsibility and to consider how enhanced empathy might

This dissertation engages with the philosophical, psychological, and scientific literature on two important topics: empathy and human enhancement. My two broad goals are to clarify the role of empathy in ascriptions of responsibility and to consider how enhanced empathy might alter those ascriptions.

First, I argue that empathy is best thought of as a two-component process. The first component is what I call the rational component of empathy (RCE). RCE is necessary for moral responsibility as it allows us to put ourselves in another's shoes and to realize that we would want help (or not to be harmed) if we were in the other's place. The second component is what I call the emotive component of empathy (ECE). ECE is usually an automatic response to witnessing others in distress. Expanding on Michael Slote's view that moral distinctions track degrees of empathy, I argue that it is ECE that varies in strength depending on our relationship to specific people.

Second, I argue that in order to achieve Peter Singer's goal an "expanding circle" of care for all human beings, it will be necessary to use some form of artificial empathy enhancement. Within this context, I try to show that empathy enhancement is 1) a reasonably foreseeable possibility within the next decade or so, and 2) morally defensible.

Third, I argue that philosophers who argue that psychopaths are not morally responsible for their actions are mistaken. As I see it, these philosophers have erred in treating empathy as a singular concept and concluding that because psychopaths lack empathy they cannot be held morally responsible for their actions. The distinction between RCE and ECE allows us to say that psychopaths lack one component of empathy, ECE, but are still responsible for their actions because they clearly have a functional RCE.

Fourth, I paint a portrait of the landscape of responsibility with respect to the enhanced empath. I argue that the enhanced empath would be subject to an expanded sphere of special obligations such that acts that were previously supererogatory become, prima facie, morally obligatory.

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Date Created
2016

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Three worries about moderate deontology

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Perhaps the most common and forceful criticism directed at absolutist deontological theories is that they allow for the occurrence of morally catastrophic events whenever such events could only and certainly be prevented by the violation of a deontological constraint. Some

Perhaps the most common and forceful criticism directed at absolutist deontological theories is that they allow for the occurrence of morally catastrophic events whenever such events could only and certainly be prevented by the violation of a deontological constraint. Some deontologists simply bite the bullet, accept this implication of their theory, and give their best arguments as to why it does not undermine absolutism. Others, I think more plausibly, opt for an alternative deontological theory known as ‘moderate deontology’ and are thereby able to evade the criticism since moderate deontology permits violations of constraints under certain extreme circumstances. The goal of this thesis is to provide a defense of moderate deontology against three worries about the view, namely, that it is more accurately interpreted as a kind of pluralism than as a deontology, that there is no non-arbitrary way of setting thresholds for deontological constraints, and that the positing of thresholds for constraints would lead to some problematic results in practice. I will respond to each of these worries in turn. In particular, I will argue that moderate deontology is properly understood as a deontological theory despite its partial concern for consequentialist considerations, that thresholds for deontological constraints can be successfully located without arbitrariness by democratic appeal to people’s commonsense moral intuitions, and that the alleged problematic results of positing thresholds for constraints can be effectively explained away by the moderate deontologist.

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Date Created
2017

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Universal Love as a Moral Ideal

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Moral philosophy should create concepts and formulate arguments to articulate and assess the statements and behaviors of the morally devoted and the traditions (such as religious and ethical systems) founded by the morally devoted. Many moral devotees and their traditions

Moral philosophy should create concepts and formulate arguments to articulate and assess the statements and behaviors of the morally devoted and the traditions (such as religious and ethical systems) founded by the morally devoted. Many moral devotees and their traditions advocate love as the ideal to live by. Therefore, moral philosophy needs an account of love as an ideal. I define an ideal as an instrument for organizing a life and show that this definition is more adequate than previous definitions. Ideals can be founded on virtues, and I show that love is a virtue.

I define love as a composite attitude whose elements are benevolence, consideration, perception of moment (importance or significance), and receptivity. I define receptivity as the ability to be with someone without imposing careless or compulsive expectations. I argue that receptivity curbs the excesses and supplements the defects of the other elements. Love as an ideal is often understood as universal love.

However, there are three problems with universal love: it could be too demanding, it could prevent intimacy and special relationships, and it could require a person to love their abuser. I argue that love can be extended to all human beings without posing unacceptable risks, once love is correctly defined and the ideal correctly understood.

Because of the revelations of ecology and the ongoing transformation of sensibilities about the value of the nonhuman, love should be extended to the nonhuman. I argue that love can be given to the nonhuman in the same way it is to the human, with appropriate variations. But how much of the nonhuman would an ideal direct one to love? I argue for two limits to universal love: it does not make sense to extend it to nonliving things, and it can be extended to all living things. I show that loving all living things does not depend on whether they can reciprocate, and I argue that it would not prevent one from living a recognizably human life.

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2020