Applied Philosophy Workshop (Feb 19)

Wednesday, 19 February 2014
AS3 05-23 (Philosophy Resource Room), Dept of Philosophy
National University of Singapore



14:00 – Welcome / Tea and Coffee

14:15-14:45 – Dr. Satoshi KODAMA (Kyoto University): “Tsunami-tendenko and Morality in Disasters”

14:45-15:15 – Prof. Nobutsugu KANZAKI (Shiga University): “Research(er) Ethics for Conservation”

15:15-15:45 – Prof. Yasuo DEGUCHI (Kyoto University): “Evidence in Clinical Trial?”

15:45-16:00 – Break / Tea and Coffee

16:00-16:30 – Prof. Masahiko MIZUTANI (Kyoto University): “Information-sharing technology: EBM and its problems”

16:30-17:00 – A/P Axel GELFERT (National University of Singapore): “Gossip, the Public/Private Distinction, and the Principle of Disattendability”

17:00-17:30 – Minao KUKITA (Kobe University): “A Teleosemantic Approach to the Symbol Grounding Problem”



1) Tsunami-tendenko and Morality in Disasters    Prof. Satoshi KODAMA (Kyoto University)

Disaster planning challenges our morality. Everyday rules of action may need to be suspended during large-scale disasters in favor of maxims that that may make prudential or practical sense and may even be morally preferable but emotionally hard to accept, such as tsunami-tendenko. This maxim dictates that the individual not stay and help others but run and preserve his or her life instead. Tsunami-tendenko became well known after the great East Japan earthquake on 11 March 2011, when almost all the elementary and junior high school students in one city survived the tsunami because they acted on this maxim that had been taught for several years. While tsunami-tendenko has been praised, two criticisms of it merit careful consideration: one, that the maxim is selfish and immoral; and two, that it goes against the natural tendency to try to save others in dire need. In this paper, I will explain the concept of tsunami-tendenko and then respond to these criticisms. Such ethical analysis is essential for dispelling confusion and doubts about evacuation policies in a disaster.

2) Research(er) Ethics for Conservation    Prof. Nobutsugu KANZAKI (Shiga University)

Conservation is a value-laden research/practice.  This means researchers in the area are stakeholders who have their own interests and are not impartial.  And their research/practice can go against the interests of some groups of local stakeholders. In this talk, I will examine ethical issues in conservation research/practice.

3) Evidence in Clinical Trial? Prof. Yasuo Deguchi (Kyoto University)

EBM is becoming the world standard for clinical practices. It incorporates a hierarchal criteria of strength or quality of evidence, or levels of evidence.  This talk examines the idea of evidence that underlies the levels of evidence, points out that it is too narrow to be adopted in the clinical context, and proposes a more pluralistic approach to evidence that are obtained from various sorts of clinical trials

4) Information sharing technology: EBM and its problems? Prof. Masahiko MIZUTANI (Kyoto University)

EBM is a movement which has recently begun to receive attention in the field of medicine. Despite the possibilities and advantages EBM has, it has been pointed out that EBM has several problems. Supporters of EBM claimed that these problems sound plausible only when we completely misunderstand EBM. However, they will have to face with and resolve another remaining problems before they can carry out the idea of improving the degree of scientific evidence in medicine by Information sharing technology.

5) Gossip, the Public/Private Distinction, and the Principle of Disattendability    Dr. Axel Gelfert (NUS)

What liittle philosophical discussion there has been about so-called ‘pathologies of testimony’ has traditionally focussed on the moral issues associated with them. This applies especially to the case of gossip, which typically concerns the – often (though not always) private – conduct of individuals and their morally significant doings. Yet, apart from such moral considerations concerning duties on the part of the hearer, there are also relevant epistemic differences between the various kinds of testimonial pathologies. The issue of privacy enters at different levels, for example at the level of the intended audience (which, in the case of gossip, may be defined negatively: as necessarily excluding the party who is being gossiped about); at the level of content (for example when certain – morally neutral – behaviours of public figures are deemed to be private affairs, as opposed to matters of public interest); and at the level of justification (for example when information lacks official – public – credentials). Once moral considerations are temporarily bracketed, it is much less clear why, say, gossip should primarily be thought of as a violation of (someone’s right to) privacy, when in fact it can be argued that engaging in gossip may be fruitfully considered a form of inquiry (Ayim 1994). For an epistemic discussion of testimonial pathologies such as gossip to be possible without sliding into ‘moralising’ discourse, an epistemically motivated and principled public/private distinction is necessary. One candidate for such a (morally neutral) demarcation criterion is the ‘principle of disattendability’ (Geuss 2003), according to which public (as opposed to private) contexts allow individuals to disattend to each other’s actions and behaviours. Disattendability, thus, is a cognitive, not an ethical notion. The present paper develops this theoretical suggestion in an attempt to arrive at an epistemically motivated assessment of the place of gossip among the taxonomy of testimonial pathologies.

6) A Teleosemantic Approach to the Symbol Grounding Problem   Dr. Minao KUKITA (Kobe University)

In 1990, Harnad, in response to Searle’s Chinese room argument, tackled the problem of how an artificial system associate the symbols they manipulate to the things in the real world and proposed a guideline for it. He called it “the symbol grounding problem” and since then, many AI researchers and roboticists have been attempting various approaches to it. In evaluating these approaches, researchers must assume some kind of theory of meaning in advance, but it is often unclear what kind of theory of meaning they are adopting. In this talk, we explore the possibility of applying teleosemantics as proposed by Millikan to the evaluation of the language game model by Vogt and others. By associating teleosemantics and the language game model, we show how good the model is from the teleosemantic point of view, and at the same time argue for teleosemantics as a theory of meaning due to its applicability to the language game model.

Talk: A Normative Theory of Social Institutions, by Seumas Miller (22 Feb 2011)

Philosophy Seminar Series: 22 February 2011, 2-3:45pm, Philosophy Resource Room; Speaker: Seumas Miller, Professor of Philosophy, Charles Sturt University and Australian National University; Moderator: Dr. Tang Weng Hong

Abstract: In this paper I present a teleological normative account of social institutions. On this type of account the definition of a social institution will typically include a description of the human good or social benefit that it purports to produce. For example, universities purport to produce knowledge and understanding, language enables the communication of truths, marriages facilitate the raising and moral development of children, economic systems ought to produce material well-being, and so on. Such goods or benefits are collective in character.

The notion of a collective good in the context of this teleological normative account of social institutions is not that of a public good familiar in economics. Rather a collective good can be understood as a good (Miller 2010: Chapter 2): (1) produced, maintained and/or renewed by means of the joint activity of members of organisations (e.g. schools, hospitals, governments, business firms) i.e. by institutional role occupants; (2) made available to the whole community (e.g. food, security, banking services); and (3)one which ought to be produced (or maintained or renewed) and made available to the whole community because they are desirable (as opposed to merely desired) and such that the members of the community have an (institutional) joint moral right to them (Miller 2010: Chapter 2).

millerAbout the speaker: Seumas Miller is Professor of Philosophy at Charles Sturt University and the Australian National University, and Director of the ANU division of the Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics (an Australian Research Council Special Research Centre). He is the author of Social Action (Cambridge University Press, 2001), Terrorism and Counter-terrorism (Blackwell 2009), and Moral Foundations of Social Institutions (Cambridge University Press, 2010).
More information on the Philosophy Seminar Series can be found here. A list of past talks in the series can be found here.