Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts
by Tracy Isaacs
Oxford University Press
Genocide, global warming, organizational negligence, and oppressive social practices are four examples of moral contexts in which the interplay between individuals and collectives complicate how we are to understand moral responsibility. Moral Responsibility in Collective Contexts is a philosophical investigation of the complex moral landscape we find in collective situations such as these. Tracy Isaacs argues that an accurate understanding of moral responsibility in collective contexts requires attention to responsibility at the individual and collective levels. Part One establishes the normative significance of collective responsibility. Isaacs argues that collective responsibility is indispensible to providing a morally adequate account of collective actions such as genocide, and that without it even individual responsibility in genocide would not make sense. Isaacs explains the concepts of collective intention and collective intentional action, provides accounts of collective moral responsibility and collective guilt, and defends collective responsibility against objections, including the objection that collective responsibility holds some responsible for the actions of others. Part Two focuses on individual responsibility in collective contexts. Isaacs claims that individuals are not morally responsible for collective actions as such, but they can be responsible in collective actions for the parts they play. She argues that the concept of collective obligation can help to address large scale global challenges such as global warming, environmental degradation, and widespread poverty and malnutrition. Finally, Isaacs discusses cases of widespread ignorance and participation in wrongful social practice, whether it constitutes an excuse, and how to effect social change in those conditions.
Isaac Newton's Scientific Method: Turning Data Into Evidence about Gravity and Cosmology
by WL Harper
Oxford University Press
Isaac Newton's Scientific Method examines Newton's argument for universal gravity and his application of it to resolve the problem of deciding between geocentric and heliocentric world systems by measuring masses of the sun and planets. William L. Harper suggests that Newton's inferences from phenomena realize an ideal of empirical success that is richer than prediction. Any theory that can achieve this rich sort of empirical success must not only be able to predict the phenomena it purports to explain, but also have those phenomena accurately measure the parameters which explain them. Harper explores the ways in which Newton's method aims to turn theoretical questions into ones which can be answered empirically by measurement from phenomena, and to establish that propositions inferred from phenomena are provisionally accepted as guides to further research. This methodology, guided by its rich ideal of empirical success, supports a conception of scientific progress that does not require construing it as progress toward Laplace's ideal limit of a final theory of everything, and is not threatened by the classic argument against convergent realism. Newton's method endorses the radical theoretical transformation from his theory to Einstein's. Harper argues that it is strikingly realized in the development and application of testing frameworks for relativistic theories of gravity, and very much at work in cosmology today.