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BIOUNCERTAINTY - ERC Starting Grant no. 805498

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Deep uncertainties in bioethics: genetic research, preventive medicine, reproductive decisions (BIOUNCERTAINTY)

Deep uncertainties in bioethics: genetic research, preventive medicine, reproductive decisions (BIOUNCERTAINTY)

Research project financed by the European Research Council (ERC) as part of the Starting Grant competition in 2019-25.

Project number: 805498

Principal Investigator: Tomasz Żuradzki


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Uncertainty is everywhere, as the saying goes, but rarely considered in ethical reflections. This project aims to reinterpret ethical discussions on current advances in biomedicine: instead of understanding bioethical positions as extensions of classical normative views in ethics (consequentialism, deontologism, contractualism etc.), my project interprets them more accurately as involving various normative approaches to decision making under uncertainty. The following hard cases in bioethics provide the motivation for research:

  1. Regulating scientific research under uncertainty about the ontological/moral status (e.g. parthenogenetic stem cells derived from human parthenotes) in the context of meta-reasoning under normative uncertainty.
  2. The value of preventive medicine in healthcare (e.g. vaccinations) in the context of decision-making under metaphysical indeterminacy.
  3. Population or reproductive decisions (e.g. preimplantation genetic diagnosis) in the context of valuing mere existence.

The main drive behind this project is the rapid progress in biomedical research combined with new kinds of uncertainties. These new and “deep” uncertainties trigger specific forms of emotions and cognitions that influence normative judgments and decisions. The main research questions that will be addressed by conceptual analysis, new psychological experiments, and case studies are the following: how do the heuristics and biases (H&B) documented by behavioral scientists influence the formation of normative judgments in bioethical contexts; how to demarcate between distorted and undistorted value judgments; to what extent is it permissible for individuals or policy makers to yield to H&B. The hypothesis is that many existing bioethical rules, regulations, practices seem to have emerged from unreliable reactions, rather than by means of deliberation on the possible justifications for alternative ways to decide about them under several layers and types of uncertainty.

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  • Dranseika, V. (2024). Two Ships of Theseus. Synthese, 203(6), 201.

    Based on a large cross-cultural study, David Rose et al. (in: Lombrozo et al. (eds) Oxford studies in experimental philosophy, Vol. 3, Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp. 158–174, 2020) argue that the Ship of Theseus story is a genuine puzzle in the sense that people who consider it feel inclined to assert two prima facie inconsistent propositions (Ambivalence). In response, Marta Campdelacreu et al. (Dialectica 74(3):551–559, 2020) argue that the data reported by Rose et al. (2020) fail to support Ambivalence. Namely, the data show sharp interpersonal disagreement among different readers of the Ship of Theseus story, but they fail to demonstrate an intrapersonal conflict or indecision. Should intrapersonal Ambivalence be demonstrated, this, according to Campdelacreu et al. (2020), would be a good indicator of the presence of a puzzle. Here, I provide empirical evidence for intrapersonal Ambivalence about the Ship of Theseus story.
  • Elkin, L. (2024). Normative uncertainty meets voting theory. Synthese, 203(6), 191.

    Recent attempts to provide a viable account of decision making under normative uncertainty through the use of voting procedures seem promising, but incomparable options pose a challenge. This paper focuses on the so-called Borda approach to decision making under normative uncertainty (MacAskill, Mind 125(500):967–1004, 2016; MacAskill et al., Moral uncertainty, Oxford University Press, 2020) and illustrates how an extended version of it aimed at accommodating incomplete preference orderings associated with normative theories fails. I propose a different account for proponents fond of the voter-theoretic approach that is grounded by approval voting, which sufficiently addresses the problem of option incomparability and is pragmatically compelling due to its simpler structure.
  • Dranseika, Vilius, Ivars Neiders, and Brian D. Earp. 2024. ‘Time for Bioethics to End Talk of Personhood (But Only in the Philosophers’ Sense)’. The American Journal of Bioethics 24(1):32–35. doi: 10.1080/15265161.2023.2278567.

    In her excellent essay, Blumenthal-Barby (2024) argues that it is “time for bioethics to end talk of personhood.” She is concerned, more specifically, with “the philosophical concept of personhood,” which licenses talk about persons “in a normative sense.” Rather than engaging in bioethical analysis first by determining questions about personhood (for example: Is a fetus a person?) and then drawing certain moral conclusions from this determination (for example: Is abortion permissible?), she suggests that we should instead ask our moral questions more directly (for example, about how we ought to treat certain entities and why) and use other philosophical concepts, such as interests, sentience, or recognition respect to answer those questions head on. Regarding debates about such entities as “human-brain organoids, artificial intelligence, uploaded minds, [or] human-animal chimeras,” for instance, she urges that we should focus our attention directly on the normative questions that are raised by their existence and treatment; whereas focusing on whether such beings are persons, in the philosophers’ sense, can only serve to muddy the waters.
  • Bystranowski, P., Janik, B., & Próchnicki, M. (2024). Uncertainty and Condemnation. An Experimental Study on Lay and Expert Intuitions Regarding the Object of Criminal Punishment. Law & Social Inquiry, 1–26. Cambridge Core.

    The object of criminal punishment (what exactly an offender is punished for) is a central construct of criminal law theory, but it remains hard to identify in many contexts. This is especially relevant in the case of proxy crimes—offenses that criminalize behavior that does not seem wrongful per se but stands in for some other hard-to-prove wrongdoing. What is the object of punishment imposed on a person convicted of a proxy crime? Is it the criminalized conduct itself or the primary wrongdoing (which could not have been proven)? Our experimental study demonstrates that people tend to find a defendant guilty of a proxy crime most frequently when there is an indication of the primary wrongdoing as opposed to being charged with a primary offense in the context of the same evidence and being charged with a proxy in the absence of suspicion of the primary offense. However, we find evidence of discrepancies between laypeople and legal experts: the former seeing the object of punishment in a rather naively legalistic way, and the latter adhering to an instrumental vision. This challenges theories that postulate that the task of criminal law is to send messages that are understandable to both legal officials and citizens.
  • Serpico, D., & Maziarz, M. (2023). Averaged versus individualized: Pragmatic N-of-1 design as a method to investigate individual treatment response. European Journal for Philosophy of Science, 13(4), 59.

    Heterogeneous treatment effects represent a major issue for medicine as they undermine reliable inference and clinical decision-making. To overcome the issue, the current vision of precision and personalized medicine acknowledges the need to control individual variability in response to treatment. In this paper, we argue that gene-treatment-environment interactions (G × T × E) undermine inferences about individual treatment effects from the results of both genomics-based methodologies—such as genome-wide association studies (GWAS) and genome-wide interaction studies (GWIS)—and randomized controlled trials (RCTs). Then, we argue that N-of-1 trials can be a solution to overcome difficulties in handling individual variability in treatment response. Although this type of trial has been suggested as a promising strategy to assess individual treatment effects, it nonetheless has limitations that limit its use in everyday clinical practice. We analyze the existing variability within the designs of N-of-1 trials in terms of a continuum where each design prioritizes epistemic and pragmatic considerations. We then support wider use of the designs located at the pragmatic end of the explanatory-pragmatic continuum.
  • Lewis, J., Dranseika, V., & Holm, S. (2023). Stop Agonising Over Informed Consent When Researchers Use Crowdsourcing Platforms to Conduct Survey Research. Clinical Ethics, 18(4), 1–4.

    Research ethics committees and institutional review boards spend considerable time developing, scrutinising, and revising specific consent processes and materials for survey-based studies conducted on crowdsourcing and online recruitment platforms such as MTurk and Prolific. However, there is evidence to suggest that many users of ICT services do not read the information provided as part of the consent process and they habitually provide or refuse their consent without adequate reflection. In principle, these practices call into question the validity of their consent. In this paper we argue that although the ‘no read problem’ and the routinisation of consent may apply to research participants’ consent practices for studies on crowdsourcing platforms, this is not a serious problem. Furthermore, given that the informational requirements for informed consent in these contexts are minimal, we argue that these participants are, nevertheless, sufficiently informed to give valid consent. We conclude that research ethics committees and institutional review boards should only agonise over the precise details of the informed consent process and materials in those rare cases where appreciable risks to research participants need to be managed.
  • Serpico, D. (2023). A Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Idealisations and the aims of polygenic scores. Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 102, 72–83.

    Research in pharmacogenomics and precision medicine has recently introduced the concept of Polygenic Scores (PGSs), namely, indexes that aggregate the effects that many genetic variants are predicted to have on individual disease risk. The popularity of PGSs is increasing rapidly, but surprisingly little attention has been paid to the idealisations they make about phenotypic development. Indeed, PGSs rely on quantitative genetics models and methods, which involve considerable theoretical assumptions that have been questioned on various grounds. This comes with epistemological and ethical concerns about the use of PGSs in clinical decision-making. In this paper, I investigate to what extent idealisations in genetics models can impact the data gathering and clinical interpretation of genomics findings, particularly the calculation and predictive accuracy of PGSs. Although idealisations are considered ineliminable components of scientific models, they may be legitimate or not depending on the epistemic aims of a model. I thus analyse how various idealisations have been introduced in classical models and progressively readapted throughout the history of genetic theorising. Notably, this process involved important changes in the epistemic purpose of such idealisations, which raises the question of whether they are legitimate in the context of contemporary genomics.
  • Żuradzki, T. (2023). Conscientious Objection in Healthcare: The Requirement of Justification, the Moral Threshold, and Military RefusalsJournal of Religious Ethics

    A dogma accepted in many ethical, religious, and legal frameworks is that the reasons behind conscientious objection (CO) in healthcare cannot be evaluated or judged by any institution because conscience is individual and autonomous. This paper shows that this background view is mistaken: the requirement to reveal and explain the reasons for conscientious objection in healthcare is ethically justified and legally desirable. Referring to real healthcare cases and legal regulations, this paper argues that these reasons should be evaluated either ex ante or ex post and defends novel conceptual claims that have not been analyzed in the debates on CO. First, a moral threshold requirement: CO is only justified if the reasons behind a refusal are of a moral nature and meet a certain threshold of moral importance. Second, this paper considers the rarely discussed conceptual similarities between CO in healthcare and the legal regulations concerning military refusals that place the burden of proof on conscientious objectors. This paper concludes that conscientious objection in healthcare can be accommodated only in some cases of destroying or killing human organisms.
  • Hens, K., De Block, A., Beebe, J. R., Sarkissian, H., Wright, J. C., Nado, J., Cova, F., Réhault, S., Haukioja, J., Aberdein, A., Inglis, M., Inglis, J. S., De Cruz, H., Nichols, R., Rose, D., Fischer, E., Curtis, M., Nadelhoffer, T., Monroe, A., … De Block, A. (Red.). (2023). Advances in Experimental Philosophy of Medicine (1. wyd.). Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

    Although the subdiscipline of philosophy of medicine has only been around for a limited period, people have reflected on the role of doctors, the nature of diseases and death, and the status of medical knowledge for centuries. Long before philosophy of medicine had its own journals and societies, philosophers already thought about the experiences of the sick, the reliability of medical knowledge and technologies, our desire to be healthy, and our fear of pain and death. This volume presents a sample of exciting new ‘naturalistic’ work on these quasi-perennial topics. We call the work presented here naturalistic in that it takes science seriously: It emphasizes the relevance of scientific findings for philosophy and actively explores the possibility that scientific methods (computational tools, experiments, surveys) can be applied in philosophical research. Since the beginning of this century, this type of philosophy is usually referred to as experimental philosophy. This label may be a bit of a misnomer since much of what is done under the umbrella of experimental philosophy does not involve actual experiments. For our volume, we consider experimental philosophy to cover basically all empirical work in philosophy.

    All the chapters in this volume examine the potential of experimental philosophy of medicine (XPhiMed). Some authors do that by engaging surveys and vignettes, others by using corpus analysis or simulations, while others offer exciting reflections on how such experimental philosophy touches upon other new developments in philosophy. Of course, not everybody is equally convinced that experimental or empirical philosophy has great potential. To give a somewhat balanced view of the field, this book also contains chapters that are not so passionate about the added value of XPhiMed, and aim to point out problems with its assumptions or goals.

    In this introduction, we will first share some reflections about the need for XPhiMed and closely related approaches. We will focus on one of the central debates in philosophy of medicine: the debate over how we should define disease/disorder/illness. Not only is this topic central to the philosophy of medicine in general, but it is also dealt with in many contributions to this volume. Secondly, we will look at how XPhiMed could develop in close contact with the methods and theories of adjacent disciplines, including medical psychology and medical anthropology.

  • Malinowska, J. K., & Serpico, D. (2023). Epistemological Pitfalls in the Proxy Theory of Race: The Case of Genomics-Based MedicineThe British Journal for the Philosophy of Science.

    In this article, we discuss epistemological limitations relating to the use of ethno-racial categories  in  biomedical  research  as  devised  by  the  US  government’s  Office  of  Management  and Budget’s institutional guidelines. We argue that the obligation to use ethno-racial categories in genomics  research  should  be abandoned.  First,  we  outline  how  conceptual  imprecision  in  the definition of ethno-racial categories can generate epistemic uncertainty in medical research and practice. Second, we focus on the use of ethno-racial categories in medical genetics, particularly genomics-based precision medicine, where ethno-racial identity is understood as a proxy for medically  relevant  differences  among individuals.  Notably, extensive criticisms  have  been made already against  the  genetic  interpretation  of  races,  but,  nonetheless,  the  concept  of race remains  a  key element  of contemporary  genomics. This  motivates  us  to explore  possible  rea-sons why such criticisms may have been ineffective in redirecting attention to other (non-race-based)  ways of  controlling  for  human  variability. We  contend  that  popular  arguments  against the idea that human races have a genetic basis, though convincing in many respects, are not sufficient to exclude the pragmatic use of race and ethnicity as proxies for genetic variability related  to  complex  phenotypes.  Finally,  we  provide  two  further  arguments  to  support  the  idea  that ethno-racial categories are unlikely to provide meaningful insights into medical genetics, which implies that even the interpretation of race as a useful tool to stratify disease risk is unwarranted.
  • Dranseika, V., Nichols, S., & Strohminger, N. (2023). Which kind of sameness? Disambiguating two senses of identity with a novel linguistic taskCognition, 238, 105545.

    When people report that a person's identity has changed, what do they mean by this? Recent research has often assumed that participants are indicating a change in numerical, rather than qualitative, identity. Investigations into this matter have been hampered by the fact that English has no clear way to demarcate one type of identity from the other. To resolve this matter, we develop and test a novel task in Lithuanian, which has lexical markers for numerical and qualitative identity. We apply this task to intuitions about changes in moral capacities, which has previously shown to lead to high ratings in identity change. We discover that, when people say that a morally altered person is dramatically different, they mean the person is qualitatively transformed, but numerically intact. We conclude that this methodology is a valuable tool not only for illuminating the specific phenomenon of the moral self, but for general use in studying folk ascriptions of identity persistence.
  • Nowak, P. G. (2023). Death as the Cessation of an Organism and the Moral Status Alternative. The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine, jhad018.

    The mainstream concept of death—the biological one—identifies death with the cessation of an organism. In this article, I challenge the mainstream position, showing that there is no single well-established concept of an organism and no universal concept of death in biological terms. Moreover, some of the biological views on death, if applied in the context of bedside decisions, might imply unacceptable consequences. I argue the moral concept of death—one similar to that of Robert Veatch—overcomes such difficulties. The moral view identifies death with the irreversible cessation of a patient’s moral status, that is, a state when she can no longer be harmed or wronged. The death of a patient takes place when she is no longer capable of regaining her consciousness. In this regard, the proposal elaborated herein resembles that of Veatch yet differs from Veatch’s original project since it is universal. In essence, it is applicable in the case of other living beings such as animals and plants, provided that they have some moral status.
  • Serpico, D., & Petrolini, V. (2023). Crossing the Threshold: An Epigenetic Alternative to Dimensional Accounts of Mental Disorders. The British Journal for the Philosophy of Science

    Recent trends in psychiatry involve a transition from categorical to dimensional frameworks, in which the boundary between health and pathology is understood as a difference in degree rather than as a difference in kind. A major tenet of dimensional approaches is that no qualitative distinction can be made between health and pathology. As a consequence, these approaches tend to characterize such a threshold as pragmatic or conventional in nature. However, dimensional approaches to psychopathology raise several epistemological and ontological issues. First, we review major sources of evidence usually recruited in support of the dimensional trend (focusing on clinical observation and biological data), and we show that these are connected to different conceptualizations of how dimensional traits extend across health and pathology. Second, we criticize two unquestioned assumptions that stand at the core of the dimensional trend: a) that there is continuity from health to pathology at the symptomatic level; b) that such continuity reflects an underlying continuity in the genetic liability for pathological conditions. Third, we argue against the idea of a conventional threshold by showing that such a view implies a linear relationship between the genotype and the phenotype. Fourth, drawing on epigenetics and developmental biology, we offer a characterization of mental disorders as stable and dynamic constellations of multi-level variables that differ qualitatively from ‘healthy states’. We conclude by showing that our account has several theoretical advantages over both categorical and dimensional approaches. Notably, it provides crucial insights into psychological development over time and individual differences, with major implications in terms of intervention and clinical decision-making.
  • Neiders, I., & Dranseika, V. (2023). Is “terminally ill self-killing” suicide? Clinical Ethics, 14777509231164002. 

    When a terminally ill patient kills herself, using a drug prescribed by a physician for this purpose, in bioethical literature this would be described as a case of physician-assisted suicide. This would also be a case of suicide according to the standard account of suicide in the philosophical literature. However, in recent years, some authors have argued that terminally ill self-killing in fact should not be considered suicide. In this paper, we don’t try to address the philosophical merits of such arguments. Instead, we ask whether these considerations align with the way non-philosophers think about suicide. We present empirical evidence from four studies that address different concerns raised about terminally ill self-killing being a suicide. We conclude that the raised concerns cannot be supported by the folk understanding of suicide.


  • Bystranowski, P., & Hannikainen, I. R. (2023). Justice before Expediency: Robust Intuitive Concern for Rights Protection in Criminalization Decisions. Review of Philosophy and Psychology.

    The notion that a false positive (false conviction) is worse than a false negative (false acquittal) is a deep-seated commitment in the theory of criminal law. Its most illustrious formulation, the so-called Blackstone’s ratio, affirms that “it is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer”. Are people’s evaluations of criminal statutes consitent with this tenet of the Western legal tradition? To answer this question, we conducted three experiments (total N = 2492) investigating how people reason about a particular class of offenses—proxy crimes—known to vary in their specificity and sensitivity in predicting actual crime. By manipulating the extent to which proxy crimes convict the innocent and acquit those guilty of a target offense, we uncovered evidence that attitudes toward proxy criminalization depend primarily on its propensity toward false positives, with false negatives exerting a substantially weaker effect. This tendency arose across multiple experimental conditions—whether we matched the rates of false positives and false negatives or their frequencies, whether information was presented visually or numerically, and whether decisions were made under time pressure or after a forced delay—and was unrelated to participants’ probability literacy or their professed views on the purpose of criminal punishment. Despite the observed inattentiveness to false negatives, when asked to justify their decisions, participants retrospectively supported their judgments by highlighting the proxy crime’s efficacy (or inefficacy) in combating crime. These results reveal a striking inconsistency: people favor criminal policies that protect the rights of the innocent, but report comparable concern for their expediency in fighting crime.


  • Malinowska, J. K., & Żuradzki, T. (2023). Towards the multileveled and processual conceptualisation of racialised individuals in biomedical research. Synthese, 201(1), 11.

    In this paper, we discuss the processes of racialisation on the example of biomedical research. We argue that applying the concept of racialisation in biomedical research can be much more precise, informative and suitable than currently used categories, such as race and ethnicity. For this purpose, we construct a model of the different processes affecting and co-shaping the racialisation of an individual, and consider these in relation to biomedical research, particularly to studies on hypertension. We finish with a discussion on the potential application of our proposition to institutional guidelines on the use of racial categories in biomedical research.
  • Bystranowski, P., Dranseika, V., & Żuradzki, T. (2022). The Disconnection That Wasn’t: Philosophy in Modern Bioethics from a Quantitative Perspective. The American Journal of Bioethics, 22(12), 36–40.

    Blumenthal-Barby et al. (2022) situate their discussion of philosophy and bioethics in the context of (report- edly) widely held assumption that, when compared to the early days of bioethics, the role of philosophy is now diminished across the field—the assumption we call the Disconnection Thesis. This assumption can be summarized, to use authors’ own words, by the phrase “philosophy’s glory days in bioethics are over.” While in no place of the article did they explicitly endorse the Disconnection Thesis, at least some of the authors had previously endorsed it in print (Savulescu 2015). Such expressions of collective expert wisdom might be a valuable source of information on the discipline’s history, but they should not be accepted uncritically. Given the explosion in the size and scope of bioethical research in recent decades, any scholar’s familiarity with the area is necessarily based on selective reading and might be biased. Hence, in this commentary, we examine what kind of more rigorous evidence could corroborate the Disconnection Thesis. In other words, if the role of philosophy in bioethics has been indeed diminishing, what kind of observable patterns should we expect to see?
  • Malinowska, J.K., Żuradzki, T. (2022). Reductionist methodology and the ambiguity of the categories of race and ethnicity in biomedical research: an exploratory study of recent evidence. Medicine, Health Care and Philosophy.

    In this article, we analyse how researchers use the categories of race and ethnicity with reference to genetics and genomics. We show that there is still considerable conceptual “messiness” (despite the wide-ranging and popular debate on the subject) when it comes to the use of ethnoracial categories in genetics and genomics that among other things makes it difficult to properly compare and interpret research using ethnoracial categories, as well as draw conclusions from them. Finally, we briefly reconstruct some of the biases of reductionism to which geneticists (as well as other researchers referring to genetic methods and explanations) are particularly exposed to, and we analyse the problem in the context of the biologization of ethnoracial categories. Our work constitutes a novel, in-depth contribution to the debate about reporting race and ethnicity in biomedical and health research. First, we reconstruct the theoretical background assumptions about racial ontology which researchers implicitly presume in their studies with the aid of a sample of recent papers published in medical journals about COVID-19. Secondly, we use the typology of the biases of reductionism to the problem of biologization of ethnoracial categories with reference to genetics and genomics.
  • Hannikainen, I. R., Tobia, K. P., de Almeida, G. da F. C. F., Struchiner, N., Kneer, M., Bystranowski, P., Dranseika, V., Strohmaier, N., Bensinger, S., Dolinina, K., Janik, B., Lauraitytė, E., Laakasuo, M., Liefgreen, A., Neiders, I., Próchnicki, M., Rosas, A., Sundvall, J., & Żuradzki, T. (2022). Coordination and expertise foster legal textualism. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 119(44), e2206531119.

    ​A cross-cultural survey experiment revealed a dominant tendency to rely on a rule’s letter over its spirit when deciding which behaviors violate the rule. This tendency varied markedly across (k = 15) countries, owing to variation in the impact of moral appraisals on judgments of rule violation. Compared with laypeople, legal experts were more inclined to disregard their moral evaluations of the acts altogether and consequently exhibited stronger textualist tendencies. Finally, we evaluated a plausible mechanism for the emergence of textualism: in a two-player coordination game, incentives to coordinate in the absence of communication reinforced participants’ adherence to rules’ literal meaning. Together, these studies (total n = 5,794) help clarify the origins and allure of textualism, especially in the law. Within heterogeneous communities in which members diverge in their moral appraisals involving a rule’s purpose, the rule’s literal meaning provides a clear focal point—an identifiable point of agreement enabling coordinated interpretation among citizens, lawmakers, and judges. 
  • Bystranowski, P., Janik, B., & Próchnicki, M. (Red.). (2022). Judicial Decision-Making: Integrating Empirical and Theoretical Perspectives (T. 14). Springer International Publishing.

    This book shares state-of-the-art insights on judicial decision-making from both theoretical and empirical perspectives. It offers in-depth coverage of the forefront of the field and reviews the most important issues and discussions connected with an empirical approach to judicial decision-making. It also addresses the challenges of judicial psychology to the ideal of rule of law and explores the promise and perils of applying artificial intelligence in law. In closing, it offers empirically-driven guidance on ways to improve the quality of legal reasoning.
  • Żuradzki, T. (2022). Rational framing effects and morally valid reasons. Behavioral and Brain Sciences, 45, E247. doi:10.1017/S0140525X22001121

    I argue that the scope of rational framing effects may be broader than Bermúdez assumes. Even in many “canonical experiments,” the explanation of the judgment reversals or shifts may refer to reasons, including moral ones. Referring to the Asian disease paradigm (ADP), I describe how non-consequentialist reasons related to fairness and the distinction between doing and allowing may help explain and justify the typical pattern of choices in the cases like ADP.
  • Maziarz, M., Stencel, A. The failure of drug repurposing for COVID-19 as an effect of excessive hypothesis testing and weak mechanistic evidence. HPLS 44, 47 (2022).

    The current strategy of searching for an effective treatment for COVID-19 relies mainly on repurposing existing therapies developed to target other diseases. Conflicting results have emerged in regard to the efficacy of several tested compounds but later results were negative. The number of conducted and ongoing trials and the urgent need for a treatment pose the risk that false-positive results will be incorrectly interpreted as evidence for treatments’ efficacy and a ground for drug approval. Our purpose is twofold. First, we show that the number of drug-repurposing trials can explain the false-positive results. Second, we assess the evidence for treatments’ efficacy from the perspective of evidential pluralism and argue that considering mechanistic evidence is particularly needed in cases when the evidence from clinical trials is conflicting or of low quality. Our analysis is an application of the program of Evidence Based Medicine Plus (EBM+) to the drug repurposing trials for COVID. Our study shows that if decision-makers applied EBM+, authorizing the use of ineffective treatments would be less likely. We analyze the example of trials assessing the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine as a treatment for COVID-19 and mechanistic evidence in favor of and against its therapeutic power to draw a lesson for decision-makers and drug agencies on how excessive hypothesis testing can lead to spurious findings and how studying negative mechanistic evidence can be helpful in discriminating genuine from spurious results.
  • Bystranowski, P., Dranseika, V., Żuradzki, T. (2022). Half a century of bioethics and philosophy of medicine: A topic-modeling studyBioethics, 1-24.

    Topic modeling—a text-mining technique often used to uncover thematic structures in large collections of texts—has been increasingly frequently used in the context of the analysis of scholarly output. In this study, we construct a corpus of 19,488 texts published since 1971 in seven leading journals in the field of bioethics and philosophy of medicine, and we use a machine learning algorithm to identify almost 100 topics representing distinct themes of interest in the field. On the basis of intertopic correlations, we group the content-based topics into eight clusters, thus providing a novel, fine-grained intellectual map of bioethics and philosophy of medicine. Moreover, we conduct a number of diachronic analyses, examining how the “prominence” of different topics has changed across time. In this way, we are able to observe the distinct patterns in which bioethics and philosophy of medicine have evolved and changed their focus over the past half a century.

  • Wiśniowska K., Żuradzki T., Ciszewski W. (2022), Value choices in European COVID-19 vaccination schedules: how vaccination prioritization differs from other forms of priority setting, Journal of Law and the Biosciences, Volume 9, Issue 2. 

    With the limited initial availability of COVID-19 vaccines in the first months of 2021, decision-makers had to determine the order in which different groups were prioritized. Our aim was to find out what normative approaches to the allocation of scarce preventive resources were embedded in the national COVID-19 vaccination schedules. We systematically reviewed and compared prioritization regulations in 27 members of the European Union, the United Kingdom, and Israel. We differentiated between two types of priority categories: groups that have increased infection fatality rate (IFR) compared to the average for the general population and groups chosen because their members experience increased risk of being infected (ROI). Our findings show a clear trend: all researched schedules prioritized criteria referring to IFR (being over 65 years old and coexisting health conditions) over the ROI criteria (eg occupation and housing conditions). This is surprising since, in the context of treatment, it is common and justifiable to adopt different allocation principles (eg introducing a saving more life-year approach or prioritizing younger patients). We discuss how utilitarian, prioritarian, and egalitarian principles can be applied to interpret normative differences between the allocation of curative and preventive interventions.

  • Żuradzki, T., & Dranseika, V. (2022). Reasons to Genome Edit and Metaphysical Essentialism about Human IdentityThe American Journal of Bioethics 22(9): 34-36.

    The standard view in bioethics distinguishes between “person affecting” interventions that may harm or benefit particular individuals (e.g., by genome editing) and “identity affecting” interventions that determine which individual comes into existence (e.g., by genetic selection). Sparrow questions one of the central assumptions of the debates about reproductive technologies in the past several decades. He argues that direct genetic modification of human embryos should be classified not as “person affecting” but as “identity affecting” because any genome editing in the foreseeable future “will almost certainly” involve creating and editing multiple embryos, as well as selecting the “best possible” embryo by preimplantation genetic diagnosis. Sparrow also assumes that the distinction between “person affecting” and “identity affecting” interventions has crucial ethical significance: “the reasons we have to select embryos are weaker than the reasons we have to modify them” (Sparrow 2022). Thus, classifying genome editing as an “identity affecting” intervention, he concludes that there is no justification for laws requiring enhancement, even if one assumes that enhancement is morally obligatory.

    In this commentary paper, we are taking one step further in questioning the central assumptions in the bioethical debates about reproductive technologies. We argue that the very distinction between “person affecting” and “identity affecting” interventions is based on a questionable form of material-origin essentialism. Questioning of this form of essentialist approach to human identity allows treating genome editing and genetic selection as more similar than they are taken to be in the standard approaches. It would also challenge the idea that normative reasons we have in these two types of cases markedly differ in strength.

  • Sant’Anna, A., Dranseika, V. (2022). Does Macbeth See a Dagger? An Empirical Argument for the Existence-Neutrality of Seeing. Erkenn.

    ​In a recent paper, Justin D’Ambrosio (2020) has offered an empirical argument in support of a negative solution to the puzzle of Macbeth’s dagger—namely, the question of whether, in the famous scene from Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth sees a dagger in front of him. D’Ambrosio’s strategy consists in showing that “seeing” is not an existence-neutral verb; that is, that the way it is used in ordinary language is not neutral with respect to whether its complement exists. In this paper, we offer an empirical argument in favor of an existence-neutral reading of “seeing”. In particular, we argue that existence-neutral readings are readily available to language users. We thus call into question D’Ambrosio’s argument for the claim that Macbeth does not see a dagger. According to our positive solution, Macbeth sees a dagger, even though there is not a dagger in front of him.

  • Dranseika, V. (2022). Memory as evidence of personal identity. A study on reincarnation beliefs. in Kevin Tobia (ed.), Experimental Philosophy of Identity and the Self, Bloomsbury Publishing.

    ​In this chapter, I report two studies aimed at understanding how people think about the role of memory claims in establishing facts about personal identity. In particular, would cases like Parfit’s Celtic warrior case be taken by study participants to provide evidence supporting the belief in reincarnation? If yes, would they be taken to provide evidence of personal identity retained through cycles of reincarnation? What exactly in these cases would be taken to constitute such evidence? Reported studies suggest that the extent to which verifiable memory claims are taken to constitute evidence of personal identity in reincarnation depends on study participants’ background beliefs. Furthermore, it seems that when potential past lives memories are considered, the element of verifiable memory claims that calls for an explanation—and that is sometimes explained in terms of reincarnation—is the possession of otherwise-hard-to-obtain knowledge about past events rather than whether the memory claim is presented as based on personally remembering the event.

  • Maziarz, M. (2022). Is meta-analysis of RCTs assessing the efficacy of interventions a reliable source of evidence for therapeutic decisions?, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science, 91: 159-167.

    Literature-based meta-analysis is a standard technique applied to pool results of individual studies used in medicine and social sciences. It has been criticized for being too malleable to constrain results, averaging incomparable values, lacking a measure of evidence's strength, and problems with a systematic bias of individual studies. We argue against using literature-based meta-analysis of RCTs to assess treatment efficacy and show that therapeutic decisions based on meta-analytic average are not optimal given the full scope of existing evidence. The argument proceeds with discussing examples and analyzing the properties of some standard meta-analytic techniques. First, we demonstrate that meta-analysis can lead to reporting statistically significant results despite the treatment's limited efficacy. Second, we show that meta-analytic confidence intervals are too narrow compared to the variability of treatment outcomes reported by individual studies. Third, we argue that literature-based meta-analysis is not a reliable measurement instrument. Finally, we show that meta-analysis averages out the differences among studies and leads to a loss of information. Despite these problems, literature-based meta-analysis is useful for the assessment of harms. We support two alternative approaches to evidence amalgamation: meta-analysis of individual patient data (IPD) and qualitative review employing mechanistic evidence.

  • Elkin, L. (2021). Regret Averse Opinion Aggregation, Ergo 8: 16.

    It is often suggested that when opinions differ among individuals in a group, the opinions should be aggregated to form a compromise. This paper compares two approaches to aggregating opinions, linear pooling and what I call opinion agglomeration. In evaluating both strategies, I propose a pragmatic criterion, No Regrets, entailing that an aggregation strategy should prevent groups from buying and selling bets on events at prices regretted by their members. I show that only opinion agglomeration is able to satisfy the demand. I then proceed to give normative and empirical arguments in support of the pragmatic criterion for opinion aggregation, and that ultimately favor opinion agglomeration.

  • Dranseika, V., McCarroll, C.J., Michaelian, K. (2021). Are observer memories (accurate) memories? Insights from experimental philosophy. Consciousness and Cognition.

    A striking feature of our memories of the personal past is that they involve different visual perspectives: one sometimes recalls past events from one’s original point of view (a field perspective), but one sometimes recalls them from an external point of view (an observer perspective). In philosophy, observer memories are often seen as being less than fully genuine and as being necessarily false or distorted. This paper looks at whether laypeople share the standard philosophical view by applying the methods of experimental philosophy. We report the results of five studies suggesting that, while participants clearly categorize both field and observer memories as memories, they tend to judge that observer memories are slightly less accurate than field memories. Our results suggest, however, that in lay thought, the difference between field and observer memories is not nearly as clear-cut as philosophers have generally taken it to be.

  • Earp, B.D., Lewis, J., Dranseika, V. & Hannikainen, I. (2021). Experimental Philosophical Bioethics and  Normative Inference. Theoretical Medicine & Bioethics.

    This paper explores an emerging sub-field of both empirical bioethics and experimental philosophy, which has been called “experimental philosophical bioethics” (bioxphi). As an empirical discipline, bioxphi adopts the methods of experimental moral psychology and cognitive science; it does so to make sense of the eliciting factors and underlying cognitive processes that shape people’s moral judgments, particularly about real-world matters of bioethical concern. Yet, as a normative discipline situated within the broader field of bioethics, it also aims to contribute to substantive ethical questions about what should be done in a given context. What are some of the ways in which this aim has been pursued? In this paper, we employ a case study approach to examine and critically evaluate four strategies from the recent literature by which scholars in bioxphi have leveraged empirical data in the service of normative arguments.

  • Elkin, L. (2021). The Precautionary Principle and Expert Disagreement. Erkenn.

    The Precautionary Principle is typically construed as a conservative decision rule aimed at preventing harm. But Martin Peterson (JME 33: 5–10, 2007; The ethics of technology: A geometric analysis of five moral principles, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2017) has argued that the principle is better understood as an epistemic rule, guiding decision-makers in forming beliefs rather than choosing among possible acts. On the epistemic view, he claims there is a principle concerning expert disagreement underlying precautionary-based reasoning called the ecumenical principle: all expert views should be considered in a precautionary appraisal, not just those that are the most prominent or influential. In articulating the doxastic commitments of decision-makers under this constraint, Peterson precludes any probabilistic rule that might result in combining expert opinions. For combined or consensus probabilities are likely to provide decision-makers with information that is more precise than warranted. Contra Peterson, I argue that upon adopting a broader conception of probability, there is a probabilistic rule, under which expert opinions are combined, that is immune to his criticism and better represents the ecumenical principle.

  • Bystranowski, P., Janik, B., Próchnicki, M. et al. (2021). Do Formalist Judges Abide By Their Abstract Principles? A Two-Country Study in Adjudication. Int J Semiot Law.

    Recent literature in experimental philosophy has postulated the existence of the abstract/concrete paradox (ACP). One recent study supports the thesis that this effect influences judicial decision-making, including decision-making by professional judges, in areas such as interpretation of constitutional principles and application of clear-cut rules. Here, following the existing literature in legal theory, we argue that the susceptibility to such an effect might depend on whether decision-makers operate in a legal system characterized by the formalist or particularist approach to legal interpretation, with formalist systems being less susceptible to the effect.

  • Maziarz, M. (2021). Resolving empirical controversies with mechanistic evidence. Synthese.

    The results of econometric modeling are fragile in the sense that minor changes in estimation techniques or sample can lead to statistical models that support inconsistent causal hypotheses. The fragility of econometric results undermines making conclusive inferences from the empirical literature. I argue that the program of evidential pluralism, which originated in the context of medicine and encapsulates to the normative reading of the Russo-Williamson Thesis that causal claims need the support of both difference-making and mechanistic evidence, offers a ground for resolving empirical disagreements.

  • Bystranowski, P., Janik, B., Próchnicki, M., & Skórska, P. (2021). Anchoring effect in legal decision-making: A meta-analysisLaw and Human Behavior, 45 (1): 1-23.

    We conducted a meta-analysis to examine whether numeric decision-making in law is susceptible to the effect of (possibly arbitrary) values present in the decision contexts (anchoring effect) and to investigate which factors might moderate this effect.

  • Dranseika, V. (2021). Authenticity, Self-Defining Memories, and the Direction of Change. AJOB Neuroscience, 12 (1): 48-49.

    An open peer commentary to Zawadzki and Adamczyk's target article: "Personality and Authenticity in Light of the Memory-Modifying Potential of Optogenetics".

  • Maziarz, M. & Zach, M. (2021). Assessing the quality of evidence from epidemiological agent-based models for the COVID-19 pandemic. History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, 43 (10).

    Agent-based models (ABMs) are one of the main sources of evidence for decisions regarding mitigation and suppression measures against the spread of SARS-CoV-2. These models have not been previously included in the hierarchy of evidence put forth by the evidence-based medicine movement, which prioritizes those research methods that deliver results less susceptible to the risk of confounding. We point out the need to assess the quality of evidence delivered by ABMs and ask the question of what is the risk that assumptions entertained in ABMs do not include all the key factors and make model predictions susceptible to the problem of confounding.

  • Żuradzki, T. (2021). Against the Precautionary Approach to Moral Status: The Case of Surrogates for Living Human Brains. American Journal of Bioethics, 20 (1): 53-56.

    My paper builds on the conceptual tools from three interrelated philosophical debates that—as I believe—may help structure important if chaotic discussions about surrogates for living human brains and resolve some practical issues related to regulatory matters. In particular, I refer to the discussions about the “moral precautionary principle” in research ethics (Koplin and Wilkinson 2019); about normative uncertainty in ethics (MacAskill, Bykvist, and Ord 2020), and about the inductive risk problem for animal welfare scientists (Birch 2018). I elucidate upon the possible meanings of the phrase “a too good human brain surrogate” used by Henry T. Greely (2021), and I demonstrate that the evaluation of the practical and regulatory implications of the “goodness” of such surrogates created for research purposes should be sensitive to the possible consequences of two types of errors: the under-attribution and over-attribution of moral status to such beings. Many authors writing about this topic (including Greely 2021, but see also, e.g., Koplin and Savulescu 2019) concentrate only on the first type of error, neglecting the negative consequences of the second type, i.e., over-attribution.

  • Żuradzki, T. & Wiśniowska, K. (2020). A data-driven argument in bioethics: why theologically grounded concepts may not provide the necessary intellectual resources to discuss inequality and injustice in healthcare. American Journal of Bioethics, 12 (20): 25-28.

    In this paper, we use an innovative, empirical, and–as yet–rarely applied method in bioethics, namely corpus analysis. By demonstrating the ambiguity of the concept of dignity discernible when analyzing its use in normative contexts, our work is a novel contribution to the debates among the historians of ideas about conceptual identity and conceptual drift.

  • Wiśniowska, K. (2020). Etyczne aspekty „obrzezania” [Ethical aspects of medically unnecessary child genital cutting]. Analiza i Egzystencja, 51: 45-64.

    Female genital mutilation includes procedures which remove or cause injury to some or all women’s external genital organs. There are a lot of medical risks involved - nevertheless, in some societies it is mainstream practice, carried out mostly on girls younger then fifteen years of age. In this paper, it is considered if it would be acceptable to make compromise in the case of female genital mutilation in the form of so-called Seattle compromise.

  • Wroński, L. (2020). Objective consequentialism and the plurality of chances. Synthese.

    I claim that objective consequentialism (OC) faces a problem stemming from the existence in some situations of a plurality of chances relevant to the outcomes of an agent’s acts. I suggest that this phenomenon bears structural resemblance to the well-known Reference Class problem. I outline a few ways in which one could attempt to deal with the issue, suggesting that it is the higher-level chance that should be employed by OC.

  • Maziarz, M. & Zach, M. (2020). Agent-based modeling for SARS-CoV-2 epidemic prediction and intervention assessment. A methodological appraisal. J Eval Clin Pract, 26: 1352–1360.

    Our purpose is to assess epidemiological agent‐based models—or ABMs—of the SARS‐CoV‐2 pandemic methodologically. The rapid spread of the outbreak requires fast‐paced decision‐making regarding mitigation measures.

  • Malinowska, J.K. & Żuradzki, T. (2020). Non-Epistemological Values in Collaborative Research in Neuroscience: The Case of Alleged Differences between Human Populations. AJOB Neuroscience, 11 (3): 203-206.

    What constitutes bias?; how biases may be embedded in the selection of research programs?; is it possible to conduct completely unbiased research? Joanna K. Malinowska and Tomasz Żuradzki try to notice possible answers to these questions in their commentary "Non-Epistemological Values in Collaborative Research in Neuroscience: The Case of Alleged Differences Between Human Populations".

  • Żuradzki, T. (2020). The Fifth Face of Fair Subject Selection: Population Grouping. American Journal of Bioethics, 20 (2): 41-43.

    The article by MacKay and Saylor (2020) claims that the principle of fair subject selection yields conflicting imperatives (e.g. in the case of pregnant women) and should be understood as “a bundle of four distinct sub-principles” (i.e. fair inclusion, burden sharing, opportunity, distribution of third-party risks), each having conflicting normative recommendations. In my commentary article, written from the philosophical perspective, I notice a number of interrelated problems which I believe have not been discussed thoroughly in the target article: (1) the precise way in which health care priority setting should influence the content of health research priority setting and fair inclusion principles; (2) the distinction between group and individual benefits and burdens from clinical research; (3) the reference class problem in medical research.

  • Paulo, N. & Pölzler, T. (2020). X-Phi and Impartiality Thought Experiments: Investigating the Veil of Ignorance. Diametros, 17 (64): 72-89.

    This paper discusses “impartiality thought experiments”, i.e., thought experiments that attempt to generate intuitions which are unaffected by personal characteristics such as age, gender or race. We focus on the most prominent impartiality thought experiment, the Veil of Ignorance (VOI), and show that both in its original Rawlsian version and in a more generic version, empirical investigations can be normatively relevant in two ways: First, on the assumption that the VOI is effective and robust, if subjects dominantly favor a certain normative judgment behind the VOI this provides evidence in favor of that judgment; if, on the other hand, they do not dominantly favor a judgment this reduces our justification for it. Second, empirical investigations can also contribute to assessing the effectiveness and robustness of the VOI in the first place, thereby supporting or undermining its applications across the board.

  • McFarlane, S. & Cipolletti Perez, H. (2020). Some Challenges for Research on Emotion and Moral Judgment: The Moral Foreign-Language Effect as a Case Study. Diametros, 17 (64): 56-71.

    In this article, we discuss a number of challenges with the empirical study of emotion and its relation to moral judgment. We examine a case study involving the moral foreign-language effect, according to which people show an increased utilitarian response tendency in moral dilemmas when using their non-native language. One important proposed explanation for this effect is that using one’s non-native language reduces emotional arousal, and that reduced emotion is responsible for this tendency. We offer reasons to think that there is insufficient evidence for accepting this explanation at present. We argue that there are three themes that constrain our current ability to draw firm empirical conclusions: 1) the frequent use of proxies or partial measures for emotions, 2) the lack of a predictive and generalizable theory of emotion and specific emotion-types, and 3) the obscurity of a baseline level of neutrality with respect to participant emotion. These lessons apply not only to research on the moral foreign-language effect, but to empirical research in moral psychology more generally.

  • Bush, L. S. & Moss, D. (2020). Misunderstanding Metaethics: Difficulties Measuring Folk Objectivism and Relativism. Diametros, 17 (64): 6-21.

    In this article, we discuss a number of challenges with the empirical study of emotion and its relation to moral judgment. We examine a case study involving the moral foreign-language effect, according to which people show an increased utilitarian response tendency in moral dilemmas when using their non-native language. One important proposed explanation for this effect is that using one’s non-native language reduces emotional arousal, and that reduced emotion is responsible for this tendency. We offer reasons to think that there is insufficient evidence for accepting this explanation at present. We argue that there are three themes that constrain our current ability to draw firm empirical conclusions: 1) the frequent use of proxies or partial measures for emotions, 2) the lack of a predictive and generalizable theory of emotion and specific emotion-types, and 3) the obscurity of a baseline level of neutrality with respect to participant emotion. These lessons apply not only to research on the moral foreign-language effect, but to empirical research in moral psychology more generally.

  • Maziarz, M. & Mróz, R. (2020). A rejoinder to Henschen: the issue of VAR and DSGE models. Journal of Economic Methodology, 27 (3): 266-268.

    In his recent paper in the Journal of Economic Methodology, Tobias Henschen puts forth a manipulationist definition of macroeconomic causality that strives for adequacy. As the notion of ‘adequacy’ remains underdeveloped in that paper, in this study we offer a discussion of what it means for a definition of causality to be adequate to macroeconomics. One of the meanings of adequacy is that the definition of causality describes the types of relations for which macroeconomic causal models stand for. On this understanding of adequacy, we take issue with Henschen’s claim. We argue that his manipulationist definition is only applicable to a sample of causal models used by macroeconomists. There are other sets of macroeconomic causal models to which probabilistic and mechanistic definitions seem more adequate. We show relevant examples to support this claim and conclude that a moderate causal pluralism is an adequate stance with respect to macroeconomic causal models.

  • Żuradzki, T. & Nowak, P.G. (2019). Deep Uncertainties in the Criteria for Physician Aid-in-Dying for Psychiatric Patients. American Journal of Bioethics, 10 (19): 54-56.

    In their insightful article, Brent Kious and Margaret Battin (2019) correctly identify an inconsistency between an involuntary psychiatric commitment for suicide prevention and physician aid in dying (PAD). They declare that it may be possible to resolve the problem by articulating “objective standards for evaluating the severity of others’ suffering,” but ultimately they admit that this task is beyond the scope of their article since the solution depends on “a deep and difficult” question about comparing the worseness of two possible scenarios: letting someone die (who could have been helped) with not letting someone die (whose suffering could only be alleviated by death). In our commentary, we argue that creating such standards is more difficult than the  authors assume because of the many types of deep uncertainties we have to deal with: (1) diagnostic, (2) motivational, and (3) existential.

In preparation

  • Dranseika, V. Two Ships of Theseus.

  • David Rose and his colleagues (2020) argue on the basis of a large cross-cultural study that the story of the Ship of Theseus is a genuine puzzle in a sense that people who consider it feel inclined to assert two prima facie inconsistent propositions (‘Ambivalence’). In response, Marta Campdelacreu and her colleagues (Forthcoming) argue that the data reported by Rose et al. fail to support Ambivalence. Namely, the data show that there is sharp interpersonal disagreement among different readers of the Ship of Theseus story, but they fail to demonstrate intrapersonal conflict or indecision. Should intrapersonal Ambivalence be demonstrated, this, according to Campdelacreu et al., would be a good indicator of the presence of a puzzle. Here, I provide empirical evidence for intrapersonal Ambivalence about the story of the Ship of Theseus.

  • Hannikainen, I., Tobia, K., Almeida, G., Struchiner, N., Kneer, M., Bystranowski, P., ... & Żuradzki, T. Coordination Favors Legal Textualism by Suppressing Moral Valuation.

    A cross-cultural survey experiment revealed a general tendency to rely on a rule’s text over its purpose when deciding which acts violate the rule. This tendency’s strength varied markedly across (k = 13) field sites, owing to cultural differences in the impact of moral appraisals on judgments of rule violation. Next, we observed that legal experts were more strongly inclined to disregard their moral evaluations of the acts altogether, and they consequently demonstrated stronger textualist tendencies than did laypeople. Finally, we examined a plausible mechanism for the emergence of textualism in a two-player coordination game: Incentives to coordinate without communicating reinforced participants’ reliance on rules’ literal meaning. Together, these studies (total N = 5109) help clarify the origins and allure of legal textualism. While diverse legal actors may have varied personal assessments of rules’ moral purposes, rules’ literal meanings serve as clear focal points—easily identifiable points of agreement that enable coordination among diverse agents and judges.

  • Żuradzki, T. Regulating scientific research under deep uncertainty: the case of ontologically ambiguous entities

    Human embryos in the early stages of development are ontologically ambiguous entities. The same concerns e.g. induced pluripotent stem cells reprogrammed from human somatic cells, embryo-like products of parthenogenesis, human-nonhuman chimeras, human organoids. This ontological ambiguity (an example of deep uncertainty) which has been discussed extensively by philosophers and bioethicists in recent years is an underlying reason for the uncertainty about the moral and legal status of these beings. In my presentation – a part of a larger project aimed at analyzing decision theory as a model for reasoning in ethics – I want to discuss whether this uncertainty about status cast doubt on the arguments claiming strong or even full protection of these beings. Or is it the other way around: does it give a reason for acting in a cautious way and treating these entities as if they had very high status (a higher-order precautionary principle). In recent years there have been a number of attempts to understand and to find the relevant criteria for making decisions under deep uncertainty, but this topic is still unexplored in the case of ontologically ambiguous entities. Some scholars have proposed the decision theoretic approach modeled on the cases of factual risk according to which we ought (although the very nature of this ought may be contested) to represent any higher-order uncertainties in terms of those first-order (e.g. that we ought to evaluate the subjective probabilities of different doctrines about ontologically ambiguous entities and combine them with the disvalues attached by these doctrines to the creation/destruction of these entities and/or social benefits of this kind of research). I will show that this approach faces serious objections (e.g. the problem of inter-theoretical comparisons of values) and the decision theoretic approach should be understood in this case as a metaphor (not a model).

  • Żuradzki, T. Reporting incidental findings under uncertainty

    When conducting biomedical research (e.g. genomic), researchers may obtain information that is beyond the aims of the study but may be relevant to the participants. An emerging consensus says that reporting incidental findings to participants should be based on the potential for medical benefit. Schaefer & Savulescu (2018) have recently criticized this “best-medical-interests” standard as being too narrow. They have argued that research subjects have a right to know about any comprehensible piece of information about them which is generated by the research which they are participating in, even if it is of no direct medical benefit to them. In my paper I will criticize their three main arguments based on the notions of autonomy, interests and privacy. I will show that they use a very narrow concept of autonomy as the ability to make informed decisions; they do not take into account the psychology of genetic risk perception; and they rely on an overly individualistic approach to research ethics.

  • Żuradzki, T. The conceptualization of vaccination refusals: between science denial and violation of rational choice

    Vaccination programmes have been acknowledged as the greatest public health achievement of the last decades. Therefore, it may be surprising that growing number of people are opting not to vaccinate their children (Omer 2012).[1] On the one hand, vaccination refusals seem to be clear examples of science denial that may result, among others reasons, from exposure to scientific fraud (an infamous report linking the measles vaccine to autism, later retracted). On the other hand, some countries (e.g. the US and Australia) offer non-medical exemptions from mandatory vaccination. It is surprising, because these kinds of exceptions are usually limited to value disagreements, but are not accepted in cases of science denial (e.g. objections to teaching evolution in schools). Moreover, reputable journals in medicine, bioethics or social science publish papers defending parental “conscientious objection” to mandatory vaccination programmes (Salmon 2006; Navin, Largent 2017). In my presentation I show there are no good reasons to assume that anyone should be allowed to refuse “to vaccinate their dependants on conscientious grounds” (Clarke et al. 2017).
    First, I want to analyze a suitable ethical framework for mandatory vaccination of children or specific populations (e.g. health care personnel): public health ethics (that implies a consequentialist approach) versus traditional bioethics (that concentrates on autonomous consent and individual risk-benefit ratio).
    Second, I want to discuss vaccination refusals in the context of philosophical (or legal) theories of responsibility of those who opt out for harms to others, including: i) collective action problem (e.g. few persons being unvaccinated, where herd immunity is achieved, are very unlikely to cause harm); ii) responsibility for imposing mere risks of harm to others (Jamrozik et al. 2016).
    Third, I want to analyze explanations of vaccination refusal (see systematic reviews: Mills et al. 2005; Wang et al. 2014). i) Free-riding without rejecting scientific consensus. Some individuals may be pro vaccination in general, but prefer to keep children unvaccinated as long as enough others are vaccinated and risks have largely been eliminated. I will show that even if someone agrees that free-riding is not always objectionable (Dare 1998), it would be hard to establish the content of beliefs about vaccination refusal (cf. Jamrozik 2017). ii) Religious reasons. Despite of the fact that no major organized religion prohibits vaccination (Grabenstein 2013), some Catholics have questioned some vaccines as “morally illicit” (Carson, Flood 2017), because they were developed in cell cultures derived from tissue originally taken from an aborted fetus (WI-38; MRC-5). The Catholic teaching permits parents to use a vaccine despite its “illicit origin” (CDF 2008), although every act of vaccination is “a form of very remote mediate material cooperation” (PAL 2006) with the evil. Both documents underline that parents “should take recourse… to the use of conscientious objection with regard to the use of vaccines produced by means of cell lines of aborted human fetal origin” (PAL 2006). But in this context “conscientious objection” does not mean vaccination refusal, but only a symbolic act (e.g. signing a petition). iii) A mistrust concerning the necessity, safety, and efficacy of vaccines. Some people may disagree about the authority of science, and same individuals reject only the orthodox account of the risks and benefits of immunization. But these views are clearly related to the different biases that make pro-vaccination beliefs more counter-intuitive, and anti-vaccination beliefs – more intuitive, especially once vaccinations have made some diseases rare (Miton, Mercier 2015). For example: omission bias (Wroe at al. 2005); in-group favoritism (Kahan et al. 2010); identified victim effect (Hare 2012).

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Nowy artykuł Viliusa Dranseiki

Nowy artykuł Viliusa Dranseiki

Vilius Dranseika, z INCET, opublikował nowy artykuł: "Two Ships of Theseus" w czasopiśmie Synthese
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Lee Elkin, były pracownik projektu BIOUNCERTAINTY, opublikował nowy artykuł: “Normative uncertainty meets voting theory” w czasopiśmie Synthese
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Vilius Dranseika, pracownik INCET, opublikował wspólnie Shaunem Nicholsem i Davidem Shoemakerem nowy artykuł: "The identity of what? Pluralism, practical interests, and individuation" w czasopiśmie Philosophy and Phenomenological Research
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