Philosophy - Doctoral Theses

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    Normative expectations and subjective beliefs: an incentivised experimental study
    (University College Cork, 2022-12-12) Wang, Cuizhu; Ross, Don; Harrison, Glenn; Georgia State University; University of Cape Town
    This thesis is an experimental study to investigate the operationalisability of the theory of social norms provided by Cristina Bicchieri. In Chapter 1 I critically summarise a main theme from recent literature and distinguish the accounts of norms based on social preferences from accounts based on social structure. I also summarise different theorists’ accounts of social norms as a social construct, in addition to surveying some issues scholars have raised empirically. Chapter 2 reviews the conceptual analysis of social norms by Bicchieri as a social structure based account. Bicchieri’s conceptual analysis introduces three kinds of condition for norm identification. I review these in detail, and suggest hypothesis testing corresponding to each kind of condition. Chapter 2 briefly analyses a critical problem for Bicchieri’s theory. Chapter 3 provides philosophical background that supports the intentional concepts applied in Bicchieri’s analysis of social norms. I suggest that the Dennettian account of Intentional Stance is the best philosophical framework for Bicchieri’s account of social norms. I also argue that Revealed Preference Theory from economics is an application of the Intentional Stance. I conjecture that adopting the Intentional Stance and applying Revealed Preference Theory to empirical data can allow for improved operationalisation of Bicchieri’s conceptual analysis. In Chapter 4 I provide critical review of some key experimental work by Bicchieri and co-authors applying her conceptual analysis of social norms. I then provide a critical review of a widely used toolbox from the current economic literature for norm elicitation. Then I introduce a more rigorous experimental protocol for investigating social norms understood following Bicchieri’s analysis. The toolbox suggested in my thesis addresses limitations identified in Bicchieri’s empirical work. Chapter 5 presents design of the experiment administered as the core element of the thesis. Chapter 6 shows and analyses the results from the experiments described in Chapter 5. It also introduces the statistical models used in my thesis to assess the extent to which Bicchieri’s analyses successfully guides experimental identification of social norms. Chapter 7 offers concluding theoretical reflections, and discusses possible extensions of the research presented in this thesis.
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    Early modern masters of suspicion
    (University College Cork, 2022) Di Carlo, Andrea; Dockstader, Jason; Leask, Ian
    This thesis interprets Niccolò Machiavelli, Michel de Montaigne, Francis Bacon, and John Milton, casting them as Masters of Suspicion. The category of ‘Master of Suspicion’ was introduced by Ricœur (1970) to describe how Marx, Nietzsche and Freud approached their respective economic, epistemological and medical contexts. After a recap on the thinking of Ricœur’s own Masters of Suspicion, I will move on to analyse the thinking of Machiavelli, Montaigne, Bacon, and Milton, whom I define as “early modern Masters of Suspicion”, Machiavelli, Montaigne, Bacon, and Milton. In the same way Ricœur analysed the context of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, I will do the same with Niccolò Machiavelli, Michel de Montaigne, Francis Bacon, and John Milton. Machiavelli claimed that politics should not be driven by moral constraints; politics, as such, is a realm independent of morality. Montaigne created a new philosophical and literary genre, the essay, to examine a world that needed to reconsider its foundations. Unlike Machiavelli, he believed that different moral ideas could come together. Bacon claimed that scientific inquiries should not constrained by dogmatic interpretations of Aristotle. As a consequence, he set out to outline a novel method of scientific investigation. I argue in this thesis that Milton, like Machiavelli, Montaigne and Bacon, acted in a similar manner. He reassessed long-standing ideas of sovereignty by showing that even medieval political practices should be reconsidered in the midst of the English Civil War. He emphasised the necessity, like Montaigne, of a more personal “realm” where he could study himself and the changes of his time. Like Bacon, Milton believed that the epistemological obstacles of dogmatic Aristotelianism had to be overcome to allow science to freely flow. By framing Machiavelli, Montaigne, Bacon, Milton as Master of Suspicion, this thesis reconsiders their reception by exploring new possible avenues of research on their political, moral and scientific ideas.
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    Implementing machine ethics: using machine learning to raise ethical machines
    (University College Cork, 2022) Kaas, Marten H. L.; Walmsley, Joel
    As more decisions and tasks are delegated to the artificially intelligent machines of the 21st century, we must ensure that these machines are, on their own, able to engage in ethical decision-making and behaviour. This dissertation makes the case that bottom-up reinforcement learning methods are the best suited for implementing machine ethics by raising ethical machines. This is one of three main theses in this dissertation, that we must seriously consider how machines themselves, as moral agents that can impact human well-being and flourishing, might make ethically preferable decisions and take ethically preferable actions. The second thesis is that artificially intelligent machines are different in kind from all previous machines. The conjunction of autonomy and intelligence, among other unique features like the ability to learn and their general-purpose nature, is what sets artificially intelligent machines apart from all previous machines and tools. The third thesis concerns the limitations of artificially intelligent machines. As impressive as these machines are, their abilities are still derived from humans and as such lack the sort of normative commitments humans have. In short, we ought to care deeply about artificially intelligent machines, especially those used in times and places when considered human judgment is required, because we risk lapsing into a state of moral complacency otherwise.
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    Bildung and the feminine: an investigation into three major works by Goethe
    (University College Cork, 2021-11-22) Bezerra de Albuquerque, Juliana; Hofmann, Gert; Salice, Alessandro; University College Cork
    The subject of this thesis is the relationship between gender and the notion of Bildung in three major works by J.W. von Goethe, namely: Iphigenie auf Tauris (1786), Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre (1795-96) and Die Wahlverwandtschaften (1809). One of the central ideas throughout Goethe’s work is that of Bildung or the formation of the individual. This is a scientific and anthropological idea which was already current amongst some of Goethe’s contemporaries, but which Goethe applies in his literary works by means of analogy in relation to the achievement of self-knowledge and the harmonious integration of the different parts of one’s nature. The question addressed in the thesis is whether for Goethe the women in his fiction can be said to be potentially able to achieve the same the degree of Bildung as their male counterparts. In answering this question, the thesis contends that in studying the development of Goethe’s literary works it is important to pay attention also to the way in which his ideas on nature are reflected in his fictional creations. The thesis argues that given Goethe’s emphasis in his scientific writings on themes such as evolution and morphology, i.e. the theory of the formation and transformation of living organisms, the way he perceives nature as a whole, and human nature in particular, is very much dynamic and open-ended. All living organisms, in Goethe’s universe, are conceived as striving to develop and at the same time as being compelled to respond as well as they can to the limitations inherent in their own nature, the injuries inflicted upon them in the course of life, and the obstacles encountered in their environment, whether physical or, in the case of human beings, also cultural and social. Goethe’s notion of Bildung is not primarily moral in the traditional sense of this word but reflects a psychological and naturalistic perspective on the human condition, something that has been noted by other scholars such as T.J. Reed, Matthew Bell, Jane K. Brown and Astrida Orle Tantillo. Chapter One of the thesis deals with the relation between Bildung, gender and sexual difference in Goethe’s work by suggesting in which ways his ideas can be said to challenge the prejudices of his time on these issues. Chapter Two deals with the play Iphigenie auf Tauris. Chapter Three offers an interpretation of the novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre with an emphasis on the differences and similarities between the characters of Natalie and the Beautiful Soul. Chapter Four is an analysis of Die Wahlverwandtschaften.
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    Territory and history: the justification of detachment from the land as a stage in the development of human agency
    (University College Cork, 2021) Toffolutti, Matteo; Nine, Cara
    The aim of this thesis is to research the ontology of human agency that informs the structure of most contemporary theories of territorial rights. Rather than establishing a new normative approach to the issue of the allocation of territories to subjects, my work focuses on a descriptive conceptual analysis of the origin of our need to normatively justify attachment to the land. The main questions I seek to answer are: why do we feel the need to solve the issue of our relationship with the land from a normative standpoint? Can the very fact that such relationship appears to us as a problem enlighten us as to the (im)possibility of solving it? My approach to answering these questions moves from an examination of what it means to be agents who are embedded in the outside world and who seek to live through the outside by embedding it in their activity as they gain autonomy from it. I then show that, in their pursuit of autonomy, agents become part of a historical movement away from the outside. They therefore seek to justify not their attachment to the land, but their detachment from it. As they shift from being creatures shaped by the land to being creators of themselves by shaping the land, agents lose their immediate connection with the outside, which they seek to substitute with normative considerations. Finally, I develop a philosophy of history to prove the inevitability and necessity of this process of detachment, showing why we cannot reverse it, and arguing that the problem of detachment is not for us to solve, but to contemplate as a fundamental and necessary stage in our development as agents. This makes the field of territorial rights philosophically emblematic in its ontological/historical implications even more than from an immediately practical standpoint.