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New Mexico State University

Mark Walker's Home Page

Happy-People-Pills for All
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My book!

My book, Happy-People-Pills for All, has just been published by Wiley-Blackwell. You'll want to get it quick because all the cool people are buying hundreds of copies each. 

Happiness Class
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Our happiness class interrogated a la Socrates the campus community on April 2nd 2013 about the nature and value of happiness. I am happy to report that most of us were not sentenced to death by hemlock poisoning. Modesty prevents me from saying who the stunningly good-looking person is on the far right. 

Five Philosophers
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Here I am trying to look very stern with four other philosophers: Plato, Kant, Hegel and Nietzsche. If you think one of these five philosophers does not belong in such illustrious company you are right. I have no idea how Nietzsche weaseled into the shot.

Critical Thinking Website

Here is a link for a website devoted to critical thinking that I am working on in my spare time: www.criticalthinkingbyexample.com.

Brief Bio

Mark Walker was born in a small log cabin built on conceptual foundations of his own design. He is an Associate Professor in the Philosophy Department where he occupies the Richard L. Hedden Endowed Chair in Advanced Philosophical Studies. Mark’s PhD is from the Australian National University. He previously taught at McMaster University in the department of philosophy and in the Arts & Science Program. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Evolution and Technology and on the board of directors of the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Dr. Walker’s teaching and research interests include ethics, epistemology, philosophy of law, philosophy of religion and philosophy of science. His current primary research interest is in ethical issues arising out of emerging technologies, e.g., genetic engineering, advanced pharmacology, artificial intelligence research and nanotechnology.

Selected Papers in various stages of disarray by yours truly

Metaphysics, Philosophy of Language and Philosophy of Science

My book, Happy-People-Pills for All, has just been published by Wiley-Blackwell. 

  • On the Intertranslatability of All Natural Languages
    This is a draft of a paper under construction. This version is more or less what I read at the 2007 Canadian Philosophical Association meeting. I argue that without what I term the 'semantic expandability thesis', languages may evolve to express novel meanings, thoughts and concepts--the intertranslatability of all natural languages is patently false. If we allow an unrestricted version of the expandability thesis then the intertranslatability of all natural languages follows trivially. I suggest, further, that once we become clear about semantic expandability, it may be that there is more common ground among disputants than initial appearances indicate, and expandability introduces a serious challenge to Davidson's well-known argument for intertranslatability.
  • Swamp Darwin
    This is a commentary on a paper by Claudine Verheggen read at the 2006 CPA. I hope to make it into a stand-alone paper one day.
  • Astrophysical Fine Tuning, Naturalism, and the Contemporary Design Argument
    This is the penultimate draft of a paper co-written with my good friend Milan M. Cirkovic (International Studies in the Philosophy of Science, 20(3): 285-307). Here's the abstract: Evidence for instances of astrophysical 'fine-tuning' (or coincidences) is thought by some to lend support to the design argument (i.e. the argument that our universe has been designed by some deity). We assess some of the relevant empirical and conceptual issues. We argue that astrophysical fine-tuning calls for some explanation, but this explanation need not appeal to the design argument. A clear and strict separation of the issue of anthropic fine tuning on one hand and any form of Eddingtonian numerology and teleology on the other may help clarify what is arguably the most significant issue in the philosophy of cosmology.

Social and Political Philosophy

  • Censorship, Logocracy and Democracy
    Link is for the penultimate draft. Publication details of final version: Censorship, Logocracy and Democracy, The Canadian Journal of Law and Jurisprudence (2008), volume 21 , issue 1 , p. 199-238
  • The Angelic Hierarchy: Aligning Ethical Push and Pull
    A complementary "monetary" system is proposed: a computer-based system that allows us to assess the relative pro-community altruism of individuals. Such an arrangement could provide us with an alternate means of seeking social recognition than that offered by capitalism; specifically, it offers the possibility of social recognition based on altruistic contributions to society. It is conjectured that recognition of altruistic efforts will provide the impetus for increased altruistic efforts. This proposal promises several ethical advantages to our present social arrangements. (Here's a link for the published version: http://www.bepress.com/selt/vol2/iss3/art2)
  • The Case for Maternity Compensation
    This is the penultimate version of a paper forthcoming in Social Research and Practice. I maintain that men have an obligation to pay women for gestating.

Practical Ethics

  • Eugenic Selection Benefits Embryos

    Abstract: The paper addressed whether pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), used for both negative and positive trait selection, benefits potential supernumerary embryos. The phrase ‘potential supernumerary embryos’ is used to indicate that PGD is typically performed on a set of embryos, only some of which will be implanted. Prior to any testing, each embryo in the set is potentially supernumerary in the sense that it may not be selected for implantation. Those embryos that are not selected, and so destroyed or frozen, are ‘actually supernumerary’. The argument to be advanced is hypothetical: If embryos may be said to benefit or be harmed by our actions, then PGD used to select for an embryo or embryos with the highest expected well-being (EWB) benefits potential supernumerary embryos. The philosophical upshot is that the non-identity objection to the claim that PGD does not benefit embryos is mistaken.  

 

            Published in the great new journal: International Journal of Wellbeing. And the journal is open access!

  • "Designer Babies" and Harm to Supernumerary Embryos
    This is the penultimate version of a paper that appeared in APQ (American Philosophical Quarterly 45(2) October 2008, 348-364). I argue that even if we think that embryos are persons, killing some in the process of choosing the most desirable for implantation does not harm them.
  • Boredom, Experimental Ethics, And Superlongevity
    This is the penultimate version of a paper published in Death and Anti-Death, Volume 4: Twenty Years After de Beauvoir, Thirty Years After Heidegger, edited by Charles Tandy, Ria University Press. I suggest that boredom is probably not a problem for superlongevitists, but we need to run the experiment--live hundreds of years with the help of technology--to find out for sure. The experiment is a good one to run considering the alternative.
  • In Praise of Biohappiness
    This is a draft of a paper I am working on. I argue that there are good moral reasons to develop happy people pills for people who are not clinically depressed. That's right; happy pills for the rest of us.
  • Pro-Social Behavior and Happy-People-Pills
    This is the penultimate draft of a paper forthcoming in Philosophica. I argue that a positive consequence of creating happy-people-pills is that there will be more pro-social behavior (e.g., charity work).
  • Human Extinction and Farsighted Universal Surveillance
    Here's the abstract: This paper attempts to bridge the dilemma created by intrusive surveillance technologies needed to safeguard our security, and the potential negative consequences such technologies might have on individual privacy. I begin with a brief review of the increasing threat to human life posed by emerging technologies, e.g., genetic engineering and nanotechnology. Next, I canvass a potential technological means to mitigate some of this threat, namely, ubiquitous microscopic sensors and then note that a consequence of the deployment of such technology appears to be an erosion of personal privacy on a scale hitherto unimaginable. It is then argued that many details of our private lives are actually irrelevant for security purposes, and that it may be possible to develop technology to mask these details in the data gleaned from surveillance devices. Such a development could meet some, perhaps many, of the concerns about privacy. It is also argued that if it is possible to use technology to mask personal information, this may actually promote the goal of security since it is conjectured that the public is likely to be more willing to accept such invasive technology if it is designed to mask such details. Finally, some applications to our current uses of surveillance technology are drawn.
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    • Universal Superlongevity: Is it Inevitable and is it good?
      Early draft of paper Published in Death And Anti-Death, Volume 3: Fifty Years After Einstein, One Hundred Fifty Years After Kierkegaard, edited by Charles Tandy, Ph.D. I argue that it is likely in the future that most people will choose to live radically extended lifespans. Fortunately, there are good moral reasons for welcoming this outcome.
  • Superlongevity and Utilitarianism
    This is the penultimate version of a paper published in AJP (The Australasian Journal of Philosophy. vol. 85, 4, December 2007, pp. 581-595). I maintain that there are good utilitarian reasons for promoting superlongevity contra Peter Singer.
  • Ship of fools

    I attempt to convince that becoming posthuman is our best bet for surviving the next few hundred years.

  • Uninsured: Heal Thyself

    Uninsured: Heal Thyself, (Or: why the uninsured ought to be permitted to self-medicate)

    Approximately one in six persons in the U.S. lack medical insurance. Legislation permits only physicians to prescribe many common medicines. This state of affairs is unjust. A just society cannot have it both ways: legislation cannot say that the expertise of physicians is so precious that only they can prescribe medicine AND not everyone is guaranteed reasonable access to their services. If there is no guarantee of reasonable access then physicians should not have a monopoly on writing prescriptions, and if there is a monopoly on writing prescriptions then people should have reasonable access to their services. To remedy this situation we must ensure that all citizens have reasonable access to medical services, or allow the uninsured to self-medicate.

Normative Ethics

  • A New Puzzle About Non-Identity
    This is a draft I am working on. The paper argues that there is a latent contradiction in certain Parfitian non-identity cases. In particular, I argue we are sometimes forced into the puzzling situation of describing a policy (or act) as both making and not making things worse for individuals.

AI Ethics

  • Mary Poppins 3000s of the World Unite: A Moral Paradox in the Creation of Artificial Intelligence
    This is the penultimate version of a paper published in Human Implications of Human-Robot Interaction: Papers from the AAAI Workshop, edited by Ted Metzler, 2006, California: AAAI Press, pp.23-28. I argue that the bright future where people no longer have to work will never come about. We may be able to create intelligent machines to do the work of humans, but these machines will be persons, so persons will still have to work.

Epistemology

  • Underdetermination Skepticism and Skeptical-Dogmatism

    Penultimate Draft of paper forthcoming in the International Journal of Skeptical Studies. The paper argues that underdetermination arguments actually permit a much stronger conclusion than the claim we are not justified in our everday beliefs, rather, we are justified in believing we are probably wrong about most things. 

  • On the Fourfold Root of Philosophical Skepticism
    This paper provides a definition of 'knowledge' in terms of four necessary and jointly sufficient conditions: justified, true, gettier, belief. I claim further that we can formulate four specific types of skepticism based on a denial of each of these conditions.

Philosophy of Religion

  • A Neo-Irenaean Theodicy
    The problem of evil can be solved if our vocation is to become gods. I may get burnt at the stake for this one.