Philosophy Department Theses and Dissertations

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The M.A. program offers two tracks: Bioethics and American Philosophy. The two tracks are designed to make optimum use of key strengths of the IUPUI Campus. The first track is developed with the Indiana University Center for Bioethics. Bioethics is a rapidly growing field that requires educated and trained theorists and practitioners. Since IUPUI is home to one of the nation’s largest health-profession complexes, it is well-placed to play a leading role in the academic training of such individuals. The presence of two scholarly editions at IUPUI, the Santayana Edition and the Peirce Edition Project, has led to the accumulation of extensive resources in American philosophy.

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Recent Submissions

Now showing 1 - 10 of 14
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    Peirce and Scientific Realism
    (2022-01) Tekin, Atmaca; de Waal, Cornelis; De Tienne, André; Lyons, Timothy D.
    Scientific realism and antirealism are two main views in the philosophy of science regarding the status of unobservable entities in science and whether we have good epistemic reasons to believe that our current successful scientific theories are (approximately) true. Briefly, the former claims that our scientific theories are (approximately) true and unobservable entities these scientific theories postulate exist. On the other hand, the latter claims that we do not have good epistemic reasons to believe that our scientific theories are (approximately) true and that unobservable entities our scientific theories postulate exist. The scientific realism has two primary tenets, one axiological (i.e., science should seek truth) and the other epistemological (namely, our current successful theories are (approximately) true). In this thesis, the issue has been examined from standpoint of the account of Peirce’s philosophy of science, more accurately based on his understanding of reality, truth and basic idealism. In the first chapter, I outline the main points of the debate from the perspectives of both sides. In the second chapter, I give reasons why the scientific realists’ argument is not convincing. In the third chapter, I attempt to draw an accurate picture of the account of Peirce’s views on the nature of scientific theories. In the last chapter, I make a case for scientific realism from the Peircean account of philosophy of science. I have claimed why the current debate cannot be settled without accepting a kind of Peirce's basic idealism and his understanding of reality. I think both scientific realists and antirealists accept a kind of naïve realism. This is the main reason why it is not possible to settle the debate from their standpoints. In order to overcome this issue, I attempt to develop a more sophisticated realism based on Peirce’s understanding of reality, truth and basic idealism.
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    Søren Kierkegaard’s view of faith found in Fear and Trembling and Practice In Christianity
    (2016-09) Pulliam, David; Khan, Samuel J.M.
    In this paper I discuss two key works written by Søren Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and Practice in Christianity, under the pseudonyms Johannes de Silentio and Anti-Climacus respectively. I focus on three questions: what is Johannes view of faith, what is Anti-Climacus’ view of faith and how are these Kierkegaard’s conclusions? I argue that stemming from Johannes’ and Anti-Climacus’ points of view, Kierkegaard’s view of faith is the aligning of the self in a trusting relationship with the God-man. One outside of faith can perceive faith to be a paradox or find faith offensive; one must have faith to avoid offense and overcome the paradox. Chapter 1 focuses on the connection between Kierkegaard and his pseudonyms using his work The Point of View. In this chapter I map out Kierkegaard’s method of communication and the purpose for his use of pseudonyms. Chapter 2 focuses on Johannes’ view of faith in Fear and Trembling. Johannes says that faith is formed through a private relationship with God. One with faith is silent about this relationship from the point of view of one who is in the ethical. Johannes understands faith dialectically. Faith is a paradox to Johannes because he does not understand the justification for Abraham’s action. Chapter 3 focuses on Anti-Climacus’ view of faith in Practice in Christianity. Anti-Climacus presents a rigorous account of faith. He says faith is being a contemporary of the God-man and meeting the requirements of believing the God-man’s words. When one becomes a contemporary with the God-man one can become offended by the God-man because the God-man is in collision with the established order, he, as man, claims to be God, he, as God, appears to be man, or the God-man speaks indirectly. Chapter 4 focuses on explaining how Johannes’ and Anti-Climacus’ view complement each other. Out of these two points of view Kierkegaard’s view of faith is the aligning of the self in a trusting relationship with the God-man. One outside of faith can perceive faith to be a paradox or find faith offensive; one must have faith to avoid offense and overcome the paradox.
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    Patternhood, Correlation, and Generality: Foundations of a Peircean Theory of Patterns
    (2016-07) Aames, Jimmy Jericho; De Tienne, André; De Waal, Cornelis; Lyons, Timothy D.
    This thesis develops a general theory of patterns on the basis of the philosophy of Charles S. Peirce. The main questions with which this thesis is concerned are: what is the ontological status of patterns? In what does their reality consist in? Why does exhibiting patternhood seem to be a necessary condition for the very possibility of cognition? The development of the theory is motivated by a discussion of Ontic Structural Realism (OSR), a theory that has recently been gaining attention in analytic philosophy of science, especially in philosophy of physics. The central claim of OSR is that only patterns (structures) are real; individual objects are not real, or have only a “thin” being in some sense. In this thesis I deal mainly with the version of OSR developed by James Ladyman and Don Ross in their book Every Thing Must Go. I address two criticisms that are commonly levelled against OSR, (1) that it cannot give an adequate account of the difference between physical structure and mathematical structure, and (2) that it cannot give an adequate account of the relationship between the world and our representations of the world. I then show how Peirce’s philosophical framework, as encapsulated in his pragmatism, theory of the categories, Scholastic realism, and theory of the continuum, could provide an answer to these difficulties. OSR will also be used to illuminate an aspect of Peirce’s philosophy which I believe has not been sufficiently emphasized in the literature, namely its structuralist aspect. Specifically, it will be shown that Peirce’s philosophy leads to a worldview very similar to that of OSR, via a path of reasoning that is completely different from those standardly used to argue for OSR. This thesis as a whole is an attempt to throw light on the nature of patternhood through an elucidation and justification of this path of reasoning, which I call the alternative path to OSR.
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    An Instrumentalist's Guide to the Perpetuation of Human Individuality
    (2010-10-15) Takacs, Steven J.; Coleman, Martin A.; Houser, Nathan; Tilley, John J.
    John Dewey’s account of human individuality blends various ideas that cut across many of his works. In “Time and Individuality,” Dewey discusses the essence of the individual as “temporal seriality.” In Human Nature and Conduct, he talks about the self as a collection of habits that change throughout one’s life. In A Common Faith, Dewey calls the whole self an ideal. Furthermore, Dewey addresses the issue of one’s individuality being threatened if one falls victim to mechanistic and mindless routines; that is, when routine shrouds one’s daily activities, moral and intellectual growth is stunted. Ensnarement in routine is the mechanization of daily activities that unfold in an uninspired and lethargic manner. Although Dewey discusses how individuality can be threatened, his thoughts on the subject nonetheless turn on the idea that if life is to be meaningful, one must learn to express one’s individuality. For Dewey, the authentic expression of individuality is art. But, how does one express one’s individuality? Are there any tools within Dewey’s philosophy that can be used to ensure the perpetuation of one’s individuality. The impetus for this thesis is to provide an analysis of key texts that are not only relevant to Dewey’s account of human individuality, but that are also relevant to Dewey’s instrumentalism. Through close textual analysis, I will seek to highlight elements in Dewey’s philosophy that can be used to ensure the continuation of one’s individuality. The following question will thus serve as a guide throughout this inquiry: “If human individuality can be threatened and even lost, what are some practical ideas in Dewey’s philosophy that can be used to ensure the perpetuation of one’s individuality?”
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    Vagueness and Its Boundaries: A Peircean Theory of Vagueness
    (2010-02-26T18:35:42Z) Agler, David Wells; De Waal, Cornelis; De Tienne, André; Houser, Nathan
    Many theories of vagueness employ question-begging assumptions about the semantic boundaries between truth and falsity. This thesis defends a theory of vagueness put forward by Charles S. Peirce and argues for a novel solution to the sorites paradox based upon his work. Contrary to widespread opinion, I argue that Peirce distinguished borderline vagueness from other related forms of indeterminacy, e.g. indefiniteness, generality, unspecificity, uninformativity, etc. By clarifying Peirce’s conception of borderline vagueness, I argue for a solution to the sorites paradox based upon his logical semantics. In addition, I argue for this theory against the epistemic theory of vagueness, which makes controversial claims concerning the sharp semantic boundary between truth and falsity, and against the supervaluationist theory of vagueness, which is committed to the in principle impossibility of sharp semantics boundaries for propositions with vague terms.
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    Poetry "Found" in Illness Narrative: A Feminist Approach to Patients' Ways of Knowing and the Concept of Relational Autonomy
    (2009-10-29T14:29:25Z) Kauffman, Jill Lauren; Brand, Peggy Zeglin; Capshew, James H.; Gunderman, Richard B.; Schultz, Jane E.
    This project contributes to the improvement of the healing encounter between physician and patient and broadens the scope of medical ethics via application of a methodology that creatively communicates patient experience. Contemporary medical training and socialization can create emotional distance between patients and physicians, which has both positive and negative effects. A physician’s “detached concern” often renders patients’ ways of knowing irrelevant to their care. This has a negative effect on patient autonomy, trust, and the healing encounter in general. Herwaldt (2008) developed a pedagogical tool of distilling patient interviews in narrative form into “found poems,” in which the patient experience is expressed in verse; Herwaldt contends that the resulting poems hold the possibility of cultivating empathy in medical practitioners. My research extends Herwaldt’s work with a new set of ten patients currently in cancer treatment, translating their stories of illness into verse. The resulting poems have the potential to empower patients by legitimizing their narrative or experiential ways of knowing as complementary to physician perspectives and approaches to treatment. Clinical and feminist ethics are similar in their attention to case context, empathy, and legitimacy of narrative. However, there are aspects of feminist ethical theory that are not thoroughly delineated in clinical ethics—specifically, attention to power imbalances in medical structures and variations in ethical perspectives. When the poems are examined using a feminist bioethical framework, patients are empowered by expanding both the idea of justice and the principlist definition of autonomy to include the feminist conception of relational autonomy.
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    Who are you calling normal!: the relationship between species function and health care justice
    (2008-10-13T17:37:34Z) Morrell, Eric Douglas; Schwartz, Peter H.
    For the past 2,000 years, the medical and philosophical communities have been unable to formulate a clear conception of function. Yet, I argue that this debate has become of central importance to Western bioethics due to the role the concept of function plays within emerging health care justice models, and more broadly, within the debate surrounding universal health care in the United States. My thesis focuses on the relationship between species function and health care justice. Specifically, my position is that any workable formulation of just health care that is justified from a Rawlsian or politically liberal perspective must utilize conceptions of normal species function that are as neutral and stable as possible. I conclude by showing that Larry Wright’s evolutionarily-based teleological account of function is the most neutral and stable account of function within the philosophical canon, and utilize two case studies – idiopathic short stature and obesity – to help illustrate the applicability of Wright’s account to liberal health care justice formulations.
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    Ergon and the Embryo
    (2008-10-13T19:05:03Z) Brown, Brandon Patrick; Eberl, Jason T.
    Ethical considerations of the human embryo have involved heated dispute and seem always to result in the same interminable debate. A history of this debate, however, shows a shift in the language used to distinguish between degrees of moral status – while the debate once focused on the presence or absence of “human life,” now it is more likely to hear whether the qualifications for “personhood” have been met. In other words, any member of the human species may deserve some level of respect, but only the “persons” deserve full moral respect. This leaves open the possibility for a human being who is not actually a person – a “nonperson human being.” As an answer to the question of exactly what kind of respect to give the human embryo, Aristotelian moral philosophy offers a unique perspective, one which is distinctive from the familiar debate. Aristotle’s concept of ergon, or function, is a key to understanding what is essential in any human being, because it reveals the importance of potentiality to our nature as rational beings. A philosophical view of function, combined with the data of modern embryology, makes the case that our proper function is the vital part of who we are as human beings, and that a disruption of human function constitutes a true harm. This thesis contrasts Aristotelian proper human function with the modern understanding of a “nonperson human being,” especially as articulated within the ethical theory of Peter Singer. This understanding of function, revealing the essence of human potential and linked with human development, offers a sort of “common-sense morality” response to modern views on personhood.
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    HIV Positive Foster Children in Medical Research: Ethics of Disclosure and Assent
    (2008-08-22T14:26:49Z) Popov, Diana Dimitra; Gunderman, Richard B.
    In the early nineties, large numbers of HIV positive children entered the foster care system. At this time, there was no medical treatment available for use in children. A large number of these HIV+ foster children were placed in medical research trials in an attempt to find a safe effective treatment. Medical research conducted on HIV+ children has transformed a once life-threatening illness into a chronic manageable disease. Because children are not always capable of assenting to this research it is important that an independent advocate consents for them. The children should, at a minimum, understand the nature of their illness and that what they are participating in is medical research. Therefore, in order for medical research to occur with foster children who are suffering from a life-threatening illness, the children must know their health status and be allowed to participate in the assent process.
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    Equipoise and Skepticism: Past, Present and Future
    (2008-08-22T14:35:30Z) Witt, John R.; Meslin, Eric Mark; Tilley, John J.; Lyons, Timothy D.
    Currently, the predominant view in research ethics maintains that physicians can morally justify offering randomized clinical trial enrollment to their patients only if some form of equipoise is present. Thus, the physician must experience (either individually or communally) a state of reasoned uncertainty concerning the relative merits of two or more competing treatments for a given disease before she may recommend that her patient participate in a clinical trial. Increasingly, however, this position has been subject to critical attention and considerable negative scrutiny. My argument engages this trend by turning to the history of philosophy; here I claim that the use of the term “equipoise” in the medical research context is extremely similar to terms and concepts from the philosophical tradition of skepticism, and as a result of this similarity it is possible to understand the principle of equipoise’s vulnerability to already published criticisms. A comparison of the criticisms of equipoise within the medical research literature to criticisms of philosophical skepticism reveals a potentially grim future for equipoise as a legitimate guiding principle for the ethical conduct of clinical research.