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Do We Really Imagine It?

Zach Barnett ('11); Peter Kung

Try to imagine that Hillary Rodham Clinton won the 2008 Democratic Primary. Perhaps you imagine her delivering a passionate speech as she accepts her party’s nomination. When we imagine a situation, does that tell us that it really could have happened? Many philosophers, including Saul Kripke, believe that the answer is always yes. This is a strong claim, and it comes at a cost. These thinkers are forced to accept that sometimes we make mistakes about what we imagine. Try to imagine that Frary Dining Hall is made of ice. Kripke and others would maintain that even if you think you can imagine it, you cannot. Instead, you are imagining an icy dining hall that is very similar to Frary, but that is not Frary. Professor Kung calls this sort of view an ‘Error Theory of Imagination.’ I have worked with Professor Kung on a paper that argues against Kripke and other Error Theorists.
Funding provided by: Pomona College National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

An Analysis of Genetic Counseling Masters Programs from a Disability Rights Perspective

Rachel Hamburg ('10); Ann Davis

Prenatal testing technologies are becoming more efficient and the number of “disorders” for which tests exist is growing. As the number of atypicalities that tests can identify multiplies, prospective parents must make difficult decisions about conception and pregnancy termination, often with the guidance of a trained genetic counselor. An increase in genetic testing and decision-making has sparked debate among bioethicists and disability rights activists concerning the human rights issues associated with new genetic technologies. In this project, I investigate the master’s programs for genetic counseling to identify which programs address the bioethical questions associated with counseling and disability. Through interviews with the academic directors of the programs, I explore how the curricula are developed and by whom, and make recommendations for how genetic counseling curricula can train counselors who are more likely to be disability (rights)-conscious.
Funding provided by: Pomona College SURP

The Epistemology of (Dis)Agreement: Rational Responses to Disagreement and Agreement From Epistemic Peers and Superiors

Bernice Yu ('10); Peter Kung

Can reasonable people reasonably disagree? If you disagree with me despite having access to all the evidence that I have and being just as good at evaluating that evidence, then shouldn't the fact that you disagree cause me to suspend judgment on the matter? Why should I think my belief is more likely than yours to be right? Some philosophers think all disagreements are reasonable; others think all are unreasonable. I argue that whether we should suspend judgment depends on whether your disagreement raises a new possibility of error. If it doesn't, we are justified in maintaining our view. If it does, however, we need to consider the new error possibility and see if we can sufficiently rule it out. It is only when we cannot do so that rationality requires us to suspend judgment. If you agree with me, on the other hand, that further confirms our view only.
Funding provided by: Pomona College National Endowment for the Humanities Grant

Research at Pomona