My research is primarily in metaphysics, and often falls at the intersection of least one of three categories: early modern history of philosophy, contemporary biomedical ethics, and philosophy of religion.
My research in early modern has primarily focused on the metaphysics and philosophy of language of George Berkeley (1685-1753). Particularly, I hone in on his rejections, appropriations, and reactions to medieval metaphysics of universals and abstraction. I have also been working on accounts of essences in the works of René Descartes (1596-1650), John Locke (1632-1704), John Sergeant (1623-1707), and Émilie du Châtelet (1706-1749).
With respect to biomedical ethics, my work has primarily focused on the Informed Consent Ontology, which gives an account of what exists in the domain of informed consent and what are the relevant relations that hold between these entities (for example, an informed consent form is used in an informed consent process, which produces new permissions and obligations for organizations). This account is useful to software and databases used in health information technology. I have also written two different sides of a recent debate regarding the creation and research of human-nonhuman chimeras (genetic therapies in animals to make them more human, so that they may be used in organ transplant or other research) — that is, I have argued in one paper that there are clear benefits and that the morality of the issue does not ride on species membership, and likewise I have argued in a later paper, that there will be untoward consequences such as massive exploitation and bigotry, and that this merits a moratorium until we can set up preventative or protective policies in advance.
- Individuation and the Realism/Nominalism Dilemma: The Case of the Middle Ages
- Abstract: After reviewing various formulations of the problems of universals and individuation, this essay considers the dialectic that informs the relationship between the two. This dialectic involves a distinction between a realist theory of universals that satisfies the requirements of science but fails to account for the non-instantiability of individuals and a nominalist theory of universals that fails to satisfy the requirements of science but accounts for the non-instantiability of individuals. Inadequacies found in one view tend to motivate movement to the other view. But, like a pendulum swing, this movement inevitably involves facing what motivated the original view. This dialectic is illustrated by a consideration of the views of five medieval authors: Boethius, Peter Abelard, Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, and William of Ockham.
- Full text: pdcnet.org
- Cite: Gracia, Jorge J. E. & Vajda, Jonathan (2021). “Individuation and the Realism/Nominalism Dilemma: The Case of the Middle Ages,” International Philosophical Quarterly, Vol. 61, No. 3.
- Toward an Ontology of Commercial Exchange
- Abstract: In this paper we propose an Ontology of Commercial Exchange (OCE) based on Basic Formal Ontology. OCE is designed for re-use in the Industrial Ontologies Foundry (IOF) and in other ontologies addressing different aspects of human social behavior involving purchasing, selling, marketing, and so forth. We first evaluate some of the design patterns used in the Financial Industry Business Ontology (FIBO) and Product Types Ontology (PTO). We then propose terms and definitions that we believe will improve the representation of contractual obligations, sales processes, and their associated documents. A commercial exchange, for instance, involves mutual agreement to reciprocate actions, such as transferring money, performing a service, or transferring goods.
- Full text: philpapers.org
- Cite: Vajda, Jonathan; Merrell, Eric & Smith, Barry (2019). “Toward an Ontology of Commercial Exchange” In Proceedings of the Joint Ontology Workshops (JOWO), Graz.
- Human-Nonhuman Chimeras, Ontology, and Dignity: A Constructivist Approach to the Ethics of Conducting Research on Cross-Species Hybrids
- Abstract: Developments in biological technology in the last few decades highlight the surprising and ever-expanding practical benefits of stem cells. With this progress, the possibility of combining human and nonhuman organisms is a reality, with ethical boundaries that are not readily obvious. These inter-species hybrids are of a larger class of biological entities called “chimeras.” As the concept of a human-nonhuman creature is conjured in our minds, either incredulous wonder or grotesque horror is likely to follow. This paper seeks to mitigate those worries and demotivate reasonable concerns raised against chimera research, all the while pressing current ethical positions toward their plausible conclusions. In service of this overall aim, first, I intend to show that chimeras are far less foreign and fantastic in light of recent research in the lab; second, I intend to show that anti-realist (so-called “constructivist”) commitments regarding species ontology render the species distinction (i.e., the divide between human and nonhuman) superfluous as a basis for ethical practice; and third, I discuss some prevailing dignity accounts regarding the practical ethics of the creation, research, and treatment of chimeras. Consequently I intend to show that the adoption of this particular set of views (constructivist ontology, capacity-based ethics) in conjunction with recent research ought to justify a parallel with what we accord to humans persons, and that trajectory allows for cases of moral permissibility.
- Full text: ScholarWorks
- Cite: Vajda, Jonathan M. (2016). “Human-Nonhuman Chimeras, Ontology, and Dignity: A Constructivist Approach to the Ethics of Conducting Research on Cross-Species Hybrids,” The Hilltop Review: Vol. 9 : Iss. 1 , Article 6.
- Conditions of Fundamental Metaphysics: A critique of Jorge Gracia’s proposal
- Abstract: Jorge Gracia’s paper “The Fundamental Character of Metaphysics” proposes five conditions that, if satisfied, would be sufficient to establish metaphysics as a fundamental discipline for other sciences: universal extension, ontological neutralism, sui generis character, overall disciplinary integration, and necessity. In this paper, I argue that his metaphysical project requires revision. Not only are the conditions insufficient to establish fundamentality, two of the conditions are themselves problematic. Gracia’s intends to be radically inclusive, yet unintentionally excludes certain views. His notion of fundamentality avoids reference to establishing normative principia, yet a key benefit of grounding is to provide such norms. Finally, an examination of the individual conditions shows his inclusivist condition is ambiguous, unclear, and problematic; his neutrality condition is unworkable. Therefore, while it may be desirable for metaphysics to be fundamental to other sciences, metaphysics is not to be characterized as Gracia proposes.
- Full text: Scholarship at UWindsor.ca
- Cite: Vajda, Jonathan (2016). “Conditions of Fundamental Metaphysics: A critique of Jorge Gracia’s proposal.” Critical Reflections. 5.
- Review of Trinity and the Vindication of Christian Paradox, The: An Interpretation and Refinement of the Theological Apologetic of Cornelius Van Til, by BA. Bosserman, Theological Book Review (Liverpool Hope University), Vol. 27 No.1, 2016.
Informed Consent Ontology
- “Expanding the Representation of Permissions and Deontic Roles in the Informed Consent Ontology (ICO)” (co-authored) (slides). Symposium, Oral Presentations – American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 2019 Annual Conference, Washington, DC, USA. Nov 2019
- “Refactoring and Expanding the Informed Consent Ontology (ICO)” (co-authored) (poster). Poster Presentations – American Medical Informatics Association (AMIA) 2019 Annual Conference, Washington, DC, USA. Nov 2019
- “Problems in Representing Permissions: Informed Consent and Deontic Roles”. Romanell Workshop in Honor of Steven Wear’s Retirement, Buffalo, NY, USA. Nov 2019
- “Using Stases to Enrich Queries for When and Where Regulations Are in Force” (co-authored) (poster). 10th International Conf. on Biological Ontology (ICBO 2019), Buffalo, NY, USA. July 2019
- “Coordinated Evolution of Ontologies of Informed Consent” (co-authored) (poster). 9th International Conf. on Biological Ontology (ICBO 2018), Corvallis, OR, USA. July 2018
Human-nonhuman Chimera Research
- “Human-Nonhuman Chimeras, Ontology, and Dignity — moral considerations on the creation and use of certain interspecific hybrids” at Romanell Conference (University at Buffalo). July 2019
- “Human-nonhuman Chimeras, Ontology, and Dignity: a constructivist approach to the ethics of conducting research on cross-species hybrids” at Sixth Annual Medical Humanities Conference (Western Michigan University). Sept 2016
Ontology of Commercial Exchange
- “Toward an Ontology of Commercial Exchange” (co-authored with Eric Merrell and Barry Smith). Ontology of Social, Legal, and Economic Entities (SoLEE) as a part of the Joint Ontology Workshops (JOWO), Graz, Austria. Sept 2019
- “The Problem of Individuation and John Sergeant”. Lunchtime talk at Graduate Philosophy Association (University at Buffalo) Oct 2019
- “Berkeley’s Concrete General Ideas and the Problem of Universals,” at the International Berkeley Society (session during APA Eastern Division). Jan 2019
- “Berkeley’s Concrete General Ideas and the Problem of Universals,” at 8th Margaret Dauler Wilson Philosophy Conference (University at Buffalo). June 2018
- “Berkeley’s Concrete General Ideas and the Problem of Universals,” at Graduate Philosophy Conference (University of Iowa) Apr 2018
Lunchtime talk at Graduate Philosophy Association (University at Buffalo). Apr 2018
- “Berkeley’s Concrete General Ideas and the Problem of Universals,” at 24th Annual Waterloo Philosophy Grad. Conf. (University of Waterloo). Mar 2017
- “Berkeley’s Concrete General Ideas and the Problem of Universals,” at North Carolina Philosophical Society Conference (UNC, Wilmington). Feb 2017
- “Berkeley’s Non-Abstract General Ideas and the Problem of Universals,” for Brown Bag Colloquium (Western Michigan University). Nov 2016
- “Conditions of Fundamental Metaphysics: A Critique of Jorge Gracia’s Proposal” at Graduate Philosophy Conference (University of Iowa). Apr 2016
- “Conditions of Fundamental Metaphysics: A Critique of Jorge Gracia’s Proposal” at 12th Annual Essays of Significance: A Grad. Phil. Conf. (University of Windsor). Mar 2016