Historians of science generally consider that Darwinism has played an important part in the birth of scientific ecology. Now most 19th century seminal works of the new discipline have been elaborated within a Lamarckian framework. The source of this paradox lies in the double-content of the adaptation concept, considered as a static phenomenon by the ecologists and as a dynamic process by the evolutionists. Although closely related nowadays, as shown by modern evolutionary ecology, the problematics of the fields of research (...) at issue were initially separated. (shrink)
Cherchant à refonder l’édifice euclidien, Leibniz a formulé une Caractéristique géométrique qui annonce les concepts géneraux de la théorie des ensembles. Dans ce cadre, il a pu en particulier formaliser sa conception du continu. L’intérêt du Pacidius Philalethi (1676) est de montrer qu’en choisissant la conception intensionnelle du continu -position qu’il ne dementira jamais- il sélectionne parmi les images duales celle dont se déduit le changement qualitatif, base d’une philosophie naturelle qui soutiendra encore la dynamique ultérieure. Une tâche se dessine (...) maintenant, soit déduire la nécessité d’un mouvement universei et infiniment varié à partir de ses conditions topologiques.We know that Leibniz intended to bring new foundations to the euclidean geometry and he has according to this view formulate a Characteristica geometrica which announces few general concepts of set theory. Parlicularly he tried to formalise his conception of continuity. Before the main interest of the Pacidius Philalethi (1676) is here: showing us that Leibniz when he chooses an intensional conception of continuity he chooses in the same time the dual image from which be can deduce the qualitative variation. We reckon again these conception at the grounds of his later philosophy of nature. But now we have to follow Leibniz demostrating how universal and infinite variations flow from its topological conditions. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that Pascal understood God and Reason to be part of a continuum, comprehensible to the understanding, and not radically opposed to one another. The paper situates Pascal in the context of seventeenth-century intellectual history and examines the concept of Dieu Caché from the perspective of seventeenth-century linguistics.
New concepts may prove necessary to profit from the avalanche of sequence data on the genome, transcriptome, proteome and interactome and to relate this information to cell physiology. Here, we focus on the concept of large activity-based structures, or hyperstructures, in which a variety of types of molecules are brought together to perform a function. We review the evidence for the existence of hyperstructures responsible for the initiation of DNA replication, the sequestration of newly replicated origins of replication, cell division (...) and for metabolism. The processes responsible for hyperstructure formation include changes in enzyme affinities due to metabolite-induction, lipid-protein affinities, elevated local concentrations of proteins and their binding sites on DNA and RNA, and transertion. Experimental techniques exist that can be used to study hyperstructures and we review some of the ones less familiar to biologists. Finally, we speculate on how a variety of in silico approaches involving cellular automata and multi-agent systems could be combined to develop new concepts in the form of an Integrated cell (I-cell) which would undergo selection for growth and survival in a world of artificial microbiology. (shrink)
The idea that beliefs may be stake-sensitive is explored. This is the idea that the strength with which a single, persistent belief is held may vary and depend upon what the believer takes to be at stake. The stakes in question are tied to the truth of the belief—not, as in Pascal’s wager and other cases, to the belief’s presence. Categorical beliefs and degrees of belief are considered; both kinds of account typically exclude the idea and treat belief as stake-invariant (...) , though an exception is briefly described. The role of the assumption of stake-invariance in familiar accounts of degrees of belief is also discussed, and morals are drawn concerning finite and countable Dutch book arguments. (shrink)
Recent scholarship has shown that the success of Pascal’s wager rests on precarious grounds. To avoid notorious problems, it must appeal to considerations such as what probability we assign to the existence of various gods and what religion we think provides the greatest happiness in this life. Rational judgments concerning these matters are subject to change over time. Some claim that the wager therefore cannot support a steadfast commitment to God. I argue that this conclusion does not follow. By drawing (...) upon the line of reasoning employed in getting married, I explain how unstable considerations can provide a sufficient rational foundation for a stable commitment. (shrink)
Among recent objections to Pascal’s Wager, two are especially compelling. The first is that decision theory, and specifically the requirement of maximizing expected utility, is incompatible with infinite utility values. The second is that even if infinite utility values are admitted, the argument of the Wager is invalid provided that we allow mixed strategies. Furthermore, Hájek (Philosophical Review 112, 2003) has shown that reformulations of Pascal’s Wager that address these criticisms inevitably lead to arguments that are philosophically unsatisfying and historically (...) unfaithful. Both the objections and Hájek’s philosophical worries disappear, however, if we represent our preferences using relative utilities (generalized utility ratios) rather than a one-place utility function. Relative utilities provide a conservative way to make sense of infinite value that preserves the familiar equation of rationality with the maximization of expected utility. They also provide a means of investigating a broader class of problems related to the Wager. (shrink)
In some dark alley. . . Mugger: Hey, give me your wallet. Pascal: Why on Earth would I want to do that? Mugger: Otherwise I’ll shoot you. Pascal: But you don’t have a gun. Mugger: Oops! I knew I had forgotten something. Pascal: No wallet for you then. Have a nice evening. Mugger: Wait! Pascal: Sigh. Mugger: I’ve got a business proposition for you. . . . How about you give me your wallet now? In return, I promise to come (...) to your house tomorrow and give you double the value of what’s in the wallet. Not bad, eh? A 200% return on investment in 24 hours. (shrink)
Bering argues that belief in posthumous intentional agency may confer added fitness via the inhibition of opportunistic behavior. This is true only if these agents are interested parties in our moral choices, a feature which does not result from Bering's imaginative constraint hypothesis and extends to supernatural agents other than dead people's souls. A by-product model might handle this better.
Cognitive developmental evidence is sometimes conscripted to support ''naturalized epistemology'' arguments to the effect that a general epistemic stance leads children to build theory-like accounts of underlying properties of kinds. A review of the evidence suggests that what prompts conceptual acquisition is not a general epistemic stance but a series of category-specific intuitive principles that constitute an evolved ''natural metaphysics''. This consists in a system of categories and category-specific inferential processes founded on definite biases in prototype formation. Evidence for this (...) system provides a better understanding of the limited ''plasticity'' of ontological commitments as well as a computationally plausible account of their initial state, avoiding ambiguities about innateness. This may provide a starting point for a ''naturalized epistemology'' that takes into account evolved properties of human conceptual structures. (shrink)
Atran's account of cultural transmission can be further refined by considering constraints from early-developed, domain-specific intuitive ontological understanding. These suggest specific predictions about the cultural survival of “memes,” depending on the way they activate intuitive understanding. There is no general dynamic of cultural inheritance; only complex predictions for domain-specific competencies that cut across cultural domains.
Identifying objects as members of ontological domains activates category-specific processes. There is evidence that these processes include particular ways of “tracking” substances and could do all the “tracking” necessary for concept acquisition. There may be no functional need or evolutionary scenario for a general tracking capacity of the kind described by Millikan.
The study of causal inferences is an essential part of the study of other cultures. It is therefore crucial to describe the cognitive mechanisms whereby subjects are led to find specific causal explanations plausible and "natural." In the anthropological literature, specific causal connections are described as the result produced by applying a general "conception of causation" or some general "theories" to specific events; the essay aims to show that these answers are either trivial or false. The "naturalness" of explanations must (...) be examined in the context of concept acquisition and belief-fixation. On the basis of an ethnographic example, it is possible to show how certain presumptions (e.g., about the use of certain categories as natural kind terms) can be involved in the processes whereby certain explanations are made cognitively salient. (shrink)
In reply to commentary on our target article, we supply further evidence and hypotheses in the description of ritualized behaviors in humans. Reactions to indirect fitness threats probably activate specialized precaution systems rather than a unified form of danger-avoidance or causal reasoning. Impairment of precaution systems may be present in pathologies other than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), autism in particular. Ritualized behavior is attention-grabbing enough to be culturally transmitted whether or not it is associated with group identity, cohesion, or with any (...) other social aspect of collective ceremonies. (Published Online February 8 2007). (shrink)
Ritualized behavior, intuitively recognizable by its stereotypy, rigidity, repetition, and apparent lack of rational motivation, is found in a variety of life conditions, customs, and everyday practices: in cultural rituals, whether religious or non-religious; in many children's complicated routines; in the pathology of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD); in normal adults around certain stages of the life-cycle, birthing in particular. Combining evidence from evolutionary anthropology, neuropsychology and neuroimaging, we propose an explanation of ritualized behavior in terms of an evolved Precaution System geared (...) to the detection of and reaction to inferred threats to fitness. This system, distinct from fear-systems geared to respond to manifest danger, includes a repertoire of clues for potential danger as well as a repertoire of species-typical precautions. In OCD pathology, this system does not supply a negative feedback to the appraisal of potential threats, resulting in doubts about the proper performance of precautions, and repetition of action. Also, anxiety levels focus the attention on low-level gestural units of behavior rather than on the goal-related higher-level units normally used in parsing the action-flow. Normally automatized actions are submitted to cognitive control. This “swamps” working memory, an effect of which is a temporary relief from intrusions but also their long-term strengthening. Normal activation of this Precaution System explains intrusions and ritual behaviors in normal adults. Gradual calibration of the system occurs through childhood rituals. Cultural mimicry of this system's normal input makes cultural rituals attention-grabbing and compelling. A number of empirical predictions follow from this synthetic model. (Published Online February 8 2007) Key Words: childhood ritual; compulsion; event boundaries; evolutionary psychology; obsessive-compulsive disorder; ritual; thought intrusion. (shrink)
The question of modernity has provoked a vigorous debate in the work of thinkers from Hegel to Habermas. Our own self-styled postmodern age has seen no end to this debate, which now receives a major and wide-ranging intervention from the theorist and critic Anthony J. Cascardi. Offering an historical account of the origins and transformations of the rational subject or self as it is represented in Descartes, Cervantes, Pascal, Hobbes and the Don Juan myth, he carries his argument across the (...) fields of epistemology, literature, political science, religion and psychology. The modern subject proves to be positioned within conflicting discourses, in a culture characterised by its 'detotalised totality'. Max Weber's concept of 'world disenchantment' enables Cascardi to make a searching critique of modernity's sense of its absoluteness, divorced from an archaic, 'enchanted' world. He advocates in its place a more fruitful relationship between historical analysis and theoretical speculation, offering constructive new alternatives to current orthodoxy regarding subjectivity and modernity. (shrink)