David Sloan Wilson has recently revived the idea of a group mind as an application of group selectionist thinking to cognition. Central to my discussion of this idea is the distinction between the claim that groups have a psychology and what I call the social manifestation thesis-a thesis about the psychology of individuals. Contemporary work on this topic has confused these two theses. My discussion also points to research questions and issues that Wilson's work raises, as well as (...) their connection to externalist conceptions of the mind familiar since the work of Putnam and Burge. (shrink)
The emerging viewpoint of embodied cognition holds that cognitive processes are deeply rooted in the body's interactions with the world. This position actually houses a number of distinct claims, some of which are more controversial than others. This paper distinguishes and evaluates the following six claims: (1) cognition is situated; (2) cognition is time-pressured; (3) we off-load cognitive work onto the environment; (4) the environment is part of the cognitive system; (5) cognition is for action; (6) off-line cognition is body (...) based. Of these, the first three and the fifth appear to be at least partially true, and their usefulness is best evaluated in terms of the range of their applicability. The fourth claim, I argue, is deeply problematic. The sixth claim has received the least attention in the literature on embodied cognition, but it may in fact be the best documented and most powerful of the six claims. (shrink)
Chalmers and Jackson (2001) offer an epistemic interpretation of the two-dimensional semantic framework advanced by Kaplan (1979, 1989), Stalnaker (1978), and others. Epistemic two-dimensional semantics (E2D) aims to re-forge the link between necessity and a priority seemingly broken by Kripke (1972/1980). On the E2D strategy, a priori knowledge of certain semantic intensions provides a route to a priori knowledge of a wide range of modal truths---nice outcome, if we can get it. E2D faces the serious challenge, however, that we typically (...) don't have even in-principle a priori access to the intensions at issue (Byrne and Pryor 2006, Melnyk 2001; see also Wilson 1982). As we substantiate, the "access-based challenge" to Chalmers and Jackson's version of E2D is successful; but the problem here isn't for E2D per se, but rather to E2D interpreted as appealing to a conceiving-based epistemology of intensions. Here we develop a version of E2D appealing to abduction rather than conceivability. We argue that abduction gives rise to beliefs that are reasonably taken to be a priori; and we show that E2D when combined with an abductive epistemology of intensions---that is, abductive two-dimensionalism---can successfully respond to the access-based challenge. We finish up with a case study, involving zombies and the mind-body problem, illustrating how the two versions of E2D may differ in application. (shrink)
The scholars who defend or dispute moral relativism, the idea that a moral principle cannot be applied to people whose culture does not accept it, have concerned themselves with either the philosophical or anthropological aspects of relativism. This study, shows that in order to arrive at a definitive appraisal of moral relativism, it is necessary to understand and investigate both its anthropological and philosophical aspects. Carefully examining the arguments for and against moral relativism, Cook exposes not only that anthropologists (...) have failed in their attempt to support relativism with evidence of cultural differences, but that moral absolutists have been equally unsuccessful in their attempts to refute it. He argues that these conflicting positions are both guilty of an artificial and unrealistic view of morality and proposes a more subtle and complex account of morality. (shrink)
No matter what we do, however kind or generous our deeds may seem, a hidden motive of selfishness lurks--or so science has claimed for years. This book, whose publication promises to be a major scientific event, tells us differently. In Unto Others philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson demonstrate once and for all that unselfish behavior is in fact an important feature of both biological and human nature. Their book provides a panoramic view of altruism throughout the (...) animal kingdom--from self-sacrificing parasites to insects that subsume themselves in the superorganism of a colony to the human capacity for selflessness--even as it explains the evolutionary sense of such behavior. (shrink)
I argue that an adequate account of non-reductive realization must guarantee satisfaction of a certain condition on the token causal powers associated with (instances of) realized and realizing entities---namely, what I call the 'Subset Condition on Causal Powers' (first introduced in Wilson 1999). In terms of states, the condition requires that the token powers had by a realized state on a given occasion be a proper subset of the token powers had by the state that realizes it on that (...) occasion. Accounts of non-reductive realization conforming to this condition are implementing what I call 'the powers-based subset strategy'. I focus on the crucial case involving mental and brain states; the results may be generalized, as appropriate. I ﬁrst situate and motivate the strategy by attention to the problem of mental causation; I make the case, in schematic terms, that implementation of the strategy makes room (contra Kim 1989, 1993, 1998, and elsewhere) for mental states to be ontologically and causally autonomous from their realizing physical states, without inducing problematic causal overdetermination, and compatible with both Physicalism and Non-reduction; and I show that several contemporary accounts of non-reductive realization (in terms of functional realization, parthood, and the determinable/determinate relation) are plausibly seen as implementing the strategy. As I also show, implementation of the powers-based strategy does not require endorsement of any particular accounts of either properties or causation---indeed, a categoricalist contingentist Humean can implement the strategy. The schematic location of the strategy in the space of available responses to the problem of mental (more generally, higher-level) causation, as well as the fact that the schema may be metaphysically instantiated, strongly suggests that the strategy is, appropriately generalized and instantiated, sufficient and moreover necessary for non-reductive realization. I go on to defend the sufficiency and necessity claims against a variety of objections, considering, along the way, how the powers-based subset strategy fares against competing accounts of purportedly non-reductive realization in terms of supervenience, token identity, and constitution. (shrink)
The human story behind Everettian quantum mechanics Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI 10.1007/s11016-010-9510-4 Authors Alastair Wilson, University College, Oxford, OX1 4BH UK Journal Metascience Online ISSN 1467-9981 Print ISSN 0815-0796.
In this new introduction to a classic philosophical text, Catherine Wilson examines the arguments of Descartes' famous Meditations, the book which launched modern philosophy. Drawing on the reinterpretations of Descartes' thought of the past twenty-five years, she shows how Descartes constructs a theory of the mind, the body, nature, and God from a premise of radical uncertainty. She discusses in detail the historical context of Descartes' writings and their relationship to early modern science, and at the same time she (...) introduces concepts and problems that define the philosophical enterprise as it is understood today. Following closely the text of the Meditations and meant to be read alongside them, this survey is accessible to readers with no previous background in philosophy. It is well-suited to university-level courses on Descartes, but can also be read with profit by students in other disciplines. (shrink)
This landmark study examines the role played by the rediscovery of the writings of the ancient atomists, Epicurus and Lucretius, in the articulation of the major philosophical systems of the seventeenth century, and, more broadly, their influence on the evolution of natural science and moral and political philosophy. The target of sustained and trenchant philosophical criticism by Cicero, and of opprobrium by the Christian Fathers of the early Church, for its unflinching commitment to the absence of divine supervision and the (...) finitude of life, the Epicurean philosophy surfaced again in the period of the Scientific Revolution, when it displaced scholastic Aristotelianism. Both modern social contract theory and utilitarianism in ethics were grounded in its tenets. Catherine Wilson shows how the distinctive Epicurean image of the natural and social worlds took hold in philosophy, and how it is an acknowledged, and often unacknowledged presence in the writings of Descartes, Gassendi, Hobbes, Boyle, Locke, Leibniz, Berkeley. With chapters devoted to Epicurean physics and cosmology, the corpuscularian or "mechanical" philosophy, the question of the mortality of the soul, the grounds of political authority, the contested nature of the experimental philosophy, sensuality, curiosity, and the role of pleasure and utility in ethics, the author makes a persuasive case for the significance of materialism in seventeenth-century philosophy without underestimating the depth and significance of the opposition to it, and for its continued importance in the contemporary world. Lucretius's great poem, On the Nature of Things, supplies the frame of reference for this deeply-researched inquiry into the origins of modern philosophy. (shrink)
Mark Wilson presents a highly original and broad-ranging investigation of the way we get to grips with the world conceptually, and the way that philosophical problems commonly arise from this. He combines traditional philosophical concerns about human conceptual thinking with illuminating data derived from a large variety of fields including physics and applied mathematics, cognitive psychology, and linguistics. Wandering Significance offers abundant new insights and perspectives for philosophers of language, mind, and science, and will also reward the interest of (...) psychologists, linguists, and anyone curious about the mysterious ways in which useful language obtains its practical applicability. (shrink)
Can we ever truly answer the question, “Who am I?” Moderated by Alex Voorhoeve (London School of Economics), neuro-philosopher Elie During (University of Paris, Ouest Nanterre), cognitive scientist David Jopling (York University, Canada), social psychologist Timothy Wilson (University of Virginia),and ethicist Frances Kamm (Harvard University) examine the difficulty of achieving genuine self-knowledge and how the pursuit of self-knowledge plays a role in shaping the self.
What makes a biological entity an individual? Jack Wilson shows that past philosophers have failed to explicate the conditions an entity must satisfy to be a living individual. He explores the reason for this failure and explains why we should limit ourselves to examples involving real organisms rather than thought experiments. This book explores and resolves paradoxes that arise when one applies past notions of individuality to biological examples beyond the conventional range, and presents a new analysis of identity (...) and persistence. The book's main purpose is to bring together two lines of research, theoretical biology and metaphysics, which have dealt with the same subject in isolation from one another. Wilson explains a new theory about biological individuality which solves problems which cannot be addressed by either field alone. He presents a more fine-grained vocabulary of individuation based on diverse kinds of living things, allowing him to clarify previously muddled disputes about individuality in biology. (shrink)
Wittgenstein's Metaphysics offers a radical new interpretation of the fundamental ideas of Ludwig Wittgenstein. It takes issue with the conventional view that after 1930 Wittgenstein rejected the philosophy of the Tractatus and developed a wholly new conception of philosophy. By tracing the evolution of Wittgenstein's ideas Cook shows that they are neither as original nor as difficult as is often supposed. Wittgenstein was essentially an empiricist, and the difference between his early views (as set forth in the Tractatus) and (...) the later views (as expounded in the Philosophical Investigations) lies chiefly in the fact that after 1930 he replaced his version of reductionism with something subtler. Nevertheless, he ended where he began, as an empiricist armed with a theory of meaning. (shrink)
What kind of duty do we have to try to stop other people doing wrong? The question is intelligible in just about any culture, but few of them seek to answer it in a rigorous fashion. The most striking exception is found in the Islamic tradition, where 'commanding right' and 'forbidding wrong' is a central moral tenet already mentioned in the Koran. As an historian of Islam whose research has ranged widely over space and time, Michael Cook is well (...) placed to interpret this complex subject. His book represents the first sustained attempt to map the history of Islamic reflection on this obligation. It covers the origins of Muslim thinking about 'forbidding wrong', the relevant doctrinal developments over the centuries, and its significance in Sunni and Shi'ite thought today. In this way the book contributes to the understanding of Islamic thought, its relevance to contemporary Islamic politics and ideology, and raises fundamental questions for the comparative study of ethics. (shrink)
Where does the mind begin and end? Robert Wilson establishes the foundations for the view that the mind extends beyond the boundary of the individual. He blends traditional philosophical analysis, cognitive science, and the history of psychology and the human sciences. Wilson then develops novel accounts of mental representation and consciousness, discussing a range of other issues, such as nativism and the idea of group minds. Boundaries of the Mind re-evaluates the place of the individual in the cognitive, (...) biological and social sciences (what Wilson calls the fragile sciences) with an emphasis on cognition. The book will appeal to a broad range of professionals and students in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and the history of the behavioral and human sciences. Robert A. Wilson is professor of philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is author or editor of five other books, including the award-winning The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences (MIT Press, 1999). (shrink)
This book offers the first sustained critique of individualism in psychology, a view that has been the subject of debate between philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Tyler Burge for many years. The author approaches individualism as an issue in the philosophy of science and by discussing issues such as computationalism and the mind's modularity he opens the subject up for non-philosophers in psychology and computer science. Professor Wilson carefully examines the most influential arguments for individualism and identifies the (...) main metaphysical assumptions underlying them. Since the topic is so central to the philosophy of mind, a discipline generating enormous research and debate at present, the book has implications for a very broad range of philosophical issues including the naturalisation of intentionality, psychophysical supervenience, the nature of mental causation, and the viability of folk psychology. (shrink)