Adina Roskies has argued that worries that recent developments in the neurosciences challenge our ideas of free will and responsibility are misguided. Her argument focuses on the idea that we are able to act differently than we do. However, according to a dominant view in contemporary philosophy, the ability to do otherwise is irrelevant to our judgments of responsibility and free will. It rather is our ability to act for reasons that is crucial. We argue that this view is most (...) significantly challenged by the recent discoveries. Those discoveries show that it is not as obvious and uncontroversial that we act for reasons as it seems. Hence, we have to rethink our concept of reasons-responsiveness. (shrink)
This paper reviews the debate on the notion of biological function and on functional explanation as this takes place in philosophy. It describes the different perspectives, issues, intuitions, theories and arguments that have emerged. The author shows that the debate has been too heavily influenced by the concerns of a naturalistic philosophy of mind and argues that in order to improve our understanding of biology the attention should be shifted from the study of intuitions to the study of the actual (...) practice of biological inquiry. (shrink)
Many philosophers ignore developments in the behavioral, cognitive, and neurosciences that purport to challenge our ideas of free will and responsibility. The reason for this is that the challenge is often framed as a denial of the idea that we are able to act differently than we do. However, most philosophers think that the ability to do otherwise is irrelevant to responsibility and free will. Rather it is our ability to act for reasons that is crucial. We argue that the (...) scientific findings indicate that it is not so obvious that our views of free will and responsibility can be grounded in the ability to act for reasons without introducing metaphysical obscurities. This poses a challenge to philosophers. We draw the conclusion that philosophers are wrong not to address the recent scientific developments and that scientists are mistaken in formulating their challenge in terms of the freedom to do otherwise. (shrink)
I argue that there are at least four different ways in which the term ‘function’ is used in connection with the study of living organisms, namely: (1) function as (mere) activity, (2) function as biological role, (3) function as biological advantage, and (4) function as selected effect. Notion (1) refers to what an item does by itself; (2) refers to the contribution of an item or activity to a complex activity or capacity of an organism; (3) refers to the value (...) for the organism of an item having a certain character rather than another; (4) refers to the way in which a trait acquired and has maintained its current share in the population. The recognition of a separate notion of function as biological advantage solves the problem of the indeterminate reference situation that has been raised against a counterfactual analysis of function, and emphasizes the importance of counterfactual comparison in the explanatory practice of organismal biology. This reveals a neglected problem in the philosophy of biology, namely that of accounting for the insights provided. (shrink)
This paper is concerned with reasonings that purport to explain why certain organisms have certain traits by showing that their actual design is better than contrasting designs. Biologists call such reasonings ‘functional explanations’. To avoid confusion with other uses of that phrase, I call them ‘design explanations’. This paper discusses the structure of design explanations and how they contribute to scientific understanding. Design explanations are contrastive and often compare real organisms to hypothetical organisms that cannot possibly exist. They are not (...) causal but appeal to functional dependencies between an organism’s different traits. These explanations point out that because an organism has certain traits (e.g., it lives on land), it cannot be alive if the trait to be explained (e.g., having lungs) were replaced by a specified alternative (e.g., having gills). They can be understood from a mechanistic point of view as revealing the constraints on what mechanisms can be alive. (shrink)
This article presents a new interpretation of Marx's dialectical method. Marx conceived dialectics as a method for constructing a model of society. The way this model is developed is analogous to the way organisms develop according to the German embryologist Karl Ernst von Baer, and, indeed, Marx's theory of capitalism hinges on the same concept of Organisation that is found in teleomechanical biology. The strong analogy between pre-Darwinian biology and Marx's structure of argument shows that the analogy often supposed to (...) exist between Darwin and Marx is not relevant to Marx's theory of capitalism. (shrink)
This paper evaluates Kuipers' account of functional explanation in biology in view of an example of such an explanation taken from real biology. The example is the explanation of why electric fishes swim backwards (Lannoo and Lannoo 1993). Kuipers' account depicts the answer to a request for functional explanation as consisting only of statements that articulate a certain kind of consequence. It is argued that such an account fails to do justice to the main insight provided by the example explanation, (...) namely the insight into why backwards swimming is needed by fishes that locate their food by means of an electric radar. The paper sketches an improved account that does justice to this kind of insight. It is argued that this account is consistent with and complementary to Kuipers' insight that function attributions are established by means of a process of hypothetico-deductive reasoning guided by a heuristic principle. (shrink)
Following Mayr (1961) evolutionary biologists often maintain that the hallmark of biology is its evolutionary perspective. In this view, biologists distinguish themselves from other natural scientists by their emphasis on why-questions. Why-questions are legitimate in biology but not in other natural sciences because of the selective character of the process by means of which living objects acquire their characteristics. For that reason, why-questions should be answered in terms of natural selection. Functional biology is seen as a reductionist science that applies (...) physics and chemistry to answer how-questions but lacks a biological point of view of its own. In this paper I dispute this image of functional biology. A close look at the kinds of issues studied in biology and at the way in which these issues are studied shows that functional biology employs a distinctive biological perspective that is not rooted in selection. This functional perspective is characterized by its concern with the requirements of the life-state and the way in which these are met. (shrink)
This article deals with a type of functional explanation, viability explanation, that has been overlooked in recent philosophy of science. Viability explanations relate traits of organisms and their environments in terms of what an individual needs to survive and reproduce. I show that viability explanations are neither causal nor historical and that, therefore, they should be accounted for as a distinct type of explanation.
I argue that there are at least four different ways in which the term 'function' is used in connection with the study of living organisms, namely: (1) function as (mere) activity, (2) function as biological role, (3) function as biological advantage, and (4) function as selected effect. Notion (1) refers to what an item does by itself; (2) refers to the contribution of an item or activity to a complex activity or capacity of an organism; (3) refers to the value (...) for the organism of an item having a certain character rather than another; (4) refers to the way in which a trait acquired and has maintained its current share in the population. The recognition of a separate notion of function as biological advantage solves the problem of the indeterminate reference situation that has been raised against a counterfactual analysis of function, and emphasizes the importance of counterfactual comparison in the explanatory practice of organismal biology. This reveals a neglected problem in the philosophy of biology, namely that of accounting for the insights provided by counterfactual comparison. (shrink)
This introduction clarifies the ideas behind the Logic, Reasoning and Rationality congress from which the papers in this issue are selected. These ideas are situated in the history of 20th century philosophy (Vienna Circle, Kuhn, ...). We also give an overview of the papers in this issue.
This is a discussion of two books by Cas Wouters, Sex and Manners: Female Emancipation in the West 1890–2000 (London: Sage, 2004), and Informalization: Manners and Emotions since 1890 (Sage, forthcoming 2007, English version).
Darwin’s insight that species are mutable, and descent, and origin by means of natural selection is one of the most widely acknowledged strategies for the origin of species and their survival in nature. In his famous contribution, however, Darwin also writes that he is convinced that “... Natural Selection has been the main but not exclusive means of modification ” (Darwin in The origin of species. Oxford Univeristy Press, Oxford, p. 7, 1996 ). This research suggests robustness as another fundamental (...) strategy for survival in nature. The paper does not contradict the popular view, which usually sees robustness as a feature making systems fault-tolerant, thereby focusing on the identification of strategies and techniques for making systems robust (i.e., how to achieve robustness). The paper rather extends this view with an interpretation resting on the question—WHY is robustness omnipresent in the world around us? From this point of view, robustness is interpreted as a fundamental mechanism that is in place because of another fundamental feature in nature—the design and use of sub-optimal systems. The paper argues that, in a sense, nature under-specifies systems but compensates for this by providing systems with various degrees of robustness. We believe that this interpretation may lead to fundamentally new design approaches and insights in several fields. (shrink)
The thought determinations of Hegel's Logic are tentatively considered as three mutually intersecting systems giving rise to a set of general ordering relations. Each main category is given its place in a main sequence with triadic structure and is associated with two sequences of dependent partial determinations. In this way a number of clear distinctions can be introduced and some significant but hitherto largely neglected correspondences between categories and their partial determinations, in particular the so-called moments, be studied.
Technology assessment (TA) is an important instrument for the regulation of innovation. From the perspective of sociology of knowledge, the regulatory process can be understood as a complex interplay between different forms of knowledge. The prevailing instruments of TA, expertise and participation, are both facing difficulties in dealing with the limits and impasses of regulatory knowledge in the realm of innovation. Nevertheless, as is argued in this article, reflexive forms of TA offer a good, if not the only, answer to (...) the question of how we can deal with the contradictions and paradoxes involved in the regulation of innovation. (shrink)
“Esotericism” refers, more or less, to what used to be called “the occult.” It comprises such matters as astrology, alchemy, kabbalism, magic, and theosophy—to name just a few. In other words, it refers to just about everything that came to be marginalized in the modern period as “superstition” and “pseudo-science,” and anathematized by scientists and philosophers. In recent decades, there has been an explosion of scholarly interest in esotericism, partly because of research revealing that many “canonical” scientists and philosophers of (...) the past were strongly interested in these “irrational” currents. The philosophers include Leibniz, Kant, Hegel, Schelling, and Schopenhauer; the scientists include Newton. Such .. (shrink)
People mentally represent the shapes of objects. For instance, the mental representation of an eagle is different when one thinks about a flying or resting eagle. This study examined the role of shape in mental representations of similes (i.e., metaphoric comparisons). We tested the prediction that when people process a simile they will mentally represent the entities of the comparison as having a similar shape. We conducted two experiments in which participants read sentences that either did (experimental sentences) or did (...) not (control sentences) invite comparing two entities. For the experimental sentences, the ground of the comparison was explicit in Experiment 1 (“X has the ability to Z, just like Y”) and implicit in Experiment 2 (“X is like Y”). After having read the sentence, participants were presented with line drawings of the two objects, which were either similarly or dissimilarly shaped. They judged whether both objects were mentioned in the preceding sentence. For the experimental sentences, recognition latencies were shorter for similarly shaped objects than for dissimilarly shaped objects. For the control sentences, we did not find such an effect of similarity in shape. These findings suggest that a perceptual symbol of shape is activated when processing similes. (shrink)
In practice, the relationship between business and ethics is not well-settled. In the past, organisations have developed an interest in setting value charts but this has been approached from a purely managerial perspective following the momentum and interest aroused by research on organisational cultures. Although interest in managing organisational cultures has slowly died down, for both theoretical and practical reasons we argue that there are feasible ways to explore values as part of an organisational culture. Indeed it is our claim (...) that it is feasible and productive to discuss values within organisations. However, rather than developing sophisticated theoretical frameworks, more efforts should be put into thinking about the conditions under which participants can enter into productive dialogue. It is our claim that if processes are carefully examined people within organisations can make better sense of their work and discover their own perspective to account for what they actually do and to project themselves into what they think they should be doing. Thus, values identified within the organisation can eventually reach a point where they become an expression of a shared commitment. The experience we describe aims to illustrate only one example of a concrete application of this approach. (shrink)
In Section I, different characterizations of the theoretical status, systematic importance and possible applications of cybernetics in the human sciences are sketched, according to view points currently developing in Soviet and Eastern science. Significant differences from the Western scientific approaches are pointed out. The connection of this field with work on heuristics and systems theory is briefly dealt with. Section II gives a critical appraisal of the ideas of B. V. Birjukov on the humanization of logic. The question of (...) the possibility of a special logic of creativity according to this and similar methods in cybernetics is outlined, followed by a short critical analysis. Section III gives a short general introduction to some problems of the comparison of formal with dialectical logic, criticizes the work of J. Erpenbeck and H. Hörz on lawlike sentences and proposes a new scheme for dialectical hypothesis formation. A Critical comparison with some recent developments in Soviet philosophy forms the conclusion. (shrink)