Andrew Collier is the boldest defender of objectivity - in science, knowledge, thought, action, politics, morality and religion. In this tribute and acknowledgement of the influence his work has had on a wide readership, his colleagues show that they have been stimulated by his thinking and offer challenging responses. This wide-ranging book covers key areas with which defenders of objectivity often have to engage. Sections are devoted to the following: 'objectivity of value', 'objectivity and everyday knowledge', 'objectivity in political economy', (...) 'objectivity and reflexivity', 'objectivity, postmodernism and feminism', 'objectivity and nature'. The diverse contributions range from social and political thought to philosophy, reflecting the central themes of Collier's work. (shrink)
This volume develops and defends critical realism whilst engaging critically with existentialist philosophy in a number of ways. The work of existentialist thinkers as diverse as Kierkegarrd, R.D. Laing, Heideggar and Sartre is discussed at length and Andrew Collier argues that there is much to be learnt from their work, especially in Heidegger's critique of the technological view of the world. However the book concludes with a defence of objectivity against the various forms of subjectivism advanced by the existentialists.
Since the origins of the notion of emergence in attempts to recover the content of vitalistic anti-reductionism without its questionable metaphysics, emergence has been treated in terms of logical properties. This approach was doomed to failure, because logical properties are either sui generis or they are constructions from other logical properties. If the former, they do not explain on their own and are inevitably somewhat arbitrary (the problem with the related concept of supervenience, Collier, 1988a), but if the latter, reducibility (...) is assured because logical constructs are reducible, by definition, to their logical components. A satisfactory account of emergence must recognise that it is a dynamical, not a logical property of property of natural systems, and that its basis is dynamical rather than logical composition. Collier (1988a) introduced the concept of cohesion as the closure of the causal relations among the dynamical parts of a dynamical particular that determine its resistance to external and internal fluctuations that might disrupt its integrity. Cohesion is an equivalence relation that partitions a set of dynamical particulars into unified and distinct entities, providing the identity conditions for such particulars. Cohesion blocks reduction of dynamical particulars, and is necessary for dynamical emergence. We will give reasons for thinking that cohesion might be sufficient for emergence as well. (shrink)
In Being and Worth Andrew Collier argues that beings both in the natural and human worlds have worth in themselves, whether we recognize it or not. He builds on recent work in critical realism to provide a reassessment of Spinoza's philosophy of mind and ethics. Conclusions are developed with particular reference to environmental ethics.
Economic logic impinges on contemporary political theory through both economic reductionism and economic methodology applied to political decision-making (through game theory). The authors argue that the sort of models used are based on mechanistic and linear methodologies that have now been found wanting in physics. They further argue that complexity based self-organization methods are better suited to model the complexities of economy and polity and their interactions with the overall social system.
David Hume endorses three claims that are difficult to reconcile: (1) sympathy with those in distress is sufficient to produce compassion towards their plight, (2) adopting the general point of view often requires us to sympathize with the pain and suffering of distant strangers, but (3) our care and concern is limited to those in our close circle. Hume manages to resolve this tension, however, by distinguishing two types of sympathy. We feel compassion towards those around us because associative sympathy (...) causes us to mirror their pain and suffering, but our ability to enter into the afflictions of those remote from us involves cognitive sympathy and merely requires us to reflect upon how we would feel in their shoes. This hybrid theory of sympathy receives support from recent work on affective mirroring and cognitive pretense. Hume’s account should appeal to contemporary researchers, therefore, who are interested in the nature of moral imagination. (shrink)
1. Evolutionary Moral Realism. On most contemporary approaches to evolution and ethics, morality is not a real part of the environment in which social and intelligent creatures evolve.1 According to such approaches, certain cooperative behavioural patterns develop, and thus become biologically real, but morality doesn’t become possible until creatures evolve a sophisticated enough cognitive ability to mistake the goals of such behavioural patterns for objective moral values. At a metaethical level, this line of thought has led evolutionary biologists and moral (...) philosophers alike to the conclusion that objective moral values are illusory. At an ethical level, the same line of thought has led most moral philosophers to suppose that evolutionary biology tells us nothing very important about ethics. Ethics is possible because of our evolutionary heritage as cooperative primates, but ethics itself only begins as we humans begin to talk, argue and reason about how we ought to live our lives together. With the standard view, we think morality is tied to cooperative behavioural patterns that.. (shrink)
We must rethink our assessment of Hume’s theory of probabilistic inference. Hume scholars have traditionally dismissed his naturalistic explanation of how we make inferences under conditions of uncertainty; however, psychological experiments and computer models from cognitive science provide substantial support for Hume’s account. Hume’s theory of probabilistic inference is far from obsolete or outdated; on the contrary, it stands at the leading edge of our contemporary science of the mind.
In Book I, Part I, Section VII of the Treatise, Hume sets out to settle, once and for all, the early modern controversy over abstract ideas. In order to do so, he tries to accomplish two tasks: (1) he attempts to defend an exemplar-based theory of general language and thought, and (2) he sets out to refute the rival abstraction-based account. This paper examines the successes and failures of these two projects. I argue that Hume manages to articulate a plausible (...) theory of general ideas; indeed, a version of his account has defenders in contemporary cognitive science. But Hume fails to refute the abstraction-based account, and as a result, the early modern controversy ends in a stalemate, with both sides able to explain how we manage to speak and think in general terms. Although Hume fails to settle the controversy, he nevertheless advances it to a point from which we have yet to progress: the contemporary debate over abstract ideas in cognitive science has stalled on precisely this point. (shrink)
There are two major puzzles in Hume’s epistemology. The first involves Hume’s fall into despair in the conclusion of Book One of the Treatise. When Hume reflects back upon the results of his research, he becomes so alarmed that he nearly throws his books and papers into the fire. Why did his investigations push him towards such intense skeptical sentiments? What dark discoveries did he make? The second puzzle concerns the way in which Hume emerges from this skeptical crisis and (...) proceeds with his investigations. Why the sudden change of heart? What accounts for the return of hope? Each of these puzzles represents a serious challenge to traditional approaches to Hume’s epistemology. A proper solution to them requires a careful examination of Hume’s claims about the untrustworthiness of our cognitive faculties as well as his strategy for improving their performance. (shrink)
In Book III, Part 2 of the Treatise, Hume presents a natural history of justice. Self-interest clearly plays a central role in his account; our ancestors invented justice conventions, he maintains, for the sake of reciprocal advantage. But this is not what makes his approach so novel and attractive. Hume recognizes that prudential considerations are not sufficient to explain how human beings – with our propensities towards temporal discounting and free-riding – could have established conventions for social exchange and collective (...) action in commercial societies. This leads him to develop an innovative account of the role that emotional aversions play in establishing trust between strategically rational agents. (shrink)
The paradigm of Laplacean determinism combines three regulative principles: determinism, predictability, and the explanatory adequacy of universal laws together with purely local conditions. Historically, it applied to celestial mechanics, but it has been expanded into an ideal for scientific theories whose cogency is often not questioned. Laplace’s demon is an idealization of mechanistic scientific method. Its principles together imply reducibility, and rule out holism and emergence. I will argue that Laplacean determinism fails even in the realm of planetary dynamics, and (...) that it does not give suitable criteria for explanatory success except within very well defined and rather exceptional domains. Ironically, the very successes of Laplacean method in the Solar System were made possible only by processes that are not themselves tractable to Laplacean methodology. The results of some of these processes were first observed in 1964, and violate the Lapacean requirements of locality and predictability, opening the door to holism and nonreducibility, i.e., emergence. Despite the falsification of Laplacean methodology, the explanatory resources of holism and emergence remain in scientific limbo, though emergence has been used somewhat indiscriminately in recent scientific literature. I make some remarks at the end about the proper use of emergence in its traditional sense going back to C.D. Broad. (shrink)
These essays defend Christian, socialist and realist positions against Nietzsche’s critiques. Each essay addresses a problem in Nietzsche’s work. The first deals with perspectivism. On his view, the idea of objectivity disappears, becoming no more than simply a multiplicity of perspectives. The essay shows how Nietzsche’s approach to knowledge commits the epistemic fallacy, i.e. evades questions about truth by collapsing them into questions about knowing. The second essay addresses Nietzsche’s moral psychology in which there is no being behind doing, no (...) agent distinct from her actions. The essay demonstrates how this actualist account of persons is false by showing that the distinction between agent and action is needed for any understanding of moral action. The final essay concerns the history of ideas, rather than philosophical analysis. First, it looks at Nietzsche’s account of slave morality couched in terms of envy. Social justice, however, cannot be understood in this way. A section on class, religion and morality in late antiquity reinforces this with evidence that it was far more likely to find vindictiveness in the master class than the servant. The section on theism and ethics deals with Nietzsche’s notion of ‘eternal recurrence’: the idea that everything that happens will happen again an infinity of times, a notion that sustains an ethic of passive acceptance. The final part decries contemporary attachments to the Nietzschean virtues of pride, self-assertiveness, competitiveness and contempt for the less successful, preferring a Christian path to self-perfection through the pursuit of goals outside ourselves. (shrink)
Complex systems are dynamic and may show high levels of variability in both space and time. It is often difficult to decide on what constitutes a given complex system, i.e., where system boundaries should be set, and what amounts to substantial change within the system. We discuss two central themes: the nature of system definitions and their ability to cope with change, and the importance of system definitions for the mental metamodels that we use to describe and order ideas about (...) system change. Systems can only be considered as single study units if they retain their identity. Previous system definitions have largely ignored the need for both spatial and temporal continuity as essential attributes of identity. After considering the philosophical issues surrounding identity and system definitions, we examine their application to modeling studies. We outline a set of five alternative metamodels that capture a range of the basic dynamics of complex systems. Although Holling’s adaptive cycle is a compelling and widely applicable metamodel that fits many complex systems, there are systems that do not necessarily follow the adaptive cycle. We propose that more careful consideration of system definitions and alternative metamodels for complex systems will lead to greater conceptual clarity in the field and, ultimately, to more rigorous research. (shrink)
It is commonly thought that Hume endorses the claim that causal cognition can be fully explained in terms of nothing but custom and habit. Associative learning does, of course, play a major role in the cognitive psychology of the Treatise. But Hume recognizes that associations cannot provide a complete account of causal thought. If human beings lacked the capacity to reflect on rules for judging causes and effects, then we could not (as we do) distinguish between accidental and genuine regularities, (...) and Hume could not (as he does) carry out his science of human nature. One might reply that what appears to be rule-governed behavior might emerge from associative systems that do not literally employ rules. But this response fails: there is a growing consensus in cognitive science that any adequate account of causal learning must invoke active, controlled cognitive processes. (shrink)
Distributed Cognition is a hybrid approach to studying all aspects of cognition, from a cognitive, social and organisational perspective. The most well known level of analysis is to account for complex socially distributed cognitive activities, of which a diversity of technological artefacts and other tools and representations are an indispensable part.
A system is autonomous if it uses its own information to modify itself and its environment to enhance its survival, responding to both environmental and internal stimuli to modify its basic functions to increase its viability. Autonomy is the foundation of functionality, intentionality and meaning. Autonomous systems accommodate the unexpected through self-organizing processes, together with some constraints that maintain autonomy. Early versions of autonomy, such as autopoiesis and closure to efficient cause, made autonomous systems dynamically closed to information. This contrasts (...) with recent work on open systems and information dynamics. On our account, autonomy is a matter of degree depending on the relative organization of the system and system environment interactions. A choice between third person openness and first person closure is not required. (shrink)
Formal pragmatics plays an important, though secondary, role in modern analytical philosophy of language: its aim is to explain how context can affect the meaning of certain special kinds of utterances. During recent years, the adequacy of formal tools has come under attack, often leading to one or another form of relativism or antirealism.1 Our aim will be to extend the critique to formal pragmatics while showing that sceptical conclusions can be avoided by developing a different approach to the issues. (...) In particular, we will show that formal pragmatics cannot provide a complete account of how context affects the meaning of utterances, both on its own terms and when faced with evidence of important aspects of natural languages. The focal issue is the relevant kind of context in which pragmatics should examine utterances. Our contention will be that the relevant context of an utterance is determined by the function of that utterance, this function being dependent upon the primary function of language – to convey information. We will argue that the functions of utterances and of language are too broad to be caught by the tools of formal pragmatics of the sort advocated by Montague (1968, 1974), which are an extension the methods of traditional model-theoretic semantics.2 The particular formal approach we will use as the main example is David Kaplan’s position (1979, 1989),3 an extension of Montague’s program. (shrink)
This paper addresses questions of ethics in the professional practice of architecture. It begins by discussing possible relationships between ethics and aesthetics. It then theorises ethics within concepts of 'practice', and argues for the importance of the context in architecture where narrative can be used to learn and to integrate past and present experience. Narrative reflection also takes in the future, and in the case of architecture there is a positive but not yet well accepted move (particularly within the 'academy') (...) to realise the imperative nature of architecture's responsibility with respect of global sustainability. Architects, more perhaps than other professions, use the faculty of imagination in their work, and this paper therefore maintains that architects as artists are uniquely qualified to exercise 'moral imagination' when it comes to situations where moral deliberation is needed. Pragmatism has given a new impetus to the importance of imagination in moral reflection, and I focus on John Dewey's categories of 'empathy' and 'dramatic rehearsal' as descriptors of moral imagination as applied in situations. I argue in conclusion firstly that empathy between end-users and architects is an essential but not always realised part of morality in architecture, and secondly that 'dramatic rehearsal', when extended more widely that a given situation, may lead architects to question the social, political and ecological contexts of their work and thus motivate them to prioritise the 'ethical' in all the choices they make. (shrink)
On Christian Belief offers a defense of realism in the philosophy of religion. It argues that religious belief--with particular reference to Christian belief--unlike any other kind of belief, is cognitive; making claims about what is real, and open to rational discussion between believers and non-believers. The author begins by providing a critique of several views which either try to describe a faith without cognitive context, or to justify believing on non-cognitive grounds. He then discusses what sense can be made of (...) the phenomenon of religious conversion by realists and non-realists. After a chapter on knowledge in general, he defends the idea that religious knowledge is very like other knowledge, in being based on reliable testimony, sifted by reason and tested by experience. The logical status of the content of religious belief is then discussed with reference to Christianity. (shrink)
The first half of Annette Baier's book opens up a fascinating new area of Hume scholarship. We all know that Hume wore two hats, as a philosopher and a historian. But what exactly is the relationship between his general philosophical writings and his History of England? In particular, what can his portrayals of influential monarchs and religious leaders, such as Oliver Cromwell or Bishop Tunstal, teach us about his philosophical commitments?
We propose an objective and justifiable ethics that is contingent on the truth of evolutionary theory. We do not argue for the truth of this position, which depends on the empirical question of whether moral functions form a natural class, but for its cogency and possibility. The position we propose combines the advantages of Kantian objectivity with the explanatory and motivational advantages of moral naturalism. It avoids problems with the epistemological inaccessibility of transcendent values, while avoiding the relativism or subjectivism (...) often associated with moral naturalism. Our position emerges out of criticisms of the contemporary sociobiological views of morality found in the writings of Richard Alexander, Michael Ruse, and Robert Richards. (shrink)
Daniel R. Brooks and E. O. Wiley have proposed a theory of evolution in which fitness is merely a rate determining factor. Evolution is driven by non-equilibrium processes which increase the entropy and information content of species together. Evolution can occur without environmental selection, since increased complexity and organization result from the likely capture at the species level of random variations produced at the chemical level. Speciation can occur as the result of variation within the species which decreases the probability (...) of sharing genetic information. Critics of the Brooks-Wiley theory argue that they have abused terminology from information theory and t thermodynamics. In this paper I review the essentials of the theory, and give an account of hierarchical physical information systems within which the theory can be interpreted. I then show how the major conceptual objections can be answered. (shrink)
Information is commonly understood as knowledge or facts acquired or derived from, e.g., study, instruction or observation (Macmillan Contemporary Dictionary, 1979). On this notion, information is presumed to be both meaningful and veridical, and to have some appropriate connection to its object; it is concerned with representations and symbols in the most general sense MacKay 1969 ). Information might be misleading, but it can never be false. Deliberately misleading data is misinformation. The scientific notion of information abstracts from the representational (...) idea, and includes anything that could potentially serve as a source of information. The most fundamental notion of information, attributed to a number of different authors, is "a distinction that makes a difference" MacKay 1969 ), or "a differnece that makes a difference" Bateson 1973 : 428). Information theory, then, is fundamentally the rigorous study of distinctions and their relations, inasmuch as they make a difference. (shrink)
Wilfrid Sellars (1963) described his Manifest Image and Scientific Image as (roughly) idealizations of our common sense and scientific views of the world, including our own special role in the world as humans. If, as Sellars suggested, there is an irreconcilable conflict between these images, it may not be possible to reconcile science with common sense. The Scientific Image, as we have inherited it, has a strong reductionist element that seems to imply that things are not really as they appear (...) to common sense. Although some amount of discrepancy between common sense and science is not a problem, since we know from experience that we may be mistaken about nearly any given thing, a systematic clash between science and common sense presents problems for the acceptance of one, the other, or both views. (shrink)
Emergence has traditionally been described as satisfying specific properties, notably nonreducibility of the emergent object or properties to their substrate, novelty, and unpredictability from the properties of the substrate. Sometimes more mysterious properties such as independence from the substrate, separate substances and teleological properties are invoked. I will argue that the latter are both unnecessary and unwarranted. The descriptive properties can be analyzed in more detail in logical terms, but the logical conditions alone do not tell us how to identify (...) the conditions through interactions with the world. In order to do that we need dynamical properties – properties that do something. This paper, then, will be directed at identifying the dynamical conditions necessary and sufficient for emergence. Emergent properties and objects all result or are maintained by dissipative and radically nonholonomic processes. Emergent properties are relatively common in physics, but have been ignored because of the predominant use of Hamiltonian methods assuming energy conservation. Emergent objects are all dissipative systems, which have been recognized as special only in the past fifty years or so. Of interest are autonomous systems, including living and thinking systems. They show functionality and are self governed. (shrink)
Christians and Marxists have co-operated in various forms of political work in recent decades, and, after earlier years of antagonism, thinkers on both sides have come to take the other seriously. The aim of this book is to get Christianity and Marxism to meet on terrain on which they might seem most opposed: their philosophical positions; and to do so without watering either down, but taking then full strength.
Integrating concepts of maintenance and of origins is essential to explaining biological diversity. The unified theory of evolution attempts to find a common theme linking production rules inherent in biological systems, explaining the origin of biological order as a manifestation of the flow of energy and the flow of information on various spatial and temporal scales, with the recognition that natural selection is an evolutionarily relevant process. Biological systems persist in space and time by transfor ming energy from one state (...) to another in a manner that generates structures which allows the system to continue to persist. Two classes of energetic transformations allow this; heat-generating transformations, resulting in a net loss of energy from the system, and conservative transformations, changing unusable energy into states that can be stored and used subsequently. All conservative transformations in biological systems are coupled with heat-generating transformations; hence, inherent biological production, or genealogical proesses, is positively entropic. There is a self-organizing phenomenology common to genealogical phenomena, which imparts an arrow of time to biological systems. Natural selection, which by itself is time-reversible, contributes to the organization of the self-organized genealogical trajectories. The interplay of genealogical (diversity-promoting) and selective (diversity-limiting) processes produces biological order to which the primary contribution is genealogical history. Dynamic changes occuring on times scales shorter than speciation rates are microevolutionary; those occuring on time scales longer than speciation rates are macroevolutionary. Macroevolutionary processes are neither redicible to, nor autonomous from, microevolutionary processes. (shrink)
Complexly organized systems include biological and cognitive systems, as well as many of the everyday systems that form our environment. They are both common and important, but are not well understood. A complex system is, roughly, one that cannot be fully understood via analytic methods alone. An organized system is one that shows spatio-temporal correlations that are not determined by purely local conditions, though organization can be more or less localizable within a system. Organization and complexity can vary independently to (...) some extent, but they are interconnected: organisation requires some complexity, but complexity cannot be maximum in an organized system. I will define complexity and organization more precisely, and show how these definitions imply the above properties. Next I will discuss how organized complexity can be modelled, with an eye to limitations on the tractability of both the models and the modelling process. I will finish with some remarks on the limits of our possible understanding of complexly organized systems. Keywords: complexity, organization, modelling, holism, information theory.. (shrink)
After distinguishing reductive explanability in principle from ontological deflation, I give a case of an obviously physical property that is reductively inexplicable in principle. I argue that biological systems often have this character, and that, if we make certain assumptions about the cohesion and dynamics of the mind and its physical substrate, then it is emergent according to Broad's criteria.
There are a number of different species concepts currently in use. The variety results from differing desiderata and practices of taxonomists, ecologists and evolutionary theorists. Recently, arguments have been presented for pluralism about species. I believe this is unsatisfactory, however, because of the central role of species in biological theory. Taking the line that species are individuals, I ask what might individuate them. In other work I have argued that dynamical systems are individuated by their cohesion. I present here a (...) version of a cohesion concept of species that accounts for the advantages of other species concepts, and is open-ended enough to accommodate additions to or changes in biological theory. On my account biological forces combine like Newtonian forces, to work on a common locus. Just as we might have an electromagnetic system, we might have an ecological species, if the dominant source of cohesion is ecology, but there is no certainty that biological species will divide up into elegant single principle types anymore than there is for physical systems. (shrink)
The purpose of this paper is to describe some limitations on scientific behaviorist and computational models of the mind. These limitations stem from the inability of either model to account for the integration of experience and behavior. Behaviorism fails to give an adequate account of felt experience, whereas the computational model cannot account for the integration of our behavior with the world. Both approaches attempt to deal with their limitations by denying that the domain outside their limits is a part (...) of psychology. These attempts to turn the shortcomings of the two models into virtues would be more convincing if their limitations were not diametrically opposed. I will argue that in each case the limitations are too restrictive unless the theories are augmented by physiology. (shrink)
Speculation about the evolutionary origins of morality has yet to show how a biologically based capacity for morality might be connected to moral reasoning. Applying an evolutionary approach to three kinds of cases where partiality may or may not be morally reasonable, this paper explores a possible connection between a psychological capacity for morality and processes of wide reflective moral equilibrium. The central hypothesis is that while we might expect a capacity for morality to include aspects of partiality, we might (...) also expect these same aspects of the capacity to produce systemic forms of performance-based error. Understanding these errors helps point the way toward a theory of moral competence that includes aspects of both partiality and impartiality. (shrink)
Causation can be understood as a computational process once we understand causation in informational terms. I argue that if we see processes as information channels, then causal processes are most readily interpreted as the transfer of information from one state to another. This directly implies that the later state is a computation from the earlier state, given causal laws, which can also be interpreted computationally. This approach unifies the ideas of causation and computation.
Function refers to a broad family of concepts of varying abstractness and range of application, from a many-one mathematical relation of great generality to, for example, highly specialized roles of designed elements in complex machines such as degaussing in a television set, or contributory processes to control mechanisms in complex metabolic pathways, such as the inhibitory function of the appropriate part of the lac-operon on the production of lactase through its action on the genome in the absence of lactose. We (...) would like a language broad enough, neutral enough, but yet powerful enough to cover all such cases, and at the same time to give a framework form explanation both of the family resemblances and differences. General logic and mathematics are too abstract, but more importantly, too broad, whereas other discourses of function, such as the biological and teleological contexts, are too narrow. Information is especially suited since it is mathematically grounded, but also has a wellknown physical interpretation through the Schr dinger/Brillouin Negentropy Principle of Information, and an engineering or design interpretation through Shannon's communication theory. My main focus will be on the functions of autonomous anticipatory systems, but I will try to demonstrate both the connections between this notion of function and the others, especially to dynamical systems with a physical interpretation on the one side and intentional systems on the other. The former are based in concepts like force, energy and work, while the latter involve notions like representation, control and purpose, traditionally, at least in Modern times, on opposite sides of the Cartesian divide. In principle, information can be reduced to energy, but it has the advantage of being more flexible, and easier to apply to higher level phenomena. (shrink)