Statistical mechanics attempts to explain the behaviour of macroscopic physical systems in terms of the mechanical properties of their constituents. Although it is one of the fundamental theories of physics, it has received little attention from philosophers of science. Nevertheless, it raises philosophical questions of fundamental importance on the nature of time, chance and reduction. Most philosophical issues in this domain relate to the question of the reduction of thermodynamics to statistical mechanics. This book addresses issues inherent in this reduction: (...) the time-asymmetry of thermodynamics and its absence in statistical mechanics; the role and essential nature of chance and probability in this reduction when thermodynamics is non-probabilistic; and how, if at all, the reduction is possible. Compiling contributions on current research by experts in the field, this is an invaluable survey of the philosophy of statistical mechanics for academic researchers and graduate students interested in the foundations of physics. (shrink)
Writers on collective action are in broad agreement that in order for a group of agents to form a collective intention, the members of that group must have beliefs about the beliefs of the other members. But in spite of the fact that this so-called "interactive knowledge" is central to virtually every account of collective intention, writers on this subject have not offered a detailed account of the nature of interactive knowledge. In this paper, we argue that such an account (...) is necessary for any adequate analysis of collective intention. Furthermore, we argue that an application of Robert Aumann's theory of interactive knowledge may be used to address several puzzling features of collective intention. CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
In this paper, we offer an analysis of ‘group intentions.’ On our proposal, group intentions should be understood as a state of equilibrium among the beliefs of the members of a group. Although the discussion in this paper is non-technical, the equilibrium concept is drawn from the formal theory of interactive epistemology due to Robert Aumann. The goal of this paper is to provide an analysis of group intentions that is informed by important work in economics and formal epistemology.
Brian Skyrms has argued that the evolution of the social contract may be explained using the tools of evolutionary game theory. I show in the first half of this paper that the evolutionary game-theoretic models are often highly sensitive to the specific processes that they are intended to simulate. This sensitivity represents an important robustness failure that complicates Skyrms's project. But I go on to make the positive proposal that we may none the less obtain robust results by simulating the (...) population structures that existed among our evolutionary ancestors. It is by extending the evolutionary models in this way that we should pursue the project of explaining the evolution of the social contract. (shrink)
We argue that conceptual analyses of collective action should be informed by game-theoretic analyses of collective action. In particular, we argue that Ariel Rubenstein’s so-called ‘Electronic Mail Game’ provides a useful model of collective action, and of the formation of collective intentions.
Human beings are highly irrational, at least if we hold to an economic standard of ‘rationality’. Experimental economics studies the irrational behavior of human beings, with the aim of understanding exactly how our behavior deviates from the Homo economicus, as ‘rational man’ has been called. Insofar as philosophical theories depend upon rationality assumptions, experimental economics is the source of both problems and (at least potential) solutions to several philosophical issues. This article offers a programmatic and highly biased survey of some (...) of these issues, with the hope of convincing the reader that experimental economics is well-deserving of careful study by philosophers. (shrink)
It is argued that medical science requires a classificatory system that (a) puts functions in the taxonomic center and (b) does justice ontologically to the difference between the processes which are the realizations of functions and the objects which are their bearers. We propose formulae for constructing such a system and describe some of its benefits. The arguments are general enough to be of interest to all the life sciences.
If there is a sense of beauty, what is its nature? The main problem we are confronted with here is that on the one hand a sense of beauty, somehow, has to be connected with perception. On the other hand it does not seem to be reducible to it. I argue that a sense of beauty should be analyzed as a faculty of reason. I try to elucidate the nature of this faculty by identifying similarities between aesthetic, moral and scientific (...) knowledge. (shrink)
Wayne Davis (2004) argues against the thesis that knowledge claims are indexical, and he presents an alternative account of the contextual variability of our use of S knows p. In this commentary I focus on the following three points. First, I want to supplement Daviss considerations about the inability of indexicalism to deal with skeptical paradoxes by considering what the consequence would be if the indexicalists explanation of these paradoxes were satisfactory. Second, I am going to take a brief look (...) at Daviss alternative theory. Third, in the main part of my commentary I try to show that indexicalism may be true in spite of the linguistic evidence Davis presents against it. (shrink)
Shortest possible axiomatizations for the implicational fragments of the modal logics S4 and S5 are reported. Among these axiomatizations is included a shortest single axiom for implicational S4—which to our knowledge is the ﬁrst reported single axiom for that system—and several new shortest single axioms for implicational S5. A variety of automated reasoning strategies were essential to our discoveries.
Posings as such form part of hierarchic thinking and prevailing practices and are thus subsumed in negativity. Idle talk, seemingly dimming one's view, has been replaced by hallucination, dreams, and illusions. It is so very difficult to see through them and to realize that there is nothing there but them.
Ernst Mayr''s distinction between ultimate and proximate causes is justly considered a major contribution to philosophy of biology. But how did Mayr come to this philosophical distinction, and what role did it play in his earlier scientific work? I address these issues by dividing Mayr''s work into three careers or phases: 1) Mayr the naturalist/researcher, 2) Mayr the representative of and spokesman for evolutionary biology and systematics, and more recently 3) Mayr the historian and philosopher of biology. If we (...) want to understand the role of the proximate/ultimate distinction in Mayr''s more recent career as a philosopher and historian, then it helps to consider hisearlier use of the distinction, in the course of his research, and in his promotion of the professions of evolutionary biology and systematics. I believe that this approach would also shed light on some other important philosophical positions that Mayr has defended, including the distinction between essentialism: and population thinking. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr''s scientific career continues strongly 70 years after he published his first scientific paper in 1923. He is primarily a naturalist and ornithologist which has influenced his basic approach in science and later in philosophy and history of science. Mayr studied at the Natural History Museum in Berlin with Professor E. Stresemann, a leader in the most progressive school of avian systematics of the time. The contracts gained through Stresemann were central to Mayr''s participation in a three year (...) expedition to New Guinea and The Solomons, and the offer of a position in the Department of Ornithology, American Museum of Natural History, beginning in 1931. At the AMNH, Mayr was able to blend the best of the academic traditions of Europe with those of North America in developing a unified research program in biodiversity embracing systematics, biogeography and nomenclature. His tasks at the AMNH were to curate and study the huge collections amassed by the Whitney South Sea Expedition plus the just purchased Rothschild collection of birds. These studies provided Mayr with the empirical foundation essential for his 1942Systematics and the Origin of Species and his subsequent theoretical work in evolutionary biology as well as all his later work in the philosophy and history of science. Without a detailed understanding of Mayr''s empirical systematic and biogeographic work, one cannot possibly comprehend fully his immense contributions to evolutionary biology and his later analyses in the philosophy and history of science. (shrink)
Sensationalistic Phenomenalism and Economy of Thought. On Ernst Mach's Concept of Science. Ernst Mach, natural scientist and major precursor of the Vienna Circle, never wants to be a philosopher. Nevertheless his writings are full of valuable hints for a modern theory of human knowledge – with respect to economical, historical and evolutionary aspects. His kind of phenomenalism is sensationalistic, monistic and instrumentalistic. This article deals with some contributions of his approach to actual debates in the general philosophy of (...) science. (shrink)
In the middle of the nineteenth century, advances in experimental psychology and the physiology of the sense organs inspired so-called ?Back to Kant? Neo-Kantians to articulate robustly psychologistic visions of Kantian epistemology. But their accounts of the thing in itself were fraught with deep tension: they wanted to conceive of things in themselves as the causes of our sensations, while their own accounts of causal inference ruled that claim out. This paper diagnoses the source of that problem in views of (...) one Neo-Kantan, F. A. Lange, and argues that it is solved only by Ernst Mach. No less than Lange and other Neo-Kantians, Mach was inspired to develop a psychologistic account of the foundations of knowledge, but his account also includes a coherent denial of things in themselves? existence. Finally, this paper uses this account of Lange and Mach on things in themselves to illuminate Mach's relation to a certain strain of the Neo-Kantian philosophy of his own time: his views constitute a more fully coherent version of the psychologistic theory of knowledge Back to Kant figures tried to articulate. (shrink)
The correspondence between Edgar Anderson and Ernst Mayr leading into their 1941 Jesup Lectures on “Systematics and the Origin of Species” addressed population thinking, the nature of species, the relationship of microevolution to macroevolution, and the evolutionary dynamics of plants and animals, all central issues in what came to be known as the Evolutionary Synthesis. On some points, they found ready agreement; for others they forged only a short term consensus. They brought two different working styles to this project (...) reflecting their different appreciations of what was possible at this point in evolutionary studies. For Mayr, it was a focused project with definitive short term conclusions imminent while Anderson viewed it as an episode in an ongoing historical process that, while exciting and suggestive, remained openended. Thus, Mayr and Anderson represent two distinct perspectives on the Evolutionary Synthesis in formation; by understanding both of their points of view, we can grasp more fully the state of evolutionary theory at this key moment. (shrink)
Ernst Mayr''s historical writings began in 1935 with his essay Bernard Altum and the territory theory and have continued up through his monumentalGrowth of Biological Thought (1982) and hisOne Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (1991). Sweeping in their scope, forceful in their interpretation, enlisted on behalf of the clarification of modern concepts and of a broad view of biology, these writings provide both insights and challenges for the historian of biology. Mayr''s general intellectual (...) formation was guided by the GermanBildung ideal, with its emphasis on synthetic and comprehensive knowledge. His understanding of how to write history was inspired further by the example of the historian of ideas Arthur Lovejoy. Some strengths and limitations of this approach are explored here through attention to Mayr''s treatment of the French biologist J.-B. Lamarck. It is contended that Mayr''s contributions to the history of biology are not restricted to his own very substantial historical writings but also include his encouragement of other scholars, his development of an invaluable archive of scientific correspondence, and his insistence that historians who write about evolution and related subjects acquire an adequate understanding of the principles of Darwinian biology. (shrink)
Purpose: Appreciating the relationship between Sylvio Ceccato and Ernst von Glasersfeld, both as people and in their work. Approach: historical and personal accounts, archeological approach to written evidence. Findings: Ceccato’s work is introduced to an English speaking audience, and the roots of Glasersfeld’s work in Ceccato’s is explored. Flaws in Ceccato’s approach are indicated, together with how Glasersfeld’s work overcomes these, specially in language and automatic translation, and what became Radical Constructivism. Conclusion: Glasersfeld willingly acknowledges Ceccato, who he still (...) refers to as the Master. But Ceccato’s work is little known, specially in the English speaking world. The introduction, critique and delineation of extension and resolution of Ceccato’s ideas in Glasersfeld’s work is the intended value of the paper. (shrink)
Purpose: At Silvio Ceccato’s suggestion, I invited Ernst von Glasersfeld to the “Séminaire Leibniz” which took place in Brussels, in February 1961. The paper he delivered then, Operational Semantics: Analysis of Meaning in Terms of Operations, was included in a Euratom internal report and is published here for the first time. Conclusion: These early works clearly show von Glasersfeld’s methodological and philosophical coherence as well as his faithfulness to Ceccato’s endeavour.
I shall write about my first meeting with Ernst von Glasersfeld, and how his comments then on my doctoral study continue to help me clarify what it is I am trying to talk about; how he challenged me to pursue what has turned out to be my life’s work so far; and about how these seem to me now to fit in with that constellation of ideas.
Le Obiezioni contro la Teoria medica di G.E. Stahl, tradotte per la prima volta in italiano, rappresentano un documento di particolare interesse storico-filosofico. Da una parte Georg Ernst Stahl (1659-1734), medico, chimico, fisico, sostenitore di una fisiologia corporea a impronta “vitalista” e dall’altra Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), genio universale della matematica e della filosofia dell’età barocca. Il fulcro della polemica riguarda la possibilità di capire se e in che misura l’organizzazione meccanica di un corpo organico sia di per se (...) sufficiente a spiegare il fenomeno della vita “biologica”, o se invece si debba postulare la presenza di princìpi vitali capaci di integrare le leggi fisiologiche che strutturano la corporeità. A dispetto della lontananza storica, o anzi forse proprio in virtù di tale lontananza, la polemica tra Leibniz e Stahl ci aiuta a decifrare le radici di uno dei refrain più abusati di tanta filosofia contemporanea, il tema cioè della ‘naturalizzazione’ della vita e dello spirito. L’idea di espungere tutti gli elementi “soprannaturali” (l’anima, gli spiriti, etc.) dal novero delle spiegazioni scientifiche non è certo un’idea novecentesca e si confronta in questo caso non solo con la sua tesi opposta, ma soprattutto con una vasta gamma di soluzioni intermedie e di varianti non riduzioniste, di cui proprio la filosofia di Leibniz è uno splendido esempio. Il volume è accompagnato da un saggio di postfazione intitolato Vita e organismo tra filosofia e medicina: le ragioni di una polemica. (shrink)
Research into learners' ideas about science suggests that students often have alternative conceptions about important science concepts. Because of this dissatisfaction, constructivism has been adopted as a theoretical framework by many teachers and researchers, and it has had a curricular influence in many countries. Constructivism is much more than an educational doctrine and we are aware that a ‘science war’ about the possibility of objectivity is in progress. ‘Constructivism’ cannot necessary be a package deal: it must be possible to accept (...) educational suggestions deemed useful without buying all the epistemology or the metaphysical implications. The claim that cognitive agents understand the world by constructing mental representations of it can be a shared suggestion for changing science instruction. Many teachers are much more concerned in finding productive teaching methods than about philosophical questions as if knowledge must be considered an objective representation of the real world or not. We have to ponder if some ideas from the constructivist theory of instruction can help instructors to become better teachers. The pragmatic suggestions that come from the constructivist theory of instruction developed by von Glasersfeld, the leading proponent of radical constructivism, could be a good start in this␣search. (shrink)