In this paper the topic of the relations between scientific theories and scientific models is tackled by considering the former as hypothetical scientific representations and the latter as fictive scientific representations. A classification of the models is also proposed.
Recent discussion of mechanism has suggested new approaches to several issues in the philosophy of science, including theory structure, causal explanation, and reductionism. Here, I apply what I take to be the fruits of the 'new mechanical philosophy' to an analysis of a contemporary debate in evolutionary biology about the role of natural selection in speciation. Traditional accounts of that debate focus on the geographic context of genetic divergence--namely, whether divergence in the absence of geographic isolation is possible (or significant). (...) Those accounts are at best incomplete, I argue, because they ignore the mechanisms producing divergence and miss what is at stake in the biological debate. I argue that the biological debate instead concerns the scope of particular speciation mechanisms which assign different roles to natural selection at various stages of divergence. The upshot is a new interpretation of the crux of that debate--namely, whether divergence with gene flow is possible (or significant) and whether the isolating mechanisms producing it are adaptive. Show Abstract.. (shrink)
Cass Sunstein and Richard Thaler have been arguing for what they named libertarian paternalism (henceforth LP). Their proposal generated extensive debate as to how and whether LP might lead down a full-blown paternalistic slippery slope. LP has the indubitable merit of having hardwired the best of the empirical psychological and sociological evidence into public and private policy making. It is unclear, though, to what extent the implementation of policies so constructed could enhance the capability for the exercise of an autonomous (...) citizenship. Sunstein and Thaler submit it that in most of the cases in which one is confronted with a set of choices, some default option must be picked out. In those cases whoever devises the features of the set of options ought to rank them according to the moral principle of non-maleficence and possibly to that of beneficence. In this paper we argue that LP can be better implemented if there is a preliminary deliberative debate among the stakeholders that elicits their preferences, and makes it possible to rationally defend them. (shrink)
In this article, two issues regarding mechanisms are discussed. The first concerns the relationships between “mechanism description” and “mechanism explanation.” It is proposed that it is rather plausible to think of them as two distinct epistemic acts. The second deals with the different molecular biology explanatory contexts, and it is shown that some of them require physics and its laws.
We argue that, in the case of research biobanks, there is a need to replace the currently used informed consent with trusted consent. Accordingly, we introduce a proposal for the structure of the latter. Further, we discuss some of the issues that can be addressed effectively through our proposal. In particular, we illustrate: i) which research should be authorized by donors; ii) how to regulate access to information; iii) the fundamental role played by a Third Party Authority in assuring compliance (...) with the reciprocal expectations and obligations of donors and scientists. Finally, we briefly analyse two issues that might represent important elements of a ‘new alliance’ between researchers and donors to which the trusted consent could pave the way: i) the correlations between needs and rights of the two parties, and ii) possible economic transactions. (shrink)
Two problems related to the biological identity of living beings are faced: the who-problem (which are the biological properties making that living being unique and different from the others?); the persistence-problem (what does it take for a living being to persist from a time to another?). They are discussed inside a molecular biology framework, which shows how epigenetics can be a good ground to provide plausible answers. That is, we propose an empirical solution to the who-problem and to the persistence-problem (...) on the basis of the new perspectives opened by a molecular understanding of epigenetic processes. In particular, concerning the former, we argue that any living being is the result of the epigenetic processes that have regulated the expression of its genome; concerning the latter, we defend the idea that the criterion for the persistence of its identity is to be indicated in the continuity of those epigenetic processes. We also counteract possible objections, in particular (1) whether our approach has something to say at a metaphysical level; (2) how it could account for the passage from the two phenotypes of the parental gametes to the single phenotype of the zygote; (3) how it could account for the identity of derivatives of one living being that continue to live disjoined from that original living being; (4) how it could account for higher mental functions. (shrink)
We propose a formal representation of objects , those being mathematical or empirical objects. The powerful framework inside which we represent them in a unique and coherent way is grounded, on the formal side, in a logical approach with a direct mathematical semantics in the well-established field of constructive topology, and, on the philosophical side, in a neo-Kantian perspective emphasizing the knowing subject’s role, which is constructive for the mathematical objects and constitutive for the empirical ones.
A recent study by Castellani et al. (JAMA 302(23):2573–2579, 2009) describes the population-level effects of the choices of individuals who underwent molecular carrier screening for cystic fibrosis (CF) in Veneto, in the northeastern part of Italy, between 1993 and 2007. We discuss some of the ethical issues raised by the policies and individual choices that are the subject of this study. In particular, (1) we discuss the ethical issues raised by the acquisition of genetic information through antenatal carrier testing; (2) (...) we consider whether by choosing to procreate naturally these couples can harm the resulting child and/or other members of society, and what the moral implications of such harm would be; (3) we consider whether by choosing to avoid natural procreation carrier couples can harm current or future individuals affected by cystic fibrosis; (4) we discuss whether programs that make carrier testing available can be considered eugenic programs. (shrink)
In this paper we will propose an empirical analysis of spatial and temporal boundaries. Unlike other proposals, which deal mainly with the commonsense level of the subject, we will ground our explication on well-established scientific practice and language. In this way we show how to reconsider in an innovative way questions such as the distinction between the bona fide boundaries and the fiat boundaries, the thickness and the ownership of the boundaries. At the same time we propose a division between (...) ex mensura boundaries and qui vulgo dicuntur boundaries. What is it, therefore,that divides the atmosphere from the water?[Leonardo da Vinci, Notebooks]. (shrink)
In this paper we propose an approach to vagueness characterised by two features. The first one is philosophical: we move along a Kantian path emphasizing the knowing subject’s conceptual apparatus. The second one is formal: to face vagueness, and our philosophical view on it, we propose to use topology and formal topology. We show that the Kantian and the topological features joined together allow us an atypical, but promising, way of considering vagueness.
Scientific concepts, laws, theories, models and thought experiments are representations but uniquely different. In On Scientific Representation each is given a full philosophical exploration within an original, coherent philosophical framework that is strongly rooted in the Kantian tradition (Kant, Hertz, Vaihinger, Cassirer). Through a revisionist historical approach, Boniolo shows how the Kantian tradition can help us renew and rethink contemporary issues in epistemology and the philosophy of science.
How can the discoveries made in the biological sciences play a role in a discussion on the foundation of ethics? This book responds to this question by examining how evolutionism can explain and justify the existence of ethical normativity and the emergence of particular moral systems. Written by a team of philosophers and scientists, the essays collected in this volume deal with the limits of evolutionary explanations, the justifications of ethics, and methodological issues concerning evolutionary accounts of ethics, among other (...) topics. They offer deep insights into the origin and purpose of human moral capacities and of moral systems. (shrink)
In this paper, the ontological, terminological, epistemological, and ethical aspects of omission are considered in a coherent and balanced framework, based on the idea that there are omissions which are actions and omissions which are non-actions. In particular, we suggest that the approach to causation which best deals with omission is Mackie's INUS conditional proposal. We argue that omissions are determined partly by the ontological conditional structure of reality, and partly by the interests, beliefs, and values of observers. The final (...) upshot is that moral judgments involved in cases of omissions cannot be grounded on, but are the ground for judgments about what INUS conditions count as omissions. (shrink)
In the paper, starting from a slightly modified version of van Fraassen's pragmatic approach to explanation, I will propose a pragmatical meta-model for the different biological explanatory models. That is, I will offer a pragmatic point of view to rule different explanatory models in function of the biological context from which the given biologist explains.
The authors propose some methodological considerations on thanatochronological estimations. They first consider the problem of the definition of death, and then they deal with the issue of the estimations of death time, that is, with the Post-Mortem Interval (PMI). As regards the first question, they note that it does not concern only the definition of death, but also the choice of a particular kind of definition of 'definition'. With reference to the second question, the authors suggest a causal model showing (...) that the presence of many causal chains must be taken into consideration. Finally they discuss what 'most convenient and reliable causal chain' means for a thanatochronologist. (shrink)
In our paper, we propose a relativisticand metaphysically neutral identity criterionfor biological entities. We start from thecriterion of genidentity proposed by K. Lewinand H. Reichenbach. Then we enrich it to renderit more philosophical powerful and so capableof dealing with the real transformations thatoccur in the extremely variegated biologicalworld.
Over these last few years once again the relationship between biology and information has been debated with great liveliness. The crucial points concern the meaning of the term ‘information’ and whether the so-called “information talk” is really necessary inside biology.I will proceed by first commenting on some points of the debate (§ 2), then showing that a biophysical account of the process from the nucleotide sequences to the correlated amino acid sequences is possible (§ 3). In this way, I will (...) suggest that a satisfying account of that process can be offered without entering the quicksand of information. (shrink)
In this paper I will compare the concept of explication à la Carnap and the concept of explication à la Kant. This essay should primarily be seen as a comparison of two different philosophical styles, but it is also intended as a vindication of what Kant wrote and what Carnap forgot to read.
By starting from the idea of processes of numerical assignment, an explication, á la Kant, of the concept of property is proposed. In this way two results are achieved: on the one hand, the Kantian doctrine of explication is revaluated; on the other hand, the notion of property is tackled from an empiricist point of view based on the representational theory of measurement.
In this paper, first, the question of what a measurement is in General Relativity is tackled; then, some foundational problems it involves are analysed. In particular, by recalling what a measurement is in general, we will try to precisely define what it is in General Relativity. Then, we will analyse, by means of a suitable example, some foundational problems it involves. It will be stressed that such foundational problems do not arise owing to the gauge invariance or the correlation among (...) the measuring observers but owing to the principle of equivalence. (shrink)
In this paper a unified theory of models and thought experiments is proposed by considering them as fictions, la Vaihinger. In order to reach this aim, the Hertzian and Botzmannian interpretation of theories as Bilder is reconsidered.
By analysing the historical case of the proportionality between inertia and gravitation, it is possible to reconstruct one of the most relevant moments in the history of physics, that is to say, the one linked with Eötvös' experiments. At the same time, this reconstruction offers the opportunity to carry out philosophical considerations about the relationship between theory and experiment and about the concept of incommensurability.
Classical and quantum descriptions are given of a double slit experiment, showing the conditions under which certain counter-intuitive conceptualizations can arise. The role played by our images of the objects and our images of the experience's results is discussed by means of a hermeneutical analysis.