Goodman’s account of the ‘grue’ paradox stands at a crossroads in the history of twentieth century epistemology. Published in 1954, Fact, Fiction, and Forecast is a reaction to the logical empiricist views that held sway in the first half of the last century and anticipates many of the conventionalist and/or relativist moves popular throughout the second half. Through his evaluation of Hume’s problem of induction, as well as his own novel reformulation of it, Goodman comes to reject a number of (...) the fundamental parts of logical empiricism. In particular, Goodman argues that the formal epistemic methods the logical empiricists wanted to rely upon are insufficient. This leads him to turn towards conventionalism, which is the basis of his rejection of the objective view of knowledge. In his conventionalism he is a precursor of writers such as Hanson, Kuhn and Feyerabend, who, seeing the inadequacy of formalism, sought to fill the gaps it left in epistemic methodology with scientific values, tacit knowledge and linguistic practices. Making use of Susan Haack’s distinction between three different kinds of foundationalism, we analyse Goodman’s position and its relation to the views of the logical empiricists. The two are reflections of each other in that, where the logical empiricists are foundationalists in their views on empirical evidence, methods used and objective criteria of justification, Goodman consistently opts for the corresponding coherentist options. As it turns out, this choice of options makes it impossible for Goodman to deal with the very objections he raises against the logical empiricists. In adding the new problem of induction to the old one, Goodman adds a problem which clearly can not be resolved by a purely syntactic solution. The charge Goodman raises is that logical empiricists cannot determine which predictions are sound and which are not. We argue that his method of identifying acceptable predictions based on the use of entrenchment is, in the end, arbitrary and only postpones the underlying problem.. (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.
The subject of this chapter is the identity of individual dynamical objects and properties. Two problems have dominated the literature: transtemporal identity and the relation between composition and identity. Most traditional approaches to identity rely on some version of classification via essential or typical properties, whether nominal or real. Nominal properties have the disadvantage of producing unnatural classifications, and have several other problems. Real properties, however, are often inaccessible or hard to define (strict definition would make them nominal). I suggest (...) that classification should be in terms of dynamical properties of systems, starting with individual systems rather than classes, and working up by abstractions that fit causal generalities. The advantage of this approach is that individuality is testable and revisable as we come to know more about systems. Another advantage is that if anything is real, then it is the dynamical. Once I have presented this approach in general, I will show that the central concept of dynamical cohesion (the "dividing glue") is amenable to giving a principled account of individuation as a process, at the same time explaining the origin of diversity. Some other advantages of this approach are presented, including how it can be used as a basis for testable classifications. This last has moral implications, since cohesion at the individual and the social levels, and their interactions, can impinge on proper moral decisions. (shrink)
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)
differential from bottom to top, depth of fluid, and the coefficients of expansion, viscosity and thermal Bénard convection, is one of the more intensely conductivity of the fluid. Even though it is a simple studied dissipative systems, both theoretically and..
Systematics, along with the other comparative biological sciences and certain astronomical disciplines, is much more concerned with form and organization than other biological and physical sciences, in which dynamics plays the central role. Within the biological sciences, Nelson (1970) characterizes disciplines that study diversity and patterns “comparative” and those that search for process and dynamics “general.” The goal of “general” science is to uncover the mechanisms that unify observed phenomena. Whether the physicist sees herself, like Newton (1953: 3-5), to be (...) discovering fundamental causal explanations, or like Duhem (1962: 19-30), to be uncovering a natural classification, dynamical concepts referring to essentially hidden processes are indispensable. Much of comparative biology, in contrast, is primarily descriptive, with explanations taking a secondary role, at least until the diversity is described and comparisons made. Unlike the general sciences, in which elegance and quantitative analysis have long been major indicators of truth, the comparative sciences stress complexity, happenstance and qualitative analysis. In systematics in particular, theory and explanation are often thought to play a minimal role, if any at all1. (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)
Anticipation allows a system to adapt to conditions that have not yet come to be, either externally to the system or internally. Autonomous systems actively control the conditions of their own existence so as to increase their overall viability. This paper will first give minimal necessary and sufficient conditions for autonomous anticipation, followed by a taxonomy of autonomous anticipation. In more complex systems, there can be semi-autonomous subsystems that can anticipate and adapt on their own. Such subsystems can be integrated (...) into a system’s overall autonomy, typically with greater efficiency due to modularity and specialization of function. However, it is also possible that semi-autonomous subsystems can act against the viability of the overall system, and have their own functions that conflict with overall system functions. (shrink)
Richard Alexander's second book on biology and morality is a continuation and amplification of the project he reported on in Darwinism and Human Affairs1. The Biology of Moral Systems is more abstract than the earlier book. It does not broach any new empirical ground, but puts Alexander's views into a broader context of philosophical and sociological discussions of morality. It discusses and criticizes alternative philosophical and biological views of morality, and presents his views on the significance of biology to moral (...) issues in law, democracy and pursuit of the Good. In one interesting section that I will not be able to discuss here, Alexander provides an evolutionary hypothesis to explain each of Kohlberg's stages of moral development (pp. 131ff). The book ends with a discussion of some specific moral problems. (shrink)
Both natural and engineered systems are fundamentally dynamical in nature: their defining properties are causal, and their functional capacities are causally grounded. Among dynamical systems, an interesting and important sub-class are those that are autonomous, anticipative and adaptive (AAA). Living systems, intelligent systems, sophisticated robots and social systems belong to this class, and the use of these terms has recently spread rapidly through the scientific literature. Central to understanding these dynamical systems is their complicated organisation and their consequent capacities for (...) re- and self- organisation. But there is at present no general analysis of these capacities or of the requisite organisation involved. We define what distinguishes AAA systems from other kinds of systems by characterising their central properties in a dynamically interpreted information theory. (shrink)
Typically, we think of both artificial and natural computing devices as following rules that allow them to alter their behaviour (output) according to their environment (input). This approach works well when the environment and goals are well defined and regular. However, 1) the search time for appropriate solutions quickly becomes intractable when the input is not fairly regular, and 2) responses may be required that are not computable, either in principle, or given the computational resources available to the system. It (...) may seem that there is no way to deal with these conditions, but if we think of systems as dynamical non-equilibrium autonomous entities, there are ways to deal with the unexpected and irregular by taking advantage of self-organising and self-preserving capacities of such systems. A generalised force acting on a system far from equilibrium will cause the system to reorganise itself in the direction of the generalised force in such a way as to minimise its effects (Nicolis and Prigogine, 1977), but there can be unpredictable effects in different generalised directions in the system’s phase space. In order to preserve system integrity, these effects must be damped or used for further self-reorganisation, possibly starting a cascade effect that leaves the system in a substantially different state in which it can handle further instances of this sort of information. This model is similar to and extends the theoretical model of accommodation and assimilation of Piaget, derived from his observations of the development of intelligence in children. (shrink)
In Robert West’s talk last week, dynamical systems theory (DST) was applied to a specific problem involving interacting symbolic systems, without much reference to how those systems are embodied or related to other types of systems. Despite this level of abstraction, DST can yield interesting results, though one might be left wondering if it really leads to understanding, or what it all means. In particular, Robert noted problems he has in convincing referees that the sort of explanation he gave can (...) give a useful understanding, and that it doesn’t invoke dubious notions with its references to emergence, holism, and mathematical openness. (shrink)
In these notes I want to address some issues concerning self-organization that seem to me to apply generally from the micro-physical through the biological and social to the cosmological. That is, they are a part of the general theory of self-organization. I prefer to distinguish the theory of selforganization from the analysis of the concept of self-organization (which Maturana claims is oxymoronic, since there is no self that organizes1). General usage gives us something to which the term 'self-organization' refers. We (...) can set aside the question of whether or not selves can really do such a thing until we know what it is they are supposed to do.2 This approach also allows the possibility that self-organization does not pick out a single natural kind, but may refer to a range of things that are grouped together by a Wittgenstein style “family resemblance”. (shrink)
Developments in science in the last few decades have led to doubts about the validity of the mechanical paradigm that has dominated science since the Scientific Revolution. The new views, coming from recently founded disciplines like non-equilibrium thermodynamics, chaos theory and the theory of dynamical systems, are rooted in physics. Nonetheless, much of their motivation comes from fields as diverse as weather prediction, ecology, economics, the study of traffic flow, and the growth of cities. Although Quantum Mechanics also led to (...) doubts about the validity of the mechanical paradigm, the new views reveal problems within classical physics itself. The implications of these developments for our understanding of space have been largely unexamined. But the close connection between the Newtonian view of space and the mechanical paradigm means that the demise of the mechanical paradigm will require a re-evaluation of our understanding of physical space. (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)
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.
In everyday usage, information is knowledge or facts acquired or derived from study, instruction or observation. Information is presumed to be both meaningful and veridical, and to have some appropriate connection to its object. Information might be misleading, but it can never be false. Standard information theory, on the other hand, as developed for communications (Shannon and Weaver, 1949), measurement (Brillouin, 1962) and computation (Solomonoff, 1964; Kolmogorov, 1968; Chaitin, 1975), entirely ignores the semantic aspects of information. Thus it might seem (...) to have little relevance to our common notion of information. This is especially true considering the range of applications of information theory found in the literature of a variety of fields. Assuming, however, that the mind works computationally and can get information about things via physical channels, then technical accounts of information strongly restrict any plausible account of the vulgar notion. Some recent information-oriented approaches to epistemology and semantics go further. (shrink)
Progress has become a suspect concept in evolutionary biology, not the least because the core concepts of neo-Darwinism do not support the idea that evolution is progressive. There have been a number of attempts to account for directionality in evolution through additions to the core hypotheses of neo-Darwinism, but they do not establish progressiveness, and they are somewhat of an ad hoc collection. The standard account of fitness and adaptation can be rephrased in terms of information theory. From this, an (...) information of adaptation can be defined in terms of a fitness function. The information of adaptation is a measure of the mutual information between biota and their environment. If the actual state of adaptation lags behind the state of optimal adaptation, then it is possible for the information of adaptation to increase indefinitely. Since adaptations are functional, this suggests the possibility of progressive evolution in the sense of increasing adaptation. Keywords: evolution, information, adaptation, fitness, entropy, progress.. (shrink)
Functionality is essential to any form of anticipation beyond simple directedness at an end. In the literature on function in biology, there are two distinct approaches. One, the etiological view, places the origin of function in selection, while the other, the organizational view, individuates function by organizational role. Both approaches have well-known advantages and disadvantages. I propose a reconciliation of the two approaches, based in an interactivist approach to the individuation and stability of organisms. The approach was suggested by Kant (...) in the Critique of Judgment, but since it requires, on his account, the identification a new form of causation, it has not been accessible by analytical techniques. I proceed by construction of the required concept to fit certain design requirements. This construction builds on concepts introduced in my previous four talks to these meetings. (shrink)
We find symmetry attractive. It interests us. Symmetry is often an indicator of the deep structure of things, whether they be natural phenomena, or the creations of artists. For example, the most fundamental conservation laws of physics are all based in symmetry. Similarly, the symmetries found in religious art throughout the world are intended to draw attention to deep spiritual truths. Not only do we find symmetry pleasing, but its discovery is often also surprising and illuminating as well. For these (...) reasons, we are inclined to think that symmetries are informative, and that symmetries contain information. On the other hand, symmetries represent a kind of invariance under transformation. Such invariance implies that symmetrical things contain redundancies. Redundancy, in turn, implies that the information content of a symmetrical structure or configuration is less than that of a similar nonsymmetrical structure. Symmetry, then, entails a reduction in information content. These considerations present us with somewhat of a paradox: On the one hand, many symmetries that we find in the world are surprising, and surprise indicates informativeness. On the other hand, the surprise value of information arises because it presents us with the unexpected or improbable, but symmetries, far from creating the unexpected, ensure that the known can be extended through invariant transformations. How can this paradox be resolved? (shrink)
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)
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)
Rhythmic entrainment is the formation of regular, predictable patterns in time and/or space through interactions within or between systems that manifest potential symmetries. We contend that this process is a major source of symmetries in specific systems, whether passive physical systems or active adaptive and/or voluntary/intentional systems, except that active systems have more control over accepting or avoiding rhythmic entrainment. The result of rhythmic entrainment is a simplification of the entrained system, in the sense that the information required to describe (...) it is reduced. Entrainment can be communicated, passing information from one system to another. The paradigm is a group of jazz percussionists agreeing on a complex musical progression. The process of rhythmic entrainment is complementary to that of symmetry breaking, which produces information. The two processes account for much, if not all, of the complexity and organization in the universe. Rhythmic entrainment can be more or less spontaneous, with the completely spontaneous form being uncontrollable. A balance between the two forms can produce a more robust system, requiring less energy to maintain, whether in physical, biological or social systems. We outline some applications in physics, chemistry, biology, measurement and communication, ending with the especially interesting case of social and economic order. First though, we must introduce some basic principles. (shrink)
Biological systems are typically hierarchically organized, open, nonlinear systems, and inherit all of the characteristics of such systems that are found in the purely physical and chemical domains, to which all biological systems belong. In addition, biological systems exhibit functional properties, and they contain information in a form that is used internally to make required functional distinctions. The existence of these additional biological properties is widely granted, but their exact nature is controversial. I will address first the issue of biological (...) function, and then turn to the issue of information in biosystems. (shrink)
Anticipation allows a system to adapt to conditions that have not yet come to be, either externally to the system or internally. Autonomous systems actively control their own conditions so as to increase their functionality (they self-regulate). Living systems self-regulate in order to increase their own viability. These increasingly stronger conditions, anticipation, autonomy and viability, can give an insight into progressively stronger classes of models of autonomy. I will argue that stronger forms are the relevant ones for Artificial Life. This (...) has consequences for the design of and accurate simulation of living systems. Keywords: autonomy, modelling, function, simulation, anticipation, emergence DUBOIS’ CONJECTURE Autonomy basically means self-regulation. Self-regulation implies internal control of system states to achieve greater functionality, either internally or interactively with the environment. Functionality, as a teleological notion, implies that the system must be directed by likely future states; that is, it must anticipate and (possibly) adapt to likely future states. Functionality does not require autonomy (assuming functional goals are externally set), but merely that current states of the system can select suitable future states on the basis of suitable input. In this.. (shrink)
We find symmetry attractive. It is often an indicator of the deep structure of things, whether they be natural phenomena, or artificial. For example, the most fundamental conservation laws of physics are all based in symmetry. Similarly, the symmetries found in religious art throughout the world are intended to draw attention to deep spiritual truths. Not only do we find symmetry pleasing, but its discovery is often also surprising and illuminating as well. For these reasons, we are inclined to think (...) that symmetries are informative. On the other hand, symmetries represent a kind of invariance under transformation, i.e., redundancies. Redundancy, in turn, implies that the information content of a symmetrical structure or configuration is less than that of a similar nonsymmetrical structure. Symmetry, then, entails a reduction in information content. These considerations present us with somewhat of a paradox. On the one hand, many symmetries that we find in the world are surprising, and surprise indicates informativeness. On the other hand, the surprise value of information arises because it presents us with the unexpected or improbable, but symmetries, far from creating the unexpected, ensure that the known can be extended through invariant transformations. How can this paradox be resolved? Rhythmic entrainment is the formation of regular, predictable patterns in time and/or space through interactions within or between systems (resulting in symmetry). The result of entrainment is a simplification of the entrained system. It is the complement to symmetry breaking. Entrainment can be either forced or spontaneous, with the spontaneous form being uncontrollable. It results from processes that are called self-organising. Interestingly, spontaneous entrainment require much less power to form and maintain. It is also the source of levels in systems. I finish with some observations for social 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)
Every manifestation of information, semiosis and meaning we have been able to study experimentally has a physical form. Neglect of their dynamical (energetic) ground tends towards dualism or idealism, leaving the causal basis of semiosis and the causal powers of representations mysterious. Consideration of the necessary physical requirements for the embodiment of semiotic categories imposes a discipline on semiotics required for its integration into the rest of science, especially for the emerging field of biosemiotics, as well as any future extensions (...) to chemistry physics or other realms that might constitute a general, primal semiotics. Without this discipline, or something equally strong, there is a risk of projection of anthropomorphic semiotic terminology onto unsuitable hosts, leading, if unchecked, to the sort of animism that biology in particular has only recently escaped. The problem is suspect whenever teleological notions are used outside of mental or social contexts.1 Although our animistic ancestors may have had a closer rapport with Nature than modern scientists, contemporary scientific explanation requires an understanding of causal structure (Salmon 1984). On the other hand, unless the causal rendition of semiosis can capture full blown cognitive semiosis, it is likely to be too restrictive for the evaluation of primal semiosis in general. (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)
Keywords: cosmology, laws, non-equilibrium thermodynamics, information, time, evolution ABSTRACT A major goal of science is to discover laws that underlie all regular phenomena. This goal is best satisfied by eternal principles that leave fundamental properties unchanged and unchangeable. Science has been forced to accept that some processes, especially biological processes, are inherently time oriented. It can either forgo the ideal of universal principles, and account for temporality through specific boundary conditions, or else incorporate the sources of change directly into fundamental (...) principles that are the same for all times and places, and for all temporal scales. In the past, unifying principles adequate for biology have caused trouble for physics, and vice versa. Recent work at the intersection of non-equilibrium statistical mechanics and information theory suggests that physics and biology can finally be reconciled. (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 argue that living systems process information such that functionality emerges in them on a continuous basis. We then provide a framework that can explain and model the normativity of biological functionality. In addition we offer an explanation of the anticipatory nature of functionality within our overall approach. We adopt a Peircean approach to Biosemiotics, and a dynamical approach to Digital-Analog relations and to the interplay between different levels of functionality in autonomous systems, taking an integrative approach. We then apply (...) the underlying biosemiotic logic to a particular biological system, giving a model of the B-Cell Receptor signaling system, in order to demonstrate how biosemiotic concepts can be used to build an account of biological information and functionality. Next we show how this framework can be used to explain and model more complex aspects of biological normativity, for example, how cross-talk between different signaling pathways can be avoided. Overall, we describe an integrated theoretical framework for the emergence of normative functions and, consequently, for the way information is transduced across several interconnected organizational levels in an autonomous system, and we demonstrate how this can be applied in real biological phenomena. Our aim is to open the way towards realistic tools for the modeling of information and normativity in autonomous biological 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)
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)
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.
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)
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)
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.
The target article proposes an error theory for religious belief. In contrast, moral beliefs are typically not counterintuitive, and some moral cognition and motivation is functional. Error theories for moral belief try to reduce morality to nonmoral psychological capacities because objective moral beliefs seem too fragile in a competitive environment. An error theory for religious belief makes this unnecessary.
To account for a perceived distinction it is necessary to postulate a real distinction. Our process of experiencing the world is one of, mostly unconscious, interpretation of observed distinctions to provide us with a partial world-picture that is sufficient to guide action. The distinctions, themselves, are acorrigible (they do not have a truth value), directly perceived, structured, and capable of being interpreted. Interpreted experience is corrigible, representational and capable of guiding action. Since interpretation is carried out mostly unconsciously and in (...) real time, the two aspects are present in experience together so that it is difficult to separate them out. (shrink)
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)
Abstract Many anticipatory systems cannot in themselves act meaningfully or represent intentionally. This stems largely from the derivative nature of their functionality. All current artificial control systems, and many living systems such as organs and cellular parts of organisms derive any intentionality they might have from their designers or possessors. Derivative functionality requires reference to some external autonomously functional system, and derivative intentionality similarly requires reference to an external autonomous intentional system. The importance of autonomy can be summed up in (...) the following slogan: No meaning without intention; no intention without function; no function without autonomy. This paper develops the role of autonomy to show how learning new tasks is facilitated by autonomy, and further by representational capacities that are functional for autonomy. (shrink)