In theory, at least, we might achieve a certain sort of invulnerability right at the end of life. Suppose that under favorable circumstances we can live a certain number of years, say 125, but no longer, and also that we can make life as a whole better and better over time. Under these assumptions we might hope to disarm death by spending 125 years making life as good as it can be. If we were lucky enough to (...) accomplish that, afterwards we would be immune to mortal harm. Especially for those who are closer to the beginning of life than to the end, however, this strategy leaves much to be desired. It is like devouring an entire banquet so as to eliminate the danger of someone stealing it from us. Like a feast, a good life is safely ours after it is over, but then safety comes too late to be of any use to us. To be of practical value, we need protection from mortal harm much earlier in life. (shrink)
Hasok Chang (Science & Education 20:317–341, 2011) shows how the recovery of past experimental knowledge, the physical replication of historical experiments, and the extension of recovered knowledge can increase scientific understanding. These activities can also play an important role in both science and history and philosophy of science education. In this paper I describe the implementation of an integrated learning project that I initiated, organized, and structured to complement a course in history and philosophy of the lifesciences (...) (HPLS). The project focuses on the study and use of descriptions, observations, experiments, and recording techniques used by early microscopists to classify various species of water flea. The first published illustrations and descriptions of the water flea were included in the Dutch naturalist Jan Swammerdam’s, Historia Insectorum Generalis (1669) (Algemeene verhandeling van de bloedeloose dierkens. t’Utrrecht, Meinardus van Dreunen, ordinaris Drucker van d’Academie). After studying these, we first used the descriptions, techniques, and nomenclature recovered to observe, record, and classify the specimens collected from our university ponds. We then used updated recording techniques and image-based keys to observe and identify the specimens. The implementation of these newer techniques was guided in part by the observations and records that resulted from our use of the recovered historical methods of investigation. The series of HPLS labs constructed as part of this interdisciplinary project provided a space for students to consider and wrestle with the many philosophical issues that arise in the process of identifying an unknown organism and offered unique learning opportunities that engaged students’ curiosity and critical thinking skills. (shrink)
Historical aspects of the issue are also broached. Intuitions relative to self-organization can be found in the works of such key Western philosophical figures as Aristotle, Leibniz and Kant. Interacting with more recent authors and cybernetics, self-organization represents a notion in keeping with the modern world’s discovery of radical complexity. The themes of teleology and emergence are analyzed by philosophers of sciences with regards to the issues of modelization and scientific explanation. (publisher, edited).
Following the 1980 US Supreme Court decision to allow a patent on a living organism, debate has continued on the moral issues involved in biotechnology patents of many kinds and remains a contentious issue for those opposed to the use of biotechnology in industry and agriculture. Attitudes to patenting in the lifesciences, including those of the research scientists themselves, are analysed. The relevance of morality to patent law is discussed here in an international context with particular reference (...) to the law of the European Patent Convention administered by the European Patent Office (EPO). The EPO has been the principal forum for opposition to such patents and the few cases under dispute in the EPO are reviewed, including patents for the onco-mouse, human relaxin gene, and the PGS herbicidally resistant plant (gmo). Morality provisions in the European Parliament and Council Directive 98/44/EC are also summarised. (shrink)
Due to the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and the anthrax letters of a few weeks later, the concept of dual use has spread widely in the lifesciences during the past decade. This article is aimed at a clarification of the dual use concept and its scope of application for the lifesciences. Such a clarification would greatly facilitate the work of policymakers seeking to ensure security while avoiding undesirable interventions of government in the conduct of (...) science. The article starts with an overview of the main developments in lifesciences in relation to dual use. This is illustrated by discussions on synthetic biology and dual use. The findings lead to a reconsideration of the dual use concept. An area in need of further attention is to what extent threats and intentions should have impact on the definition of dual use. Possible threats are analyzed against the background of the phenomenon of securitization of health care and lifesciences: considering these sectors of society in security terms. Some caveats that should be taken into account in a dual use policy are described. An acceptable, adequate and applicable definition of the dual use concept could help researchers, universities, companies and policy makers. Such a definition should build upon, but go beyond, the view developed in the influential Fink-report, which concentrates on the so-called ‘experiments of concern’, e.g. experiments that enhance the virulence of pathogens (National Research Council of the National Academies 2004) It will be argued that—in addition to these more technical aspects—a definition of dual use should include the aspect of threats and intentions. (shrink)
The activities of the lifesciences are essential to provide solutions for the future, for both individuals and society. Society has demanded growing accountability from the scientific community as implications of life science research rise in influence and there are concerns about the credibility, integrity and motives of science. While the scientific community has responded to concerns about its integrity in part by initiating training in research integrity and the responsible conduct of research, this approach is minimal. (...) The scientific community justifies itself by appealing to the ethos of science, claiming academic freedom, self-direction, and self-regulation, but no comprehensive codification of this foundational ethos has been forthcoming. A review of the professional norms of science and a prototype code of ethics for the lifesciences provide a framework to spur discussions within the scientific community to define scientific professionalism. A formalization of implicit principles can provide guidance for recognizing divergence from the norms, place these norms within a context that would enhance education of trainees, and provide a framework for discussing externally and internally applied pressures that are influencing the practice of science. The prototype code articulates the goal for lifesciences research and the responsibilities associated with the freedom of exploration, the principles for the practice of science, and the virtues of the scientists themselves. The time is ripe for scientific communities to reinvigorate professionalism and define the basis of their social contract. Codifying the basis of the social contract between science and society will sustain public trust in the scientific enterprise. (shrink)
Examination of a limited number of publisher’s Instructions for Authors, guidelines from two scientific societies, and the widely accepted policy document of the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) provided useful information on authorship practices. Three of five journals examined (Nature, Science, and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) publish papers across a variety of disciplines. One is broadly focused on topics in medical research (New England Journal of Medicine) and one publishes research reports in a (...) single discipline (Journal of Bacteriology). Similar elements of publication policy and accepted practices were found across the policies of these journals articulated in their Instructions for Authors. A number of these same elements were found in the professional society guidelines of the Society for Neuroscience and the American Chemical Society, as well as the ICMJE Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts Submitted to Biomedical Journals. Taken together, these sources provide the basis for articulating best practices in authorship in scientific research. Emerging from this material is a definition of authorship, as well as policy statements on duplicative publication, conflict of interest disclosure, electronic access, data sharing, digital image integrity, and research requiring subjects’ protection, including prior registration of clinical trials. These common elements provide a foundation for teaching about scientific authorship and publication practices across biomedical and lifesciences disciplines. (shrink)
Properly understood speciesism regards membership in one's own species (e.g., being a fellow human being) as sufficient for sharing one's own moral status, but NOT as being necessary. Speciesism is consistent with any of a great range of attitudes toward alter-specific animals. When nonhuman animals are accorded a lesser moral status it is not per se because they are not human.
This paper considers multiple meanings of the expression ‘dual use’ and examines lessons to be learned from the lifesciences when considering ethical and policy issues associated with the dual-use nature of nanotechnology (and converging technologies). After examining recent controversial dual-use experiments in the lifesciences, it considers the potential roles and limitations of science codes of conduct for addressing concerns associated with dual-use science and technology. It concludes that, rather than being essentially associated with voluntary (...) self-governance of the scientific community, codes of conduct should arguably be part of a broader regulatory oversight system. (shrink)
Investigators of animal behavior since the eighteenth century have sought to make their work integral to the enterprises of natural history and/or the lifesciences. In their efforts to do so, they have frequently based their claims of authority on the advantages offered by the special places where they have conducted their research. The zoo, the laboratory, and the field have been major settings for animal behavior studies. The issue of the relative advantages of these different sites has (...) been a persistent one in the history of animal behavior studies up to and including the work of the ethologists of the twentieth century. (shrink)
Descartes was born in La Haye (now Descartes) in Touraine and educated at the Jesuit college of La Fleche in Anjou. Descartes’ modern reputation as a rationalistic armchair philosopher, whose mind-body dualism is the source of damaging divisions between psychology and the lifesciences, is almost entirely undeserved. Some 90% of his surviving correspondence is on mathematics and on scientific matters, from acoustics and hydrostatics to chemistry and the practical problems of constructing scientific instruments. Descartes was just as (...) interested in the motions of matter as in the supernatural soul, and he advised against spending too much time on metaphysical inquiries which neglect imagination and the senses. (shrink)
Natural kinds have been a constant topic in philosophy throughout its history, but many issues pertaining to natural kinds still remain unresolved. This paper considers one of these issues: the epistemic role of natural kinds in scientific investigation. I begin by clarifying what is at stake for an individual scientific field when asking whether or not the field studies a natural kind. I use an example from life science, concerning how biologists explain the similar body shapes of fish and (...) cetaceans, to show that natural kinds play a central epistemic role in scientific explanations that cannot be delegated to other explanatory factors. A task for philosophy, then, is to come up with a theory of natural kinds that adequately accounts for the epistemic role of natural kinds in science. After having sketched the spectrum of available philosophical theories of natural kinds, I argue that none of the available theories adequately performs this task and that therefore the search is still open for a theory that does. (shrink)
Most life science research entails dual-use complexity and may be misused for harmful purposes, e.g. biological weapons. The Precautionary Principle applies to special problems characterized by complexity in the relationship between human activities and their consequences. This article examines whether the principle, so far mainly used in environmental and public health issues, is applicable and suitable to the field of dual-use life science research. Four central elements of the principle are examined: threat, uncertainty, prescription and action. Although charges (...) against the principle exist – for example that it stifles scientific development, lacks practical applicability and is poorly defined and vague – the analysis concludes that a Precautionary Principle is applicable to the field. Certain factors such as credibility of the threat, availability of information, clear prescriptive demands on responsibility and directives on how to act, determine the suitability and success of a Precautionary Principle. Moreover, policy-makers and researchers share a responsibility for providing and seeking information about potential sources of harm. A central conclusion is that the principle is meaningful and useful if applied as a context-dependent moral principle and allowed flexibility in its practical use. The principle may then inspire awareness-raising and the establishment of practical routines which appropriately reflect the fact that life science research may be misused for harmful purposes. (shrink)
This Alfred Schutz Memorial Lecture discusses the relationship between the phenomenological life-world analysis and the methodology of the social sciences, which was the central motive of Schutz’s work. I have set two major goals in this lecture. The first is to scrutinize the postulate of adequacy, as this postulate is the most crucial of Schutz’s methodological postulates. Max Weber devised the postulate ‘adequacy of meaning’ in analogy to the postulate of ‘causal adequacy’ (a concept used in jurisprudence) and (...) regarded both as complementary and, in the context of sociological analysis, critical. Schutz extracted the two postulates from the Neokantian epistemology, dismissed the concept of causality, and reduced Weber’s two postulates of adequacy into one, namely, the adequacy of meaning. I discuss the benefits and shortcomings of this reduction. A major problem, in my view, is that Schutz’s reformulation lost the empirical concern that was inherent in Weber’s ‘causal adequacy’. As a result, the models of economics (which shaped Schutz’s conception of social science) are considered to be adequate if they are ‘understandable’ to an everyday actor, even when they are based on the most unrealistic assumptions. To recapture Weber’s empirical orientation I recommend a more restrictive interpretation of the postulate of adequacy that links it to qualitative research and unfolds the critical potential of Schutz’s phenomenological life-world analysis. My second goal is to report on some current developments in German sociology in which a number of approaches explicitly refer to Schutz’s analysis of the life-world and attempt to pursue ‘adequate’ empirical research. This lecture focuses on three approaches: ethnophenomenology, life-world analytic ethnography, and social scientific hermeneutics. (shrink)
The philosophy of Hedwig Conrad-Martius represents a very important intersection point between phenomenological research and the natural sciences in the twentieth century. She tried to open a common pattern from the ontology of the physical being up to anthropology, passing from the biological sciences. An intersection point that, for the particular features of her thought, is rather a perspective point from which to observe, in an interesting and original way, both natural sciences and phenomenology. The 1923 essay (...) entitled Real Ontology (Conrad-Martius 1923) is the starting point for her reflections about science, but it is also the point that marks a separation from Husserl (for a detailed discussion, see: Ales Bello 2003, pp. 184–195), even if not from phenomenology. A fundamental question is faced: “why something instead of nothing?” or: “what is the reality?,” shifting the focus from essence to existence. Whichever the answer, a deeply realistic position must be assumed, based on the assumption of a clear distinction between the subject and the world, and the possibility of knowledge, intended as adaequatio of the subject’s intellectus to the external reality. (shrink)
What are the agents of life? Central to our conception of the biological world is the idea that it contains various kinds of individuals, including genes, organisms, and species. How we conceive of these agents of life is central to our understanding of the relationship between life and mind, the place of hierarchical thinking in the biological sciences, and pluralistic views of biological agency. Genes and the Agents of Life rethinks the place of the individual (...) in the biological sciences, drawing parallels with the cognitive and social sciences. Genes, organisms, and species are all agents of life, but how are each of these conceptualized within genetics, developmental biology, evolutionary biology, and systematics? The book includes highly accessible discussions of genetic encoding, species and natural kinds, and pluralism above the levels of selection, drawing on work from across the biological sciences. A companion to Boundaries of the Mind, (Cambridge, 2004) where the focus is on the cognitive sciences, this volume will appeal to professionals and students in philosophy, biology, and the history of science. Robert A. Wilson is Professor of Philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is the author of Cartesian Psychology and Physical Minds (Cambridge, 1995). (shrink)
[Précis of Mind in Life: Biology, Phenomenology, and the Sciences of Mind] The theme of this book is the deep continuity of life and mind. Where there is life there is mind, and mind in its most articulated forms belongs to life. Life and mind share a core set of formal or organizational properties, and the formal or organizational properties distinctive of mind are an enriched version of those fundamental to life.
Among the many forms of research misconduct, publishing fraudulent data is considered to be serious where the confidence and validity of the research is detrimentally undermined. In this study, the trend of 303 retracted publications from 44 authors (with more than three retracted publications each) was analysed. The results showed that only 6.60% of the retracted publications were single-authored and the discovery of fraudulent publications had reduced from 52.24 months (those published before the year 2000) to 33.23 months (those published (...) on the year 2000 and onwards). It appears that with the widely accessible public databases like PubMed, fraudulent publications can be detected more easily. The different approaches adopted by authors who had previous publications retracted are also discussed herein. (shrink)
Judaism in the twentieth century began to return to its scriptural, communal roots after a centuries-long detour through Greek-influenced natural philosophy, a detour during which science and ethics were assumed to be partners and Jewish ethics drew heavily on natural philosophy and science. Twentieth-century philosophical ethics and science, particularly biological science, have developed in such a way as to make any continuation of that historical partnership problematic. This is not altogether regrettable because the problematizing of this long-standing partnership has driven (...) Jewish ethics back to its real roots: covenantal relationship, and moral wisdom and discernment. (shrink)
Taking a set of central issues from ancient Greek medicine and biology, this book studies first the interaction between scientific theorising and folklore or popular assumptions, and second the ideological character of scientific inquiry. Topics of current interest in the philosphy and sociology of science illuminated here include the relationship between primitive thought and early science, and the roles of the consensus of the scientific community, of tradition and of the authority of the written text, in the development of science.
In this article I intend to explore the conception of science as it emerges from the work of Husserl, Schutz, and Garfinkel. By concentrating specifically on the issue of science, I attempt to show that Garfinkel’s views on the relationship between science and the everyday world are much closer to Husserl’s stance than to the Schutzian perspective. To this end, I explore Husserl’s notion of science especially as it emerges in the Crisis of European Sciences, where he describes the (...) failure of European science and again preaches for a return to the “things themselves”. In this respect I interpret ethnomethodology’s most recent program as an answer to that call originating from a sociological domain. I then argue that the Husserlian turn within ethnomethodology marks the split between Garfinkel and Schutz. In fact I try to show that Schutz’s epistemological work is only partially inspired by phenomenology and that his conception of science retains a rationalist stance that ethnomethodology opposes. In the final section I briefly discuss Garfinkel’s most recent program as a way of closing the gap between theory and experience by linking the topics of science to the radical experiential phenomena. (shrink)
How should we live? According to philosopher and biologist Massimo Pigliucci, the greatest guidance to this essential question lies in combining the wisdom of 24 centuries of philosophy with the latest research from 21st century science. In Answers for Aristotle, Pigliucci argues that the combination of science and philosophy first pioneered by Aristotle offers us the best possible tool for understanding the world and ourselves. As Aristotle knew, each mode of thought has the power to clarify the other: science provides (...) facts, and philosophy helps us reflect on the values with which to assess them. But over the centuries, the two have become uncoupled, leaving us with questions—about morality, love, friendship, justice, and politics—that neither field could fully answer on its own. Pigliucci argues that only by rejoining each other can modern science and philosophy reach their full potential, while we harness them to help us reach ours. Pigliucci discusses such essential issues as how to tell right from wrong, the nature of love and friendship, and whether we can really ever know ourselves—all in service of helping us find our path to the best possible life. Combining the two most powerful intellectual traditions in history, Answers for Aristotle is a remarkable guide to discovering what really matters and why. (shrink)
Kant’s treatment of teleology and life in the Critique of the Power of Judgment is complicated and difficult to interpret; Hegel’s response adds considerable complexity. I propose a new way of understanding the underlying philosophical issues in this debate, allowing a better understanding of the underlying structure of the arguments in Kant and Hegel. My new way is unusual: I use for an interpretive lens some structural features of familiar debates about freedom of the will. These debates, I argue, (...) allow us to see more clearly the underlying structure of a great many philosophical issues. Aside from some suggested avenues of approach, however, I do not aim to interpret what Kant or Hegel has to say about freedom of the will. The idea is to use this interpretive lens to better understand the philosophical issues at stake in their disagreement concerning teleology and life. This will clarify the precise philosophical burden that must be met by Kant’s argument in defense of his skepticism, and why his case has considerable philosophical force. But it will also explain why Kant’s argument itself inevitably provides the opening for Hegel’s reply, and sets a standard that Hegel will meet in a surprising way. Finally, this approach will explain why we can learn a great deal from the philosophical arguments in Kant and Hegel about this topic, despite the intervening years of such great progress in the biological sciences: by looking to Kant and Hegel we can better understand the structure of underlying philosophical terrain of the issues concerning teleology and life—terrain we are still fighting over today. (shrink)
Machine generated contents note: -- 1. Quantum Mechanics as a General Framework -- 2. Classical and Quantum Information and Entropy -- 3. The Brain: An Outlook -- 4. Vision -- 5. Dealing with Target's Motion and Our Own Movement -- 6. Complexity: A Necessary Condition -- 7. General Features of Life -- 8. The Organism as a Semiotic and Cybernetic System -- 9. Phylogeny -- 10. Ontogeny -- 11. Epigeny -- 12. Representational Semiotics -- 13. The Brain as an (...) Information-Control System -- 14. Decisional, Emotional and Cognitive Systems -- 15. Behavior -- 16. Learning -- 17. Memory -- 18. The Basic Symbolic Systems -- 19. What Symbols Are -- 20. Intentionality and Conceptualization -- 21. Consciousness -- 22. Development and Culture -- 23. Language -- 24. Mind and Brain (Body) -- 25. Final Philosophical Remarks. (shrink)
Biology is the study of life, psychology is the study of mind, and medicine is the investigation of the causes and treatments of disease. This chapter describes how the central concepts of life, mind, and disease have undergone fundamental changes in the past 150 years or so. There has been a progression from theological, to qualitative, to mechanistic explanations of the nature of life, mind and disease. This progression has involved both theoretical change, as new theories with (...) greater explanatory power replaced older ones, and emotional change as the new theories brought reorientation of attitudes toward the nature of life, mind, and disease. After a brief comparison of theological, qualitative, and mechanistic explanations, I will describe how shifts from one kind of explanation to another have carried with them dramatic kinds of conceptual change in the key concepts in the lifesciences. Three generalizations follow about the nature of conceptual change in the history of science: there has been a shift from conceptualizations in terms of simple properties to ones in terms of complex relations; conceptual change is theory change; and conceptual change is often emotional as well as cognitive. The contention that historical development proceeds in three stages originated with the nineteenth-century French philosophers, Auguste Comte, who claimed that November 9, 2006 human intellectual development progresses from a theological to a “metaphysical” stage to a “positive” (scientific) stage (Comte, 1988). The stages I have in mind are different from Comte’s, so let me say what they involve. By the theological stage I mean systems of thought in which the primary explanatory entities are supernatural ones beyond the reach of science, such as gods, devils, angels, spirits, and souls. For example, the concept of fire was initially theological, as in the Greek myth of Prometheus receiving fire from the gods.. (shrink)
What is reductionism? -- Who is reading the book of life? -- Genetics : from grammar to meaning making -- A point for thought : why are organisms irreducible? -- A point for thought : does the genetic system include a meta-language? -- Immunology : from soldiers to housewives -- A point for thought : immune specificity and Brancusi's kiss -- A point for thought : reflections on the immune self -- Meaning making in language and biology -- A (...) point for thought : meaning : bridging the gap between physics and semantics -- The rest is silence -- The polysemy of the sign : a quantum lesson -- Recursive-hierarchy : a lesson from the tardigrade -- Context and memory : a lesson from funes the memorious -- Transgradience : a lesson from Bakhtin -- The poetry of living. (shrink)
The contributors to this volume examine the motivations for anti-reductionist views, and assess their coherence and success, in a number of different fields, including moral and mental philosophy, psychology, organic biology, and the social sciences.
Have evolution, science and the trappings of the modern world killed off God irrevocably? And what do we lose if we choose not to believe in him? From Newton and Descartes to Darwin and the discovery of the genome, religion has been pushed back further and further while science has gained ground. But what fills the void that religion leaves behind? This book is an attempt to look at these questions and to suggest a third way between the easy consolations (...) of religion and the persuasive force of science that the everyday modern reader can engage with. (shrink)
Bioethical issues remain front-page news, with debate continuing to rage over issues including genetic modification, animal cloning, and "designer babies." With public opinion often driven by media speculation, how can we ensure that informed decisions regarding key bioethical issues are made in a reasoned, objective way? Ideal for students new to the subject, Bioethics: An Introduction for the Biosciences offers a balanced, objective introduction to the field. With a focus on developing powers of reasoning and judgment, the book presents different (...) perspectives on common themes in an impartial way, thereby fostering debate and discussion. The opening section, "The Ethical Groundwork," introduces students to the nature of bioethics and ethical theory. The book goes on to cover a broad range of bioethical issues relating to people, animals, and food, before concluding with an overview of bioethics in practice. Features: * The broadest, most balanced textbook on bioethics available, offering students just the right mix of science and philosophy as well as a clear, objective introduction to the subject * Presents different perspectives on common themes in order to encourage students to question, evaluate, and form their own opinions * Incorporates many useful pedagogical tools including self-assessment questions, topics for discussion, and exercises * Includes references for further reading and useful web sites * A companion website offers resources for both students and instructors. (shrink)
Recent work by Renaud Barbaras on the definition of life has shown the fecundity of a phenomenological approach that sees absence as having a positive status. This phenomenon allows Barbaras to identify life with “desire,” the indefinite exploration of the exterior world. It also allows Barbaras to defeat competing definitions of life in the sciences, particularly biology. In this paper, I propose a mutual complementarity between the work of Barbaras and that in contemporary systems science, namely (...) by Stuart Kauffman, suggesting that scientific concepts of subcriticality may allow for more overlap between phenomenological and scientific definitions of life than Barbaras acknowledges. (shrink)
"In this book a noted physiologist and neuroscientist introduces the concept of simplexity, the set of solutions living organisms find that enable them to deal with information and situations, while taking into account past experiences and ...
Understanding how scientific activities use naming stories to achieve disciplinary status is important not only for insight into the past, but for evaluating current claims that new disciplines are emerging. In order to gain a historical understanding of how new disciplines develop in relation to these baptismal narratives, we compare two recently formed disciplines, systems biology and genomics, with two earlier related lifesciences, genetics and molecular biology. These four disciplines span the twentieth century, a period in which (...) the processes of disciplinary demarcation fundamentally changed from those characteristic of the nineteenth century. We outline how the establishment of each discipline relies upon an interplay of factors that include paradigmatic achievements, technological innovation, and social formations. Our focus, however, is the baptism stories that give the new discipline a founding narrative and articulate core problems, general approaches and constitutive methods. The highly plastic process of achieving disciplinary identity is further marked by the openness of disciplinary definition, tension between technological possibilities and the ways in which scientific issues are conceived and approached, synthesis of reductive and integrative strategies, and complex social interactions. The importance – albeit highly variable – of naming stories in these four cases indicates the scope for future studies that focus on failed disciplines or competing names. Further attention to disciplinary histories could, we suggest, give us richer insight into scientific development. (shrink)
The question "What is the meaning of life?" is one of the most fascinating, oldest and most difficult questions human beings have ever posed themselves. Often linked to the religious issue of whether we are part of a larger, divine scheme, even in an increasingly secularized culture it remains a question to which we are ineluctably and powerfully drawn. In this acute and thoughtful book, John Cottingham asks why the question vexes us so much and assesses some of the (...) most influential attempts to explain it. John Cottingham examines the view, widely held within science, especially since Darwin, that the cosmos is devoid of value and meaning. He asks what is involved in the "disenchantment" of the natural world by science, and argues that, properly understood, modern cosmology and evolutionary theory need not foreclose the possibility of ultimate meaning. He reflects on the paradox that the very impermanence and fragility of the human condition may lend support to the quest for a "spiritual" dimension of meaning. Drawing on the history of philosophy, he also ponders the costs of insisting that any path to meaning must be a narrowly rational one, and he argues that our human need for meaning may properly be approached by drawing on shared traditions of practice, such as social ceremonies and rites of passage, whose value cannot be analyzed in purely intellectual terms. (shrink)
Recent years have witnessed a burgeoning interest in the study of everyday life within the social sciences and humanities. In Critiques of Everyday Life Michael Gardiner proposes that there exists a counter-tradition within everyday life theorizing.
In this paper I provide an epistemological context for Artificial Life projects. Later on, the insights which such projects will exhibit may be used as a general direction for further Artificial Life implementations. The purpose of such a model is to demonstrate by way of simulation how higher cognitive structures may emerge from building invariants by simple sensorimotor beings. By using the bottom-up methodology of Artificial Life, it is hoped to overcome problems that arise from dealing with (...) complex systems, such as the phenomenon of cognition. The research will lead to both epistemological and technical implications. The proposed ALife model is intended to point out the usefulness of an interdisciplinary approach including methodological approaches from disciplines such as Artificial Intelligence, Cognitive Science, Theoretical Biology, and Artificial Life. I try to put them in one single context. The epistemological background which is necessary for this purpose comes from the ideas developed in both epistemological and psychological Constructivism. The model differs from other ALife approaches— and is somewhat radical in this sense—as it tries to start on the lowest possible level, i.e. avoids several a priori assumptions and anthropocentric ascriptions. Due to this characterization, the project may be alternatively viewed as testing the complementary relationship between epistemology and methodology. (shrink)
1. The Place of Intellectual Life: The University -- The University as an Institutional Solution to the Problem of Knowledge -- The Alienability of Knowledge in Our So-called Knowledge Society -- The Knowledge Society as Capitalism of the Third Order -- Will the University Survive the Era of Knowledge Management? -- Postmodernism as an Anti-university Movement -- Regaining the University's Critical Edge by Historicizing the Curriculum -- Affirmative Action as a Strategy for Redressing the Balance Between Research and Teaching (...) -- Academics Rediscover Their Soul: The Rebirth of Academic Freedom' -- 2. The Stuff of Intellectual Life: Philosophy -- Epistemology as 'Always Already' Social Epistemology -- From Social Epistemology to the Sociology of Philosophy: The Codification of Professional Prejudices? -- Interlude: Seeds of an Alternative Sociology of Philosophy -- Prolegomena to a Critical Sociology of Twentieth-century Anglophone Philosophy -- Analytic Philosophy's Ambivalence Toward the Empirical Sciences -- Professionalism as Differentiating American and British Philosophy -- Conclusion: Anglophone Philosophy as a Victim of Its Own Success -- 3. The People of Intellectual Life: Intellectuals -- Can Intellectuals Survive if the Academy Is a No-fool Zone? -- How Intellectuals Became an Endangered Species in Our Times: The Trail of Psychologism -- A Genealogy of Anti-intellectualism: From Invisible Hand to Social Contagion -- Re-defining the Intellectual as an Agent of Distributive Justice -- The Critique of Intellectuals in a Time of Pragmatist Captivity -- Pierre Bourdieu: The Academic Sociologist as Public Intellectual -- 4. The Improvisational Nature of Intellectual Life -- Academics Caught Between Plagiarism and Bullshit -- Bullshit: A Disease Whose Cure Is Always Worse -- The Scientific Method as a Search for the (Piled) Higher (and Deeper) Bullshit -- Conclusion: How to Improvize on the World-historic Stage -- Summary of the Argument. (shrink)
Systems Biology and the Modern Synthesis are recent versions of two classical biological paradigms that are known as structuralism and functionalism, or internalism and externalism. According to functionalism (or externalism), living matter is a fundamentally passive entity that owes its organization to external forces (functions that shape organs) or to an external organizing agent (natural selection). Structuralism (or internalism), is the view that living matter is an intrinsically active entity that is capable of organizing itself from within, with purely internal (...) processes that are based on mathematical principles and physical laws. At the molecular level, the basic mechanism of the Modern Synthesis is molecular copying, the process that leads in the short run to heredity and in the long run to natural selection. The basic mechanism of Systems Biology, instead, is self-assembly, the process by which many supramolecular structures are formed by the spontaneous aggregation of their components. In addition to molecular copying and self-assembly, however, molecular biology has uncovered also a third great mechanism at the heart of life. The existence of the genetic code and of many other organic codes in Nature tells us that molecular coding is a biological reality and we need therefore a framework that accounts for it. This framework is Code biology, the study of the codes of life, a new field of research that brings to light an entirely new dimension of the living world and gives us a completely new understanding of the origin and the evolution of life. (shrink)