The philosophy of biology began to develop as a distinct field within the philosophy of science in the early 1970s, shortly before Philip Kitcher turned from mathematics and physics to biology in his thinking about general issues concerning the nature of science. Not only did the answers to traditional questions within the field seem problematic once one turned from the Â“hard sciencesÂ” to the softer biological sciences, but the questions themselves came to be viewed as less obviously the right ones (...) to be asking. (shrink)
The philosophy of biology began to develop as a distinct field within the philosophy of science in the early 1970s, shortly before Philip Kitcher turned from mathematics and physics to biology in his thinking about general issues concerning the nature of science. Not only did the answers to traditional questions within the field seem problematic once one turned from the “hard sciences” to the softer biological sciences, but the questions themselves came to be viewed as less obviously the right ones (...) to be asking. At the core of the philosopher’s view of science thirty years ago was a series of questions about science in general. What was distinctive about science that made it our paradigm of successful intellectual inquiry? How should we think about the nature of testing and confirmation in science? What was the character of scientific explanation? Was scientific change a rational process, and if so, how should we understand that process? (And if not--as was suggested to many by influential works such as Thomas Kuhn’s The Structure of Scientific Revolutions and Paul Feyerabend’s Against Method--what are the implications for our broader views of science?). The work of the logical positivists from the 1930s on, particularly that of Rudolph Carnap and Carl Gustav Hempel, had established such questions as constitutive of the field, and much of philosophy of science in the 1960s and 1970s was either a development of positivist ideas or a reaction to, and departure from, them. The feature of positivism and the work that followed in its stead most relevant here is the presupposition that the right questions to be asking about science were perfectly general questions, questions about science per se. The various areas of physics and chemistry were taken as paradigms of scientific inquiry, and were drawn on extensively, even if not always in depth, both to illustrate and to test the answers given to the general questions asked. (shrink)
The first half of this review article on Locke on primary and secondary qualities leads up to a fairly straightforward reading of what Locke says about the distinction in Essay II.viii, one that, in its general outlines, represents a sympathetic understanding of Locke’s discussion. The second half of the paper turns to consider a few of the ways in which interpreting Locke on primary and secondary qualities has proven more complicated. Here we take up what is sometimes called the Berkeleyan (...) interpretation of Locke (section 6), the understanding of Locke’s resemblance thesis (section 7), and Locke’s views of qualities and their relationship to powers (section 8). (shrink)
Individuals are a prominent part of the biological world. Although biologists and philosophers of biology draw freely on the concept of an individual in articulating both widely accepted and more controversial claims, there has been little explicit work devoted to the biological notion of an individual itself. How should we think about biological individuals? What are the roles that biological individuals play in processes such as natural selection (are genes and groups also units of selection?), speciation (are species individuals?), and (...) organismic development (do genomes code for organisms)? Much of our discussion here will focus on organisms as a central kind of biological individual, and that discussion will raise broader questions about the nature of the biological world, for example, about its complexity, its organization, and its relation to human thought. (shrink)
Cognition is embodied when it is deeply dependent upon features of the physical body of an agent, that is, when aspects of the agent's body beyond the brain play a significant causal or physically constitutive role in cognitive processing. In general, dominant views in the philosophy of mind and cognitive science have considered the body as peripheral to understanding the nature of mind and cognition. Proponents of embodied cognitive science view this as a serious mistake. Sometimes the nature of the (...) dependence of cognition on the body is quite unexpected, and suggests new ways of conceptualizing and exploring the mechanics of cognitive processing. Embodied cognitive science encompasses a loose-knit family of research programs in the cognitive sciences that often share a commitment to critiquing and even replacing traditional approaches to cognition and cognitive processing. Empirical research on embodied cognition has exploded in the past 10 years. As the bibliography for this article attests, the various bodies of work that will be discussed represent a serious alternative to the investigation of cognitive phenomena. Relatively recent work on the embodiment of cognition provides much food for thought for empirically-informed philosophers of mind. This is in part because of the rich range of phenomena that embodied cognitive science has studied. But it is also in part because those phenomena are often thought to challenge dominant views of the mind, such as the computational and representational theories of mind, at the heart of traditional cognitive science. And they have sometimes been taken to undermine standard positions in the philosophy of mind, such as the idea that the mind is identical to, or even realized in, the brain. (shrink)
A far-reaching and influential view in evolutionary biology claims that species are cohesive units held together by gene flow. Biologists have recognized empirical problems facing this view; after sharpening the expression of the view, we present novel conceptual problems for it. At the heart of these problems is a distinction between two importantly different concepts of cohesion, what we call integrative and response cohesion. Acknowledging the distinction problematizes both the explanandum of species cohesion and the explanans of gene flow that (...) are central to the view we discuss. We conclude by tracing four broader implications for the study and conceptualization of species. (shrink)
Vision constitutes an interesting domain, or range of domains, for debate over the extended mind thesis, the idea that minds physically extend beyond the boundaries of the body. In part this is because vision and visual experience more particularly are sometimes presented as a kind of line in the sand for what we might call externalist creep about the mind: once all reasonable concessions have been made to externalists about the mind, visual experience marks a line beyond which lies a (...) safe haven for individualists. Here I want to put a little more pressure on such a view of visual experience, as well as to offer a more constructive, positive argument in defense of the idea of extended vision. (shrink)
This paper attempts to do two things. First, it recounts the problem of intentionality, as it has typically been conceptualized, and argues that it needs to be reconceptualized in light of the radical form of externalism most commonly referred to as the extended mind thesis. Second, it provides an explicit, novel argument for that thesis, what I call the argument from meaning making, and offers some defense of that argument. This second task occupies the core of the paper, and in (...) completing it I distinguish _active _ _cognition_ from _cyborg fantasy arguments_ for externalism, and develop the analogy between the extended mind thesis in the cognitive sciences and developmental systems theory in developmental biology. The rethinking of the problem of intentionality on offer leads not so much to a solution as to a dissolution of that problem, as traditionally conceived. (shrink)
1. The Situation in Cognition 2. Situated Cognition: A Potted Recent History 3. Extensions in Biology, Computation, and Cognition 4. Articulating the Idea of Cognitive Extension 5. Are Some Resources Intrinsically Non-Cognitive? 6. Is Cognition Extended or Only Embedded? 7. Letting Nature Take Its Course.
Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In The Mind Doesn't Work That Way, Fodor has developed the dark message of The Modularity of Mind regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...) empirical developments in the cognitive sciences in assessing Fodor's position. (shrink)
The Architecture of the Mind is itself built on foundations that deserve probing. In this brief commentary I focus on these foundations—Carruthers’ conception of modularity, his arguments for thinking that the mind is massively modular in structure, and his view of human cognitive architecture.
Are materially constituted entities, such as statues and glasses of liquid, something more than their material constituents? The puzzle that frames this paper stems from conflicting answers to this question. At the core of the paper is a distinctive way of thinking about material constitution that posits two concepts of constitution, compositional and ampliative constitution, with the bulk of the discussion devoted to developing distinct analyses for these concepts. Distinguishing these concepts solves our initial puzzle and enriches the space of (...) possibilities for constitution views. (shrink)
Essentialism is widely regarded as a mistaken view of biological kinds, such as species. After recounting why (sections 2-3), we provide a brief survey of the chief responses to the “death of essentialism” in the philosophy of biology (section 4). We then develop one of these responses, the claim that biological kinds are homeostatic property clusters (sections 5-6) illustrating this view with several novel examples (section 7). Although this view was first expressed 20 years ago, and has received recent discussion (...) and critique, it remains underdeveloped and is often misrepresented by its critics (section 8). (shrink)
For the greater part of the last 50 years, it has been common for philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists to invoke the notion of realization in discussing the relationship between the mind and the brain. In traditional philosophy of mind, mental states are said to be realized, instantiated, or implemented in brain states. Artificial intelligence is sometimes described as the attempt either to model or to actually construct systems that realize some of the same psychological abilities that we and (...) other living creatures possess. The claim that specific psychological. (shrink)
While memory is conceptualized predominantly as an individual capacity in the cognitive and biological sciences, the social sciences have most commonly construed memory as a collective phenomenon. Collective memory has been put to diverse uses, ranging from accounts of nationalism in history and political science to views of ritualization and commemoration in anthropology and sociology. These appeals to collective memory share the idea that memory ‘‘goes beyond the individual’’ but often run together quite diﬀerent claims in spelling out that idea. (...) This paper reviews a sampling of recent work on collective memory in the light of emerging externalist views within the cognitive sciences, and through some reﬂection on broader traditions of thought in the biological and social sciences that have appealed to the idea that groups have minds. The paper concludes with some thoughts about the relationship between these kinds of cognitive metaphors in the social sciences and our notion of agency. (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)
In the good old days, when general philosophy of science ruled the Earth, a simple division was often invoked to talk about philosophical issues specific to particular kinds of science: that between the natural sciences and the social sciences. Over the last 20 years, philosophical studies shaped around this dichotomy have given way to those organized by more fine-grained categories, corresponding to specific disciplines, as the literatures on the philosophy of physics, biology, economics and psychology--to take the most prominent four (...) examples--have blossomed. In general terms, work in each of these areas has become increasingly enmeshed with that in the corresponding science itself, increasingly naturalistic (in at least one sense of that term), and in my view, increasingly interesting. (shrink)
In her recent book Persons and Bodies1, Lynne Rudder Baker has defended what she calls the constitution view of persons. On this view, persons are constituted by their bodies, where “constitution” is a ubiquitous, general metaphysical relation distinct from more familiar relations, such as identity and part-whole composition.
This is a book that challenges the current orthodoxy, both in the philosophy of mind and in the cognitive sciences, that thinking (construed broadly to include perceiving, imagining, remembering, etc.) is a mental process in the head. Such a view has been largely taken for granted since the demise of behaviorism in the 1960s, and it underpins both the representational and computational theories of mind, including their connectionist and dynamicist variants. While the orthodoxy has been rejected in recent years by (...) a motley collection of e-theorists—externalists, embodiers, embedders, and extended minders—Melser’s view is quite distinct from such views. For Melser, rather than thinking being a process that begins in the head but extends beyond it (as most e-theorists hold), it is a personal-level activity, something that a person does through her actions. Since Melser views such activities as being disjoint from natural processes, thinking is not a natural process at all, the sort of thing that we might study scientifically. Thus, thinking is a personal action that calls for a different kind of study, one that draws on empathy, interpretation, and hermeneutics. That is the view defended at the core of the book (chh.1-7), and if it makes it sound like a very old-fashioned book, that’s because it is. Melser’s antecedents are philosophers such as Gilbert Ryle, J.L. Austin, and Stuart Hampshire, both in style and in content. Apart from Melser’s heavy reliance on selective parts of developmental psychology, there is minimal discussion of substantive work in contemporary cognitive science. That is what might be expected from an author whose view is that whatever it is cognitive scientists are doing, it is not (much to their surprise, no doubt) the investigation of thinking. As I will try to show in a moment, however, the central argument of the book could have been strengthened by more direct engagement with such empirical work. (shrink)
Fodor's thinking on modularity has been influential throughout a range of the areas studying cognition, chiefly as a prod for positive work on modularity and domain-specificity. In _The Mind Doesn't Work That Way_, Fodor has developed the dark message of _The Modularity of Mind_ regarding the limits to modularity and computational analyses. This paper offers a critical assessment of Fodor's scepticism with an eye to highlighting some broader issues in play, including the nature of computation and the role of recent (...) empirical developments in the cognitive sciences in assessing Fodor's position. (shrink)
Where does the mind begin and end? Robert Wilson establishes the foundations for the view that the mind extends beyond the boundary of the individual. He blends traditional philosophical analysis, cognitive science, and the history of psychology and the human sciences. Wilson then develops novel accounts of mental representation and consciousness, discussing a range of other issues, such as nativism and the idea of group minds. Boundaries of the Mind re-evaluates the place of the individual in the cognitive, biological and (...) social sciences (what Wilson calls the fragile sciences) with an emphasis on cognition. The book will appeal to a broad range of professionals and students in philosophy, psychology, cognitive science, and the history of the behavioral and human sciences. Robert A. Wilson is professor of philosophy at the University of Alberta. He is author or editor of five other books, including the award-winning The MIT Encyclopedia of the Cognitive Sciences (MIT Press, 1999). (shrink)
The philosophy of biology began to develop as a distinct field within the philosophy of science in the early 1970s, shortly before Philip Kitcher turned from mathematics and physics to biology in his thinking about general issues concerning the nature of science. Not only did the answers to traditional questions within the field seem problematic once one turned from the “hard sciences” to the softer biological sciences, but the questions themselves came to be viewed as less obviously the right ones (...) to be asking. (shrink)
Natural Kinds and Conceptual Change is a refreshingly direct book that challenges a range of orthodox views in the philosophy of science (especially biology), the philosophy of language, and metaphysics. Amongst these are the views that species are individuals rather than natural kinds; that scientists discover the essences of natural kinds; that the causal theory of reference has commonly-ascribed implications for realism and analyticity; that there is an unacceptable form of incommensurability entailed by descriptivism about reference; and that there are (...) good grounds, familiar since Quine, for thinking that there is no distinction of significance to be drawn between changes in meaning and changes in theory. LaPorte argues against all of these claims, and if you are curious about just how he does it, then this is a book for you. (shrink)
For the greater part of the last 50 years, it has been common for philosophers of mind and cognitive scientists to invoke the notion of realization in discussing the relationship between the mind and the brain. In traditional philosophy of mind, mental states are said to be realized, instantiated, or implemented in brain states. Artificial intelligence is sometimes described as the attempt either to model or to actually construct systems that realize some of the same psychological abilities that we and (...) other living creatures possess. The claim that specific psychological.. (shrink)
The social, behavioral, and a good chunk of the biological sciences concern the nature of individual agency, where our paradigm for an individual is a human being. Theories of economic behavior, of mental function and dysfunction, and of ontogenetic development, for example, are theories of how such individuals act, and of what internal and external factors are determinative of that action. Such theories construe individuals in distinctive ways.
The evolution of the myxoma virus in Australia has been presented for many years as a test case for the hypothesis that group selection can function effectively `in the wild.' This paper critically examines the myxoma case, and argues that its failure as a test case for this hypothesis has broader implications for debates over the levels of selection.
This paper distinguishes and critiques several forms of pluralism about the levels of selection, and introduces a novel way of thinking about the biological properties and processes typically conceptualized in terms of distinct levels. In particular, "levels" should be thought of as being entwined or fused. Since the pluralism discussed is held by divergent theorists, the argument has implications for many positions in the debate over the units of selection. And since the key points on which the paper turns apply (...) beyond this specific issue, the paper may prove of general interest in thinking about the metaphysics of science. (shrink)
Introduction in chapter viii of book ii of An Essay Concerning Human Understanding, John Locke provides various putative lists of primary qualities. Insofar as they have considered the variation across Locke's lists at all, commentators have usually been content simply either to consider a self-consciously abbreviated list (e.g., "Size, Shape, etc.") or a composite list as the list of Lockean primary qualities, truncating such a composite list only by omitting supposedly co-referential terms. Doing the latter with minimal judgment about what (...) terms are co-referential gives us the following list of eleven qualities (in the order in which they appear in this chapter of the Essay): solidity, extension, figure, mobility, motion or rest, number, bulk, texture, motion, size, and situation. Perhaps surprisingly given the attention to the primary/secondary distinction since Locke, Locke's primary qualities themselves have received little more than passing mention in the bulk of the subsequent literature. In particular, no discussion both offers an interpretation of Locke's conception of primary qualities and makes sense of Locke's various lists as lists of primary qualities. A central motivation for this paper is the idea that these two tasks are not independent. (shrink)
David Sloan Wilson has recently revived the idea of a group mind as an application of group selectionist thinking to cognition. Central to my discussion of this idea is the distinction between the claim that groups have a psychology and what I call the social manifestation thesis-a thesis about the psychology of individuals. Contemporary work on this topic has confused these two theses. My discussion also points to research questions and issues that Wilson's work raises, as well as their connection (...) to externalist conceptions of the mind familiar since the work of Putnam and Burge. (shrink)
This paper examines the standard view of realization operative incontemporary philosophy of mind, and proposes an alternative, generalperspective on realization. The standard view can be expressed, insummary form, as the conjunction of two theses, the sufficiency thesis andthe constitutivity thesis. Physicalists of both reductionist and anti-reductionist persuasions share a conception of realization wherebyrealizations are determinative of the properties they realize and physically constitutive of the individuals with those properties. Centralto the alternative view that I explore here is the idea that (...) the requisite,metaphysically robust notion of realization is ineliminably context-sensitive. I shall argue that the sufficiency and constitutivity theses aretypically not jointly satisfied by any one candidate realizer, and that goingcontext-sensitive in one's metaphysics is preferable to the standard view.The context-sensitive views developed here are implicit in a range ofcommon views in both the philosophy of mind and the philosophy of biology,even if they have not been explicitly articulated, and even though theyundermine other views that are commonly endorsed. (shrink)
This paper points to some problems for the position that D.M. Walsh calls "alternative individualism," and argues that in defending this view Walsh has omitted an important part of what separates individualists and externalists in psychology. Walsh's example of Hox gene complexes is discussed in detail to show why some sort of externalism about scientific taxonomy more generally is a more plausible view than any extant version of individualism.
We introduce two notions–the shadows and the shallows of explanation–in opening up explanation to broader, interdisciplinary investigation. The shadows of explanation refer to past philosophical efforts to provide either a conceptual analysis of explanation or in some other way to pinpoint the essence of explanation. The shallows of explanation refer to the phenomenon of having surprisingly limited everyday, individual cognitive abilities when it comes to explanation. Explanations are ubiquitous, but they typically are not accompanied by the depth that we might, (...) prima facie, expect. We explain the existence of the shadows and shallows of explanation in terms of there being a theoretical abyss between explanation and richer, theoretical structures that are often attributed to people. We offer an account of the shallows, in particular, both in terms of shorn-down, internal, mental machinery, and in terms of an enriched, public symbolic environment, relative to the currently dominant ways of thinking about cognition and the world. (shrink)
This commentary raises three questions about the target article: What are pointers or deictic devices? Why insist on deictic codes for cognition rather than deixis simpliciter? And in what sense is cognition embodied, on this view?
This paper is a critical discussion of John Dupré's recent defence of promiscuous realism in Part 1 of his The Disorder of Things: Metaphysical Foundations of the Disunity of Science. It also discusses some more general issues in the philosophy of biology and science. Dupré's chief strategy of argumentation appeals to debates within the philosophy of biology, all of which concern the nature of species. While the strategy is well motivated, I argue that Dupré's challenge to essentialist and unificationist views (...) about natural kinds is not successful. One conclusion is that an integrative conception of species is a real alternative to Dupré's pluralism. (shrink)
This book offers the first sustained critique of individualism in psychology, a view that has been the subject of debate between philosophers such as Jerry Fodor and Tyler Burge for many years. The author approaches individualism as an issue in the philosophy of science and by discussing issues such as computationalism and the mind's modularity he opens the subject up for non-philosophers in psychology and computer science. Professor Wilson carefully examines the most influential arguments for individualism and identifies the main (...) metaphysical assumptions underlying them. Since the topic is so central to the philosophy of mind, a discipline generating enormous research and debate at present, the book has implications for a very broad range of philosophical issues including the naturalisation of intentionality, psychophysical supervenience, the nature of mental causation, and the viability of folk psychology. (shrink)
Individualists claim that wide explanations in psychology are problematic. I argue that wide psychological explanations sometimes have greater explanatory power than individualistic explanations. The aspects of explanatory power I focus on are causal depth and theoretical appropriateness. Reflection on the depth and appropriateness of other wide explanations of behavior, such as evolutionary explanations, clarifies why wide psychological explanations sometimes have more causal depth and theoretical appropriateness than narrow psychological explanations. I also argue for the rejection of eliminative materialism.