Let us begin with the paradox. Rhetoric took pride of place in formal education for two millenia and a half. Its very rich and complex history deserves being studied in detail, but it could also be compressed in a few sentences. Indeed, the same substance was inculcated by eighty generations of teachers to eighty generations of pupils. If a general tendency can be discerned, it consists in a mere narrowing down of the subject matter of rhetoric: one of its five (...) branches, elocutio, the study of figures of speech, progressively displaced the four other branches, and in some schools, became identified with rhetoric tout court. (We.. (shrink)
Our book Relevance (Sperber and Wilson 1986) treats utterance interpretation as a two-phase process: a modular decoding phase is seen as providing input to a central inferential phase in which a linguistically encoded logical form is contextually enriched and used to construct a hypothesis about the speaker's informative intention. Relevance was mainly concerned with the inferential phase of comprehension: we had to answer Fodor's challenge that while decoding processes are quite well understood, inferential processes are not only not understood, but (...) perhaps not even understandable (see Fodor 1983). Here we will look more closely at the decoding phase and consider what types of information may be linguistically encoded, and how the borderline between decoding and inference can be drawn. It might be that all linguistically encoded information is cut to a single pattern: all truth conditions, say, or all instructions for use. However, there is a robust intuition that two basic types of meaning can be found. This intuition surfaces in a variety of distinctions: between describing and indicating, stating and showing, saying and conventionally implicating, or between truth-conditional and non-truth-conditional, conceptual and procedural, or representational and computational meaning. In the literature, justifications for these distinctions have been developed in both strictly linguistic and more broadly cognitive terms. The linguistic justification goes as follows (see for example Recanati 1987). Utterances express propositions; propositions have truth conditions; but the meaning of an utterance is not exhausted by its truth conditions, i.e. the truth conditions of the proposition expressed. An utterance not only expresses a proposition but is used to perform a variety of speech acts. It can.. (shrink)
According to recent work in the new field of lexical pragmatics, the meanings of words are frequently pragmatically adjusted and fine-tuned in context, so that their contribution to the proposition expressed is different from their lexically encoded sense. Well-known examples include lexical narrowing (e.g. ‘drink’ used to mean ALCOHOLIC DRINK), approximation (or loosening) (e.g. ‘flat’ used to mean RELATIVELY FLAT) and metaphorical extension (e.g. ‘bulldozer’ used to mean FORCEFUL PERSON). These three phenomena are often studied in isolation from each other (...) and given quite distinct kinds of explanation. In this chapter, we will propose a more unified account. We will try to show that narrowing, loosening and metaphorical extension are simply different outcomes of a single interpretive process which creates an ad hoc concept, or occasion-specific sense, based on interaction among encoded concepts, contextual information and pragmatic expectations or principles. We will outline an inferential account of the lexical adjustment process using the framework of relevance theory, and compare it with some alternative accounts. (shrink)
On the relevance-theoretic approach outlined in this paper, linguistic metaphors are not a natural kind, and ―metaphor‖ is not a theoretically important notion in the study of verbal communication. Metaphorical interpretations are arrived at in exactly the same way as literal, loose and hyperbolic interpretations: there is no mechanism specific to metaphors, and no interesting generalisation that applies only to them. In this paper, we defend this approach in detail by showing how the same inferential procedure applies to utterances at (...) both ends of the literal-loose-metaphorical continuum, and how both literal and metaphorical utterances may create poetic effects. (shrink)
In preparing for a lecture on the ethics of surgical complications, it became apparent that confusion exists about the definition of a ‘‘surgical complication.’’ Is it, as one medical website states, ‘‘any undesirable result of surgery?’’ . In the European Journal of Surgery, Veen et al.  provide a more elaborate definition: ‘‘every unwanted development in the illness of the patient or in the treatment of the patient’s illness that occurs in the clinic’’ . An esteemed historian of science suggests (...) yet another definition in a recent volume on surgical complications: ‘‘a complication, in any sphere of endeavour, is something out of the norm, and the product of extraneous and unexpected factors’’ . Such is the discrepancy in definitions that Rampersaud et al.  declared in 2006 that ‘‘presently, there is no clear or consistent definition of a complication in the surgical literature.’’ Much research in surgery aims to reduce the risk of surgical complications. However, until we have a stable and agreed definition of what counts as a surgical complication, we cannot reliably compare different studies to discover what best reduces the chance of surgical complications . Therefore, the topic is more than mere pedantry; defining surgical complications will help us with the broader question of how to improve surgical practice. A basic PubMed search returned nearly 800 articles with the phrases ‘‘surgical complications’’ or ‘‘surgical complication’’ in the title. But unlike the sources above. (shrink)
This article details the relationship between history and bioethics. I argue that historians' reluctance to engage with bioethics rests on a misreading of the field as solely reducible to applied ethics, and overlooks previous enthusiasm for historical perspectives. I claim that seeing bioethics as its practitioners see it – as an interdisciplinary meeting ground – should encourage historians to collaborate in greater numbers. I conclude by outlining how bioethics might benefit from new histories of the field, and how historians can (...) lend a fresh perspective to bioethical debates. (shrink)
Meaning and Relevance sets out to answer these and other questions, enriching and updating relevance theory and exploring its implications for linguistics, philosophy, cognitive science and literary studies"--.
The old Das Adam Smith Problem is no longer tenable. Few today believe that Smith postulates two contradictory principles of human action: one in the Wealth of Nations and another in the Theory of Moral Sentiments . Nevertheless, an Adam Smith problem of sorts endures: there is still no widely agreed version of what it is that links these two texts, aside from their common author; no widely agreed version of how, if at all, Smith's postulation of self-interest as the (...) organising principle of economic activity fits in with his wider moral-ethical concerns. We argue that the enduring Adam Smith problem may be solved by recourse to a realist perspective that recognises the different levels of social reality to which Smith refers in his discourse. Essential to Smith, we try to show, is the action-theoretic distinction between motive and capacity; between a typology of empirical human acts, on the one hand—self-love and benevolence in Smiths terminology—and the (non-empirical) condition of possibility of all human action—what Smith calls the sympathetic principle—on the other. (shrink)
Unveiling the Past—Preparing the Conditions for Human Beings to Live in the Midst of One Another Again? A Response From Living in Northern Ireland Content Type Journal Article Category Symposium Pages 333-335 DOI 10.1007/s11673-011-9334-y Authors Derick Wilson, University of Ulster, School of Education, Coleraine, Co. Londonderry, BT52 1SA UK Journal Journal of Bioethical Inquiry Online ISSN 1872-4353 Print ISSN 1176-7529 Journal Volume Volume 8 Journal Issue Volume 8, Number 4.
Humans massively depend on communication with others, but this leaves them open to the risk of being accidentally or intentionally misinformed. To ensure that, despite this risk, communication remains advantageous, humans have, we claim, a suite of cognitive mechanisms for epistemic vigilance. Here we outline this claim and consider some of the ways in which epistemic vigilance works in mental and social life by surveying issues, research and theories in different domains of philosophy, linguistics, cognitive psychology and the social sciences.
Resnik’s argument relies upon an undefended and unjustified overvaluation of liberty. First, he overlooks some important arguments in favour of restrictions to liberty, and his consideration of the two he does review is unfair; second his account grossly overestimates the autonomy of our food choices; and lastly his mechanism for balancing liberty against other concerns involves an illicit double counting of the weight of individual liberty.
What is the biological reason for gossip? For laughter? For the creation of art? Why do dogs have curly tails? What can microbes tell us about morality? These and many other questions are tackled by renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson in this witty and groundbreaking new book. With stories that entertain as much as they inform, Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution and shows how, properly understood, they can illuminate the length and breadth of creation, from the origin of (...) life to the nature of religion. Now everyone can move beyond the sterile debates about creationism and intelligent design to share Darwin’s panoramic view of animal and human life, seamlessly connected to each other. Evolution, as Wilson explains, is not just about dinosaurs and human origins, but about why all species behave as they do—from beetles that devour their own young, to bees that function as a collective brain, to dogs that are smarter in some respects than our closest ape relatives. And basic evolutionary principles are also the foundation for humanity’s capacity for symbolic thought, culture, and morality. In example after example, Wilson sheds new light on Darwin’s grand theory and how it can be applied to daily life. By turns thoughtful, provocative, and daringly funny, Evolution for Everyone addresses some of the deepest philosophical and social issues of this or any age. In helping us come to a deeper understanding of human beings and our place in the world, it might also help us to improve that world. (shrink)
Don Marquis argues that his “future of value” account of the ethics of killing affords us a persuasive argument against abortion that avoids difficult questions about the moral status of the fetus. I argue that Marquis’ account is missing essential detail required for the claimed plausibility of the argument and that any attempt to provide this needed detail can be expected to undercut the claim of plausibility. I argue that this is the case because attempts to provide the missing detail (...) are tantamount to accounts of moral status of the sort Marquis claims to avoid and can therefore be expected to have all the familiar problems of such accounts. Finally, I consider the standard problem infanticide poses for a familiar model of personhood and argue that Marquis’ use of this objection as ablanket criticism of personhood accounts is superficial. (shrink)
First kudos, followed by some friendly badinage, and then renewed appreciation and a look ahead. This commentary is meant to clarify main arguments, redress incorrect attributions, and strengthen an excellent contribution that draws further attention to the importance of evolutionary epidemiology. Keller & Miller (K&M), despite significant errors, have done well to further systematize the evolutionary epidemiology of psychopathology. (Published Online November 9 2006).
The interpretation of metaphorical utterances often results in the attribution of emergent properties, which are neither standardly associated with the individual constituents in isolation nor derivable by standard rules of semantic composition. An adequate pragmatic account of metaphor interpretation must explain how these properties are derived. Using the framework of relevance theory, we propose a wholly inferential account, and argue that the derivation of emergent properties involves no special interpretive mechanisms not required for the interpretation of ordinary, literal utterances.
The naturalistic fallacy is mentionedfrequently by evolutionary psychologists as anerroneous way of thinking about the ethicalimplications of evolved behaviors. However,evolutionary psychologists are themselvesconfused about the naturalistic fallacy and useit inappropriately to forestall legitimateethical discussion. We briefly review what thenaturalistic fallacy is and why it is misusedby evolutionary psychologists. Then we attemptto show how the ethical implications of evolvedbehaviors can be discussed constructivelywithout impeding evolutionary psychologicalresearch. A key is to show how ethicalbehaviors, in addition to unethical behaviors,can evolve by natural selection.
We have two main objections to Kerr and Godfrey-Smith's (2002) meticulous analysis. First, they misunderstand the position we took in Unto Others – we do not claim that individual-level statements about the evolution of altruism are always unexplanatory and always fail to capture causal relationships. Second, Kerr and Godfrey-Smith characterize the individual and the multi-level perspectives in terms of different sets of parameters. In particular, they do not allow the multi-level perspective to use the individual fitness parameters i and i. (...) We don't see why the multi-level perspective prevents one from thinking in these terms. Kerr and Godfrey-Smith's argument that Uyenoyama and Feldman's (1980, 1992) definition of altruism belongs more to the individualist perspective than it does to the multi-level perspective is an artifact of their choice of parameters; the same point applies to their argument about the individualism inherent in the idea of Class I and Class II fitness structures. (shrink)
The central problem for pragmatics is that sentence meaning vastly underdetermines speaker’s meaning. The goal of pragmatics is to explain how the gap between sentence meaning and speaker’s meaning is bridged. This paper defends the broadly Gricean view that pragmatic interpretation is ultimately an exercise in mind-reading, involving the inferential attribution of intentions. We argue, however, that the interpretation process does not simply consist in applying general mind-reading abilities to a particular (communicative) domain. Rather, it involves a dedicated comprehension module, (...) with its own special principles and mechanisms. We show how such a metacommunicative module might have evolved, and what principles and mechanisms it might contain. (shrink)
This paper questions the widespread view that verbal communication is governed by a maxim, norm or convention of truthfulness which applies at the level of what is literally meant, or what is said. Pragmatic frameworks based on this view must explain the frequent occurrence and acceptability of loose and figurative uses of language. We argue against existing explanations of these phenomena and provide an alternative account, based on the assumption that verbal communication is governed not by expectations of truthfulness but (...) by expectations of relevance, raised by literal, loose and figurative uses alike. Sample analyses are provided, and some consequences of this alternative account are explored. In particular, we argue that the notions of ‘literal meaning’ and ‘what is said’ play no useful theoretical role in the study of language use, and that the nature of explicit communication will have to be rethought. (shrink)
We address the following issues raised by the commentators of our target article and book: (1) the problem of multiple perspectives; (2) how to define group selection; (3) distinguishing between the concepts of altruism and organism; (4) genetic versus cultural group selection; (5) the dark side of group selection; (6) the relationship between psychological and evolutionary altruism; (7) the question of whether the psychological questions can be answered; (8) psychological experiments. We thank the contributors for their commentaries, which provide a (...) diverse agenda for future study of evolution and morality. Our response will follow the organization of our book, distinguishing between evolutionary issues that concern fitness effects and psychological issues that concern motives. (shrink)
The hypothesis of group selection fell victim to a seemingly devastating critique in 1960s evolutionary biology. In Unto Others (1998), we argue to the contrary, that group selection is a conceptually coherent and empirically well documented cause of evolution. We suggest, in addition, that it has been especially important in human evolution. In the second part of Unto Others, we consider the issue of psychological egoism and altruism -- do human beings have ultimate motives concerning the well-being of others? We (...) argue that previous psychological and philosophical work on this question has been inconclusive. We propose an evolutionary argument for the claim that human beings have altruistic ultimate motives. (shrink)
Rolls's mechanistic account of emotion can help to bridge a rift within the field of evolutionary psychology. One side of the rift emphasizes the importance of innate psychological mechanisms that evolved to solve specific problems encountered in the ancestral environment. The other side emphasizes learning, development, and culture as open-ended evolutionary processes in their own right. Rolls shows how these two views can be reconciled, allowing a productive middle ground to be explored.
Those who emphasize complexity must show how it can be studied productively. Laland et al.'s target article partially succeeds but at times gets lost in a sea of possibilities. I discuss the challenge of understanding complexity, especially with respect to multilevel evolution.
Group selection is increasingly being viewed as an important force in human evolution. This paper examines the views of R.D. Alexander, one of the most influential thinkers about human behavior from an evolutionary perspective, on the subject of group selection. Alexander's general conception of evolution is based on the gene-centered approach of G.C. Williams, but he has also emphasized a potential role for group selection in the evolution of individual genomes and in human evolution. Alexander's views are internally inconsistent and (...) underestimate the importance of group selection. Specific themes that Alexander has developed in his account of human evolution are important but are best understood within the framework of multilevel selection theory. From this perspective, Alexander's views on moral systems are not the radical departure from conventional views that he claims, but remain radical in another way more compatible with conventional views. (shrink)
We suggest that anecdotes have evidentiary value in interpreting nonhuman primate behavior. We also believe that any outcome from the experiments proposed by Heyes can be interpreted as a product of previous experience with trainers or as associative learning using the experimental cues. No potential outcome is clearcut evidence for or against the theory of mind proposition.
No matter what we do, however kind or generous our deeds may seem, a hidden motive of selfishness lurks--or so science has claimed for years. This book, whose publication promises to be a major scientific event, tells us differently. In Unto Others philosopher Elliott Sober and biologist David Sloan Wilson demonstrate once and for all that unselfish behavior is in fact an important feature of both biological and human nature. Their book provides a panoramic view of altruism throughout the animal (...) kingdom--from self-sacrificing parasites to insects that subsume themselves in the superorganism of a colony to the human capacity for selflessness--even as it explains the evolutionary sense of such behavior. (shrink)
We argue that the presence of a word in an utterance serves as starting point for a relevance guided inferential process that results in the construction of a contextually appropriate sense. The linguistically encoded sense of a word does not serve as its default interpretation. The cases where the contextually appropriate sense happens to be identical to this linguistic sense have no particular theoretical significance. We explore some of the consequences of this view. One of these consequences is that there (...) may be many more mentally represented concepts than there are linguistically encoded concepts. (shrink)
Chiappe and Kukla argue that relevance theory fails to solve the frame problem as defined by Fodor. They are right. They are wrong, however, to take Fodors frame problem too seriously. Fodors concerns, on the other hand, even though they are wrongly framed, are worth addressing. We argue that Relevance thoery helps address them.
Words such as selfish and altruistic that describe conduct toward self and others are notoriously ambiguous in everyday language. I argue that the ambiguity is caused, in part, by the coexistence of multiple belief systems that use the same words in different ways. Each belief system is a relatively coherent linguistic entity that provides a guide for human behavior. It is therefore a functional entity with design features that dictate specific word meaning. Since different belief systems guide human behavior in (...) different directions, specific word meanings cannot be maintained across belief systems. Other sources of linguistic ambiguity include i) functional ambiguity that increases the effectiveness of a belief system, ii) ambiguity between belief systems that are functionally identical but historically distinct, and iii) active interference between belief systems. I illustrate these points with a natural history study of the word selfish and related words in everyday language. In general, language and the thought that it represents should be studied in the same way that ecologists study multi-species communities. (shrink)
The paper offers contextual and integrating comments about sex, evolution and psychopathology as a point of departure toward a new and more scientific understanding of human neurosis. The evolved roots of neurotic behavior are firmly linked to theorems of evolution, which is emerging as the basic science of psychopathology. Evolutionary tenets serve to: 1) redefine key aspects of neuroses, 2) place neurotic behavior in a broad and integrated evolutionary context, and 3) pose basic questions for all psychopathology. Readers who wish (...) to expand, clarify or confirm elements of might well consult basic books in either field as a passing familiarity with psychiatry and biology is assumed. (shrink)
Epidemiology is a science of disease which specifies rates (illness prevalences, incidences, distributions, etc.). Evolution is a science of life which specifies changes (gene frequencies, generations, forms, function, etc.). Evolutionary Epidemiology is a synthesis of these two sciences which combines the empirical power of classical methods in genetical epidemiology with the interpretive capacities of neo-darwinian evolutionary genetics. In particular, prevalence rates of genetical diseases are important data points when reformulated for the purpose of analysis in terms of their evolutionary frequencies. (...) Traits which exceedprevalences beyond the rates of mutation (in Hardy-Weinberg calculations) or evidence unusualrange of phenotypic reaction are of special interest. This is because traits which did not confer advantages in the environment of evolutionary adaptation cannot accede, through natural selection, to anything but low rates of genomic prevalence.Evolutionary epidemiology is, in all of medicine, of particular promise in ongoing efforts to better understand psychopathology. Many complexities of phenotypic adjustment arise when new developmental demands are placed on an old genome. The new and complex biosocial ecology of human mass society now evokes different phenotypes than those in the prehistorical ecology to which the genome is structurally and functionally better adapted. Some of these new phenotypes are darwinian failures. In this paper, the theoretical implications of evolutionary epidemiology are extended and some tentative points of clinical application (particularly to psychiatry) are offered. (shrink)
I examine the relationship between evolutionary definitions of altruism that are based on fitness effects and psychological definitions that are based on the motives of the actor. I show that evolutionary altruism can be motivated by proximate mechanisms that are psychologically either altruistic or selfish. I also show that evolutionary definitions do rely upon motives as a metaphor in which the outcome of natural selection is compared to the decisions of a psychologically selfish (or altruistic) individual. Ignoring the precise nature (...) of both psychological and evolutionary definitions has obscured many important issues, including the biological roots of psychological altruism. (shrink)
In the first book-length study of American philosophy at the turn of the century, Daniel J. Wilson traces the formation of philosophy as an academic discipline. Wilson shows how the rise of the natural and physical sciences at the end of the nineteenth century precipitated a "crisis of confidence" among philosophers as to the role of their discipline. Deftly tracing the ways in which philosophers sought to incorporate scientific values and methods into their outlook and to redefine philosophy itself, Wilson (...) moves between close analysis of philosophical texts and consideration of professional careers of illustrative philosophers, such as Charles Sanders Peirce, John Dewey, and Josiah Royce. The author situates the emergence of professional philosophy in the context of the professionalization of American higher education and articulates, in the case of philosophy, the structures and values of a professional discipline. One of the most important consequences of this transformation was a new emphasis on communal theories of truth. Peirce, Dewey, and Royce all developed sophisticated and important theories of community as they were engaged in reshaping and redefining the limits of philosophy. This book will be of great importance for those interested in the history of philosophy, the rise of professions, and American intellectual and educational history, and to all those seeking to understand the contemporary revival of pragmatic thought and theories of community. (shrink)
The primary outcome of natural selection is adaptation to an environment. The primary concern of epistemology is the acquistion of knowledge. Evolutionary epistemology must therefore draw a fundamental connection between adaptation and knowledge. Existing frameworks in evolutionary epistemology do this in two ways; (a) by treating adaptation as a form of knowledge, and (b) by treating the ability to acquire knowledge as a biologically evolved adaptation. I criticize both frameworks for failing to appreciate that mental representations can motivate behaviors that (...) are adaptive in the real world without themselves directly corresponding to the real world. I suggest a third framework in which mental representations are to reality as species are to ecosystems. This is a many-to-one relationship that predicts a diversity of adaptive representations in the minds of interacting people. As “species of thought”, mental representations share a number of properties with biological species, including isolating mechanisms that prevent them from blending with other representations. Species of thought also are amenable to the empirical methods that evolutionists use to study adaptation in biological species. Empirical studies of mental representations in everyday life might even be necessary for science to succeed as a normative “truth-seeking” discipline. (shrink)
How are non-declarative sentences understood? How do they differ semantically from their declarative counterparts? Answers to these questions once made direct appeal to the notion of illocutionary force. When they proved unsatisfactory, the fault was diagnosed as a failure to distinguish properly between mood and force. For some years now, efforts have been under way to develop a satisfactory account of the semantics of mood. In this paper, we consider the current achievements and future prospects of the mood-based semantic programme.