A generally ignored feature of Aristotle’s famous function argument is its reliance on the claim that practitioners of the crafts (technai) have functions: but this claim does important work. Aristotle is pointing to the fact that we judge everyday rational agency and agents by norms which are independent of their contingent desires: a good doctor is not just one who happens to achieve his personal goals through his work. But, Aristotle argues, such norms can only be binding on individuals (...) if human rational agency as such is governed by objective teleological norms. . (shrink)
We investigate the meaning of the wave function by analyzing the mass and charge density distributions of a quantum system. According to protective measurement, a charged quantum system has effective mass and charge density distributing in space, proportional to the square of the absolute value of its wave function. In a realistic interpretation, the wave function of a quantum system can be taken as a description of either a physical field or the ergodic motion of a particle. (...) The essential difference between a field and the ergodic motion of a particle lies in the property of simultaneity; a field exists throughout space simultaneously, whereas the ergodic motion of a particle exists throughout space in a time-divided way. If the wave function is a physical field, then the mass and charge density will be distributed in space simultaneously for a charged quantum system, and thus there will exist gravitational and electrostatic self-interactions of its wave function. This not only violates the superposition principle of quantum mechanics but also contradicts experimental observations. Thus the wave function cannot be a description of a physical field but a description of the ergodic motion of a particle. For the later there is only a localized particle with mass and charge at every instant, and thus there will not exist any self-interaction for the wave function. Which kind of ergodic motion of particles then? It is argued that the classical ergodic models, which assume continuous motion of particles, cannot be consistent with quantum mechanics. Based on the negative result, we suggest that the wave function is a description of the quantum motion of particles, which is random and discontinuous in nature. On this interpretation, the square of the absolute value of the wave function not only gives the probability of the particle being found in certain locations, but also gives the probability of the particle being there. We show that this new interpretation of the wave function provides a natural realistic alternative to the orthodox interpretation, and its implications for other realistic interpretations of quantum mechanics are also briefly discussed. (shrink)
The meaning of the wave function and its evolution are investigated. First, we argue that the wave function in quantum mechanics is a description of random discontinuous motion of particles, and the modulus square of the wave function gives the probability density of the particles being in certain locations in space. Next, we show that the linear non-relativistic evolution of the wave function of an isolated system obeys the free Schrödinger equation due to the requirements of (...) spacetime translation invariance and relativistic invariance. Thirdly, we argue that the random discontinuous motion of particles may lead to a stochastic, nonlinear collapse evolution of the wave function. A discrete model of energy-conserved wavefunction collapse is proposed and shown consistent with existing experiments and our macroscopic experience. Besides, we also give a critical analysis of the de Broglie-Bohm theory, the many-worlds interpretation and other dynamical collapse theories, and briefly discuss the issues of unifying quantum mechanics and relativity. (shrink)
The function of a trait token is usually defined in terms of some properties of other (past, present, future) tokens of the same trait type. I argue that this strategy is problematic, as trait types are (at least partly) individuated by their functional properties, which would lead to circularity. In order to avoid this problem, I suggest a way to define the function of a trait token in terms of the properties of the very same trait token. To (...) able to allow for the possibility of malfunctioning, some of these properties need to be modal ones: a function of a trait is to do F just in case its doing F would contribute to the inclusive fitness of the organism whose trait it is. Function attributions have modal force. Finally, I explore whether and how this theory of biological function could be modified to cover artifact function. (shrink)
I argue that there are at least four different ways in which the term ‘function’ is used in connection with the study of living organisms, namely: (1) function as (mere) activity, (2) function as biological role, (3) function as biological advantage, and (4) function as selected effect. Notion (1) refers to what an item does by itself; (2) refers to the contribution of an item or activity to a complex activity or capacity of an organism; (...) (3) refers to the value for the organism of an item having a certain character rather than another; (4) refers to the way in which a trait acquired and has maintained its current share in the population. The recognition of a separate notion of function as biological advantage solves the problem of the indeterminate reference situation that has been raised against a counterfactual analysis of function, and emphasizes the importance of counterfactual comparison in the explanatory practice of organismal biology. This reveals a neglected problem in the philosophy of biology, namely that of accounting for the insights provided. (shrink)
I clarify some of the details of the modal theory of function I outlined in Nanay (2010): (a) I explicate what it means that the function of a token biological trait is fixed by modal facts; (b) I address an objection to my trait type individuation argument against etiological function and (c) I examine the consequences of replacing the etiological theory of function with a modal theory for the prospects of using the concept of biological (...) class='Hi'>function to explain mental content. (shrink)
Function theorists routinely speculate that a viable function theory will be equally applicable to biological traits and artifacts. However, artifact function has received only the most cursory scrutiny in its own right. Closer scrutiny reveals that only a pluralist theory comprising two distinct notions of function--proper function and system function--will serve as an adequate general theory. The first section describes these two notions of function. The second section shows why both notions are necessary, (...) by showing that attempts to do away with one of them fail. This demonstration draws on examples from the artifactual realm to motivate major points of the argument. The third section is an outline of artifact function. It confirms the conclusions of the second section, and also begins the task of describing some of the special features of artifact function needing accommodation within the general theory. (shrink)
The survival enhancing propensity (SEP) account has a crucial role to play in the analysis of proper function. However, a central feature of the account, its specification of the proper environment to which functions are relativized, is seriously underdeveloped. In this paper, I argue that existent accounts of proper environment fail because they either allow too many or too few characters to count as proper functions. While SEP accounts retain their promise, they are unworkable because of their inability to (...) specify this important feature. However, I suggest that this problem can be overcome by the application of a new strategy for specifying proper environment that is grounded in the operation of natural selection and I conclude by offering a first approximation of such an account. (shrink)
We show that the physical meaning of the wave function can be derived based on the established parts of quantum mechanics. It turns out that the wave function represents the state of random discontinuous motion of particles, and its modulus square determines the probability density of the particles appearing in certain positions in space.
Conscious mental states are states we are in some way aware of. I compare higher-order theories of consciousness, which explain consciousness by appeal to such higher-order awareness (HOA), and first-order theories, which do not, and I argue that higher-order theories have substantial explanatory advantages. The higher-order nature of our awareness of our conscious states suggests an analogy with the metacognition that figures in the regulation of psychological processes and behaviour. I argue that, although both consciousness and metacognition involve higher-order psychological (...) states, they have little more in common. One thing they do share is the possibility of misrepresentation; just as metacognitive processing can misrepresent one’s cognitive states and abilities, so the HOA in virtue of which one’s mental states are conscious can, and sometimes does, misdescribe those states. A striking difference between the two, however, has to do with utility for psychological processing. Metacognition has considerable benefit for psychological processing; in contrast, it is unlikely that there is much, if any, utility to mental states’ being conscious over and above the utility those states have when they are not conscious. (shrink)
This article analyzes the implications of protective measurement for the meaning of the wave function. According to protective measurement, a charged quantum system has mass and charge density proportional to the modulus square of its wave function. It is shown that the mass and charge density is not real but effective, formed by the ergodic motion of a localized particle with the total mass and charge of the system. Moreover, it is argued that the ergodic motion is not (...) continuous but discontinuous and random. This result suggests a new interpretation of the wave function, according to which the wave function is a description of random discontinuous motion of particles, and the modulus square of the wave function gives the probability density of the particles being in certain locations. It is shown that the suggested interpretation of the wave function disfavors the de Broglie-Bohm theory and the many-worlds interpretation but favors the dynamical collapse theories, and the random discontinuous motion of particles may provide an appropriate random source to collapse the wave function. (shrink)
In ‘A modal theory of function’, I gave an argument against all existing theories of function and outlined a new theory. Karen Neander and Alex Rosenberg argue against both my negative and my positive claim. My aim here is not merely to defend my account from their objections, but to (a) very briefly point out that the new account of etiological function they propose in response to my criticism cannot avoid the circularity worry either and, more importantly, (...) to (b) highlight, and attempt to make precise, an important feature of my modal theory that may have been understated in the original paper – that function attributions depend on the explanatory project at hand. (shrink)
What is the biological function of perception? I hold perception, especially visual perception in humans, has the biological function of accurately representing the environment. Tyler Burge argues this cannot be so in Origins of Objectivity (Oxford, 2010), for accuracy is a semantical relationship and not, as such, a practical matter. Burge also provides a supporting example. I rebut the argument and the example. Accuracy is sometimes also a practical matter if accuracy partly explains how perception contributes to survival (...) and reproduction. (shrink)
Even if all of the content of conscious experience is encoded in the brain, there is a considerable difference between the view that consciousness does independent processing and the view that it does not. If all processing is done by the brain, then conscious experience is unnecessary and irrelevant to behavior. If consciousness performs a function, then its association with particular aspects of brain processing reflect its functional use in determining behavior. However, if consciousness does perform a function, (...) it cannot be described entirely by known physical laws. Rather, even if the content of conscious experience follows physical encoding in the brain, consciousness must then be governed in part by a principle which is different from any known physical principle. (shrink)
Functional hypotheses about animal signalling often refer to mental states of the sender or the receiver. Mental states are functional categorizations of neurophysiological states. Functional questions about animal signals are intertwined with causal questions. This interrelationship is illustrated in regard to avian distraction displays. In purposive signalling, the sender has a goal of influencing the behavior of the receiver. Purposive signalling is innovative if the sender's goal is unrelated to the biological function of the signal. This may be the (...) case in some instances of false alarm calling. Biological functionalism differs from philosophical functionalism in its concept of identity and in the specification of relevant inputs and outputs. (shrink)
Humans possess two nonverbal systems capable of representing numbers, both limited in their representational power: the first one represents numbers in an approximate fashion, and the second one conveys information about small numbers only. Conception of exact large numbers has therefore been thought to arise from the manipulation of exact numerical symbols. Here, we focus on two fundamental properties of the exact numbers as prerequisites to the concept of EXACT NUMBERS : the fact that all numbers can be generated by (...) a successor function and the fact that equality between numbers can be defined in an exact fashion. We discuss some recent findings assessing how speakers of Munduruc (an Amazonian language), and young Western children (3-4 years old) understand these fundamental properties of numbers. (shrink)
The Dirac δ function has solid roots in nineteenth century work in Fourier analysis and singular integrals by Cauchy and others, anticipating Dirac’s discovery by over a century, and illuminating the nature of Cauchy’s infinitesimals and his infinitesimal definition of δ.
Analyzing the ancient Greek point of view concerning anger, shame and justice and a very modern one, one can see, that anger has a regulative function, but shame does as well. Anger puts the other in his place, thereby regulating hierarchies. Shame regulates the social relations of recognition. And both emotions also have an evaluative function, because anger evaluates a situation with regard to a humiliation; shame, with regard to a misdemeanor. In addition, attention has to be paid (...) to the correct molding of these emotions and the correct ways of using them in rearing to be good or just (i.e., in personality formation. (shrink)
In this paper, I examine metaphysical aspects in the neuroeconomics debate. I propose that part of the debate can be better understood by supposing two metaphysical stances, mechanistic and functional. I characterize the two stances, and discuss their relations. I consider two models of framing, in order to illustrate how the features of mechanistic and functional stances figure in the practice of the sciences of individual decision making.
Drawing on Christopher Boorse's Biostatistical Theory (BST), Norman Daniels contends that a genuine health need is one which is necessary to restore normal functioning – a supposedly objective notion which he believes can be read from the natural world without reference to potentially controversial normative categories. But despite his claims to the contrary, this conception of health harbors arbitrary evaluative judgments which make room for intractable disagreement as to which conditions should count as genuine health needs and therefore which needs (...) should be met. I begin by offering a brief summary of Boorse's BST, the theory to which Daniels appeals for providing the conception of health as normal functioning upon which his overall distributive scheme rests. Next, I consider what I call practical objections to Daniels's use of Boorse's theory. Finally I recount Elseljin Kingma's theoretical objection to Boorse's BST and discuss its impact on Daniels's overall theory. Though I conclude that Boorse's view, so weakened, will no longer be able to sustain the judgments which Daniels's theory uses it to reach, in the end, I offer Daniels an olive branch by briefly sketching an alternative strategy for reaching suitably objective conclusions regarding the health and/or disease status of various conditions. (shrink)
Mirror neurons and systems are often appealed to as mechanisms enabling mindreading, i.e., understanding other people’s mental states. Such neural mirroring processes are often treated as instances of mental simulation rather than folk psychological theorizing. I will call into question this assumed connection between mirroring and simulation, arguing that mirroring does not necessarily constitute mental simulation as specified by the simulation theory of mindreading. I begin by more precisely characterizing “mirroring” (Sect. 2) and “simulation” (Sect. 3). Mirroring results in a (...) neural process in an observer that resembles a neural process of the same type in the observed agent. Although simulation is often characterized in terms of resemblance (Goldman, Simulating minds: The philosophy, psychology, and neuroscience of mindreading, 2006), I argue that simulation requires more than mere interpersonal mental resemblance: A simulation must have the purpose or function of resembling its target (Sect. 3.1). Given that mirroring processes are generated automatically, I focus on what is required for a simulation to possess the function of resembling its target. In Sect. 3.2 I argue that this resemblance function, at least in the case of simulation-based mindreading, requires that a simulation serve as a representation or stand-in of what it resembles. With this revised account of simulation in hand, in Sect. 4 I show that the mirroring processes do not necessarily possess the representational function required of simulation. To do so I describe an account of goal attribution involving a motor mirroring process that should not be characterized as interpersonal mental simulation. I end in Sect. 5 by defending the conceptual distinction between mirroring and simulation, and discussing the implications of this argument for the kind of neuroscientific evidence required by simulation theory. (shrink)
What can computers do in principle? What are their inherent theoretical limitations? These are questions to which computer scientists must address themselves. The theoretical framework which enables such questions to be answered has been developed over the last fifty years from the idea of a computable function: intuitively a function whose values can be calculated in an effective or automatic way. This book is an introduction to computability theory (or recursion theory as it is traditionally known to mathematicians). (...) Dr Cutland begins with a mathematical characterisation of computable functions using a simple idealised computer (a register machine); after some comparison with other characterisations, he develops the mathematical theory, including a full discussion of non-computability and undecidability, and the theory of recursive and recursively enumerable sets. The later chapters provide an introduction to more advanced topics such as Gildel's incompleteness theorem, degrees of unsolvability, the Recursion theorems and the theory of complexity of computation. Computability is thus a branch of mathematics which is of relevance also to computer scientists and philosophers. Mathematics students with no prior knowledge of the subject and computer science students who wish to supplement their practical expertise with some theoretical background will find this book of use and interest. (shrink)
This paper describes one style of functional analysis commonly used in the neurosciences called task-bound functional analysis. The concept of function invoked by this style of analysis is distinctive in virtue of the dependence relations it bears to transient environmental properties. It is argued that task-bound functional analysis cannot explain the presence of structural properties in nervous systems. An alternative concept of neural function is introduced that draws on the theoretical neuroscience literature, and an argument is given to (...) show that this alternative concept of may help to overcome the explanatory limitations of task-bound functional analysis. (shrink)
Both biological traits and artifacts have proper functions. But accounts of proper function are typically based on the biological case. So adapting these accounts to the artifact case requires finding cultural analogues of biological concepts. This can go wrong in two ways. The biological concepts may not pick out either biological or cultural proper functions correctly; or they may have no cultural analogues. I argue that things have gone wrong in the first way with regard to selection and in (...) the second way with regard to fitness. Finally, I argue that the only way forward is to examine the phenomena of reproduction and use in material culture. -/- . (shrink)
Consciousness is a mongrel concept: there are a number of very different "consciousnesses." Phenomenal consciousness is experience; the phenomenally conscious aspect of a state is what it is like to be in that state. The mark of access-consciousness, by contrast, is availability for use in reasoning and rationally guiding speech and action. These concepts are often partly or totally conflated, with bad results. This target article uses as an example a form of reasoning about a function of "consciousness" based (...) on the phenomenon of blindsight. Some information about stimuli in the blind field is represented in the brains of blindsight patients, as shown by their correct "guesses," but they cannot harness this information in the service of action, and this is said to show that a function of phenomenal consciousness is somehow to enable information represented in the brain to guide action. But stimuli in the blind field are BOTH access-unconscious and phenomenally unconscious. The fallacy is: an obvious function of the machinery of access-consciousness is illicitly transferred to phenomenal consciousness. (shrink)
Here, we argue that any neurobiological theory based on an experience/function division cannot be empirically confirmed or falsified and is thus outside the scope of science. A ‘perfect experiment’ illustrates this point, highlighting the unbreachable boundaries of the scientific study of consciousness. We describe a more nuanced notion of cognitive access that captures personal experience without positing the existence of inaccessible conscious states. Finally, we discuss the criteria necessary for forming and testing a falsifiable theory of consciousness.
Several theories claim that dreaming is a random by-product of REM sleep physiology and that it does not serve any natural function. Phenomenal dream content, however, is not as disorganized as such views imply. The form and content of dreams is not random but organized and selective: during dreaming, the brain constructs a complex model of the world in which certain types of elements, when compared to waking life, are underrepresented whereas others are over represented. Furthermore, dream content is (...) consistently and powerfully modulated by certain types of waking experiences. On the basis of this evidence, I put forward the hypothesis that the biological function of dreaming is to simulate threatening events, and to rehearse threat perception and threat avoidance. To evaluate this hypothesis, we need to consider the original evolutionary context of dreaming and the possible traces it has left in the dream content of the present human population. In the ancestral environment human life was short and full of threats. Any behavioral advantage in dealing with highly dangerous events would have increased the probability of reproductive success. A dream-production mechanism that tends to select threatening waking events and simulate them over and over again in various combinations would have been valuable for the development and maintenance of threat-avoidance skills. Empirical evidence from normative dream content, children's dreams, recurrent dreams, nightmares, post traumatic dreams, and the dreams of hunter-gatherers indicates that our dream-production mechanisms are in fact specialized in the simulation of threatening events, and thus provides support to the threat simulation hypothesis of the function of dreaming. Key Words: dream content; dream function; evolution of consciousness; evolutionary psychology; fear; implicit learning; nightmares; rehearsal; REM; sleep; threat perception. (shrink)
I defend the historical definition of "function" originally given in my Language, Thought and Other Biological Categories (1984a). The definition was not offered in the spirit of conceptual analysis but is more akin to a theoretical definition of "function". A major theme is that nonhistorical analyses of "function" fail to deal adequately with items that are not capable of performing their functions.
Todd Moody’s Zombie Earth thought experiment is an attempt to show that ‘conscious inessentialism’ is false or in need of qualification. We defend conscious inessentialism against his criticisms, and argue that zombie thought experiments highlight the need to explain why consciousness evolved and what function(s) it serves. This is the hardest problem in consciousness studies.
This paper applies the theory of teleosemantics to the issue of moral content. Two versions of teleosemantics are distinguished: input-based and output-based. It is argued that applying either to the case of moral judgements generates the conclusion that such judgements have both descriptive (belief-like) and directive (desire-like) content, intimately entwined. This conclusion directly validates neither descriptivism nor expressivism, but the application of teleosemantics to moral content does leave the descriptivist with explanatory challenges which the expressivist does not face. Since teleosemantics (...) ties content to function, the paper also offers an account of the evolutionary function of moral judgements. (shrink)
Both cognitive science and phenomenology accept the primacy of the organism-environment system and recognize that cognition should be understood in terms of an embodied agent situated in its environment. How embodiment is seen to shape our world, however, is fundamentally different in these two disciplines. Embodiment, as understood in cognitive science, reduces to a discussion of the consequences of having a body like ours interacting with our environment and the relationship is one of contingent causality. Embodiment, as understood phenomenologically, represents (...) the condition of intelligibility of certain terms in our experience and, as such, refers to one aspect of that background which presupposes our understanding of the world. The goals and approach to modeling an embodied agent in its environment are also fundamentally different dependent on which relationship is addressed. These differences are highlighted and are used to support our phenomenologically based approach to organism-environment interaction and its relationship to brain function. (shrink)
This paper reviews the debate on the notion of biological function and on functional explanation as this takes place in philosophy. It describes the different perspectives, issues, intuitions, theories and arguments that have emerged. The author shows that the debate has been too heavily influenced by the concerns of a naturalistic philosophy of mind and argues that in order to improve our understanding of biology the attention should be shifted from the study of intuitions to the study of the (...) actual practice of biological inquiry. (shrink)
In Origins of Objectivity, Burge presents three arguments against what he calls ‘deflationism’: the project of explaining the representational function in terms of the notion of biological function. I evaluate these arguments and argue that they are not convincing.
David Rosenthal is a well-known defender of a particular kind of theory of consciousness known as the higher-order thought theory (HOTT). Higher-order theories are united by what Rosenthal calls the Transitivity Principle (TP), which states that a mental state is conscious iff one is conscious of oneself, in some suitable way, as being in that mental state. Since there are various ways to implement TP and HOTT commits one to the view that any mental state could occur unconsciously it seems (...) to predict that a mental state’s being conscious doesn’t have any significant function to perform. An unconscious mental state, according to the theory, has most of its causal connections already, as evidenced by priming studies, subliminal perception, and other empirical findings. Given this, one early objection to HOTT was to emphasize this consequence of the theory. Since consciousness does have a function any theory which predicts that it doesn’t must be suspect. Rosenthal’s primary goal in this paper is to defend HOTT against this objection. In fact he argues that if we could establish that consciousness has no function independently of HOTT we would then have an analogous argument for it: Since consciousness doesn’t have any significant function any theory which predicts that it doesn’t fares be. (shrink)
People have intuitively assumed that many acts of volition are not influenced by unconscious information. However, the available evidence suggests that under suitable conditions, unconscious information can influence behavior and the underlying neural mechanisms. One possibility is that stimuli that are consciously perceived tend to yield strong signals in the brain, and this makes us think that consciousness has the function of sending such strong signals. However, if we could create conditions where the stimuli could produce strong signals but (...) not the conscious experience of perception, perhaps we would find that such stimuli are just as effective in influencing volitional behavior. (shrink)
Philosophers of evolutionary biology favor the so-called etiological concept of function according to which the function of a trait is its evolutionary purpose, defined as the effect for which that trait was favored by natural selection. We term this the selected effect (SE) analysis of function. An alternative account of function was introduced by Robert Cummins in a non-evolutionary and non-purposive context. Cummins''s account has received attention but little support from philosophers of biology. This paper will (...) show that a similar non-purposive concept of function, which we term causal role (CR) function, is crucial to certain research programs in evolutionary biology, and that philosophical criticisms of Cummins''s concept are ineffective in this scientific context. Specifically, we demonstrate that CR functions are a vital and ineliminable part of research in comparative and functional anatomy, and that biological categories used by anatomists are not defined by the application of SE functional analysis. Causal role functions are non-historically defined, but may themselves be used in an historical analysis. Furthermore, we show that a philosophical insistence on the primary of SE functions places practicing biologists in an untenable position, as such functions can rarely be demonstrated (in contrast to CR functions). Biologists who study the form and function of organismal design recognize that it is virtually impossible to identify the past action of selection on any particular structure retrospectively, a requirement for recognizing SE functions. (shrink)
Running head: Functional neuroimaging Abstract Several recently developed techniques enable the investigation of the neural basis of cognitive function in the human brain. Two of these, PET and fMRI, yield whole-brain images reflecting regional neural activity associated with the performance of specific tasks. This article explores the spatial and temporal capabilities and limitations of these techniques, and discusses technical, biological, and cognitive issues relevant to understanding the goals and methods of neuroimaging studies. The types of advances in understanding cognitive (...) and brain function made possible with these methods are illustrated with examples from the neuroimaging literature. (shrink)
The idea of integrating evolutionary biology and psychology has great promise, but one that will be compromised if psychological functions are conceived too abstractly and neuroscience is not allowed to play a contructive role. We argue that the proper integration of neuroscience, psyychology, and evolutionary biology requires a telelogical as opposed to a merely componential analysis of function. A teleological analysis is required in neuroscience itself; we point to traditional and curent research methods in neuroscience, which make critical use (...) of distinctly teleological functional considerations in brain cartography. Only by invoking teleological criteria can researchers distinguish the fruitful ways of identifying brain components from the myriad of possible ways. One likely reason for reluctance to turn to neuroscience is fear of reduction, but we argue that, in the context of a teleological perspective on function, this concern is misplaced. Adducing such theoretical considerations as top-down and bottom-up constraints on neuroscientific and psychological models, as well as existing cases of productive, multidisciplinary cooperation, we argue that integration of neuroscience into psychology and evolutionary biology is likely to be mutually beneficial. We also show how it can be accommodated methodologically within the framework of an interfield theory. (shrink)
It is seldom in dispute that genealogy, or genealogical accounts are central to Nietzsche’s philosophic enterprise. The role that genealogy plays in Nietzsche’s thought is little understood, however, as is Nietzsche’s argumentation in general, and, for that matter, what Nietzsche might be arguing for. In this paper I attempt to summarize Nietzsche’s genealogical account of modern ethical practices and offer an explanation of the philosophical import of genealogy. The difficulties in coming to understand the philosophical function of genealogy are (...) obvious. Genealogy, whatever else we say about it, offers a story of the genesis of contemporary ethical beliefs and practices. The story that Nietzsche gave is obviously a revisionist one, and Nietzsche seldom cites specific historical evidence; although it contains many historical allusions, the presentation is thematic or even mythical. At the same time, Nietzsche’s interests were primarily ethical: he seems to be attempting, in some novel way, either to solve or to eliminate1 philosophical problems about norms and values. In particular, he offered his genealogy as part of a critique of specifically “modern” values and the advancement of an “immoralism” that would take their place. So the difficulties are: it is unclear what status we should accord Nietzsche’s stories in particular, and it is unclear what role any story about the emergence of modern values can play in an assessment of those values. We seem to need a reason to take Nietzsche’s account as particularly authoritative, and then an explanation of how his account does in fact bear upon the normative status of “modern values.”. (shrink)
In some recent papers, Max Coltheart has questioned the ability of neuroimaging techniques to tell us anything interesting about the mind and has thrown down the gauntlet before neuroimagers, challenging them to prove he is mistaken. Here I analyze Coltheart’s challenge, show that as posed its terms are unfair, and reconstruct it so that it is addressable. I argue that, so modified, Coltheart’s challenge is able to be met and indeed has been met. In an effort to (...) delineate the extent of neuroimaging’s ability to address Coltheart’s concerns, I explore how different brain structure‐function relationships would constrain the ability of neuroimaging to provide insight about psychological questions. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
It’s recently been argued that biological fitness can’t change over the course of an organism’s life as a result of organisms’ behaviors. However, some characterizations of biological function and biological altruism tacitly or explicitly assume that an effect of a trait can change an organism’s fitness. In the first part of the paper, I explain that the core idea of changing fitness can be understood in terms of conditional probabilities defined over sequences of events in an organism’s life. The (...) result is a notion of “conditional fitness” which is static but which captures intuitions about apparent behavioral effects on fitness. The second part of the paper investigates the possibility of providing a systematic foundation for conditional fitness in terms of spaces of sequences of states of an organism and its environment. I argue that the resulting “organism–environment history conception” helps unify diverse biological perspectives, and may provide part of a metaphysics of natural selection. (shrink)
Emergence seems necessary for any naturalistic account of the world — none of our familiar world existed at the time of the Big Bang, and it does now — and normative emergence is necessary for any naturalistic account of biology and mind — mental phenomena, such as representation, learning, rationality, and so on, are normative. But Jaegwon Kim’s argument appears to render causally efficacious emergence impossible, and Hume’s argument appears to render normative emergence impossible, and, in its general form, it (...) precludes any emergence at all. I argue that both of these barriers can be overcome, and, in fact, that they each constitute reductios of their respective underlying presuppositions. In particular, causally efficacious ontological emergence can be modeled, but only within a process metaphysics, thus avoiding Kim’s argument, and by making use of non-abbreviatory forms of definition, thus avoiding Hume’s argument. I illustrate these points with models of the emergent nature of normative function and of representation. (shrink)
Christopher Boorse's Bio Statistical Theory (BST) defines health as the absence of disease, and disease as the adverse departure from normal species functioning. This paper presents a two-pronged problem for this account. First I demonstrate that, in order to accurately account for dynamic physiological functions, Boorse's account of normal function needs to be modified to index functions against situations. I then demonstrate that if functions are indexed against situations, the BST can no longer account for diseases that result from (...) specific environmental factors. The BST is impaled on either horn of this dilemma and therefore must be dismissed. (shrink)
In this paper we examine the following problems: How many concepts of function are there in biology, social science, and technology? Are they logically related and if so, how? Which of these function concepts effect a functional explanation as opposed to a mere functional account? What are the consequences of a pluralist view of functions for functionalism? We submit that there are five concepts of function in biology, which are logically related in a particular way, and six (...)function concepts in social science and technology. Only two of them may help effect a genuine functional explanation. Finally, our synthetic approach allows us to distinguish four different varieties of functionalism in biology, psychology, social science, and technology: formalist, black boxist, adaptationist, and teleological. And only one of them is explanatory in the strong sense defended here. (shrink)
There are legitimate worries about gaps between scientific evidence of brain states and function (for example, as evidenced by fMRI data) and legal criteria for determining criminal culpability. In this paper I argue that behavioral evidence of capacity, motive and intent appears easier for judges and juries to use for purposes of determining criminal liability because such evidence triggers the application of commonsense psychological (CSP) concepts that guide and structure criminal responsibility. In contrast, scientific evidence of neurological processes and (...)function – such as evidence that the defendant has a large brain tumor – will not generally lead a judge or jury to directly infer anything that is relevant to the legal determination of criminal culpability . (Vincent 2008) In these cases, an expert witness will be required to indicate to the fact-finder what this evidence means with regard to mental capacity; and then another inference will have to be made from this possible lack of capacity to the legal criteria for guilt, cast in CSP terms.<br><br>To reliably link evidence of brain function and structure and assessment of criminal responsibility, we need to re-conceptualize the mental capacities necessary for responsibility, particularly those that are recognized as missing or compromised by the doctrines of “legal capacity” (Hart 1968) and “diminished capacity.” I argue that formulating these capacities as executive functions within the brain can provide this link. I further claim that it would be extremely useful to consider evidence of executive function as related to the diminished capacity doctrine at sentencing. This is because it is primarily at this stage in criminal proceedings where the use of the diminished capacity doctrine is most prevalent, as evidenced by the recent Supreme Court cases of Atkins v. Virginia (536 U.S. 304 (2002)) and Roper v. Simmons (543 U.S. 551 (2005)).<br>. (shrink)
This article argues that at least very many judgments of homology rest on prior attributions of selected‐effect (SE) function, and that many of the “parts” of biological systems that are rightly classified as homologous are constituted by (are so classified in virtue of) their consequence etiologies. We claim that SE functions are often used in the prior identification of the parts deemed to be homologous and are often used to differentiate more restricted homologous kinds within less restricted ones. In (...) doing so, we discuss recent criticism of this view that has been offered (especially that offered by Paul Griffiths). *Received July 2007; revised November 2008. †To contact the authors, please write to: Department of Philosophy, 201 West Duke Building, Box 90743, Durham, NC 27708; e‐mail: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. (shrink)
The literature on time perception is discussed. This is done with reference both to the ''cognitive-timer'' model for time estimation and to the subjective experience of apparent duration. Three assumptions underlying the model are scrutinized. I stress the strong interplay among attention, arousal, and time perception, which is at the base of the cognitive-timer model. It is suggested that a multiplicative function of two key components (the number of subjective time units and their size) should predict apparent duration. Implications (...) for other cognitive domains are drawn, and in particular an analogy is suggested between apparent duration and apparent movement. (shrink)
Naturalistic teleological accounts of mental content rely on an etiological theory of function. Nanay has raised a new objection to an etiological theory, and proposed an alternative theory of function that attributes modal force to claims about function. The aim of this paper is both to defend and to cast a new light on an etiological theory of function. I argue against Nanay’s “trait type individuation objection,” suggesting that an etiological theory also attributes modal force to (...) claims about function. An etiological theory of function can be thought to analyze claims about function with modal force, not relying on any theory of counterfactuals. (shrink)
This book explains the relationship between intelligence and environmental complexity, and in so doing links philosophy of mind to more general issues about the relations between organisms and environments, and to the general pattern of 'externalist' explanations. The author provides a biological approach to the investigation of mind and cognition in nature. In particular he explores the idea that the function of cognition is to enable agents to deal with environmental complexity. The history of the idea in the work (...) of Dewey and Spencer is considered, as is the impact of recent evolutionary theory on our understanding of the place of mind in nature. (shrink)
Perceptions "present" objects as red, as round, etc.-- in general as possessing some property. This is the "perceptual content" of the title, And the article attempts to answer the following question: what is a materialistically adequate basis for assigning content to what are, after all, neurophysiological states of biological organisms? The thesis is that a state is a perception that presents its object as "F" if the "biological function" of the state is to detect the presence of objects that (...) are "F". The theory contrasts with causal/informational theories, and with internalist theories, for example those which assign content on the basis of introspected feel. Its advantages are that it permits perceptual error while at the same time allowing content to be expressed in terms of external properties. The argument of the paper is illustrated throughout by examples from biology and computational psychology. (shrink)
I argue that the wave function ontology for quantum mechanics is an undesirable ontology. This ontology holds that the fundamental space in which entities evolve is not three-dimensional, but instead 3N-dimensional, where N is the number of particles standardly thought to exist in three-dimensional space. I show that the state of three-dimensional objects does not supervene on the state of objects in 3N-dimensional space. I also show that the only way to guarantee the existence of the appropriate mental states (...) in the wave function ontology has undesirable metaphysical baggage: either mind/body dualism is true, or circumstances which we take to be logically possible turn out to be logically impossible.While our theory can be extended formally in a logically consistent way by introducing the concept of a wave in a 3N-dimensional space, it is evident that this procedure is not really acceptable in a physical theory... (Bohm 1957, 117). (shrink)
The aim of this paper is to give a detailed reconstruction of Frege's solution to his puzzle about the cognitive function of truth, which is this: On the one hand, the concept of truth seems to play an essential role in acquiring knowledge because the transition from the mere hypothetical assumption that p to the acknowledgement of its truth is a crucial step in acquiring the knowledge that p, while, on the other hand, this concept seems to be completely (...) redundant because the sense of the word 'true' does not make any essential contribution to the senses of the sentences in which it occurs. (shrink)
To have a fully integrated understanding of neurobiological systems, we must address two fundamental questions: 1. What do brains do (what is their function)? and 2. How do brains do whatever it is that they do (how is that function implemented)? I begin by arguing that these questions are necessarily inter-related. Thus, addressing one without consideration of an answer to the other, as is often done, is a mistake. I then describe what I take to be the best (...) available approach to addressing both questions. Specifically, to address 2, I adopt the Neural Engineering Framework (NEF) of Eliasmith & Anderson [Neural engineering: Computation representation and dynamics in neurobiological systems. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003] which identifies implementational principles for neural models. To address 1, I suggest that adopting statistical modeling methods for perception and action will be functionally sufficient for capturing biological behavior. I show how these two answers will be mutually constraining, since the process of model selection for the statistical method in this approach can be informed by known anatomical and physiological properties of the brain, captured by the NEF. Similarly, the application of the NEF must be informed by functional hypotheses, captured by the statistical modeling approach. (shrink)
This paper replies to Nanay’s response to my recent paper. My suggestions are the following. First, “should” or “ought” does not need to be deontic. Second, etiological theories of function, like provability logic, do not need to attribute modal force to their explanans. Third, the explanans of the homological account of trait type individuation does not appeal to a trait’s etiological function, that is, what a trait should or ought to do. Finally, my reference to Cummins’s notion of (...)function was intended to note that the homological account is permitted to use this non-etiological notion of function. (shrink)
Current cognitive science models of perception and action assume that the objects that we move toward and perceive are represented as determinate in our experience of them. A proper phenomenology of perception and action, however, shows that we experience objects indeterminately when we are perceiving them or moving toward them. This indeterminacy, as it relates to simple movement and perception, is captured in the proposed phenomenologically based recurrent network models of brain function. These models provide a possible foundation from (...) which predicative structures may arise as an emergent phenomenon without the positing of a representing subject. These models go some way in addressing the dual constraints of phenomenological accuracy and neurophysiological plausibility that ought to guide all projects devoted to discovering the physical basis of human experience. (shrink)
An examination of difficulties in three standard accounts of functions leads to the suggestion that sentences of the form "the function of x is to do y" are used to make a variety of different claims, all of which involve a means-end relationship and the idea of design, or use, or benefit. The analysis proposed enables us to see what is right and also wrong with accounts that analyze the meaning of function statements in terms of good consequences, (...) goals, and etiological explanation. It also enables us to show that function sentences can be used in providing various types of explanations, including, in certain cases, noncausal explanations of the presence of the item with the function. (shrink)
One of Frege's most characteristic ideas is his conception of truth-values as objects. On his account (from 1891 onwards), concepts are functions that map objects onto one of the two truth-values, the True and the False. These two truth-values are also seen as objects, an implication of Frege's sharp distinction between objects and functions. Crucial to this account is his use of function-argument analysis, and in this paper I explore the relationship between this use and his introduction of truth-values (...) as objects.In the first section I look at Frege's use of function-argument analysis in his first work, the Begriffsschrift, and stress the importance of the idea that such a use permits alternative analyses. In the second section I examine his early notion of conceptual content, and argue that there is a problem in understanding that notion once alternative analyses are allowed. In the third section I turn to his key 1891 paper, 'Function and Concept', where the idea of truth-values as objects first appears, and consider its motivation. In the concluding section I comment on Frege's general philosophical approach, which allowed objects to be readily 'analyzed out' in transforming one sentence into another. (shrink)
Recently something close to a consensus about the best way to naturalize the notion of biological function appears to be emerging. Nonetheless, teleological notions in biology remain controversial. In this paper we provide a naturalistic analysis for the notion of natural design. Many authors assume that natural design should be assimilated directly to function. Others find the notion problematic because it suggests that evolution is a directed process. We argue that both of these views are mistaken. Our naturalistic (...) account does not simply equate design with function. We argue that the distinction between function and design is important for understanding the evolution of the physical and behavioral traits of organisms. (shrink)
This paper discusses whether rationality, morality or prudence impose process-requirements upon us. It has been argued that process-requirements fulfil two essential functions within a system of rational, moral or prudential requirements. These functions are considered to prove the existence of process-requirements. First, process-requirements are deemed necessary to ensure that rationality, morality or prudence can guide our deliberations and actions. Second, their existence is regarded as essential for the correctness of our ordinary explanations of why a person possesses a certain degree (...) of morality, rationality or prudence. However, I argue that these two functions are unable to show the existence of process-requirements. Instead, I propose a different essential function for process-requirements: they are necessary for attributing the correct degree of rationality, morality or prudence to a subject who is not entirely rational, moral or prudent. This function, I argue, necessitates the existence of process-requirements. (shrink)
According to historical theories of biological function, a trait's function is determined by natural selection in the past. I argue that, in addition to historical functions, ahistorical functions ought to be recognized. I propose a theory of biological function which accommodates both. The function of a trait is the way it contributes to fitness and fitness can only be determined relative to a selective regime. Therefore, the function of a trait can only be specified relative (...) to a selective regime. Apart from its desirable pluralism, only this view of relational function can support the function/accident and function/malfunction distinctions commonly thought to be part of the concept of function. Furthermore, only relational function correctly characterizes the explanatory consequences of function attributions in evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a method capable of transiently modulating neural excitability. Depending on the stimulation parameters information processing in the brain can be either enhanced or disrupted. This way the contribution of different brain areas involved in mental processes can be studied, allowing a functional decomposition of cognitive behavior both in the temporal and spatial domain, hence providing a functional resolution of brain/mind processes. The aim of the present paper is to argue that TMS with its ability to (...) draw causal inferences on function and its neural representations is a valuable neurophysiological tool for investigating the causal basis of neuronal functions and can provide substantive insight into the modern interdisciplinary and (anti)reductionist neurophilosophical debates concerning the relationships between brain functions and mental abilities. Thus, TMS can serve as a heuristic method for resolving causal issues in an arena where only correlative tools have traditionally been available. (shrink)
I argue for two claims. First I argue against the consensus view that accurate behavioral prediction based on accurate representation of cognitive states, i.e. mind reading , is the sustaining function of propositional attitude ascription. This practice cannot have been selected in evolution and cannot persist, in virtue of its predictive utility, because there are principled reasons why it is inadequate as a tool for behavioral prediction. Second I give reasons that favor an alternative account of the sustaining (...) class='Hi'>function of propositional attitude ascription. I argue that it serves a mind-shaping function. Roughly, propositional attitude ascription enables human beings to set up regulative ideals that function to mold behavior so as to make it easier to coordinate with. (shrink)
I defend the view that many biological categories are defined by homology against a series of arguments designed to show that all biological categories are defined, at least in part, by selected function. I show that categories of homology are `abnormality inclusive'—something often alleged to be unique to selected function categories. I show that classifications by selected function are logically dependent on classifications by homology, but not vice-versa. Finally, I reject the view that biologists must use considerations (...) of selected function to abstract away from variation and pathology to form a canonical description of a class of biological systems. (shrink)
Jonathan Kvanvig has argued that what he terms “doxastic” theories of epistemic justification fail to account for certain epistemic features having to do with evidence. I’m going to give an argument roughly along these lines, but I’m going to focus specifically on proper function theories of justification or warrant. In particular, I’ll focus on Michael Bergmann’s recent proper function account of justification, though the argument applies also to Alvin Plantinga’s proper function account of warrant. The epistemic features (...) I’m concerned about are experiences that should generate a believed defeater but don’t. I’ll argue that proper functionalism as it stands cannot account for the epistemic effects of these defeating experiences—or, at least, that it can only do so by embracing a deeply implausible view of our cognitive faculties. I’ll conclude by arguing that the only plausible option Bergmann has for modifying his theory undercuts the consideration that motivates proper functionalism in the first place. (shrink)
Michael Bergmann seeks to motivate his externalist, proper function theory of epistemic justification by providing three objections to the mentalism and mentalist evidentialism characteristic of nonexternalists such as Richard Feldman and Earl Conee. Bergmann argues that (i) mentalism is committed to the false thesis that justification depends on mental states; (ii) mentalism is committed to the false thesis that the epistemic fittingness of an epistemic input to a belief-forming process must be due to an essential feature of that input, (...) and, relatedly, that mentalist evidentialism is committed to the false thesis that the epistemic fittingness of doxastic response B to evidence E is an essential property of B–E; and (iii) mentalist evidentialism is “unmotivated”. I object to each argument. The argument for (i) begs the question. The argument for (ii) suffers from the fact that mentalist evidentialists are not committed to the consequences claimed for them; nevertheless, I show that there is, in the neighborhood, a substantive dispute concerning the nature of doxastic epistemic fittingness. That dispute involves what I call “Necessary Fittingness”, the view that, necessarily, exactly one (at most) doxastic attitude ( belief , or disbelief , or suspension of judgment ) toward a proposition is epistemically fitting with respect to a person’s total evidence at any time. Reflection on my super-blooper epistemic design counterexamples to Bergmann’s proper function theory reveals both the plausibility of Necessary Fittingness and a good reason to deny (iii). Mentalist evidentialism is thus vindicated against the objections. (shrink)
Weak phantasmata have a decisive and specifically transcendental function in our everyday perception. This paper provides several different arguments for this claim based on evidence from both empirical psychology and phenomenology.
This article accepts the proposition that old people want to be treated with dignity and that statements about dignity point to ethical duties that, if not independent of rights, at least enhance rights in ethically important ways. In contexts of policy and law, dignity can certainly have a substantive as well as rhetorical function. However, the article questions whether the concept of dignity can provide practical guidance for choosing among alternative approaches to the care of old people. The article (...) explores the paradoxical relationship between the apparent lack of specific content in many conceptions of dignity and the broad utility that dignity appears to have as a concept expressive of shared social understandings about the status of old people. (shrink)
Solms shows the cortical basis for why dreams reflect waking concerns and goals, but with deficient volition. I argue the latter relates to Hobson et al.'s process I as well as M. A memory function for REM sleep is possible, but may be irrelevant to dream characteristics, which, contrary to Revonsuo, mirror the range of waking emotions, positive and negative. [Hobson et al.; Nielsen; Solms; Revonsuo; Vertes & Eastman].
Function emerges in certain kinds of far-from-equilibrium systems. One important kind of function is that of interactive anticipation, an adaptedness to temporal complexity. Interactive anticipation is the locus of the emergence of normative representational content, and, thus, of representation in general: interactive anticipation is the naturalistic core of the evolution of cognition. Higher forms of such anticipation are involved in the subsequent macro-evolutionary sequence of learning, emotions, and reflexive consciousness.
This paper considers the role of mathematics in the process of acquiring new knowledge in physics and astronomy. The defining of the notions of continuum and discreteness in mathematics and the natural sciences is examined. The basic forms of representing the heuristic function of mathematics at theoretical and empirical levels of knowledge are studied: deducing consequences from the axiomatic system of theory, the method of generating mathematical hypotheses, “pure” proofs for the existence of objects and processes, mathematical modelling, the (...) formation of mathematics on the basis of internal mathematical principles and the mathematical theory of experiment. (shrink)
Preface -- Part I : Mastering the basics. The importance of public relations : Case: UPS faces losses in Teamster's union strike ; What is public relations? ; Models and approaches to public relations ; Public relations as a management function -- Part II : Organizations and processes. Organizational factors contributing to excellent public relations ; How public relations contributes to organizational effectiveness ; Identifying and prioritizing stakeholders and publics ; Public relations research: the key to strategy ; The (...) public relations process: RACE -- Part III : The practice and best practices. The practice of public relations ; Ethics, leadership and counseling roles, and moral analyses ; Best practices for excellence in public relations -- Notes -- References -- Index. (shrink)
“Functional homology” appears regularly in different areas of biological research and yet it is apparently a contradiction in terms—homology concerns identity of structure regardless of form and function. I argue that despite this conceptual tension there is a legitimate conception of ‘homology of function’, which can be recovered by utilizing a distinction from pre-Darwinian physiology (use versus activity) to identify an appropriate meaning of ‘function’. This account is directly applicable to molecular developmental biology and shares a connection (...) to the theme of hierarchy in homology. I situate ‘homology of function’ within existing definitions and criteria for structural assessments of homology, and introduce a criterion of ‘organization’ for judging function homologues, which focuses on hierarchically interconnected interdependencies (similar to relative position and connection for skeletal elements in structural homology). This analysis of biological concepts has at least three broad philosophical consequences: (1) it provides the grounds for the study of behavior and psychological categories as homologues; (2) it demonstrates that philosophers who take selected effect function as primary effectively ignore large portions of comparative, structural, and experimental research, thereby misconstruing biological reasoning and knowledge; and, (3) it underwrites causal generalizations, which illuminates inferences made from model organisms in experimental biology. (shrink)
Synthetic biology, an emerging field of science and technology, intends to make of the natural world a substrate for engineering practice. Drawing inspiration from conventional engineering disciplines, practitioners of synthetic biology hope to make biological systems standardized, calculable, modular, and predictably functional. This essay develops a Heideggerian reading of synthetic biology as a useful perspective with which to identify and explore key facets of this field, its knowledge, its practices, and its products. After overviews of synthetic biology and Heidegger’s account (...) of technology, I discuss calculability, utility, function, setting-upon, and ordering, with the aim of discussing the manner in which synthetic biology works to render the biological world intelligible as something to be used, rather than something that is in and of itself. Having developed this Heideggerian reading, I proffer a number of corrections to his account that enable a more accurate, nuanced understanding of synthetic biology. Specifically, I discuss the notion of Ge-stell and submit that multiple systems of “enframing” may help to make Heidegger’s argument more robust. I suggest that synthetic biology may work to reveal the natural world as a standing-reserve of function. (shrink)
Blair proposes that fluid intelligence, working memory, and executive function form a unitary construct: fluid cognition. Recently, our group has utilized a combined correlational–experimental cognitive neuroscience approach, which we argue is beneficial for investigating relationships among these individual differences in terms of neural mechanisms underlying them. Our data do not completely support Blair's strong position. (Published Online April 5 2006).
Art and the aesthetic -- Traditional aestheticism -- A new aestheticism -- Aesthetic communication -- The artworld and the practice of art -- The artifactual concept of function -- Art as an aesthetic practice -- Artistic value as aesthetic.
The question of the function of modal judgement is an interesting philosophical issue, and John Divers's paper (this volume) has persuaded me that it has not received the attention it deserves. I think it is an important and interesting question even apart from any more ambitious claims that are made about its role in settling other issues about modality. Even if we became convinced that the story about function put no constraints whatsoever, epistemologically or metaphysically, on a theory (...) of modality, it would still remain an interesting question about one of the pervasive and perhaps fundamental things we do in our cognitive lives. (shrink)
The idea of integrating evolutionary biology and psychology has great promise, but one that will be compromised if psychological functions are conceived too abstractly and neuroscience is not allowed to play a contructive role. We argue that the proper integration of neuroscience, psychology, and evolutionary biology requires a telelogical as opposed to a merely componential analysis of function. A teleological analysis is required in neuroscience itself; we point to traditional and curent research methods in neuroscience, which make critical use (...) of distinctly teleological functional considerations in brain cartography. Only by invoking teleological criteria can researchers distinguish the fruitful ways of identifying brain components from the myriad of possible ways. One likely reason for reluctance to turn to neuroscience is fear of reduction, but we argue that, in the context of a teleological perspective on function, this concern is misplaced. Adducing such theoretical considerations as top-down and bottom-up constraints on neuroscientific and psychological models, as well as existing cases of productive, multidisciplinary cooperation, we argue that integration of neuroscience into psychology and evolutionary biology is likely to be mutually beneficial. We also show how it can be accommodated methodologically within the framework of an interfield theory. (shrink)
Contemporary analyses of biological function almost invariably advocate a naturalistic analysis, grounding biological functions in some feature of the mind-independent world. Many recent accounts suggest that no single analysis will be appropriate for all cases of use and that biological teleology should be split into several distinct categories. This paper argues that such accounts have paid too little attention to the way in which functional language is used, concentrating instead on the types of situation in which it is used. (...) An example of the role of teleology in science is examined and, on the basis of conclusions drawn from this, an alternative unifying analysis is proposed. It is suggested that, contrary to naturalistic accounts, teleology in biology carries no ontological commitment whatsoever to any class of mind-independent entities or properties. Instead, it is best regarded as a methodological device which is used to focus interest, formulate research perspectives and facilitate the structuring of certain questions or types of question that are pertinent in a given context of interest. (shrink)
"Modern History" versions of the etiological theory claim that in order for a trait X to have the proper function F, individuals with X must have been recently favored by natural selection for doing F (Godfrey-Smith 1994; Griffiths 1992, 1993). For many traits with prototypical proper functions, however, such recent selection may not have occurred: traits may have been maintained due to lack of variation or due to selection for other effects. I examine this flaw in Modern History accounts (...) and offer an alternative etiological theory, the Continuing Usefulness account, which appears to avoid such problems. (shrink)
Many philosophers believe that 1) most uses of functional language in biology make implicit reference to natural selection and 2) the fundamental way in which biologists identify parts and processes in organisms is by their selected function(s). Both these claims are mistaken. Much functional language in biology refers to actual causal roles, and if this were not so, biology would be impossible. The extensive biological literature on the ‘character concept’ focuses on another principle of biological identity, namely homology. I (...) outline some of this work and use it to refute philosophical arguments for the importance and ubiquity of classification by adaptive function. (shrink)
In this paper an attempt is made to provide an analysis of the meaning of the term function and related terms as they are used by R. K. Merton in the first chapter of his book Social Theory and Social Structure. Several problems are suggested which must be solved if statements about functions are to be considered scientifically adequate. Secondly the term functionalism is defined and several of Merton's functionalist explanations of social phenomena are stated and criticized.
The acidity function is a thermodynamic quantitative measure of acid strength for non-aqueous and concentrated aqueous Brønsted acids, with acid strength being defined as the extent to which the acid protonates a base of known basicity. The acidity function, which was developed, both theoretically and experimentally, by Louis P. Hammett of Columbia University during the 1930s, has proven useful in the area of physical organic chemistry where it has been used to correlate rates of acid-catalyzed reactions and to (...) quantitate the acidity of superacids, acids with protonating abilities greater than pure sulfuric acid. All Brønsted acids can now be compared using a common measure. Karl Popper’s seminal idea of theory falsification does not apply here because of the many successful applications of the acidity function. Likewise, Thomas Kuhn’s idea of a paradigm shift does not apply here, even though the acidity function concept was revolutionary, because the acidity function is commensurate with classical concepts of acidity. (shrink)
In an underappreciated tract by George Novack, Pragmatism versus Marxism, the American Trotskyite and union organizer launched a vicious attack on John Dewey's career as a professional philosopher. He alleged that Deweys ideas were inaccessible to all but a small community of fellow academicians. While Novack concedes that Deweys philosophical inquiries had a cross-pollinating influence on other academic fields, he doubts that the beneficial products of those inquiries traveled far beyond the walls of the so-called ivory tower. Larry Hickman (...) understands Dewey's claim in Experience and Nature that philosophy serves as a liaison officer to mean that philosophers should provide a common lexicon that translates between distinct disciplinary discourses. Philosophy's role, in other words, is to facilitate interdisciplinarity. According to my thesis, both Novack and Hickman are mistaken, though in different degrees and for different reasons. The problem is that Novacks challenge is perfectly compatible with Hickmans interpretation of Deweys liaison officer claim. While Hickmans account is more warranted than Novacks, it still offers an interpretation of Dewey's expansive view of philosophy's function that is far too limited to overcome challenges resembling Novacks, or so I argue. (shrink)
By examining single-word reading times (in full sentences read for meaning), we show that (1) function words are accessed faster than content words, independent of perceptual characteristics; (2) previous failures to show this involved problems of frequency range and task used; and (3) these differences in lexical access are related to perceptual fluency. We relate these findings to issues in the literature on event-related potentials (ERPs) and neurolinguistics.
The following describes one distinct sense of ‘mechanism’ which is prevalent in biology and biomedicine and which has important epistemic benefits. According to this sense, mechanisms are defined by the functions they facilitate. This construal has two important implications. Firstly, mechanisms that facilitate functions are capable of breaking. Secondly, on this construal, there are rigid constraints on the sorts of phenomena ‘for which’ there can be a mechanism. In this sense, there are no ‘mechanisms for’ pathology, and natural selection is (...) not a ‘mechanism of’ evolution, because it does not serve a function. (shrink)
Although it has been given qualified approval by a number of philosophers of education, the so-called 'therapeutic turn' in education has been the subject of criticism by several commentators on post-compulsory and adult learning over the last few years. A key feature of this alleged development in recent educational policy is said to be the replacement of the traditional goals of knowledge and understanding with personal and social objectives concerned with enhancing and developing confidence and self-esteem in learners. After offering (...) some critical observations on these developments, I suggest that there are some educationally justifiable goals underpinning what has been described as a therapeutic turn. Whilst accepting that 'self-esteem' and cognate concepts cannot provide a general end or universal aim of education, the therapeutic function is more valuable and significant than is generally acknowledged. This claim is justified by an examination of the concept of 'mindfulness' that, it is argued, can be an immensely powerful and valuable notion, which is integrally connected with the centrally transformative and developmental nature of learning and educational activity at all levels. (shrink)
Although working memory capacity and executive function contribute to human intelligence, we question whether there is an equivalence between them and fluid intelligence. We contend that any satisfactory neurobiological explanation of fluid intelligence needs to include abstraction as an important computational component of brain processing. (Published Online April 5 2006).
In his Explaining Behavior, Fred Dretske uses a reliabilist theory of representation to try to vindicate the use of intentional explanation for behaviour against latter-day elitninativism. Although Dretske's indicator semantics turns on the notion of function, he himself never explicitly defines what function means. Dretske's reticence in discussing function may ultimately be an error, for, as I argue, his implicit understanding of what a function amounts to does not fit with data from op rant conditioning. Still, (...) this need not be a deep flaw in Dretske and I offer one way in which we may patch up the notion of function via the changes known to occur with learning in the brain. Ultimately, I conclude that the only facts needed to explain behaviour are (1) the conditions in the world that are paired with neuronal circuit activation (as picked out by goals in some circumstances); and (2) what motor output that condition triggers. (shrink)
Executive function has become an important concept in explanations of psychiatric disorders, but we currently lack comprehensive models of normal executive function and of its malfunctions. Here we illustrate how defeasible logical analysis can aid progress in this area. We illustrate using autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as example disorders, and show how logical analysis reveals commonalities between linguistic and non-linguistic behaviours within each disorder, and how contrasting sub-components of executive function are involved across disorders. (...) This analysis reveals how logical analysis is as applicable to fast, automatic and unconscious reasoning as it is to slow deliberate cogitation. (shrink)
Due to several socio-political factors, to many psychiatrists only a strictly objective definition of mental disorder, free of value components, seems really acceptable. In this paper, I will explore a variant of such an objectivist approach to defining metal disorder, natural function objectivism. Proponents of this approach make recourse to the notion of natural function in order to reach a value-free definition of mental disorder. The exploration of Christopher Boorse's 'biostatistical' account of natural function (1) will be (...) followed an investigation of the 'hybrid naturalism' approach to natural functions by Jerome Wakefield (2). In the third part, I will explore two proposals that call into question the whole attempt to define mental disorder (3). I will conclude that while 'natural function objectivism' accounts fail to provide the backdrop for a reliable definition of mental disorder, there is no compelling reason to conclude that a definition cannot be achieved. (shrink)
Postulating the subcortical organization of human consciousness provides a critical link for the construal of pain in patients with impaired cortical function or cortical immaturity during early development. Practical implications of the centrencephalic proposal include the redefinition of pain, improved pain assessment in nonverbal humans, and benefits of adequate analgesia/anesthesia for these patients, which certainly justify the rigorous scientific efforts required. (Published Online May 1 2007).