Collected here for the first time, these writings demonstrate the range and precision of Philip Rieff's sociology of culture. Rieff addresses the rise of psychoanalytic and other spiritual disciplines that have reshaped contemporary culture.
A unique response to the challenging questions raised in the science and religion dialogue by drawing on Hindu theology. Edelmann replies to the sciences through close reading of an important Hindu text, the Bh=agavata Pura.na, as well engaging with Hindu philosophical disciplines such as Saṁkhya-Yoga.
Conrad Hal Waddington was a British developmental biologist who mainly worked in Cambridge and Edinburgh, but spent the late 1930s with Morgan in California learning about Drosophila. He was the first person to realize that development depended on the then unknown activities of genes, and he needed an appropriate model organism. His major experimental contributions were to show how mutation analysis could be used to investigate developmental mechanisms in Drosophila, and to explore how developmental mutation could drive evolution, his other (...) deep interest. Waddington was, however, predominantly a thinker, and set out to provide a coherent framework for understanding the genetic bases of embryogenesis and evolution, developing his ideas in many books. Perhaps his best-known concept is the epigenetic landscape: here a ball rolls down a complex valley, making path choices. The rolling ball represents a cell’s development over time, while the topography represents the changing regulatory environment that controls these choices. In its later forms, the role of each feature in the landscape was controlled by the effects of sets of interacting genes, an idea underpinning contemporary approaches to systems biology. Waddington was the first developmental geneticist and probably the most important developmental biologist of the pre-molecular age. (shrink)
Abstract I respond to three articles about my book, Hindu Theology and Biology, from David Gosling, Thomas Ellis, and Varadaraja Raman. I attempt to clarify misconceptions about Hindu intellectual history and the science and religion dialogue. I discuss the role of Hindu theologies in the contemporary world in response to the three articles, each of which highlights important areas of future research. I suggest that Hindu theology should be a critical discipline in which Hindu authors are interpreted in their own (...) terms and in conversation with contemporary authors. I argue that Hinduism and science can find an intellectual space between New Atheism (which denies the intellectual value of religion) and Neo-Hinduism (which neglects the critical discourse within the history of Hindu thought). (shrink)
While it is common to observe that our society and world are becoming increasingly complex and fast paced, most of our theories provide no bases upon which to develop appropriate strategies. The need for developing holistic strategies is becoming urgent in two related areas: major interactive technologies and morality.
Three general types of problems entail different strategies. Continuing to seek solutions to tame problems when we face messes, let alone wicked problems, is potentially catastrophic hence fundamentally irresponsible. In our turbulent times, it is therefore becoming a strategic necessity to learn how to solve the right problems. Successful problem solving requires finding the right solution to the right problem. We fail more often because we solve the wrong problem than because we get the wrong solution to the right problem. (...) Russell Ackoff (1974). But then, you may agree that it becomes morally objectionable for the planner to treat a wicked problem as though it were a tame one, or to tame a wicked problem prematurely, or to refuse to recognize the inherent wickedness of social problems. Rittel and Webber (1973). (shrink)
As levels of trust decrease and the necessity for trust increase in our society, we are increasingly driven toward the untoward, even disastrous, outcomes of the prisoner's dilemma. Yet despite the growing evidence that (re)building conditions of trust is increasingly mandatory in our era, modern moral philosophy (by default) and the social sciences (implicitly) legitimize an instrumental rationality which is the root problem. The greatest danger is that as conditions of trust are rationalized away through the progressive institutionalization of an (...) instrumental rationality, we are driven towards the most virulent form of the prisoner's paradox — ethical relativism and its nihilistic consequences. (shrink)
When our society holds widely shared norms and values, we can agree on what constitutes unethical business practices. To the extent our social consensus is unraveling, agreement becomes increasingly problematic. Unfortunately, mainstream Western moral philosophy offers no guidance in this situation. We must therefore begin to focus on the types of social relationships that must exist for there to be agreement on what is right, good and just. This line of argument is, at best, merely suggested in discussions and articles (...) on business ethics. (shrink)
In 2011, Peterson suggested that the main reason why C.H. Waddington was essentially ignored by the framers of the modern evolutionary synthesis in the 1950s was because they were Cartesian reductionists and mathematical population geneticists while he was a Whiteheadian organicist and experimental geneticist who worked with Drosophila. This paper suggests a further reason that can only be seen now. The former defined genes and their alleles by their selectable phenotypes, essentially the Mendelian view, while Waddington defined a gene through (...) its functional role as determined by genetic analysis, a view that foresaw the modern view that a gene is a DNA sequence with some function. The former were interested in selection, while Waddington focused on variation. The differences between the two views of a gene are briefly considered in the context of systems biology. (shrink)
Our methods of inquiry predetermine most of what we are able to know. While our modes of understanding ought to correspond to the complexities confronting us in our modern technological society, they do not. Soft systems methodology helps us focus on what is problematic and how it can be approached — and offers direction to exert moral control over our tools and technologies. [Powerful new technologies] pose basic threats to people and to life on Earth . . . Unless we (...) learn to live with them in safety, our future is likely to be both exciting and short. We cannot hope to foresee all the problems ahead, yet by paying attention to the big, basic issues, we can perhaps foresee the greatest challenges and get some idea of how to deal with them (K. Erik Drexler, 1986). (shrink)
Our methods of inquiry predetermine most of what we are able to know. While our modes of understanding ought to correspond to the complexities confronting us in our modern technological society, they do not. “Soft” systems methodology helps us focus on what is problematic and how it can be approached — and offers direction to exert moral control over our tools and technologies. [Powerful new technologies] pose basic threats to people and to life on Earth . . . Unless we (...) learn to live with them in safety, our future is likely to be both exciting and short. We cannot hope to foresee all the problems ahead, yet by paying attention to the big, basic issues, we can perhaps foresee the greatest challenges and get some idea of how to deal with them (K. Erik Drexler, 1986). (shrink)
This book represents the first major attempt by any author to provide an integrated account of the evidence for bias in human reasoning across a wide range of disparate psychological literatures. The topics discussed involve both deductive and inductive reasoning as well as statistical judgement and inference. In addition, the author proposes a general theoretical approach to the explanations of bias and considers the practical implications for real world decision making. The theoretical stance of the book is based on a (...) distinction between preconscious heuristic processes which determine the mental representation of 'relevant' features of the problem content, and subsequent analytic reasoning processes which generate inferences and judgements. Phenomena discussed and interpreted within this framework include feature matching biases in propositional reasoning, confirmation bias, biasing and debiasing effects of knowledge on reasoning, and biases in statistical judgement normally attributed to 'availability' and 'representativeness' heuristics. In the final chapter, the practical consequences of bias for real life decision making are considered, together with various issues concerning the problem of 'debiasing'. The major approaches discussed are those involving education and training on the one hand, and the development of intelligent software and interactive decision aids on the other. (shrink)
Past work has demonstrated that people’s moral judgments can influence their judgments in a number of domains that might seem to involve straightforward matters of fact, including judgments about freedom, causation, the doing/allowing distinction, and intentional action. The present studies explore whether the effect of morality in these four domains can be explained by changes in the relevance of alternative possibilities. More precisely, we propose that moral judgment influences the degree to which people regard certain alternative possibilities as relevant, which (...) in turn impacts intuitions about freedom, causation, doing/allowing, and intentional action. Employing the stimuli used in previous research, Studies 1a, 2a, 3a, and 4a show that the relevance of alternatives is influenced by moral judgments and mediates the impact of morality on non-moral judgments. Studies 1b, 2b, 3b, and 4b then provide direct empirical evidence for the link between the relevance of alternatives and judgments in these four domains by manipulating (rather than measuring) the relevance of alternative possibilities. Lastly, Study 5 demonstrates that the critical mechanism is not whether alternative possibilities are considered, but whether they are regarded as relevant. These studies support a unified framework for understanding the impact of morality across these very different kinds of judgments. (shrink)