Ritualized behavior, intuitively recognizable by its stereotypy, rigidity, repetition, and apparent lack of rational motivation, is found in a variety of life conditions, customs, and everyday practices: in cultural rituals, whether religious or non-religious; in many children's complicated routines; in the pathology of obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD); in normal adults around certain stages of the life-cycle, birthing in particular. Combining evidence from evolutionary anthropology, neuropsychology and neuroimaging, we propose an explanation of ritualized behavior in terms of an evolved Precaution System geared (...) to the detection of and reaction to inferred threats to fitness. This system, distinct from fear-systems geared to respond to manifest danger, includes a repertoire of clues for potential danger as well as a repertoire of species-typical precautions. In OCD pathology, this system does not supply a negative feedback to the appraisal of potential threats, resulting in doubts about the proper performance of precautions, and repetition of action. Also, anxiety levels focus the attention on low-level gestural units of behavior rather than on the goal-related higher-level units normally used in parsing the action-flow. Normally automatized actions are submitted to cognitive control. This “swamps” working memory, an effect of which is a temporary relief from intrusions but also their long-term strengthening. Normal activation of this Precaution System explains intrusions and ritual behaviors in normal adults. Gradual calibration of the system occurs through childhood rituals. Cultural mimicry of this system's normal input makes cultural rituals attention-grabbing and compelling. A number of empirical predictions follow from this synthetic model. (Published Online February 8 2007) Key Words: childhood ritual; compulsion; event boundaries; evolutionary psychology; obsessive-compulsive disorder; ritual; thought intrusion. (shrink)
In reply to commentary on our target article, we supply further evidence and hypotheses in the description of ritualized behaviors in humans. Reactions to indirect fitness threats probably activate specialized precaution systems rather than a unified form of danger-avoidance or causal reasoning. Impairment of precaution systems may be present in pathologies other than obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), autism in particular. Ritualized behavior is attention-grabbing enough to be culturally transmitted whether or not it is associated with group identity, cohesion, or with any (...) other social aspect of collective ceremonies. (Published Online February 8 2007). (shrink)
In this commentary, I ask three specific questions: (1) Why would a juvenile stage be maintained in humans? (2) What could be a satisfactory evolutionary scenario explaining the features of feminine speech? And (3), what could be the contribution of sexual selection in the elicitation of higher informational contents in communicative signals?
The French philosopher and intellectual historian Pierre Hadot (1922-2010) is known primarily for his conception of philosophy as spiritual exercise, which was an essential reference for the later Foucault. An aspect of his work that has received less attention is a set of methodological reflections on intellectual history and on the relationship between philosophy and history. Hadot was trained initially as a philosopher and was interested in existentialism as well as in the convergence between philosophy and poetry. Yet he (...) chose to become a historian of philosophy and produced extensive philological work on neo-Platonism and ancient philosophy in general. He found a philosophical rationale for this shift in his encounter with Wittgenstein's philosophy in the mid-1950s (Hadot was one of Wittgenstein's earliest French readers and interpreters). For Hadot, ancient philosophy must be understood as a series of language games, and each language game must be situated within the concrete conditions in which it happened. The reference to Wittgenstein therefore supports a strongly contextualist and historicist stance. It also supports its exact opposite: presentist appropriations of ancient texts are entirely legitimate, and they are the only way ancient philosophy can be existentially meaningful to us. Hadot addresses the contradiction by embracing it fully and claiming that his own practice aims at a coincidence of opposites (a concept borrowed from the Heraclitean tradition). For Hadot the fullest and truest way of doing philosophy is to be a philosopher and a historian at the same time. (shrink)
The present volume consists of diverse individual texts, produced between 1980 and 1986, which take two forms: interviews in which Bourdieu confronts a series of probing and intelligent interviewers, and conference papers that clarify and extend specific areas of his research. Now that Bourdieu's work has achieved wide diffusion and celebrity, this is an appropriate time for this volume, a pause for retrospection and resynthesis, for corrections of misreadings and extension of previous insights, and for projection of the next stages (...) of his work. For this English edition, Bourdieu's celebrated inaugural lecture at the Collège de France, Leçon sur la Leçon, has been added. -/- The texts fall into two fundamental areas. The first area provides an overview of Bourdieu's central concepts, never before clearly explained. The second area clarifies the philosophical presuppositions of Bourdieu's studies and gives an account of his relations with the series of thinkers who formulated the problems in social and cultural theory that still preoccupy us: Kant, Hegel, Marx, Durkheim, Wittgenstein, Weber, Parsons, and Lévi-Strauss. Bourdieu's visions of these figures is personal and penetrating, and in his vivacious, spontaneous responses one sees at work a mode of thought that can in itself be a liberating tool of social analysis. Bourdieu applies to himself the method of analyzing cultural works that he expounds, evoking the space of theoretical possibilities presented to him at different moments of his intellectual itinerary. (shrink)
This work by Pierre Bourdieu develops the anthropological theory which has formed the basis of his scientific research. It discusses the problems posed by "structuralist" philosophers in order to solve or dissolve them.
There were three such assumptions required, one explicitly stated, and two not made explicit until Bayle. The explicit one was a certain commonly accepted double understanding of ‘destruction’: a ‘natural’ version, which made it no more than a change in a particular arrangement or ‘organization’ of particles through which an aggregate was destroyed by losing its identity, and a metaphysical version, which entailed the actual annihilation of a substance. It was assumed that the latter could be accomplished only by miraculous (...) supra-natural means available only to God. Thus, if it could be shown that the soul was ‘without parts,’ it followed that the soul was ‘naturally’ indestructible and thus immortal. Bayle summarized the Cartesian argument to immortality as follows. (shrink)
This classic work in the philosophy of physical science is an incisive and readable account of the scientific method. Pierre Duhem was one of the great figures in French science, a devoted teacher, and a distinguished scholar of the history and philosophy of science. This book represents his most mature thought on a wide range of topics.
Written by a contemporary of Marx and one of the most influential subversive critics of modern European society, this work (1840) has become a classic of political thought through its critique of private property as the essential institution of Western culture as well as the root of its problems.
Here we are witness to the great cultural event of the West, the emergence of a Latin philosophical language translated from the Greek. Once again, it would be necessary to make a systematic study of the formation of this technical vocabulary that, thanks to Cicero, Seneca, Tertullian, Victorinus, Calcidius, Augustine, and Boethius, would leave its mark, by way of the Middle Ages, on the birth of modern thought. Can it be hoped that one day, with current technical means, it will (...) be possible to compile a complete lexicon of the correspondences of philosophical terminology in Greek and Latin? Furthermore, lengthy commentaries would be needed, for the most interesting task would be to analyze the shifts in meaning that take place in the movement from one language to another. In the case of the ontological vocabulary the translation of ousia by substantia, for example, is justly famous and has again recently inspired some remarkable studies. This brings us once more to a phenomenon we discretely alluded to earlier with the word philosophia, and which we will encounter throughout the present discussion: the misunderstandings, shifts or losses in meaning, the reinterpretations, sometimes even to the point of misreading, that arise once tradition, translation, and exegesis coexist. So our history of the Hellenistic and Roman thought will consist above all of recognizing and analyzing the evolution of meanings and significance. Pierre Hadot holds the chair of the History of Hellenistic and Roman Thought at the Collège de France. He is the author of many books and articles on the history of ancient philosophy and theology. Among his works are Plotin et la simplicité du regard, Porphyre et Vitctorinus, Marius Victorinus: Recherches sur sa vie et ses oeuvres, and Exercises spirituels et philosophie antique. Arnold I. Davidson, executive editor of Critical Inquiry, is associate professor of philosophy and a member of the Committees on the Conceptual Foundations of Science and General Studies in the Humanities at the University of Chicago. He introduced and edited the “Symposium on Heidegger and Nazism” . He is currently working on the history of horror as it relates to the epistemology of norms and deviations. Paula Wissing, a free-lance translator and editor, has recently translated Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant’s The Cuisine of Sacrifice among the Greeks . She also contributed translations of articles by Maurice Blanchot, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, and Emmanuel Levinas for the “Symposium on Heidegger and Nazism.”. (shrink)
A widely accepted thesis in the philosophy of language is that natural language proper names are rigid designators, and that they are so de jure, or as a matter of the “semantic rules of the language.” This paper questions this claim, arguing that rigidity cannot be plausibly construed as a property of name types and that the alternative, rigidity construed as a property of tokens, means that they cannot be considered rigid de jure; rigidity in this case must be viewed (...) as a pragmatic and not a semantic property. (shrink)
In teasing out the diverse origins of our “modern, ecological understanding of epidemic disease” Greater than the parts: holism in biomedicine, 1920–1950, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1998), historians have downplayed the importance of parasitology in the development of a natural history perspective on disease. The present article reassesses the significance of parasitology for the “invention” of medical ecology in post-war France. Focussing on the works of microbiologist Charles Nicolle and on that of physician and zoologist Hervé Harant, I argue that (...) French “medical ecology” was not professionally insulated from some major trends in parasitology, especially in Tunis where disciplinary borders in the medical sciences collapsed. This argument supports the claim that ecological perspectives of disease developed in colonial context but I show that parasitologists such as Harant built on the works of medical geographers who had called attention to the dynamic and complex biological relations between health and environment in fashioning the field of medical ecology in the mid-1950s. As the network of scientists who contributed to the global emergence of “disease ecology” is widening, both medical geography and parasitology stand out as relevant sites of inquiries for a broader historical understanding of the multiple “ecological visions” in twentieth-century biomedical sciences. (shrink)
Synthesizing forty years' work by France's leading sociologist, this book exemplifies Bourdieu's unique ability to link sociological theory, historical information, and philosophical thought. It makes explicit the presuppositions of a state of 'scholasticism', a certain leisure liberated from the urgencies of the world. Philosophers have brought these presuppositions into the order of discourse, more to legitimate than analyze them, and this is the primary systematic, epistemological, ethical, and aesthetic error that Bourdieu subjects to methodological critique. Pascalian because he, too, was (...) concerned with symbolic power, he refused the temptation of foundationalist thinking, attended to 'ordinary people', and was determined to seek the reason for seemingly illogical behavior rather than simply condemning it. Bourdieu charts a negative philosophy, whose intellectual debt to such other 'heretical' philosophers as Wittgenstein, Austin, Dewey, and Peirce, renews traditional questioning of concepts of violence, power, time, history, the universal, and the purpose and direction of existence. (shrink)
In this book, distinguished French philosopher Pierre Manent addresses a wide range of subjects, including the Machiavellian origins of modernity, Tocqueville's analysis of democracy, the political role of Christianity, the nature of totalitarianism, and the future of the nation-state. As a whole, the book constitutes a meditation on the nature of modern freedom and the permanent discontents which accompany it. Modern Liberty and its Discontents is both an important contribution to an understanding of modern society, and a significant contribution (...) to political philosophy in its own right. (shrink)
Pierre Bayle was one of the most important sceptical thinkers of the seventeenth century. His work was a major influence on the development of the ideas of Voltaire (who acclaimed it for its candour on such subjects as atheism, obscenity and sexual conduct), Hume, Montesquieu and Rousseau. Banned in France on first publication in 1697, Bayle's Dictionnaire Historique et Critique became a bestseller and ran into several editions and translations. Sally L. Jenkinson's masterly new edition presents the reader with (...) a coherent path through Bayle's monumental work (which ran to seven million words). This is the first volume in English to select political writings from Bayle's work and to present its author as a specifically political thinker. Sally L. Jenkinson's authoritative translation, careful selection of texts, and lucid introduction will be welcomed by scholars and students of the history of ideas, political theory, cultural history and French studies. (shrink)
Based on an endorsement of the hypothesis of extended cognition, this paper proposes a criticism of the representationalist assumptions that still pertain to these contemporary models of cognition. I first rehearse some basic problems akin to any representationalist model of cognition, before proposing some more specific arguments directed against the necessity, the plausibility, and the coherence of the marriage between extended cognition and contemporary representationalism. Extended and distributed models of cognition have the resources to get rid of representationalism, and they (...) should better do it. Their adherence to representationalism might be an by-product of the extended character of the scientific study of cognition. (shrink)
Ways of Seeing is a unique collaboration between an eminent philosopher and a world famous neuroscientist. It focuses on one of the most basic human functions - vision. What does it mean to 'see'. It brings together electrophysiological studies, neuropsychology, psychophysics, cognitive psychology, and philosophy of mind. The first truly interdisciplinary book devoted to the topic of vision, it will make a valuable contribution to the field of cognitive science.
Un dialogue est un logos qui va d'un interlocuteur a un autre. Cet echange d'idees, s'il veut etre fructueux, s'appuie sur un principe tres simple: comme le dialogue n'est pas un monologue, on dialogue avec quelqu'un; et on dialogue sur quelque chose. C'est le cas des travaux qui composent ce volume. L'interlocuteur privilegie est Pierre Aubenque. Ses travaux, son activite en tant qu'enseignant, ses prises de position sur des sujets tres divers ont suscite, de la part de ses disciples, (...) collegues et amis, une veritable envie de dialoguer avec lui, un desir de suivre son exemple. Les auteurs de ces reflexions ont ainsi voulu demontrer que le dialogue instaure pendant plus de vingt ans par le Directeur du centre Leon Robin, reste toujours ouvert. (shrink)
According to an influential view, one function of mirror neurons (MNs), first discovered in the brain of monkeys, is to underlie third-person mindreading. This view relies on two assumptions: the activity of MNs in an observer’s brain matches (simulates or resonates with) that of MNs in an agent’s brain and this resonance process retrodictively generates a representation of the agent’s intention from a perception of her movement. In this paper, I criticize both assumptions and I argue instead that the activity (...) of MNs in an observer’s brain is enhanced by a prior representation of the agent’s intention and that their task is to predictively compute the best motor command suitable to satisfy the agent’s intention. (shrink)
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