The historical sciences, such as geology, evolutionary biology, and archaeology, appear to have no means to test hypotheses. However, on closer examination, reasoning in the historical sciences relies upon regularities, regularities that can be tested. I outline the role of regularities in the historical sciences, and in the process, blur the distinction between the historical sciences and the experimental sciences: all sciences deploy theories about the world in their investigations.
The structuring of our environment to provide cues and reminders for ourselves is common: We leave notes on the fridge, we have a particular place for our keys where we deposit them, making them easy to find. We alter our world to streamline our cognitive tasks. But how did hominins gain this capacity? What pushed our ancestors to structure their physical environment in ways that buffered thinking and began the process of using the world cognitively? I argue that the capacity (...) to engage in these behaviours is a by-product of increased tool investment and tool curation, which in turn was necessary because of increasingly heterogeneous environments. The minute tools are carried and cared for, they begin to undergo selection for added functions, becoming available as cognitive primers and as signals. I explore the trajectory of this co-evolutionary feedback loop of hominins and their tools, and demonstrate the role tools have in shaping our thinking. (shrink)
The evolution of cognition literature is dominated by views that presume the evolution of underlying neural structures. However, recent models of cognition reemphasize the role of physiological structures, development, and external resources as important components of cognition. This article argues that these alternative models of cognition challenge our understanding of human cognitive evolution. As a case study, it focuses on rehabilitating bipedalism as a crucial moment in human evolution. The australopithecines are often seen as “merely” bipedal chimpanzees, with a similar (...) suite of behaviors. But an embodied, developmental approach to understanding australopithecine cognitive abilities shows that the transition between australopithecines and the emergence of the Homo genus is less of a break than is often thought. Bipedalism on this view is not just a physiological and behavioral breakthrough: it represents a major cognitive leap as well. (shrink)
I review the book “Making Prehistory: Historical Science and the Scientific Realism Debate” by Derek Turner. Turner suggests that philosophers should take seriously the historical sciences such as geology when considering philosophy of science issues. To that end, he explores the scientific realism debate with the historical sciences in mind. His conclusion is a view allied to that of Arthur Fine: a view Turner calls the natural historical attitude. While I find Turner’s motivations good, I find his characterisation of the (...) historical sciences unconvincing. I say why in a section at the end of the review. The result is that I am unpersuaded by his thesis. (shrink)
This paper will outline a series of changes in the archaeological record related to Hominins. I argue that these changes underlie the emergence of the capacity for strategic thinking. The paper will start by examining the foundation of technical skills found in primates, and then work through various phases of the archaeological and paleontological record. I argue that the key driver for the development of strategic thinking was the need to expand range sizes and cope with increasingly heterogeneous environments.
The investigative strategy that Vaesen uses presumes that cognitive skills are to some extent hardwired; developmentally plastic traits would not provide the relevant comparative information. But recent views of cognition that stress external resources, and evolutionary accounts such as cultural niche construction, urge us to think carefully about the role of technology in shaping cognition.
In this thesis, I argue that a good historical science will have the following characteristics: Firstly, it will seek to construct causal histories of the past. Secondly, the construction of these causal histories will utilise well-tested regularities of science. Additionally, well-tested regularities will secure the link between observations of physical traces and the causal events of interest. However, the historical sciences cannot use these regularities in a straightforward manner. The regularities must accommodate the idiosyncrasies of the past, and the degradation (...) of evidence over time. Through an examination of how the historical sciences work in practice, I show how they can confirm these unique causal histories, and the limits to their confirmatory strategies. (shrink)
I make two claims about cognitive archaeology. I question its role, seeing psychology as yet another contributor to the archaeological tool-kit rather than as something unique. I then suggest that cognitive archaeology is not in a position to provide evolutionary contexts without other disciplines. As a consequence it cannot deliver on the provision of evolutionary contexts for cognitive evolution.
I show how archaeologists have two problems. The construction of scenarios accounting for the raw data of Archaeology, the material remains of the past, and the explanation of pre-history. Within Archaeology, there has been an ongoing debate about how to constrain speculation within both of these archaeological projects, and archaeologists have consistently looked to biological mechanisms for constraints. I demonstrate the problems of using biology, either as an analogy for cultural processes or through direct application of biological principles to material (...) remains. This is done through setting out the requirements of a Darwinian Archaeology, and then measuring various approaches against these requirements. This approach leads to the conclusion that archaeologist's explanations of the past must include within their formulations an account of human cognitive capacities within their explanatory framework. The limits of our understanding of the human past will be the limits of our understanding of Homo sapiens. (shrink)
Van Gelder presents the distinction between dynamical systems and digital computers as the core issue of current developments in cognitive science. We think this distinction is much less important than a reassessment of cognition as a neurally, bodily, and environmentally embedded process. Embedded cognition lines up naturally with dynamical models, but it would also stand if combined with classic computation.
Consequentialists typically think that the moral quality of one's conduct depends on the difference one makes. But consequentialists may also think that even if one is not making a difference, the moral quality of one's conduct can still be affected by whether one is participating in an endeavour that does make a difference. Derek Parfit discusses this issue – the moral significance of what I call ‘participation’ – in the chapter of Reasons and Persons that he devotes to what he (...) calls ‘moral mathematics’. In my paper, I expose an inconsistency in Parfit's discussion of moral mathematics by showing how it gives conflicting answers to the question of whether participation matters. I conclude by showing how an appreciation of Parfit's error sheds some light on consequentialist thought generally, and on the debate between act- and rule-consequentialists specifically. (shrink)
Hanoch Ben-Yami has argued that the theory of the semantics of natural kind terms proposed by Kripke and Putnam is false and has proposed an allegedly novel account of the semantics of kind terms. In this article, I critically examine Ben-Yami’s arguments. I will argue that Ben-Yami’s objections do not show that Kripke and Putnam’s theory is false, but at most that the specific versions of it held by Kripke and Putnam have some weaknesses. Moreover, I will argue that Ben-Yami’s (...) account is not a novel account but it is only an unsatisfactory version of Kripke and Putnam’s theory. (shrink)
Mill's most famous departure from Bentham is his distinction between higher and lower pleasures. This article argues that quality and quantity are independent and irreducible properties of pleasures that may be traded off against each other – as in the case of quality and quantity of wine. I argue that Mill is not committed to thinking that there are two distinct kinds of pleasure, or that ‘higher pleasures’ lexically dominate lower ones, and that the distinction is compatible with hedonism. I (...) show how this interpretation not only makes sense of Mill but allows him to respond to famous problems, such as Crisp's Haydn and the oyster and Nozick's experience machine. (shrink)
In this paper, we analyze the astronomical tables for 1340 by Immanuel ben Jacob Bonfils who flourished 1340–1365, based on four Hebrew manuscripts. We discuss the relation of these tables principally with those of al-Battānī, Abraham Bar Ḥiyya, and Levi ben Gerson, as well as with Bonfils’s better known tables, called Six Wings. An unusual feature of this set of tables is that there are two kinds of mean motion tables, one arranged for Julian years from 1340 to 1380, months, (...) days, hours, and minutes of an hour, and the other arranged in the Hebrew calendar for the times of conjunctions and oppositions of the Sun and the Moon only, with subtables for 19-year cycles, single years in a 19-year cycle, and months. The latter arrangement is found in Bonfils’s Six Wings for solar and lunar motions only, whereas in his Tables for 1340, this arrangement applies to all planets. Notably absent are tables for the trigonometric functions, etc., that are generally found in such sets of astronomical tables. (shrink)
This is a reply to H. Ben-Yami, 'Generalized quantifiers, and beyond' (this journal, 2009), where he argues that standard GQ theory does not explain why natural language quantifiers have a restricted domain of quantification. I argue, on the other hand, that although GQ theory gives no deep explanation of this fact, it does give a sort of explanation, whereas Ben-Yami's suggested alternative is no improvement.
This essay complements Roberto Esposito’s analysis of the political category of the person by outlining the role of literature, and especially the genre of the novel, in consolidating this category and allowing it to do its political and affective work. The essay shows how Ben Lerner’s 2014 novel 10:04 dismantles three central features of the traditional novel’s poetics of the person: its investment in the notion of literary character, its use of fictionality, and its structural reliance on the narrative future. (...) Lerner’s novel, like Esposito’s biopolitical work, aims to overcome the hierarchical divisions within human life that are endemic to the category of the person and that have historically fostered biopolitical violence. Both projects intimate a less destructive politics—what Lerner calls “the transpersonal” and Esposito “the impersonal.”. (shrink)
Starting with a model in which κ is the least inaccessible limit of cardinals δ which are δ+ strongly compact, we force and construct a model in which κ remains inaccessible and in which, for every cardinal γ < κ, □γ+ω fails but □γ+ω, ω holds. This generalizes a result of Ben-David and Magidor and provides an analogue in the context of strong compactness to a result of the author and Cummings in the context of supercompactness.
Rabbinic tradition, as given in the Palestinian and Babylonian versions of the Talmud, transmits an account of Rabbi Elisha ben Abuyah only to depreciate him for the “pariah” that he was during his lifetime. For one who accepts rabbinic authority, there can be no moral ambiguity about the character of the man, his beliefs, or his aspirations.1 The twelfth-century philosopher and rabbi Moses Maimonides spared no criticism of Elisha. Maimonides wrote The Guide for the Perplexed with the object of enlightening (...) “a religious man who has been trained to believe in the truth of our holy Law, who conscientiously fulfills his moral and religious duties, and at the same time has been successful in his philosophical studies .. (shrink)
The biblical Books of Proverbs and Ben Sira yield no narrative continuity or logical outline. They are simply collections. The best way to interpret these books is with the aid of a topical index. Most topical indexes are based on English translation. This article proposes a tentative topical index reflecting Middle East North African culture and its values. It will serve as the outline for a full length commentary already in process.
Ben-Israel and Vaidman have raised objections to my arguments that there are cases where a quantum mechanical weak value can be said not to represent the system to which it pertains. They are correct in pointing out that some of my conclusions were too general. However, for weak values of projection operators my conclusions still stand.
Ben Rich, J.D., Ph.D., presents a scholarly, passionate view of the ethics of the His manuscript is detailed, analytical, and compassionate. No reasonable sensitive person, especially a physician committed to caring for patients, can disagree with the proposal that human beings should have their physical, emotional, and spiritual pain tended to aggressively, meticulously, and compassionately. Similarly, the same individuals advocating for such pain management would agree that no one should go to jail unless he or she is guilty of a (...) serious crime, that decent people should not be robbed or murdered, that children should not be hungry or homeless, and that all citizens of the United States deserve healthcare. Our society attempts to achieve these goals. Laws are written, discussed, and approved by state and federal congresses, voted on by citizens, and theoretically upheld by the courts, churches, and decent individuals. But, unless the world suddenly becomes inhabited by virtuous, ethical humans who can unfailingly differentiate from then, in spite of an abundance of laws and lawyers, doctors, and nurses, this world will continue to have pain and suffering. And, although we want to hold our doctors, politicians, educators, champion athletes, and others to than the average citizen, it is best to remind ourselves frequently that all humans can be weak and are bound to make imprecise judgments, that there is not a homogenous definition of that values and religious beliefs are variable. (shrink)
Ben Zoma's mishnah is astounding from a number of different but interrelated perspectives. He indirectly addresses four of the most central, vexing questions emerging out of human experience—What is wisdom, knowledge, truth? What is strength, power, courage? What is wealth, exalted status? What is honor, reputation?—and manages to turn the questions on their head and resist answering them. His first move in this strategy of resistance is to transform inquiry into these various qualities and attributes into an investigation of the (...) person claiming or aspiring to possess them. This displacement is momentous. Instead of there being a known, finite, delimited…. (shrink)
This article critically discusses of Ben Berger’s , making two main claims. First, I argue that his conceptual distinctions ought to be further developed in order to be able to distinguish between, on the one hand, politically legitimate moral ends (i.e., ones that are suitable objects of political engagement) and, on the other hand, other moral ends that ought to be pursued only through social engagement. To help with this task I consider the significance of the difference between what I (...) refer to as ethical reasoning and justice reasoning, and I sketch a fourfold distinction between types of justice. Second, I argue that Berger does not give adequate emphasis to the government side of the task of making political engagement more efficacious. In addition to his worthwhile recommendations for increasing the social capital of the many, we should also be concerned to determine how best to limit, or, better, remove, the now massive political influence of the financial capital of America’s wealthiest. (shrink)
It has long been considered that Arabic algebra scarcely left any traces in mathematical literature of Hebrew expression. Thanks to the unpublished sources we have discovered, and to an attentive examination of already-known texts, one can no longer subscribe to such a judgement. The evidence we examine in this first article sheds light on the circulation, in erudite Jewish circles, of Arabic algebraic knowledge in Spain, Italy, Provence, and Sicily, between the 12th and the 14th centuries. The Epistle on number (...) by the Castillian astronomer Isaac ben Salomon al-A[hudot]dab was written in Sicily at the end of the 14th century, and based on the Talkhi[sudot] a'mal al-[hudot]isab of Ibn al-Banna' (1256-1321). That part of the Epistle that is devoted to algebra follows the tradition of al-Karaji. It offers, for the first time in Hebrew, a rational presentation of arithmetical operations extended to algebraic expressions. (shrink)
The issue of whether emotions are rational is at the centre of philosophical and psychological discussions. I believe that emotions are rational, but that they follow different principles to those of intellectual reasoning. The purpose of this paper is to reveal the unique logic of emotions. I begin by suggesting that we should conceive of emotions as a general mode of the mental system; other modes are the perceptual and intellectual modes. One feature distinguishing one mode from another is the (...) logical principles underlying its information processing mechanism. Before describing these principles, I clarify the notion of ‘rationality,’ arguing that in an important sense emotions can be rational. (shrink)
Due to the discoveries of manuscripts at Masada and Qumran in the mid-sixties, the study of the Book of Ben Sira has produced considerable progress since. This contribution offers a small survey of topics that are still in the centre of Ben Sira research, such as the book’s text and textual history, its structure, its author’s attitude towards Hellenism, and his use of Scripture.
This article describes the racial integration of Emory University and the subsequent creation of Pre-Start, an affirmative action program at Emory Law School from 1966 to 1972. It focuses on the initiative of the Dean of Emory Law School at the time, Ben F. Johnson, Jr.. Johnson played a number of leadership roles throughout his life, including successfully arguing a case before the United States Supreme Court while he was an Assistant Attorney General of Georgia, promoting legislation to create Atlanta (...) 's subway system as a state senator, and representing Emory in its lawsuit to strike down the state statute that would have rescinded its tax exemption if it admitted African American students ). This account supplements my related article on Pre-Start, "'A Bulwark against Anarchy': Affirmative Action, Emory Law School, and Southern Self-Help", providing more information about historical context generally, and particularly about Emory v. Nash. Johnson was ambitious for Emory as a whole, and particularly for the Law School, and he saw in segregation the single largest impediment to making Emory a nationally prominent research university. The story of Emory's integration, and Johnson's leadership, requires revision of the prevailing story of integration generally, and especially of universities. Integration at Emory came about because of the pressure that African Americans and their supporters created through the civil rights movement, but Emory administrators responded to such pressure more constructively than most. Their actions provide an interesting case study in effective leadership during a period of significant moral and political conflict. (shrink)
Between the years 1956 and 1962 the scholar-monk Nyanaponika Thera and the first Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion have exchanged eight long letters. These letters—published here for the first time—expose the extent of Ben-Gurion's interest in Buddhism and reveal the Buddhist rhetoric used by one of Sri Lanka's most influential scholars. This rhetoric, which was generally well received by Ben-Gurion, was an exemplar of ‘Protestant Buddhism’. It is suggested that Ben-Gurion could relate to this image of Buddhism because it reflected (...) his own vision of Judaism that had ‘protestant’ characteristics. The letters contain autobiographical notes, unpublished comments on the Buddhist concepts of Suffering and Rebirth, and a curious plan to invite Nyanaponika to Israel. (shrink)
On the background and within the framework of the traditional Israelite-Jewish anthropology Ben Sira advises his pupils and readers to accept death as a fate and to draw the consequences of the fact that human beings have no other life than the present one. For the Lord the shortness of human life gives reason for his mercy, if they return to his commands. On the other hand the way a man dies is a parameter for God's judgement. Apart from the (...) fact that everybody is responsible for his fate the transitory character of life gives reason to enjoy oneself using his property for gifts to his friend and the embellishment of the own transitory days. But he should as well take care of his name, for a good name is just what may survive. In regard to the death of other people one should not withdraw from a dying, but after his death not lengthen the mourning for this would weaken himself whithout helping the dead one. This in the whole conservative outlook of Ben Sira protected him against philosophical and apocalpytic speculations, which he judged as devorced from reality. All what a humans may need for their life became revealed to them by the Lord. To act according to his commandments is better than to look out for fresh revelations. So we may understand Ben Sira as a representative of Judaism as a religion of reason in a transitional age, even if we would credit to his unnamed opponents that they had some idea about the transcendent mystery of life. (shrink)
In his major philosophical opus, Kevod Elohim , written in Hebrew, Joseph ben Shem Tov investigates the summum bonum of man, which consists in the similarity to God's perfection called the "Glory of God" insofar as it can be realized by human nature. Opinions are divided, however, as to the nature of this greatest good. Some Jewish scholars claim that man's final purpose is in the observance of the 613 commandments of the Torah. According to the philosophers, the proofs of (...) Aristotle show irrefutably that man's highest happiness is in the grasping of cognition through reason. Other Jewish scholars assert that the mysteries of the Torah can be explored through philosophy and therefore the Torah and the sciences fulfill in principle the same purpose. This position, however, is objectionable to some believers on the ground that it denies the divine character of religion. On the other hand, to deny the proofs of Aristotle would be to coerce the findings of reason. If religion is the supreme good, it cannot contradict reason. Since the truth cannot be in conflict with the truth, Joseph's task is to compare, for the first time, the Nicomachean Ethics of Aristotle with the Torah to determine to what extent they agree or conflict. His method is to assemble all statements of Aristotle and his commentators on this subject and to submit them to critical analysis. Joseph's motivation is to justify the pursuit of Greek science, especially in view of his father Shem Tov ibn Shem Tov's virulent repudiation of philosophy, and to guide the perplexed of his generation who could not reconcile Greek wisdom with their faith. Joseph finds that the speculative eudemonia of Aristotle accords with the Torah. In an innovative interpretation of the Ethics, he reveals that Aristotle believed in individual providence over those who perfected their intellect and over those who practiced the ethical virtues. Joseph also identifies the study of Torah with the activity of speculation similar to the activity of the Separate Intellects. He finds no basis, however, in Aristotle's writings for the immortality of reason. Since the religious imperative grants immortality, it is infinitely greater than the eudemonia of reason. Thus, from a position of rapprochement between science and faith, Joseph considers them under the aspect of eternity and emerges with a complete denial of any ultimate resemblance between the two spheres. (shrink)
_A revisionist account of Zionist history, challenging the inevitability of a one-state solution, from a bold, path-breaking young scholar_ The Jewish nation-state has often been thought of as Zionism’s end goal. In this bracing history of the idea of the Jewish state in modern Zionism, from its beginnings in the late nineteenth century until the establishment of the state of Israel, Dmitry Shumsky challenges this deeply rooted assumption. In doing so, he complicates the narrative of the Zionist quest for full (...) sovereignty, provocatively showing how and why the leaders of the prestate Zionist movement imagined, articulated, and promoted theories of self-determination in Palestine either as part of a multinational Ottoman state, or in the framework of multinational democracy. In particular, Shumsky focuses on the writings and policies of five key Zionist leaders from the Habsburg and Russian empires in central and eastern Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries—Leon Pinsker, Theodor Herzl, Ahad Ha’am, Vladimir Ze’ev Jabotinsky, and David Ben-Gurion—to offer a very pointed critique of Zionist historiography. (shrink)