It is dealt with the methodological parallels between Kant's concept of a history of nature (i.e., his distinction between "Naturgeschichte" and "Naturbeschreibung") and the distinction between "Geognosie" and "Oryktognosie" by the German mineralogist A G Werner (1749-1817). By relating those parallels to the introduction of Kant's "Metaphysical Foundations of Natural Science", the paper shows some scarcely considered scientific roots of his epistemology.
This article explores the implications of Bernhard Waldenfels’s responsive phenomenology for the discipline of cultural anthropology or ethnology, insofar as it understands itself as the “science of the culturally Other”. It discusses Waldenfels’s own engagement with ethnology and shows the compatibility of his approach with discussions within the discipline. The intertwining of ownness and alienness that is central to Waldenfels’s account of experience is applied to the problem of culture in ethnology. This leads to an acknowledgement of a domain (...) between cultures, a genuine interculturality, as the fundamental field of ethnological research, which, however, can only be addressed through indirect forms of representation. Such forms are identified in the practice of ethnographic citation, and through a reinterpretation of Horace Miner’s classical satire “Body Ritual among the Nacirema”, thus demonstrating the possibility of a prospective “responsive ethnology”. (shrink)
Egoism and altruism are unequal contenders in the explanation of human behaviour. While egoism tends to be viewed as natural and unproblematic, altruism has always been treated with suspicion, and it has often been argued that apparent cases of altruistic behaviour might really just be some special form of egoism. The reason for this is that egoism fits into our usual theoretical views of human behaviour in a way that altruism does not. This is true on the biological level, where (...) an evolutionary account seems to favour egoism, as well as on the psychological level, where an account of self-interested motivation is deeply rooted in folk psychology and in the economic model of human behaviour. While altruism has started to receive increasing support in both biological and psychological debates over the last decades, this paper focuses on yet another level, where egoism is still widely taken for granted. Philosophical egoism is the view that, on the ultimate level of intentional explanation, all action is motivated by one of the agent's desires. This view is supported by the standard notion that for a complex of behaviour to be an action, there has to be a way to account for that behaviour in terms of the agent's own pro-attitudes. Psychological altruists, it is claimed, are philosophical egoists in that they are motivated by desires that have the other's benefit rather than the agent's own for its ultimate object. This paper casts doubt on this thesis, arguing that empathetic agents act on other people's pro-attitudes in very much the same way as agents usually act on their own, and that while other-directed desires do play an important role in many cases of psychologically altruistic action, they are not necessary in explanations of some of the most basic and most pervasive types of human altruistic behaviour. The paper concludes with the claim that philosophical egoism is really a cultural value rather than a conceptual feature of action. (shrink)
Bernhard Nickel presents a theory of generic sentences and the kind-directed modes of thought they express. The theory closely integrates compositional semantics with metaphysics to solve the problem that generics pose: what do generics mean? Generic sentences are extremely simple, yet if there are patterns to be discerned in terms of which are true and which are false, these patterns are subtle and complex. Ravens are black, and lions have manes: statistical measures cannot do justice to the facts, but (...) what else is there that has a hope of giving us insight into what we are capturing across so many domains? Nickel argues that generics are the top of a fundamentally explanatory iceberg, and that this explanatory framework is deeply intertwined with the semantics of the language we use to express them. In providing an integrated semantic and metaphysical theory of generics, he aims to solve old puzzles and draw attention to new phenomena. (shrink)
Traditional approaches to human information processing tend to deal with perception and action planning in isolation, so that an adequate account of the perception-action interface is still missing. On the perceptual side, the dominant cognitive view largely underestimates, and thus fails to account for, the impact of action-related processes on both the processing of perceptual information and on perceptual learning. On the action side, most approaches conceive of action planning as a mere continuation of stimulus processing, thus failing to account (...) for the goal-directedness of even the simplest reaction in an experimental task. We propose a new framework for a more adequate theoretical treatment of perception and action planning, in which perceptual contents and action plans are coded in a common representational medium by feature codes with distal reference. Perceived events (perceptions) and to-be-produced events (actions) are equally represented by integrated, task-tuned networks of feature codes – cognitive structures we call event codes. We give an overview of evidence from a wide variety of empirical domains, such as spatial stimulus-response compatibility, sensorimotor synchronization, and ideomotor action, showing that our main assumptions are well supported by the data. Key Words: action planning; binding; common coding; event coding; feature integration; perception; perception-action interface. (shrink)
Epistemologists have recently noted a tension between (i) denying access internalism, and (ii) maintaining that rational agents cannot be epistemically akratic, believing claims akin to ‘p, but I shouldn’t believe p’. I bring out the tension, and develop a new way to resolve it. The basic strategy is to say that access internalism is false, but that counterexamples to it are ‘elusive’ in a way that prevents rational agents from suspecting that they themselves are counterexamples to the internalist principles. I (...) argue that this allows us to do justice to the motivations behind both (i) and (ii). And I explain in some detail what a view of evidence that implements this strategy, and makes it independently plausible, might look like. (shrink)
Suppose you’d like to believe that p, whether or not it’s true. What can you do to help? A natural initial thought is that you could engage in Intentionally Biased Inquiry : you could look into whether p, but do so in a way that you expect to predominantly yield evidence in favour of p. This paper hopes to do two things. The first is to argue that this initial thought is mistaken: intentionally biased inquiry is impossible. The second is (...) to show that reflections on intentionally biased inquiry strongly support a controversial ‘access’ principle which states that, for all p, if p is part of our evidence, then that p is part of our evidence is itself part of our evidence. (shrink)
I contrast two approaches to the interpretation of generics such as ‘ravens are black:’ majority-based views, on which they are about what is the case most of the time, and inquiry-based views, on which they are about a feature we focus on in inquiry. I argue that majority-based views face far more systematic counterexamples than has previously been supposed. They cannot account for generics about kinds with multiple characteristic properties, such as ‘elephants live in Africa and Asia.’ I then go (...) on to sketch an inquiry-based view. (shrink)
The present paper reports the results of a vignette- and questionnaire-based research project investigating the influence of Moral Intensity (MI) on decision making in a New Zealand business context. The use of a relatively sensitive research design yielded results showing that – in contrast to previous research – objective manipulations, as well as subjective perceptions, of three of the six MI components were of particular importance in accounting for a comparatively large proportion of the variation in four outcome variables. There (...) were no interactions of appreciable magnitude between MI components, or variations across scenarios. Also, no support was found for a reliable multi-dimensional structure of perceptions of Moral Intensity. Implications of the findings are discussed. (shrink)
Good’s theorem is the apparent platitude that it is always rational to ‘look before you leap’: to gather information before making a decision when doing so is free. We argue that Good’s theorem is not platitudinous and may be false. And we argue that the correct advice is rather to ‘make your act depend on the answer to a question’. Looking before you leap is rational when, but only when, it is a way to do this.
Theories of explanation seek to tell us what distinctively explanatory information is. The most ambitious ones, such as the DN-account, seek to tell us what an explanation is, tout court. Less ambitious ones, such as causal theories, restrict themselves to a particular domain of inquiry. The least ambitious theories constitute outright skepticism, holding that there is no reasonably unified phenomenon to give an account of. On these views, it is impossible to give any theories of explanation at all. I argue (...) that both the less ambitious and outright skeptical varieties are committed to a certain context-sensitivity of our explanatory discourse. And though this discourse is almost certainly context-sensitive in some respects, it does not exhibit the context-sensitivity less than fully ambitious theories are committed to. Therefore, all accounts that seek to restrict themselves in scope, including causal accounts of explanation, fail. (shrink)
Ceteris Paribus (cp-)laws may be said to hold only “other things equal,” signaling that their truth is compatible with a range of exceptions. This paper provides a new semantic account for some of the sentences used to state cp-laws. Its core approach is to relate these laws to natural language on the one hand — by arguing that cp-laws are most naturally expressed with generics — and to natural kinds on the other — by arguing that the semantics of generics (...) in the context of the special sciences are best spelled out by appeal to natural kinds. The paper then goes on to draw on these semantics in order to illuminate several problems raised by cp-laws, some familiar, some new. (shrink)
In this article, I apply a structural-phenomenological conception of experience and self to the anthropological theorizing of spirit possession. In particular, I argue that a phenomenology of the alien, as elaborated by the philosopher Bernhard Waldenfels, allows for a more differentiated understanding of possession phenomena. Following a characterization of alienness—in conceptual distinction from the more common term “otherness”—as a dimension that necessarily eludes experience, I describe spirit possession as a cultural technology to appropriate the experiential alien by transforming it (...) into the symbolic other. I discuss this relation to the alien in thematic areas central to the anthropology of possession: illness and therapy, symbolism and naming, embodiment and self. (shrink)
The status of the knowledge iteration principles in the account provided by Lewis in “Elusive Knowledge” is disputed. By distinguishing carefully between what in the account describes the contribution of the attributor’s context and what describes the contribution of the subject’s situation, we can resolve this dispute in favour of Holliday’s claim that the iteration principles are rendered invalid. However, that is not the end of the story. For Lewis’s account still predicts that counterexamples to the negative iteration principle ) (...) come out as elusive: such counterexamples can occur only in possibilities which the attributors of knowledge are ignoring. This consequence is more defensible than it might look at first sight. (shrink)
Sometimes changes in an agent's partial values can cast a positive light on an earlier action, which was wrong when it was performed. Based on independent reflections about the role of partiality in determining when blame is appropriate, I argue that in such cases the agent shouldn't feel remorse about her action and that others can't legitimately blame her for it, even though that action was wrong. The action thus receives a certain kind of retrospective justification.
Introduction : facets of the alien -- The human as a liminal being -- Between pathos and response -- Response to the alien -- Corporeal experience between selfhood and otherness -- Thresholds of attention -- Between cultures.
This paper investigates the interaction between semantic theories for cp-laws (roughly, laws that hold “all things equal”) and metaphysical theories of kinds in the special sciences. Its central conclusion is that cp-laws concerning kinds behave differently from cp-laws concerning non-kinds: “ravens are black” which concerns the kind corvus corax, behaves differently from from “albino ravens are white” which concerns the non-kind grouping of albino ravens. I argue that this difference is in the first instance logical: the two sorts of cp-laws (...) give rise to different inferential patterns. I draw two further conclusions. The difference in logical behavior poses a severe problem for extant semantic theories of cp-laws, and: we cannot elucidate the distinction between kinds and non-kinds by suggesting that only kinds can appear in laws. (shrink)
This book presents the views of the founders of constructivism and modern systems theory, who are still providing stimulating cues for international scientific debate. The conversations turn on the results of brain research, the breaks through of cybernetics, the linguistic determination of thought, and the intrinsic connection between epistemology and ethical practice.
This paper seeks to introduce cultural techniques to an Anglophone readership. Specifically geared towards an Anglophone readership, the paper relates the re-emergence of cultural techniques to the changing intellectual constellation of postwar Germany. More specifically, it traces how the concept evolved from – and reacted against – so-called German media theory, a decidedly anti-hermeneutic and anti-humanist current of thought frequently associated with the work of Friedrich Kittler. Post-hermeneutic rather than anti-hermeneutic in its outlook, the reconceptualization of cultural techniques aims at (...) presenting them as chains of operations that link humans, things, media and even animals. To investigate cultural techniques is to shift the analytic gaze from ontological distinctions to the ontic operations that gave rise to the former in the first place. As Siegert points out, this shift recalls certain concurrent developments within the North American posthumanities; the paper therefore also includes a discussion of the similarities and differences between German and North American posthumanism. (shrink)
Many approaches to the semantics of generic sentences posit an unpronounced quantifier gen. However, while overt quantifiers are conservative, gen does not seem to be. A quantifier Q is conservative iff instances of the following schemas are equivalent: Q As are F and Q As are As that are F. All ravens are black is obviously equivalent to All ravens are ravens that are black, yet ravens are black is not equivalent to ravens are ravens that are black. This may (...) cast doubt on theviability of quantificational analyses of generics. This paper proposes a theory of why such “conservativity” generics are problematic that is compatible with the conservativity of gen and also accounts for perennially troublesome examples such as books are paperbacks and bees are workers. (shrink)
Abstract This paper discusses the semantic theory presented in Robert Brandom’s Making It Explicit . I argue that it is best understood as a special version of dynamic semantics, so that these semantics by themselves offer an interesting theoretical alternative to more standard truth-conditional theories. This reorientation also has implications for more foundational issues. I argue that it gives us the resources for a renewed argument for the normativity of meaning. The paper ends by critically assessing the view in both (...) its development and motivations. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-22 DOI 10.1007/s11098-011-9768-4 Authors Bernhard Nickel, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA Journal Philosophical Studies Online ISSN 1573-0883 Print ISSN 0031-8116. (shrink)
This chapter challenges the assumption of attention functioning as a means of preventing consciousness from getting overloaded, and also challenges the assumption of any relationships between management of scarce resources and the original biological function of attention. It emphasizes that attention is directly derived from mechanisms governing the control of basic movements. The author establishes the theoretical stage through discussions on the implications of the brain’s preference to stimulus events and action plans in a feature-based manner and processing information through (...) different mechanisms. The chapter also discusses many empirical findings supporting the conception of action planning and action control having the potential to determine perception and attention. (shrink)