Abstract In order to illuminate the role of information in biology, Bergstrom and Rosvall (Biol Philos 26:159–176, 2011a ; Biol Philos 26:195–200, 2011b ) propose a ‘transmission sense of information’ which builds on Shannon’s theory. At the core of the transmission sense is an appeal to the reduction in uncertainty in receivers and to etiological function. I explore several ways of cashing out uncertainty reduction as well as the consequences of appealing to function. Content Type Journal Article Pages 1-4 DOI (...) 10.1007/s10539-012-9310-x Authors Ulrich E. Stegmann, School of Divinity, History and Philosophy, University of Aberdeen, Old Brewery, High Street, Aberdeen, AB24 3UB UK Journal Biology and Philosophy Online ISSN 1572-8404 Print ISSN 0169-3867. (shrink)
Ethological theory standardly attributes representational content to animal signals. In this article I first assess whether Ruth Millikan’s teleosemantic theory accounts for the content of animal signals. I conclude that it does not, because many signals do not exhibit the required sort of cooperation between signal‐producing and signal‐consuming devices. It is then argued that Kim Sterelny’s proposal, while not requiring cooperation, sometimes yields the wrong content. Finally, I outline an alternative view, according to which consumers alone are responsible for conferring (...) representational status and determining content. I suggest that consumer‐based teleosemantics reconstruct the content of both cooperative and noncooperative signals and explain how a given trait can mean different things to different consumers. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, King’s College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, U.K.; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
The concept of genetic information is controversial because it attributes semantic properties to what seem to be ordinary biochemical entities. I argue that nucleic acids contain information in a semantic sense, but only about a limited range of effects. In contrast to other recent proposals, however, I analyze genetic information not in terms of a naturalized account of biological functions, but instead in terms of the way in which molecules determine their products during processes known as template-directed syntheses. I argue (...) that determining an outcome in a certain way is constitutive for being an instruction. On this account, the content of genetic information is identified with the template's properties, which determine the product in the way constitutive for instructions. (shrink)
A central idea of developmental systems theory is ‘parity’ or ‘symmetry’ between genes and non-genetic factors of development. The precise content of this idea remains controversial, with different authors stressing different aspects and little explicit comparisons among the various interpretations. Here I characterise and assess several influential versions of parity.
The genetic code has been regarded as arbitrary in the sense that the codon-amino acid assignments could be different than they actually are. This general idea has been spelled out differently by previous, often rather implicit accounts of arbitrariness. They have drawn on the frozen accident theory, on evolutionary contingency, on alternative causal pathways, and on the absence of direct stereochemical interactions between codons and amino acids. It has also been suggested that the arbitrariness of the genetic code justifies attributing (...) semantic information to macromolecules, notably to DNA. I argue that these accounts of arbitrariness are unsatisfactory. I propose that the code is arbitrary in the sense of Jacques Monod's concept of chemical arbitrariness: the genetic code is arbitrary in that any codon requires certain chemical and structural properties to specify a particular amino acid, but these properties are not required in virtue of a principle of chemistry. This notion of arbitrariness is compatible with several recent hypotheses about code evolution. I maintain that the code's chemical arbitrariness is neither sufficient nor necessary for attributing semantic information to nucleic acids. (shrink)
One approach to assess the explanatory power of natural selection is to ask what type of facts it can explain. The standard list of explananda includes facts like trait frequencies or the survival of particular organisms. Here, I argue that this list is incomplete: natural selection can also explain a specific kind of individual-level fact that involves traits. The ability of selection to explain this sort of fact vindicates the explanatory commitments of empirical studies on microevolution. Trait facts must be (...) distinguished from a closely related kind of fact, that is, the fact that a particular individual x has one trait rather than another. Whether or not selection can explain the latter type of fact is highly controversial. According to the so-called ‘Negative View’ it cannot be explained by selection. I defend the Negative View against Nanay’s objection. (shrink)
This paper assesses Sarkar's () deflationary account of genetic information. On Sarkar's account, genes carry information about proteins because protein synthesis exemplifies what Sarkar calls a ‘formal information system’. Furthermore, genes are informationally privileged over non-genetic factors of development because only genes enter into arbitrary relations to their products (in virtue of the alleged arbitrariness of the genetic code). I argue that the deflationary theory does not capture four essential features of the ordinary concept of genetic information: intentionality, exclusiveness, asymmetry, (...) and causal relevance. It is therefore further removed from what is customarily meant by genetic information than Sarkar admits. Moreover, I argue that it is questionable whether the account succeeds in demonstrating that information is theoretically useful in molecular genetics. Introduction Sarkar's Information System The Pre-theoretic Features of Genetic Information 3.1 Intentionality 3.2 Exclusiveness 3.3 Asymmetry 3.4 Causal relevance Theoretical Usefulness Conclusion CiteULike Connotea Del.icio.us What's this? (shrink)
This paper explores John Maynard Smith’s conceptual work on animal signals. Maynard Smith defined animal signals as traits that (1) change another organism’s behaviour while benefiting the sender, that (2) are evolved for this function, and that (3) have their effects through the evolved response of the receiver. Like many ethologists, Maynard Smith assumed that animal signals convey semantic information. Yet his definition of animal signals remains silent on the nature of semantic information and on the conditions determining its content. (...) I therefore compare three ways to specify the semantic content of animal signals. The first suggestion models semantic content on Maynard Smith’s theory of genetic information. On the second proposal, semantic content is equated with a condition identified by conventional content ascriptions. The third suggestion is to explain semantic content in terms of consumer-based teleosemantics. I show how these accounts equate semantic content with distinct kinds of conditions and how they differ with respect to the kinds of traits that qualify as carrying semantic information. (shrink)
How do managers think about the relationship between the pursuit of economic success and ethical demands? This paper presents the main results of a qualitative-empirical study (Ulrich and Thielemann, 1992). The range of thinking patterns displayed by Swiss managers in this field of tension is elucidated and typologized. The results are then compared with those yielded by other studies on managerial ethics. Although the comparisons reveal essential parallels, the findings of previous investigations are interpreted in a considerably different manner. (...) In particular it is shown that, on the strength of a systematic conception of the fundamental problem of business ethics, the frequently heard assertion that the vast majority of managers are ethical opportunists must be revised. The internationally prevailing thinking pattern among managers does not prove to be ethical opportunism or even cynicism buteconomism, i.e. theethical conviction that economically appropriate actionin itself is ethically good as such. (shrink)
Acknowledgements Andrea Scarantino, Nicholas Shea, Mark Sprevak, and three anonymous referees provided incisive and constructive comments, for which I am very grateful. In 2012, earlier versions of this paper were delivered in Edinburgh, at the Joint Session in Stirling, and at a workshop on natural information in Aberdeen. I thank participants for their feedback.
Context: This paper outlines how radical constructivist theory has led to a particular methodological technique, developing second-order models of student thinking, that has helped mathematics educators to be more effective teachers of their students. Problem: The paper addresses the problem of how radical constructivist theory has been used to explain and engender more viable adaptations to the complexities of teaching and learning. Method: The paper presents empirical data from teaching experiments that illustrate the process of second-order model building. Results: The (...) result of the paper is an illustration of how second-order models are developed and how this process, as it progresses, supports teachers to be more effective. Implications: This paper has the implication that radical constructivism has the potential to impact practice. Key Words: Second-order model, radical constructivism, teaching, mathematics education. (shrink)
I thank two anonymous reviewers for helpful objections and suggestions. I gratefully acknowledge the permissions granted by Elsevier, The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, and the Wellcome Collection to reproduce copyrighted material. Open access via the Springer Compact Agreement.
Altruism and Groups Many animals display altruistic behaviour (=df behaviour that benefits conspecifics more that the agent). Until the 1950s this was explained as good for the group if not the individual. (Ardrey, Wynne-Edwards, lemmings.) BUT won’t groups of altruists always be invaded by selfish animals?
Upshot: In reading the commentaries, we were struck by the fact that all of them were in some capacity related to what we consider a core principle of radical constructivism - interaction. We characterize interaction from a radical constructivist perspective, and then discuss how the authors of the commentaries address one kind of interaction.
This volume inaugurates the publication of the biblical Dead Sea Scrolls from the main collection discovered in Cave 4 at Qumran. It contains ten biblical manuscripts from Genesis to Deuteronomy and Job. Six are written in the ancient Palaeo-Hebrew script and four are in Greek. There are also five hitherto unknown compositions. The Hebrew texts antedate by a millennium what had previously been the earliest surviving biblical codices in the original language, and they document the pluriform nature of the ancient (...) biblical textual tradition before the text became standardized. The most extensive and significant manuscript, 4QpaleoExodm, exhibits the expanded textual tradition that formed the basis for the Samaritan Pentateuch and illumines the historical and theological relationship between the Jews and the Samaritans. Fragments of an unidentified Greek text mention Moses, Pharaoh, and Egypt, suggesting some development of the Exodus theme, and further witnessing to the rich religious literature to which Rabbinic Judaism and nascent Christianity were heirs. An index of all the biblical manuscripts from Qumran Cave 4 and their distribution in other Discoveries in the Judaean Desert volumes is provided, and there are also forty pages of plates from the manuscripts. (shrink)
This e-special issue of Theory, Culture & Society showcases work published in the journal by and about the late German sociologist Ulrich Beck. Beck became known as a pioneering and inventive thinker, continuously engaged in a quest to capture the essence of the modern age, whilst simultaneously wrestling with the upcoming horizons of the future. During his career, he was responsible for developing some of the defining sociological concepts of the late 20th and early 21st century, including risk, reflexive (...) modernization, individualization and cosmopolitanism. He published many articles in Theory, Culture & Society, inspiring acolytes to mobilize his ideas and provoking critics to dispute them. Complementing articles written by Beck, this collection also includes critical commentaries, applications of his work, a selection of interviews and several reflective pieces which consider his legacy. The key aspiration of this special issue is to encourage contemplation on both the richness and the range of Ulrich Beck’s academic contribution. The contents stimulate reflection on the intricacies of Beck’s method of inquiry and flag up ways in which his work can influence the future trajectory of social theory. (shrink)
H.F.W. Hinrichs’ contribution to the posthumous edition of the travel journal written by the Oriental explorer U. J. Seetzen is an almost unknown aspect in the life of this disciple of Hegel. On the basis of three unpublished letters by Hinrichs , the Author endeavors to reconstruct Hinrichs’ role and to show that it can be fully understood only in the light of his critical revision of Enlightenment convictions in matter of religion, ideas also professed by Seetzen. In this respect, (...) Hinrichs did not simply follow Hegel’s teaching. He was also influenced by Maistre’s thinking by the way of C.J.H. Windischmann, who at that time was trying to combine Maistre’s views with the philosophical system of Hegel. (shrink)
This article reconsiders the theoretical role of the genetic code. By drawing on published and unpublished sources from the 1950s, I analyse how the code metaphor was actually employed by the scientists who first promoted its use. The analysis shows that the term ‘code’ picked out mechanism sketches, consisting of more or less detailed descriptions of ordinary molecular components, processes, and structural properties of the mechanism of protein synthesis. The sketches provided how-possibly explanations for the ordering of amino acids by (...) nucleic acids. I argue that employing the code metaphor was justified in virtue of its descriptive-denotational and explanatory roles, and because it highlighted a similarity with conventional codes that was particularly salient at the time. 1 Introduction2 Coding Schemes in the 1950s2.1 The research problem: Determining amino acid sequences2.2 The solution: Mapping schemes or ‘codes’3 The Code Metaphor Played Descriptive and Explanatory Roles4 Theness of Codes and the Expendability of the Code Metaphor5 The Role of Arbitrariness6 Conclusions. (shrink)
Philosophers have recently paid more attention to the physical aspects of scientific models. The attention is motivated by the prospect that a model’s physical features strongly affect its use and that this suggests re-thinking modelling in terms of extended or distributed cognition. This paper investigates two ways in which physical features of scientific models affect their use and it asks whether modelling is an instance of extended cognition. I approach these topics with a historical case study, in which scientists kept (...) records not only of their findings, but also of some the mental operations that generated the findings. The case study shows how scientists can employ a physical model as an external information store, which allows alternating between mental manipulations, recording the outcome externally, and then feeding the outcome back into subsequent mental manipulations. The case study also demonstrates that a models’ physical nature allows replacing explicit reasoning with visuospatial manipulations. I argue, furthermore, that physical modelling does not need to exemplify a strong kind of extended cognition, the sort for which external features are mereological parts of cognition. It can exemplify a weaker kind, instead. (shrink)